A quick update since a few weeks back. I'm 4 months off Cymbalta after that rapid taper and taking every day as it comes. I have not pursued any reinstatement of any SSRI/SNRI. I'm so anxious about that causing more issues so I'm determined to keep trying to manage through this hell in hopes that I can start to experience a few windows here and there as I get more weeks/months behind me. Some days I'm driven and some days it is a complete cluster.
Symptoms @ 4 months off:
1. Brain fog - Still having pretty severe brain fog. Cognitive thinking is a struggle and the fact that it hasn't improved is not helping my anxiety! Most days, my brain has dull pain which moves to various locations. Sometimes front, back, top, side, etc. it is a very odd feeling how it moves around. I've not had the zaps that folks describe. Mine are just a constant ache (almost light burning feeling). I definitely feel more impaired cognitively when the pain is more intense. I tell myself this is a sign of neuroplasticity healing taking place and trying to think positively about it. I'm still working my job full time but it is a struggle. I have to work much harder to do simple tasks and think through my day strategically. I often feel very disassociated through most of the day and there is a feeling of paranoia or fear most of the time. I sure hope this isn't permanent?
2. Insomnia - This has been very tough. I had a few weeks were 2-3 hours were typical. I've been managing 3-5 (occasional 6 hrs) in recent weeks but it is usually followed up with a few bad days in a row. This is definitely related to withdrawal as I don't even really feel tired during the day. I've got klonopin and trazadone and taken 1-2 each in the last month. I really don't want to depend on them and I see it as an emergency button if things get completely out of control. Hydroxyzine seems to work slightly so I'm focusing on that.
3. Anxiety - This can be extremely intense at times. It is definitely the worst in the morning and seems to dissipate in the evenings (in most cases). I do get these random waves in the evenings and that is very hard for me as I then start trying to put pressure on myself that I can't be in this state before bed. I've been experiencing bad anxiety pretty much every day but it varies greatly on the length of the wave. Some days are very light which is so helpful. I do have many moments with no anxiety so i'm praying this is a sign that I won't battle with this new symptom forever as my brain continues to find homeostatis.
4. Depression - This has been TOUGH. I've never felt a feeling of depression until withdrawal. This has cranked up in the last month and it has been difficult. I'm definitely struggling with a very low mood most every day but i do get these waves that last anywhere from 2 hours to 12 hours that are complete, utter hopelessness. It feels very chemical/withdrawal related and I can't even force a smile on my face. I sure hope this fades over time! Considering what I am going through, I'm giving myself some
5. Fear - One of the things I'm trying to control the most is my fear. I am so scared of this timeline and how long it will last. Online research has been a double-edged sword for me. It is so refreshing to understand that others have gone/are going through a similar experience. This site has been incredibly helpful to me and I'm so grateful. That said, I have researched hard and long and I do find stories about the impact that this drug has had on people that have lasted years (or permanent?). It has gotten so bad that my wife takes my phone at night so I won't research protracted withdrawal symptoms/timelines! I pray everyday for those affected as well as continued healing for me.
6. Derealization - I'm not sure if this is the best term to describe it but I'm definitely living in a new state of EVERYTHING feels very different. My head still feels a bit like it is floating around the room and I'm not completely present with my surroundings. I often have to think about where I'm driving, walking into a grocery store, etc. Simple tasks around the house are not as easy as normal. It takes work and that alone is very depressing. This might be one of the harder symtoms that I'm dealing with currently. There are moments when it passes and that is usually through intense conversation or distracting moments that I get my mind off withdrawal.
7. Vision - This is also a scary one. So hard to explain to people. I don't really have blurred vision, just that eyes are seeming to track correctly and depth perception is off. I'm praying this is not a permanent issue as the good ol' internet has some pretty scary stories about vision issues from SSRI/SNRIs. A family member of mine is a physical therapist and she did some eye tracking tests and confirmed that my eyes are jumping (instead of moving fluidly) when tracking an object. She sees this with patients and there are exercises to correct this but I'm fearful about nerve damage or something from Cymbalta. I do know i have WAY more vitreal floaters. Doc said he can laser those if/when i want. I do believe that the derealization and just overall MASSIVE amount of stress i am under is causing some of the vision feeling so odd. Again, it is so hard to explain. it just feels off.
I've had to open up to family about what I am experiencing and that I need some help. It has been helpful for sure. However, unless one has experienced this type of withdrawal, it is completely impossible to relate to the feeling. I've also been attending a group out-patient program which started last week (day sessions for withdrawal, illness, substance abuse, etc). It is helping to talk to people struggling with issues/illnesses but also very humbling as well. I made this decision with my family in order to help get some coping techniques and not wear them out as I work through recovery. I'm so concerned about not being the husband and father that I can be...and that is causing more stress.
In summary, I'm taking one day at a time....heck, one hour at a time. I believe healing is happening although not as fast as I'd like. I had a few 2-3 hour windows in the last couple weeks that felt manageable but those are quickly forgotten when in the midst of big waves. Truthfully, i don't want to say I haven't had any progress up to this 4 month point, but it has been very minimal. I keep thinking about the comments about 5,6-8 months of complete hell before improvement happens. I believe I can actually deal with that. I've come so far. I just don't want years of this feeling. Even if i get some improvement to where i can get more windows then managing this would be so much easier.
Thank you for letting me ramble. It just feels relieving to put words into context of how I'm feeling with people that can understand to some degree.