Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Fun Things to do in the Summer Holidays: #1: Stop Taking Your Antidepressants

Are the days all running into each other?  Children driving you mad?  Desperate for a bit of variation?  I've got a fun-packed tried and tested activity for you today, kids:

Going Cold Turkey From Your Anti-depressants*

You will need:
Some SSRIs, preferably ones that you've been taking for about 4 years.
A history of anxiety, OCD and post natal depression.
A small child.
Entirely inappropriate timing. I chose the start of the summer holidays when my son was in the middle of chickenpox.
An understanding partner.
A devil-may-care attitude.

What to do:
Ignore all advice about tapering down your dosage slowly because you are Special and Above Such Rules*. Simply stop taking them one day 'just because'.  Sit back and await the effects.

What will happen?
I can't speak for everyone, but if it's anecdotal evidence you're after...

Day 1. Feel a bit sick. Have a few head zaps.

Day 2. A bit more sick.  Feel like head is attached to a Slendertone machine on the highest setting.

Day 3. Brain is being repeatedly tasered, but who cares because I have SO MUCH ENERGY.  Who needs to sleep? Not me.  Not when I can redesign my entire house, clean every item in the kitchen cupboards, catch up on all my emails and bake a mountain of cupcakes with my child.

Day 4. Ooooh, cupcakes.  Hold that thought.  I am hungry. This is possibly because I've been painting the house for 20 hours straight.  Food.  There must be food.  Also, large headache.  Who wants to go to McDonalds with Mummy?  Lots of work to do.  Busy busy busy.  Good job I'm SUCH AN AWESOMELY TALENTED WRITER.

Day 5. Transcript of conversation:
Husband: "I thought you were just popping to the local shop to buy soap?"
Me: "Didn't like their soap.  Was Imperial Leather."
Husband: "So where've you been then?"
Me: "Now, I want to say Waitrose, but, hmmm..." *look of confusion*
Husband: "Well, you've got a Waitrose bag, so that's a start. Did you get soap?"
Me: Yes.  Ginger and Clementine flavour.  But also...MASSIVE MICROWAVE-YOUR-OWN-INDIAN-TAKEAWAY-MEAL-FOR-TWO.  THREE QUID."
Husband: "You're still starving then?"
Husband: "Shall we have that for lunch, then?"

(now thinking and talking almost entirely in capital letters)

Day 7. Everybody hates me and I'll probably never leave the house again, ever.  My child is irritating me beyond belief.  My whole body itches with desperately wanting and needing to get things done, but presence of child in the house and lack of money is slowing me down, resulting in an even bigger headache.  Brain still zapping away in a twitchy fashion.  Am hopeless failure and terrible writer.  Sobbing on the floor, surrounded by empty crisp packets and abandoned projects, paint in my hair.  Fridge very clean, though.

Day 9. Pffff, what was all that about?  Grow a pair. Rory, get your shoes on.  We're going on a tour of All The Parks. After that, we'll do several explodey science experiments, bake yet more cakes for Mummy to eat, de-clutter your bedroom, construct an epic Brio railway track, make some playdough, have a bubble blowing competition, phone everyone, do numbers and letters, make a 3 course meal for tea, and then Mummy's going to go out with her friends where she will discover that the combination of gin and head-zaps can make you fall off your bar stool.

Day 10. Churny stomach and cramps of doom.  This is new.  And definitely not in any way related to Bombay Sapphire.  I'm still up a ladder Painting All The Things though, aren't I?

Day 14. Survey house: Things are clean, rooms are decorated, albeit a bit experimental.  This is a good thing.  Take stock of family: Child is now free from chicken pox scabs and adores me because of all the fun things we've been doing.  Husband is smiling - probably because of all the cleaning and DIY.  Take stock of body:  Brain zaps down to a few mild ones a day, stomach still churning yet somehow still consuming enough food for 3 people.  Bizarrely, I'm sleeping far better than I've slept in 4 years.  Take stock of brain: Not too mad, which is pleasing.  A bit jumpy.  Not depressed, give or take a couple of "OHMYGODEVERYONEHATESME" days.  Crazy manic cleaning, decorating and supermum-ing calming down to manageable levels.

I think we're there.  I think I'm SSRI free for the first time since Rory was a newborn baby.  I think I might be back from wherever I've been for four years - somewhere that looked very much like here, but felt a lot like wading through treacle.  The can't-be-arsed has gone.  My energy's back.  My stupid ideas that don't always work are back.  I would imagine that, in time, my anxiety will be back too.  We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, though.

So...hello everybody.  Lets see what happens next, shall we?

* Do NOT go cold turkey from your antidepressants.  If you want to stop taking them, go and see your GP and get a proper plan put in place for withdrawal.  Withdrawing suddenly can result in some very serious symptoms, including suicidal thoughts and feelings in some cases.  I am an irresponsible idiot and not to be copied.


  1. Congratulations on your brain chemistry being all normal-ish! There should be a Hallmark card for such occasions. - Claire D

    1. And that, right there, is your new career. Go and design one.

  2. Shit. Well done. I regularly think of quitting them cold turkey, usually when it's raining and I can't be arsed going to the GP to pick up my prescription. I never quite have the balls though.

    1. Going to pick up the prescription is the worst bit. My GP only does 2 monthly prescriptions, which is far too much like hard work for me.

    2. Mine will only give me 4 weeks. And the fuckers won't even let me order them by phone, so I have to go there to drop of the form and then again two days later to pick it up again. It's almost worth being mental to avoid having to do that.

  3. I am lolling and crying in recognition at this ( TYhis week I forgot to take mine for 4 days and went hyper-manic before I realised why!)

    1. It's usually only when I've been up a ladder painting stuff and talking non-stop to my husband for a few hours that I realize I've forgotten to take mine for a couple of days. Hyper-manic high five.

  4. Loved this! Am really impressed you had the guts to come off them cold turkey! Were you on a low dose? I'm terrified of coming off mine...i've been on them for 8 years! I just instantly think it would result in anxiety coming back and that's my biggest fear. I didn't know hyper-ness was a side effect of coming off them. I DO know about head zaps tho. I get them even when i am taking mine regularly but i am a bit tired. Perhaps that's a sign i should reduce but with a new baby on the way and a 3 year old in tow, i'm thinking my timing isn't great either! SO i'll just stick to my lovely SSRI's for now *she says like an utter wimp* :D

    1. not an utter wimp at all...it's different for all of us. As the wonderful new SMA ad says - you're doing great! xx

    2. Absolutely what Liz said. I would have happily stayed on Sertraline for years, but missing 2 days in a row felt so good that I just carried on. Don't feel under any pressure to stop taking yours, and fort the love of God, when you do, taper the dose down gradually!

    3. Oh, and I don't know if the hypermania is a normal withdrawal symptom actually. I have Bipolar II (the milder version of Bipolar Disorder - no full on mania and craziness, but periods of "WOOT, I AM LIVING THE DREAM" and lots of activity followed by periods of "My life is so awful and I can only lie on the floor and stare at this plant". Sertraline levels my moods somewhat and keeps me on a sensible but boring and not very productive even keel. I never remember how much I miss the hypermania until I forget to take my meds for a couple of days and get the adrenaline pumping through me again.

    4. Thank you both. yeah my husband only lasted 2 weeks on sertraline and hated it, and my mum went on citalopram (which i'm on) and felt like a subdued version of herself. It doesn't seem to affect me in that way at all. I feel just totally normal on it. I still have highs and lows, just without the anxiety. But yeah it affects everyone differently doesn't it? As long as you're happy right now Lisa, then that's great. YEY! X

    5. I have Bipolar II as well, not fun.
      I've recently been put on Sertraline in addition to the Quetiapine I've been taking for ages. I was put on it to wake me up a bit because the thing I was on before (Lamotrigene) was a sedative, as is Quetiapine, so I was spending even my 'good' days half asleep! I think I will be on them for a very, very long time, as I'm terrified of being poorly again.

  5. Great post! Funny and inspirational (and of course a bit mentalist) as always! I came of my A.Ds in March and I'm just about to start some counselling coz things just haven't settled! Having no money, crazy toddler and a kitchen full of flying ants (yes, me too - EVERY DAGNAM YEAR NO MATTER WHAT I DO!)doesn't really help matters..thank god my mother-in-law's new house purchase fell through and she's homeless for a bit so has been living with us (basically camping in the spare room) since last wednesday... (cue rocking, brain zap and lots of twitching!!)

    1. What is it with flying ants? I mean, really?

  6. Wow, congrats. Brave going cold turkey (bit daft too but I'll let it slide) and hope you'll do ok off them!