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Effexor to Cymbalta: Not So Bad

Posted Feb 05 2010 7:30am

You know, if you rely on the Internet to inform you about medication side effects, you might have a panic attack before you’ve even got the Ativan in your system to calm you down. When I started Effexor, I read such horror stories that I was absolutely terrified, and though some of the info was true, that drug pulled me out of an unbearable abyss. I was truly losing it — the depression was becoming psychotic and I was contemplating suicide. And who knows why, because such things are mysterious, but it worked.

The thing about Effexor that I didn’t like was my dependence on it. For instance, if I miss a night of Lamictal, I’m okay. I do get some facial twitching, but that’s more amusing than bothersome. It’s not like I’m going to vomit my face off.

With Effexor, I was unable to even be off by an hour. I’d start to get really dizzy and nauseated, and it was just awful. I felt like a slave to it. In fact, when I was on Seroquel and Ativan, I could easily (though sleeplessly) miss doses for one night. Not so with Effexor.

Recently I realized I haven’t been happy for a while. I haven’t been depressed, exactly, but seriously dysthymic . And I was having some intrusive PTSD stuff — I kept flashing back to awful times in my life when I was psychotic and very ill, and it would make me want to crawl into bed. So I told my doctor about it, and he suggested bumping up the Effexor, given that it worked so well. I pretty much always listen to him, because he’s brilliant and kind, but this time I put my foot down: no more Effexor.

He was fine with that. He said, let’s just switch you to Cymbalta and do a slow withdrawl of the Effexor. And I panicked. Everyone has told me that withdrawal from Effexor is a living hell. Brain zaps, vomiting, shaking, sweating — it sounded like my withdrawal from Klonopin, which was only achieved with the benefit of phenobarbital, and only after about 10 years of trying.

But the thing about having a chronic condition of this sort is that you go through a lot of shit and you come out the other side. So my attitude when I’m confronted with a med challenge is this: Bring it on. And in my bluer moments: You don’t know who you’re fucking with.

Funny thing, though: Nothing’s happened. I’ve cut the Effexor in half and added the Cymbalta and I am utterly without withdrawal symptoms. If I believed in God, which I don’t, I might say it was divine intervention. But it’s not. It’s just that things aren’t as bad as you think they’re going to be.

So that’s my story these days. The PTSD stuff has lessened a little, but it’ll take time. I’m feeling more obsessive lately, which I’ll write about later. But hey, as I always say, I can handle anything. As Seneca remarked at dinner last night: “Fire is the test of gold; adversity of strong men.” And women, too.

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