Like Swimming.

In December of 2015, my OBGYN put me on a dusting of fluoxetine (10 MG). I was having a rough time, not too rough, but rough enough to ask for help. I know she’s an OBGYN, but she’s been my doctor for over a decade and I feel particularly close to her. I trust her deeply. Plus, this medication was supposed to help alleviate period pain, which I experience a great deal of.

The dusting seemed to take some of the edge off, although given the low dosage, I have to wonder if I was experiencing the placebo effect. Who really knows. I was still a touch moody; felt socially inept and my anxiety was still ever-present. I still occasionally experienced periods of mania. While things were dialed down a notch, I was still very much the current version of myself.

The one thing that Prozac treated that turned out to be helpful for me was my inability to stew. All my life, since as early as I can remember, whenever something bothers me, I beat the living shit out of it, myself and all of the emotions involved. I investigate the situation from every angle. I replay it over and over again in my head. I mean, I put my thoughts to work! I abuse them. My brain doesn’t get a moment’s rest. I basically emotionally abuse myself. If I say something stupid at a party or respond foolishly during a social situation, I won’t let myself off the hook. I won’t let it go.

I immerse myself within the situation. Forgive me for the bad metaphor, but say every problem I have is a swimming pool, instead of recognizing that I can get out of the pool and approach the situation from outside of the damn pool. I stay in the pool and swim through the situation until I feel like drowning; or I become so exhausted, I have no other choice but to get out.

That’s not healthy and the dusting of prozac helped me with that. It didn’t get rid of it completely, but it definitely helped.

So I stuck with that dusting until late last summer when things started to take a turn once more.

Summer has always been a rough time of year for me. I do not enjoy summer. Even as a kid I didn’t particularly enjoy summer. I much preferred the continuity and safety of a school day. I liked to be with friends. I enjoyed having a schedule, I guess. I don’t particularly like the sun either. So the long days bug me. I don’t like the heat. I loathe pools. (Given the above metaphor, the irony here doesn’t escape me.) I can’t stand being on the beach. (I do like the ocean, however!) And the one thing I love doing most, the thing that helps me cope with my head and my issues is running. It’s my therapy. And running in the summer fucking sucks. (Although I do it! Every day.)

I am simply not a fan of summer. There’s apparently have a term for this, and I am by NO MEANS self-diagnosing myself here, but it’s called Summer-Seasonal Affective Disorder. I gotta say: just knowing that there’s a term for this; knowing that there are people who don’t particularly enjoy the summer and suffer from depression during said season, well, that alone makes me feel better.

Anyway, last summer hit me pretty hard. Things became bad enough that I ended up crying in front of my (brand spanking new!) primary care physician. I was lost. I was feeling suddenly so unhappy about living here. I couldn’t find peace. I was dreading the long days and the heat and the bugs. I felt afraid, like everything I was doing was some different color of failure.

She listened. She gave me the names and numbers of therapists. (Incidentally, I called every single one and not one person was taking new patients. I am by no means severely mentally ill, but I would definitely benefit from talk therapy. I can’t fathom what it must be like out there for someone suffering from severe mental illness when it’s so damn hard to find someone to talk to. We need to fix this shit, America.)

After we spoke, she decided to up my dusting of prozac to 40 MG. (I know, a rather enormous leap.)

I started taking it right away.

For the first week or two, I lost my mind to irrational levels of jealousy and fear. I felt like a teenager again. Even though people told me, “Give it time! You need to adjust!”, I panicked and had her call in a 20 MG prescription instead. This was all while we were in Disney. I would step it down again once returning home.

But by the time we got home, however, I felt better. In fact, I felt AMAZING. I entered some bizarre euphoric state. I felt like I could do anything. I hadn’t ever felt that secure and amazing in all my life. I felt sexy. I felt capable. I didn’t care what anyone around me thought about me, yet I worked to be positive and happy and to try and make others happy too. I wanted to be around everyone. Nothing bugged me. I felt like I could rule the world. No kidding, it was as though someone slipped me some ecstasy. Every single morning.

Toby was convinced my serotonin was set into overdrive and I was basically acting as though I was on MDMA.

I won’t lie: it was awesome. Toby was thrilled. After those initial first two weeks, I was golden. I was happy, outgoing. I made new friends. I started throwing parties—ALL the parties! So many parties! I was throwing parties for complete strangers. My goal was to overcome everything we’d experienced on the previous street and bring people together. And I loved that goal. I loved me. I showed up to events. I became a super version of myself, a version I hadn’t ever experienced before. It was outstanding.

During that time, I apologized to Toby repeatedly for having had to deal with my mood-swings all those years. I felt bad, but promised I’d continue to make it up to him. I felt worthy, excited. Guys, life was really fucking great.

I became the poster child for treatment.

Of course it didn’t last. By November, things had leveled out. I was no longer euphoric. I was still quite social. And I no longer stewed. There were no pools to mention. Instead I stood on the outside looking in and I was able to watch the problem and not give it too much thought.

I also totally stopped crying. Which is crazy. I cry ALL the time and have my entire life. But on 40 MG of prozac? Nope. I simply could not squeeze out a tear. They were gone. My brain just didn’t allow for tears.

Also gone? My disdain for the mundane. I no longer pined for something else or better or different. There were no real “ups” because the downs were gone too. Life became even.

And then my clothing stopped fitting. My face grew fatter. And I felt tired a lot.

I hopped on the scale in February: 163 pounds.

When I started taking 40 MG of Prozac I weighed 142. I had gained over 20 pounds in 6 months.

Yes, life was even. Yes, my periods were tolerable. But my hatred toward myself grew with every added pound. I was, and continue to be, miserable about the weight gain.

One morning I told Toby, “I need to lose this weight. I feel like the more I weigh, the more space I take up in the world so there’s more of myself to loathe. I don’t want to take up this much space in the world.”

Again: not healthy.

I am absolutely certain at this point that prozac ruined my metabolism. It explains why I would fall asleep at 8 or 9 PM and sleep like the dead until morning. (Well, whenever Walter wasn’t waking me up every hour.) I had such little energy. I still ran, but my pace dropped from 9-minute miles to 11 plus minute miles. It is not unheard of for me these days to run a 12-minute mile. I changed even though the only thing I actually changed in my daily life was medication.

About two months ago, I had had enough. I visited my OBGYN again. I topped out that day at 168.

We discussed tapering. She was shocked at how much that other doctor had upped my dose, but agreed that that much weight gain is likely linked to the medication.

She ran a my thyroid levels: all fine. Everything checked out as normal, the same.

I stopped the meds. I couldn’t take it anymore.

That was a little over 2 months ago.

My weight is SLOWLY going down, although nothing to write home about; I’m still considered overweight and I can’t fit into any of my clothing, which is heartbreaking for me. My running pace has moved up a minuscule amount, so I’ll take it. The bouts of insomnia are back, which admittedly sucks. I had forgotten about so much that the prozac had been treating. My periods are downright awful again. Those things I can handle.

But the biggest problem I see with the untreated me is that the insecurity is back. The fear of human interaction has returned. I am up and down and sometimes moody as fuck. There are days I can barely say hello to a person let alone have a conversation.

I know I come off rather shallow that I gave up a medication that was doing a lot of OK for me because it was making me fat. But it’s the truth. And now I am facing the fact that I am back and because I was someone else for a while, I am now very much aware of all the things I could be.

So that’s where I am now. I’m trying to mentally turn myself into that person regardless of how I actually feel. Fake it to you make it? Maybe if I force myself to rework my initial feelings, I can rewire the way my brain works? I’ve got to try something.

I don’t know why I’m writing today, frankly. I guess it just feels good to mark it down. Maybe since I can’t seem to find a doctor, and if I continue to pour my guts out online, maybe I will begin to feel better as I muddle through all of the bullshit.

Godspeed, friends.

11 Comments

  1. I don’t think you sound vain actually. I think you were forced by the meds to give up one version of being unhealthy (emotionally) for another (physically). Its ridiculous that modern medicine can’t figure this out. I’m sorry you’re going through this. I will say that when trying to find a therapist for my 6 year old daughter when she was debilitated by her anxiety, I really struggled to find someone taking new patients. Beyond frustrating that you can know you need help and truly want it, yet it is not accessible. I hope summer flies by for you and the weight goes with it.

    Reply

  2. Autumn Canter June 23, 2017 at 6:53 am

    I feel for you. It is like reading about my husband. He had been on and off meds for depression and anxiety his entire relationship with me. Recently, he got a new diagnosis of bi-polar 2 which often gets mistreated as depression. New meds and omg, he had not been this happy, functional, able to deal consistently… Ever! He did switch because the first type of meds gave him horrible acne and he couldn’t be happy with his face breaking out. Don’t feel badly about going off meds. He had done that several times because of weight gain. Just keep trying. Maybe you are misdiagnosed too?

    Reply

  3. Please delete my last comment, but save for yourself. I didn’t realize it would be public via the email notification!! Eek!

    Reply

  4. If you have time, please, please consider reading this article. It’s not a short read, but trust me: it’ll be SO worth your time. <3

    http://www.runnersworld.com/rw-selects/running-for-her-life

    Reply

  5. I feel you. I too wallow in the pool. I’m 45 years old, and I think I could list out for you every mistake I’ve made over the past 35 years. I can’t seem to let those thoughts go. Right now I’m spiraling down over something that happened with a neighbor this week. I constantly feel like a failure as a person, but I don’t know why I can’t let those mistakes go. I also desperately need talk therapy, but I haven’t made the time to get help yet. It’s so much easier to take care of our kids than to take care of ourselves, isn’t it? I was on anti-depressants in my 20s. They helped, but I cried A LOT going off of them (I self-weaned). I haven’t wanted to go back on any medication again because I’m already 40 lbs overweight. Why can’t any of these anti-depressants have weight loss as a side effect instead of weight gain? That would certainly help more with depression!

    Reply

  6. I really treasure your voice when you do write here. And I’m sorry we aren’t neighbors because I know is like you even on days you’re moody AF. Take care.

    Reply

  7. Steve (StFarmer) July 5, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Michele,

    Maybe there is a happy medium, a lower dose that helps your mood but doesn’t impact your weight so much. I hope you find something that helps you. :(

    Steve

    Reply

  8. Any updates? How are things going?

    Reply

  9. Update coming. Sigh. So sorry. Been insane with the boys and honestly, this whole coming off prozac bullshit has NOT been easy. But I think it’s finally out of my system. It can only go up from here, right?

    Thanks for checking in. I have many posts in the works and they will make themselves live soon.

    Reply

    1. Thinking of you, wishing you well. You can still call me if you are so inspired. :)
      Cheers to finding our way up and forward, not further down! You got this.

      Reply

  10. I relate to this so much. Without going into too many details, our situations are very similar and on top of it I also have fibromyalgia, and many of the same prescriptions that are prescribed for depression or mood disorders tend to get prescribed to people with fibromyalgia. Many, many of us come off these types of medications for precisely the reasons you described and more. And of course there is evidence that they aren’t good for us long-term. I started a more natural over-the-counter supplement called Sam-e. If you haven’t heard of it, you might want to Google it. But I just wanted to give you the heads-up, the first week or two that I took it, I had horrendous mood swings and depression and I mean legendary. But like you mentioned, things evened out after a week or two and now it makes me feel so much better. When I forget to take it I can notice the difference after a few days.

    Reply

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