It’s Been About a Year…

I’d pretty much forgotten about this blog and lost the web address, password etc. But a few days ago I was reading through posts on a facebook withdrawal group, and clicked on a link someone had posted. I started reading and got the strangest feeling that it looked and sounded familiar.

Then it hit me, I was reading my own blog, someone had found it and shared the link, not only that, there were comments, other people had found it too, goodness knows how or why, after so long. So I figured I might as well post a bit of an update… and maybe keep going.

I’m still sick, recovery is slow, but its happening.

May marked three years of my being completely drug free.

The second half of last year brought my first extended, multi-day windows. Windows are the name given to periods of time when withdrawal symptoms disappear or reduce considerably. This usually happens at first for just minutes, then relief can be felt for a few hours. Eventually windows start lasting for days, weeks and months. Late last year I had an 11 day window where I felt completely recovered. Suddenly, it was as if my old self had returned and I was healed. There was very little thought or memory of the previous few years of torment, it was like it had never happened and I just started making the most of my regained life and health.

My mind was back, I was happy, clear, enthusiastic, confident and full of plans, most of which required a lot of physical activity, which I ploughed into with all my previous enthusiasm, not realizing that my body was no longer capable of what it used to be. After almost 3 years of being basically bed bound, my physical condition was very different, but I wasn’t going to let something like a mere body stop me, I was back and I was going to make up for lost time.

But reality doesn’t work like that and within a few days I was in physical agony, my body screaming at me to stop. I ignored it for another day or two, but then realized I had to respect my physical limits. It was more like I couldn’t walk, so I didn’t have a choice. But I was still happy to be free from withdrawal and took my new recovered self back to bed to rest up for a bit, realizing I would have to ease back into activity slower.

But I crashed out of that window several days later, falling down into what gets called a wave. Which is a period when symptoms become much worse, often increasing to levels experienced at the start of withdrawal when suffering is acute.

Here are some links to more information about the windows and waves pattern of recovery.

Waves and Windows in SSRI Recovery

The Windows and Waves Pattern of Stabilization

Life After Antidepressants: How Do We Heal?

So anyway, I eventually came back up to baseline recovery, fully expecting that windows would start to become more frequent and longer lasting, because that seems to be what most people find happens.

But this year so far has been a bit worse, probably caused by stress. I’ve had to deal with a few unexpected events and situations which have been difficult and one of the common symptoms of withdrawal is a lowered tolerance to stress, so this is probably the cause of me having a bit of a set back.

But I’m probably back on course now and had my first window for the year a week ago. Unfortunately it coincided with a bad head cold, but I still enjoyed the relief from withdrawal symptoms and was able to wander around in the world for a few days like a normal person with just a cold.

I’ve started juicing and experimenting with raw, vegan recipes, trying to improve my diet and increase nutrition to aid recovery. I’m grateful I’m able to do this now, it was impossible a year or two ago because I was still very much struggling just to do the basics for survival, but now I’m able to shop more regularly for fresh produce and work in the kitchen for longer periods of time quite comfortably, especially later in the day.

Mornings are still difficult while my body is in a fight/flight reaction and anxiety controls my ability to function, but I’m getting some good relief by mid afternoon most days now.

I’ve been exploring the possible underlying cause of my ‘mental health’ issues, trying to figure out the real reason my life has been so difficult, from early childhood really. Answers are falling into place as this puzzle of myself is slowly getting solved. Maybe I will write more about that next time.

Protracted Withdrawal (Tardive Dysthymia) What’s it Really Like

distorted reality 3

For a long time I’ve noticed that even small amounts of caffeine, half a glass of wine or even an anti-histamine will have a very bad effect on me, but I was thinking it was my imagination. I can’t even eat chocolate any more without suffering the next day.

I’m exhausted all the time, but it’s a weird kind of fatigue, its like a combination mental/emotional tiredness, not like anything I’ve ever felt before. I spend most of my time at home, on the internet on my bed, just doing the things I need to do to take care of myself. Its very difficult just getting out to buy a few groceries, but when I do go out, I function perfectly in a kind of dissociated way, like I’m not even in my own body, I’m watching myself like from a distance, wondering who it is that’s behaving so ‘normally’ when I’m feeling so awful.

Waves of negative emotions seem to get triggered by almost everything around me and almost every thought, I try not to think about things or do much of anything so I can avoid the emotional pain that thoughts or experiences bring, its like a kind of forced meditation. This symptom was at its worst from November 2011 – August 2012, but its not as bad now, seems to be settling down, I think its improved by about 50%.

Here is a list of specific symptoms:

Waking at 5am with racing thoughts

Feeling like I haven’t slept at all

Nausea, shaking, dizziness, body pressure, muscle twitches

Waves of negative emotion

Hot/cold flashes, sweating

Constant ringing in my ears

Sensitive to sound, light and smells

Can’t watch TV or listen to the radio because its too stimulating

Most things are too stimulating now, including being around other people too long

Loss of appetite and loss of weight

Hair falling out

Agoraphobia, mostly during the day, I’m able to go out easier late afternoon towards evening

Memory problems and mental confusion

Loss of confidence.

Loss of interest in doing anything or going anywhere

Can’t get any pleasure out of things any more

Loss of hope

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I wrote the above in May 2013 and now today, things are a little different, but not much. I now wake around 6am with racing thoughts and feelings of intense unease. I always wish I could go back to sleep, to avoid the unpleasant sensations which hit me the moment I awake, but its usually not possible.

Sleep is better now, 2 years later and I do feel like I’ve slept. The feelings of inner shaking and vibrations, which came with accompanying pressure and tension have reduced considerably. They are still there mildly during the morning, but it’s not as torturous as it was.

I’m no longer so terribly sensitive to everything. Sounds are no longer felt as physical sensations in my body, but I still feel more comfortable in quiet, subdued surroundings.

My appetite has returned, especially later in the day and all the weight I lost has come back, plus more. Mostly because I don’t do anything these days apart from sit/lay on my bed, using the internet for distraction. I don’t get anywhere near enough exercise.

Apart from those things, its mostly still the same, although there are some new, added symptoms now, which I will write about later. Confusion and the unpredictable nature of this condition increases the stress.

It’s very frightening when it starts to become clear that the medical professionals out there who are supposed to be helping, are really doing more harm (often unintentionally), and there really is no one else who can help. Coming to terms with that myself has been difficult, but then trying to explain that to other people seems to add stress and turn this into a nightmare of incredible magnitude.

The feelings of isolation and abandonment grow with each passing week as people realize they have nothing to offer in the way of help and tend to drift away.

The Blog Evolves

This is my blog.  Its not a great blog, its not even good, but its my blog and I can write whatever I want.

I’m still trying to decide what it should be about, even though its pretty obvious what it should be about.  Its got to be my ongoing journey of protracted antidepressant and psychiatric drug withdrawal.

This seems to be turning into a bit of an introduction of sorts, so I might as well go with it.

I went to my doctor around 1997 and asked to be put on Zoloft.  I had somehow got hold of a promotional video for Zoloft, not realizing it was advertising material, I had thought it was more of a helpful documentary.  Anyway, that was the start of 13 years of being on SSRI drugs.  Not that I didn’t try to stop taking them numerous times, I did.  But I didn’t realized I was supposed to taper off them, I would just stop, then on average about 4 days later I would be in such agony, physical, mental, emotional and psychic, I would just start taking them again.  The pressure would build over the course of several days until I couldn’t take it any more.  I had no idea this was withdrawal, I didn’t know what it was, but I did know I couldn’t stop taking the drugs.

To be continued…

Epilogue

I survived.

Are you listening hippocampus? I SURVIVED!

How do I know I survived?  I’m looking around at my current surroundings and as much as possible, I have control over the circumstances of my life.  I am in a house which is as good as mine.  I have food, water and a roof and its not going to disappear.  I’m not going to be thrown out.  Not only have I survived, but I have managed to raise my daughter to adulthood without her suffering from abuse or trauma or any real hardship.  I managed to protect her fairly well from the fallout from my problems.

I survived.  I am still alive and I am safe.  I no longer have to live up to the impossible standards of other people in order to ensure my own survival.  My life is my own.  My choices are mine.

The violence and abuse and neglect is over.  Its been over for about 2 years now, ever since we moved from that awful, cigarette butt and mouse ridden house.  We moved.  I actually did it.  I got this dump of a house renovated just in time, well, not quite in time, but close enough, before being….. well, lets just say being un-homed for the third time in my life.

I renovated it and furnished it and we moved here just under 2 years ago.  Nothing bad has happened during those 2 years.  Several good things have happened in my daughter’s life, she is building a very happy and successful life.  She is becoming more independent all the time.  She no longer needs me to be anything other than what I am.  I no longer need to be responsible for her.  I did it, I raised her the way I wanted to and can relax now, knowing that I did the very best I could.

Are you listening hippocampus?  The hard part is over now, the trials have ended, the job is done, we can relax now.  From now on, everything is optional.  Can you hear this limbic system?  We have options now and a decent savings account to go with it.  Survival no longer depends on fulfilling the needs, wants, whims or arbitrary rules of other people.  I am free from threats, manipulations, emotional blackmail, gaslighting, deceit and ultimatums.

There are some very real examples that I have control over my own environment now.  I renovated this house by myself with no input from anyone, they tried, but I remained strong, stood my ground and got the job done.  I helped daughter to get her driving license, facilitated most of that by myself.  I handled the plumbing problems, the front yard mound, the tree at the back and the broken fence.  When problems have arisen, I have handled them, including the latest one with centrelink.  I have paid bills on time, kept food in the house and even started a volunteer job from home.

The nightmare is over.  I survived.  I have no addictions.  I take no medications.  I am capable of fulfilling my own needs within the laws of this society I live in.

I survived.

This entry inspired by reading the Amazon preview of

by Babette Rothschild  

 

Today I Left the House

It happened quite unexpectedly about 11am.  I’d been getting worried because it hadn’t happened for a few days and I was getting very low on milk.  There is one carton of the long life kind which I bought in case of an emergency, like if I found I couldn’t go out and actually did run out of milk.  But I didn’t want to actually have to open my emergency milk because then the reality of my not being able to go out to buy real milk would increase my anxiety, leading to an even greater emergency, which would increase my resistance to going out, which wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t yet opened the emergency milk.

So anyway, I was doing what I usually do in the mornings, occupy myself the best I can on my bed with my computer, waiting until the cortisol driven akathisia subsides for the day.  It usually happens around mid-afternoon to early evening, but just lately, it hasn’t let up properly until quite late.  So I was pleasantly surprised that around 10:30, I noticed that my body was starting to feel a little more relaxed.

It might have been the Taurine I took, along with my morning dose of magnesium, but I didn’t care, this current wave seemed to be coming to an end so I quickly got dressed, re-did my pony tail, brushed my teeth and headed out the door before ‘it’ changed its mind.

At first I thought I was just going around the corner to the local grocery, still in my habitual survival mode, I was going to get what I needed in the quickest, easiest way possible.  But as soon as I was sitting in my car, my thought process started to change and I found myself heading towards the organic food market the next suburb over.

As far as grocery shopping trips go, this one today was about as easy and almost as pleasant as they can possibly be at the moment, which isn’t very.  Something very strange is happening to me, there are no words to describe it, and its been mostly terrifying as life as I knew it has been mutating into something completely alien.  I am being replaced with a formless, faceless, force which seems to be able to handle things just fine, but fear keeps me from letting go.  So I’m being slowly killed, one cell at a time.

Now I guess I could just give up, suddenly decide that whatever it is, obviously knows better than me, and do what it wants.  But even if I believed that to be true, its not really possible.  Something here isn’t capable of giving up, and that’s what it would seem like… giving up.  Whatever remains of ‘me’, has to continue being ‘me’, and I’m not the kind of person who gives up easily.  Not when something really matters anyway, I have my values, well, I used to, strange as they were, they were part of who I was, but now, even those are getting thin.

The last time I had a day like today was last Thursday, that was 8 days ago.  A metaphor for moments like these is one of those brief periods where there is a break in thick, dark clouds and you get to see a splash of blue and maybe even feel a touch of warmth from a sun which had been there all along, but was hidden and so you forgot it ever existed.

I expect that tomorrow, the clouds will be back and today’s reality will be blocked from my memory, casting me once again into that eternal altered dimension where nothing has any substance or permanence and all I have for comfort is a distant echo of something I used to know, maybe, even that isn’t certain.

But my fridge is stocked with fresh organic supplies, I have real milk again and two more bottles of water, I even stopped at the grocery around the corner for water and salmon, so if I feel like it, I can have a salmon and egg wrap, even though I didn’t get fresh wraps, there are 2 left I think.  I would have got more, but i ran out of energy and would have needed to separate and freeze them right away, so I decided to wait and get them next time, I have more than enough to eat for the next few days.