Going off the drugs

I previously mentioned that I was tapering off of my antidepressants. I've been off of "the drugs" for about 6 weeks now and it's had some interesting side effects (which are happily gone now). After searching the internet to figure out if I was alone in these (specific) side effects, I found either (A) a long list of side effects that included everything from increased thirst to stroke, or (B) a diatribe that stated that antidepressants are satan in pill form (and that their prescribers are his minions). I suppose I can conclude that I'm not alone, but I don't know if I'm in the best company either. But there has to be other people out there who fall somewhere in the middle, so I figure heck I'll blog about it and that way if someone happens upon this post at least they'll find some other company.

First, the usual caveats about this: I've been under a doctor's supervision during the entire time of the taper and I have periodic check-ins for the next few months. So, she's ostensibly checking for the really bad side effects (suicidal thoughts, death, etc.). Plus, I did a really slow taper. (If you're curious: I went from 40 mg to 30 mg over about two weeks. Then, down to 20 mg over the same time period, but I stayed at 20 mg for about a month. Then, I went to 10 mg for a week. Finally, I finished with a week of 10 mg every-other-day.) And from what I understand that helps. However, I don't think I would've done this without my doctor watching over my shoulder, there are some unusual side effects that I would've freaked out over otherwise!

The weirdest side effect I've had is something that my doctor told me are referred to as "brain zaps." These started about three days after I completely stopped the medication. I've tried describing them to people and I think it's impossible. The closest I can come with is it's like one of those old-fashioned flash bulbs from cameras going off inside my brain. It starts somewhere towards the middle of my brain and this electric-light-like pulse balloons out to the surface of my brain. It's a bit disorientating and somewhat scary. I couldn't find a correlation with head movement, body position, time of day, food status, hydration, etc. I experienced them frequently once they started (somewhere in the vicinity of 15 times/day), but later they tapered down to about 3 times/day and are now completely gone (they only lasted about two weeks). In case you're wondering, I didn't drive during the frequent time period.

The least expected side effect I've had is increased thirst. I was thirsty all the time, even though I wasn't not remotely dehydrated. I was drinking something like 5 liters a day. Between the water and the bathroom, I'm amazed that I got anything done in lab.

And Last But Not Least, the worst side effect: increased irritability. My doctor told me that it wasn't not what I feared-- relapse-- but a "re-setting of my neurochemistry." It's not a relapse until some specific time period has elapsed (I'm not sure about the exact length of that time period). So, until my brain reset itself, what little patience I normally had was gone. And by gone I mean non-existant. Dealing with FlightyUndergrad was a herculean task (and, no, this is not me exagerrating). I actually sent her home early one day because, otherwise, I may have started on a very quiet, but forceful rant on how she needs to pay attention to the warnings I give her and that when I say to write something down I'm not doing it for my health.

On the bright side I didn't experienced any of these symptoms: heart attack, stroke, nausea, or teeth grinding.