While the word ‘wean’ probably conjures up images related to kidlets; weaning off the boob, bottle, dummy (two of which we’ve managed without bloodshed in this house.. the third might take some doing I think), I’m talking about my own personal wean. A few months ago I began the gradual process of weaning of my antidepressant medication. There were a few reasons for this, the primary of which I’ll discuss in a future post.
I started back on medication when my son was about four months old. I was prompted to do so when my OCD became more than just white noise in the back of my head. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that I was a bit of a mess. I was consumed by the intrusive thoughts that posed as the calling card for my particular form of OCD and was struggling to remain afloat (you can read about my experiences HERE). I initially returned to my old pal Cipramil but when I found that it no longer worked effectively, moved to Zoloft. She worked for awhile but I felt as though my symptoms were not being kept as under control as I’d like for the dosage I was taking so I moved for the third time to a little pill called Lexapro.
Lexapro and I have been in a committed relationship up until a few months ago when, under medical guidance, I started the weaning process. This isn’t my first experience of bidding adieu to medication. I’ve done it successfully twice before and while I know the in’s and out’s of the process, was still careful to consult my psychiatrist and psychologist to determine the most effective way of doing so. Both felt that I was ready to step back from medication for the time being and were supportive of the process. And so it begun.
I was initially on 20mg of Lexapro every morning. What I think (?) is a pretty standard dose. I decreased this down to 15mg for a few weeks, then down to 10mg for another few weeks, then, you guessed it, down to 5mg then 5mg every second day. I really let my mind determine much of the process. It was gentle and slow. When I found that cutting down to 10mg left me feeling weird, I went back up to 15mg for a week or so then substituted 15mg and 10mg on alternate days before eventually remaining on 10mg for a considerable period. I’ve been careful to check in with myself along the way to see how I’m handling it all. ‘Checking in with yourself’ sounds like a weird thing to do but I often find that with the day to day dealings of being a mum, wife, writer and everything else, I tend to brush a lot of what I’m feeling aside to deal with later. Sometimes I don’t have the brain space to dwell on a particular emotion when it strikes and it can be useful to check back in with it later, when I’ve got a bit of room to breathe and examine what’s going on properly.
Today is my second day of 0 mg. I am officially medication free. While I guess you could say that this is an achievement, I’ve never found taking medication to be something to be ashamed or reticent about. I am more proud of the intensive work I’ve done with my amazing psychologist and the way that it’s radically helped me to deal with my initial issues, namely the intrusive thought patterns and crippling anxiety and self doubt that stemmed from thinking in a disordered way for an extended period of time.
Tonight I am feeling proud of how far I’ve come but I’m also scared. Scared of being off the amazing little pill that helped me to feel better and actually enjoy being a mother. I have never parented and felt good about it without the help of an SSRI. I’m not sure how it feels to be a happy, medication free mum. Sure, I had moments of pure, intense joy in my sons first few months but they were tempered by everything else going on. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling edgy and apprehensive. ‘What if this is a big mistake?’ is running through my head on a bit of a loop at the moment, followed closely by the gut wrenching; ‘Can I be a good mother without my meds?’
The hardest thing I think it determining whether what I am feeling and thinking is due to the last traces of the medication leaving my system, the actual LACK of medication and its impact on my brain or a mix of internal, hormonal stuff and external life stresses. Am I feeling a bit crap because of the lack of medication or despite it?
All this stuff has been going around in my head in a fast and furious loop this evening and, apart from hitting the keyboard and smashing out a post, I’ve reminded myself to take a deep breath and, just like with the wean itself, be gentle and slow. I think I need to give myself some space to ride out the next few days, realising that while it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that I need to return to my meds, there’s every chance I do not.
I’m reminding myself that sometimes life throws a few spanners at you and they may make you feel less than peachy. I recently went from having a bunch of freelance projects on the go to nada, zip, zilch. For a freelancer, no work means no money and not earning any money is not my favourite thing. I don’t like not contributing financially to our household and spend a lot of time worrying about how everything will pan out and if I’ll have to turn to busking on a street corner in Thirroul to pay for groceries (kidding.. at this stage). I haven’t been well, physically, which has taken a bit of a toll on my energy and motivation levels and I’ve been struggling with some defiant toddler behaviours which I haven’t dealt with before. None of these things has anything to do with medication and everything to do with state of mind. Dealing with them without the safety net of my meds is a bit daunting though.
I guess that’s one of the reasons I firmly believe that medication use should always be partnered with some kind of therapy. While I no longer have a top of of serotonin balancing chemicals, I do have the strategies I learnt through months and months of therapy. These strategies are primarily helping me to remember to not look too deeply and try and fabricate an explanation and to not always believe the thoughts running through my head.
I’m going to see what the next few days bring. Should I feel like I need to return to taking medication, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. While ideally, I want to be clear for the next period of time, it won’t be at the price of my happiness or relationship with my beautiful boy.
So that’s where I’m at at the moment! I’d love to hear from you if you’ve had a similar experience, weaning off medication. Please feel free to share in the comments!