I’m now 5 weeks off meds and more importantly, doing really well. It hasn’t been easy though, not by a long shot. Despite a long, slow, very measured taper, the final leap from bare minimum amount of prozac to none at all wasn’t without its challenges. Thankfully, the head zaps didn’t happen this time, but the fluctuating mood most definitely did. I can see why this would often be interpreted as a relapse of ‘illness’, because at times it was overwhelming. It was bad enough on occasion that I was prepared to believe a lifetime on a drug I do not need was preferable to a few more weeks of enduring withdrawal and giving my brain a chance to adjust.
Of course, circumstances were slightly against me too. I have a lot on, as do we all, and I tend to be at my most reactive (read volatile) when I feel under pressure. I’ve felt under pressure a lot this last few weeks, and managing my reaction to that has been my biggest challenge. My tendency of old would be to push on, keep going, multitask as necessary, forgo breaks etc etc, and there was a bit of that going on. Here’s a shocker – IT DOES NOT WORK!
Despite knowing that there has been a fallout every single time I’ve reduced my dose over the last year, despite telling myself beforehand that I would make allowances for it, the volatility caught me by surprise. One particularly tough day I resorted to self harm. I said things like, ‘Maybe this is who I am without drugs’. ‘Maybe I really do need the drugs’. ‘I can’t do this’. ‘I don’t like who I am off drugs’
None of these thoughts were helpful, the self harm certainly wasn’t.
I’ve been minding a really stunning dog this last few weeks. He’s a giant ball of love and enthusiasm, the only problem we ran up against is that he’s used to running around freely outside at home. I don’t have the space for him to do that here, so his exercise needs to be on a lead. He’s not used to this and our first few walks were a tug of war from start to finish. I spoke to his owner, and went out and got him an anti-pull harness.
(This tangent will make sense in a minute, I promise)
Our first walk on the new harness wasn’t exactly a massive success because I made a classic mistake. I assumed the lead would fix everything, without me having to do anything. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that wasn’t the case. While there was some improvement, he still pulled a lot, I still had to rely on strength rather than co-operation to manage him. I came home frustrated, then had a think. The training harness came with instructions. There were many, many videos on youtube about training a dog with one of these leads. So we went right back to basics, and did it the right way. We both needed to adjust, adapt and learn. It was slow going but I’ve seen a huge, huge change in him. Now walks are no longer a constant tug of war, he just needs an occasional reminder to slow down and remember that I’m in charge, and it’s a far more enjoyable experience for us both.
Do you see the analogy? Prozac was my harness. On it’s own, it made minor improvements, but the bulk of the change came from the work I put in. Now I’ve moved to the next stage, the equivalent of training the dog to walk off lead but behave just as well. He’s not ready for that yet, but I am. With a proviso. I cannot let myself forget everything I’ve learned the past few years. Just as the dog would regress quickly to old habits without regular training, I will lose the stability and calm I’ve cultivated if I don’t continue to practice what got me here in the first place.
Sleep. Space. Calm. Sleep. One thing at a time. Breaks. Sleep. Diet. Did I mention sleep?
Now, when I feel that familiar knot forming in my stomach, it serves as a reminder to pause, think about what I’m doing, and figure out which part of that doing is causing the knot. 9 times out of 10 it will with be because I’m trying to do too much, or trying to control something that is out of my control.
I wouldn’t take paracetamol every day in case I get a headache, so I’m not going to take prozac everyday in case I get overwhelmed. The overwhelm is my reminder to think. If I can’t feel it, I’ll push on till it becomes strong enough that I feel it despite the prozac, and then it’s a much, much bigger problem.
I’m not relapsing, or unable to cope. I’m learning to live with my emotional self.