I’m officially off my meds! I hope this is the last post about the struggles I’ve been having this year. Even before all the crazy Covid-19 stuff, I knew the first half of 2020 was going to be rough for me personally. I knew it would be a good six months that I’d have to sacrifice dealing with health issues.
Sacrifice isn’t really the right word though. Life has continued through all of it.
Way back in December of 2019 I began the long process of weaning off of Xanax which I took for anxiety and other health issues for at least 20 years. I did well on it for most of those years and I don’t regret taking it.
But as I’ve aged, the anxiety levels have decreased for probably physiological reasons and also because I’ve learned how to cope. Basically, I knew I didn’t need Xanax anymore and it was causing me to be very dopey. Mornings were about impossible as I couldn’t stay awake or function.
I also got a new doctor in December since my old one retired. Many doctors don’t like prescribing Xanax and I knew it was likely she would want me off of it. She didn’t threaten to cut me off but asked that I try to stop. Luckily, I was ready to be done with it and began to long process.
Writing about this subject it’s hard not to feel like, well, a loser. Who wants to admit they’re hooked on drugs, legal or not, or alcohol or whatever? It feels like I’m admitting to a major personality flaw or weakness. Lord knows I have my flaws but I don’t feel guilt for needing a medication. I’m happy to write about if it helps anyone.
It’s common. It happens. Most people just don’t talk about it.
Mostly, I just want to make the point that the road to quitting Xanax has been long and it hasn’t been easy. It still isn’t. I’m still experiencing the physical symptoms of withdrawal – not on an everyday basis but some days are still rough.
I still have ringing my ears, dizzy spells, nausea, muscle pain, forgetfulness, and vision problems but I’m not sure how many of those symptoms are from the effects of taking Xanax longterm, or how many can be attributed to the medication I was prescribed to help me get off of Xanax.
My doctor prescribed amitriptyline to help me sleep because that is the symptom that will derail most people trying to wean off of Xanax. Lying awake at 2am, anxious, tossing and turning, and basically feeling like death is imminent is very hard to overcome. Most, if not all, will cave in and take another pill just to gain some peace and some badly needed sleep.
The amitriptyline worked and I was able to sleep but it also had symptoms that were undesirable. Hormonal hot flashes (as if I needed more), weight gain, nausea, headaches, and interdosal withdrawal symptoms have been a part of my daily routine for several months. It’s been a hoot!
Actually, it’s sucked. I’d love to convey the experience more poetically but the process has been messy.
During the early weeks and months of weaning off of Xanax I behaved like the typical addicted drug user. I slept a lot. I ate badly. The house got really messy. I had pill bottles littering my nightstand. I looked and felt like crap.
Very early on as I decreased the Xanax I had these moments of great clarity and hope. It was as if the fog had lifted and I could see and hear more clearly – literally. Those moments were very few and they completely disappeared as I went along.
There were long stretches when I wondered if it was worth it. It sure didn’t feel like it. But I felt compelled to go on and I believed I could get through it. I’m not sure why because I felt horrible but I still believed.
And here I am on the other side. No, life hasn’t magically become wondrous. I haven’t won the Lotto, lost 20 pounds, reversed my age by two decades, or become a huge success at anything. Life is still life but it does feel great to be free from the pills.
I’m happy to report that I’m not taking any medication right now. I quit the amitriptyline cold turkey. I had had enough of it and while it’s not advised to quit suddenly, especially if you have depression which thankfully I don’t have, it’s not nearly as dangerous to quit as Xanax.
Stopping Xanax too quickly can be deadly. Stopping amitriptyline might make you feel like you’re dying but the withdrawal process isn’t nearly as long or risky for most.
Of course, I also want to stress that you need work with your doctor if you’re going through the same thing. Learn as much as you can and be aware of your symptoms. My experience is unique to me and you might have a totally different journey. This is just my story and not a how-to guide. Please get the help you need.
Hopefully, in another few weeks the withdrawal symptoms of the amitriptyline will be over. Right now, I don’t really know who I’ll be or how I’ll feel symptom free.
I’m also hoping that in the coming months I’ll regain my thought process a little better. My writing has been horrendous this year for obvious reasons. My mind has been through a war but I won the war and that’s what matters.
UPDATE: I just wanted to update that after I wrote this I’m doing much better mentally and physically. It is so wonderful not to have experience the interdosal withdrawal from the amitriptyline on a daily basis. I’m no longer having the ridiculous hot flashes, brains zaps, and/or nausea when the effectiveness wore off.
I went through interdosal withdrawal with the xanax on a daily basis for decades. I can’t believe I have any amount of my mind left.
I feel stable, almost like a stable genius. 🙂
The long lasting symptoms of benzo withdrawal have pretty much stopped. The effort to get off of both medications was completely worth it. If you’re going through the hard part now I wish you the best. Hang in there.