Coming out of the Paxilated Fog
(It has taken me almost three months to put this post together. I've revised some things, updated some things, added some things and deleted some things. I deleted some passages because they seemed like pointless rambling or were too personal. Other things I deleted because, well, I am quite sure there are people in the blog world who dislike me quite a bit [and the feeling is most likely mutual]. After seeing at least one prominent right-leaning blogger being ridiculed by left-wing bloggers for being on anti-anxiety meds, I decided that some details of my experiences should not be posted publicly. I've thought about adding a password function to certain posts so that only people I trust can read them. I may yet do that. I know my blog is just a minor, low traffic blog, so I don't see that I'd be a very juicy target. However, perhaps I'm too cynical, but I have come to never underestimate the duplicity, viciousness, cruelty and two-faced backstabbery that some people can sink to.)
Something has been not quite right with me for quite some time. I started realizing this in early December. I had been feeling like part of me was numb or had gone to sleep. I found myself losing interest in things very quickly that used to endlessly excite me. I found myself unable to stick to any weight-loss regimen, no matter how easy or successful it was, because I would just lose motivation. I just would quit caring. I would try a few soapmaking projects, but they seemed more like a duty ("Gotta get that Christmas soap made!") than like something I really wanted to do. I completely lost interest in working on web design stuff and only did what little I did out of a sense of duty. I found that sometimes I would sit many hours -- or even the whole day -- at my desk at work and leave the iPod unused, listening instead to chatter in the office. I just didn't feel like music.
While I've always been introverted and needed a reasonable amount of quite time to myself, I found that I was never happy with the amount of quiet time I had. It never seemed to be enough, though I was really no busier than I had been in the past.
I have been to church only a handful of times in five months. I never finished my project that I started on my now abandoned faith journal. A few Sundays ago, I went back to church for the first time this year after my Pastor called to check on me and find out if everything was alright. I didn't tell him about all this because, well, I just didn't feel like explaining it at the time.
My work had been slipping. I didn't think as fast as I used to. My supervisor noticed my lack of motivation. (Let me add, my supervisor is a nice guy and was trying to be helpful to me.) I hadn't balanced mine or my mother's checkbooks in months. I just checked things out online. If it looked good, I didn't worry. I stopped keeping up with finances in Quicken a year and a half ago. I kept swearing I would start again and I never did. This is something I've always done for years and years. I pay my bills online, but sometimes I would forget to pay something. I had the money, I just forgot and let it slide. I can't emphasize enough how unlike me this is. I have always been very responsible with money and my finances.
In general, I have been unmotivated and apathetic. I did some things I've wanted to do for a while, like LASIK surgery or buying a new car, to jumpstart myself, but while I'm happy with these things, they would soon fade into the background of my life. Even my dreams changed. Vivid colors were replaced with drab, muted colors. The dreams were almost sepia-toned, like I was seeing things through a dirty window, and they were vaguely disturbing and sometimes apocalyptic.
Like I said, I've felt like something was wrong with me that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Then, through a series of events that I don't believe are coincidental, I found out what was wrong, where my life started going off the rails, and what I could do about it.
I started taking Paxil around two years ago...in January of 2005. My doctor gave me some samples of it to try because I pretty much had a nervous breakdown right after New Year's. I've always had problems with anxiety and depression, but this time it was very, very bad. I had just had a horrendously awful Christmas season, which culminated in my having to put my beloved dog Coco to sleep. I was busy trying to arrange repairs of the damage to my house caused by Hurricane Ivan. I was taking bids from roofers, worrying about getting some more money from the insurance company, the whole deal. Shortly after Coco's death, my sister and mother get me this cockatiel to help me get over Coco's death. Forcing another pet on me so soon was the wrong thing to do. I was angry and resentful -- not at the bird because it wasn't her fault, but at my family. They meant well, but they made things worse. I had horrendous insomnia that was made worse by the fact that this bird would carry on -- loudly -- in the early morning hours.
So anyway, my doctor gave me a month's worth of samples of Paxil CR 12.5 mg. After a week or two, I was feeling much better. My mood swings were gone, I didn't get upset as easily and I could sleep again. I didn't have any apparent side-effects. People noticed how my moods had evened out, and this too was encouraging. When the samples ran out, I asked my doctor for a prescription.
I was concerned about weight-gain, and I was going to Weight Watchers at the time. I swore I would quit Paxil if I gained weight.
All seemed well for several months. It did seem like I had to struggle harder to lose weight, but I thought I just wasn't trying hard enough. I gradually quit going to Weight Watchers (even after paying for a year's membership). The weight I lost came back. I tried other diets, like Nutrisystem, and while they worked wonderfully, I could not stay motivated. I simply didn't care enough to stay motivated.
I thought about quitting Paxil, but I had read about the horrible withdrawal symptoms and I was scared to stop suddenly. Despite the weight issues, I felt like it would be vain of me to stop taking something that apparently was helping me just because of my weight. I was also afraid my old problems would come back if I stopped. In the meantime, they had taken the controlled-release tablets off the market and I was taking the regular 10mg tablets. It seemed like those pills didn't work as well and I was glad when the CR tablets came back on the market about a year ago.
In the meantime, I gradually slipped into this fog that I lived in. My emotions gradually became blunted. I rarely enjoyed good belly-laughs. Sometimes, you need a good cry and it was very hard to do that either. I might chuckle at something that I would normally find pee-in-your-pants funny. I might weep a bit at things that would normally have me bawling. But everything was muted. My anger was mostly tamed to where I would get a bit miffed and then get over it. I would avoid situations that might enrage me. Of course, I believe this to be good thing. I don't like for things to make me angry and get to me. But the price I payed for that was the blunting of all my other emotions as well. I also started to become a less affectionate and even aloof person.
Anyway, after putting my finger on the problem -- that my mind has been in a Paxil-induced fog for nearly two years -- I decided to gradually wean myself off Paxil. I talked to my doctor to make sure he knew I was doing this. He had no problem as long as I didn't stop cold turkey, which I wasn't about to do.
I started by taking the Paxil every other day rather than every day. I did this for the month of December. Then in January, I started taking it every three days. In February I took it every four days. Now, in March, I will take it every five days. I will continue with this pattern until my current bottle is empty.
As I reduced the dosage, at first, I noticed no difference. Then some very subtle but definite changes started occurring.
The color came back to my dreams again. While many are still somewhat disturbing, they are not these epic, apocalyptic dreams that had become so common. I can't remember the last time I had a really lovely dream...one that I tried to hold on to before waking up. One that left me smiling upon remembering it. I had a really terrible nightmare last week -- one in which I woke up with my heart pounding. I could remember it when I first woke up, but now I don't remember it.
I've gone through periods of severe depression intermittently. That's one reason I've been on hiatus.
Right now, I'm having mood swings. For a while, I went through a period where I would shoot up into a towering rage over almost nothing. I haven't had these "hyper-rages" lately, but I do oscillate between being irritable, depressed and then almost giddy within the same hour. I go through periods where loud or shrill voices really irritate me. Things I used to not pay any mind to, like people yammering about movies and TV shows around the office, sometimes send me into an eye-rolling sulkiness. I wish they'd just shut up. At times, loud but normal noises -- doors slamming, drawers slamming, dogs barking, etc. -- startle and irritate me. These things used to not bother me. Sometimes I don't like to talk or listen to people much. It seems like a chore. All of these things come and go.
It's all a mixture of good and bad. I enjoy music a lot more and have gotten interested in maintaining my Live 365 station again. I have had more good belly-laughs in the past two weeks or so than I had for the two years I was on Paxil. However, I also get very depressed and fatigued at times and sometimes I get terrible headaches. I have had problems with insomnia again, especially when something upsets me and gets to me.
But again on the plus side, I feel my creativity returning and I am genuinely getting inspired about making soap and bath products lately. I've also started playing around with graphics and web design stuff again. Not a lot, but at least I'm feeling interested again. I'm now keeping up with my bills and am catching up on things like balancing checkbooks. I can't believe the way I let things go. Gradually, my thinking is becoming clearer.
The point of this post is not to say that Paxil is bad and that nobody should take it. I have read some websites about quitting Paxil and they have been helpful. So far, I have not had the worst withdrawal symptoms. When I stop taking it completely, those may happen. But maybe it won't be so bad since I have been weaning down so slowly. The Paxil helped me when I was going through a rough time, but I probably should have stopped taking it once I was over the rough patch. I imagine Paxil can be very helpful to people who have more severe anxiety and depression problems than mine. I am only speaking for myself here and no one else.