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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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Thursday
Oct202005

Withdrawing

It has begun.

At first I thought I was going to eliminate caffeine before I attempted withdrawal. I figured (rightly) that I shouldn’t do both at once, because I should know exactly why I feel like crap. Then some reasonable friend asked me why I felt so inclined to torture myself, when I could simply cut down on caffeine until it didn’t make me want to claw at my face. I couldn’t argue with this logic.

As for the drugs: My original plan called for me to reduce my dosage by about 20 granules each week (there are 100 granules in each capsule). At the start of the week, I would open seven capsules, remove 1/5th of each, close them, and have the correct dosage all ready to go.

But I forgot that I am lazy, and not exacting, and easily distracted by the shiny things and happy voices on the television box. So, when faced with hundreds of teensy-tiny granules that like to roll and bounce all over the black paper I laid out, I became overwhelmed, and then sleepy, and finally I decided to go the less-scientific route. Each day, I would just toss out what looks to me like 20 granules. For the past week I’ve been tossing granules hither and yon, and so far, so good.

I was planning on taking fish oil while I was withdrawing, because someone on the Internets suggested it. But a health-expert friend told me that fish oil, which usually helps fight depression, can have the opposite effect when it's combined with an antidepressant. Not to mention, fish oils strike me as, well, icky. I don’t like the idea of someone juicing a salmon and dripping the oily runoff into capsules, which sit on a shelf for weeks or months. I’m sure I’m wrong about this.

It’s been a week on my reduced dosage, and I am having none of the unpleasant side effects. I’ve noticed little things, like a fascinating metallic sensation when I swallow, like the back of my throat is made of tin foil. And then we were at the Brooklyn Museum a few days ago, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that each piece of art I looked at had somehow taken residence in my brain. I mean, I could feel them, all knotted up in there, somewhere behind my eyes. This was strangely pleasant.

I know this makes no sense. I think everyone should go on a drug, just to go off of it and see what it does to you. By next week, I will have developed synaesthesia, and I will taste purple and hear fur and see impatience!

Reader Comments (76)

Seriously, there are drugs that make you orgasm when you yawn?!? Man, I would never go to sleep. EVER.
October 21, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNicky
I got the fish oil pills for my hubby - they have some that are specially coated so no fishy smells when you burp. Gag.

They are really big and look like giant white suppositories. I tried to convince him that they WERE suppositories. But he insisted on reading the bottle. He never trusts me.
October 21, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterjoaaanna
i take fish oil, and although it seems to keep me healthy, i still haven't decided that's its worth the terrible fishy burps i have all morning. gross
October 21, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterinstamom
I once thought I had synaesthesia. I could taste every word to Gloria Estefan's music. "Conga" tasted of black hatred, sort of like licorice mixed with dung."Rhythm is Gonna Get You" tasted like repugnance which tastes strangely like licking White Zinfandel. Then I realized, I just don't like Miami Sound Machine.
October 21, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterTB
Ugh the dreaded tin foil mouth--I had that with topamax, had to keep a stash of Wonka's Everlasting Gobstoppers on hand lol.

Hope this eases up for you quickly!
October 21, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAngel
Titration is my life.OmegaBrite is the best fish oil there is out there -- hands down. No smell, high concentrations, and really helps with the whack factor.

Good Luck!
October 21, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterTS Eliot
If the precise # of pills starts to matter (later in your withdrawal), a much easier way to count them out is like this:

-- empty Philly cream cheese tub-- the grey lid from the tub-- clean paintbrush-- very important: a container labeled with new, reduced dosage (so you don't get confused about which capsules you've done already)

You dump the whole capsule into the tub. Then you pour an eyeballed amount onto the upside-down grey lid. Then you use the paintbrush to count the granules into a pile in the channel at the edge of the lid. You use the empty capsule to scoop them up (it fits right into the channel), and voila, you have the right number in a capsule!

No, I don't do this for fun. One of my kids had a medication that had to be divided into quarters very precisely (from 132 granules to 33!), given 2x/day for 14 months. This is the method we devised after a lot of fooling around with folded papers and a lot of cursing and stomping. I could do it in my sleep now.
October 21, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMagrak
Oh, good luck, Alice.

In that movie about Tuscany with that woman, um, Diane Lane? Yeah. Anyway, there is a scene where she is writing a post card for one of the guys on her tour bus and describes how you taste the purple. I loved that because I have told my friends that I can taste purple and they think I am nuts. Which I probably am.

October 21, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterDM
i take fish oil and had no idea about that depression thing. hm.

my boyfriend hears and remembers in color. sometimes something sounds green, sometimes a memory is very pink. it's odd, but i always ask for the color for some reason.
October 21, 2005 | Unregistered Commenteraderyn
I am highly synaesthetic--I see sound all the time, plus I have some other cross-linked senses that aren't as strong. It's TONS of fun. People always want to know what colour their voice is and what it looks like. Most, in case you are curious, span the range between light yellow (high) to gold to dark brown (bass) for me...texture depends on the voice itself, of course. Comments like "gravelly" and "velvety" voices make perfect sense to me. Just keep your car window rolled up on the highway or the "white noise" (see? I'm not the only one out here) will distract you from the road.

I quit my antidepressant cold turkey. I got some really strange dizziness and other symptoms for awhile. If your method of cutting back works, go for it.

October 21, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterWest Coast Woman
Alice, thank you for posting. I have been looking for an update, and I was thinking of you the other day when I considered how good I feel and whether I need the drugs to feel like myself.

Minimize the variables. Don't try to change anything else in your life while you are going through this process. Isolate those causes and effects. It's the scientific method.
October 21, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
Alice, I am so happy to hear that your taper is going well.I am 6 weeks into stopping, and I'm still having brain shocks at least once a day. I tapered just like I was told. Three days after the last capsule of the lowest strength of Effexor, I was upside down and puking with vertigo. I had brain shocks every time I moved my head, and I could hear myself blink. The doctor put me back on the lowest dose for what he said would be 2 weeks. Right after taking that first new taper dose, it occurred to me....that no matter how slowly I tapered, I was going to have to withdraw. So I stopped cold turkey. Holy. Crap. My mom took my son and I cried, shook, shocked and sweat it out. I can't believe that 6 weeks later, I still feel those tremors. But the hallucinations have stopped, and so has the vertigo.I sincerely hope that the rest of your taper continues as smoothly as it has gone so far, and if it doesn't, we're here and understand exactly what you're going through!!!!
October 21, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSonia
I have none of these skills. But I'm totally glad you didn't take the fish oil because it makes you burp fish. And I'm glad you are feeling good.
October 22, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermiel
A few weeks ago, at about 8 weeks pregnant, I had that metallic taste in my mouth. It was worse after eating tomato sauce. I'm not taking any meds; I wonder what pregnancy hormone has something in common with your medication. Luckily, that weird taste is only a memory now. I was starting to go through spaghetti withdrawal!
October 23, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Ah, the synaesthesia isn't so bad. Fun times!
October 23, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterPsycho Kitty
withdrawal is a bitch! i tapered off Paxil over a month or so, and i have never ever felt as crappy as i did after that: nauseau, headaches, muscle spasms, night sweats, etc. sounds like you are taking it more slowly, which is smart!
October 24, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterceri
If you find that the fish oil capsules are supposed to help, I've heard that putting them in the freezer prevents the fish oil burping. I've also heard that 1/4 c of walnuts has the same amount of Omega-3.

Good luck with the withdrawal. The only thing I've ever had to kick was caffeine (when trying to get pregnant) and that was very hard and very painful.

Keep us posted on your progress. We're rooting for you.
October 24, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterCherie
I've only had synaesthesia under the influence of chemicals, but they were shorter-acting (and more fun) than the chemicals you guys are discussing.

W/r/t fish oil, am I really the only person who thought maybe Alice should get a Bass-o-matic? "Mmmm! That's some good bass!"
October 24, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterEmma Goldman
Wow, I'm on Effexor now for anxiety and depression, and while my dose is midlevel, I'm not very sensitive to meds/drugs/caffeine. Anyway, I had no idea this drug had withdrawal symptoms. I hope it goes smoothly for you!
October 24, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterCrystal
Toddlers are born synaesthetes, because they can smell fear.
October 24, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLOD
ROFLMFAO!That explains SO much.....
October 24, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSonia
I think flax oil is much the same as fish oil without the grossness, it's an omega 3 fatty acid. :) And I just read this one entry of your blog, but I when I'm feeling down taking b-complex helps me. I'm no doc and perhaps this is silly advice, but perhaps it would help you too. :) Best of luck to you...

October 25, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMeg
I know fish oil is supposed to make you feel good, but Nestle's Crunch makes me feel better.
October 26, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterArabella
I take fish oil for cholesterol issues, and have found that if you take garlic capsules at the same time, the burps taste more like some kind of cooked-seafood dish and less like catfood, and are therefore more tolerable. That's my Martha Stewart tip of the day.
October 26, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterRachelH
I've been on effexor for over a year and I've gone off of it twice. I do get the metallic taste, but I have it from the meds and it just gets more pronounced when I'm tapering off it, but otherwise, I've not found it to be particularly difficult to go off of. I do get a bit of the dizzy's when I stand up quickly, but they go away quickly. No headaches, no tremors, nothing. I don't think everyone has bad withdrawal from effexor. I don't take a lot (2 37.5 capsules each am) and it works for me. Nothing else has worked at all, so I feel effexor is worth the discomfort, but I'm planning to be on it for a long long time. It keeps me sane.
October 26, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermargalit

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