Withdrawal: finding the brighter light at the end of the anti-depressant tunnel

SRN comment: This story references withdrawal from psychiatric medication. Any decision to come off psychiatric medication should be made after seeking advice and information from a trusted source.

Surviving withdrawal

I have been on antidepressants since I was initially diagnosed with anorexia in 2006. The worst thing that ever happened was my psychiatrist choosing to prescribe me Venlafaxine. I say the worst thing now, but at the time it definitely saved my life.

Having moved to another country in 2008, not long out of hospital, I never took the steps to come off the drug. I live somewhere where mental illness is not something people are very aware off and where doctors are happy to continue to prescribe you pills without recommending any other course of action. This resulted in my continuing with Venlafaxine for the next six years continually, blissfully numb and ignorant to the long-term effects of being on such drugs. It was only when one doctor informed me that I couldn't be pregnant on the drug that I decided I had to start to think about coming off it. Its not that I want to get pregnant right now, but I do at some point. And I am sure I am not alone in worrying about how easily falling pregnant will be having put my body through so much in the past.

It took me until August this year to finally find the courage to go through with my withdrawal of Venlafaxine and I think its important for me to share that with fellow sufferers and those in recovery because there are some absolute horror stories attached to coming off this drug. Indeed, these horror stories stopped me from even trying for so long.

And I am not here to say I feel amazing and this is easy. But its possible. And having gone through recovery and come out the other side, coming off anti-depressants really feels like the last step in getting my life back. Withdrawal must always be done carefully and with medical advise, and there will be tough times through it. But it lifts a cloud, the first day I had without a tablet was one of the most colourful of my life since before I can remember. My sense were heightened, I felt emotion like I had never felt before and...yes, this is all very cheesy...life just felt brighter.

Nausea, headaches, vertigo, sickness, extreme tiredness...they were all there. And in bulk on some days. I even had a good cry on many an occasion. But I am in the final week of my withdrawal and it is one of the most exciting feelings on earth. To finally know that I am in control. 100%. I am the one who has to understand and rationalise my emotions, good and bad, not some dose of drug that falsely does it for me.

I would urge anyone thinking about coming off their anti depressants to do so with confidence. I have spoken to a few people who have come of Venlafaxine specifically in the past and worried about it. Please know that the light at the end of tunnel is so much brighter than it can ever be when you are on these drugs. Like every step of recovery, it is truly worth the fight.

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