My Story and My Fight Against Antidepressants, Part II

David Fox
49
7939

Editor’s Note: We published David’s personal story, ‘My Story and My Fight Against Antidepressants,’ in October 2013 and it continues, today, to be one of our most read pieces. Here is the story of what’s unfolded for David since that time.  

Unfortunately or fortunately—sometimes it is hard to tell with life—my story and my battle continue. In January 2014, I had some major setbacks and made the decision to restart antidepressants.

I’d made a rather large life change by taking on a new job that was entirely different from my previous career: I went from counseling and engaging with people all day long to staring at a computer screen with not much work to do. I tried everything to stay positive and cope with the changes, but it was just too much. At that stage I’d not yet heard about The Road Back programme or supplements that could assist the brain and body with major anxiety and/or withdrawals from antidepressant medication. To describe to you the anguish I felt at the thought of having to take Prozac again is impossible. Having to go back onto antidepressants because my anxiety at the job change, coupled with the relationship breakup and issues of not being able to see my daughter very often became too much and led to me feeling depressed again.

At that stage I was desperate and my mind was in a mental fog. I remember holding the Prozac tablet in my hand and feeling like it symbolized my abject failure as I swallowed it down with a gulp of water. I didn’t know what else to do. I had been practicing the tools of exercise and CBT but I had nothing for my brain or body to assist it with this additional strain so soon after coming off the antidepressants for the first time in nine years. So with my desperation and need to be ok and get back to work, I took the Prozac. And it didn’t work at all. In fact, it made me ten times worse. I felt like my mind was lost. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t think one positive thought. I felt even more depressed after I battled through going back on again for four weeks. I knew it wasn’t working and so reluctantly went back to the psychiatrist who told me to go back onto Cymbalta.

And so I did, and at first it didn’t help that much so I had to increase it to double the dose (120mg) and then the depressed feelings started to lift but I was plagued with anxiety. More anxiety than I have ever experienced in my life. I kept thinking that my life must be the cause of all this anxiety. I kept looking for the cause being my finances or lack of relationship or the fact that I was now a single dad to my two boys and my little girl.

But as days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months it just didn’t sit well with me that I was constantly in a state of anxiety. And then one day it dawned on me. Cymbalta is an SNRI. It works on serotonin and noradrenalin/norepinephrine. It’s basically like giving yourself a shot of adrenalin each morning—I imagine the pharmaceutical companies think this is good as it lifts people out of the demotivated and lethargic state of depression—but what do you think it does for people who have a tendency to feel anxious? Of course it sky rockets your anxiety out of all proportion. And then guess what happens when you try to withdraw or taper from it… Suddenly, your body and brain no longer have that shot of adrenalin they’re used to, and you crash.

When I dropped from 120mg to 60mg (which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone knowing what I know now), I couldn’t get through my day. I was plagued by major fatigue and had to chew on glucose tablets every two hours just to have the energy to cope. Feeling exhausted like that certainly doesn’t do anything for your mood either or make you feel joyful. But, I finally realised after months of being on Cymbalta that I absolutely had to get off.

This was when I went searching again on the internet and came across the work of James Harper and the Road Back Programme.

I immediately ordered his book and contacted James for assistance with using his supplements to taper the medication. Looking into what James reports in his book was another eye opener for me. Just as the work of Robert Whittaker had shown me the research around how little benefits there were over the long term for users of antidepressant medications, as well as the lies we have been sold by some in the psychiatric community and pharmaceutical companies, James’s work described the damage being done to our bodies and minds by the depletion of certain important chemicals and nutrients. James Harper is a bio-pharmacist who has been helping people taper off antidepressant medications since 2000. He has developed a range of supplements to assist with the tapering process that are aimed at ensuring the body and brain have the right type of nutrients, as well as supplements like high levels of Omega 3 to alleviate some of the withdrawal reactions. I ordered the supplements from an Australian master distributor and have since become a distributor myself to ensure I have access to these products both for me and for any of my clients who need assistance with the withdrawal process.

I have also adapted a daily tapering template from James’s book to monitor food and drink intake, exercise, sleep, mood, and anxiety, as well as any and all supplements being taken, to ensure that it is clear to me what is making the difference or what is going wrong if I am struggling with the taper for some reason.

Going back to what happened in 2014, I was on that high dose of Cymbalta (120mg) and struggling with ridiculous amounts of anxiety on a daily basis. I started taking the Road Back supplements and noticed an improvement in my mood and anxiety levels but still not enough. One morning I’d had enough and noticed that my anxiety peaked each morning about one hour after taking the Cymbalta. So, I decided to experiment and took only 60mg. Now, I don’t recommend this as a taper for anyone as the jump is way too big but what I noticed was a huge drop in my anxiety that day. Surprise, surprise. I knew then that the Cymbalta was driving my anxiety but now I was stuck on a high dose of it. I contacted James again and asked if he thought I should attempt a direct switch back to an SSRI, however he felt it best to taper off the Cymbalta. So, I persevered with it and managed to taper every two weeks by 10mg. Cymbalta comes in a slow release capsule and so it is practically impossible to get doses smaller than 30mg; in order to get 10mg doses, I had to go to my local compounding pharmacist, which cost a fortune.

I continued with the taper until I was down to 60mg and then I got stuck. When I tried to reduce any further, I was hit with the massive fatigue problem again, as well as bouts of being highly emotional. I just couldn’t get any lower, even with the Road Back supplements. I went to see a doctor who had been recommended to me as sympathetic and understanding when it came to people wanting to come off antidepressants. (By the way, by this stage, I’d decided I would never go back to the psychiatrist I’d seen for over nine years, as he’d steered me in the wrong direction, and been unaware of things I was aware of, one too many times.) I decided that I would be the driver of my own recovery with the help of a doctor who was sympathetic to my plight and willing to prescribe medications that I chose myself, which is exactly what I did.

I’d done a little research by talking to various professionals and looking on the internet and believed that the best medication to switch to was Lexapro (escitalopram). I wanted the doctor to be aware of the supplements I was taking from the Road Back Programme and she looked at them and agreed they were fine to take as they are all natural. She said that she wanted to talk to a psychiatrist colleague of hers first with regards to whether I could switch directly to the Lexapro from the Cymbalta. I said that was fine but I’d already decided in my own mind what I was going to do. When she called me to discuss it, she said the psychiatrist had told her I should first taper fully off Cymbalta within a week or two, and then start the Lexapro. I said, thanks but no thanks. To actually suggest that I should go through the torment of major withdrawal and then have to endure the agony of going back onto an antidepressant, which would take four to six weeks of hell, was just unacceptable to me. So I said very kindly to the doctor that I appreciated her efforts but that I would like to switch directly. She understood that this was my choice and that I was informed and experienced enough in these matters and gave me the script for 10mg of Lexapro. I switched the next morning directly from 60mg of Cymbalta to 10 mg of Lexapro. The result? My anxiety all but disappeared. I immediately felt calmer than I’d felt in over a year. I did have the fatigue issues as mentioned earlier, but I knew they were a withdrawal issue and nothing more and sure enough within about a week the fatigue went away.

I continue to take the Road Back supplements as well, especially the ‘Body Calm Supreme’ capsules, during the day and at night to ensure I get a good night’s rest. I also continue with my counselling sessions as well as ensuring that I do my twenty to thirty minutes of cardio exercise at least two to three times a week. In addition, I am ensuring that I take time out for me and meditate at least three to four times a week.

The next step I’ve taken is to start looking into natural methods of boosting serotonin in the body and brain. Reading some of the comments made on my first article here at Mad in America, I am grateful to a reader who put me onto Patrick Holford, an eminent nutritionist in the UK who has written a book called The Feel Good Factor, in which he describes how his clinic tests people for a lack or deficiency in not only serotonin but in all other minerals and vitamins. Though there’s never been evidence to support the claim, I do believe that lowered levels of serotonin may contribute to anxiety and depression. But I also believe that the human mind-brain connection and resulting emotional reactions are so complicated that to implicate only a lack of serotonin as the reason for anxiety and depression is misguided, and to take damaging chemicals that artificially alter serotonin levels in the brain is not the answer. Treating anxiety and depression by naturally increasing serotonin levels through exercising, changed thinking and emotional reactions, and correct diet and supplements may offer a healthier and certainly less risky way of beating depression.

Healing mental health issues through correct supplements as well as nutrition is, I believe, the final factor for me in my journey. This is possibly what was missing in my first attempt at coming off, and why my brain and body couldn’t handle the extreme anxiety I felt in December 2013. I am ensuring that as I prepare to taper off the Lexapro in 2015, my brain and body are being supported in every way possible through correct nutrition and supplementation including the Road Back supplements and adding in recommendations from Patrick Holford. If needed, I will start taking 5-HTP, which is a derivative of Tryptophan – the basic amino acid building block of serotonin. My determination to be free of antidepressant medication continues.

I realize that there is actually nothing wrong with me aside from being put onto antidepressants for feeling anxious about a major life event that had taken place, and then being trapped in the antidepressant vortex for more than nine years. And so, I am determined to help people get off antidepressants and stay off them for life. I know firsthand how hard it can be to get off, and the ongoing psychological and emotional trauma that it can put you through.

My wish is for as many people as possible to read what I have shared here and talk about it. To have the courage to make the changes in their lives that will lead to lasting and positive growth and a feeling of being free to choose to live the life they have always dreamed of: free from anxiety, free from depression, full of meaning and excitement and the achievement of everything that they hold dear to their hearts.

 

Part III of this story is coming soon.

49 COMMENTS

  1. Hi David-my new book, Neuroscience for psychologists and other mental health professionals: promoting well-being and treating mental illness, covers the story on diet, exercise, meditation, and social support. In fact, there is a great deal of support for these interventions to treating distress. The book also covers the lack of support for current psychotropics. Many psychiatrists are stuck on neurotransmitters. In fact, the emerging story in neuroscience is around the immune system as a major culprit in distress and psychosis. Consistent with this idea, Matt Lieberman and Naomi Eisenberg (social psychologists at UCLA) have their subjects play an interactive game from which the subject is then excluded by the others. Predictably the brain’s alarm center lights up. But, if the subject is pre-treated with aspirin, the brain’s alarm center does not light up and no subjective distress. Systemic inflammation responds well to turmeric and omega-3s and exercise. However, the American diet is replete with inflammatory factors-high fructose corn syrup.

  2. David,
    Congratulations on your successful efforts to withdraw from psychiatric drugs. You are on the right track with diet and supplementation providing the nutritional support you need. I tied unsuccessfully many times to withdraw from psych meds but was not able to do so until I had the support of an orthomolecular program based on my individual needs as determined by tissue mineral analysis. I used Analytical Research Labs, Phoenix AZ http://www.arltma.com

  3. I’m surprised that MIA has decided to publish this article which largely reads as advertising for the Road Back Programme and its supplements. Readers should be aware that most online forums and withdrawal support charities do NOT recommend the use of such supplements during psych med withdrawal as they rarely seem to help and can make symptoms worse in some people.

    • Glaucus,
      I’m chiming in here as personal stories editor. Mad in America doesn’t support/endorse any particular withdrawal program, but we do respect the many ways that people find healing from psychiatric drugs, which might include use of a program, and feel it important for us to keep space open for these individual experiences to be shared. I think it would be great if folks from our community had feedback to offer about this program or others, and wanted to start a respectful discussion about the benefits/harms, efficacy/inefficacy, etc. of supplements, the Road Back program, or other withdrawal programs. And perhaps the author of this story will choose to chime in here, as well.

      In fact, this might be a good topic to get a thread going on in our Forums, which can be accessed here: https://www.madinamerica.com/forums/forum/psychiatric-drugs/

      Best,
      Laura

      • Hi Laura

        I entirely agree that personal experiences need to be shared, but only alongside the acknowledgement that what works for one person may not work or can even harm another. The key is to provide balance, and I think an article like this needs some kind of disclaimer – otherwise I can assure you that a lot of desperate people will rush out and spend many $$$ on supplements of minimal use or worse. Those in withdrawal cling to anything that might bring a reduction in their suffering, and the fora and Facebook groups are littered with negative stories about The Road Back and other providers of homeopathic & orthomolecular hope. This side needs to be explored and highlighted too.

        Glaucus

      • I agree with Glaucus here. Over the years during my 5 years in support groups I have witnessed many people have reaction after reaction to adding supplements to their withdrawal regime. And if they were lucky enough to avoid reactions, they just didn’t get any benefit at all. And if you speak with the support charities in the UK who have been assisting people in psych drug withdrawal for many decades, they will all advise NOT to add supplements, other drugs. I’m not sure how you can advertise this program without having actually withdrawn successfully.

        From speaking with people who’ve used this program, it appears that there’s been many disappointments when the tapers they suggest are too fast and the individuals crash into severe withdrawal and the overpriced supplements they sell don’t do anything to stop that. I have also spoken to many people who, when this happened, they were kicked off their support page and basically told that they must have done something wrong, that the program is not the problem. The people singing their praises as testimonials were most likely people who wouldn’t have had major problems withdrawing from the medicine to begin with, as many people get a “free pass” and come off without problem (i.e. those who aren’t kindled, it’s their first withdrawal, they haven’t had reactions/CTs/reinstatements, etc). Others are not that lucky. Remember correlation doesn’t always equal causation. Just because someone took their supplements and had an easy withdrawal doesn’t mean it was the supplements that helped. They may have had an easy withdrawal anyhow, without them.

        It’s a shame when vulnerable and desperate people are promised things with a hefty price tag only to have it fail, especially when we’ve all been duped by Pharma/western medicine already and wound up caught in this first trap being made iatrogenically dependent in the first place.

        Ultimately, the rate and speed of taper and listening to your body’s signals as you reduce is what allows people to get off of the medication without severe suffering. Many people microtaper their SSRIs (and other psych meds) on their own with great success and save themselves the money spent on useless supplements that haven’t been proven to assist in withdrawal and often times can make people worse and pricey compounded formulas. If you know what you’re doing and get help from people who’ve done it before you, it really all makes sense and works. Your previous taper failed b/c your cuts exceeded your body’s ability to make repairs at the rate and speed you reduced (too large of cuts and too fast of speed coming off). It’s really that simple.

        • How many of those people you observed having a bad reaction to supplements had a tissue mineral analysis done to determine their own particular needs? Our bodies are complex and finely tuned chemical structures. It is unwise take any drug or supplement, even a multi-vitamin, without a thorough work-up of tests. Today this would include food anti-body testing (IGG) as well as tissue mineral levels. One psychiatrist at the forefront of this is Dr. Charles Parker. http://www.corepsych.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/CoreTests-h.pdf

          • Agreed- everyone’s body is different. I did try TRB supplements but ended up only using the Omega 3 fish oil. I found most supplements and vitamins to be too overstimulating during my withdrawal. Each person should do their own research and consult a naturopath or other specialist who understands psych drug withdrawal. Also, Peter Breggin’s writing are very useful.

        • I too once thought that getting off meds should mean getting off everything and that the body can readjust given time and the right conditions (whatever they are – if they’re even possible…).
          I learned the hard way that it’s not always so. My husband came off meds after a very slow taper off “only” 2 drugs and became psychotic. Maybe if he could have taken a “time-out” from all the stresses and demands of everyday regular life he could have managed the transition without supplements – and maybe not, who knows? But for many people, taking that time-out just isn’t possible in any case.
          Today, my husband is stable and med-free thanks to the supplements he takes (particularly, high doses of B-vitamins and some amino acids, also mineral supplements and other vitamins). After years (in his case, 20 years) of being on psych-meds, most people need help for their bodies to adjust, to help their livers flush out the junk, to help their systems find their way back to equilibrium.
          Medicine of some kind or another has been around for as long as humans have, so what’s the problem in taking supplements, especially for a person in such a weakened condition? Especially when today’s food is so nutritionally depleted, all of us need a little help to keep things going.
          I would add that my husband’s nutritionist diagnoses him rather than his “disease” using a variety of methods including TCM, iridology, Bach flowers… I wouldn’t trust anyone who diagnosed the “disease” rather than the person.

          • Hi ajewinisrael
            I’m in the same boat as your husband going through a crazy unbearable time
            Ii tapered off to quickly since i’ve been on various ssri for 19 years, the times are testing anxiety, fear, crazy thinking mood changes but i have got to be resilient and be for ever hopeful, i started getting withdrawals straight away the progressively got worst then went back on the 4 mg paroxetine after 5 weeks just a little improvement.

            I’m looking to commence 5 htp amino acid and try to switch over to since its a low does of medication

            I don’t have all the resources and experienced professions to guide me where i am.

            I was wondering if you could give me some insight

          • Hi Mickde1,
            I’m very hesitant to give advice to anyone (except stay well away from doctors). I’m not any kind of professional in these matters.
            I tried giving my husband 5HTP for a while (and it’s always me giving him things to try as he doesn’t know english so I’m the one doing the research and suggesting things) and it definitely did lift his mood – but that’s not always a good thing.
            In any case, the serotonin link to certain results has been pretty much disproven – various research has linked it to both depression and the opposite, so I wouldn’t get too excited about some kind of substitute for the meds. You’re not looking to substitute for them – you’re looking to strengthen your systems after years of ingesting poison, and to ultimately address the underlying emotional issues – NOT biophysical issues.
            And, after years of ingesting poison, the person is usually left ultra-sensitive to lots of things that don’t affect others so much, such as sugar, caffeine, mild stresses. Learning to avoid triggers is very important, and to identify a downward spiral as it begins is also crucial, so you can step in to stop it before it gets out of control.
            Getting enough sleep, nutritious food – that’s advice for everyone. And a good nutritionist who understands the damage wrought by the psych-poison and can see what needs to be addressed in you specifically.
            I wish you all the best, and remember that there will always be ups and downs. We’re living in tough times, but the struggle to keep our heads above water and live ethical, moral lives and try to make the world a better place is infinitely valuable, even if it seems that we’re not really doing anything significant. Treasure each day as an opportunity to give, to help, to refine one’s character, to conquer the negativity and find the bright side to even the darkest moment.
            Good luck!

        • Some supplements help though. Magnesium and iron are quite important if you suffer from drug-induced restless leg syndrome for instance.

          I just worry about people taking supplements without knowing what’s in them and doing blood checks – taking too much of some vitamins or microelements (like iron or iodine) can poison you.

    • I have not really followed this site, but I have the read the book Mad in America and I admire it so very much.

      I am sharing about vitamin K2 as it affects cognitive function and mood.

      I am unfamiliar with the supplemental programme mentioned here, but I have been actively reading about vitamin K2 for some time and it is a topic that is about to come into its own soon and you will be hearing about it.

      Vitamin K2 is a form of vitamin K that we have impaired in recent times. Vitamin K of all forms are among the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and vitamin K2 is found in many forms. K2 has side chains of varying lengths and vitamin K2 is called menaquinone. So MK-4 is menaquinone with a 4 link side chain. MK-7 is menaquinone with a 7 link side chain. As the chains get longer, the vitamin K2 become more lipophilic.
      Menaquinones are created by bacteria, but MK-4 is the common form that is NOT created this way. We can consume MK-4 in food, but the interesting thing is that we also make it endogenously. We foul up this biosynthesis via some Rx drugs and also via trans fatty acids, which are created when high vitamin K1 oils are hydrogenated. Trans fatty acids are really biomarkers of an aberrant form of vitamin K called dihydrophylloquinone (dK). dK cannot activate vitamin K-dependent proteins and impairs biosynthesis of MK-4.
      The brain has the highest amount of MK-4 in the body, but the pancreas is also high, as are kidneys and other organs.

      There is some compelling evidence that we need much more vitamin K2 in diet and we need to stop blocking the biosynthesis of MK-4. It makes for brain/mood issues, it increases risk of diabetes, it leads to increased risk of CHD, it leads to increased risk of cancer, it impairs health in general.

      Guylainne Ferland is from Montreal. She is doing exciting things with vitamin k and brain.
      Look into her.

      Brains need MK-4 and I suspect that the drugs so often cited here also impair MK-4 biosynthesis (as do statins, bisphosphonates, NSAIDs). So this is an argument for supplementing if you do not get K2 in diet.

      Long chain K2 is high in some fermented foods (cheeses, natto, some in sauerkraut or yogurt, organ meats, mollusks or insects) and, while it is true that our gut bacteria make it, it is for them and for their energy and we absorb very little from out gut bacteria. MK-4 is high in animal fats (butter, lard, the fat itself, egg yolks). So we have lost the foods high in vitamin K2 due to bad dietary advice.

      The blocking of MK-4 biosynthesis via trans fatty acids and Rx and OTC drugs is another aspect of why brains need this so very much.

      Supplements are no substitute for real foods, but we have lost those. We forget about what real food was in just a few decades back. Now folks are malnourished and especially deficient in fats and fat solubles. Like in the brain.

      So do not ‘dis’ supplements, but do seek fats and fat soluble nutrients and do avoid drugs that impair them.

  4. Awesome careful attention to facts of emotional wellbeing, when the trick is very, very hard to turn…
    great job done so far!

    David, keeping your learning experience totally personal proves the larger point of how casual prescriber attitudes toward anti-depressant medications imperil the trusting client. Your set of entirely personal motives, to keep every fact of your experience straight and communicate the imperative nature of taking charge of all decisions for yourself, helps convey the optimal attitude for withdrawal efforts and self-help get most carefully considered. This is a great story for practitioners to learn from, and I know that lots of readers put two and two together and recognize that how you have to think and act to take care of yourself like this tells you what kind of person to look for in seeking therapy and healthcare more generally. Not to give up or sell yourself short are my two favorite messages to take away from this piece.

  5. Hi David, I’m so moved by your courage and transparency to share your process so openly. To me, that is a precursor to success, so I am very optimistic for you.

    I will say this–after finally tapering from 9 meds and getting back into the swing of things, I got very busy suddenly with a new job and also a new career in theater which had sprung up out of the blue as I was healing. I began to feel overwhelmed and at the same time, experienced some life challenges. All of this felt as though it were heading me back to where I had been, where I first needed medication (or so I thought I did).

    BUT, this time, instead of going back to the drugs, I followed my new alternative route and did my energy work, applied what I had learned in my spiritual studies, and I kept going. I was doing my first musical ever, and kind of having a nervous breakdown at the same time. I had legal battles with the system regarding stigma and discrimination, a rift with my church, and on top of that, my mother in law passed away during this time, which affected my partner deeply. I had my hands full, and I was only 3 years off the drugs at this time, still recovering.

    I won my legal mediation and got great reviews for the show I was doing and navigated all of this without ever going back to either drugs or psychotherapy, and discovered that I had the power to self-heal. Came out a new person, and knew that I’d never, ever have to go back to all that, now that I had an entirely new perspective–with experience to back it up–which allowed my to navigate my troubles with new clarity and certainty.

    That has stayed with me, and I’ve since been busy and have had the usual ups and downs that life brings us, with not even an inkling of considering any of this again. Life for me has changed dramatically as a result, transformative.

    I say this to give hope, and also to remind that we do have the power to address life on our own terms. Trusting our own process and inner guidance is vital to heal dependence on psych drugs. We will be tested, no doubt about that.

    Thanks again for your inspiring and beautiful sharing.

    • Alex, I love everything you write 🙂 You really do give hope. I love your ending “I say this to give hope, and also to remind that we do have the power to address life on our own terms. Trusting our own process and inner guidance is vital to heal dependence on psych drugs.”

      I want to just add “to heal dependence on psych drugs or any particular therapy system.” I’m actually very pro-psychotherapy but only when it is flexible. So my comment pertains to those programmes/systems where the author or therapist insists THIS (their) way is THE ONLY way to heal from whatever. I find that really insidious. There are as many ways to heal as there are people on the planet. No system can fit all perfectly. Some will come close but we’ll find we still have to make modifications or skip parts or add parts or sometimes do the opposite of the instructions for an infinite number of reasons.

      I think that’s why many people who do a particular therapy or self-help programme get discouraged, because at some point what they’re being instructed to do will feel wrong for them and they feel like ‘Well, since this is apparently THE way to heal and it’s not working for me I guess I’m stuck like this for life.’ and that can be very dangerous too! So following your own inner guide is key but it can be so hard to trust sometimes when you’ve got ‘experts’ telling you that this is how you should be progressing or dealing with x,y,z…

      • David and Fluffy, thank you, I’m so moved by what you both say and really grateful that my words ring true. Sharing so transparently as we do can be a bit nerve-wracking in its vulnerability, but when we can receive each other’s heartfelt words and intention to heal and support, I feel it is so incredibly a vital part of the process.

        I know we are creating a new culture/world because when else in history has the experience of withdrawing from psych drugs and that whole experience been so personally and intimately explored from lived experience? And internationally! I think it’s really awesome.

        That is a whole new energy on the planet, don’t know how else to put it. I find it extremely encouraging, especially in dialogues like this, which I hope to always be an active participant in moving forward this particular dialogue, regarding how to heal and maintain well-being in the way that is appropriate to each of us, based on who we are, etc. Only subjectively can these choices be made, step by step. We each need support, and when it feels like ‘counter-support,’ I’d say move on and keep going, away from the naysayers and perpetual negativity and defeatism. That’s a process to trust, a lot of personal growth and empowerment happens here, not to mention self-respect.

        Eventually, as we get older, we ‘get’ ourselves, and know what is right for us vs. what is toxic for us. Realizing how much I’ve learned thanks to these multiple dark nights staggers me, and also makes me really happy to acknowledge to myself. Witnessing our own evolution is our greatest awareness, and what teaches us that not only everything changes, as that is inevitable, but also how we can best influence that change, from our own point of focus and belief system. I think it’s where we want to trust love over fear.

        I agree with you both, it is all so totally individual, as many processes as there are individual people. I think when we, as a collective, make it a priority to respect that we each know what is right for us, intuitively, and when we get confused–as we all do at certain passages in life, that is natural and human–then we turn to whom we feel we can trust, and as well, we begin to explore and learn new aspects of life. How else do we evolve?

        The drugs seem to inhibit personal evolution, by numbing the pain, which does only suppresses whatever is causing it in the first place. Sooooo many other options, pick & choose! More and more about healing and personal growth coming to light daily, that is a hotbed of exploration and discovery. Many of us are on that ever-unfolding path. Exploring is how we learn and grow.

        Pain is a gift in life, as it guides us to our own light and truth. Pain most definitely needn’t be chronic nor permanent. I see it as a personal guide, which makes it always extremely temporary.

        Losing our judgments and evaluations while being more curious and in awe of whatever anyone’s experience is, is a good place to start bringing ease and clarity, as well as conflict resolution, both internal and external. Evolution is what we’re after, not perfection. And certainly, justice in our natural diversity.

      • Thanks so much, B, it means a great deal to me to read your comment. “Managed” is a good word, this was by the skin of my teeth! Seemed necessary to find a way, though, and it proved to be a gateway for me, thankfully.

        I’m always happy to share this film. I’ve shared it here a few times in the past, and I got some very supportive and encouraging comments. Although overall, it did not seem to move this crowd very much. It has been appreciated in other communities, however, and it made an impact on the system here in Northern CA, I know this with certainty. Glad to post it here again, in case it speaks to anyone at present.

        This is a 10 minute clip if anyone wants to just check it out briefly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LN0-m6nhUIE

        This is the complete film, Voices That Heal, 96 min: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtDGxJWmj5w

        While we center the film around stigma and discrimination from within the system, my intention is also to show the diverse perspectives which exist on the topics of ‘mental illness,’ and ‘healing,’ as well as a range of experiences with family and community support, which of course impacts our healing and well-being a great deal, not to mention our self-perception.

        I’ve learned a lot since, given that we filmed this in 2011, before I even heard of MIA or the like, I had no idea there was a ‘psychiatric survivor’ community as I was going through all of this. I was led here right after I posted this film on YouTube.

        More than anything, my hope is that this film would encourage others to tell their stories their way, as an expression of personal freedom. That’s exactly how I finally broke free of the self-identity imposed upon me by the mental health field, and found my way out of all that crap. It was without a doubt my bridge to freedom.

        Thanks again for the kind words and the prompt, B, much appreciated!

        • Actually, to avoid possible confusion, this version was posted in 2014, after I made a few re-edits and took out music due to copyright expenses (and instead scored the end credits myself!). But there was an earlier version posted in 2011. It was after I posted the first version that I began commenting on MIA, and it is since then I’ve learned such a great deal more about these issues, thanks to these conversations.

  6. Hi David!

    I just wrote a comment on your first post from 2013, and now found this one. Hearing that you’ve found supplements to help with the process of getting off is very encouraging. If you can find the time to respond to my email (I just sent one a little while ago) l I would greatly appreciate it.

    Best regards, Lenita, Sweden

  7. My husband quit 400 mg of effexor CT 2.5 years ago after having been on antidepressants for five years. You can click on my profile and read about our plight (going back to my first two comments posted in history) if you’re interested. Although he continued to work, I quit my job to take care of him here at home and it required my attention 24/7. I had to be accessible via text, phone call or email at all hours, whenever a manic moment presented itself. There were days when he didn’t think he could work and many days he had to come home early. There were many weekends he laid in bed, too exhausted to move. There were days he wanted to die. Suicide was a frequent thought in his mind. The inconsolable crying, the fits of anger, the despair, fatigue, I’ve seen it all. There were times he was overcome with anxiety/panic and had to pull over on the side of the road where he’d call me to come get him. This is a tough road regardless of how one chooses to come off meds and it is my hope you have a good, solid support system in place.

    The first year post CT he ate salmon every day, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, nuts, flax, Omega3, magnesium, took supplements, etc. He also drank a ton of water and nothing but water. I am confident his diet really aided in minimizing his physical withdrawals and think it’s essential folks have a good diet in place when coming off meds. He was also on a benzo, which is controversial, but it worked for him and he’s now off that, too.

    He was a very health conscious individual who had worked out daily for 20+ years but we quickly found that working out when quitting ssris wasn’t a good combo. Exercise REALLY enhanced withdrawal symptoms and after speaking with others who navigated this journey, it isn’t recommended. It has something to do with the release/increase of dopamine, adrenalin, serotonin etc. It was hard for him to give this up because it had been such a daily part of his life for so long, but he also had periods of serious fatigue and I’m not sure he could have maintained even if it wasn’t intensifying w/d symptoms. The idea is to keep your body/mind as calm as possible for as long as possible.

    I don’t know what it’s like to taper but I do know that regardless of how someone gets off psych meds, it’s a nightmare (especially for those who have been on them 5+ years) and a good rule of thumb is to allow yourself two years post that last pill to recover. No matter what, once you quit taking ssris, your body is going to protest. Someone can taper one granule at a time for 15 years but after you take that last granule, you brain starts screaming. Getting off these meds is uncomfortable, it is painful, it is full tilt torture and honestly – it can’t be avoided. I really don’t care what regimen someone embarks on. There are things you can do to mitigate the emotional and physical pain, but there is no way to avoid the bulk of it.

    I just wanted to share our experience and to suggest being mindful of certain triggers. There aren’t many articles or info regarding this topic, but there’s quite a bit about it within certain circles and I wanted to pass it along. I noted in your article that you worked out and it caught my eye. Working out, cardio, etc. was a HUGE trigger for my husband, as were antibiotics, sugary foods and alcohol. The antibiotic issue really caught us off guard but again, after talking to other warriors, this is pretty common.

    And while sleeping/fatigue is part of the withdrawal process, it is also part of the healing process. A body that’s been medicated for a long time is absolutely sleep deprived. Sleep is fundamentally necessary to healing the brain & quite frankly I’m not sure there can be too much of it, especially that first year after stopping meds. Good luck to you and hope to see you on the other side.

  8. Ps.. I think it’s noteworthy to mention it’s advisable not to make ANY CHANGES in your career or personal life during the first year off coming off meds. I don’t suggest even buying a car or making a purchase over $500 during that time-frame. During my husband’s withdrawal process, the first six months he made a few decisions that he thought were wise & just, and I had to sit back and allow him to do so, mainly because I had to pick my battles with him. He purchased a car for our 14 year old to have when she became of driving age. It was an unnecessary impulse purchase but he was convinced it was the right time (despite our lack of finances and the fact our child was years away from driving). Needless to say we sold the car six months later. Although he remembered his reasoning for wanting to purchase it, he was amazed at how his logic was so screwed up but seemed so clear to him at the time. So please try to minimize making any changes and/or large financial purchases for the first year, if not two.

  9. David, you have absolutely no idea how grateful I am to you! I’ve been having a very hard time lately, struggling with my emotions and my relationships. I’m 22 and I’ve been on antidepressants for now four years. I noticed a positive change when I started taking them, it took some time but I was able to regain the energy that I needed and the confidence I needed. But, after some time, I always felt like the antidepressants were not having any effect on me anymore, as if my body got used to them. I always thought of stopping because I basically have a lot of the second effects. I’m taking Wellbutrin, Zoloft and Buspar. Recently, my behaviors and my thoughts are worsening. I am paranoid, irritable, jealous, moody, selfish.. I don’t recognize myself anymore. And tonight I was thinking why not stop? So I started doing some research and I found both your articles. I sent he links to my own psychologist so we can discuss my next step. I’m scared but I think I need to try. There’s never a good time right?

  10. Is there even one story on line about a Pharma victim actually weaning off SSRIs after being on them for several years, suffering the withdrawals, then leading a happy life like others. Seems EVERYBODY ends up back on some sort of poisonous chemical, or the same one they were on before, or suffers lifelong side effects and feel miserable?
    I was on 15mg cipralex for 2.5 yrs for “acute exhaustion”. Tapered down over about 10 months, took my last 2.5 mg 18 days ago and I am in way worse condition than I was 2.5 yrs ago!! Talked to 2 different pharmacists last week. One said go to emergency and get a new prescription, the other said there are NO withdrawals or side effects! “its you underlying problem coming back, has to be” She didn’t even know WHY i was put on this stuff, but immediately made a false assumption!…….. Can anyone put up links to actual success stories? In my life, I have had to get off alcohol, tobacco, adivan and zopiclone and they were a walk in the park compared to this stuff