My current situation with the psychiatric drug withdrawal

It’s time for an actual update on my withdrawal process. I refer to it often without details.

The chronic fatigue I’ve been talking about has only reached intolerable levels in the last couple of months. At this point I can’t even drive, I feel so wasted. This has not been the case throughout the withdrawal.

I have to say when I was heavily drugged there was a period of many years where I shouldn’t have been driving, but since I had a doctor who refused to put me on disability I had to drive to work. The mornings were the worst. I felt wracked with guilt, worrying that I would hurt someone on the road. This initial drugged out exhaustion passed in the first couple of years of withdrawing from 200 mg Zoloft and Risperdal down to 4 mg from 11 mg. I was again able to drive without concern.

This has changed since I’ve come off an additional 2 3/4 mg of Risperdal, 50 mg of Seroquel, and now 200 mg of Lamictal. The enhanced fatigue started early on in my intensive taper which started in August of last year. I could still drive most of the time, but exercising got progressively more difficult and I often had less energy for socializing. It was in March when I started the 200 mg taper of Lamictal where things really started going downhill. It is since March that I’ve truly found it intolerable. Having to completely stop driving started a few weeks ago.

I’ve now talked to three people who have withdrawn from Lamictal. (most of the people I’m in contact with did not withdraw from Lamictal or I haven’t talked to them about that precisely) Everyone found it easy and two people found it easier than any other drug they withdrew from. So I’m wondering, why is it effecting me this way?

In the last month perhaps now I have not felt safe to drive at all. I’m basically home-bound except when my husband is able to take me out.

I realize it’s time for a break. I will not taper again until I can drive again. I cannot stand not having a life and it’s taxing my quality of life to a huge degree. Up until about March, though I didn’t have a roaring, exciting life, I could still do much much more. My present state is not acceptable.

I imagine however the Lamictal taper is effecting me, it will wear off if I let my body heal and stop my tapering.

This is not a difficult choice to make. At this point it would simply be masochistic to continue tapering at the same pace I’ve been tapering.

It is, however, disappointing, as I had a vague schedule in mind of when I would be off the next couple of drugs. I had planned to be off the additional 1 1/4 mg of Risperdal by years end and then start the Klonopin taper by the beginning of next year. It may be possible that I’ll still be able to do this, but I have to allow myself whatever time it takes to be able to start functioning again.

Important to note: I am not having mood swings or any other sign of relapse. I am suffering only from a profound fatigue–with some accompanying situational depression. Who would not be depressed if they couldn’t leave the house. There is nothing pathological about feeling down during this time.

Everything about this process is such a mystery. I feel alone in the dark. But the truth is so many of you have gone through this. I’ve had so many of you write and tell me how it was for you, and yet I don’t rest easy and I still feel alone and it’s because I want a guarantee. I want a god damned doctor or professional (in person–not online) who has seen hundreds of people tell me “it’s okay, this is normal, you’re right on course.” Why do I still want a person in a contrived position of authority comforting me? Is it all the years of brainwashing that I needed to rely on a doctor?

I found out my “orthomolecular” doctor–the holistic, natural doctor who has turned out to be disappointing in so many ways, also does not know about withdrawal! I made reference to my withdrawing when I first talked to her on the phone, but when I went to meet her four hours away we only talked about my history, my diet and supplement regime and about what she could test for.

Then I had the nasty reaction to SAMe which she recommended. I now know a bad reaction is not at all uncommon among people with a history similar to mine and I find it annoying that she callously threw it at me like so many doctors doling out toxic meds. To make matters worse, she actually suggested I go off my remaining meds cold-turkey in order to see if the SAMe then worked. I was incredulous. I said, “do you realize how long it’s taken me to get off what I’ve already gotten off of? I won’t be off Risperdal until at least years end and the Lamictal withdrawal is wiping me out.” She got flustered and responded with a simple, “Oh.”

She’s a “radical” psychiatrist, has she not read Peter Breggins’ “Your Drug May Be Your Problem, Revised Edition: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications ?” What kind of insanity would have ensued had I attempted her suggestion–the SAMe itself was poison–what would a cold-turkey withdrawal on top of that have created? Thank god I have taken control of the reigns. Breggin is much more conservative than I have been about coming off neuroleptics, saying that one should wait one to two months between tapers if one has been on the drugs more than a decade. I’ve never waited more than a month and often it goes relatively smoothly on a weekly basis. (this is tiny increments of course–it’s took me 6 months to get off of 2 3/4 mg Risperdal–but that is much faster than Breggin recommends.) I want to fire my orthomolecular doctor and I will once I finish getting a series of blood work completed that I really want done.

Anyway, I don’t know how long I’ll take a break. Someone I correspond with says he took 6 – 9 month breaks during his withdrawal to recover to some extent, suggesting that I think about it. I had never thought about that. The idea has some appeal, but I want the hell off this stuff too. Right now I’m going to leave it a open question mark as to when I’ll return to the tapering. I am actually quite literally in withdrawal now. That has not stopped. I am experiencing its symptoms, this is where I’m at and it would be stupid to continuing tapering now.

So that is where I am in my withdrawal process. This is the hardest it’s gotten. Not so bad, really. Most psychiatrists would have me psychotic right now. It’s simply time to slow down–the only right thing to do.

Comments

  1. Marissa Miller says:

    I’ve now talked to three people who have withdrawn from Lamictal. (most of the people I’m in contact with did not withdraw from Lamictal or I haven’t talked to them about that precisely) Everyone found it easy and two people found it easier than any other drug they withdrew from. So I’m wondering, why is it effecting me this way?

    I could be wrong, but perhaps you are withdrawing from too many drugs all at one time. Maybe it’s best to taper and wean from one drug one at a time instead of a few over time. That’s my 2 cents.

    I can only hope that you will improve over time.

  2. Hi Marissa,
    I am indeed only withdrawing from one drug at a time. Sometimes, like with the Lamictal, I’ll withdraw from it for a couple of months, take a month break and then switch drugs. I never taper more than one drug at a time. If I’m having a rough time with one, though, like I said I’ll take a break and then switch. I think this is a good strategy as it gives the body time to heal from whatever toxin it is clearing out.

    thanks for your concern.

  3. thememoryartist says:

    I was on Lamictal for a long time too, but started to get rashes and needed to stop it. They took me off it cold turkey, and nothing at all happened to me.It ‘s interesting how different the effects are for everyone. I’m wondering though, if what you’re feeling is a direct cause of having less lamictal in your body, or if the decrease is allowing the benzos and the risperdal to assert their sedative effect even more strongly. When I went cold turkey off of everything, I noticed I was, within months, so incredibly sensitive to the sedative effects of medications- even after years of heavy doses of sedative drugs. I had the tolerance of a goddamn elephant, and that went away fairly quickly. Now my system is super-sensitive.I can’t even take a tiny molecule of any of that stuff without being wasted. The doctor kept pushing samples on me for months, but there was no way I could tolerate them and really no reason to try.I’m wondering if something like that isn’t happening to you as you decrease too, and maybe that’s why the fatigue is getting so much worse.

  4. tma,
    Your comment really made me think. It’s a little scary, because I really want the sedation to pass.

    My plan, however, moving forward is to get off the Risperdal and then the Klonopin before finally coming off the last 200 mg of Lamictal.

    Maybe coming of those two first will help perk me up a bit. I hope so.

    As far as increased sensitivity, that makes sense in my experience too, especially in how I now react to caffeine and especially alcohol. Though I was never a big drinker, on the rare occasion that I had even 3 beers I felt nothing (so much for contraindicating with all the sedating meds–but I was like you I had the tolerance of an elephant.) Now a half of a beer wastes me and I’m on much much less medication.

  5. undiagnosed says:

    That’s an interesting comment about the sedative effects becoming stronger, and I also wonder if a month between drug type tapers is quite long enough, especially for the risperdal (and given how awful you’re feeling).

    I’m the mystery e-mail correspondent who told Gianna that I took breaks when withdrawing (from zyprexa, lamictal, tegretol and klonopin over 3 1/2 years, off everything now for 8 months). This is excerpted from an e-mail I sent Gianna earlier in the day and she asked that I post as a comment:

    “I had that feeling of wanting doctor “approval” and reassurance too. I still do sometimes, but now it manifests as wanting a doctor to give me some sort of official “undiagnosis.” I also felt your same sort of defensiveness about withdrawal effects not being “symptoms.”  One thing that I found reassuring was that most of my withdrawal problems didn’t really feel like my previous “symptoms” had.  I might first think that fatigue was depression, but when I really concentrated, I realized it felt different.  Same for the panic attacks I had coming off of zyprexa.  It was also reassuring to realize I really did feel better during my breaks. Surely “relapse” wouldn’t fade the longer I was OFF of a drug.

    “I really did take breaks that long (6 – 9 months). I also started out with
    what I thought was the modest goal of only getting off zyprexa, so I didn’t head in anticipating getting off everything.  I really took it one drug at a time, especially at the beginning.  I would settle into a kind of “new normal” between each taper.  I would eventually get to a place that was better than I had felt before starting the taper.  Once I was there, and the next “lowish” stress window of life opened up, I would check in with my partner, cook up a reason to tell my shrink why I needed off yet another drug, and start my taper.”

    Hang in there and take care of yourself.

  6. thanks undiagnosed,
    I’m thinking it might be a good idea to stick with one drug until the end of the taper now. No more switching. Once I start again with the Risperdal I’ll wait until I’m off all of it. Same with the Klonopin.

    It has now struck me that switching back and forth may, indeed, make things rougher. True chemical stew in my brain.

  7. HSP Woman says:

    Dear Gianna,

    You are doing a fantastic, kick-ass, multi-spectacular job! Brava! Once again, I could have written this post myself. Seriously, take your time. I wrote a timeline for my benzo withdrawal last year, and I was “supposed” to have been benzo-free by April. Well, as you know, it’s July and I’m still about 60 days away if all goes well.

    Regarding the OM pdoc: in theory she sounds great! A radical thinker, someone outside the box! I would totally want to see her, too. Unfortunately, your experience with her mirrors many experiences I’ve had with alternative healers. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am the one who knows my body best. I was taking a lot (a lot!!) of herbs and other supplements for a while, and I got worse. For her not to have read Breggin’s book, well that’s just as bad as the regular drug-pushing pdocs that read nothing but what their pharmaceutical reps hand them with a pile of pretty new pens for the office. And, isn’t taking a handful of supplements kind of a similar philosophy as taking a handful of meds from a pdoc? Not exactly, but I think you know what I mean.

    Gianna, you are amazing and strong. Take a break, stabilize, and start again later. The years you take to heal now are well-invested. Better 5 or more years now than 50 more years taking a boat load of meds that don’t help.

    By the way, I think any psychiatrist I went to now would also be able to label me “mentally ill” big time. That’s their job to take many symptoms and fit them into a neat, little diagnosis. You’re not alone in this. Each one of us could be labeled once again. It’s their job to make sure it’s so.

    Super work, Gianna.

  8. Shannon says:

    I understand you need for “doctor approval.”

    We all kinda have that I think.

    Wow…you are really on a lot!….I am sorry but I don’t remember is your husband psych diagnosed? I sometimes wonder if a not diagnosed person would beleive me.

  9. Marissa Miller says:

    Stopping meds cures

    I thought this story might give you some hope.

  10. Marissa Miller says:

    thanks undiagnosed,
    I’m thinking it might be a good idea to stick with one drug until the end of the taper now. No more switching. Once I start again with the Risperdal I’ll wait until I’m off all of it. Same with the Klonopin.

    It has now struck me that switching back and forth may, indeed, make things rougher. True chemical stew in my brain.

    Oops. That’s what I meant to get across in my original comment. Sorry about that!

  11. thanks everyone–Marissa–I have yet to read your article but I will.

    HSP Woman said:

    And, isn’t taking a handful of supplements kind of a similar philosophy as taking a handful of meds from a pdoc? Not exactly, but I think you know what I mean.

    Actually HSP Woman, no I don’t think it is the same. Diet and supplementation have saved me. I got completely stuck and unable to continue withdrawing after a couple of years until I found a woman in an internet group that recommended a good foundational supplement regime. I swear by it.

    I now know from meeting many of you that it can be done without diet and supplementation (though I know most of you do eat well–diet alone was not enough for me)

    So, yes, I take a handful of supplements and I am damn grateful to have found someone who knew what to suggest. I’ve now done tons of my own research and I’ve seen much of what was suggested for me repeated over and over again when it comes to supporting people’s mental health. The thing with your average “alternative healer” is that they DON’T have experience with mental health. There are some rare birds out there that do know what they are doing though. I’ve simply not met one in person. I’ve come across a lot of people on the internet now, however that have steered me in the right direction.

    On another more important note–thank you HSP Woman for your encouragement and belief in me. It means a lot to me.

  12. Shannon,
    my husband is a stable compassionate man. he is not diagnosed with anything. believe me though, i do test his patience from time to time.

  13. Stephany says:

    You know I think the hypersensitivity thing is a good point. I also think the sedation drugs should go first, after reading all of these comments, it makes sense, that in fact it could be those sedation drugs causing the fatigue and the reduction of Lamictal giving those meds more ‘power’ so to speak. I was actually thinking the Klonopin could be more of a culprit than the Risperdal. [just thinking outloud here]
    Anyway, you definitely have worked hard and are working hard, and it is a full time job doing the med removal so cautiously, and I think you are doing a great documentation of it too. I admire how you are unwilling to end up in a fetal position and sweating, etc. like I did when I did the Seroquel agony cold turkey. Though I am relieved im done with it, but sure dont recommend cold turkey as a method of med removal. I am also curious as to how you may end up feeling on Lamictal stand alone, if thats the last med you remove–because ive read that it works best w/out antipsychotics or other meds, and was wondering, do you have any fears or anxiety about when the day comes that you take that last fraction of the last med? i ask that, because i was afraid I needed the seroquel, and i ended up being okay off of it, but that fear of needing it was there.

  14. yes, Stephany,
    Someone else suggested the culprit might be the Klonopin too (in email). I may rethink the order I was planning doing the withdrawal.

    And yes, of course I’m afraid. How could I not be– I’m not particularly afraid of being worse then I am right now, but I am afraid of not getting better than I am. And my problems now are not diagnosis related. So I’m not really sure what I’m saying except I don’t expect to go nuts.

    I guess I’m mostly afraid that there might have been permanent damage and I won’t recover my strength and cognition.

  15. looks like the main problem is the fatigue right now, no? (dunno why you say that many psychiatrists would consider you psychotic right now — you don’t mention having psychotic symptoms). fatigue is really, really dispiriting, and it may be part of what is making you feel so alone. i’m sorry you feel that way! clearly, you are not alone: look at how many people are pulling for you! you are, though, this much is true, pretty much in charge of your drug regimen…

    i think you’re right to give yourself a break. fatigue makes everything bleak. believe me, i know. it drains life from the body. it makes everything feel too much. my suggestion to you gianna is the following: if it feels too much, don’t do it. don’t make your body do what your body tells you it cannot do. be gentle to yourself.

    listen, i couldn’t even imagine withdrawing from so many drugs in such a relatively short time. it’s pretty amazing and titanic. give yourself a nice good rest. what’s the hurry anyway? there may or may not be well-being and health at the end of the detox, but the time in between should be nice and comfortable too, no? it’s not like now doesn’t count, if you see what i mean. you’ve got to keep the present in mind, too, not just this chimeric future of drug-freedom.

    what is it about driving that makes it impossible for you to do it? do you feel too tired to be safe?

  16. AMA,
    thank you–brilliant words:

    what’s the hurry anyway? there may or may not be well-being and health at the end of the detox, but the time in between should be nice and comfortable too, no? it’s not like now doesn’t count, if you see what i mean. you’ve got to keep the present in mind, too, not just this chimeric future of drug-freedom.

    It’s amazing how obvious that should be and I’ve not thought of that too much with my focus being the day I get off all of the drugs.

    When I said “most psychiatrists would have me psychotic,” or whatever I said– I meant most would imagine me psychotic given how much meds I’ve come off–not that I am psychotic. Psychiatrists believe you need these drugs. That is all I meant. Perhaps I should change the wording. It did cross my mind that it wasn’t clear.

    So nice of you to visit ama.

  17. oh ama,
    I left out an answer to your question about driving. Yes I feel to tired and spacey to be safe.

  18. prayingforD says:

    Hi Gianna,

    Thank you so much for your website, you have no idea how wonderful it is to connect with you all.

    As a shock to all of us, my daughter suddenly became dysfunctionally depressed the first week in college and has recently been diagnosed as bipolar and schizophrenic. She’s been in the psych ward three times since April and has been on and off the meds, but each time she’s off she crashes within two weeks.

    We don’t take meds for anything, not even antibiotics since we always do herbs, and now she’s had Halidol, Geodone, Cogentin, Ativan (at times) and Zyprexa since April. She denies being manic and has symptoms of being psychotic (everything from paranoia to taking off her clothes, racing thoughts and speech, to catatonic). She doesn’t do any drugs or drink or self medicate in any way. Her blood’s been tested for that but I know she doesn’t anyway, not yet at least. She is miserable in the psych ward (although she called the police to go herself this time) and they only want to increase the meds on her. She takes them (sometimes) to get out but then stops. I don’t want her to take any meds and neither does she….but how do you get a 19 year old to admit she has a problem and has to do something to take care of herself? She just races forward, eats junk food, stays up late, etc. and then crashes. I’m worried and we’re all consumed by this.

    Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated!

    Thanks so much,
    prayingforD

  19. Dear praying,
    I cannot know what is right for your daughter, but if she refuses to take meds then she has to take care of herself. People do heal without drugs, but it’s not effortless. It’s so hard to say what to do with someone so young. She needs to decide to take care of herself–you can’t do it for her and at that age it’s hard to want to do it for yourself.

    If you look at the right hand top of my page there are resources there for natural healing. I do suggest you find a professional to assist you or join the email groups. But ultimately your daughter needs to get on board.

    I wish you the best. I really feel for you.

  20. thememoryartist says:

    Yippee! the new site looks great. Love the colors.

  21. thememoryartist says:

    Gianna wrote:
    “Though I was never a big drinker, on the rare occasion that I had even 3 beers I felt nothing (so much for contraindicating with all the sedating meds–but I was like you I had the tolerance of an elephant.) Now a half of a beer wastes me and I’m on much much less medication.”

    That’s a common phenomenon known as cross-tolerance. During a suicide attempt, I once took an overdose of about 30 Ativan tablets that didn’t belong to me (I’ve never taken benzos on a regular basis), and it didn’t affect me at all. The pdoc in the psych E.D. where they transferred after medically clearing me at another hospital insisted that I must be an alcoholic to have that kind of tolerance to a benzo, which is funny (sort of), because I don’t drink and never have. But all the sedating meds that THEY prescribed is what gave me that tolerance.

  22. giannakali says:

    I was given anesthesia for a colonoscopy. It knocks people out and they have no memory of the procedure in general. I was completely awake and they administered a second dose. This was five years ago at the height of my drugged-up-ness.

    I have a vivid memory of the whole procedure–I chatted with the doctor and I remember the video screen of what was going on in my gut. It was actually quite interesting. I wasn’t even mildly sedated. No exaggeration.

  23. thememoryartist says:

    OMG! I wonder if they’ve ever seen that before.

  24. giannakali says:

    they had seen it in people who were on a lot of drugs, like me. they didn’t freak. but I felt a bit like one anyway. My husband had the same procedure and was out cold.

  25. Hello,
    After being on zyprexa for 5 years I am now trying to get off
    and having a terrible time. My plan was to take my lowest dose every other day for 2 weeks and then stop completely.
    I did that and have not taken it for 7 days now and was ok at first but it is hitting me hard now. I would greatly appreciate any help or advice from anybody.

    Steve

  26. http://bipolarblast.wordpress.com/about/

    go to my “about” page and read the “psychiatric drug withdrawal for beginners.” and go look at all the other resources on that page too.

    as my latest post indicates you can’t go too slow. you have gone way too fast.

    good luck.

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