A Story On Antidepressant Withdrawal

Let's Talk WithdrawalMy good friend, Megan, has been such a blessing to our family during this newborn stage. She brought us several meals, is always eager to hold the baby even when she’s crying, change her diaper and rock her to sleep. When they say “it takes a village,” she is the kind of community and generousity you want in your life. 

Anyway, I have been wanting to share more personal stories of health on this blog. As anyone who has been through chronic pain or unexplained illness or battled continuously against health issues knows, it’s crucial to hear that you are not alone. It is so encouraging to know others in a similar spot and be able to work through it together, even virtually. 

Megan recently shared her health story on a podcast interview.  Once I heard it, I knew I had to share it with you.  While this story is specifically focused on her experience taking antidepressants, I related to it in so many ways- being so desperate to feel better and believing the doctors knew best, trusting that the pills they were giving me would be safe and healing, only to end up worse.
Megan’s story is full of the range of emotions that any of us go through when dealing with chronic pain or an unexplained illness: one day hopeful and the next filled with hopelessness.  If you are in that place and looking for some encouragement today, or if you are on or considering taking antidepressants, you must listen to Megan’s story.  Here’s a summary of what they discuss (from James Moore at Let’s Talk Withdrawal):

  • How Megan had sleep difficulties and how her doctor prescribed an antidepressant for insomnia
  • That Megan didn’t even know what she was taking was an antidepressant
  • After 2 years, Megan started to think about coming off her medication. Her doctor at the time advised her to withdraw over 2 weeks after Megan had been taking the antidepressant for 2 years
  • How Megan found the increase in suicidal thinking the most frightening effect of withdrawal but that she did not realise at the time that this was caused by stopping the drug
  • How no one understood that what Megan was experiencing was caused by antidepressant withdrawal
  • How doctors prescribed more medication to try and counter the symptoms of withdrawal
  • How Megan had to go back on her antidepressant and double the dose to remove the withdrawal effects
  • That the prospect of starting a family led Megan to consider stopping again and she then found an entire community of others who were struggling with the drugs themselves
  • How, having realised that her initial attempt to stop was too fast, Megan then decided to change to a different anti anxiety medication
  • How Megan planned to take four months to withdraw but still found this too fast and she experienced a wide range withdrawal effects
  • How a doctor prescribed an additional three medications on top of the antidepressant and anti anxiety medication
  • How those withdrawal effects forced Megan to go back up to 20mg of her antidepressant, meaning that Megan felt trapped
  • How the website survivingantidepressants.org was a major resource that Megan used to help her maker her tapering plan
  • That Megan used a compounding pharmacy to help her taper but it was expensive
  • How sometimes withdrawal effects can recur years after someone has stopped an antidepressant
  • How people should be very careful to recognize that suicidal thinking can arise from starting, changing dose or stopping an antidepressant

Listen to it at Let’s Talk Withdrawal or on iTunes.

I’m so proud of Megan for being so vulnerable in sharing her story and for her persistence to trust God in finding healing someday.  I hope you will also be encouraged by her outlook and reminded of how important it is to always do your own research before taking pharmaceuticals- they all have side effects.

What I Learned in Early Pregnancy

half-way-pregnancyThe idea of becoming a mother and the impending great responsibility of raising a daughter has made me quite reflective lately.  Here are a few thoughts of what I learned in the first half of my pregnancy that I hope can be encouraging to those of you expecting:

  • Focus on nutrition pre-pregnancy – If you know me or have ever visited this blog before, you know how important I think the right nutrition is.  I’ve done a lot of reading on epigenetics (one of my favorite books that explains it well is Deep Nutrition) and have been convinced that I have the ability & responsibility to impact the genes of my future generations by changing what I eat and my exposure to environmental toxins.  With all the health problems I have experienced in my lifetime, I really wanted to change my gene expression to give my children (and future grandchildren) the best chance at great health.  I’m confident that since I’ve seen benefits myself, that my diet and lifestyle changes over the past 5 years will be even more beneficial to this growing baby. And another reason to focus on nutrition pre-pregnancy is…
  • Giving myself some grace – Before I got pregnant, I thought I would be the type to continue exercising and eating the best possible foods, not giving into cravings much.  That all went out the window when I was hit with a wave of all-day nausea (the term “morning sickness” is a cruel joke) and lack of energy that made simply getting through the day an achievement. Going to work took everything out of me; 5 o’clock naps and 9 pm bedtimes became my norm and exercise was the last thing on my mind.  The thought of any kind of food repulsed me, so I was in survival mode- anything that sounded remotely okay at the moment is what I could eat.  Mac n’ cheese, PB&J, applesauce and popsicles became my go-to food items for the first time in many years. There are so many mom blogs out there that talk about doing crossfit during pregnancy or eating super healthy green smoothies and liver for nutrients.  Good for them, but that is not realistic if you are experiencing these symptoms- it’s not possible to just “push through” them. The nausea finally started to subside after Week 21 and I was able to add in some more protein and veggies, but I’ve had to give myself grace.  It doesn’t make me a bad mom or a bad blogger or unhealthy person; I’ll continue to do my best to be healthy in the remainder of pregnancy.  But, I’m just thankful I was healthy enough pre-pregnancy to pull me through this season.
  • How to rest – This may not be an issue for some of you, but for those like me who can’t go to sleep without doing at least one productive thing each day, it was a hard lesson to learn.  Sure, it was forced upon me, but I’ve learned the value of slowing life down and getting some rest.  I’m certainly not taking it for granted – I’m learning to appreciate lots of sleep and quiet weekends at home with my hubby, as I know those will disappear for many years after baby is born.  You’re growing a human and it takes a lot of energy- use this down time to read and pray and prepare for the craziness to come.
  • To start ignoring judgmental comments – I’ve seen this happen with moms I know that judge each other on breastfeeding vs bottle feeding, cloth vs disposable diapers, vaccines, or discipline and it’s terribly sad and disappointing.  I knew to expect it in motherhood, but wasn’t quite prepared to face it so early on in pregnancy.  As soon as I found out we were expecting, I began my search for a birth center with midwife care.  I knew that if I had a healthy, low-risk pregnancy, I didn’t want to give birth in a hospital.  Personally, I’ve had terrible doctor and hospital experiences that make me nervous to even visit friends in the hospital, so I knew it would not be the most relaxing, comfortable location for me to labor. I have bad reactions to pain medication, so I don’t want to risk complications and I believe a place that focuses on natural childbirth will be the safest for me and the baby.  Women have been having babies without pain medication for thousands of years, and I believe I have the strength to do it.  Funny how the norm can become so alien to people now used to babies in hospitals.  I never bring it up, but people always ask where I’m having my baby and so I tell them the truth.  The response is almost never encouragement; rather, I usually get raised eyebrows and a sarcastic “good luck” or “good for you.”  Maybe some have the best of intentions or for whatever reason feel judged themselves, but it has continued to surprise me that moms want to encourage otherwise… “that’s why we have doctors/hospitals,” “you aren’t weak because you choose getting an induction/epidural/c-section,” “you have no idea how painful it is,” “you better plan for things to not go your way.” So to those of you mamas who want a natural childbirth- you’ll get no judgment here: you are strong and know what’s best for you and you can do it!
  • A new appreciation for the value of fighting for LIFE – While this pregnancy was planned, the news was a bit of a surprise (see this post).  Finding out you are pregnant can bring on all kinds of emotions (the surge of hormones doesn’t help); it is life changing and body changing and full of unknowns – My friend Emily wrote a great blog about the totally normal mixed emotions of pregnancy for those of you dealing with those unexpected feelings.  This season of life has made me even more compassionate for women who find out they are pregnant and don’t want to be.  It’s scary and uncertain and really, really hard.  Add the news of a baby to early pregnancy symptoms and it becomes even harder. I cannot imagine doing it without a lack of support.  I have the utmost amount of respect and admiration for the strong women who chose to believe their baby is more than a fetus, that he or she is a life worth saving and who decide give that life a chance.  It is incredible to see week-by-week how the baby grows and how developed they are even by the time you find out you are pregnant.  We heard the heart beat at just 8 weeks, but it was beating weeks before that.  Pregnancy is a miracle and all babies deserve a chance at life no matter what the circumstances of their conception are.
  • To Practice Thankfulness – Though this pregnancy has been really tough on me physically, I can never forget 1) that I wasn’t supposed to even be able to get pregnant and 2) that so many couples struggle for years with infertility, miscarriage, loss or go through the long adoption process to become parents.  No matter how hard the day, I try to focus on the fact that God has blessed us with the life of this baby girl and that she is healthy and so am I.  I’m learning to practice thankfulness daily by taking time in the evening and throughout the day to reflect on what I’m grateful for.

Pregnant?  What did you learn in the first few months?