Withdrawal from antidepressant leads to spiral into polydrugging, until Molly realizes that drugs are the problem and emerges victorious

I met Molly in a benzo group. She reached out to tell me that she was 3 years free of drugs and happy and healthy. This is her story which she wrote at one year drug free two years ago.

It has been one year since I have ingested benzos or any other prescription drugs.  I consider myself  completely recovered and would like to offer hope to all of you still on this journey.

My journey began approximately four years ago when I began to taper off the antidepressant that I had been on for 15 years.  I no longer felt I needed it and I was not sure if it was really working any longer.  With my doctor’s blessing, I began a taper that only lasted one month.  This was my first mistake of many that were to follow.  About one month off the drug I began to experience what I now can identify as a hypomanic state–insomnia, reckless behavior and spending, excessive talking, the life of the party, and rapid mood changes, irritability and inappropriate anger.  Deep depression followed rapidly and my doctor mistakenly told me that I needed to go back on the Lexapro as my body definitely needed the drug to balance out my body chemistry.  He used the “diabetic needs his insulin” talk to convince me I needed the Lexapro.

The Lexapro however did not work when I reinstated and I continued to get worse and worse.  My mental health continued to decline and I could not sleep.  This is when the doctor began to prescribe many different drugs with no washout period between drugs.  i was given many different anti-depressants, sleeping meds, benzos, and antipsychotics.  I would take one for awhile until it stopped working and then try another.

I continued to get worse and worse mentally and physically.  I spent many days and nights crying and thinking I was truly losing my mind.  I wanted to die many many times. I isolated myself in my house.  My thinking became irrational and I was very paranoid.  I developed akathasia, constant nausea, painful joints and muscles but the mental symptoms were the worst.

Finally, my doctor said he could no longer help me and steered me towards psychiatry.  Another huge mistake!!!  The psychiatrist then diagnosed me as bipolar 2 at the age of 52.  He then cold-turkeyed me off all the current drugs I was on and added Klonopin (as needed) and antipsychotics.  I continued to get worse and worse and I was now into 2 years of pure hell.  I truly did not want to live anymore.

I entered therapy to deal with my bipolar and that also was a huge waste of money as my symptoms and problems were drug induced, not related to a bad childhood.  I began to doubt the expertise of the psychiatrist and began searching the internet for more info.  I found this benzo board and found a whole community of people who had all my symptoms and believed they might be caused by the very drugs that were supposed to help.

It was then that i decided to get off the drugs.  I was a very high functioning woman who excelled at my job for 30 years prior to this mess and I desperately wanted her back.  I began to believe the drugs were my problem.

I found an integrative med doctor who believed in my assessment and supported me in getting off all my drugs.  I started to eliminate all the drugs one by one until I was left with only Klonopin.  I then did the valium taper after crossing-over.  Make no mistake, this has been the most difficult thing I have ever done.  It was hell!!!  The entire taper was difficult and the first 10 months off all drugs were not any better.  But I started to have very brief windows about 4 months into the taper that kept me hopeful.  I wanted to give up many many times but I always came to the forum for support and this is what kept me going.

My worst symptoms have been intrusive memories and thoughts, dark suicidal depression, and insomnia.  The physical symptoms included muscle pains, nausea, hot and cold flashes, migraines, and brain zaps.  The depression left for good at 10 months off and it virtually disappeared overnight.

What helped me recover?  I have no idea if any of the things worked that I implemented but I will list what I did.  I exercised throughout the taper (I ran 3 marathons), I practiced yoga and deep breathing exercises, I quit alcohol and all supplements, I tried EMDR and EFT.  I forced myself to call my friends and be social even though I could not really connect with any of them.  I read every self help book I could get my hands on.  I did jigsaw puzzles as I could not concentrate on reading or following the plot of anything I would read. I spent days on the forum just reading and crying.  I tried to keep my diet organic and healthy.  I journaled my feelings daily.  I practiced yoga and deep breathing. I prayed.  I snuggled with my cats and cried.  I truly believe that time is the greatest healer.

Fast forward to today.  I awoke this morning with a deep feeling of gratitude and anticipation for the day.  I went to coffee with friends, cross country skiing, tutored a student at the local school, picked up groceries at the store, and met friends for dinner.  I enjoyed all the moments of the day!!  My personality has returned and I am “myself” again.  Last year at this time, I thought my life truly was over and I would live out my life in misery.

My message to all of you is that we all heal.  Please allow your body the time it needs to repair all the damage the drugs has done to you.  If at all possible, do not add other drugs or supplements to aid in your healing.  At one time I felt a victim, then a survivor.  Today I am thriving.  You will also.  I have absolutely no fear of the future anymore as I KNOW I have already been to hell and I made it to the other side.

I pray for all of us.

Information on Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters