So, I’m finally going to do it. I’m going to talk to my doctor about tapering down my medication. I’ve been on one antidepressant or another for 11 years. For the last five or so, I’ve been on 225 grams of Effexor. It’s time to taper them down.
Why? For one, I’m just tired of having to take a pill three times a day. 225 grams is also a really high dose, and I don’t need it. I’m not in a stressful environment, I have a strong support system, and I’m an expert at self-care. Also, while Effexor doesn’t have obvious side effects like headaches or brain zaps, I do believe it has a numbing effect on my emotions and sexual drive. I’m trying to connect to my emotions more since I’ve been seeing my spiritual director, and I just feel like the medication is blocking some channels.
I’ve been reading Lost Connections by Johann Hari and it’s blowing my mind. I had no idea how relatively ineffective antidepressants are when it comes to treating depression and anxiety. I’m not saying they’re worthless, they’re just not as effective as Big Pharma would have us believe, and there are other treatments that could be as effective or more effective that aren’t getting researched. It was also really troubling to learn that pharmaceutical companies aren’t required to release all the information they have on their pills, so they only release the most positive. The studies are also known to frequently be biased and funded by the company itself. I feel like I shouldn’t be so surprised. Money drives everything and pharmaceutical companies stand to make billions by hawking their drugs.
It’s time for me to taper down or stop the medication completely. I’m much less worried than I was before, because now I’m not sure how much the drug by itself is responsible for my better mental health. I think back to the worst depression relapses and they all happened in really chaotic times : being in, then ending an emotionally-draining relationship/feeling isolated at a high school where I didn’t fit in/being at a college where I didn’t fit in with very few friends/engaging in a really destructive spiritual environment/switching to a radically-different college/unearthing childhood trauma. Of course I reacted the way I did and a pill wasn’t going to fix everything, even as my doctor raised the dose. Now, I don’t anticipate having the kind of relapses I did before because my environment is so different. My worst fear was going off medication and just completely shattering. That’s not going to happen, because that’s just not how my mind works. The withdrawal won’t be fun, those symptoms usually resemble depression relapses, but once those are over, I don’t see myself emotionally-teleporting back to my 19-year old self.
I’m not saying that I wish I had never started taking antidepressants or that they’re always bad in every case. However, I’m starting to grasp more fully just how little we actually know about depression and anxiety. We’ve been fed this line about how it’s a brain imbalance and if we get the balance of chemicals right, we’ll be fine, but if that was the case, so many people wouldn’t still be depressed. Focusing so much on the biological aspect of depression and anxiety ignores the effect of our environment, social lives, family, work, etc. It’s been weird to read Lost Connections and experience so many “duh” moments simultaneously with “whaaat” moments.
I see my doctor next week. I have no idea what she’s going to say (this is also my first time seeing her, so she might not be as gung-ho about tapering down as I am), but I’m going to stand my ground. I know me better than anyone, I know that it’s time. I’m basically just asking her to write a new prescription if necessary and what kind of reduction schedule I need to follow to prevent withdrawal as much as possible. It will be really nice to not have to set so many alarms and always carry pill supplies around everywhere.