I’m about to begin a scary journey, one I’ve been thinking about for a while but was too scared to start. As I’ve mentioned before, I have had clinical depression (also known as major depression) for many years now. For the past eleven years I have been taking Effexor XR (150 mg) daily, which improved my mood tremendously versus other medications that only had minimal effect (St. John’s Wort worked for a bit, but I had to stop due to interactions with another medication I was on). In general, I feel good but I still have down days, particularly on overcast/rainy days. I am able to overcome the sadness thanks in part to meditation, journaling, and simply focusing on gratitude. However, I started wondering what the long-term effects could be and started doing some research. You know when you start digging up information and begin to wish you never had? That’s how I felt. It’s easy to dismiss the information I discovered as “overblown” or unrealistic to the majority of people on Effexor, if it wasn’t for the fact that I have experienced some of the side effects. Skin bruising at the slightest touch (seriously, a feather can touch me and it will leave a bruise); foggy mind (this has been more frequent in the past few years, and occurs even when I’ve had good sleep the night before); and worse of all, memory loss. I’m good at remembering things that need to be accomplished going forward, but trying to remember events from the past (even one week ago) is often difficult. I can remember certain spotlights of time, but cannot remember details from things like previous vacations, or family events. I just chalked it up to having a shitty memory. But after learning these issues could be from the long-term use of Effexor, this makes me terrified, and makes me want to come off the drug permanently. The additional downside to this is many have reported the side effect damage can be permanent.
*Starts to hyperventilate*
*Breathes into paper bag*
Okay, a little better now.
The Effexor is prescribed to me by my family doctor and I see her every three months for routine check-ins and for refills. My next appointment is in July, so I have time to gather more information. I am a believer in mind/body connection and the importance of eating the right foods (and eliminating the wrong foods) to have optimum health. One culprit that keeps popping up in some research is the evil gluten. Well, I don’t think it’s evil, but apparently it can wreak havoc on our bodies and brain. However, I was tested for Celiac’s and gluten sensitivity and the tests were negative. A HUGE win for me because I basically run on bread and pasta. Which then makes me weep when I read that gluten could be damaging my brain. Who to believe? That’s part of my issue at the moment – one group of medical researchers demonize gluten and another group insists it isn’t so bad (as long as it’s whole grain). I do seem to feel a bit better when I don’t eat pasta and bread every day (trust me, it’s what I love to do). To eliminate it completely – and forever – is stealing some of my sunshine. What’s a woman to do? I’ve decided to do a six-week run of eliminating bread and pasta from my diet to see if it truly helps me feel better overall. While I was initially going to start as of July 1, I’m going to wait until after seeing my family doctor (July 17). A bit of a cop out, I know. But, BUT! I am eliminating eating pasta and bread during the workweek. And when I have bread, I must make my own. No more store-bought bread with a mile-long list of ingredients I can’t even pronounce. So that’s a little better (at least to me).
There is a good chance my doctor will not be agreeable to me coming off Effexor completely – she may just want to reduce my dosage. Tapering off antidepressants is essential to avoid serious withdrawal symptoms. So my journey to be completely Effexor-free may be six months to a year, which I’m okay with doing. It’s time to handle life on my own instead letting Effexor do it for me.