Good Evening Friends,
Tonight as I did my evening exercise I wondered if I should write about this part of my life at all. It’s personal and so private. It’s the culmination of a year-long journey that has led me to this very moment. And yet, I’ve never been one to shy away from an obstacle. If someone tells me something is difficult, I mentally prepare, and then dive in. But this hurtle was one that I didn’t see coming. It’s the end to a journey that was unexpected. I’ll explain.
One year ago I sat in my neurologists office as he reviewed my file. I had gone in for an MRI after having headaches galore and stress through the roof. My MRI came back clean. My headaches were from stress and anxiety. My neurologist prescribed Lexapro (an SSRI) to me and said one very-defining statement: give me one year. “Give me one year” he said calmly, “and I believe that in one year, with a lot of hard work on your part in addressing your fears, you will overcome your anxiety and we can take you off the medicine”. I agreed and the year began.
2019 has been a wild ride. For the first 2 months on my SSRI I felt exhausted. This was a common side effect that my neurologist told me to expect. I felt like Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep for 100 years. I stumbled through the 8 weeks barely able to focus or keep my eyes open. However, in hindsight my body was just preparing for the new normal. I have to give a massive shout out to my Daddy (and hubby) for being my rock through that storm. We weathered it together and when I felt incredibly Little (and pouty) he held me for hours with patience and understanding. So thank you, my love. You really are the love of my life.
Once my medicine took hold, life began to stabilize. I was able to think with a clearer head and in the process of doing so… I slept again! I got a full 8 hours of sleep every night. I ate healthy meals and didn’t feel too scared to walk around outside. My mood improved greatly and I felt productive again. My 90 day check up with my neurologist went fantastic but he urged me to dive deeper and really find the source of my problem and what made me anxious in the first place. Now that was something that I didn’t want to tackle. But, I knew my doctor was right.
I began to reflect, blog, talk with family privately, and just take time for me to think about how the heck I had lived for 10 years with anxiety. That’s a long time to be so dang scared! I wasn’t going to beat myself up for living with the illness for so long. Instead, I began to truly love myself. I embraced the pain. I embraced the hurt and the scars. I embraced it all… and cried a lot in the process. And somewhere along that journey of opening up, I realized that I didn’t want to be some fictitious pen name on here anymore. I just wanted to be me. Raw, real, perfectly-imperfect… me. So, I made the decision to stop calling myself Penny Berry… and just use the name that I use at home in my everyday life: kitten. 🙂
After my 6 month check up went smoothly, my neurologist said to me, “I don’t think you’re going to be my patient for much longer”. We set an appointment for him to begin tapering off my SSRI in January 2020, and life moved on. I continued to work on myself and prepare myself mentally for not taking medication. I never wanted it to be a “crutch” for doing the hard, mental work needed to overcome this illness. Instead, I view the medication as a helpful tool that allowed me to lift the clouds just long enough for me to do some of the necessary mental work on myself.
Now I need to pause here for a moment.
If you (or someone you know) is wanting to go off their SSRI’s, the very first thing you should do is to talk with your neurologist. Create a plan to taper off your medication, because the symptoms of discontinuation are akin to the flu and feel downright awful, not to mention, that your anxiety/depression can come rushing back if you don’t take care of yourself properly.
That said, a week ago I received a letter in the mail. My doctor had abruptly moved away and closed their practice. They are no longer providing medical services in my local town. I was stunned. “But I gave one year!” I said to my husband, “we had a plan!”. My appointment (obviously) had been cancelled and my medication hadn’t been renewed at my pharmacy.
However, I had taken a lot of time for meditation this year, so even though I felt stressed at the situation… it didn’t feel insurmountable. It just meant that the ending to my story was going to be written differently. I am going cold turkey off my SSRI’s. Yes, it’s not how I wanted or preferred it to be. Yes, I do not advocate that anyone do it this way. Yes, I have read up thoroughly on all of the side effects of what I could experience with discontinuation syndrome.
But, I’m also ready to get my body back.
I was hesitant in writing this post because it’s not the preferred method of weaning off an SSRI. I’m not a doctor, nor would I advise people to do this. But, I wanted to document the end of this year-long journey because it’s my raw, personal life experience. It’s a part of me. There might be days ahead where I feel icky with a headache. But I still want to write about me, Little or not, and where I’m at. My body will be withdrawing from Lexapro, and that will take time. One month give or take. But just in case there is someone out there who happens to be going through this too… you’re not alone. I’m here. This is my story. And I look forward to the sunny days ahead when all of this is behind me.
Thanks for reading, my friends. Big hugs to you all.