T Nation

Quitting Anti Depressants


#1

Hey people,

never posted in this part of the forum before. Normally I keep my posts on here about lifting without too much information about myself.
However I have something personal to share and ask a non-lifting related question.

First of a little bit about me:
I have dealt with depression for quite some time now. It got to the point where I was sure that this would be my end. I was not about to finish myself off, I was simply sure that a human could not go on the way I felt/ lived and that this would inevitably lead to one’s end. I do not want to go too much into detail about myself or what was/ is going on in my life (and more importantly in my head). Basically I waited too long with searching for help and my condition got pretty bad. I had a lot of very physical symptoms stemming from my mental health problems - basically my body followed my head and believed that he was sick.
When I was first diagnosed by a doctor (at a time I was in a horrible condition already) I was first prescribed medication to calm me down (forgot English word here) because my doctor was very careful with prescribing me anti depressants and wanted to try these lighter medications first.

While on these light meds I still had severe panic attacks, horrible violent nightmares every night and was very depressed all day, which lead to me not participating in basically everything that once gave me joy. Aside from lifting. I began to abuse alcohol (I drank quite a lot before I got so bad, but not like this). I basically couldn’t stand to be awake at all, even though I had nightmares most nights. These were bad times…

I, however got prescribed anti depressants and my doctor always urged me to seek help from a psychotherapist. He later once told me he was on the edge of sending me to a mental hospital, had I only once mentioned suicide in his presence.

The anti depressants helped to a degree and they got rid of my nightmares. I really had not a single one since I started taking this medication. I however did not get instantly healthy again, like you probably guessed. I still struggled with being depressive and with panic attacks.

I later went to see a psychotherapist and began a therapy, still being on medication. This therapy is still going on. I was diagnosed with serious depression and anxiety disorder, when I started this therapy.

I have come a very very long way since the days that I was certain that this would be the end.
I still have bad days and bad weeks. I still can’t really deal with some of my emotions, which leads to me appearing emotionless in some cases.
On the other hand I have not had one of those horrible panic attacks for a very long time. No nightmares since starting anti depressants. Have successfully battled some of my phobias connected to my mental health problems (I could not use public transportation, could not sleep alone outside of my home, could not stand to be in larger crowds…) .
Like I said I have come a long way.

If that matters, this is not the first serious illness I have faced. I also had blood cancer (leukemia) which took a three year treatment to get rid of/ survive.
Compared, I don’t know which one of these two was more life threatening. I know for sure which one has left the bigger scars though.

Even though I left a ton of stuff out, this was quite a lot of stuff about me. Don’t get me wrong, it is not my intention to just cry about how bad I have had it in life. There are people that have dealt with far worse shit. Like I said I have already achieved a lot and am trying my best to only look forward and push on with everything I have got.
However I think to be of help, you need to know at least a little bit about where I am coming from with this.

These last months or maybe this continuing year have been the best I have had for basically as long as I remember. I am actually happy a lot of the time. My laughter isn’t always fake and I am able to really feel emotions (yes, this sounds stupid to a lot of people and I understand that) - and I mean positive emotions also. A lot of this has to do with finding the girlfriend I am with today. She is an incredible woman and partner. I could go on writing about how much of a support she is but this should not be about our relationship.

Now, finally onto my question (if you have read through this whole mess):
Is here anyone who has experience with quitting anti depressants?
I am very concerned and straight up afraid to take this step.
I don’t need to know about potential threads of quitting my medication, believe me I got these floating in my head anyway.
What I am more looking for are the potential benefits of quitting anti depressants. Maybe training related, life quality, health, whatever.

Basically: Is it worth taking the risk?

Feel free to talk about your experiences with quitting anti depressants, if you feel comfortable doing so. Positive and negative of course.

Thanks for taking the time, if you have indeed taken the time to read through this. If I made some mistakes, please excuse me, it is very late and English is not my native language. Also if I left out something that matters on this subject, feel free to ask and I will answer as long as I feel comfortable talking about it.

It was not easy to write all of this about me. I have always kept most of the stuff that was going on to myself, To this day a lot of members of my family and even most close friends don’t know about what I have struggled with.


#3

Growing up and into adulthood I had problems with substance abuse. I’d use pretty much anything I could get my hands on, as long as it did the trick, but my real go to was alcohol. Cheap easy and it worked. At 27 I got 2 DUI in the same week and the magistrate court ordered me to go to meetings for alcoholics. I went as ordered. I didn’t like it but I listened. It started to work. Things began to get better. I met with my attorney and in the course of discussion I told him that I don’t like going to these things and asked if there was anything he could do about it.

He asked me “Is it working for you?”. I responded “Yeah. Pretty well, actually.”.

“Then keep going.”. And he abruptly ended our meeting. I did. Life has gotten much better. I slipped once, but have been sober since Oct. 2002. I have a wife that loves me, a beautiful son and a roof over our heads.

Do you think I should start drinking again? :thinking:

Seriously though, I have seen WAY too many people make great strides in life doing something that worked (meetings, therapy, meds) so well that they got to a point that it no longer seemed necessary, so they quit. The outcome has never (to my knowledge) been good.

I can’t advise on medication other than to say consult the appropriate professionals, but if it has worked well up to this point, why stop?


#4

Thank you for sharing your story. Great that you have sucessfully dealt with such a difficult addiction!

As to why I am thinking about quitting the meds, as this is a valid question:
I have very little information about anti depressants. I basically don’t know at what cost I am taking them. If there was no downside to taking them, they would be prescribed a lot more and my doctor would not have been so hesitant to give them to me.
Generally I don’t know what kind of benefits, if any, I would have If I got off those medication. To find out about that is kind of the point of this thread.

Thanks for your concern but I am no one to rush these kind of things. I will discuss this with the professionals I hsve access to. I just don’t want them to be my only source of information and I don’t personally know about people who have had experience with this. There are people I can talk to about this stuff, first and foremost my girlfriend, but like I said most people don’t even know about my mental health problems and I am really bad at talking about my feeling and ehat is going on inside me with anyone but my girlfriend or maybe my therapist.

Thanks for answering man.


#5

If you decide to quit the meds don’t do it cold turkey. When i was on anti depressants i quit cold turkey and had terrible withdrawal symptoms (flu like symptoms, profusely sweating, paranoia, and worst of all brain zaps, yes thats a thing lol.) When i finally seen my doc again at a follow up appointment he was pretty upset about my decision and told me i should’ve called him if i wanted off the meds because he says the safest way to quit is to ween yourself off, like cut the pills in half then after a while a half of that then nothing. Quitting cold turkey can have some crazy symptoms depending on your bodies dependency of the med.


#6

Interesting story, thanks for sharing.

Personally, I have chronically smoked weed for the last 7 years, and I haven’t been the best with how I treat alcohol - most likely in place of anti-depressants.

To give you some context, 7 years ago I was in a physically abusive relationship and it totally broke me. I used to have panic attacks in my sleep; not nightmares, I would just wake up with a racing heart and totally freaked out.

5 years ago I moved across the country and completely changed my life. From downtown big city living on track to working 16 hour days at a marketing agency to the Rockies, where I joined the bobsled team, started working on ski races (I didn’t even ski), and I have had countless other amazing opportunities.

The thing is, this whole time I have been smoking weed, and I would smoke chronically when I was rocked emotionally. Instead of dealing with my emotions, I would get high and numb myself out. It worked really well for a long time.

This past June I got to the point where I was not able to go to sleep due to stress at work. I was stringing myself along and putting up a front of happiness and success and smoking a ton of weed to balance out my paralyzing anxiety.

Since September I have stopped smoking weed regularly, and October 1st I decided to go a month sober. So it’s just me, dealing with my real emotions and anxiety. At the same time though, I have built up an incredibly different lifestyle since I first started. I would suggest you consider making similar lifestyle changes BEFORE you go off your medication.

Habits such as:

  • Yoga
  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Hiking (Getting outside in nature reduces stress and anxiety)
  • Seeing a counsellor regularly
  • Spending time with friends/family regularly
  • Fun ass shit that you enjoy and is good for you. This month I went to a pool with waterslides, went for bike rides with friends, went on 3 hikes in one day, started playing dodgeball, went to “Camp Yoga”, got 2 massages…etc.

This month I started a meditation course as well, which I am hoping will be a huge help.

I would suggest that once you get some stable and healthy habits rolling in your life so they feel natural and happen automatically. Sounds like your girlfriend would be a great person to partner with in some of these things. But get these things rolling and then get off the anti-depressants. You will need to build up healthy coping skills anyways, so you might as well do it now while you have the anti-depressants keeping you stable, and then go off of them and you can fall back on the habits you have implemented.

This might not be the way to do it; but I don’t think you can go off of anti-depressants without making additional changes to ensure you will be set up for success and have coping skills to fall back on.

Funny story is that I came on here today to check in because I used to be a regular around here, and I came on tonight to see if I could find an old message where I spoke to someone about my abusive situation.

Anyways, good luck with your situation.


#7

Are you Smiling Politely?


#8

What do you mean with that?


#9

That is the user name of a person that used to post on here.

Posting/writing style kind of reminded me of that but I could be mistaken.


#10

Haha I thought you meant my actual facial expression :smiley:
No, I have always gone by this name on here.


#11

It doesn’t sound stupid at all.

It sounds like you’ve made incredible progress.

As for quitting medications…a lot of chronic-disease medications have nasty side effects and I do wonder how much good they really do (i.e. putting someone on cholesterol-lowering medication that slightly reduces the risk of heart attack while inducing muscle-wasting, that seems like a loss of quality of life for fairly modest benefit).

But in your case, from what you described, it seems that the anti-depressants you are currently on have already given you much more than a modest benefit - they’ve done you a world of good in the here and now, and the potential upside from quitting them would have to be huge to justify doing so.

Maybe a useful thought experiment for you (not one that you have to answer here): what exactly would the possible benefits have to be for you to decide “Yup, it’s worth the risk”?

Best of luck.


#12

@dmoser911 : Thanks for the advice. I would never take this step without discussing it with both my doctor and therapist.

@so_caught_up :

I have found that to be a horrible substitute. It seems to help for a while before it turns completely around and starts to damage you even worse and enforces the symptoms that caused you to turn to drinking in the first place. At least that has been my experience. I can’t speak for weed, as I have never smoked it, but I would imagine it to be similar.

That sounds horrible. Great that you had the strength to turn your life around and quit this relationship!

This is really good advice! Unfortunately I barely have time for activities. I am working 40 hours, studying for my bachelor and working a second job. I end up working about 50+ hours each week, depending if exams are near, even more. Add to this that I can’t afford living where I work, I spend about 3 hours on the road for work alone.
This does not leave a lot of time unfortunately. The only thing that I do consistently is lifting. This is also the only activity I didn’t lose interest in, even when things hit rock bottom.

Other than that I pretty much live from weekend to weekend where I get to see my girlfriend (she is in the navy and because of that she is away all week). This is the time I enjoy most and while we both are exhausted from the week and usually don’t do much apart from spending quality time together, this is were I am refilling my tanks so to speak. I draw a lot of energy from those moments.

She is more than I could ask for. I could not be happier with this relationship. She also is informed about everything that is going on with me. I have been honest about everything from the very beginning. She is supportive beyond what I dared to expect, even though she has a lot of stress and little time herself.
I am aware that she is a big part of why I feel so good these last months.
That said I have had my major progress with depression before I met her. I was already under medication and in therapy and have been far from rock bottom. I was “okay” so to speak - which by the standard of healthy people would be “bad” I guess. Through my relationship with her I got even further to my new best that I am experiencing right now.

Thank you!

@ActivitiesGuy :

I find that most people have no idea what that means and I do not blame them a bit.

I did and talking about it, like in this thread, really helps me to see this more clearly. I have to say I am somewhat proud of myself.

This lead to a question I have passed on to my therapist in today’s session. I asked her if depression is seen as a chronic disease. She did not have a definite answer and said that this is the case for some people while not being true for others.

This raises another question, which was also discussed in today’s session: What exactly does the medication for me? Which part of my progress stems from drugs, which part from changing my life situation, which from self help and which from therapy? The only thing that I am sure I can directly link to medication use is the absence of my nightmares. The rest is not as easy to distribute between the different methods. I am sure that the meds do quite a lot for me but in the end I can’t say for sure. To avoid these nightmares alone might be worth keeping the drugs. The nightmares I am referring to where terrifying and full of nearly surreal violence.

You should give out more advise. Awesome way to put it. I have also discussed this today.

Thanks!

I will add to this thread more in the following days but right now I am pretty much falling asleep in front of my computer.
Thanks to everyone for taking the time!


#13

“I still have bad days and bad weeks. I still can’t really deal with some of my emotions”

Bad days is fine, bad weeks not so much.

For that alone I say would stay on them for a while or try changing up meds. You still have some work to do.

Usually the main negative sides are lower energy levels, drowsy spells and weight gain/slighlty harder to shift fat. -Do you feel you have been affected by any of these?


#14

I agree.

Could you explain what “drowsy spell” means or could you express it differently. Sorry, small language barrier here.

Low energy levels and feeling tired would fit. Then agsin, looking at how my life is structured, this might not be caused by the drugs but just from stress, work load and bad sleep. I can’t know for sure though.

I have always ‘easily’ gained weight if I let my diet slip too much. Then again, I don’t gain an unapropriate amount of weight or fat. I don’t see a correlation between the drugs and my metabolism.

However I have a huge problem with recovering from my workouts. I train for strongman.
My muscle soreness lasts unusually long. At least I guess it is unusual given my training age.
Again, I don’t know if this is caused or influenced by my medication.


#15

From what is seen on the testosterone replacement forum, we do see a lot of depression from hormone problems which can be typical low testosterone and/or low thyroid function. In both cases, we see doctors pushing SSRI’s and Viagra instead of addressing the real issues.

Both low T and low thyroid function have a large number of the same symptoms and weight gain as well.

Further reading:

Please read the stickies found here: About the T Replacement Category

  • advice for new guys
  • things that damage your hormones

#16

Anti depressants is the thing they give to get you quickly out of the office. Garbage medecine.


#17

As to whether it’s worth taking the risk, that’s a really tough call to make.
I’ve been hospitalised three times due to mental health difficulties, and every time was different. It’s really hard to predict what will happen. Personally, I’ve made the decision that I’m going to stay on the meds, because that way I can function in a relatively normal manner and I don’t have to worry so much about the future.
Anti depressants are not ‘garbage medicine’, by the way. They just don’t always work and can vary in effect. Given that these treat an illness that until a few decades ago was basically beyond the capabilities of medicine, I’d say their effectiveness is actually pretty impressive.


#18

I have consulted both my doctor and my therapist and discussed my thoughts on the topic with them.
My therapist has surprisingly little knowledge about anti depressants. Her opinion is to take as little as possible and as much as needed. She couldn’t really tell me what to do (which I didn’t expect anyway).

With my doctor I have discussed the price that come with taking these drugs (negative side effects) and what I could gain from quitting them. He said that they have pretty much no negative side effects for most people beside possible weight gain, low energy… nothing that impedes one’s health itself though. I do not seem to be affected by any of the side effects that we talked about or that are listed on the package insert. Also he didn’t seem to think that I would gain a lot from quitting them: He ensured me that, in his opinion, there is no problem to take this medication over long periods of time as long as it isn’t the only treatment that is used (psychotherapy). He was not too keen about my idea of quitting the medication. He offered me to maybe try a lower dosis but I declined.

Going back to this thought experiment: I do not seem to gain a whole lot by quitting the anti depressants.
On the other hand I do take a big risk and could potentially lose a lot. I admit that I am afraid of going back to where I was and I am willing to do pretty much anything to prevent this from happening.

@Der_Steppenwolfe : Thanks for weighing in! You seem to have been through a lot.

I definitely agree! I don’t know why they would be anyway.

Thanks to everyone who added to this. I am really thankful that you took the time.
My decision stands for now: I will not quit my medication because the possible benefit does not outweigh the possible loss.


#19

Well then your choice seems clear, now doesn’t it.

Two things:

  1. You can read of the plethora of horror stories about people who are suffering, get into recovery (like you have) only to turn around and sabotage themselves. Happens all the damn time based on my readings. Now are these people doing it because they are comfortable in their misery? Have undiagnosed disorders that cause them to do it? Or are they afraid of the hard ass work it is to keep climbing up that hill of recovery?

I don’t know but you asking about quitting, at first, made me think you were doing this, until I got to the quoted part above. Which leads me to:

  1. If I had to guess, I’d say you’re projecting or exhibiting “transference”. (I’m not a professional here so allow me leeway with the vernacular lol). Basically what I mean is you are having a problem with a particular issue, and your old coping mechanisms are in place subconsciously, and you’re projecting that issue onto your meds.

For example: say everything was good with you, except some issue with say your sister. Now assume you’re not dealing with the sister drama like you are all the other issues right now. So your brain is projecting that discomfort and emotional upheaval on other things, as you search for the “cause” and to “fix” things, but are avoiding the root cause of the stressor. SO you’ve picked the medication to nitpick because you’re not going to focus on your sister…

That is all speculation, and I could be 100% wrong. Either way, you’ve got to come to accept you are a broken crayon. You’ll never be anything other than that. The good news is, broken crayons still color, and color just fine man.

You sound like a classic PTSD, and even possibly someone who attracts Narcissistic psychopaths.


#20

@Koestrizer I apologize if you mentioned already, but are you comfortable sharing what family of antidepressant you are taking?
I had huge benefits from switching from the traditionally first prescribed SSRI’s.


#21

I am taking something out of the family of SSRIs. I have done some reading and it seems like it one of the most commonly prescribed anti depressants in Germany.

What exactly did change when you switched the meds? What were your problems with SSRIs?