When I last wrote in February, everything had started to fall apart, and I couldn’t figure out why. My sleep became more interrupted, and that incessant tingling returned. I started having muscle spasms in the morning, and most of all, my mood turned dark, my thoughts full of self-loathing.
It’s almost like what happens to me when I lower my dose of (that detested pharaceutical torment) Effexor. But I couldn’t figure out why I was having severe withdrawal symptoms when I hadn’t been lowering my dose at all.
It turns out that it was the olive leaf extract I was taking. My nutritionist had recommended it, since last fall for the first time, my blood labs came back showing elevated levels of cholesterol. Olive leaf extract has quite a bit of scientific evidence to show it’s effective at lowering cholesterol and improving heart function in various ways.
And it’s an unregulated, natural supplement, right? So no problem.
Except it, like the metformin I tried in 2017 when my A1C levels were climbing, or the liver cleanse my nutritionist suggested last year, affects the way my liver works, which in turn affects how I metabolize the Effexor. And since any small change to the Effexor levels disrupt my whole life, well, there’s the explanation.
It may well be that the nutritionist is right, that I have “fatty liver,” and that a liver cleanse would be helpful. However, I can’t tolerate it, just like I can’t tolerate various other medications that in any way disrupt my metabolism of of Effexor.
This latest experience has just underscored for me how crucial it is that I get off this horrible, horrible medication. What if I develop something where I absolutely need a medication, but it triggers all kinds of physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms? Right now, I feel like the Effexor is ruling my body and determining in so many ways what I can and cannot do.
But it’s not easy to come off. I should know–I’ve been slowly weaning off of it since January 2017. That’s right, three years and two months! It’s a long time! That’s why I am so bitchy whenever I hear the words “Effexor” or “venlafaxine.”
I have made progress, of course. I am down from a ridiculously high dose of 300mg in January 2017 to 37.5mg last year (and I have suffered a lot along the way). Since November 1, I have been taking apart my 37.5mg capsule and taking out individual beads. At first I took out only 1 bead per day. After two weeks, I started taking out two beads per day. After two more weeks, I took out three beads, but then I felt so awful that I waited a bit longer to lower the dose again.
Sometimes when I drop an additional bead, I only feel bad for two days or so. But sometimes it can last a week or more. It’s hard to say.
These days I am taking out five beads per day. The capsules have about 37 to 40 beads each (which is already problematic, since it means each bead is not identical, and I’m not really getting a perfectly consistent dose each day). But anyway, I have about 32 to 35 more beads to go. If I’m able to sustain this rate, dropping 2 beads most months, sometimes less, I have probably a year and a half to go. I can anticipate that I will feel bad between four days and about two weeks per month.
It might take a little longer. My psych nurse tells me that sometimes the last milligrams are the worst for people, since each drop represents a higher percentage reduction in the dose.
Or, I could boldly throw myself into another nose dive to speed things up. I’m considering the option of finishing the research contracts I currently have, which will be done in April, attending my stepson’s wedding in early May, and then dropping 15 or 16mg at once. It would be kind of like what I did in December 2018. The impact that time was severe, and it lasted about two or two and a half months.
But that time, I was surprised. This time, I would know what was coming. I wouldn’t take any new work assignments for a bit. I would schedule weekly cranio-sacral sessions to soothe my central nervous system (my new insurance pays for these treatments! it’s wonderful!). It will be summer, and I can be outside in the sun. My psych nurse said she would prescribe clonazapam, which I could use to sleep through some of the most self-destructive depressive moments.
If I can bring myself to do that, recover, and then repeat the big drop, I could be completely off the Effexor by the end of 2020. It’s a bit scary, honestly. But the idea of feeling crummy between four days and two weeks of every month between now and at least September 2021 isn’t a happy one, either. I’m thinking it might be worth it. I so want to be free of this medication that has its claws in me.