"Mankind has survived all kinds of catastrophes. It will also survive modern medicine." ~ Gerhard Kocher (Swiss Political Scientist, Economist)
Funny how we continue to do or use things well after they have proved to be unhelpful. Whether related to a relationship, a thought process, a habit, a way of functioning....it's all very similar. I was placed on Wellbutrin years ago to help manage some pretty intense feelings of depression I was experiencing. Although it - at times - helped bring the depression from completely unbearable to a constant undercurrent, it never brought it to a functional place. Perhaps that was an unrealistic expectation. Regardless, since finding alternative medicinal practices and eliminating things that were contributing significantly to my feelings of depression, I finally overcame my fear of stopping my prescribed medications. Currently, I am still having benefits from a small dose of anti-anxiety medication (which I have also reduced by half since January) but a month ago I stopped taking Wellbutrin. All I can say is, what a wild trip that was.
As someone who has kicked a variety of substances over the years, I can honestly say that getting off Wellbutrin was one of the more intense experiences I've had doing so. Wellbutrin does not come in a dose smaller than 150mg; therefore, gradually reducing the dose is somewhat complicated. After consulting with both my family doctor and naturopath, the best suggestion provided was weaning off it by taking it one day and not the next for a period of time, then moving to skipping two days in a row, to three, etc. I was told that this would produce a very bumpy withdrawal from the medication, as the withdrawal symptoms are fairly acute with this particular medication. Cutting the medication into smaller doses was also complicated as doing so shifts the medication from being slow release to quick release and would require me to take pieces of the pill throughout the day. In knowing myself and how hard it is to remember to take my vitamins/supplements everyday, I knew this wasn't a realistic option. My decision: just stop taking the damn stuff and ride it out, which is what I did on February 26, 2012.
I'm only starting to feel "normal" now (four weeks after stopping the med) and this feeling of normalcy is greatly assisted by taking 200mg of a natural serotonin booster called 5-HTP everyday. I doubt I'd be feeling okay without it at this point. Just like when a person takes steroids and the body stops naturally producing testosterone as it gets used to the synthetic kind, my brain stopped producing it's own serotonin a long time ago, leaving me in a state of complete serotonin depletion when I stopped the Wellbutrin. The withdrawal symptoms associated to stopping this medication are very real and intensive and imaginably were so difficult for me due to the length of time I was taking it. The most prominent features of my withdrawal included serious feelings of agitation and anxiety, coupled with insomnia, excessive bouts of crying/weeping and GI problems. My belly was a very unhappy place and my appetite disappeared while dealing with the nausea and tummy cramps. One day in particular, in a seven hour period at my place of employment, I cried four times with little provocation. Then I came home and cried some more. That happened repeatedly and made me look like a lunatic to those who had no idea what I was experiencing. I was often heard saying things like, I just want to run someone over with my car or I want to bash so-and-so's head in, which is quite unlike me. I was a mess....and not the hot-kind.
I have weathered the storm, however, and the sun is starting to peak through the clouds again. I am working diligently with my naturopath and osteopath to maintain balance in my life and that is a great support. I am exercising as regularly as I can manage and I view this activity level as part of my new "medication regime" when stopping my prescribed one. I need all the help I can get. My goal is to be off all of my medication prior to departing for Africa (136 days) but if along the way it becomes clear that this is an unrealistic goal, I will be okay with that. The thought of being free from the things that keep me tethered to dependency or reliance on anything but myself is liberating. I want to know that should I ever be stranded on a desert island that does not have a pharmacy, pot plant, liquor store, or cigarette factory near by that I will not cease to exist. This is the overarching goal behind all of this forward movement and change. I have a long way to go, particularly in relation to that cigarette factory. Hot damn, I'm smoking a lot and I hate it. Once I have achieved greater stabilization, the cigarette smoking is the next thing my naturopath and I will be working on. We suspect that the use of hypnosis and acupuncture will greatly assist this process, along with homeopathy, determination and support. Stay tuned for that one.