Archives for Paxil


Zoloft and Klonopin Sing A Frustrating Lullaby

It's no big secret or anything. Anxiety meds can make you sleepy. Like, really sleepy.

From my bottle of Zoloft, an SSRI used to treat my panic disorder: "May cause drowsiness."

From my bottle of Klonopin, a benzodiazapine my doc has me using to counter the anxiety that sometimes occurs while titrating an SSRI upward: "May cause drowsiness."

Drowsiness achieved, people. Complete and utter drowsiness.

So, how can I cope?
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Withdrawing From Celexa: Yeah, Um, That Didn’t Really Work

Years ago, before panic attacks became one of my defining characteristics, I decided I wanted to be one of those crunchy mothers-to-be who avoids all medication at all cost. I'd be growing a tiny human inside of me, after all. I vowed, early in my twenties, that even Tylenol wouldn't even be allowed.

Oh, the naivete of my youth.

It's been a long time since I've posted a med update, and that's sort of been an intentional choice. Months ago, I started a short series about withdrawing from Celexa, an SSRI drug used to treat depression -- but I'd been taking it off-label for panic disorder for about 2 years. I'm no stranger to SSRI withdrawal, so I was careful to perform a very slow taper.


Things were looking sort of bright  on about half my original dosage until I tried to go and pick up a crate a vegetables a mere 2 miles away from my home:
It was Tuesday, and I was driving my car to pick up my CSA share — a box full of veggies from a local farmer — just across the bridge from where I live.

Easy. Close. A simple task.

Agoraphobically, I’ve never really had a problem with bridges before. (And, architecturally, I’m fascinated by them!)

But on that day, in the middle of this unremarkable concrete bridge, I felt a small twinge of fear brewing in the basement of my stomach. Something felt wrong — indescribably and uncomfortably wrong."
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You Asked: Was Celexa An Effective Treatment For Your Panic Attacks?

Recently on my blog, a commenter named Ted posed the following question in the comments to this piece about how I'm preparing to withdraw from Celexa:
You’ve left one relatively major part of your Celexa experience off your blog… was it an effective treatment for you? Did it reduce your anxiety and panic attacks?

I think ignoring, or at least not writing about, whatever positive effects the therapy had for you for the past year does nothing to help those of us who read your blog.

Focusing only on the negative/potentially negative withdrawal effects doesn’t speak to your whole experience with the medication and what symptoms the medication may have alleviated so that you could pursue better long term cognitive management of your anxiety disorder.
What a good question, Ted. This deserves an entire blog post and not just a comment reply.


In short, I don't think so. Undoubtedly, it did something -- like Paxil, it blunted my emotions (although in a more subtle way) and stripped me of my drive.

But did it help to reduce my panic attacks?
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Tapering Off Of Celexa: My First Two Weeks

I made my first dosage cut about two weeks ago.

Before we talk numbers, I just want to reiterate something -- the word about. Yeah.

See how I've used it in the opening sentence?

About two weeks ago.

Why the lack of specificity, Summer? you're asking.

Well, it's simple: I plumb forgot to write down the date I began splitting my pills. Oops.

It's been something of a happy accident, in truth. When I withdrew from Paxil, I documented everything in strict detail. I was on the lookout for brain zaps, nausea, and fatigue.

My nervous system, already hypervigilant by default, kicked into overdrive to help me to track my withdrawal side effects. Was that a twinge of dizziness? Did my stomach just turn? Why did my heart just flutter? I feel warm. Am I warm?

Remember, there's a difference between "vigilance" and "hypervigilance", and that difference is usually a panic attack. The former is healthy; the latter is dysfunctional. (Too damn bad the latter comes so naturally to me.)


Don't get me wrong: There are still benefits aplenty to journaling one's efforts to withdraw from an SSRI. It's a great way to track your symptoms and learn to predict how you'll feel on day 3, day 4, or day 5 after a dosage cut.

It's sort of like the menstruation tracker of the mental health world (sorry, men; I mean no alienation), only we're replacing abdominal cramps with brain zaps. (And, unfortunately, we're keeping most of the other unpleasant period-ic artifacts, but without all the blood. Which is, well, one strangely optimistic way of looking at SSRI withdrawal...right?)

My point is this: I've forgotten to keep a detailed journal -- in part because life is keeping me busy with life-y things like work and buying a house and stuff -- and I'm wondering if I've suffered less because of it.
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Tales From The Anxiety Med-Go-Round: That Twinkle In My Eye

Earlier, I wrote about how I began to struggle with panic attacks again — in a pretty severe way — about three years after withdrawing myself from Paxil, an SSRI medication that treats anxiety disorders.

Then, after some heavy-hearted contemplation and a few shed tears, I threw up my hands and swallowed my first Celexa pill. I felt terrible about doing it. Even with the first pill, I knew I was taking out a loan -- a loan with interest. Celexa would give me a break from all the anxiety, I reasoned, but just like with Paxil, there will come a day during which I'll have to pay it all back via the horrors of SSRI withdrawal.

I felt ashamed when I began taking the Celexa. It wasn't the "I'm ashamed I'm on psych meds" shame that no one ought to have; it was more like "I'm ashamed because I'm doing something I'd promised myself I'd never do again" kind of shame. And now, I (and only I) would be responsible for whatever might happen. With Paxil, I was uninformed. With Celexa, I knew what I was getting into.

And I didn't feel like I had a choice in the matter.


The reason I've now decided to, uh, "come out" about my current SSRI use is this: my husband and I want to make a baby soon.
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Tales From The Anxiety Med-Go-Round: Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me

The scene: late summer, on a leave of absence from my cubicle-farm workplace. The culprit? Panic. Really bad panic that was keeping me, for the most part, stuck in my apartment. Most days, I was too scared to even drive down the street to Walgreens.

I had been relying on Xanax to treat my panic attacks as they happened. I'd been diligently working through Dr. Edmund Bourne's Anxiety & Phobia Workbook (which I would honestly recommend to anyone who suffers from frequent panic attacks), but not seeing any immediate benefit. I'd been doing therapy and trying to eat normally again. At only 95 lbs, an all-time low for my adult life, I felt unhealthy and deflated.

"Why don't you just try Celexa and see what happens?" my family doctor said at my next appointment. "If you don't like it, you don't have to continue taking it."

Yeah. I've heard that story before. Cough cough PAXIL cough.
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Tales From The Anxiety Med-Go-Round: The Buspar Brain Zaps

Earlier, I wrote about how I began to struggle with panic attacks again -- in a pretty severe way -- about three years after withdrawing myself from Paxil, an SSRI medication that treats anxiety disorders.

I had a full-time "big girl" job in a customer service call center that, over time, began to painfully grate on my nerves. After successfully transferring to a new department (yay!) where my workday was less hectic, I found out that my entire department was being laid off -- except for me and about 8 other employees -- and we were all magically being transferred back to the nerve-grating department from whence I came.

The anxiety was unbearable. Couldn't sleep; couldn't eat. I felt stuck. Even Xanax didn't help.

And that's when I found myself on the Med-Go-Round again. I took a leave of absence from work and went to my doctor. In the exam room, I cried as he signed my LOA paperwork.

"I think you'd feel much better if you tried some medication other than Xanax," he said. His concern was genuine. "Instead of treating your panic as it happens, we should try to prevent it."

I refused. I said I just needed to rest and let my body and mind unwind for awhile.

Next appointment:

"I still think you'd feel much better if you tried some medication. Why don't we try an SSRI?"

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Tales From The Anxiety Med-Go-Round: You Can’t Live On Saltines

I'm an advocate of being open and honest about mental health. I try to lead by example (with this blog!) by talking candidly about my anxiety disorder.

But there's one thing I haven't been sharing. It's not because I'm embarrassed. It's not because I'm ashamed.

It's because I've hit that "fool me twice, shame on me" mile marker.

I promised myself I'd never take an SSRI again after my horrible experience with Paxil.

But now it's time for me to admit that I'm on Celexa. I've been on it for about a year and a half.

Like Paxil, it's an SSRI. The same kind of drug I promised myself I'd never touch again.


So, how'd it come to this? After year of vociferously bashing SSRI's online,
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Tales From The Anxiety Med-Go-Round: Why I Hated Paxil

I haven't talked about meds on this blog for some time. And it's been an intentional choice.

It's been a whopping 6 years since I took my last shard of Paxil. (Yes, shard -- in my final weeks of tapering off that horrific SSRI, I relied on miniscule shards of Paxil to jury-rig an appropriate dose. Often, those shards would simply pulverize under the pressure of my plastic pill-splitting device. White Paxil powder? You bet. Everywhere. On my desk, on my jeans, and on my hands. I'm sure I looked like a coke addict.)

Paxil was a difficult drug for me for many reasons. First, it was expensive. My doctor had prescribed me the controlled-release version, which was still under patent protection at the time, so of course it was pricey (think $120/month without insurance). Kinda tough for a college gal making $6/hour working 15 hours a week fixing printer jams in the college computer labs.

Second, it did its job so well that I didn't even consider any type of psychotherapy. It stopped the panic attacks, so I mistakenly thought that my job as a patient was done. Not so.
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My TEDx Talk: Anxiety — Hibernate, Adapt, or Migrate?

Awhile back, I wrote about how nervous I was to speak at my local TEDx event in Williamsport, PA.

I was pretty scared. Would I get lightheaded? Would I pass out? What if I couldn't remember anything I wanted to talk about?

I wanted to talk about panic attacks. I wanted to talk about how hard it was to work in a call center while dealing with panic disorder. I wanted to talk about those dreadful "inspirational" posters on workplace walls and I wanted to...
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