Just Say No

Just Say No

Before my next Great Bear Rainforest post, an antidepressant update is in order. See my last update here. I know, I know. Not nearly as exciting as whales (and what else I have in store for you). But it’s an extremely popular (and thus I assume, helpful) topic.

I’ve been on a cocktail of antidepressants since giving the midget musician the boot. It seems silly in hindsight that something that inconsequential was the catalyst to my most recent foray into the world of antidepressant medications. Looking back, I most certainly was in a deep dark pit, but I don’t know that being in that pit was abnormal. Or that it needed medicating. Or that the medication even did anything to get me out of the pit. Perhaps my successful clambering out of the pit was from seeing a therapist regularly. Or maybe it was a placebo effect from the drugs. Or maybe it was just the passage of time.

Backing up, I began taking Wellbutrin and Deplin back in the fall of 2011. I started off with Wellbutrin, and the doctor added Abilify shortly thereafter. Abilify is not an antidepressant. It’s an antipsychotic, which the doctor prescribed for depression–an “off-label” use of the medication. It was horribly nasty, toxic crap. I felt awful and my hair fell out in chunks. It has since grown back. In fact, it’s looking pretty fabulous these days, a year later.

After I ditched the Abilify (without consulting the doc first), he added Viibryd. To his mind, something new and exciting. Here I was, wanting to get off the drugs, but he’s adding something more to the mix. I complied. I complied because he’s the doctor and he knows best. (I knew this was bullshit at the time. I feel more confident in that assessment, now.) So I took the Viibryd and the Wellbutrin, and since my hair stopped falling out, I kept taking it. I kept taking it despite the horrible nightmares and the constipation. I kept taking it despite my worries of liver damage and weight gain. I kept taking it. And to be honest, I felt better. I thought maybe that had something to do with the drug.

And then everyone started dying, and I didn’t dare stop taking it. I figured it was the only thing keeping me afloat. But a few months after my brother died, I started thinking about the chemo for mouth cancer giving him the leukemia that killed him, and I wondered whether the antidepressants were frying my liver or my kidneys or my brain. I don’t like taking Advil. What was I doing on Wellbutrin and Deplin and Viibryd? So I quit the Viibryd nearly cold turkey without first consulting with my doctor. In fact, I’ve not consulted with him since. Instead, shortly after quitting the Viibryd (which turned out to be fairly easy), I quit the Deplin. I felt no different. Why in the hell had I been spending hundreds of dollars on prescriptions that weren’t doing anything? Except giving me terrible nightmares and making me forget words. Lots of words. “Laundry basket” for fuck’s sake. (I often feared those days that I had early onset Alzheimer’s. My dad had it, so why not?) Even though the side effects from the Viibryd and Abilify had been intolerable, I stayed on the Wellbutrin. My safety net. Just in case.

When I got back from my trip to the Great Bear Rainforest (more posts coming soon,  including some phenomenal wildlife sightings!), I was feeling pretty good. Rejuvenated. More alive than I have felt in some time. The shrink had called when I was gone telling me I needed to come in before he’d call in another refill for my Wellbutrin. So I made the appointment. On the morning of the appointment, I wondered why I was paying him a buck twenty-five to write me a prescription for a drug I didn’t want to be on. A drug that had me downing Miralax like it was nectar of the gods. (And still I was backed up.) So I called and canceled, mumbling that I’d call back later to reschedule. I didn’t call. And I didn’t take Wellbutrin that night. Or any night since. I had no withdrawals. None. As far as I can tell, it wasn’t doing anything other than making me severely constipated. And sucking money from my bank account.

So I’m drug free. I even quit taking the Toviaz (overactive bladder) last week. It had stopped helping. The urologist recommended Botox instead. My insurance company (Aetna is crap) won’t pay for it. I suppose that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s forcing me to try natural remedies. None of them are as simple as popping a pill. But I vow to not hand over my body to a drug company out of laziness. (Any more.)

Look at all the writing I’ve done and avoided the bigger topic at hand. (Which I’ve succeeded in doing all week.) Yesterday a year ago, my dad died. October 18, 2012 at 6:00 a.m. sharp, as the hospice nurse and I held his hand. Yesterday, I had a crazy day at work, running to court to fill in for another lawyer whose flight was canceled. I was so focused on the crisis at hand, I didn’t realize it was October 18th until I got home from work last evening. I pushed it away again, thawed two pieces of pizza frozen months ago, drank two glasses of wine, cuddled with the cats, and went to bed.

I could not ignore it this morning, however, as I’d made plans with friends to do the Alzheimer’s walk. One girlfriend who joined me (who also did the walk with me last year, mere days after my father died), lost her dad weeks ago, in part to Alzheimer’s. So we walked. And remembered our dads. And cried some. And hugged. We then went to brunch. Something I hadn’t done in ages. Real brunch. With mimosas and bloody Marys. After brunch, I came home, got in bed for just a little rest (I never take naps), and the next thing I knew I’d awakened at 6:00 p.m. in the nick of time to get ready to join a friend for sushi. Two social outings in one day.

Yes, after many, many dark months, I’m coming back to life. Without antidepressants.



discontinueIt’s been nine days since I took my last dose of Viibryd. This post is a detailed account of what led me to this decision (it’s the side effects, stupid), how I stopped taking the drug, and my withdrawal experience. Because my posts about antidepressants are the most searched-for topic that leads to my blog (that, and variations of “I’m in love with a pedophile,” which I find most disturbing), this will be fairly detailed. As always, if depression, antidepressants, and recovery therefrom aren’t your thing, you might skip this and wait for my next post. I think I’ll call it: Bad Daughter.

******LEGAL DISCLAIMER–TERMS AND CONDITIONS: This writing consists of my Viibryd experience and personal decision and methodology for quitting the drug. I AM NOT A DOCTOR. I could be wrong in attributing some of these side effects to Viibryd. I could be an idiot for stopping the drug without conferring with my doctor. I could be an idiot in not tapering off the drug more slowly. But this is my idiocy. I IN NO WAY RECOMMEND THAT ANYONE ELSE FOLLOW MY PLAN OR MY IDIOCY. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN IDIOCY, AND WHETHER YOU DECIDE TO CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR IS UP TO YOU. I BEAR NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR STUPIDITY. ONLY MY OWN. IF YOU DON’T AGREE TO THESE TERMS, STOP READING NOW, IDIOT.*********

In preparing to write my latest farewell to an antidepressant, I looked over my previous posts on Viibryd. I’m surprised to see I’ve been on the drug (40 mg) for a full year. I started this current round of antidepressants (along with Wellbutrin 300 mg and Deplin 30 mg) in January 2012, in the aftermath of ending a soul-killing relationship with a narcissistic parasite. My psych doctor, Dr. McEnroe (not his real name, but he looks kind of like John and has that same whiny voice), initially augmented the Wellbutrin with Abilify. I was on Abilify for several months, but dropped that (cold turkey) as I found it to be nasty shit, causing my hair to fall out by the handful (it’s growing back, thank god), as well as various and sundry other intolerable side effects. In the interim, in April ’12, my oldest brother died at age 56. Six months later, in October, my father died at age 83. Despite these events, I was doing well. So in January 2013, I asked the doctor when I could quit taking the drugs. I’d been taking good care of myself. I’d dropped 40 pounds. I was eating well. Getting plenty of outdoor exercise. Being fairly social. Dr. McEnroe said I’m not one of those people who needs to be on antidepressants for life; but he wanted me to have one good, stress-free year under my belt before stopping. I said 2013 was going to be that year, and joked that hopefully no one would die. Little did I know that two months later, I would hit the trifecta. My remaining brother would die suddenly of leukemia at age 52. Three deaths (brother/April ’12, father/October ’12, brother/March ’13) in eleven months. I call it the Death Sandwich. Or 3/11.

Despite 3/11, I wanted off the drugs. The Viibryd for starters. I’d been experiencing a number of side effects. Some tolerable. Some not so much. Here’s a list of what I had jotted down in the days leading up to my decision to quit:

  • Major bladder irritation/overactive bladder/urge incontinence (previously under control).
  • Losing words. Lots and lots of words. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t think of the word for laundry basket. I’ve been silently hysterical, thinking I’m having early-onset Alzheimer’s. I’m not a hypochondriac; my father was in late-stage Alzheimer’s when he died.
  • Light, often fitful, sleep.
  • Intense, bizarre, disturbing, and at times terrifying dreams, particularly when I missed a dose or was late taking one. These dreams seem very real, and often are difficult to awaken from. Yes, I know, Sleestaks aren’t real. But the dreams suggested they are.
  • Yawning repeatedly mid to late-afternoon, often for hours at a time. I’d yawn through conference calls with clients. Through Pilates sessions and weight training. Okay, I can sort of understand yawning during a conference call, but in the middle of workouts? How is that even possible?
  • Joint pain. I’d noticed pain in my right hip and left knee. I turned 50 in May, so I figured it was normal aging. Then I recalled reading that joint pain is a documented Viibryd side effect. This was, in fact, the symptom that spurred me to action after months of contemplation.
  • Myoclonic jerks. I experienced those little jerks you often have just as you enter that twilight state between wakefulness and sleep. Only I experienced them while I was fully awake. At my desk. Sitting on the sofa watching television. Reading. Sitting at my desk doing research on Westlaw. Any time I was somewhat relaxed, I’d have these little twitches in my legs. The thought that my brain was causing my body to spasm when it didn’t normally do so, freaked me out.
  • No libido. Zero. Zip. Nada. Zilch. When you have no libido, and no partner, it’s easy to dismiss this as an irrelevant side effect. But then it occurred to me: If I have no libido, I’m hardly motivated to connect with men and get a new boyfriend. I’m perfectly content to stay in and blow through all seven seasons of Dexter with my neighbor. (Okay, now you know why I’ve been remiss in my posting and blog-following. We’ve got only four episodes of Season 7 remaining. We’ll watch three tonight, and one tomorrow; just in time to watch the Season 8 opener tomorrow night. After tomorrow night, I am markedly reducing my television consumption.) Viibryd was touted by the manufacturer as being an SSRI without the sexual side effects.  Because of this, it was going to be the next big thing. Bullshit has been called. I too call bullshit.
  • Deteriorating Diet and Exercise Routine. Food cravings, particularly sugar and carbs. Weight gain. Lack of exercise motivation. Lack of energy. This category is very important, but it falls into a grayer area. Historically I’ve had these issues without being on drugs. But I’d been doing so well. Even following the first two deaths. Are my current difficulties “just me,” or is the drug a contributing factor?

Now you’ve got my explanation as to why I decided to ditch the Viibryd. Once I had decided upon the ditching, I immediately moved forward. In keeping with prior methodology, I ditched the drug without conferring with my doctor. Yes, I’m impetuous. It’s one of my finer attributes.

Rather than going totally cold turkey (as I did with the Abilify, with no issues whatsoever), I decided to titrate down. For the first six days (Saturday through Thursday), I took 20 mg–a 50% cut. I had lots of vivid dreams, but none of them particularly disturbing. No Sleestaks. No mass murderers stalking me. Some of the dreams were even kind of fun and I found myself disappointed when I awakened from them. Others were extremely sexual in nature. Has my libido switch been thrown?

After six days on 20 mg and no terrifying dreams, I stopped taking the drug completely. While my experience hasn’t been too bad, there have been ill-effects. During the first few days of being totally off the drug, I was very tired. I had difficulty staying awake at my desk. I was incredibly sleepy. I simply wanted to lie my head down and close my eyes. It took Herculean efforts to not succumb to that pull. Instead, I sat there and yawned, Zombielike. My brain felt like it was immersed in water. I slogged through the days. At night, I slept great. Hard. My bladder was the only thing that awakened me, and then, once a night, at most. My bladder, in fact, had settled down significantly. It was as if the switch had been thrown, and I was back in control. No more urgency. No more peeing dozens of times a day. No need to cave and buy a box of adult diapers at 50. (This is only okay if you are an astronaut stalking your lover.)

My knee and hip pain may have eased. I’m just finishing up Week 4 of the Couch to 5K program and seem to be feeling less pain, rather than more. I’m actually getting up in the morning to do Days 1 & 2 of each week of the program before work. (I do Day 3 in the morning on Sunday.) Early-morning exercise. It’s been years since I had the motivation to do morning exercise. Of course, it’s hotter than a mother trucker here in Central Texas, so there’s that motivation to do morning exercise, as well. I’m looking forward to starting Week 5 of the program, and ultimately being able to run a 5K again. Hopefully, joint-pain free.

Here’s another good one: the carb cravings have disappeared. My appetite seems to have lessened. My preoccupation with food (and wine) is decreasing. Hopefully this is not just a temporary withdrawal effect. Even if it is, I hope to use it as a springboard back to my healthier eating habits.

Some negative withdrawal effects: In addition to the sleepiness and brain fog, I’ve felt nausea. It’s not been nearly as bad as when I was amping up on the drug, however. Now, 9 days off the drug, it seems to have dissipated. The brain fog is easing as well. Toward the end of the week this week, I seemed to be regaining focus at work. In between crying spells, that is. Yes, I’ve been more emotional the past two weeks. I’ve been very emotional. I thought I’d picked a fairly stable time to stop taking the Viibryd, but as it turns out, my mother has gone off the rails and things with her (and my sister) have been difficult. (The subject of my next post, Bad Daughter.) But still, I have managed the mother/sister issues fairly well. Even in the midst of withdrawal.

In the midst of the early days of this decision, I feel I’ve made the right call. The two biggest early benefits of stopping the Viibryd: my bladder has settled down significantly and sugar cravings have eased.

Open questions: Will word-recall improve? Will brain fog clear completely? Will afternoon yawning continue to ease? Will joint pain in fact dissipate? Will libido, and my interest in men, return? Am I better off without a libido? Without a man? Okay, those last two questions aren’t Viibryd-related, but they are good ones. Then again, I’ve written about them before.

Spinster With Cats

No Man Is an Island

Do you see what happens when you take a couple of weeks off from writing? You get off topic and are desirous of packing way too much content into one post, feeling a pull to include everything that’s been rattling around in your head since last you wrote. Or maybe that’s another withdrawal symptom.

Until the next update, I am Ella, Unconfirmed Bachelorette, and Viibryd-free.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “letting go” in the context of loss. Specifically, the loss of my father and both brothers; all the male members of my family, within eleven months. The deaths happened in such quick succession. My oldest brother died suddenly last April. I brushed it off. I knew it was coming. Some day. I’d been waiting most of my life for that one.

My father died in October, six months after his oldest son. I had a little more time to prepare for his death. I spent five nights with him, just the two of us, in hospice. But even so, when my remaining brother died suddenly a month ago, on March 25, I was still trying to grieve the loss of my father. Only five months had passed. And I hadn’t even begun grieving the loss of my oldest brother last April. That death was complicated.

imageWhen I think about grieving, about letting go, I feel my heels planting more firmly into the dirt, my body leaning back against the rope I’m gripping. But it’s beginning to slip, sliding through my hands, in my own private tug of war.

I don’t want to let go. I don’t have time to feel the losses. To feel their impact. How can I let go of that rope?

Why am I not grieving? Why do I fear feeling it? Am I afraid it will take me through to “the other side”? To a place where I’m “done” with the loss? To a place where it doesn’t matter any more? To a place where they don’t matter any more? Back to my meaningless “before” life?

And so I lean back harder against the rope and hold on tight, even though my hands are torn and bloody.

I went from one death to the next to the next, with no time to grieve. My focus has been to push it away. Get back to work. Back to billing hours. Back to being productive. Back to fitting in at the mega-firm we merged with two years ago. Back to attempting to fit in at that firm even though I don’t share their ambitions and goals, let alone their pedigrees. I didn’t feel their level of ambition before the losses. I feel it even less, now. It all seems so trivial. Moving money from one deep pocket to another.

I need to let go of the rope. To be left alone to grieve. To let go of the rope and just fall apart. Why are we not given time in this culture to grieve? When did that stop? Why can’t I wear black for a year and have people leave me the fuck alone?

Since my brother died, I’ve had very few weekends to myself. Two were spent with family. Last weekend was spent out of town with my firm. And today I have to travel to a client event in a town about an hour and a half away. It’s a fundraiser for a good cause, and it’s being held by my favorite client. But I’m so tired. I just want to be alone. I want to write. Pet the cats. Sleep.

Nothing matters much right now. All the things people worry about at the office seem ridiculous. I want to slap them and tell them to stop fretting over stupid, tiny, small things. But nice things don’t seem to matter either. My jasmine is in full bloom. It smells lovely. And I don’t feel like sitting outside enjoying it and watching the birds. I want to be inside, in my bed, with a cat on my lap.

Last weekend, when I returned from Chicago, I got sick. Just a little cold. Maybe allergies. I wished I was sicker. Even so, I worked from home for a couple of days. In my bed. Papers strewn about, a cat in my lap (Sally), the drapes closed against the world. Just me, in my space, eliminating as many of the things that irritate me as possible. Next week, I may do the same. The boss will be traveling, so it won’t matter whether I work from home or not. He won’t need to walk down to my office every ten minutes to interrupt me with some idiotic, inconsequential tidbit. I like the man. But he’s annoying the crap out of me these days.

I know the irritation is part of the grieving process. But I want to drop the rope and move on to the harder pieces. I want to fall apart. I sometimes fantasize about being locked up in a loony bin for a month or two so I can just be alone and fall apart without all the meaningless bullshit distractions.

I’ve fallen apart exactly once since Steve died on March 25. Last weekend in my hotel room in Chicago. After the after-dinner drinks, of which I had too many, I crawled into the hotel bed. Maybe it was the unfamiliar surroundings. Maybe it was the lack of kitty sleeping companions. Maybe it was too much wine. But the next thing I knew, the dam broke. I sobbed into my pillow for over an hour. I was in such deep despair, I couldn’t prise myself off the bed for a tissue. But I was in a hotel, so I didn’t much care about the snot-covered pillow case. I just kept crying. Ugly crying. Body-wracking-sobs crying. I don’t recall ever crying so hard for so long. I was weak and hollowed out when it subsided.

That’s the kind of grief I want to feel. Over and over again. I know it’s there lurking, beneath the irritation. If only I could drop the rope again and fall flat on my ass in the mud. I don’t know how. I don’t know how I did it last weekend. It just happened. I think I just need to be alone. I need to stop with the tv-watching with my neighbor every night, which generally has included wine and a nice dinner. She’s my distraction. She’s been my distraction since the night I got the news Steve was dying. I haven’t spent a single night after work or on the weekend alone. Not one. Before Steve died, I was alone most nights. My neighbor was in Hong Kong and I spent my evenings in solitude. She is my defense against the grief. She’s supposed to leave this week, but is still waiting for word from her husband. I want her to go.

But I fear being alone with my grief. What if I fall into a pit of despair and am unable to climb out? What if the depression returns? I am depressed. Death does that to a person. But what if the regular non-situational depression returns? What if I can’t keep myself from being sucked under by the quicksand?

Depression is a part of grief. I know that. But what makes that depression different from clinical depression? Why is depression caused by death okay, but depression caused by life is not? How would I feel off the pharmaceuticals? Would I find grieving easier? Would I grieve too much? How can you grieve too much?

Maybe that’s why I’m having trouble grieving. Maybe I need to get off these meds.

Another rambling post. Forgive me.

My mother hasn’t spoken to me for nearly two weeks due to my attempt at setting boundaries with her and suggesting she attend Al-Anon meetings. Having spent the past 58 years with an alcoholic husband (who died nearly four months ago) as well as two alcoholic sons (one died ten months ago; the other entered rehab just over a month ago), it seemed like a good idea. I thought it might help her learn to focus on herself, now that she has no one left to take care of. Apparently she disagrees.

My therapist has given me lots of ideas and suggestions about dealing with my mother. She’s impressing upon me that it’s okay to set boundaries. In fact, rather than being selfish, it’s healthy. Here’s a simple diagram she gave me the last time we met:

Looks fairly simple. Unless "Other" is "Mother."

My mother refuses to go to Al-Anon. There’s nothing I can do about that. So it’s time I stop focusing on her, and redirect my efforts to my self. As the book says: Codependent No More.

I want to get off the antidepressants, which I’ve been on a little over a year now. I don’t have anything against pharmaceutical assistance. In fact, they’ve helped tremendously. I was able to work through the effects of being in an abusive relationship and get out from under the black cloud (mostly) before my brother died. I was able to resist the quicksand after his death and work on my recovery through October, when my father died. I was able to be present with my father in hospice. I didn’t numb myself with food or alcohol (unlike the rest of my family). I’m grieving, but I have managed to keep the depression at bay. But if I can keep the depression at bay without the drugs, I’m all for it.

Dr. McEnroe (my psychiatrist) says he’d like me to have one good, relatively unstressful, uneventful year under my belt before I taper off the drugs. What do I need to do to accomplish this? Nobody dying would be great. But I cannot control that. What can I control? Self care.

What does self care mean to me?

  • Moving my body in ways that nurture myself, rather than punishing my body for having more flesh than I’d like. Walking, throwing in jogging when it feels good. Running gave me plantar fasciitis, which took nearly a year to resolve fully. So now I am mindful when I lace up my shoes and head out the door. I’m moving toward replacing lifting weights with Pilates. Muscles are good, but more is not always better. And the way I lift feels a lot like punishment to me. No Ashtanga yoga. I’ve seen too many injuries, including my shoulder.
  • Nature. Hiking in the woods. Walking down by the river. Outdoorsy vacations. I’m thinking the Great Bear Rainforest, this year.
  • Regular massage.
  • Plenty of sleep.
  • Cuddling and playing with my cats.
  • Seeing my therapist regularly.
  • Eating healthfully.
  • Writing.
  • Reading your blogs.
  • Avoiding emotional eating. And drinking. Being mindful with both. Using healthier ways of coping.

The last bullet point is the most difficult for me. In fact, all the previous bullet points support the last.

I’m guessing many of you have similar challenges. What helps you cope? I’d love to hear what’s on your list.

I was thinking about grief the other day. Thinking my grief over my brother’s and father’s deaths last year didn’t last long. The crying wasn’t overwhelmingly intense. Or at least it wasn’t more than a handful of times. I wondered what’s wrong with me. Why aren’t I more broken by the events of last year? Am I cold? Heartless? Unfeeling? Are the antidepressants numbing normal emotion?

And then I read a blog post tonight: Daddy’s Little Girl, and I posted a response. As I wrote, the deep, gaping cavity in my chest that I’d been clenching closed these past months broke open, the grief spilling out. Maybe I’ve been too consumed by my mother’s neediness to have enough stillness to access my grief. (She hasn’t called since she hung up on me a week ago.) Here are the words I wrote that broke through:

When I was growing up, I hated him more than I loved him. When I hit my 30s and 40s, the hate faded bit by bit (as did the abuse) and the love grew. When he was dying in hospice in October and it was just the two of us alone every night, all I felt was love.

Speaking of love, Sophie the stray cat had disappeared for an entire week. I kept telling myself she was fine; she’d found her way home. Last night when I pulled into the driveway after work, she was out front waiting for me. I couldn’t believe it. No more skulking in the shadows, luring her out with a trail of Greenies. There she was, waiting. I thought perhaps it was because she’d gone hungry over the week she’d disappeared. But tonight was even one better. When I got home, she wasn’t waiting. But when I went outside and called her, she appeared! We then made our way through the steps she has established for us over the past six weeks:

  1. Eat tuna that I spoon onto the saucer for her from the can, bite by bite.
  2. Stretch (downward facing cat, and then each leg straight out behind her, one at a time).
  3. Bathe, taking meticulous care each whisker is back in place.
  4. Meow once or twice as she walks back over to me. (She has a very high-pitched squeaky meow, much like her sibling to be, Sally.)
  5. A minimum of five minutes of intense petting, paying particular attention to her head, cheeks, and under her chin, while all the while she purrs quite audibly.

Sophie appears to be well on her way to becoming an inside cat. Will it take another six weeks? Stay tuned.

I went to see Dr. McEnroe yesterday. It’s been thirteen months since he put me on antidepressants. Placebo or not, they’ve done wonders. Thirteen months ago I was over 40 pounds heavier than I am now. I showed up at his office hiding myself in baggy black clothes and cried during the entire meeting. I felt like I needed a forklift to get out of bed in the morning. Although always an introvert, I’d become even more reclusive. I didn’t go to a single holiday party. I went months without a pedicure.

No, this isn't really my foot. But without antidepressants, it could have been.

No, this isn’t really my foot. But without antidepressants, it could have been.

I was extremely overdue for a teeth cleaning. I didn’t cook any more. I didn’t have the energy. (Lack of movement and takeout probably were largely responsible for my weight gain.) In fact, I didn’t have the energy to do much of anything. Except turn the channel with the remote. When I was not at the office, I’d be either on the sofa or in bed. I went to bed as early as 8 p.m. because I had no interest in doing anything else. I’d sleep 10 or 12 hours a day. And still I was exhausted.

In the midst of my fog, it occurred to me the black dog was back.

After trying a few different combinations (one that made my hair fall out), we settled on 300 mg Wellbutrin in the morning, along with 15 mg of Deplin. (Deplin is a medical food. A super duper form of folate that has been shown to boost the efficacy of antidepressants.) I was taking 30 mg of Deplin in the morning, but Dr. McEnroe has suggested I take one in the afternoon, so now I’ve spread them out. Along with dinner, I take 40 mg of Viibryd. So that’s it:

Morning: 300 mg Wellbutrin, 15 mg Deplin
Noon: 15 mg Deplin
Dinner: 40 mg Viibryd

Initially, there were side effects. Eventually, they all dissipated. Except muscle twitching (myoclonic jerks) when extremely relaxed. (No, these are not ex-boyfriends. Go here if you’re curious about my jerks.)

I mustn’t forget the weekly (or bi-monthly, depending upon how things were going) visits with Annie, my therapist. Outdoor exercise (Vitamin D) also is part of the equation, along with good nutrition and less wine. And of course cat therapy.

On this regimen, I’ve made it through two deaths in my family within six months (brother and father), the holidays in the wake of those losses, cancer (and recovery) of my remaining brother, followed by an intervention in hopes of helping him to stop killing himself with alcohol. (He’s in rehab now, and doing great. :)) Oh, and I was thrown together with my sister and her husband (who molested their daughter) due to the deaths of my brother and father, and so had to manage my feelings about all that (a post I’ve been avoiding).

Through it all, I’ve stayed out of the quicksand.image

I asked Dr. McEnroe last week whether I’d be on them indefinitely. After all, it’s been over a year. He said he’d like me to have one good year under my belt before tapering off. A year without crises or uber-stressful life events. A year where I could focus largely on me and taking very good care of myself. My goal is to make 2013 that year. With any luck, no one will die.

So the bottom line is, don’t listen to Newsweek.

Ignore this.

Ignore this.

For some, including me, antidepressants do indeed work.

***Because antidepressant-related searches are at the top of the list for traffic to my blog, I’ll continue to provide updates on my progress. Feel free to email me:

The most frequent searches leading people to my blog involve pedophiles and depression medication. It amazes me how many people out there are married to, or know, a pedophile. But I will save that post for another day. Today, it’s about the medication.

Wellbutrin and Deplin

I have been on Wellubtrin 300 mg and Deplin 15 mg since late December. The only side effect I’ve noticed from that combo is constipation. I’ve been on Wellbutrin before, and did  not suffer from constipation. This time, it’s different. First, I tried switching from generic to brand. No improvement. Then I did a web search. My new theory is that because the Deplin is helping the Wellbutrin work better, it’s also making me constipated. The only way I’ve been able to get relief is to do a daily dose of Miralax. Since I’m feeling better on the Wellbutrin, I’ll live with it. For now.

Abilify (Nasty Shit)

Next up: Abilify. That stuff is awful. At least it was for me. When I’d exercise, I’d get overheated way too easily. I’d get a half mile from home and have to stand in the shade for five minutes before I could go on. And that was back when it was only in the 80s. The last thing I need is something making it difficult to exercise. So I knew it had to go. But even worse, it made my hair fall out. It was falling out by the handful. I avoided washing my hair because I couldn’t stand to see all the hair in my hands and the tub. My hairline receded around my temples. It totally freaked me out.

I was doing the comb-over so I didn’t have to see it. Ponytails were out. Yes, that crap had to go. I stopped it cold turkey without telling my doctor. Actually, I called to tell him on a Friday, and was too flipped out to wait for the return call on Monday. So I went cold turkey over the weekend. I was on a fairly low dose, so I figured I’d risk it. It was fine. (Disclaimer: I’m not advocating this for everyone. Don’t stop your meds without discussing it with your doctor!) Now that I’ve been off of it for a while, my hair has stopped falling out and there’s new growth filling in around my temples. So, it appears totally reversible. Hallelujah.


Next, he put me on Viibryd. We started slowly, and he eased me up to 30 mg. I was fine right there, but apparently the recommended dose is 40 mg, so he stepped me up again. That’s when the shit hit the fan. Every time I was even slightly exerted, I was dripping in sweat. Like I’d run a 10k in a sauna. My personal trainer thought I was going to keel over in the middle of a workout. The woman was seriously worried. In addition, whenever I exercised, be it yoga, strength training, or walking, I’d feel like I was going to vomit for hours afterward. So, I called the doctor. He told me the side effects likely would go away if I’d stick with it. I told him I wasn’t willing to do that, and he switched me back to 30 mg.

All was good in the world again. Until one night last week when I forgot to take my evening dose of Viibryd. That was a night of some seriously messed up dreams. All night long. In one of the more memorable dreams, which seemed to go on for hours, Mack had gone batshit crazy and had decided he was going to kill me. He was stalking me with a gun. I was hiding behind people who didn’t much appreciate that. I knew he would only shoot me and no one else, so they were safe. But they were having none of it, and so I kept finding myself without cover. And there was Mack with his big gun, laughing maniacally and taking aim. Eventually the snipers were called in, intent on shooting him before he shot me. For some reason, they couldn’t get the shot. Mack eventually escaped. With my help. How fucked up is that? I helped my killer evade the police. Now that’s some serious enabling.

I’m pretty sure this dream was prompted by these faces all over the news of late:

Yeah, I won’t be forgetting to take the Viibryd again any time soon.

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