Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Going off SSRI's

I've been on 10-20mg of Lexapro for at least 2 years now. I've tried going off before with rather bad results. This time I'm going to make it. Other than my sister, I'm not telling my family. My mom would freak out and accuse me of being depressed even when I was not.

My mom often sees what she expects to see. When we go out to dinner, she accuses me of being grumpy before the food comes because I often get cranky when my blood sugar is low. For the last 6 months or so I have been eating before I go out to dinner with them so I do not have low blood sugar when I am in her presence. She still accuses me of being hungry-grumpy. She tends to voice her assertions repeatedly while invading my personal space. I eventually snap, and that is used to prove her point. I digress.

I have several reasons for wanting to be off Lexapro. The least of these reasons is that it costs me $480/year. I would gladly pay for happiness/sanity if that were possible.

I need at least an extra hour of sleep a day when I am on lexapro. Even when I am awake I feel tired. I'm often dizzy when I wake up. There are days I have called in sick to work either because I didn't feel safe driving or because I was too tired and foggy to get out of bed. I generally nap through my weekend afternoons in addition to 10+ hours of sleep weekend nights.

Even when I am awake I am foggier and slower than when I am not on lexapro. Emotions are muted. I still have emotions, but they feel flat. Anger is pretty much nonexistent. It's kind of like the difference between mac and cheese made from scratch by my mom and mac and cheese from a box. Maybe other people's emotions are more moderate all the time. Those who have grown up on the boxed stuff don't know the difference. I do.

There are good reasons to be on lexapro. Roller coaster emotions are difficult to deal with, both for me and other people. My emotions have a tendency to get stuck in the down swings. My thoughts get stuck in obsessive circles. On a grid floor, I can feel the need to move like a chess knight, obsessively. Pretty much anyone who knows the difference between drugged me and real me likes drugged me better. I like drugged me better, but I would rather be real me.

Interesting side note: Colors are brighter when I am not drugged.

My first week off meds:
  • Day 1 wasn't bad.
  • Day 2 was hell. I felt nauseas and sweaty for a good part of the day. I was both extatically happy and incredibly sad, and I couldn't tell you about what. I couldn't control my tears. I went to play a board game with a friend and I think I was crying half the time. He was polite enough not to notice, but I feel bad for him because it must have been somewhat awkward.
  • Days 3 and 4: My stomach was a little upset, but other than that I have felt euphorically happy.
  • Day 5: The stomach upset is pretty much gone, and I am still happier than I have any right to be.
  • Day 6: I made a mistake at work and was on the verge of tears for the rest of the day, sometimes breaking down.
  • Day 7: Pretty down. Doubting my decision to try and go off meds.
There are studies that show exercise is as effective as medications in treating depression. The amount varies. One of my ex-shrinks told me that she knew of someone who treated bipolar disorder by 4-5 hours of exercise a day. Some sources say that 20-30 minutes of walking 3x/week will do it. I know that isn't true because I do more than that already.

The proposed plan is to bike to work 3+ times a week (that is about 45 minutes 1 way) and to walk my dog briskly at least 45 minutes a night. That sounds a bit time intensive, but the biking will only really cost me 40 minutes per day as I would need 50 for commuting anyways. The 45 minutes of dog walking should be done daily for the dog's sake at least a few days a week. If one factors in the amount of time I save by not needing the extra 1-2 hours of sleep/day that lexapro costs me, the exercise should pay for itself.

I'm also going to try to optimize my diet and supplement with beneficial vitamins. I'll talk more about that later as I don't have as much knowledge about nutrition as I should.

I expect failure, but what do I have to lose? As I don't have a huge support network of friends, I'm going to use this blog as a sounding board. This is a learning process for me. I don't have answers. If anyone has suggestions or tips, please feel free to comment. I can use all the help I can get!