On May 18, 2015 I made a commitment to a choice I had made with the help of my family and psychiatrist – I started going off of my psychiatric medications. I’ve been struggling with major depression for three and a half years and have been on various cocktails of medications ever since then. I’ve tried so many different medications that I don’t even remember all their names. Right before I started coming off my psychiatric medications I was on the following “cocktail:”
- Morning: Welbutrin XL 450mg
- Morning: Trazadone 25mg
- Dinner: Lexapro 20mg
- Dinner: Abilify 10mg
- 2hrs before bed: Trazadone 300mg
- 2hrs before bed: Lamictal 300mg (I think)
That is a LOT of medications. Now, being on medications wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. When I first got depressed, I really needed medications. Then, as I started adjusting to the medications I was on, we kept having to either switch medications or increase the dosages of what I was on. That’s how I ended up with what I have listed above. On Mother’s Day, my slightly older sister, my eldest sister, and my mom all mentioned that they thought I might do better off my medications, because lately (despite all my medications and therapy) my depression has been really bad. I’ve had terrible moods and thoughts of self harm and suicide (I know theses probably were just a result of my depression, not necessarily my meds). My interest in things has been really low and my energy levels have been virtually non-existent. My family’s argument was that perhaps the medication was exacerbating my problem at this point. After all, I hadn’t been completely off of psychiatric medications for over three years. Perhaps my body just needed to detox, they suggested. I gave it a lot of thought. My slightly older sister Mary was so passionate about this idea that she offered to stay with me 24/7 while I was coming off of my medications to ensure I didn’t do anything harmful to myself if I had a negative reaction. After about a week of serious thought and talking it over with my therapist (who couldn’t suggest anything one way or the other because it was medication related) and psychiatrist I decided to go for it.
Just about two weeks ago I met with my psychiatrist. We immediately took me off my daytime dose of Trazadone, then reduced by half (more or less) all my other medications except for my Abilify (she decided to keep me on this one). After one week I stopped taking the Lexapro and the Lamictal and reduced everything else by half (more or less) once more. This coming Monday (it’s currently Sunday, so tomorrow) will mark two weeks since starting to wean me off those medications. By tomorrow I will be off of everything except my Abilify. Things are going really well since reducing my medications. Yes, I have had bad minutes, hours, and days where I just feel depressed and uninterested in things. I have also had self harm thoughts (which I let go and did not act on). But, overall, I have been doing much better. Although my sleep is much more disturbed (because the Trazadone I came off of acted not only as an anti-depressant but also as a sleeping medication) since coming down on my medications, my level of alertness during the day has been so much higher. There have actually been a few days where I haven’t even had to take a nap! (Crazy!) My moods have also been fluctuating in a more natural range. Yes, I’ve been depressed to the point of sobbing at times, but I’ve also been laughing and smiling so much more. I’ve been hassling my twin sister to the point of driving her out of the room – it’s been awesome! My family has definitely noticed the difference in me. They think I made the right decision. And do you know what? I also think I made the right decision for me.
I am definitely not suggesting that everyone go off their meds however. Medications can be (and have been for me) very helpful and, in some cases, necessary. I don’t know if my change in mood has been solely from going off my meds, but I highly doubt it. While I do think that going off those medications is helping my mood and energy levels, I also think my mental preparation (and positive outlook) has had an amazing impact on my improvement as well. Ever since I started this I have been telling myself, “I am going to feel better going off my meds,” “I am going to stay positive.” The power of thought is incredible. I have been in DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) for almost a year and a half and am making a lot of progress. I know my skills (Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Distress Tolerance) and with the help of my therapist I am becoming much better at implementing them. I felt that I was properly equipped to go off my medications: I have the support of my therapist, psychiatrist, and family; I have a safe environment available to me; I have been doing well in therapy; etc. I had tried medications for a long time and their efficacy for me seemed to be waning. It was time for me to try something different.
I love the choice that I made. I feel so much better knowing that I have fewer chemicals running through my body. I am hopeful that at my psychiatry appointment tomorrow my psychiatrist will allow me to start coming off of my Abilify as well. My personal goal is to be completely off my psychiatric medications as soon as possible. That’s not to say that I’m opposed to medication, though. If, for some reason, I start crashing and we determine that I need to be on medication again, I will of course give it another shot. But for now I am hopeful that I can make it through and continue making progress without it.
I’ve been staying mostly at my sister Mary’s apartment while going through this transition. We have been hanging out, I’ve been reading a lot, and watching tv shows on my computer. This coming week my goal is to start working again on my book that I’m writing (which I’ve been working on for probably close to two years now) and to exercise at least 30 minutes every day. I’m trying not to pile on too many goals at once (because I don’t want to overwhelm myself), so I think these goals are sufficient.
I’m not being naive. I know that my medication wasn’t causing all my problems. I suffer from Major Depression. That isn’t simply going to go away because I stopped medications (although it may have been exacerbating things such as my tiredness), much as I would like it too. I’ve already had hard times and bad days. Last night, for example I started freaking out. There was so much stimuli coming in through my auditory senses that I was getting super overwhelmed. There were two televisions on, my sister was singing, and my aunt’s phone was going off and my mood began to decline. Nina, Becky (two of my sisters), and I were playing Catan and I started feeling really hungry but nothing sounded good and I didn’t know what to do and suddenly I felt like I couldn’t handle anything. I posted this on Twitter:
“Oh my god I cant handle this right now someone please help me make me feel better i hate everything.”
Then, on my therapy diary card I wrote this:
“I can’t fucking do this! I hate this so much. I hate myself and my life. I feel so alone. I’m hungry.
I can’t eat. I need meat. Idk what to do. Oh my god, I hate everything right now. Aghhhh!!!!!”
I was so overwhelmed, I was sobbing, I was having my own version of a mental breakdown. But do you know what? I was able to sit with my twin and tell her how I was feeling. We went out and got me a couple of burgers at 11:30 at night. I breathed. I got through it. After a short while, I was okay.
I’m continuing therapy, I’m continuing to be aware of my mind and body, and I’m continuing to be helpful. I am excited for what this change might bring me. Life, here I come!