Me and my venlafaxine (past tense)

Sunday night

It’s rather perilous for me to post at the moment. My head is spinning; I reel when I walk; my thoughts are extreme and scattered.

This isn’t alcohol: it is the symptoms of withdrawal from that most blessed and cursed of SSRIs – venlafaxine. Known as Effexor when I started taking it, I have seen out the patent along with all the other opportunistic drug manufacturers. Now I take it in whatever form it comes.

Or rather, now I don’t. Two days ago I quit. Over the last few weeks I have been cutting my pill in half – and, mark you, this was already the lowest dosage pill that is available. I have gone from 300mg to 37.5mg over the course of 7 or so years, and I cannot deny that venlafaxine has very likely been a lifesaver. When living had to be pared back to the very bones, it was a godsend. It layered me with a protective coating of numbness. Make no mistake, I love this pill. But now I need to bid it farewell. I’ve tried before and failed. But now I’ve had enough.

So I was taking 18.75mg, and now I’m taking nothing. My body is screaming in protest. My mind and body are like lead – I don’t want to wake, or rise, or move. I get the head zaps. The sudden sideways lurches. I am so irritable that the sound of other people eating drives me from the room. I light a candle in the bathroom so I don’t have to listen to the extractor fan. I heard a song on the radio that I liked and had to fight back tears, really fight them. On the one hand I don’t know how I can function like this, but on the other I am tearfully grateful to have the feeling back in my life. To feel. To feel. To feel. After all these years of medication-induced numbness, it is incredible to feel. I just hope I don’t scare everyone who knows me.

That’s the problem. I’m not sure how I’m going to get in the car and drive to work. Is it even safe? How could the police measure it, if I had an accident; this absence, this lack of pill? In a sense I am floating above accountability. And I don’t know how I will function in the workplace. I know one thing – I will not apologise for the course I am taking, or change it. For someone to tell me to take my pills so as not to upset the applecart – that would be unbearable. That would be like telling someone they have to take birth control so as not to take parental leave. In a company that is decimated by maternity and paternity leave I will not accept that.

I don’t know how long this state of withdrawal is going to last. I fear it might be months. What will happen to my life in the meantime?

Following Friday

Just after I wrote the foregoing I took a small reality check. I saw my GP. I turned down a sick note on the grounds that I was one of the blessed league of tele-workers. And I’ve spent the last week “WFH” so as not to disgrace the roads, ditches and A&E departments of Oxon. Aren’t I wonderful? But I’m still not taking the pill.

Anyone who has ever tried to give up venlafaxine – you & I have solidarity. We may succeed, or we may fail, but at least we tried. You have my sympathy & my admiration.

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