Why I Decided to Stop Taking Antidepressants

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

I have depression. The kind that I have is cyclic and incurable, though they tell me that it’s treatable. A few months ago, I started feeling less motivated. I had been medication free for a little while after a really bad experience on Viibryd, but my therapist and I determined that it might be a good idea to get back on something. My APRN—who prescribes my psychiatric medication—agreed. So we started me on Abilify.

Within a couple of weeks, I was feeling productive again and less depressed. I felt more like myself. But a couple months later, I felt myself slipping into a downward spiral. So we added on Wellbutrin. And for a little while, it seemed like it was helping.

Until it wasn’t.

My APRN decided to take me off the Wellbutrin. And even though I’d been on the lowest dose, I crashed. Hard. For two weeks straight, I burst into tears at random. I completely stopped working. My self-esteem plummeted. All I wanted to do was sleep. I struggled against suicidal thoughts. I had wave after wave of panic attacks.

My mental healthcare team decided to take me off the Abilify as well. I’d been taking a moderately low dose, but my APRN told me that I didn’t need to wean off. I should’ve known better; I’m very, very sensitive to these meds. But honestly, I wasn’t thinking clearly. I stopped taking Abilify cold turkey.

My APRN and therapist talked me into trying another antidepressant, Effexor. I let the APRN call the prescription in to my pharmacy. I had every intention of giving it a shot.

Until I started feeling worse.

I had a terrible time coming off of Abilify. Though I no longer felt suicidal, I completely stopped caring about anything. Getting out of bed took monumental effort. I wandered through my days, exhausted. I cried all the time for no reason.

Antidepressants tend to have an adverse effect on me. When I was fifteen, Zoloft turned me into a zombie. Ten years later, Prozac made me suicidal. Viibryd almost killed me. Lately I’ve wondered more and more whether I have any business taking these drugs. I know they help some people. But the fact of the matter is, we don’t really know why these medications work. We don’t know much about the brain, and we know even less about mental illness. More and more, I’m wondering if putting these chemicals into my body is doing more harm than good.

After some thought, I’ve decided not to start Effexor. I want to give myself more time to heal from coming off of Wellbutrin and Abilify. These medications alter your brain chemistry; coming off of them throws things out of whack even more. As your body gets used to being without them, your brain chemistry changes yet again.

Honestly, I’m terrified to throw anything else into that mix. No matter how bad I’ve been feeling, I want to get better. I’m truly scared of what might happen if I try yet another antidepressant.

The past few weeks are a blur to me. I’m not writing anymore. I’m barely working at all. Deadlines are looming and part of me could care less while the other part is horrified that I’m so apathetic. Everyone I know is worried about me; I’m worried about myself.

I’ve hit rock bottom.

But I don’t plan on giving up.

I’m fighting for my life, one minute at a time. See, I want to live. I want to feel better. I want to be writing again.

And I will.

In the meantime, I need to heal—without pharmaceutical help.

I honestly am beginning to think that I have treatment-resistant depression. I’ve tried multiple medications from each class. I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was fifteen. Yet nothing seems to help. I’m looking into alternative treatment options. I’m also considering getting another opinion on my diagnosis; in the early 2000s, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, yet more recently I was re-diagnosed with dysthymia. I’m wondering if I’ve been misdiagnosed. A social worker once told me that she thought I have bipolar disorder. It would explain the cycles I go through. If I’ve been incorrectly diagnosed, the proper diagnosis could unlock the key for treating my depression.

So that’s where I’ve been, why I’ve been so quiet, and partially why I’ve slowed down a lot. Like a bad cold, I’ve got to ride this out and take good care of myself in the meantime. And eventually, this will pass and I’ll be even stronger.

As the Buddhist saying goes, “This too.”

“I’m not giving up
I’m just giving in”

To me, this means to stop thrashing against it and instead, float for a little while, letting my mind, body, and spirit rest. This song perfectly explains that need to just let go.

Published by

Elizabeth Barone

Elizabeth Barone is an American novelist who writes contemporary romance and suspense starring strong belles who chose a different path. Her debut novel Sade on the Wall was a quarterfinalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. She is the author of the South of Forever series and several other books.

When not writing, Elizabeth is very busy getting her latest fix of Yankee Candle, spicy Doritos chips, or whatever TV show she’s currently binging.

Elizabeth lives in northwestern Connecticut with her husband, a feisty little cat, and too many books.

2 thoughts on “Why I Decided to Stop Taking Antidepressants”

  1. Nobody knows your body better than you. Whatever you decide, go slowly. Try getting a massage, taking good vitamin regimen, eat really well, & try to stabilize your sleep cycle. I find magnesium really helps my muscles stop that heebie-geebie quivering that I get coming off Ssri’s. Mostly, just be kind and patient with yourself. If you don’t feel like writing, at least record onto your phone a ‘feelings’ diary with sleep & eating habits. It’ll help when they try to modify your diagnosis. Get a bit of sunshine if you can. Try napping near a sunny window or some way to add vitamin D to your system. If weather permits, sit outside for at least 20-30 minutes. Take care of yourself. You’ll make it through the tunnel soon & see a point of light. Focus on every good feeling. Document everything.

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