The Pain of Paxil

Sugar Maple

I began weaning myself off of Paxil in June, 2011. I had this sense that my life had been put on hold for more than 10 years, and I wanted to start feeling again. It seemed like I hadn’t been myself for a long time. It was very hard to define exactly what the differences were, but I knew that I was not as connected to the things that I enjoy in life anymore. I began by consulting my doctor about a reduction schedule. He advised me to reduce my Paxil dosage at a steady rate over the next two months until I was not taking the drug anymore. I decided to double his schedule and aimed to be Paxil free by November, 2011. I cut my 40mg pills into smaller and smaller doses, starting with 30mg, then 25, then 20, then 15, then 10. Finally, I was taking 2.5 mg/day until I took my last dose on November 14, 2011. September and October were very challenging months for me. I lost a lot of weight, I experienced severe anxiety and anger. My emotions were a bit beyond my control at times. My doctor thought that it was the re emergence of a pre existing problem. I was originally diagnosed with situational and social anxiety. Both of those conditions were very mild compared to the problems that I was having while stopping my Paxil usage, though.

I eventually made it through the bad times and was able to see what I was like without Paxil. November and December were much better months for me. I still had withdrawal symptoms, but my mind and my mood were much clearer. I started to write short stories and blog posts more often, I read a great deal more than I had in years. I went back to my old office and the people there were amazed at the difference that they saw in me, the way I talked, the way I carried myself. I had completely transformed in their eyes back to the way they remembered me from 12 years ago. It was a profound experience for me, seeing myself through their eyes. I began to see what effect Paxil had on my mind, and how it had changed my personality. I had been taking my life and career for granted far too much in the past decade. I thought that my apathy was a result of an internal failing. I never realized that Paxil was suppressing so much of my mental strength that things like work or relationships didn’t matter to me, anymore.

About two months after my last pill, I entered a severe withdrawal period. In the middle of January, I found myself lying on the living room floor, curled in a ball, racked with anguish. I envied those that had the strength to kill themselves. Suicide had never been an issue for me, I had never thought about it until I tried to stop taking Paxil. As I said, I have social anxiety. I am a very shy person who feels uncomfortable in crowds or when dealing with interpersonal situations. I started taking 10mg/day of Paxil again January 18, 2012, and those symptoms largely disappeared. I’ve found that I have a very foggy head, though. It’s very difficult for me to concentrate on anything for extended periods, and I have again been cut off from my emotions. My cat died a few days after I reinstated my Paxil usage, and I still have not grieved for her. I now know that Paxil is suppressing those emotions. They are still there, but I am not dealing with them in a healthy way. Instead of experiencing grief and loss, the drug is pushing all that away from my conscious mind. The feelings are still there, but hidden from me. I’ve found that I can’t write creatively, either. I’ve tried to sustain a story idea, but the continuity is missing. The creative force is gone. I’ve always been a slow, deliberate writer, but now the ideas just refuse to form in my mind. I can almost feel a physical barrier between myself and my creativity.

I took this drug not knowing the nature or strength of the effects. I went to my doctor, told him that I feel anxious in social situations, he prescribed Paxil, and I started taking it. I had great trust in the medical profession and the solutions that modern chemistry could provide. Now that I’m looking back on my Paxil experience, especially after the short period that I was Paxil free, I want nothing more than to stop taking this drug. I know that the underlying issues will still be there, but they are mild compared to the profound effects that Paxil has on my mental processes. I need to be patient with the process, though. I know that my crash and relapse into Paxil use was caused by weaning myself off of it too quickly. My current schedule extends into the first part of 2013, which seems like a long time, too long. It must be that way, though, or I will find myself relapsing again. I say relapse because I’ve come to think of this drug as equivalent to any other narcotic that causes dependence. The only difference between Paxil and a street drug is that it has been approved by the FDA for prescription use. It’s just as powerful and addictive as any street drug, and has an equal capacity to ruin the user’s life. It should be used as a last resort to treat severe mental issues. Instead, the Pharmaceutical companies market these drugs in a reckless, casual way. Television is filled with advertisements for drugs to treat an ever widening range of symptoms. Instead of developing more refined treatments for problems, the emphasis has been on wider applications and acceptance of these powerful psychotropic drugs. Most likely, there will come a time when there is a national crisis fueled by a celebrity death that will focus our attention on the harm that these drugs are doing to our society. Suppressing a population’s mental strength through the use of drugs is a dystopian idea that I thought could only exist in fiction. Instead, we live with it every day, and don’t seem to care. It’s just another effect that the drug has on us.

7 Responses to “The Pain of Paxil”

  1. xpeanut Says:

    Interesting… I have some thougths myself on Paxil w/d… I believe in my heart that the very slow, prolonged w/d allows the person to learn how to manage their emotions… a part of the healing process.. I did a taper.. then a CT… and it was nothing short of brutual… my health had declined.. and my life was at risk.. not because of the actual w/d.. but because the Paxil had made my health so poor during my decade long usage.

    I am 8 months post paxil… trying to actually figure out what I am feeling.. working with a therapist because.. I have forgotten what anger and some of the other emotions… truly are… my brain does not know them…

  2. xpeanut Says:

    I guess.. I would like to add… that it is NOT the slow tapering that “heals” a person in entirety it is just a small part of the process…. please believe me… it is that the person concentrates so much on the w/d process.. that while they are doing that – they are also taking inventory of themselves.. I am NOT advocating CT… but… reinstatement does NOT>>> this type of therapy will teach you how to set up boundaries – that help you feel safe, to handle anxiety… to handle PTSD from the w/d… it is not talk therapy.. it is effective..

    I am Ok… 8 months past Paxil… yes, I am still sorting thru what my emotions are… but my physical health is no longer at risk.. I experience joy.. and happiness… and… it was worth the pain of the CT… over a decade of emotions rushed at me… something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.. the pain of the deaths of my parents… my friends… my pets… I will never trust another psych dr.. in my lifetime..nor will anyone that watched and helped with my w/d…

    I wish you the best… you have alot of very hard work in front of you… please.. try the Somatics work…

  3. npanth Says:

    Thanks, I’ve made a great deal of progress in the past few months. Withdrawal has been one of the most challenging things I’ve tried to do. It’s been a very nuanced experience, too. I’ve gotten much better at distinguishing between drug effects and normal emotions, both of which were being suppressed by Paxil. I agree that it is a long, twisting road, but I feel that it’s well worth it.

  4. xpeanut Says:

    I am back – a tad more rested.. so perhaps my spelling will be better.

    W/D has been the most challenging thing I have done in my lifetime – how about that? And I have had a very long lifetime. And I am one tough cookie. You will make it thru w/d and you will succeed – believe me.

    I am extremely proud that I made it thru w/d – that I did not listen to my former psych dr – that I would need it forever – I will never forget him saying to me that “paxil did not do this to me”. Well, I wonder what did then? He was talking about the w/d, oppppppppssss… the “no w/d”… as he stated that there wasn’t any. I had gone to see him in the very midst of w/d.

    I am so very thankful that I did not reinstate on Paxil – that would not have been the correct decision for me. Everyone is different – please remember that when going out to the different boards supporting Paxil w/d – your “story” is different from the next persons.. so do what is right for you. That is so very important. Please remember to not get “stuck” on other people’s stories, their w/d process – stay centered on you.

    You can move on with your life.

    Please look into Somatics therapy – it is an interactive therapy that will help you cope with what made you go on paxil in the first place.
    Wishing you blessings in life.

  5. Amanda Says:

    Hello,

    I’m writing from the Dr. Oz Show – would love to discuss an upcoming segment with you!

    Thanks,
    Amanda
    arocco@zoco.com

  6. snowishtar Says:

    Your words spoke my mind. I was on Effexor and as I weaned off I was scary irritated angry and wishing for death. While on it I had no sense of consequence. I could spend money as if I was on a crazy binge.
    After a slow weaning period I am off. But I still get rattled easily; hate people. It takes 2 days to recover from one day trying to be normal. I will never use it again. I am still looking for my willpower.
    This blog helped to understand the anger and irritation. I never related those to the meds.


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