Discontinue Syndrome

Aka withdrawal.

I have to admit, I made an unwise decision. Two actually.

I decided to discontinue my psych-medications without first consulting my doctor.

The next unwise decision I did was stopping abruptly without following a tapering schedule.

My lack of impulse control made me do it.

If only I could actually blame it on something or someone else. The truth is, I was desperate. I had done my research about the long term negative effects of antidepressants and antipsychotics, and decided it was time to come off of them. But I felt like I had to do it NOW! In reality, there was no rush. But I justified it with, just wanting it to be “over and done with”.

I do not regret my decision of discontinuing those medications but I do regret the “cold turkey” approach I took to stopping them.

Before I get into how I currently feel, first I want to talk about why I decided to do it.

The why’s

[Why I decide to stop my medication.]

  • Obesity

Antidepressants cause weight gain, which can lead to obesity and its accompanying health problems (such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, some cancers and stroke). I was on antidepressants for 10 months and gained 15 pounds. Despite my healthy diet and moderate activity, I was unsuccessful at losing weight. I can say, however, with a strict reduced calorie intake of 1200 to 1300, I have been able to maintain my weight and stop myself from further weight gain. Generally people lose weight with such a deficit, unfortunately not me.

  • Sexual dysfunction

In other words, I was hardly ever, never, in the mood. This made me like I was “broken”. Like I couldn’t fulfil the needs and desires of my significant other. Too much info? Sorry. But for me, it was a real concern, and I know there are many people that can relate. Beside weight gain, this is the second most reason decide to stop their psych-meds.

  • Diabetes type 2

There is a link between antidepressant use and problems with blood-sugar regulation. Antidepressants may worsen blood-sugar control because they can cause significant weight gain. For me, this was a significant reason why I wanted to stop. I do not want diabetes, or any chance of getting it.

  • Irregular heart rhythms

Taking high doses of antidepressants over an extended period of time can lead to heart rhythm abnormalities. I only have one heart and I’d like to keep it healthy and happy until the day I die as an old lady. I want to be able to walk miles, even in my older age, and I don’t want a broken heart to impede my chances of that.

  • Harm to the unborn child

I am of childbearing years, and still without a child. I suspect sometime in my distance yet near future (within the next 5 years), I will want to bring a child of my own into this world. But not while taking medications that can harm my, one-day, fetus or newborn. Studies have found a higher than average risk for low birth weight and premature delivery when antidepressants are taken during pregnancy, especially in the last three months. At birth, infants may suffer withdrawal symptoms, including jitters, crying, irritability, shivering, and, rarely, seizures.

The most important factor(s) to my final decision were:

  1. I knew I was ready
  2. I knew my mind could handle it without the extra help
  3. I knew I could do it on my own, with the addition to natural remedies

I went on to the medications for anxiety and depression. I knew I was only going to be on them for a short duration because I have always had the mindset that I can do anything on my own, as long as I set my mind to it. While I was on the medication, I made sure I was implementing techniques that could help me function on my own once off of them. I continue those lifestyle changes, skills and techniques now, such as eating healthy, exercising, meditation, mindfulness, music therapy, art, and herbal remedies. I will talk about the herbal remedies in a bit.

All of these reasons ultimately lead to my final decision of stopping my medications. For me, the risks outweighed the benefit at this point in my life.

The withdrawal symptoms I have experienced, so far:

  1. Dizziness
  2. Imbalanced
  3. Nausea
  4. Brain Flickers
  5. Anxiety (mild)
  6. Irritability
  7. Insomnia
  8. Dream-like state
  9. Hyperawareness to sounds

I stopped 4 days ago, and overall I am feeling okay. I can manage and function normally, and I know these feelings and sensations will not kill me. If anything, they are only uncomfortable and will only last for a short while. I read that only roughly 20% of people experience withdrawal symptoms, how did I become so lucky to end up in that 20%? I also read, that symptoms usually peak within a week then decrease pretty quickly, although there are some unlucky people that experience the symptoms for weeks to months.

A more comprehensive list of withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Return of depression or anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Shock-like sensations
  • Paresthesia (burning, prickly, or skin crawling sensations)
  • Visual disturbances
  • Impaired concentration
  • Vivid dreams
  • Depersonalization (a detached, out-of-body experience)
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Psychosis
  • Catatonia (a state of unresponsiveness)

Sounds pretty scary right? The longer you are on a medication, the worse the withdrawals. This is why it is so important to talk to your doctor before deciding to stop your medication.

I decided to take natural remedies to help my brain heal and function as best it can while it is rewiring itself.

  • Multivitamin
  • GABA
  • L-theanine
  • Omega 3 Fish Oil
  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Melatonin with Magnesium

These medications help with chemical and nutritional imbalances, improve mood, decrease anxiety, promote a calm and relaxed state, help with sleep or boost energy and have a ton of other benefits.

Moral of the story, have patience with yourself, things aren’t usually as urgent as they seem. If you want to get off your meds, talk to your doctor before you do it, they can come up with a plan (a tapering schedule) that offers minimal withdrawal effects. But before you do, have your own game plan… Make sure you’ve implemented measures to help you cope effectively when moments of depression or anxiety arise.

This article was dedicated to ME coming off medication, and I’m not saying that chemical synthetic medications are not okay. They just are not okay for ME. There are many people that require to be on them for life, and if that is what you need then that is what you have to do. You do what is right for you, and whatever allows you to live a high functioning and happy life.

Follow my Social Media sites for more material related to mental health:

Blog: divineminds.ca
FB Page: /divineminds1
IG: mind_over_mood
Pinterest: /divineminds1

When thoughts turn into actions

Dreams turn into reality…

My thoughts have turned into actions. I’ve taken the next step into my career journey and enrolled in becoming a Certified Wellness Coach.

The Plan: is to integrate my nursing with coaching, and start up my own business to offer services for mental wellness (with a focus on depression and anxiety). I will work with my clients to empower them to discover ways to effectively cope using positive (and proper) adaptive techniques.

I will continue to act as an advocate and help facilitate the allocation of supportive resources, making access to support easier and readily available to everyone. One of my goals is to create an App that allows peer to peer support in the form of one on one or group support.

I will also provide services on preventative health (focusing on living a healthier lifestyle to prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, or diabetes) which will take a holistic approach and look at multiple areas of a person’s life.

If you don’t know already, I am very passionate about mental health. After suffering a relapse with Major Depression that required me to take a month and a half off of work, I found out first hand just our shitty access to support services are. It was so frustrating to know that I needed help but that help either came at a ridiculous cost or I had to wait months to be seen by what seemed like the only psychiatrist in all of Ontario, or group supports that I’ve been waiting on now for 6 months… although, I do not require the group support anymore. (I am very grateful of my family doctor throughout this entire process as she was always there when I needed her, even with minimal notice).

I ended up starting my own blog and website to share my story, and provide education and tips about depression and anxiety. I wanted people to know that they are not alone. But more importantly, I wanted to locate resources for people, so I went on a scavenger hunt to find resources that were available to people all over the world. My list continues to grow.

I have just over 1k of followers on my blog, 7.5k follows on instagram(which grows about 100 new followers a day now), 10k on Facebook, and 50k views per month on Pinterest.

It is increbible to know how many people I have been able to reach and potentially help in short period of time (only about 5 months).

I can’t thank each and everyone of you for making this possible. Together we are helping each other.

It has been such an incredible journey so far. ♡

Medication Phobia

I used to have a medication phobia.

I thought medications were for ‘crazy’ people, and well, I was not ‘that’ crazy.

Sure I’ve had my ups and downs and inbetweens. Actually there were no inbetweens. Either I was more up or more down. I found it very difficult to be in a happy medium. If I wasnt feeling low, I was feeling irritable. Low to me was being disengaged and withdrawn; I thought my low mood was purely boredom. Not wanting to leave the house, or talk to my friends and family, or deciding to put off going to the gym until tomorrow. It was always going to be tomorrow. I became so used to doing nothing, that I convinced myself that I was going to be nothing. The only thing I was going to be was a Nurse. Nothing more, nothing less. At work, I was my happiness. Outside of work, I was a girl that barely wanted to leave the house. I was never quite satisfied. I’d get these brilliant ideas to try something new, only to quit before it ever really began. I started to feel like a failure. I went through 4 years of nursing school, and yet I couldn’t seem to accomplish anything now, no matter how small. Very frustrating to say the least.

I had been well educated with depression, but for some reason, when it came to myself, I was in complete denial.

Anyways… I got a bit side tracked.

Medication Phobia, right!

I finally went to my doctor for something unrelated to depression (or so I thought). I was experiencing very high levels of anxiety, and I was getting to the point where I couldn’t cope well. I was coping, but not to the best of my abilities. I started to show avoidant behaviours.

While I was at the doctors, she made me fill out these questionaires, one of which I score d high on depression. I walked out of her office with not only one diagnosis BUT TWO. Major Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Before I walked out though, my doctor kindly provided me with all my options to managing my conditions, and we both agreed that the pharmacological route would be the best option for now.

Boy was I scared.

I had grown up believing that medications were ‘taboo’, and that they were the reason that my Nana turned nutso. Sorry Nana.(God bless her soul – Love you Nana). But it is the truth. It was something that became rooted in my family beliefs. I also thought I was going to become addicted or be on them for life. I probably will be on them for life, and I am okay with that. The fact is, we (and I do mean my specific people in my family), were uneducated, and simply learning about it helped erased that stigma.

Going on medication was the best thing for me. I’m not afraid to admit it. Yes I am a Registered Nurse and take psych meds. NO I’m not crazy. And yes I can save your life. My conditions never affected my ability to practice safety and competently as a nurse. It affected my feelings and emotions but not the knowledge and skills I gained over the years. I am a great damn nurse. I’m really not sure why I felt the need to justify any of that.

Side tracked again.

What have medications done for me?

  • They brought me back to the light
  • The fog has been lifted
  • I can concentrate and focus
  • I can go out with my friends again
  • I can say hello to a stranger
  • I can go to events and parties
  • I can get out of my own head
  • My thoughts don’t race
  • I feel calm and content
  • I have more motivation
  • I am back at the gym
  • I’m wanting to be outside in the warmth
  • I am wanting to discover more hobbies
  • I am blogging again
  • I know I am enough
  • I am doing me, for me
  • Laughing feels great

And the list goes on.

The bottom line is I truly feel like myself again.

And that is what matters the most.

You only have one life to live.

This is it.

Do what you need to do to feel your best.

Follow my Social Media sites for more material related to mental health:

Blog: divineminds.ca
FB Page: /divineminds1
IG: mind_over_mood
Pinterest: /divineminds1

Emergency Night

Another night in Emergency.

Come to think about it, I dont think I have ever blogged about my experiences in the ER.

I feel my absolute best when I am at work. I feel energized, motivated and accomplished.

The reward of being a nurse is beyond anything I have ever experienced. It is an incredible feeling knowing that you are touching the lives of another human being, with as much as a genuine smile.

I have worked in Emergency for just over a year now, and it is like my second home. I feel like this is where I am suppose to be. My calling.

I will share some of my personal experiences (eventually) but the identify of my patients or the people involved will be kept confidential.

This is just my introduction to my life in the ER.

It is as ‘crazy’ as people claim it to be.

A moment of silence

I apologize for my absence. I needed some time to recollect my thoughts. Although I still don’t have a complete hold on them, I will try my best. [LOL]

Overall, things have been wonderful. I can honestly say, I am almost back to my “complete self”. My life will feel satisfied when I start hitting the gym again, and increase my social interactions.

I have been having difficulty focusing my mind to produce anything concrete. I have so many ideas, goals, tasks, commitments, and responsibilities flooding my mind every minute, it makes it difficult sit down long enough to even type a sentence, before I have the urge to get up and do something else. I am learning to get a grip on this ADD.

Throughout the years, I have learned the skills necessary to overcome the constraints of my illness (ADD). What works is goal setting, prioritization, routine, scheduling, and simplicity. Beyond those basic principles, I think it’s important to also take care of yourself and know when it’s time to take a break and relax. Gift yourself some tender loving care. It speaks volumes when you learn to love yourself.

Is there anybody that wants me to post about something in particular?

Perhaps drop a comment about a particular situation you’re having difficulties with and maybe we can all help each other?

Let’s help each other.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder | A personal story

What do you worry about?

I used to make every thought that came into my mind something to worry about (or maybe I still do – laugh out loud – I just react less).

Worried about being late; worried about getting into an accident; worried to death if a cop is riding behind me; worried about getting lost; worried about having to parallel park; worried about relationships; worried about death or the potential of death; worried about health; worried about work; worried about my future; worried about family; worried about my parents being late by 30 minutes; worried about social events; worried about something awful happening; worried about what I am going to wear; worried about my weight; worried about my complexion; worried about work related stress; worried about love; worried about running out of gas; worried about driving at night, in the snow or rain; worried about not being about to fall asleep; worried about worrying.

These worrying thoughts would ruminate in my mind in a cyclic fashion.

Sometimes my constant worrying would be about a make-believe situations or hypothetical conclusion. I’d worry so much about something that hadn’t even happened (yet) that it would end up causing the very thing I feared to happen or create unnecessary conflict over it. It would basically create an issue out of nothing, for absolutely no reason; an issue that had no reason to even exist.

It was exhausting to say the least.

It was an ex of mine that pointed out my compulsive worrying, and kindly suggested I talk to my doctor about it. I hesitantly took his advice after many months. I had nothing to lose.

It was the best decision.

I was also diagnosed with Depression at the same time I was diagnosed with GAD. Being diagnosed with depression came as a shock to me. I knew I had suffered with Major Depression in the past, but at this particular moment I didn’t feel sad, so thought nothing of it. However, I did lose interest in things, I didn’t want to spend time with my friends or go out anywhere, I felt hopeless about my future (at times), I was irritable, had difficulties sleeping and concentrating, and felt tired a lot of time. I assumed all this feelings were related to anxiety.

It isn’t uncommon for the both to be diagnosed together. Which one came first is still up for debate.

A few months later my depression slipped into a Major Depressive Episode and required me to take some time off work. My treatment plan changed a bit, but I will leave this story for another day when I talk about Major Depression.

My treatment plan consisted of medication, exercise, diet, self-help books (CBT), a sleep routine, mindfulness practice, meditation, CBT and talk therapy by a psychologist, and referral to a psychiatrist for evaluation.

To get into details about specific approaches I took would require another publication, or maybe two or three. If you have specific questions, please never hesitate to email me.

-Rachel Page

Social Anxiety Disorder | A personal story

Social Anxiety, another disorder I am familiar with.

It began in my earlier years, right around the time when the bullying began.

It instilled such fear that I refused to present in front of the class. My assignments would be presented in front of only the teacher at the end of the day. I become isolated, and alone. I was probably thought of as a ‘loner’ at one point. Eating lunch alone, even then I would sit there and worry about what the other kids were thinking about me. If they didn’t speak ignorant words, I knew they were thinking it; rolling their eyes as they walked by.

This fear has followed me throughout my life, and had affected multiple areas of my life.

My greatest challenge was in nursing school, and having to work in groups and present in front of the class, later it was working with ‘actual’ patients. Come to think about it, this is probably when the panic attacks started. Having to face my fears was terrifying, but I knew if I ever wanted to have a career in nursing, and practice safely, then I would just have to ‘suck it up’ and do it. I remember the first time I had to call a doctor. I wrote out everything, according to SBAR, quickly rehearsed it in my mind, then called the doctor. I maybe got 4 or 5 stuttered words out, panicked and hung up.
I made my preceptor call back.

With practice, it has got easier. I still get anxious when having to discuss a patients care with a doctor, but I manage (what choice do I really have?). I usually get anxious with anyone with higher ‘authority’. Probably because I am afraid of saying something incorrect, or not making sense, or afraid of what I ‘look like’. When I get anxious in social situations, I become flushed, I blush, and my body temperature rises. At work, I know I can’t avoid those situations, or else I could compromise the patient, and could lose my job.

The repeated exposure has helped drastically at work, but I still have avoidant behaviours in my personal life with family and friends. I have been known to avoid gatherings with large groups, including family functions. A “large” for me is any gathering consisting of more than 3 people. Usually when I gone out with friends, at most, it has only been with 2 other people. I have missed weddings, parties, birthdays, and random gatherings out of fear. It has affected my relationships with friends and boyfriend’s along the way, and made it difficult to make new friends.

A million thoughts will occupied my mind, and repeat over and over again.

“What if I say something silly? What if I look uncomfortable and awkward? Will they notice how nervous I am? What if my face goes red? What if my voice trembles? What if I don’t make sense or ramble? Will people ask me questions I don’t know the answer to? Will people think I am stupid? Will I have to initiate the conversations? What if I can’t relate to the conversation? What if people wonder why I am being so quiet? What if people think I’m wierd? What if?” Literally the thoughts never end, it’s exhausting.

And simply telling me, “I’ll be fine, suck it up, who cares what they think, or have a drink” or get angry or upset at me, only makes me more anxious. And it’s totally screwed up to think anyone could get upset at you over something you have no control over.

Imagine you are standing at the edge of a 100 foot cliff, and the only way back down is going over the edge, and climbing down a rope latter with some of the steps broken or missing. That is the same intensity of fear I get in some social situations. Sometimes it is easier to just sit down where you are (where you feel comfortable), and not move.

I definitely feel the most comfortable at home; I call it my safe haven. I do go out, maybe once every 2 weeks. Each time is always a struggle, my initial reaction is to cancel plans as the anxiety starts to build due to negative anticipations. It’s frustrating because I love my friends and family, and I should feel the most comfortable around them but my anxiety usually hinders over my trust.

I once had an ex friend get so angry at me because “I could go out with complete strangers (on dates), but I couldn’t hang out with my girl”. Anxiety is a weird thing, it is totally F’ed up. Meeting with strangers felt so much easier because they knew nothing about me, I had an opportunity to only allow what I wanted them to know, when I wanted them to know it. I could put an abrupt end to things if the relationship lacked a connection. I cared less about what they thought. I was in control of those situations.

With my friends, I am an open book. They knew every raw detail. I cared so much about what they thought. I valued their opinions, perhaps too much. I’m not sure why, but I felt like I always had something to prove. My mindset was very damaging to my relationships. Only the strongest relationships were able to survive.

I knew I wanted to change. I needed to changed. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Therapy has really helped me gain back control, and is helping to change my way of thinking. I’m still a ‘work in progress’ but things are changing for the better. I also had to make some difficult decisions with ending some friendships. The purpose was to eliminate the people in my life that held me back, or no longer supported me or served me, grew with me, shared the same values or interests, able to understand me (or took the time to understand) or ride the highs and lows with me. Hardest, but best decision I ever made. Took a very heavy weight off my shoulder.

My journey to self-improvement began with the formulation of specific goals.

1) Decrease social anxiety and gain control
2) Build and sustain meaningful relationships

Then I came up specific tasks to complete each goal.

An example could be, decrease social anxiety by challenging catastrophic or distored thoughts, or slowly integrating different levels of exposure. You really have to be your own cheerleader when it comes to purposely exposing yourself to anxious situations. I’ve had to force myself, but each time always got easier, and I always ended up having a great time. I use reflection to remind myself of the positive experiences I had.

Before you jump into CBT or Exposure Therapy, I would advise that you talk with your doctor to develop a plan together that would work best for you. If it is decided that you would benefit from this type of therapy, you can either purchase a self-help workbook, or you can complete a plan under the care and supervision of a psychologist or trained therapist. I would advise the latter for more severe types of social anxieties or phobias, especially if they are causing significant distress.

-Rachel Page