Withdrawal diaries – first two weeks

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I always feel a bit iffy when people ask about other people’s experiences of different meds online, because everyone’s unique. Still, I feel like it’s useful to write about my experiences of coming off of my antidepressants because it can give someone at least one account since no medical professional has ever warned me of anything. They’ve just left me to it. Still, be mindful that these are only my experiences, your experiences might be completely different, and I’m coming off of my meds gradually under medical supervision. Pls don’t flush your meds down the toilet.

I should mention first that I have nothing against antidepressants. They definitely saved my life, but they’ve made me gain six stones. The GP is worried I’m becoming pre-diabetic. It’s time to stop.

The first suggestion that I’ve forgotten my Venlafaxine is that I become really lightheaded. I might have to go for a second try after attempting to get up too quickly. Now that I’m coming off of them I’m in a constant state of float. You could knock me with one poke of a finger. I’m surprised how I haven’t fallen over.

Nobody tells you how weird withdrawal symptoms can be. The newest one is the itch. Dear god, the itch. It doesn’t stop unless I go have a shower. Nobody tells you that you might be itching like you had fleas. Google couldn’t give me answers. Thank goodness I have my counsellor, who’s able to tell me it’s normal. No matter how weird, it’s all normal. My brain is trying to readjust to creating chemicals it hasn’t had to create by itself in ages, and this is hard work.

I also have a nurse I speak to weekly to agree on reductions, and she’s lovely. Before I spoke to her for the first time, I was a bit apprehensive. I’ve dealt with so many patronising mental health professionals. Not only is my nurse funny and kind, but most importantly she treats me like a rational adult, who can make decisions about her health. In this week’s call we discuss the word ‘gunk’ after I talk about my symptoms. Not something you use in everyday conversation, we agree.

“When I was studying, my friends and I would try to get the words ‘shingles’ into conversation with every single patient”, she tells me. “Maybe I should try to get the word ‘gunk’ into every conversation today.”

“Yes, please do. I can’t wait to hear about it next week!”

“It’s important you can laugh”, my counsellor tells me. “It makes all of this more bearable.”

Wednesday night is the absolute worst it’s been. I keep having cold and hot flushes. I have to get up and change the sheets in the middle of the night because I have sweat through them. I need to shower twice. I’m exhausted but unable to sleep. ‘I can’t do this’, I think, exasperated as I struggle with the corner of my comforter that refuses to stay put.

“Yes, you can”, I immediately tell myself, sternly. “You’ve survived so much worse.”

I sit with headphones on my ears all day. They’re not plugged, I just need sounds to be muffled a little because every sound is amplified. I text my counsellor in the morning. He’s told me to text or call between appointments if I need support. We have gone from one to two sessions a week.

“This is a vulnerable time”, he tells me when he suggests this. “This is the time a client really needs support, maybe even more than at a time of crisis.”

Yes.

‘You are doing really well, keep going!’ he responds in a text.

It’s gold dust.

I’m really sensitive to sounds and smells. Not fun when everything is sanitised at the moment. I’ve always had a sensitive sense of smell but now it’s a million times worse. I go for an eye test and have an awful headache by the time I get out because of the smell of disinfectants. I can’t eat spicy foods. Anything too extreme in smell, taste or sound is too much. I must buy a new moisturiser because I can’t handle smell of the old one. I don’t leave the house, not just because of social distancing but because I can’t control smells or sounds outside.

I listen to a lot of audio books. All of them non-fiction. I’m on a biography binge. I listen to life stories of cave divers, mountain climbers, pathologists and a man who’s son was addicted to meth. I can’t stand or sit because I feel too dizzy, but I’m climbing mountains.

On a rare outing I go to an old-fashioned coffee trader’s in town centre. After picking the kind I want, the shop assistant takes a metal scoop, puts it under a tap and opens it. The beans pleasantly clink clank into the scoop. Because my hearing is so sensitive, it’s almost like I can hear every individual bean. It’s like metal rain. When the beans are ground, the room fills up with a gorgeous smell. I’ve always loved the smell of coffee. It reminds me of home.

Once I get home I immediately open the vacuum-sealed bag. I don’t start making coffee yet. I just smell it.

I sometimes enjoy things more before they have even happened. When there’s just a hint, a promise of something good to come.

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