Medicines have their place, and I am going to assume drug manufacturers produce medicine with some notion of helping people who take the medicines. I know pharmaceuticals are big money, especially Paxil, for drug companies such as GlaxoSmithKline. Paxil is their moneymaker, and now I know why. It’s incredibly difficult to get off of it! All I ask for those companies is that if you push a drug through the FDA approval system, you first create a cohort of of individuals who have taken and then have successfully stopped taking your drug. You thoroughly document AND DISCLOSE every single side effect and symptom with complete honesty. Yes, it will affect your bottom line. It will make doctors and patients thoroughly evaluate decisions whether or not to go on a medicine. In the long run, though, it will also help individuals who take your medicine and it’ll allow them to make informed decisions.
I am thankful for the age of medical advances and knowledge that allows companies to manufacture drugs that help needed populations, such as those with mood disorders. What I will say is that personally, if I had known about Paxil in advance, I would have refused the medicine and requested another antidepressant that could have worked for me. Paxil would have been my last choice of SSRIs. I find it disheartening that stats show “severe” discontinuation symptoms for Paxil users to be anywhere from 2%-7% or so. Check out the website Paxil Progress and you’ll find a plethora of people describing terrible withdrawal. People have taken their own personal time to write withdrawal guides. Check out a free 93-page withdrawal guide here. I have NOT yet heard from or read about a Paxil user that didn’t have those discontinuation symptoms. What I also find humorous is that we have to bathe, fluff, and put nice-smelling perfume on the terminology that is in reality a severe withdrawal. Paxil discontinuation syndrome is NOT an accurate term for what some in the medical community have described as withdrawal similar in effect to cocaine and heroin but lasting longer. There may be people who need to be on antidepressants for life. I do not doubt that nor do I degrade them for needing medicine. Mood disorders can be emotionally instigated, and they can also be genetically predisposed. There is no shame or harm in taking any doctor-prescribed medicine that allows your body to return to optimal functioning.
Once Paxil seeks its teeth into you, though, it’s like a pit bull. If you’re a pit bull lover, I am not saying that as an offense. When some pit bulls bite, they have a “bite, hold, and shake behavior and at times refuse to release.” I have read multiple accounts of people being bitten by Paxil and not being able to break free. My own personally determined unofficial and loose statistics show people can take an average of 2.5 times trying to withdrawal off the medicine. Those are the success stories. Paxil is so terrible to wean off of that sometimes people cannot. I seriously thought Paxil would be a medicine that I HAD to stay on in order to live a full life and remain myself. I tried 2 times to get off Paxil under doctor’s orders. The depression seemed to come back every time I did the suggested “slow taper.” The red flag for me was that with each withdrawal, the feelings of depression were different than when I got on the drug. Looking back they were withdrawal symptoms, not depression. Paxil had bitten me like a pit bull and wouldn’t let go. Because I was unsuccessful each time, when I asked my doctor to help me get off of it this third time, the doc understandably did not consider it wise to do so. I understand that completely, but I also knew I couldn’t continue experiencing the unacceptable weight gain that Paxil can cause in some people. DO NOT DO WHAT I HAVE DONE. This withdrawal period for me is “cold turkey.” Antidepressants affect every part of your body because they affect your brain, which controls your body. Don’t mess with your brain without supervision from a medical professional.
For me, “cold turkey” discontinuation is the only way I have been able to get off the drug and realize that I am not experiencing depression but withdrawal. It’s painfully excruciating, and that is not an exaggeration. I have been told by others and by multiple physicians that my pain tolerance is very high. I was born this way. So, when I say Paxil withdrawal is rocking my world, so to speak, I mean it. I’m not trying to get anybody to feel bad or sorry for me. I’m not looking for “oh, you poor thing” comments. All I want to do is expose myself in order to allow others to know that if their doctor has suggested getting off antidepressants, Paxil specifically, be ready for a potential period of hell on wheels. Also know that there are others experiencing what you’re experiencing, and that knowledge alone helps people fight through the sickness associated by Paxil withdrawal.
Day 7: This is when the withdrawal race became a marathon, and marathons are all about mental fortitude. Paxil withdrawal for me on day 7 was all about mental stamina through adverse circumstances. My body is not my own. The nausea has slightly lessened, but oddly I weep. Even through my depression, I wasn’t prone to crying. Those pulsating pressurized and electrified sound waves still flood my chest up to my brain. Zaps is not a good description of those things, but it’s what the Paxil withdrawal community uses, so I’ll use it. Every time I move my head, I get zapped no less than three times. The same occurs when I open or refocus my eyes. I have an exam to study for in one of my masters classes, and I dread trying to read and comprehend it, but I’ll make it through. Spiritually I had prayed on a regular basis that God would spare me from the side effects. I’ve been through a lot in the past 6 years, and I was hoping for a smooth withdrawal period. When it was clear that God didn’t protect me from the side effects, I had some unpleasant words for Him. In fact, during this mentally-warped period of withdrawal, I told God that I wasn’t sure He existed. Reflecting on that comment is humorous – why would I pray and talk to God about not believing God existed? It makes no sense, but nothing makes sense on Paxil withdrawal. I was able to drive for the first time in a while, and I had my, “I’m not sure you’re really there” one-sided conversation with God in the car. I was alone. I try to be careful about getting weepy or frustrated around my children right now – I want them to be protected from what Momma is going through. I am trying to protect my husband as well. Call it coincidence or divine interference, but during the time I was crying in the car and telling God He may not exist, the radio turned on to a Christian station. The words were, “I (God) will never let you go no matter what you do.” Really? Seriously, I didn’t turn on the radio. It just turned on. On one hand I felt remembered by God. On the other hand I thought, then why don’t you just make this stop? I wanted to curse, curse, curse. I’ve only said two curse words in my life, and those were when I was trying to make a (failed) point when I was in high school. Curse, curse, curse. I wanted to let out a string of expletives that would have singed a sailor’s ears and caused him to blush. I really wanted to on day 7, but didn’t. By mid-day the nausea came on full force and I became fearful of what my body was going through. Would my body ever be my own again? I started getting hot flashes, and my body was extremely exhausted. I slept the afternoon on the couch with my son snuggling up to my chest while watching cartoons. That night I couldn’t read any violent news story or watch anything stimulating. Fortunately, perusing Paxil withdrawal message boards on the internet kept me focused on the fact that this is just the drug making its violent exit from my system. I tried to keep things normal for my kiddos and managed somehow to get a healthy meal on the table. We ate as a family, joked around, and discussed fun events in each person’s day. It was exhausting, but worth it. I went to bed in fear of the vivid nightmares, but managed to have a great night’s sleep and NOT remember the details of the nightmares. That’s progress!
I’ve lost 5 lbs in 8 days. Day 8 is today, and I’m writing this while I feel relatively good. Mornings are beginning to slightly improve. I have hired a babysitter to play with my young son for the day so I can keep all stresses and obligations to a minimum. My exam is online and the professor had difficulty getting it to load correctly, so it’s been rescheduled to next week. That is a definite blessing! Sweats started in the night, and for whatever reason my whole torso is now continually sore. Paxil is known to cause muscle soreness and tension upon withdrawal, so I expect that is the culprit. I have been practicing biofeedback to keep from clenching my jaw, which is another symptom of Paxil withdrawal. Hot baths and ginger/peppermint tea initially helped with the nausea but have since proved non-therapeutic. Now, I drink lots of ice water. Zaps are still here – I just experienced eight of them while turning my head to sip some ice water. I don’t want to go into much detail on this one, but my bowels are still out of whack. My eyes still feel as though they are bulging out from their sockets, but it’s not as bad as it was. I am practicing controlled breathing. I get chills then I swelter abnormally hot, but I run no fever. I was able to get a Starbucks Mocha today. I cannot imagine drinking black coffee right now, but the mocha did help me feel some semblance of normalcy. Writing is getting a bit more difficult now. It’s about the time in the day that my symptoms begin to increase, but I’m actively trying to figure out ways to circumvent that cycle. When getting onto Paxil, depression was worse in the mornings and improved in the evenings. It’s now swapped – I feel better in the mornings and the afternoons and evenings are full of physical withdrawal symptoms and mental absurdity. However, I had the desire to tackle a few projects today. Notice I say I had the desire. I don’t have the ability yet. However, I know that the desire is a very positive sign that my body is finally fighting back and trying to return to a state of equilibrium.
On another note, I am THRILLED! I just (as in a few minutes ago) got a notification that my proposal for the Texas Counseling Association, “A Wellness Initiative for Undergraduates Applying to Medical School,” has been accepted as one of the sessions to be presented at the 2014 Professional Growth Conference in Dallas, Texas!! It’s a pretty big feat for a masters student’s proposal to be accepted, so I’m pleasantly surprised and excited. Many thanks to my amazing professor and previous Outstanding Educator of the Year recipient, Dr. Annette Albrecht, for being willing to co-present! Now if I can soon just kick this dastardly withdrawal…