It’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.
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.