Quitting Paxil

In July of last year I started anti-depression medication.  My doctor felt that my anxiety attacks were a form of postpartum depression manifesting itself. After all, it had been a traumatic birthing and postpartum experience and my mind was still reeling from it. That, coupled with the ridiculous hormonal upheaval, it was perfectly understandable for me to ‘not be myself’. She put me on 10 mg of Paxil, the lowest prescribed dose, because it was compatible with breastfeeding. The parents and I intended to pump and ship milk for a full year, so it was important that I still be able to do that. But, my doctor did feel that it was hormonal and did not like the idea of me being on the drug for an extended amount of time.
“After you are done pumping and your hormones level out, we can discuss weaning.”

I pumped for the full year and took the Paxil for the six months. Life was fine. Exactly three weeks after weaning from the pump I got my first period. I continued to take the drug for the next month, but decided that it is now time to stop it. My dosage has been cut in half, and since I had been on such a low dose for a short time, she suggested three weeks at the 5mg, then stopping entirely.  Sounded good to me.

It sounded good until the withdrawal symptoms kicked in. I naively assumed that I could quit a low dose pain-free. Boy was I wrong! It has been one week at 5mg and I am suffering from some of the worst side effects. Brain zaps and diarrhea seem to be the worst, but there’s also the extreme dizziness, nausea, lack of focus, stomach pain, joint pain, and general tiredness.  Running is almost impossible because movement in general brings on such a strong force of dizziness that I’m afraid I’ll fall. (I’ve only fallen once, but that was from standing up too fast!) I feel like I’m trying to walk under water or I’m drunk nearly all the time. I tried running some hill repeats on Saturday, but was so afraid of falling and being hit by a car, I gave up and just went home. I plugged away at a long run on Sunday, but at a snail’s pace, and I took a friend along with me just in case.

The way the drug has been messing with me these past 7 days has made me want to get off it even more. I crave it now. And some little voice in the back of my head keeps trying to tell me that quitting will be too hard, too painful.
“Just stay on it for now, Mazy.”
“It’s only 10 mg. That’s not a lot. It’s okay to keep taking it because it’s not a lot.”
“You can’t quit. It will mess up your running. You’ll lose all your training! Just take it through this next marathon.”
“You can’t handle the pressure of training without it. You can’t ever BQ without it. You won’t be able to handle the crowds without it. You can’t run without Paxil.”

I know all of these things are false, and I am shutting them out. In fact, this coming marathon now has a whole new purpose for me. I will run just fine without Paxil. In fact, I will PR without it. I’m strong enough to run well. I will also overcome both the anxiety and the addiction, because that’s how badass I am. Last year’s marathon was about battling my body’s shortcomings, this year’s marathon will be about battling my mind’s. If I can put my body back together and run some of the best races of my life, then I know I have the strength and power to do the same with my mind.

So, aside from trying to keep as positive as I can, I have found a few other tricks that seem to help cut down on the withdrawal symptoms:

1. NO alcohol. I don’t drink a lot, maybe one or two a week, but I’ve found that even the smallest amount of alcohol exacerbates the symptoms.
2. Stay hydrated. I’m drinking extra water which calms the headaches and dizziness.
3. Tea. I have found that lavender and ginger teas are especially soothing.
4. Keep a schedule. I can easily get wrapped up in my own discomfort and end up wasting the whole day because I don’t feel well and it just seems too hard to do anything. Planning out the day ahead helps keep me distracted from the discomfort and focused on what needs to get done. This morning I wrote out how my day needed to go (1. Kids on bus/Go for easy run 2. Feed animals/clean kitchen 3. Load of laundry 4. Write until 2:30pm 5. Kids home/prepare dinner).
5. Tell people. I’ve told my family and close friends that I’m coming off of Paxil and I am okay with asking them for help when I need it.

One week down, two more to go!



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