Discontinuation Syndrome 

[read time: less than five minutes]

In tarot, there is a card called the Wheel of Fortune. This card represents the querent’s life. When this card is pulled, it reveals that a change of course may be coming – whether good or bad. The beauty in the Wheel is that it is always turning, so even if you are in a “bad” spot in your life, know that, at some point, the Wheel will, eventually, turn to the good again. 

I use this example to introduce why I have been silent on WordPress for a few weeks. Not only did I take most of the month of April off to focus on writing my novel (pleased to say that I’ve written almost 20,000 more words since April 1), but I also embarked on a new, personal journey.

I stopped taking antidepressants. 

Before I continue: I am not a medical doctor. Do not ever take medical advice from me, thank you. What I speak about here is my own personal experience. Please do what is right for you with guidance from a certified medical professional. 

In spring of 2015, I was in a bad car accident. While I was not too physically hurt (aside from whiplash and an extremely sore shoulder), my mental health deteriorated from it. I was already off work at this time from stress, as I was drinking excessively and could not control it. Luckily, I was not drinking nor drunk during this accident – I was actually rear-ended on the highway, going 120 km/h, during the middle of the day, when I was driving home from going for a healthy walk around a lake. 

Very shortly after this accident, I felt more lost than before. Already in talks with my doctor about becoming sober, this accident actually prompted me to drink more. Since I was clearly on the path to self-destruction, my doctor suggested antidepressants, which I grudgingly took. 

I began on one medication and moved to another  – Effexor (venlafaxine). I began on one pill and quickly moved up to three a day. I took them as prescribed. I took them religiously. 

I got sober March 26, 2016. I had a baby February 2018. I graduated university May 2019. Life continued on, and I continued to dutifully take my meds. 

One day in the summer of 2019 I felt sick. Woozy, hot, almost as if I had the flu. Wherever I looked, it was as if my eyes took a second to catch up to the place my vision initially landed. My head buzzed. My body shook. 

Without realizing it, I had accidentally missed my three pills that morning. I was experiencing something called discontinuation syndrome and did not know it at the time.  

What is discontinuation syndrome? 

According to multiple sources online, including the Mayo Clinic, discontinuation syndrome is the same as experiencing withdrawal from medications. Simply, when you stop taking something that you body is used to, it will rebel. 

So, on that day I forgot, when I took my pills, I almost immediately felt better. 

Not too long after that, I forgot, again, to take my pills and felt the same way. 

I realized that missing this medication – even by a few hours – could seriously mess with my mental health. 

Then I had to do a second-take. Wait, wasn’t I taking these precisely to help my mental health issues? 

Fast forward to today, 2022. I have been sober for over six years now, and have not had a depressive episode or major anxiety attack that I have not been able to crawl out of for over a good year by now. I practice different forms of meditation and self-care to combat any mental health issues that arise. 

Then, I forgot to take my pills again one morning. I hated the way I felt – in fact, it seemed that, because I was being so negatively affected by NOT taking the pills, that it may be time to end my relationship with them. 

I checked in with my mental health and decided to talk to my doctor first about going off them completely. She decided that I was ready and together we made a plan for me to stop them. 

I told her about how I felt when I accidentally missed my dosage. I told her how I felt anyway, in general – I was actually happy, healthy, and had good mental health meditations and checkups in my toolkit to be able to calmly guide myself through my day. 

I told her that honestly, yes, I do believe taking antidepressants helped my mental health and helped me in the times that I needed it. I also told her that I felt it was ready to stop. 

As the Wheel of Fortune turns, so do changes in life. So, I find it weird that something that is supposed to make you feel so good can also make you feel so bad. 

So, on the first day, a few weeks ago, of me intentionally taking one less pill in order to wean myself off antidepressants (guided by my doctor’s advice), I was hit hard by the effects of withdrawal. 

It started with me feeling very, very sore. My whole body hurt. The symptoms descended on me while I was grocery shopping; people walking by me would think I was a 90-year old, that was how slow I walked. 

By the time I got home, I was in full-on withdrawal. My whole body buzzed and shook. It felt like my skin was crawling. It felt as if bugs landed underneath my skin. (Fun fact: this sensation is called formication.) I laid on the couch for three hours and shook violently until it passed. The rest of the day I was exhausted and useless. 

But after that initial setback, the symptoms came lighter and easier to manage. But it did not happen overnight; that is why I have been silent for a few weeks now.

Have to give myself grace. Have to be patient and understanding with myself. I even had an anxiety attack – from not taking the pills – and was able to meditate my way out of it. 

The Wheel of Fortune never stops turning. We have our ups and downs, whether self-imposed or not. It is a fact of life. Even though I was in a low point during the initial withdrawal from medication, the Wheel still turns to the good point in life. That is what it does. 

Published by Erica Black

Erica was born with a rare disease called an arteriovenous malformation in her right leg. She is now an advocate for those with disabilities. She left the corporate world in 2016 to pursue a career as a high school English teacher and began to blog along the way. She has a BA in English Lit and minor in Creative Writing. Her writing has been featured in The Martlet, The Globe and Mail, Heroica, and more. She enjoys cats, reading, and her daughter.

One thought on “Discontinuation Syndrome 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: