Sooooooo, I'm weaning myself off of Effexor.
I had planned on not telling you all, because I was trying to maintain the illusion of not being crazy--and then I remembered that if anyone knows I'm a little crazy, it's you all.
(Way to go, Ash, broadcasting your craziness to the internets was an A++ idea).
Remember how I got on Effexor around 2 years ago and made this huge heartfelt, shame-ridden confession post and everyone was like..."So? That's all?" Then I started getting emails from others realizing they could use a little prescription help who thanked me for talking about it and I felt good about sharing and making other people feel normal (or less alone in their craziness). So, I've decided to use my Google Page Rank for good instead of evil and share my experiences with Effexor with you all.
First off, even in light of all of the negative effects, I still believe Effexor was exactly what I needed and I might even go so far as to say it was life-saving. I wasn't suicidal, but my anxiety was driving me so crazy that I could have ended up there eventually. I had a lot of real-life stress going on and was just torturing myself about everything on a minute-by-minute basis. It got to the point where I slept with a notebook and pen by the bed so I could make lists in the dark of things to remember to worry about tomorrow. I was so worried I couldn't think straight. Then I would get depressed because I couldn't accomplish anything. Then I would be even more anxious about all of the stuff I couldn't/wasn't getting done. My poor brain was a jumbled mess. My heart would pound and my thoughts would race and I would feel like I couldn't breathe. I was also irritable and yelling at everyone all of the time because I was tired and crabby. Man, it seriously fucking sucked.
So, my doctor prescribed 75mg of Effexor and after a few weeks, it worked! I didn't worry about anything. Ever. Anything. At all. Ever. Nothing. Never.
For anyone that spoke to me during the 6-8 months I was on that dosage, I apologize because I spent that time trying to stare at your eye/forehead region in some semblance of interest while waiting for you to be quiet. I dreaded when Mr. Ashley came home because I knew it would involve at least 30 minutes of pretending to listen. Didn't care about anything, anyone, any problems. I didn't mind anything either, making me fairly pleasant to be around, and I rarely had opinions which also makes me easier to be around, I suspect.
I remember during this time feeling very separate from everyone and everything. I felt like I was watching the world from underwater or through a thick sheet of glass. I often found that I had no idea what day of the week it was, only a vague idea if it was the beginning or end of the week based on the weekend days Mr. Ashley didn't go to work. I noticed this mental fogginess, but it didn't bother me. It rarely mattered what day of the week it was anyway.
Blogging during this time S-U-C-K-E-D. It would be interesting to go back and read (or maybe not). Dealing with you all was a chore that I dreaded daily and every once in a while I would think that I should just admit I had run out of things to say and wish you all well, logging off and being done with it. Nothing was funny. Nothing riled me up. Nothing felt worth mentioning.
I knew I was in my own little self-made bubble of isolation...but it was nice. It was calm and quiet. There were no problems (other than other people trying to get into the bubble and talk to me, disturbing the peace with their chatter). I liked me and found myself easy to be around, it was a pleasant change from being my own worst enemy.
A mini-mental breakdown happened around the time my dog Heidi Louise died. Despite my detachment from the world, I was so sad (understatement of the decade). I ran out of medicine right then and couldn't rouse myself to get more. Two days later, Mr. Ashley and I had the fight of a life time, I disowned my toxic mother-in-law in an all-too-honest email to her, and broke up with my group of best friends a day or two after that. It was quite a week of bridge burnings. I felt again, and felt nothing but mad and sad. I was also physically sick from not having my medicine, throwing up, having vivid nightmares and sweating. Despite all of the feelings I was feeling again being miserable ones, I realized how zombified I had been and wanted off of the medicine. I was too sick to be without it but too broke to go to the doctor and find a way to get off of it safely.
A friend (and I love you forever for doing it for me, M. if you're out there) sent me generic 37.5 mg from an old prescription of hers until I could get to the doctor. I realized that the lower dosage was way more appropriate for me. I wasn't worried, but I could still feel amusement and communicate and watch movies and read books again (didn't want to when I was zombified because I didn't care what happened to the characters and thought it was all boring and pointless). I could also think very logically and clearly, with less emotion and anxiety. I went to the doctor for a lower dosage and stayed on it for another year or so. I'm so grateful I was on it during this time because I realized that the only solution to our housing problem was to move. My emotional self would have never been able to calmly come to that conclusion and get us here without full-on hysteria. I was able to take some major steps up in life because it helped me focus and re-prioritize.
Even on the lower dosage though, I still feel more like I'm watching the world than participating. I love that I can consider a problem rationally and come up with a solution or write it off as something I can't do anything about and go about my floaty-headed merry way. But I miss feeling curious, I miss some of my racing thoughts, I miss having opinions and the need to express them, I miss cracking up laughing or feeling funny, I miss getting teary-eyed at diaper, dog food and greeting card commercials, I miss feeling overcome with emotion, I miss wasting tons of time on creative endeavours, I miss feeling sexy or romantic, I miss caring about people, I miss having so many thoughts to share with you all that they pile up in my head. I miss me. I also miss the $100 a month I spend on this shit and the days I feel sick for forgetting to take it.
For about a week now, I've been taking 1/2 of a pill every 2nd day. The first day I was so dizzy I could barely stand up and my ears were ringing. The second day I threw up right after taking it and napped a lot. The third day I slept for 17 hours and then took a nap. The fourth day I felt better, but sleepy and dizzy. The fifth day I still felt dizzy, but more energetic. Today is the 6th day. Every day so far I've had what I call the "swooshy-head thing". I think I've heard other people call it brain zaps. It feels like my eyes and my brain aren't connected--like my eyes move and then my brain catches up and the delay makes me feel dizzy or swooshy. I also see things out of the corner of my eye, shadows, movements or shapes that aren't there.
So that all sucks, but I also feel again. And it rocks. Even the feelings that suck. And I know the novelty of emotion may wear off again and the anxiety or sadness could creep back up at any time, but I'm hoping I can remember that "Can you solve this or do anything about it?" detachment that came with medication and find some other coping techniques, because feeling and being is what life's all about.
It's embarrassing to share with you all because life would be easier without people observing my return to unzombification. I could've pulled it off as one of my many mood swings without this announcement but now you'll all be watching, so I blew that. But I do want people to realize that although the medicine can be a godsend and an absolute life saver when you are having difficulty coping, it is serious stuff. It's also easy to get so comfortable in your own world that you never bother coming up with an exit strategy to get off, or even easier, to find yourself unable to afford the time to suffer through sickness to do so--I never realized the extent of how addictive it is.
So there it is, another not-so-pretty chapter in the life of Ashley. And a warning that the old me is on her way back.
I did not intend for this to turn into a freaking novel. "Don't make it a big deal" was my whole goal and then I write a War and Peace-esque blog post about it. LOL. Sorry so long, I'll reward you with a Big Kid video later for reading it! This is also a good reminder that I'm a lot more talkative off of the meds...