Saturday, February 25, 2012

Effexor, a nightmare in a capsule or convenient tablets!

Remember a while back when I told you that my post-partum depression was rearing its ugly head again? Well, I've been beating it back since then and it's been kind of a rough road.  My doctor doubled my dose of Prozac which didn't really help all that much.  So then she said "we" should try Effexor.  She said Prozac might have stopped working because sometimes people develop a tolerance.  Effexor works as an SSRI as well as a norepinephrine uptake inhibitor.  Or something like that.  I was willing to try anything.  While I was in the office she told me not to stop taking the Effexor abruptly because although it wouldn't be life-threatening, it might be "uncomfortable."  She said one of the nice things about Effexor is that it also has anti-anxiety properties.  Okay, sure, I like being calm I guess.  I have never really had a huge issue with anxiety.  I don't particularly like going to the dentist or almost dying on planes, but other than that, I have no history of anxiety issues.

I started taking the Effexor.  After a couple of weeks I was feeling every last possible ever-recorded side effect.  I had chills, brain fog (which I suspect is part of the anti-anxiety?), chest pain, crippling lethargia (more anti-anxiety?),

This is what I'm like on anti-anxiety medication
eye pressure, muscle weakness, etc. etc. etc.  I had to stop taking it even though it was working on the depression.  I looked up how to taper off and I read some horror stories about Effexor withdrawal.  HORROR stories.  Like people saying that it was comparable to withdrawing from heroin.  Like people saying they had to take weeks off of work until they got over the worst of it.  Like people saying they split apart capsules and counted out the hundreds of tiny beads and reduced their intake of the drug by one teeny bead a day, taking months and months to taper off and STILL had withdrawal symptoms.  What???  Why would my doctor give me something so scary?

I didn't think it could really be all that bad, so I told my doctor I was getting off it and began tapering with no horrible effects.  The doctor told me that I might experience some mild anxiety while I was withdrawing. Like I said, anxiety has never really been a problem for me so I wasn't very concerned.  Eventually I got down to taking such a tiny chunk of pill that I almost couldn't see it and still, no side effects!  No effects, that is, until I actually stopped taking the medicine.  I've been totally off for about a week and every day I wake up with a throbbing headache and joint and muscle pain like I have the flu.  There's also mild, annoying, dizziness and nausea.  I am also finding it hard to concentrate on things. I am listening to a book on CD and it's been so frustrating because I can't keep the characters or plot straight.  It might just be a bad book, but I can't really tell.  The last thing I needed was a pill that makes me sick and dumber than I already was.  All of this is annoying, but it will get better.  I can power through the physical effects.

But remember when I told you the doctor told me I might experience some "mild anxiety" during withdrawal?  Have you ever had a panic attack?  I hadn't before, but a few days ago I had a flat-out, freakshow panic attack.  I thought I was having a heart attack and was going to DIE.  I could hardly move.  I couldn't stop sobbing.  I could hardly breathe.  It was the worst feeling EVER.  Holy shit!  "MILD anxiety???"

The doctor gave me a prescription for Wellbutrin.  I'm afraid to take it!  Now that I know she is the queen of understatement I'm worried about everything she bothers to casually mention.  She told me that Wellbutrin is a bit of a stimulant so not to take it before bed.  What does that mean in reality?  Does it mean that I will need to get a person-sized hamster wheel to burn off the stimulating effects of the Wellbutrin?

(Maybe a hamster wheel is not a bad idea....)
Will my whole family be annoyed by the sound of my hamster wheel squeaking all night long every single night that they will have to move my cage to the laundry room? The doctor also said that some people experience increased anxiety.  Does this mean my heart will literally explode?  I read on that Wellbutrin can sometime cause seizures.  I don't want seizures.  I prefer my brain seizure-free.  Of course, my doctor didn't mention anything about seizures.  That probably means there's only about a 75% chance that it will happen.  I still feel pretty good depression-wise so I'm in no hurry to get on anything else right now.

What kind of medicine do you take?  Do you have any side effect nightmare stories that will make me feel better about mine?


  1. I have taken Wellbutrin alone and in combination with another antidepressant and haven't ever experienced any of the side effects... not even the energy dammit! I hope it works well for you!

  2. I took Trazadone for a while (sleep aid). My doctor told me to take 150 mg. The first night I took it, the room spun. I stood up to go to the bathroom and fell down. I had to crawl to the bathroom and once I got there, I fell off the toilet. Found out the next day while powering through the worst hangover in history that the average dose is 50 mg. Did I mention I fell off a toilet? Fell off! A toilet!

  3. Falling off a toilet IS funny, even if you almost accidentally committed suicide. Read a label, for corn's sake!

    Thanks to all of you who touched base with me about upon reading this post. I know there's only two comments on here but I received many emails and Facebook messages. You guys are great.

  4. I was on Wellbutrin for post partum depression for a while and it was NOT working. Finally saw a psychiatrist with a brain and she said Wellbutrin is not effective for post partum depression. She put my on Effexor. It really worked well for me but I could tell when I forgot to take it because I would get dizzy. When I decided it was finally time to try and get off it, it was strange. I did try and wean off like you are supposed to do but it seemed like every time I moved my head or turned my neck, it took longer for my brain to keep up and it would shudder into place afterwards. I'm not sure how to explain it but sometimes it felt like it was vibrating or something. I got the flu though while I was trying to wean off it and since I was resting anyway, I didn't need to move around and didn't notice the dizziness quite as much. Good luck with the Wellbutrin.

  5. I take Effexor right now. If I didn't take it my brain wouldn't shut off at night. No side effects, no toilet gymnastics.

    I took Wellbutrin years ago when I wanted to stop smoking. Worked like a charm and no seizures.

  6. Oh and Anonymous, so true. If I miss one day I's so dizzy. Almost a sick feeling.

  7. my doctor gave me effexor years ago. i was on it for about eight months maybe. i never had any side effects, and i just quit it one day without any side effects either, but i gained like sixty pounds from taking it. it was horrible.

  8. Chantelle, I am jealous. I wish I would have had no side effects. One of the reasons I went off it was because I could see myself gaining tons of weight. It was like I couldn't move.

  9. i have been taking effexor for about a year. i take the maximum dose, for depression and anxiety. it helps a lot. before that, i tried pristiq, which was worse than no help. sometimes you have to try a few different medications until you find the one that works well with your body chemistry.

    if i forget to take effexor one day, i have that weird fever-feeling head-bouncing-like-a-bobble thing going on. i have not tried to stop taking it yet; i'm a little worried. but it helps me A LOT so i won't have to worry about that for a while. so i guess i will keep driving until i run out of cliff!

    i hope you find something better ...

  10. I don't take any medications. Unless you count the shitload of OTCs I take to control the pain stabbing outward from my endometriosis.

    And by OTCs, I mean Tylenol and Oreos.

  11. i recommend going to a really good/great psychiatrist who will work with you to find the right meds. i did, and my life completely changed. well, not completely, but i don't want to kill myself anymore, or others.

  12. I have been on effexor 150mg for the last 11 years. I am very worried about ever stoping. Just forgeting to take one dose does terrible things to me. The most upseting is that I get nightmares which seem so realistic. I wake up in a cold sweat
    and scream in my sleep. The nightmares are always me runing which seem to leave me absolutely exhausted the next day. As soon as I try to sleep again, I fall back in the same nightmare and this goes on all night. just befor I go to bed I become very hypo, and try to do as many things as one can possible do, and I find that I cant tolerate people to well.


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