Cold Turkey and Reality

Cold Turkey and Reality

I was on both anti-anxiety meds and SSRI's for several years (for anxiety and depression) and if you want to get off of them—I can confirm—you need a SLOW TAPER. The difference between discontinuing "cold turkey" and "tapering off slowly" is a reduction of UNPLEASANT feelings. It's also common sense. Doctors do not like to talk about slow tapers or withdrawal effects (perhaps because they are not consumers of the drugs themselves) or perhaps because it complicates matters and they're already burnt-out. Because words are important, the pharmaceutical industry has attempted to rename the term "withdrawal effects" to "discontinuation syndrome" but we're not stupid.

Withdrawal effects are nothing more than a set of symptoms (i.e. flu-like symptoms, irritability, insomnia, anger, mania, etc.) occurring for days, weeks, or months after discontinuation or dosage reduction of certain types of substances (caffeine, alcohol, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, anxiolytics, cannabis, nicotine, opioids, etc.). Further confusing us, some of these withdrawal effects do not appear until 2-4 days following discontinuation or reduction (the "biological half-life"). Valium, for example, has a half-life that ranges from 40-100 hours. When patients interrupt or reduce psychiatric drugs they need to remember that the horrible feelings they are experiencing is NOT THEM—IT'S THE MEDICATIONS. It's not unusual for psychiatrists to confuse withdrawal symptoms with the "chemical imbalance hypothesis." ANYTHING that happens to you is part of your brain disorder (no one else's!). There is a strong need for doctors to learn critical thinking skills—but that is for another story.

There is good news, however! These horrible feelings (withdrawal effects) are TEMPORARY, depending on the length of time you've been taking the medication. After several years of taking Klonopin (an anxiolytic) and successfully weaning myself off of it VERY SLOWLY, it took my brain about six months to get back to normal (including a period of "brain zaps"). So be patient—and also ask your loved ones (that may be witnessing your "withdrawal mood swings") to be PATIENT. Educate them about the "withdrawal effects." Knowledge and awareness produces empathy in humans. You'll be fine and you'll feel 100X better afterwards! Klonopin was making me more dazed and unable to think clearly year after year... I was scatter-brain city!

Here is proof that not all brain disorders are permanent. Six years ago, I was suffering from panic attacks (panic disorder). A sudden feeling of acute and disabling anxiety. I felt like I couldn't breathe, heart palpitations, dizziness, nausea—a strong urge to escape and flee the place where my attack began. I even went to the emergency room once! It was no coincidence that during this time, I was being written up for poor job performance (after eight years at the same company). I couldn't work, so I went on disability (dare I say stress leave?), was terminated, and my panic disorder stopped. No recurrence. Proof positive that some brain disorders are not permanent—and in fact, completely reversible. There is another cause for brain disorders...

Here is what doctors, politicians, law-makers, and the billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry does not want you to know: NEGATIVE EXPERIENCES, an overall DISSATISFACTION IN LIFE, and an INABILITY TO CHANGE YOUR SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES are all CHIEF CAUSES of your "anxiety" and "clinical depression." Therein lies the problem. No pill (not even a placebo) will fix these three things.

For example, quitting your dreaded meaningless job (and unfair boss) will cost you severe financial hardship—or perhaps a burden to others. So anger, anxiety, and depression are a completely NORMAL reaction to your life's events (the difficult-to-change REALITY). It includes sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, guilt, irritability, shame, restlessness, hurting yourself—you name it!

Popping an anti-depressant drug is no different than over-eating or drinking alcohol. They are negative coping mechanisms that may or may not hurt your biological self (i.e. the jury is still out if psychiatric drugs cause permanent injury to brain structures). Coping mechanisms are similar to defense mechanisms, such as "denial," that protects us from confronting our gloomy reality, our weaknesses and our imperfections.

CONTRASTING ALL OF THIS is a POSITIVE coping mechanism: CONFRONTING and ACCEPTING reality. Being honest with yourself, being honest about your feelings, being honest about your negative experiences (past and present), and doing two important things:

1) If you have steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success (unfortunately, not all of us do for various reasons—usually it's our lack of knowledge and skills), pro-actively make an attempt or effort to change your reality (particularly the unpleasant realities). Give it all you've got!! Your objective here is to create a thriving, flourishing, prosperous reality for yourself! A reality where living within your optimal range of functioning produces EASE in your situation, body and mind. And I'm going to add one more thing: Support laws that make life easier for all of us because when your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, your daughter, your son, your close friends, suffer—you suffer too! (Well, unless you lack empathy). WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!!

2) This is the most difficult part—the one that makes us revert to drinking, over-eating, popping pills, etc... IF you cannot change your reality, you have to ACCEPT it. Why? Because perhaps that job you were qualified for and applied to, you were denied, because of favoritism, cronyism, nepotism, or connections. Promotions are not always based on excellence and worth. Being born privileged, you're within the sphere of influence (like the black hole at the center of our galaxy). Remember, "we can't always get what we want" and "Nobody is perfect."

To put everything into perspective, as a human being, here are your needs: Air, water, food, clothing, and shelter; love and affection; a sense of belonging; self-esteem and self-respect; self-compassion; and self-actualization (the realization and fulfillment of your talents and potentialities). Sex is nice as well. ;)

(This was my comment/response to "Five Reasons Not to Take SSRIs" by Lennard J Davis per Psychology Today)

4 Replies

  • I really like this. Thanks for posting. Gemma x

  • Hi I do understand what you are saying but it's much easier to change your life when you are young enough to do it. Eg I am much too old now to have children, or to have that good career and so on. x

  • Very thought provoking.

    You can only start climbing out of the pit if you are on the first rung of the ladder though.

    A proactive approach requires energy. And the tiniest of lights in the dark.

    May we all see the stars in the darkness.

    Your post could be the being of light. Thanks for posting.

  • The take-home message is—don't take SSRI's if you have normal, mild, or routine depression. It's a waste of money, and the drugs have serious side-effects including loss of sexual drive.

    This is the nugget in that piece. Problem is.

    And here I will duck in coming missiles.

    We are lead to believe that there is a pill for every ill.

    They are only one tool in our kit.