The withdrawal diary will contain brief reports on how I am progressing with my psychiatric drug withdrawal plan. In it, I will record:
- If I – or those monitoring me – observe any changes in my behavior, functionality, self-perception and general well-being.
- Withdrawal symptoms.
- Improvement or decay of my ability to cope with psychological conflicts and stressful situations.
- Positive and negative remarks on my behavior made by people who do not know about my using – and withdrawing from – psychiatric drugs.
There will be days where there is nothing to report, so occasionally I may switch from daily updates of my diary to summaries of uneventful stretches of time.
Day 1: Today I took 125mg of Sertraline (SSRI antidepressant) instead of 150mg. For a week, I will be alternating those two doses and, after that, remain on 125mg. I do not expect anything out of the ordinary to happen. I have had days without any Sertraline at all, and they were normal days for me. If I notice any changes, I will of course report them.
Day 2: 150mg of Sertraline. As expected, nothing has changed and I’m fine. I will probably write my next diary entry when I am definitely lowering the Sertraline to 125mg, hopefully next week. Tadah!
Day 3: I know I know, I said I wouldn’t be back until next week. But I’ve come up with what I believe to be an improvement in my dose reduction strategy. The fundamental idea is that the human organism doesn’t really count time in weeks – that is a purely intellectual construct. What the body does perceive is the alteration caused by varying medication doses. So what I’ll do to go down to 125mg of Sertraline is the following:
- Day 1: 125mg
- Day 2: 150mg
- Day 3 and 4: 125mg
- Day 5: 150mg
- Day 6, 7, and 8: 125mg
- Day 9: 150mg
- Day 10, 11, 12 and 13: 125mg
- Day 14: 150mg
- From day 15 onward: 125mg.
- Only if necessary, take one 150mg dose on the 21st day.
Day 4: 125mg of Sertraline. Remember I am still leaving unchanged my dose of Quetiapine (150mg) at night. So far, everything’s dandy.
Day 6: The first of three days in a row with 125mg of Sertraline. Knock on wood. A nasty flu that bothered me some weeks ago seems to be attempting a comeback. Other than that, I’m fine.
Day 7: Second 125mg day. I’ve thrown out my lower back. I guess I’m not as young as I feel anymore. 😦
Day 9: 150mg, as planned. My mood and my intellectual capacities are fine. Neither me nor my partner have noticed any negative changes. Tomorrow, I will beginn a 4-day stretch of 125mg of Sertraline. My lower back has gotten better – now the pain is in my upper back, yay! I think we need a new mattress.
Day 10: The first of four days in a row on 125mg of Sertraline. So far, nothing out of the ordinary is going on.
Day 12: The third of four days on 125mg of Sertraline. I feel totally normal, except that my back hurts like sh… One of the boards below our mattress has broken (I won’t say why ;)), and sleep quality goes downhill alongside bedding quality. Today I also couldn’t avoid thinking about some family issues, which never fail to depress me. I don’t know why they popped into my mind, but I found it worth mentioning here. I might talk it over with my partner.
Day 14: If everything goes well, today was the last day I had 150mg of Sertraline. From tomorrow onward, I hope I can remain on 125mg for a while without problems. The mattress is still bugging me, but next week we’re getting a new one, so the back pain should soon be a thing of the past. I feel emotionally and mentally stable, despite some minor stress factors. One of my pet birds almost strangled himself with a plastic bag (he’s o.k. now), and someone spent a lot of my money I had entrusted them with. That was disappointing and financially damaging. The person told me they desperately needed the bucks, which I understand. Had they been honest about it, I would certainly have been willing to negotiate. Unfortunately, they weren’t honest. Yet, I can only let the incident go as there is nothing to be done about it. What’s gone is gone. On a more positive note, I have started with weekly foot reflexology massages. They are not just pleasant, but I also feel they are quite beneficial and loosen up a lot of tension. I hope to start lowering my Quetiapine dose next weekend.
Day 20: I’m doing fine on 125mg of Sertraline. Tonight, I will take 250mg of Quetiapine instead of the usual 300mg. For some reason, I am more nervous about lowering the dose of my antipsychotic than I am about tapering off the antidepressant. However, I will proceed with the Quetiapine in the same way. By alternating doses, I will gradually try to get used to taking just 250mg. The plan looks as follows:
- Day 20 (today): 250mg
- Day 21: 300mg
- Day 22 and 23: 250mg
- Day 24: 300mg
- Day 25, 26 and 27: 250mg
- Day 28: 300mg
- Day 29, 30, 31 and 32: 250mg
- Day 33: hopefully the last dose of 300mg
Wish me luck. I will be keeping you updated, and thank you for your company.
Day 21: I went to bed a bit late yesterday and didn’t feel like working out how to use the pill-cutter, so I took the usual 300mg of Quetiapine. Today will be my first night on 250mg. Sorry for this. What I’ll do now is pre-cut a bunch of pills so I just have to grab them when I go to bed. On another note: my man and I have started a daily Yoga routine. It is designed to build strength, it is not meditative. I like it a lot. It only lasts 25 minutes, but the exercises immediately make you feel fitter and seem to have a positive impact on your posture. We are working with the videos of Diamond Dallas Page, a former wrestler. My partner is a wrestling-fan and found out this guy is now a Yoga instructor. As you might expect, DDP Yoga has a rougher and more casual vibe than classic Yoga. I think I prefer it this way, though. Lessons are motivating and fun. Check them out, I do recommend them. DDP Yoga comes in various levels of difficulty, depending on your shape. Diamond Dallas Page is in his mid-fifties by now, but has a body most 25 year olds would envy him for, so he must be doing something right. Here’s the link to his webpage: http://www.diamonddallaspage.com/
Day 22: I was diligent today and cut some 100mg Quetiapine pills into halves. That pill cutter is awesome! Let’s see how I sleep on just 250mg.
Day 23: I’ve had a perfectly normal night with enough sleep, despite having taken a lower dose of Quetiapine. Not bad! I have also created an account at the Hacker’s Diet online, which is a weight tracking site. Visit them at https://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/HackDiet. I love their slogan: “How to Lose Weight And Hair through Stress And Poor Nutrition”. Sounds promising. Today I made my first entry. I weigh exactly 132 pounds. In relation to my height, which is 156 cm or 5.1”, this means my BMI (Body Mass Index) is currently 24.6 – barely acceptable. From time to time, I will be posting screenshots of my track record here in the withdrawal diary. If you yourself have an account at the Hacker’s Diet, you can also look me up directly. My public name is Xi Glushko. And no, I did not choose this weird alias. The site automatically assigns those to its users. I have no idea why I came out half Chinese and half Russian. So, from Chussia with love, your Mrs. Glushko.
Day 25: Two nights with just 250 mg of Quetiapine have passed, and there have been no problems. The daily yoga workouts are contributing greatly to my, and my partner’s, well-being. So has the new mattress. We got a futon style, cotton-stuffed one. Its filling still needs to settle and distribute more evenly, but all my back pain has disappeared by now and I sleep like a stone on that mattress. I am also continuing on the lower dose of Sertraline. It’s quite a relief to see that, at least so far, everything is going fine. And look at my weigh-in stats!
Day 27: Today will be the second of three nights in a row with 250 mg of Quetiapine. I have had a quiet day, doing stuff around the house and garden. I cannot report anything noteworthy. We’re still doing our daily yoga routine and following an improved diet (which will be broken on Valentine’s Day with a Red Velvet cupcake – I am looking forward to that).
Day 36: First of all, today was the first time I weighed in under 130 pounds! That means, my first goal regarding weight loss has been achieved. The next challenge I’m facing is getting near 125 pounds and, in the long run, stay there. If, eventually, I could reach 120 pounds, awesome! Remember, I am a 5’1” tall (or rather, short) woman. So, if I manage to stabilize at a weight anywhere between 120 and 125 pounds, this would correspond to a Body Mass Index of 22.6 to 23.6. Both lie well withing the range of healthy body weight. Right now, my BMI is 24.4. Below, you can see my weight stats as of today.
Day 46: Today, the 3rd of March 2014, was the first of two days in a row with 100mg of Sertraline instead of 125mg. Given that, up to now, everything has been going well, I am confident I can dare another dose reduction at this point. My partner and I are keeping up our exercise routine and our new diet, so my weight is continuing to go down slowly, but steadily. Below, you can see my weight statistics for the whole month of February.
Day 50: Today is the second day of three with 100mg of Sertraline. I have no withdrawal symptoms to report so far. However, I should mention that I have been feeling rather tired over the last few days, but that might be due to the fact that I am having less coffee than usual, in an attempt to reduce my caffeine consumption. So I might actually be experiencing caffeine-withdrawal! Other than that, my cognitive functions and my emotions seem healthy.
Day 55: The second of four days in a row with 100 mg of Sertraline. Today, I weighed in at the lowest weight since I have started dieting and exercising – and reducing my medication intake. I am pretty much abstaining from carbohydrates and processed foods, although I do admit I may be having a few café lattes too many, especially when I’m at work. On afternoons that seemingly stretch into eternity, the temptation is way too big. At home, I am trying to have tea rather than coffee. Despite this caffeine crush, I am sleeping well. As for meal times, I have a little snack and a veggie smoothie – plus a tea or coffee – in the mornings, then a rather small lunch and a more substantial meal in the evenings. For snacks, I attempt to stick to fruit or veggies or, guess what, coffee. Only when I feel really hungry and there is still some way to go until dinner, I will have a light snack to tide me over. All in all, I get the impression that the fewer times you give in to cravings, the less they will affect your mood or your performance, and the more accurately will you recognize when you truly need a snack or a meal. Something else that helps me assess how badly I need a snack or not is, simply, money. Would my appetite justify an extra expense, or am I able to wait until I get home and fix myself a cheap and healthy meal? Don’t get me wrong, I am neither a frugality freak nor a tightwad. But I do wish to protect my health and my economy. Another advantage of eating more consciously is how incredibly nice it makes occasional treats. Once a week, my partner and I gift ourselves an opulent breakfast or a decadent dessert, and once a month we host a pastry party involving lots of frosting, chocolate and whipped cream. All this is not to say our everyday diet is boring. On the contrary, it is very tasty! For dinner, we grill or boil lots of veggies and pep them up with melted butter or cheese. It is quite astonishing what you can do with vegetables. Have you ever tried zucchini fries, kale nachos or cauliflower pizza? That’s right, you can make flour-free pizza using cauliflower, egg and cheese as a dough. As a side for all of these delicacies, we have some meat (my partner) or soy (me). I love getting back home from work and finding, say, zucchini noodles with Parmesan cheese on my plate. And I can eat as many as I like without feeling guilty. If all this has inspired you to turn your eating habits around, search the internet for blogs on healthy eating, and subscribe to several of them you find appealing. Once you are getting notifications on new recipes, try them out, even if they sound a bit unorthodox. You will be surprised at what delicacies you have been missing out on so far. Good luck, and have many nice meals!
Day 63: In terms of medication withdrawal, I believe everything is going fine. I have found myself to be a bit more sharp lately than usual, but I wouldn’t necessarily consider it an overall negative change. Rather, I have been making my decisions faster – and so far to my satisfaction – and not let people ride my ass as easily. As a side-effect, I have also been less scrupulous about telling annoying people they are being annoying, thereby running the risk of becoming annoying myself. The semantic saturation was intentional. All this may or may not be a result of lowering medication doses. It may simply be a consequence of having learned that too much leniency toward others and bending backwards for them usually is not worth it. I would like to hear my partner’s opinion on whether I have actually become more aggressive or more assertive. I will ask him when he comes home and tell you what he thinks. As for my weight loss, things are going great! Today, thanks also to assistance from a stomach flu, I had my lowest weigh-in so far. My BMI has gone down by one point since I’ve started tracking my weight – from around 25 to approximately 24. Below you can see the statistic.
Day 67: Last night I took 200 mg of Quetiapine instead of the now habitual 250mg. My sleep quality was not affected by it – it was a normal night for me. Tonight, I’ll be taking 250 mg again, and after that I will have two nights in a row with 200 mg. I will keep you updated on how it goes. Oh, and by the way, I have asked my partner whether I have become more of a pain in the ass since I have started withdrawing from my medications, in terms of being less tolerant or more aggressive. He denied noticing anything of the likes. He thinks my reactions are, overall, “assertive”.
Day 72: I’m in the middle of three days in a row with 200 mg of Quetiapine. No withdrawal symptoms so far. My weight keeps going down ever so slowly, but steadily. My partner and I are also still doing our yoga workouts in the mornings. This week, I have also been doing yoga after work, in order to wind down and relax. Afterwards, I treat myself by washing my face and putting a deliciously fragrant coconut lotion on. Creating some kind of break between my daytime obligations and the me-time and us-time I enjoy in the evenings feels replenishing. It even gives me the energy to complete a few smaller tasks that were due in the household, make notes on ideas I would eventually like to use in my writing or send a few emails to friends or family. The gentle, but intense exercise also enhances the quality of your sleep notably. Yesterday evening I picked a longer, challenging routine and later had a particularly sound sleep. Today, I feel loosened up, yet strengthened at the same time, and also very heavy and grounded in a good way.
Day 79: I am now permanently down to 200 mg of Quetiapine and 100 mg of Sertraline. Fortunately, everything is going well. Neither me nor my partner have observed any anomalies in my behavior, cognition and emotional reactions. My original plan was to maintain the current dose for two or three months, but I might reevaluate that goal after one month and possibly move on to the next stage of my withdrawal plan sooner. Let’s see how everything is developing and I will, of course, keep you updated.