Yesterday I forgot to take my meds. So what better time to explain what antidepressant withdrawal symptoms are?

My intention here is to provide a personal, anecdotal record of the experience of missing a dose of an antidepressant. If reading this brings up questions you want me to address in follow-up posts, please comment! This is a big topic!

First, the medicine. I’ve been taking 112.5 of Effexor XR, a SNRI, for two years. SNRI means it is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are SSRIs, (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) like Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft. Paxil, which is what I was first prescribed, was not the drug for me, giving me night terrors and shooting my weight up 30lb – not a thing that makes your doctor happy when you’re already “morbidly” obese. I eventually took myself off the drug – do not do this, it was the worst idea – because I was so numb and miserable. I don’t remember a lot of that time, but I do know that without my husband I would’ve been lost. He paid a lot of money to get me to a doctor and on better drugs. Every time I think, hey, maybe I would be okay without the meds, maybe I just need vitamins, exercise, to try harder… he shakes his head, tells me the difference is “like night and day.”

I usually take my medicine at 10 am. I realized my mistake in the early evening, but didn’t feel any effects until after 10 pm – thirty-six hours after my last dose. Sometimes I won’t realize I missed my medicine until I experience what I referred to yesterday as “brain zaps.” This is the sensation, for me, of an electric current being suddenly forced through my head, from one temple to the other, across my eyes. It’s not painful, but it is uncomfortable. To the uninitiated, it can be pretty scary. When it happens to me, I feel as though my eyes dart from side to side 5-6 times in a second. I can’t ever see it, of course, but this is the sensation.

I posted yesterday’s blog and was in bed around midnight. I don’t remember having particularly vivid dreams or nightmares this time, but this is a very common symptom for me, and my husband informed me this morning that I was whimpering in my sleep. It was difficult to get out of bed; my body seemed to be on fire. Every joint I possess ached, snapped and whined while I struggled to anchor myself in reality. Jean-Marc was instrumental in this, laying his arm over me, providing a physical anchor, and saying, “You’re in bed with me, it’s morning.”

Getting up, sitting up in bed, meant it was time for my least two favorite withdrawal symptoms! Dizziness! Brain fog! I couldn’t remember if we had eaten dinner last night, or what antidepressant withdrawal was called. I knew it was a phrase, but the words just slipped from my grasp. I needed help feeding the cat, because bending over sent me into vertigo.

8:15 am: Excedrin and Effexor, 400 ml water.

8:48 am: Moving my head too suddenly sends pulses of (painless) electricity through my skull. Closing my eyes produces the same sensation. Spelling errors are still rampant, but my brain is feeling clearer – this is the caffeine from the Excedrin. I know from my previous mistakes that caffeine helps me immensely when it comes to withdrawal symptoms.

10 am: Feeling damn near normal. Still a bit dizzy if I move too fast.

11 am: Normal, if exhausted. Feel like I might get restful sleep if I took a nap now. Phew! Made it!