Crisis diverted?

What to say? Crisis diverted? Yes, it seems so.

I’ve reconnected with my first withdrawal mentor and it feels good. Back to the basics. Back to what some might think is a painfully, ridiculously slow withdrawal.

That is with the exception of coming off the emergency meds taken to avert crisis. I will come off of those very quickly.

Some people I’ve talked to have talked about feeling like they were going insane when they went off various drugs. I don’t begrudge them that and I’m sure it felt that way. But unless you’ve had a full blown psychosis, as I’ve had in the far distant past (or it could be recent for you), I’d like to ask people to withhold judgment on my decision to go back on meds. Psychosis that is prompted by lack of sleep and detox from neurotoxins is not to be messed with. Perhaps that is just my opinion, but I felt I was going to die. I know that if my husband hadn’t been here to protect me I would have been hospitalized and shot up with mega drugs and I would not, as I am now, already be nicely tapering away the emergency meds. The psychiatric system is a mighty dangerous one. As it stands now…it seems I’ve only lost a matter of a couple of weeks at most. (at least had I stuck to the original very slow withdrawal and not the rapid taper I was led to there in the end)

The person I’m consulting with now says that not only was it hard to imagine any other outcome besides psychosis coming off the drugs as I did in the end—being awake for 4 days really leaves no alternative to psychosis in that weakened condition including the reality of my having been on drugs for 20 years. That is not all though—seizures could have resulted as well.

I knew all this. I’d learned it carefully by research during the last two years. But my doctor elicited a deep trust in me which led me to go against everything I’d learned. She did not coerce me. We were equal partners. She meant well and she is a good woman. Perhaps she should have known better, but we both were taking leaps of faith. I developed a deep trust because she healed me with her orthomolecular medicine and it seems the energy work, too, helped me considerably prior to the rapid withdrawal in the end, I had regained my life. I was again active and able to do things after being so physically ill for so long.

Unfortunately it all went south. I had hoped we could salvage our relationship, but it seems like that will not happen. The happy part for me is that I bear no grudge and must simply pick up and move on like the good little soldier I’ve become.

I’ve gotten off about half of the emergency meds already and hope by the end of the week to be off all of it. My current consultant now feels I should have no problem getting back to the long term maintenance dose of Klonopin I’ve been on, 3 mg, by the end of the week. She cautions the Risperdal may be a little bit trickier, but I’ve begun that reduction as well. I really hope I can be free of it very soon as I was clean for a month before I entered my crisis. I want that freedom again. It felt like such a victory.

I’ve been able to maintain a much lower dose of Lamictal. I did not go back up to the 60 mg I was on 3 weeks ago when the rapid withdrawal began. I simply went back on 25 mg. Since I am very sensitive to the feeling of Lamictal withdrawal I know that I’m okay. The potassium chloride I take seems to completely mitigate withdrawal symptoms from the Lamictal. I can count my blessings on that one. And I can also thank my doctor for figuring that out. She was not some sort of hack. She knew a lot about what she was doing. We are simply delving into realms few people know and I chose to trust my gut rather than hers when it came time to go our separate ways. I feel confident that was the right thing to do.

Some interesting tidbits: As Daniel, my husband, explained in the post about my misadventure—there was some good stuff that happened when I was drug free—things we can still look forward to:

I had always assumed that on becoming drug-free, the real psychological work would only then begin. What was a revelation was to see the immediacy with which Gianna was gaining insights, having perspective and revealing a maturity that up until then had merely been masked by the drugs.

In our conversations, a fog has often appeared between us so that the loop of exchange — listening and responding — was a broken circuit. Suddenly we were connecting.

Gianna’s armor — her defenses for protecting acute sensitivity — began to fall away, making her both more vulnerable and less sensitive…..

…Her irritability — the ease with which she could rail against anything unwelcome — gave way to equanimity, as she started to live the meaning of that line from the Serenity Prayer: grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

While it might be true that psych meds can arrest someone’s development, it appears that even while under confinement, time well spent will suddenly bear fruit right from the first day of freedom. (emphasis mine)

My biggest fear is that all that would slip away upon taking meds again. That I would again become the sometimes ugly irritable bitch I can be on occasion…all caused by the drugs…but on the other hand it seems, if Daniel’s observations were correct that I’ve been collecting wisdom all these years, but the drugs simply kept me from integrating it. Perhaps in that small window of time some of that stuff was permanently integrated and I can only look forward to more growth and development when I finally come off the drugs once and for all.

But so far, though, yes the irritability is back. Both Klonopin and Risperdal make me irritable and the Risperdal gives me mild akathisia. BUT, in the clarity of being drug free I saw how skewed my perception of my husband had been. I woke up to reality in some ways. And so though the irritability is there, I am more reasonable and I seem to see things much more clearly. I hope this reasonableness stays until I am again off all drugs. I can do nothing other than be thankful for this insight if I must be on these drugs a while longer.

Thank you everyone for all your wonderful and beautiful support. Oh and thank you too, all my readers and commenters, for keeping this blog delightfully active in comments while I’ve had to step back and take a rest. I may continue resting too. But please go at it. I love reading all your thoughts and struggles!! The last few comment threads have been simply delightful.

28 thoughts on “Crisis diverted?

Add yours

  1. Gianna, you said, “I will never completely hand my care over to anyone again…here’s to taking our health in our own hands…”

    Words to live by!


  2. NG,
    thank you,
    I know you’ve been worried about me, but I’m doing okay…really…and I’m finally settling into my new home…

    on the stress galore note though…at the height of all this was the one year anniversary of my brother’s death…a truly ugly day. It was the day the psychosis got completely out of hand…

    hmm….interesting, huh…not to say the rapid withdrawal and sleep deprivation didn’t have the most to do with it, but grief is a mighty player in all things mental health.


  3. In reference to j12,

    I had a very difficult time similar to Gianna’s about 20 years ago. I was so scared for Gianna as she was going through all these stresses ….all one on top of the other. Similar stresses like hers are how I started my decent into the world of hospitalizations and medications.

    I do believe that timing is crucial and that the rapid withdrawal should have been postponed until she was all settle in her new home.

    Oh course that is Monday morning quarterbacking.

    Good for you Gianna and Daniel…you made it through these terrible stresses.



  4. j12,
    thanks for all your thoughtful remarks…

    I don’t have a doc I see in person…not one that handles withdrawal…but I do have a very good person to consult with….and a nice traditional doc who cooperates that I do see in person….

    I’m starting acupuncture too so that energy work can continue—acupuncture after all is the original energy work….and hopefully I can heal my endometriosis as well as my chaotic hormones…

    I’m seeing a gyno acupuncturist….

    I just never give up!! I was in pain 7 days this last month from the endometriosis…gotta do something about it!


  5. ‘So glad to read that things are going better for you, now. I appreciate your (and Daniel’s) honesty in writing this experience down, as hard as it is. ‘Wish I could let you know that there are no judges out here–just CHEERLEADERS on your side, hoping the best for you! Growth is never linear, so I see this difficult episode you had as just part of the learning curve that is taking you to your goal–Not a slip, not a fall, just a lousy thunderstorm, and you had to seek some shelter until it passed. I have no doubt that you are going to get there in due time.

    In addition to the drugs you were rapidly withdrawing from and the changes in your body from the energy work, I just keep thinking that you had MAJOR stresses that contributed to your situation–In the few short summer weeks during which I read your blog, you lost family members, you moved, your took a long road trip with your mom, your husband had to be away from you while you managed much of the move yourself..etc! Is it possible that too much stress may have contributed to this?

    I admire you for speaking so well of your old doc, despite what you’ve just been through. I often wished we could find one of her! My perspecitive is that her ideas were good, but her timing was off because of what was going on in your life. (Hey, I just remembered that you’re a gardener–and you wouldn’t trim your trees until it was the right season.) What I’m trying to say is that I’m just not so sure she made what I will call the “cortisol connection” by understanding the role that all of your life changes played in this recent experience. When you are well beyond this, I hope you stay in touch with her in some capacity because she will continue to learn from you, if you let her–and you from her, even if it is not in the realm of a patient/doctor relationship. (Hey–does she read your blog?) At any rate, it sounds like you are in good hands now, and I for one, was glad to read that this new doc can see you in person.


  6. Gianna, you give me such courage. You’re such a warrior and a brave woman. Your blog started me on my path and it (and you) continue to lead me in my personal quest for a life free from drugs. Thank you so much for being here.


  7. CONGRATULATIONS Sloopy on your latest taper…that is very very exciting!!

    and thank you David, NG and Val…

    Things are going very well…I can imagine it will again be easy to make another large cut tonight as I’ve been half asleep all day (again)…..

    Can’t wait until I get back to my low dose of poison to taper from…it’s getting old being so tired….but it’s also great that the psychosis got it’s but kicked!!!


  8. Hi Gianna!

    Glad you got things back on an even keel so promptly, and that your nutri-doc has helped you along the way. I was going to say “trust in yourself”, but you’ve said that already!

    I’m sure sleep deprivation can precipitate psychosis. I certainly found my sleep quality, both in terms of its depth and length, was shot to bits after tapering Zyprexa too rapidy.

    I persisted, and worked actively to counter the problem, with long night time walks, a vitamin regime, warm milk drinks before bed, and herbal Slumber Tablets.

    A normal sleep pattern did eventually return, improving after three months or so. In fact my quality of sleep today is better than it ever was on higher doses of Zyprexa.

    I wake up now feeling much fresher, with a desire to actually get up and enjoy the day. That grave feeling of despondency I got from high doses of Zyprexa – is, at last, passing.

    Today was a small milestone. Over the past nine months, starting on Christmas Eve 2007, I have been slowly tapering Zyprexa. Today and I am down to 1mg.

    The smallest Zyprexa pill strength available is 2.5mg, and the drug isn’t available in liquid form, so to measure 1mg, I use milligram scales, and weigh crushed pill powder.

    A 5mg Zyprexa pill weighs around 215mg, which means I now have to take 43mg of pill powder. That quantity of powder contains 1mg of olanzapine, the active drug.

    You are very sensible to return to your cautious tapering techniques which have worked so well for you. Going cold turkey can be very dangerous.

    Clover Greene, author of the book Escape from Psychiatry warned that she was hospitalised with grand mal seizures after suddenly quitting Stelazine, a typical neuroleptic. Clover said it was four years later before the seizures had faded.

    Psychiatry uses some extraordinarily dangerous drugs. We cannot be too cautious when using them.


  9. I think it’s admirable that you’re able to forgive your doctor and move on, realizing that she did the best she could with the knowledge she had … and made a mistake. I think the same thing is often true of the people who put us on these drugs in the first place … some of them are just lazy, but others think this really is the right answer and want to help. Unfortunately sometimes there’s no way to tell what the right procedure is until something goes haywire and demonstrates what the wrong procedure is.

    Be careful, and be well — your journey is one of continual triumph.


  10. Thanks Susan,
    We posted at the same time…

    My doctor took depression seriously and she has left me with a brilliant nutritional regime that I still think will ultimately heal me…

    she instead didn’t take sleeplessness seriously which is truly bizarre….

    she is a trained psychiatrist after all…and I thought everyone knew that lack of sleep can lead to psychosis even in the so-called “normal!!”

    alas, I’ve simply learned to trust myself…I will never completely hand my care over to anyone again….it’s as dangerous as trusting a traditional psychiatrist implicitly!!

    here’s to taking our health in our own hands…


  11. thanks Deborah and Ametyst…

    You know when I started this site back on blogger my profile said something about telling the truth…good and bad, and I’ve tried to stick to that.

    It’s not always easy, and sometimes feels mildly humiliating…but I remember I said that in my first profile 19 months ago and I can’t get it out of my mind…

    I certainly hope very few people have to go through as much struggle as I’ve had to (I do know others that have and do) but in the event that one does need to struggle I want them to know it’s possible to still come out on top and NOT be destroyed by depression or any other negative emotion…

    I’m okay…amazingly enough I’m really okay and I’m going to be drug free.


  12. Dear Gianna,
    I’m so glad you’re back on track. I had a different yet somewhat similar experience with my doctor of integrative medicine. She was fine when I was doing well, but when my depression hit, she was clueless. During the worst one, she recommended a holistic psychiatrist who was truly a charlatan. And when that didn’t work out, it was up to me to find someone else.

    At that point I returned to my psychiatrist, starting taking Adderall, and was better within a day. My problem was that I had truly had to suspend all my beliefs to make the holistic thing happen. Then, once I did and had gotten far better for 10 months and didn’t want to take medication any more, I had to change my mindset to take medication.

    And I found that my holistic doctor didn’t treat the depression seriously enough. Only my psychiatrist did.



  13. It is good to hear you are up and running again. You’ve jumped another hurdle, quite a big one, but you are now back on the track.

    Thanks again for being so open and honest with your blog.


  14. Gianna! You are so brave and smart! Following your instinct for survival is not up for anybody’s judgement. I am so relieved and glad to hear that you’re on the far side of the crisis caused by too rapid tapering.

    About withdrawing from psych meds, you have to be one of the most knowledgeable human beings on the planet. Perhaps ahead of all the MDs with whom you interact?

    Thank you for keeping up this blog while you are going through so much.


  15. I’m so glad you’re back on track. You’re at a little different starting point, but you still know where you want to go.

    I’m so proud of you for keeping with it. You define it; it doesn’t define you.


  16. Hey Gianna,

    Thanks for posting. I feel I learn so much from you and what you’re experiencing.

    I’ll especially be interested in hearing about the relationship stuff/irritability, and how that continues to unfold, as I relate very strongly to what you go through regarding that.

    I’m proud of you. If I can just say it like the simple mid-westerner I am: I think you’re doing real good….



  17. Gianna–
    This, too, shall pass…
    It’s good that you had the insight and the wisdom to take the drugs when you needed them. Like I said the other day, this is just a setback. You’re going to get where you want to be, I have no doubts about that! Hang in there. As for hubby–what Susan said above–it sounds to me like he loves you very much, bitchy or not!



  18. camille,
    thanks for your good wishes…

    there is no reason to think you would have to go through what I went through…

    You’ve not been on the drugs 20 years and you’re just not me!!

    You’ll be fine.


  19. Susan,
    Please let me give you some tips about withdrawing from Cymbalta….Effexor is much like Cymbalta (an SNRI) and I know a lot about getting off it successfully….

    Just send me a note and I’d be happy to talk to you as well.


  20. Mark,
    Did you read the post my Daniel wrote…that basically tells what happened….I don’t care to go into deeper detail….or at least not now…

    I know you’re joking, but even if I could drink alcohol, and believe me I wish I could, I used to love it….I’m now extremely allergic….

    If you want to know more we can talk, but I’m not going deeper into it here…


  21. I wish you a speedy recovery… i was surprised that this happened. I know you tried..20 years is a lifetime. As i have been on lamictil for 9 months now… i cannot immaging what you have gone through.. my thoughts and prayers are with you. I hope to read more of you’re posts. You have been a great support for all of us.



  22. WTF happened? I know the history of events a little bit. For your readers could you do a concise rap up?

    As I understood it you had successfully quit Risperdal.
    August 13, 2008 “This is day two”(Risperdal)
    August 22, 2008 “I am sleeping”

    Then you quit all your drugs and had (start August 28?) 4 days of no sleep?

    Personally, yes no sleep is serious and has driven me to the ER as well, where I had to act out violently to “receive” some medication/drugs to pass out.

    Heres a bad joke/advice for you, if there is a next time of insomnia, use alcohol (get drunk) to fall asleep/pass out. But dont mix it with valium of course, or you could end up like Jimi Hendrix (who choked on his vomit).


  23. Hello Gianna.

    I am currently on a cocktail of lithium, 600 mg which is nice because I was at 3000 back in March. But I am also on Cymbalta, 60 mg, with a Klonepin once or so a month if I really cannot sleep and start getting manic.

    I start the weaning process on Cymbalta next week. I would start this week, but Sept 11 is a huge trigger for me, so it’s best to start next week.

    Cymbalta, like most anti depressants I have been on caused more harm than good, but I tried earlier in July to go off it cold turkey and almost wound up in the ER. I had to go back on it, and now they will start a taped wean. I hope to be off it by Christmas.

    Cymbalta is a lovely drug- NOT! It’s given me brain zaps, made me sick to my stomach ( I have lost a lot of weight though!), given me sweats, and made me suicidal.

    When I went off it cold turkey I felt my skin was molting, and I was scratching so hard I started to bleed.

    Regarding the bitchy comments- we all have bitchy moods, meds or no. I am sure Daniel gets bitchy too sometimes. And judging from what he has written about you here, he loves you deeply, bitchy or not.

    Take care Gianna. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have the courage to try to be as med free as possible. I don’t think i will ever be totally med free,, but if I can have between 150 and 300 mg of lithium a day only, that would be a blessing.



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