Last night, I gave up. I gave up, again, on my effort to go off of duloxetine (Cymbalta). It’s just too much.
At first, I felt better when I reduced how many little beads I removed from the medication capsule. But over the course of the week or so, things got worse, and then even worse.
How weird is it to have a medication that you take twice a day, each time with about 70 tiny beads in one capsule, and if you take out 4 beads from one capsule only once a day, you end up with
- tingling under the skin of your arms and legs
- extreme fatigue and the need to sleep for hours in the middle of the day
- difficulty getting out of bed, even when you are awake
- a strange pressure around your genitals, like a tingling, almost like a low-level sexual arousal, but not pleasant (and hard and kind of embarrassing to even describe)
- an inability to concentrate and a sudden chronic forgetfulness
- recurrent desire to self-harm
- intrusive thoughts about hanging yourself
It’s so bizarre that I find it interesting and almost comical (especially how forgetful I am), except that it is also miserable.
I reached out to Kelly, the psychiatric nurse practitioner who became my new prescriber last summer. She was very empathic, said she would reach out to some colleagues in case she had overlooked anything. She told me to go ahead and go back to the full dose, and that we could meet today to talk.
Well, at least I don’t have to count out those tiny beads anymore!
So last night I took my evening dose without taking out any beads. I took it, wishing just to feel better. In fact, I feel worse today. I know it will probably not take too long for me to feel “normal” again, but it’s challenging to endure until then. I spent a lot of the day in bed today, or staring mindlessly at my phone. When I did have my appointment with Kelly (online), we had some long silences because sometimes my mind would just go blank for a while.
She told me that all of her colleagues had the same approaches she and I had already tried. And that’s good, I guess, like having a bunch of second opinions without having to tell my story over and over again to additional doctors.
Then she told me she had one other idea, something still considered “unconventional.” She said some people were using psilocybin to help with withdrawal. There isn’t a lot of research, she told me, about using it to get off something like Cymbalta or Effexor, my nemeses, but there is a growing body of research about its effectiveness helping people with addictions, both for the withdrawal phase and to beat their addictions longer term. And of course there is also more and more coming out about its use to treat depression and post-traumatic stress.
She said she’d send me a list of resources, videos and readings, so I could learn more about it. She’s been intentionally learning more over the past few years, and this summer she will start a 10-month training so she can be licensed to use it in her practice. I’ve previously listened to most of Michael Pollen’s book (How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence), so the general idea that psychedelics can be beneficial to mental health isn’t new to me. But I had never thought of it as a support to help me get off the duloxetine.
I told my husband about the idea this evening. He’s all in favor. He read Pollen’s book too, and for the last several years, I think he has wanted to try psychedelics for the more spiritual side of the experience. He hasn’t exactly said that, but I get that idea. Regardless, he thinks it’s a great idea for me to try. I’m not opposed, but I’m a bit more skeptical. I think it’s because I have tried so many things to help me feel better. I’ve had my hopes up and been disappointed before, not only about getting off meds, but also about therapies to treat trauma. At one point, I was so excited to try EMDR, after reading about its effectiveness. But for whatever reason, it never did anything for me, well, except confuse and frustrate me, I guess.
I mean, it’s good to at least have an alternative path to consider, because the “go it slow” method has just failed me for the second time. I just don’t want to invest too much energy in hoping for a different outcome.
Hope you feel better today…
I know people who take anti-depressants daily, and many would rather not have to. I too don’t like to resort to my anti-anxiety medication, but to sleep I have to.
Medication for diseases for well known ailments aren’t thought twice about, but medications just as necessary for health in other realms are still to this day looked at differently, and not in a good way. But they are good, just as good, and just as needed.
I’m sorry they cause such side-effects, that must be a struggle too.
I know that medication is literally a life-saver for some people. I would never made a blanket anti-medication statement. For me, though, I don’t think most of the many medications I have been on have helped very much (possible exception: Wellbutrin), and some have increased or extended my suffering.
I also think I was mistakenly treated for depression for many years when a better diagnosis would have been C-PTSD. That was just my bad luck in terms of timing, what was known in the field, and the particular providers I worked with. I wish I could have been treated many years ago with a somatic therapy and something geared toward attachment. I might still have taken some medication(s), but I think I would have never been prescribed so much for so long.
But okay, it is what it is, I got the treatment I got, and the main thing is how I choose to go forward from this point on. Now I don’t think I need the Cymbalta, and I resent that it’s so hard to get off of it. I get mad that pharmaceutical companies only conduct short-term, 6-week to 6-month studies of anti-depressants, even though so many people stay on them for years. But I don’t mean this to come across as a message that no one should take meds. I’m sorry if you felt at all that I was condemning or judging anyone who chose to take them to help their mental health.
no way, I didn’t think that at all. I had a friend, best friend I’ve ever had, (she died from cancer a few years back and I had only known her about 5 years… funny how life is, but grateful to have known a real friend who truly cared for me) anyway, I know in the fall she said once she had increase her anti-depressant and it bothered her. I’ve heard it bother many others too. I wondered at that because most of us don’t think twice about taking other meds, like my cholesterol lowering drug. It seems those on medications might be reacting to a societal unacceptance of meds for there other illnesses and they get a bad rap. Sooooo, I was trying to sooth you if that was the case but also in doing so felt like I treading on squishy ground and perhaps I shouldn’t have said anything though did want to offer support. Just sorry it’s such a struggle. That sucks.
Omr of my favourite readers used that to cope with existential anxiety about her inevitable death from illness I think. It was a very powerful experience.
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Yes, I have read that one of its demonstrated benefits is to reduce anxiety in terminally ill patients. Kelly is very hopeful about it and thinks it will transform psychiatry over the next decade. That’s a good thing; my own experience with psychiatry has not been easy or especially successful. I’d love to imagine better options for future generations.
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I was wondering if you’re feeling better now you’re back up to your normal dose again, and whether you considered the alternatives? Either way, really hope you’re okay 🤗♥️
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Yes, I’m feeling much better. I think it took me about 4 days to feel “normal” again. I am waffling about the microdosing and for now I’m just learning more and won’t even meet with my psych nurse for the next conversation until May.
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That’s really quick, I’m so glad! It took just a few days to make you feel rubbish so pleased it only took the same length time to get back to normal again 👍