One of the frustrating experiences with depression is when doctors put you on a bunch of different medications.
It almost feels like you are a science experiment.
It’s hard to deal with all the changes, side effects, and feelings when they don’t work or make things more complicated.
Nancy emailed me sharing her story of how she was on many different medications and now she has successfully weaned off of them. She feels appropriate emotions and is doing much better.
Enter Nancy’s Success Story
Depression runs in my family on my mother’s side, although my gram, my mother, and my aunts never called it that. They tied it to being Irish, and called it melancholy.
I noticed as a child that my mother napped a lot. My siblings and I took it as normal… and she was always up to make supper when our father came home. It wasn’t until I was in high school at a friend’s house that I noticed a profound difference in how her mother behaved. My mother was nothing like her. My mother was emotionally unavailable, or extremely irritable. It was a rare occasion when she was happy.
When I was 7, my family went through a fire (12/31/1965 in Malden, Massachusetts), which killed my 3-year old cousin. My family and I were saved by a neighbor. This event changed me, forever. I had experienced death in a way no 7 year old child should ever have to. My mother told me years later that I was a different child after that. No more happy go lucky, and that there was a sadness in my eyes that was always there. In fact, my whole family was altered.. my gram, my aunts, and my parents. Being Irish, we were stoic and of course, time moved forward.
When I was 10, I was molested by an uncle. I didn’t tell my parents until he died when I was 19. Hitting puberty was when my psyche went through monthly ‘hits’ of depression, anxiety and sadness. By the time I was in high school, my self-esteem was very low. I was struggling emotionally, but I got good grades in school, was in the pep club, and had a few close friends.
At 15, I got a job at a day camp; it was after school during the school year, and full time in the summer. We had a sleepover at a conservation area with the kids, and after they went to sleep, the adult counselors had a fire with us junior counselors. They were passing around a bottle of apricot brandy, and I had never had a sip of alcohol.
When the bottle came to me, I was scared but didn’t want to seem ‘uncool’ and I took a sip. Almost immediately, there was a warmth that permeated my entire being… and I remember thinking that the pain was GONE. I felt relaxed, and happy… I had found relief from the anxiety and sadness that hung around me like an anchor.
Being Prescribed Her First Antidepressant
Forward ahead a few years, and I got married, I had 3 children, and was still struggling. I went to counseling and my first antidepressant was prescribed – Zoloft. I only took it for 2 days because I felt like I was crawling out of my skin and I couldn’t sleep. Then Wellbutrin – Nope. I was then put on Prozac and Xanax, which I took for several years. It lifted my depression but stopped working after several years. I wasn’t depressed, but I felt flatlined emotionally.
I then changed medical prescribers and after a consultation, he thought I was bipolar so prescribed Paxil and Lithium. I was on these medicines for a few years. I was feeling like a science experiment, and becoming very discouraged.. During this period, details are a bit fuzzy, but I was switched to a new medical prescriber and after a time, she took me off lithium. I was still prescribed Xanax all through this time, only taking .25 mg to help me sleep, as needed. I was also prescribed Ativan to take daily for anxiety. I was also prescribed Ambien but only took it twice, not liking it at all.
While on the Paxil and Ativan, I began to rethink this whole medicine thing. I stopped the Ativan cold turkey. It was awful. I had to take Xanax to ease the withdrawal symptoms of muscle twitching… but I did succeed after about 3 weeks.
Deciding To Be Antidepressant Free At Age 58
Again, I was given another prescriber (!) and when I explained the Paxil didn’t seem to be working, was prescribed Celexa. At first 10 mgs, then 20, then 40. I took 40 mgs for about 8 years. When I turned 58, I wanted to be untethered from anti-depressants entirely.
I assumed that, since I no longer had monthly hormonal swings, I would have less anxiety. Also, I wanted my brain back: good, bad, and indifferent. I started researching and reading how best to accomplish this. I learned that for older adults, Celexa is not good and can even be dangerous. My mind was made up, and I was determined.
I started weaning off Celexa on December 6, 2016. I started taking 20 mgs (down from 40), and did this for 7 days. I halved the dose again to 10 mgs for 7 days, then 10 mgs every other day for 7 days, then 10 mgs every 3rd day for 4 days, then none. By January 1, 2017, I was off Celexa completely. I was anti-depressant free for the first time in 23 years.
Using Natural Methods and Dreaming Again
During this time, I had always taken a multivitamin, and I made sure I took a good one,. I also took 4 grams of a high quality omega-3 fish oil (which I was already taking for arthritis – works great for pain and stiffness), 500 mg of turmeric, 4000 units of D3 (2000 twice a day), sub-lingual B complex, and 100 mg of 5-htp twice per day. I also began taking 5 mg of melatonin at night which helped me sleep.
I also continued my almost daily walk at lunch (2-3 miles), and ate vegetables and good proteins. I had no brain zaps at all. I was concerned I would with such a fast wean but I did not. One of the first benefits of being off Celexa was DREAMING… it was years since I had remembered dreaming, and now I have vivid dreams that I remember almost every night. I also noticed an improved sense of smell and appropriate emotions – happiness and sadness.
I still do have anxiety and I am still working on relieving that, but I continue to take the above supplements and I seem to be holding my own. After being on anti-depressants for so long, I have to figure out what is appropriate sadness sometimes.. I hope my story can help someone else.
Nancy C., Epsom, NH