my brain is the fundament in my skull

This is not news related at all. Also, it should not contain any ranting (but I can’t guarantee this since I tangent sometimes).
I’ve been on Effexor since late 2006. Started at the standard 37.5mg dose and worked myself up up up to 375mg a day. Now, depending on who you talk to this dose is either normal or astronomical. As it was explained to me, up to 200mg Effexor acts as an SSRI and beyond 200mg begins to act as an SNRI. We went with Effexor for a couple reasons. The first was that I had worked my way through a gamut of SSRIs with little luck. At best they were ineffective, but at their worst they crippled me with anxiety and fear. Also, as a teenager I’d gone through the same horrifying trial and error with SSRIs and eventually found relief with tricyclics. Effexor seems to work similarly to the tricyclics but with far fewer side effects (like not sleeping for 7 days straight and buzzing like a beehive the whole time). The ironic thing is that the side effects of Effexor are pretty intense when you start up, just not AS intense as nortriptyline. Effexor was my last ‘low side-effect’ option. Anyone who has ever been on Effexor knows the side effects and knows that if they are considered relatively low, then everything else must be pretty fucking harsh.
In addition to the 375mg of Effexor, I also take 300mg of Wellbutrin which acts as a dopamine reuptake inhibitor. In lay terms, Wellbutrin is like prescription meth…well, except you get to keep all your teeth and the pharmacy isn’t under constant threat of blowing up. Nice.
Sometimes the combination of Effexor and Wellbutrin is called the California Rocket Fuel! Though it depends, CRF seems to refer to a lot of Effexor +one drug combos.
So why am I gatting all pharmaceutical on your asses? The time has come to say farewell to the Effexor. I did not come to this decision lightly or without a great deal of research and thought. Straight up, I want to say that I love Effexor. For all the crazy side effects and issues that I had with it, the fact is that it saved my life. In my head I have a running list of all the nearby bridges and the heights of all the guard rails on the bridges. Before Effexor I also had some very solid and well thought out plans regarding those guard rail heights. I’m not writing this to be all emo or whatever. I had the plan, it was painful and terrifying, but I was entirely unable to see any other options. It wasn’t even about finding a different option. I had accepted it as a matter of course, much in the same way one would accept aging or flu season.
Taking the Effexor was like turning on a light in a mineshaft. I was stunned to see edges and outlines and contours. Where once there was formless pitch, now there was detail and depth and shape. It wasn’t a perfect light, of course, and it took a long time to make it bright enough. And of course there were the days of constant trembling, the brain zaps, the nausea, the super vivid dreams and so on.
But, all that aside, it worked and I could feel it working so I endured.
So why am I choosing to leave it all behind? Hmmmm, a few things…First off, I don’t have medical insurance anymore. To buy Effexor in the states it runs be about $400 a month, to buy it from Canada it costs about $400 for roughly 70 days. Did you know it was illegal to purchase drugs from other countries even with a prescription? Yeah, I didn’t either. It seems that this is one of those things that no one is prosecuting right now, and for good reason, but there have been rumblings from the conservative sides that buying pharma from the other side of the border is unAmerican and unpatriotic. I do not want to rant, but I will say that my survival trumps my patriotism.
The other reason is less concrete and more abstract. I’m not who I was. David had mentioned this a few times and my stock response was something along the lines of, “If I was still who I was then I would not be anybody now”. As true as that might have been, I don’t think that is the case now. But what does that mean? What have I become? I constantly feel like I am thinking with only half my brain switched on. I struggle with my vocabulary and find myself using the thesaurus all the time trying to find that ONE word that is on the tip of my tongue. I am too content to stay in the safety of the cocoon I have made in my home. Where once David and I used to go out all the time, go hiking, go to cafes, go walk around the lake, go SOMEWHERE, I find myself preferring not to. When was the last time I held a dinner party or hosted a holiday? Christmas 2005?
And there are other things that are even more abstract, ways in which I am not who I was, but the descriptions elude me and to be perfectly honest, I do not think they are easily described with words. You’re just going to have to trust me on this (ha! says the crazy person!)
I am well aware of the awful side effects of going off the Effexor. With that in mind, Lisa helped me come up with a plan that allows me to drop approximately 19mg a week. This involves breaking open the capsules and counting out the little grains inside. There are 250 little grains in a 75mg pill and 500 in the 150mg and these grains are TINY. So counting is a pain, but I do it.
I’m halfway through my second week. I’ve experienced a bit of nausea and dizziness and occasionally some crabbiness (but how could one tell if it was Effexor related or just me being crabby?). I get tired but don’t sleep well, but this could just be seasonal insomnia, the kind I get as the weather and the clocks and the day lengths change. It seems that if I had a parietal eye I could alleviate this, but I don’t have one. Yet.
My plan is to occasionally write about the effects of coming off Effexor over time. I’ve gleaned a lot of info off the web from people doing similar things and I hope to add to it. Maybe by sharing this I can help someone else trying to make the decision, and I accept that the help might be a great big “oh shit no! I’m not doing something like that! She’s a nut job!”
And now I am off to get my hair done and be awesome.
or something.

10 thoughts on “my brain is the fundament in my skull

  1. Firstly, the lack of a decent safety net in America scares the crap out of me.
    Secondly, as you probably know Effexor can be a very difficult drug to get off and you are coming off a very high dose. Be kind to yourself if it doesn’t go as planned. It took me several attempts just to get off a 75mg dose – I had such bad flushes and nausea that people genuinely thought I was going through an early menopause. Unfortunately in my case, the gradual cutting down just didn’t work for me; in the end going cold turkey (with the reluctant agreement and supervision of my doctor) was the most effective way. I don’t recommend it as the physical side-effects were really bad. If you were working I’d tell you to take at least a fortnight off and surround yourself with loving friends and family while your body readjusts.
    Thirdly, ensure that David and your doctors keep a close eye on you for the next six months as it is scarily easy to slip back down into an even deeper depression without even realising it. Please listen to them if they are getting concerned. It’s better to be on Effexor and alive than off drugs and dead.
    Fourthly, if you are feeling bad PLEASE reach out to people and ask for help. Ask David to physically write down that you can wake him any time of day or night if you need help. You might understand this logically but the brain does weird things to your belief system when the chemicals aren’t working properly.
    Good luck!

  2. (I hope this isn’t freaky internet-stalking…I followed you here from Ravelry.)
    I applaud your courage – both in sharing the story with teh interwebs and in making this very difficult decision.
    I know how hard it is to reach out for help, what a terrible demon depression is, and I hope it is helpful for you to know that there are a lot of invisible internet folks you’ve never met who are cheering for you.
    I’m on Wellbutrin XL, 450/mg a day, and not yet ready to go off of them. I’m not sure I will ever at this point. Some days, that’s OK with me. Some days, it isn’t.
    I’ve been writing about the whole process since it started in early 2007 on my blog, and I don’t think I’d be here either without the meds. Looking back, I’ve come so far, but I don’t think I’m out of the woods yet.
    Best of luck to you.

  3. I also had to get off of Effexor due to the cost (I was also on 375mg). I now take Prozac, although, frankly, I can’t tell if it’s doing anything or not ’cause I feel pretty damn good all the time from the VNS. Prozac is one of the $4 drugs I can get at the grocery store pharmacy. I am sending you all my best.

  4. I weaned myself off effexor–it was a slow process, but better than entering that dark, bizarre universe that no human was meant to know about if you missed more than one dose. Best of luck.

  5. I know nothing about this med (and sincerely hope never to find out!) but I’m rooting for you. I know you are motivated because you are willing to count the grains inside the capsule! But also you are motivated by your appreciation of and love for David and that’s even better.

    Can you believe that I had never heard of a parietal eye!??!! Where have I been?
    Anyway, thanks!

Comments are closed.