Monday, October 17, 2011

This is the Reason for the Weaning

This isn't about Zoey. In fact, we've never had to do any sort of weaning with Zoey; she's always just abruptly stopped something. For all intents and purposes, she has been leading us through this parenting experience, tugging us along like a dog chasing a squirrel. So this - I know I don't talk nearly enough about myself - is about me.

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am the type of person who responds well to medication. And for my mental well-being, as well as the physical well-being of those around me, my doctor prescribed Celexa. She said I would take them for awhile, then gradually wean myself off, and I previously boasted the genius of this. Does that mean I followed it? No. Why? Because my Dad's I'll-be-fine-attitude is attached to my DNA.

From my one and only psychology class I took in college, I learned that there is a withdrawal when you come off antidepressants. When I hit up the usual source for medical diagnoses - Google - one of the first things I came across was a blog post on the very subject of Celexa and what to expect with withdrawal, from a first-hand, dealt-with-it experience. I read it, then read it to Jacob, as we both laughed. Here's the blog post and why we found it funny:

Almost two weeks ago, I went to see my doc for an annual. He said, "Stop taking Celexa whenever you want, it's only 10mg." So I did. Almost overnight my sex drive was back, I was enthusiastic, and ALIVE! I didn't go see the doctor when I was "forgetting" to take my antidepressant (I was on 20mg), and she probably would have told me I must be weened since Celexa has been known to increase suicidal ideation, especially in people under the age of 24. The sex-drive thing doesn't need to be discussed, but a decrease in libido is actually a symptom of Celexa withdrawal. It is also a side effect of taking the medication so, if you're one of the few, you're not interested in getting screwed from any direction at any time.

But, it was like I was on speed. And I have been experiencing profound dizziness, aches in my legs, annoyingly vivid dreams, and trouble sleeping. The past two days, I've also had tingling in my hands (which almost always comes with tingling in my brain), and I get sooooo incredibly frustrated/intense/overwhelmed, I'm induced to crying. No particular reason, just need to release from this intensity!
This is completely true, and where Jacob and I started laughing.

I did a little research, and found out that these are withdrawal symptoms. It doesn't make the symptoms go away to know this. It does, however, make me understand what's going on, and that they will eventually subside.

I had gained quite a bit of weight on Celexa, and I was sleeping all the time. I can already feel that weight starting to shed, and I'm sleeping normal hours again, except waking up several times a night from aches and vivid dreams.
The complete opposite was true for me. I have never lost so much weight in my life, people who knew me at 130-pounds will not recognize me. But I don't attribute this to Celexa use, I chalk it up to Busy Mommy Syndrome and (undiagnosed until the 8th month) postpartum depression, thus amping up my metabolism like a pre-teen Irish boy. And to think about it now, I was sleeping all of the time while on Celexa, my post-dinner, pre-bed nap had become a staple of my routine. I still haven't gained any weight (I've been off my meds for a couple of weeks now), but I'm not losing any, either, so that is encouraging.

One of the weirdest side effects I'm getting is that I feel like I'm having every emotion at the same time. Happy, sad, mad, calm, attentive, bored, enthusiastic, frustrated. It's like a flood gate was opened, and all of the things I wasn't feeling on Celexa are coming in at one time.
This is totally true, except that I didn't have a feeling of un-feeling when I was taking Celexa; I just had a sort-of neutral, uncaring feeling that I welcomed after being uber-emotional and caring for so long.

I'm trying to focus on what's good, and to keep reminding myself that these withdrawal symptoms will eventually go away. Sometimes, I feel like I'm at the end of my rope, and I just can't take it anymore. Crying, exercising, writing, and sharing my story with others will get me through.
Coincidentally, I happened to find and read this just after I burst into tears at my desk because Zoey refused to take a nap. She wasn't even that upset about it, just playing in her crib, so there was no reason for me to get so upset. But then I launched into a new fit of tears, complaining I was bored, and a bunch of other barely-coherent, nonsensical complaints that don't actually have anything to do with real life.

In case you'd like to know, these are the common side effects of Celexa withdrawal. I put a star next to the ones that people seem to complain about the most on the websites that I visited during my research.
I put a double-star next to the ones I am experiencing.
  • Anxiety * *
  • Dizziness * *
  • Fatigue * *
  • Headache * * Before hitting the Google jackpot, I wondered why I was getting headaches when I normally don't.
  • Insomnia * * I noticed I was getting up more frequently during the night.
  • Tremors
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea * * In fairness, I was nauseated while on Celexa also. After being pregnant, I think my body is just groomed to throwing up in the morning.
  • Vomiting
  • Restlessness * * Remember how I disolved into further tears because of being bored? Furthermore, one night I noticed an actual addiction to reading. I was so restless that I went from my book, to an article, to Twitter; I read 4 books in about 7 days.
  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle and joint pain * * I thought I was getting sick since this is usually my tip-off that I'm about to get a cold.
  • Jolting electric "zaps” * * There is no question I haven been experiencing this, and pretty much every time I change positions at any given moment during the day. Last week I even told Jacob of these experiences and he asked if I had been drinking water and eaten full meals (I had).
  • Tingling sensations * * This goes along with the "zaps."
  • Fever
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Flu symptoms and general malaise * *
  • Anorexia
  • Agitation * *
  • Vertigo *
  • Gait disturbances
  • Sweating ** I'm not so much sweating as I've noticed a general increase in my body temperature.
  • Irritability * * If you ever wanted a completely, no-holds-barred answer from me, now is when you'll get it (apparently, I'm known to do this anyway, but now it'll just have wee bit more edge).
  • Aggression * * When Louis is insistent upon following me around the house, even if it's just the 3-feet from the living room to the kitchen, I insist to him that I will cut off his legs if he doesn't lay down.
  • Nightmares and/or vivid dreams * * I don't have nightmares, but I do have vivid dreams, which I wasn't prone to until I got pregnant. Truth be told, experiencing all of these symptoms before knowing what they were from, Jacob and I thought I might be pregnant again. *shudder*
  • Confusion
  • Memory and concentration difficulties * * This is pretty much an every-day occurrence regardless, only now I am way more frustrated when it happens.
  • Chills and hot flashes
  • Crying spells * * Ohhhhh yeahhhhh... The other night Jacob found me sobbing into my Green Bay Packers sweatshirt on the floor of our bedroom. And no, it's not because they lost (which they totally didn't if anyone saw that steamroll of a game this weekend)
  • Suicidal thoughts * * I don't have clinical suicidal thoughts, just a general feeling sometimes that things might be better off if I wasn't involved.
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
These are the suggestions for getting through the withdrawal symptoms. Although it's highly recommended to taper off the medication slowly as a way to prevent withdrawal, it still seems that many people have some symptoms, even with the taper. See, I did not taper, so I inevitably screwed myself harder than I needed to. I didn't do things the "right" way out of pure laziness, forgetfulness, and not really liking my doctor. So allow me to be the example of everything you SHOULDN'T do.

  • Drink lots of water Thanks to heaving if I had any more than a eye-dropper of water when I was pregnant, I constantly craved the stuff. I used to daydream about those Aquafina drink-to-life commercials, just guzzling jug after jug of wonderful, cool water. Now that I can, I do!
  • Exercise (swimming, running, walking, biking, etc.) I chase after my very busy 1-year old. Coincidentally, spending time with her also helps to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms.
  • Yoga/Pilates
  • Meditation
  • Talking to a counselor/therapist or friend a LOT during this time Don't you just feel so special that you are my counselor/therapist for this ridiculous part of my life? *nods* I thought so.
  • Eat regularly and healthy This is difficult for me. I am an emotional eater, but not in the traditional sense of parking my car in a strange town and gorging myself on Toxic Smell (or McGurggles). When I'm upset, I don't eat, so this is a conscious effort I have to make.
  • Avoid alcohol Whoopsie.
  • Dramamine (mixed results) I've never taken this (at least that I am aware of).
These are some things that worked for me, but nobody else had mentioned them in my research
  • Crying and enjoying it I don't enjoy crying. I might do it a lot, but I feel foolish, so I rarely break into a full-body cry; at least in front of witnesses. You do feel better afterwards, but I won't admit that until at least the next day.
  • Ibuprophen for the headaches and muscle aches
  • Tylenol Simply Sleep (ask your doctor first!!) Thanks to a  work case of mine involving Tylenol and an emergency liver transplant, I no longer touch the stuff.
  • Mindfulness and "watching" all the symptoms like a movie I don't really know what this means, which means I don't practice it. I can say that you don't feel psycho all of the time. The main thing is, that while my brain is trying to get back into the habit of making my happy chemicals again, I have an extremely short fuse that could lead to crying, screaming, throwing, sobbing, staring off into space, or all of them in succession. The only thing is, I can tell when I'm about to go postal so I make an effort not to be around Jacob or the dogs. (I find myself subconsciously veering away from going postal when Zoey is around)
  • Finding the good that is coming with the withdrawal The only good I see is when it's over.
  • Writing, writing, writing For me, writing is cathartic, but nothing that I would post here. In regards to the antidepressant withdrawal, writing has just given me something to do, something [else] to think about, and kept me from spinning around the house like the Tasmanian Devil.
  • Playing games (video, board, card, etc.) I do this A LOT. Jacob and I rarely watch television, spending our evenings eating, reading, him playing a racing game on the Xbox, me playing Mahjong, word-search, Coffee Buzz, Tweeting, or exhibiting random bouts of cleaning.
  • Doing things I love Without a doubt, this helps tremendously, which is also another reason why I seemed to have dove head-first into reading. But when I can't do that, it's a good thing one of the things I like doing is cleaning and organizing. But hanging out with Zoey is the ultimately elixir.
And when the anxiety/restlessness/intensity rears its head - remember it's not ME, it's the chemistry in my brain that's doing this. This takes a conscious effort if only for the fact that I can't let myself get completely out of control. I can't turn into psycho bitch simply because I willfully altered the chemicals in my brain and now I'm waiting for them to return to normal. Jacob has been insanely (bad choice of words?) wonderful, letting things roll off of his back, and exhibiting higher levels of understanding than any spouse should. I am extremely lucky, I just need to get back to the place where I don't have to be reminded. 

Before I know it, I'll be back to my old self (how was that again?), and I'll be able to look back at this brief history of time and chuckle at my ridiculousness. Until then, though, I bought stock in Kleenex.