The first incarnation of my blog….

When I first started blogging I was on blogspot and it was set on private and I deleted the whole thing before I went public. It was basically just a diary.

What I didn’t remember was that I copied the whole thing into a word document. It dates from February 2004 to June of 2006. It’s very strange to read because I start it with my withdrawal journey while doing neurofeedback. I had gone off anti-depressents before I started the journal but was actively cutting down Risperdal. I cut from 11 mg to 3 mg in that time. What I didn’t remember was that I took a detour at one point when I had discontinued neurofeedback for several months and basically started feeling really bad emotionally and started adding drugs again sometime around February 2006. I added an anti-depressant and a stimulant. I talk about this in my blog these days—that is having been on these drugs and discontinued them, but I had really gotten the chronology mixed up. In any case it’s interesting to see me struggling terribly with the initial withdrawal of Risperdal four years ago after already going off an anti-depressant, and then basically giving up about a year into it and doing a whole round of med trials again which make me really sick and completely disheartened. The additional meds obviously made things more complicated.

I should add at this early stage I had no support and knew of no one who had come off drugs—it was just a dream that came from inside me with no external support except from my doctors (the Ph.D who does my neurofeedback and the psychiatrist I started to see when I moved to North Carolina) who as I’ve always said have always supported me. I did not have my real conversion to a commitment of a drug free life and a belief that the drugs were making me worse until August of 2006. At that point I found other psychiatric survivors and people who had gotten off drugs successfully and whose lives really only began once they got off the drugs.

I began my public blog in March of 2007 seven months after my  conversion and after once again resuming withdrawal during that time. At that point because I had reintroduced drugs I had cut out I had to get off Concerta and Zoloft again. I also got off Seroquel during that first 7 months.

The whole time I’m writing in my first blog, whether I’m withdrawing, or backsliding and taking extra drugs again, I’m talking about how tired I am—-the fatigue is still a major issue even then which is what led to the Ritalin and then Concerta trials. Crazy fatigue dates back as long as I can remember once starting drugs. But reading my daily journal and how I mention it every day is sobering. Granted during the writing of the early “blog”  I’m still able to work out daily and I’m quite active but fatigue ruled my life even then. If I didn’t sleep 12 hours I was very frustrated. The thing is even when I slept my 12 hours I still complained of how tired I was. And while I was committed to working out, I often said that was all I could do and the rest of the things in my life suffered. If I went to the gym or on a hike, the housework just didn’t get done. I’ve always been stubborn and moving and physical activity has always been very important to me, so I was motivated by sheer will, because I really had very little energy. (strangely, though it’s on a whole different and awful level of fatigue, I remain the same—stubborn as hell with an iron will—if I didn’t have that I would be dead now, because I can hardly do anything and I have no real life—today it was anger at my predicament that motivated me to walk around the block with my dog. My body would not have otherwise cooperated. Sometimes anger really does serve us.)

Anyway, it was interesting to read this journal from several years ago. My life was not better on drugs not by a long shot. I was physically more fit and able to function, but it is really clear to me that drugs do not help me and mentally I actually showed much less clarity and patience then I actually have now. I’m so glad I read that because frankly sometimes I wonder if I know what I’m doing and how is it I’m going to make it to the other side?

While reading the journal entries last night and feeling better about my continued commitment to drug freedom,  I remembered the pureness of the experience I had when I cold-turkeyed briefly recently—granted it ran me into serious trouble, but prior to the crisis it was truly an enlightening experience. It may take a while but being drug free is mental freedom. I am in prison and have been for two decades.

This is what Daniel wrote when I had those couple days of freedom:

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. At one point she told me about some criticism she’d received through email and as she was telling me, I imagined that it wouldn’t be too long before she wouldn’t so easily be stung. I didn’t have to wait, that time had already come.

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.

It is those two days I cling to when I feel lousy these days, back in my fog of confusion and darkness. I will get my mind back and then my body should follow as I continue to feed it carefully and specially and take care of it with all my might.

I’m now on .625 mg of Lamictal (down from 400 mg) and 2.5 mg of Klonopin. That’s it. The Lamictal will be dropped completely within two weeks. I’ll probably split that ridiculously small dose one more time.

Again the list of drugs withdrawn from in the last four years:

50 mg Seroquel

200 mg Zoloft

84 mg Concerta

11 mg Risperdal

400 mg Lamictal (virtually—like I said, I’m on .625 mg)

.5 mg Klonopin

And at least mentally I’m no worse off and have the hope of being much better as the above episode suggests. Physically, unfortunately, I’ve paid a great price. I can only have faith that my body will recover.

The other day in a moment of feeling defeated but recognizing how I go on and on and do things in spite of feeling so profoundly ill, by sheer force of will,  I cried to Daniel and said, “I deserve a medal.” He held me tight and agreed.

But you know what? I don’t think it’s a real life if you go untested. This is a training ground. There isn’t a human alive who does not live through hell at some point in time. So screw the medal. Let it be that I simply learn and grow from this experience. Amen.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

39 Responses

  1. Gianna, I have to confess that I do not read every one of your blog entrees. Nevertheless, it is a great encouragement to me just to have you there and to read a little bit at least of what you post every day. I especially appreciate the retrospective notes such as the ones you wrote today. It’s a constant reminder that we are talking about real human lives here, and that we are connecting as human beings. I send some special prayers to you today.

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  2. Deborah

    Gianna, you do deserve a medal.

    I didn’t realize that Bipolar Blast started only a month before I found it! I don’t pay much attention to detail…

    I am about a third of the way through my cymbalta taper. It started in August, 2007. If I hadn’t had you as a role model, I would have tried 10% per month, failed, lost my job, and thought I was doomed to be drugged all my life – as my cognitive function deteriorated…

    Thanks for being here.

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  3. Doe

    As both a writer and someone withdrawing from psych meds…I really love this post….Even putting the med stuff aside, just think of what you’ve accomplished in one year with just your writing, and your blog.

    Not many people could accomplish that–your readership, the awards…all in such a short amount of time. People want to hear, need to hear what you have to say. When you think about it, that’s a pretty big deal.

    I’ve loved the blog from the beginning, but it’s just grown leaps and bounds and become a wealth of information with a heartbeat and soul to it as well. Your writing just gets better and better.

    If your writing has grown this much in such a short of amount of time, I think it reflects how you’ve also grown…it’s amazing…and all that while undergoing major, serious withdrawal.

    …think of what you’ll accomplish when you’re med free. You’ll be an even greater force to be reckoned with!

    Thanks for your post…I related to all of it, as always.

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  4. Gianna,

    As I was reading this entry I started tearing up. Only people who have been on psych meds can understand when I say that I haven’t been able to shed actual tears until recently. The ability to feel emotions without the dampening of medications and then being able to recognize their source without brain fog – it’s so incredible. You had a glimpse when you went cold-turkey (still so sorry that you went through that).

    While our experiences have been different – I still feel that meds saved me from killing myself – I credit you with planting the idea in my head to talk to my psychiatrist about discontinuing drugs. I thank you for that. I am getting my life back.

    Maybe you don’t want a medal but how about a pill splitter decked out with bling?

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  5. Valid points as always. There is so much that is unknown about “mental illness”. Hopefully one day soon there will be a better understanding so that people do not have to suffer both the symptoms and the treatments.

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  6. Phoenix

    Dear Bipolarlife:

    It’s not a binary thing — meds are good or bad (although, in fairness, I lean toward the latter). The issue is that they do nothing to help an individual build the skills needed to get through life. Just like alcohol, just like heroin, just like any substance or activity that distracts an individual from reality. In fact, if anything, they reinforce disempowerment. By that I mean that life is hard and most people go through all kinds of hell (and good times) in their lives. Almost everyone has an innate capability to function, but may lack skills or experience.

    If you choose to withdraw from the meds, the issues that drew you to seek help will still be there. Personally, I’ve had to deal with fear, grief and loss (too much to disclose here). I did a lot of writing, reading and meditating to establish new mental habits. It’s hurt like hell, BUT after 7 years, I’m coming out the other side with the solid foundation I always sought through psychotherapy and psych meds.

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  7. I love reading my old stuff. I wish I had seen your blog back then.

    The blog you have now is beautiful and I have learned so much from reading you Gianna.

    You are a real inspiration to me, and tomorrow I start tapering Cymbalta, I will be pouring through your archives (again!).

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  8. Sloopy Cowbell

    Thank you for sharing this, Gianna! I love it when you give us updates on your latest dosages – impossibly tiny amounts, these days! It’s really heartening to watch your progress!

    And it’s so honest of you to recount the failures along the way. Many of us know from personal experience that the crises they were doubtless horrific. However, at the same time, the fact you document them so lucidly is really helpful to others right now, who are also working towards drug-free recovery, and encountering withdrawal problems of their own. To know you’ve beaten the same path before is a great comfort..

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  9. Jan

    Gianna:

    Wish I could be hopeful about my journey at this point, but I feel like I’m suffering with absolutely NO relief at all, especially in the mental/emotional arena, and I’ve started wondering if I should go back to meds! I’ve been totally drug-free for 3-1/2 months with no real relief in sight, pushing like crazy to make it through the day, tweeking my diet here and there, journaling what I can and cannot eat and can and cannot do physically that causes problems, and I’m STILL suffering so much emotionally. Mind you, meds got me nowhere either, but I’m very hopeless at this point and don’t want to try anymore. I keep reading how so many people are suffering the physical and their mental issues have cleared up significantly, and I keep wondering what the heck is going on with me. Why me? I pray, I meditate, I take walks, I throttle back when I need to. All of this trying, and I still don’t sleep well, am anxious, depressed, on and on…… I want to give up!

    Jan

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  10. Jan

    Gianna:

    Thanks – I needed that reassurance again that 3-1/2 months is not long, esp. after coming off of the drugs fast. I tried to join the Withdrawal and Recovery group, but the intial message says they aren’t accepting new members. I tried anyway, and don’t think I actually got through. I’d love to have a phone conversation with someone. I do have this burning question, though, and I think you could clear up a lot for me. Here goes:

    Is it possible that some or most of the physical symptoms can clear up long before the mental/emotional symptoms clear up during this withdrawal process? If I know that the mental/emotional can linger for a long time, even after the physical begins to get better, I think I can be a little more at ease. If you could answer this, I would be SO SO grateful.

    Jan

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  11. Jan

    Gianna:

    Thanks. I believe I’m doing the most I can possibly do to address any mental/emotional issues. It’s hard for me to believe I can be this messed up. The thoughts that keep plaguing me certainly seem to be just that – thoughts and not real issues. I regularly challenge myself when I have some random times of relief to think about those same things, and those same things don’t bother me at all. This leads me to believe that the entire mechanism of withdrawal and a true physical issue is causing the thoughts rather than an actual issue. It’s very frightening.

    Jan

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  12. Teresa

    Jan and Gianna-
    I agree with you. It seems as though it must be the withdrawals and all of this can be fixed. At times of clartiy, I feel good, and that I can beat this. Than times like these when I am just mentally exhausted it feels like a losing neverending battle!!!!

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  13. Jan

    Gianna and Teresa:

    Well, I can honestly say I haven’t been ignoring the psychological and spiritual issues, and that’s because it just seems to always be in my face, all the time. That prompts me to always be asking what I need to do, seeking answers, seeking counsel, talking it all out. What might be really bad about it all is that I probably spend a lot of time talking over issues that don’t even really exist due to the terror that this withdrawal is bringing on. But I keep on going. It seems a lot of times I’m creating a problem (can’t help it – my mind won’t turn off) that doesn’t really exist, and THIS is the problem – not being able to stop that. Whatever that mechanism is inside of me that won’t turn off – THAT is the true problem. If that could be resolved, and the dust would settle with that, then I could get to the real issues and make resolve where I truly need to.

    Jan

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  14. Teresa

    Jan-
    I agree with you. Aside from the dizziness, nausea, blurred vision and fatigue, if my mind would just stop racing and I could have some clarity, that would be a HUGE relief and I’d actually be able to focus on what I need to in order to get healthy!!!! It’s a HUGE battle!!!!

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  15. Jan

    Teresa:

    After feeling this horrendous so far today, the answer that keeps popping up in my brain is that I have to go through this to get to the other side. Maybe you have felt that way, too. It’s a huge waiting game in addition to that HUGE battle.

    Jan

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  16. Jan

    Gianna:

    Just thought of something that your answer re: 3-1/2 months not being long spurred in me. What should the adequate (I know this is different for everyone but need ball park) amount of taper time have been for my meds since I came off too soon? It was 750mg Depakote, .25mg clonazepam and 10mg Tofranil. That is very subjective, I know, but having some guess from someone who is very well-versed in this might shed even more light on it for me.

    Thanks,

    Jan

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  17. Jan

    Gianna:

    Again, thank you. Most days the love and compassion for myself is there; acceptance of my situation and patience for it all definitely is not. It’s a very hard situation to grasp and accept, but this blog makes it a bit easier. Where would we be without the help of those who are going through it with us?

    Jan

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  18. Teresa

    Jan-
    Yes, I just wait for the “episodes” to pass, and when I have my moments of feeling better I try to enjoy them, although sometimes I think I am going to stay that way, and ofcourse I don’t. These withdrawals are just awful, and it seems as though they get better and than worse….
    I guess all I can do is hurry up and wait!
    Today is hard because I am so neauseous and having hot spells where my face gets red and really hot, does that happen to you? I am not at all busy at work so I have been sitting here most of the day staring at the wall with nothing to do, and noone to talk to! I felt much better when I want to lunch and got out of this dungeon that I am in ALONE with NO windows!!!!! I am desperately trying to get a new job as well, one that I am not alone so much and so isolated. I feel like I am in jail! It’s horrible when you are depressed as it is to not have any connection with the outside world! This helps alot!!!!! I can’t even see outside unless I walk up front which I do often during the day because I can’t stand being so isolated!!!!!

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  19. For me having a job I like is more important than the pay. But living in poverty is now fun either.

    Gianna,
    reading old work can be both bad and good. I have found old stuff and seen how far I have come. And I have seen stuff that embarrasses me.

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  20. Teresa

    Naturalgal-
    I definitely agree with you! It’s hard when you are depressed and anxious and have nothing to take your mind off of it because you are so bored at work, and have plenty of time to THINK! Thinking is my own worst enemy sometimes, alot of the time 🙂
    If I were busy at work I wouldn’t have so much time to think. I just moved 4 1/2 months ago to North Carolina from South Florida, and am working a temp to perm job. I’ve been here almost 4 months, and have another 2 until I get hired on perm. I’m hoping that within the next two months I can find something different! I figure even if I take a few dollars less an hour, with how much they tax you, it wont make much of a difference. Sometimes a little bit less money to be happy is WELL worth it!!!!

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  21. Gianna,
    I agree that looking at past posts or reading through old journals (in my case) has a great value. When you feel like you’re not making progress, or are just exhausted by the effort, it’s a tangible way to see how far you’ve come.

    Susan

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  22. Jan

    Teresa:

    Had to get on a computer at the library – took a day (or 2) off of work ’cause I just couldn’t push myself any more the way I’m feeling. To answer your question about getting hot spells, the answer is a resounding YES! I was going through menopause to begin with, but then with the withdrawal, I was getting very weird panic attacks/simultaneous hot flashes that were definitely NOT menopause. They started to subside as I was healing, but lately have started up again, but it donned on me why I have, for the past 3 weeks and especially the past few days, been so horrendous and without any relief. I’ve been getting physical therapy, and part of it involves getting electrical muscle stimulation. I think this might be causing increased circulation, and hence more release of the nasty meds from the tissues. This is a question I’m going to ask of Gianna and see what she thinks. As far as your job goes, I would think not having windows would be depressing and getting out would help greatly. I wish you well in your pursuit of a different, more satisfying job. Keep persevering, Teresa.

    jan

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  23. Jan

    Gianna:

    Just thought of something yesterday that might shed light on why I’ve been feeling really horrendous for the past 3 weeks, with absolutely no relief at all. I have been getting physical therapy, and part of it involves getting electrical muscle stimulation. I was wondering, since it increases circulation for one thing, if that is causing more of the nasty meds to be released from the tissues, and also if the electrical impulses are causing a problem with the whole withdrawal situation. I’m glad I journal what I eat, did and how I feel every day to make this connection. Any thoughts on this?

    Jan

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  24. Teresa

    Gianna-
    Yes, I do go on Safe Harbour, I just don’t find it as “personal” and friendly as your page. I have emailed and gotten an email back from Catherine. I plan to set up a phone appt. with her within the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately I don’t have the money to do so right now, but would like to ASAP!
    I will however try to utlize Safe Harbour in the meantime. Thanks again, hope you feel better, and sorry to have inundated you with too much.
    Jan-
    If you wish to chat with me directly, you can email me at tmarie6979@gmail.com
    I understand Gianna has alot going on to be one on one, so if you’d like feel free to email me directly.
    Thanks again!

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  25. Froscha

    Teresa,

    I feel your pain about working alone in a stuffy, small windowless office. I did it for 4 months and it was uber depressing. By all means, take something that pays a little less if it means a better working environment!

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  26. Jan

    Gianna:

    I know you are going through a lot and I can appreciate that you need to keep this open for all the other threads. You have definitely and sufficiently answered my questions up to the present, and I will certainly try the Safe Harbor site as well as trying to log on to Withdrawal and Recovery once it opens again. I wish you more health, energy and recovery with each passing day, each passing minute. You have been a godsend!

    Jan

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  27. Jan

    Teresa:

    Thank you for your e-mail address. I so appreciate being able to chat with someone on a regular basis as I can’t find anyone here that is going through this. Once I return to work, I will be e-mailing you and you will then have my e-mail. I can’t make that known openly since it’s through work. I plan on soon having my e-mail up and running at home. Also, I would also love to have a phone appt with Catherine, if she would allow. How did you get in touch with her? I couldn’t get on to the site.

    Hope you are feeling better today.

    Jan

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  28. Teresa

    Hi Jan-
    I am feeling ok today, a little dizzy and nauseous, and anxious, but I am hoping it will be over soon. I’m very tired, I would love to sleep!
    Email me anytime you want, it is also nice to speak to someone on a personal, one on one level who understands and is going through the same thing as you!

    I got the email for Catherine off of the Safe Harbor site, but I haven’t heard back from her yet since her last email. She is very busy, and I can’t do the appt. yet anyway, so I will let you know when I do!!!

    Hope you are having a good day 🙂

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