Hello everyone I just wanted to take some time to provide my personal experiences coming off of Cymbalta and where I am at mentally over a year and a half later.
About 7 years ago I had a series of panic attacks that were likely due to being under a lot of stress. I was overwhelmed with balancing school, work, and family and when a family member was diagnosed with a rare fatal illness it sent my pre existing health anxiety into overdrive. Unfortunately I didn't have much of a support network, and my family is always eager to fix any health issue with meds. I was also starting to experience the first symptoms of an autoimmune disorder which I'm sure was made worse by the stress and anxiety. This led me to a rheumatologist who prescribed Cymbalta for the anxiety and fatigue I was experiencing.
I started at 30mg and within a few weeks noticed a significant decrease in anxiety. It allowed my to regain a little bit of functionality in my life and when I next saw the rheumatologist he increased the dosage to 60mg. I spent maybe 3-4 months at this dose but eventually the sexual side effects and general numb feeling led me to go back down to 30mg. This transition was not difficult and I don't remember any major increases in anxiety from it.
For the next four years I stayed on 30mg and was able to have a somewhat normal existence. I took the cymbalta at night and would always be extremely tired in the mornings. I also put on about 40 lbs. Eventually the fatigue and emotional numbness got progressively worse and I self tapered down to 20mg. This felt like a good balance between being present but not too anxious. I was however getting more and more tired and really didn't want to be forever reliant on psych meds. I began a gradual taper from 20mg down to about 10mg using the bead counting method over a period of several months. My anxiety got worse and worse and I began experiencing the many other withdrawal effects that have been discussed on this website. When I got down to 10mg I couldn't take the slow painful process anymore and deciding to stop completely. This was at the end of January 2019.
What came after was an extremely hellish experience that I wouldn't wish on anyone. My anxiety went to a 10 at all waking hours. I suffered frequent brain zaps and bouts of confusion. For the next year I struggled to even leave the house and could only be in public if I had headphones in playing something to distract me from the constant feeling of being overstimulated. Around Christmas of last year I started to get short periods of feeling almost normal, although I did experience a significant increase in depression as the anxiety lessened.
During all of this I was going to therapy, eating an extremely healthy diet(I'm back down to my pre cymbalta weight), exercising daily, meditating, and the using supplements like Theanine, Ashwaghanda, and Valerian to help control the anxiety. I am still doing most of these things although I dont really need the supplements nearly as often. The last six months have definitely been high stress with Covid but I continue to make progress. I still have some really challenging days and will have short bouts of the derealization that I experienced almost constantly during the first 11 months off of Cymbalta.
I started the first full time job that I have had since before I started Cymbalta a few weeks ago and the stress of trying to learn so much new information and being in a new environment did cause a major uptick in anxiety and depression, but it does seem like its getting a little better.
Its definitely extremely frustrating that doctors prescribe these meds without thinking twice or encouraging less permanent interventions. I am certainly not anti meds completely, and if i find myself not getting the relief I need from therapy, exercise, meditation etc. I would consider taking another antidepressant. I would only do so while working with a competent psychiatrist and having a plan for eventually discontinuing the drug.
To anyone currently struggling with Cymbalta withdrawal and wondering if they made the right decision to stop taking it I urge you to keep up the fight. Don't think that because its taking longer than 3-6 months to get back to feeling normal that you'll never get there. These meds create new pathways in our brains, and forging new ones isnt a quick process. Also, if you never worked to address the issues that led you to taking Cymbalta in the first place(like me) then you are going to have an uphill battle. But there is nothing more important than your health, and its worth misery to get back to living your life without being dependent on Cymbalta.