Reducing Medication Is An Adventure In Progress For Me

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, it’s a personal story.  Medications help some people, but not everyone.

The hardest part of reducing medication, for me, is feeling more feelings.  It’s like taking a layer of bubble wrap off my emotions.  In fact, I had to reverse my second dose reduction because I was losing my temper and screaming at people too often, for no reason.  So I’m taking one-third less, instead of two-thirds.

At this level, I fall asleep better, and wake up earlier and brighter.  I’m more focused, happy, creative, and productive on two pills than on one, or my original  three.  And the short temper and screaming have stopped.

My Friend Guides Me While I’m Reducing Medication

Corinna and Ken outside the arts center in Ken's hometown. Both have shared adventures reducing medication

Corinna and Ken outside the arts center in Ken's hometown. Both have shared adventures reducing medication

My best friend Corinna West, founder and creative director of Wellness Wordworks, warned me about that possibility.  She came off all her meds after experiences with 29 meds, as many as six at one time.

Her advice was to wait out a bad reaction to reducing medication.  Tolerate the unpleasant feelings for a week or two.  If they  improve, your system was adjusting. If they get worse or stay intolerable, go back up on the dose for a while, and try reducing later.  Don’t rush back to your original high dose.

Screaming at people is not OK.  It scares people who don’t know me, who don’t know I’m never dangerous.  People who know me realize my temper is like a bang of thunder, or thunderstorm, that shakes the windows and scares the people and pets, then disappears like a fist when you open your hand.  It’s the only part of me that I hate, and struggle to control all the time.  It hurts when I fail.

I was also painfully anxious and irritable when I was home alone.  I’d scream at my computer, shoes, misplaced keys, and the dishes in the sink.

Taking A Medicine for Reducing Medication

My prescriber suggested the anti-anxiety medicine that I took every day years ago when I had anxiety attacks all the time.  Anxiety pills did not relieve the downsizing at work, not knowing when my time would come but knowing it would.  I needed more and more anxiety medicine back then to get the same effect.  Eventually, I got no effect.

Today, I keep a few, and take a small dose very occasionally to relieve the kind of anxiety I feel in my body.  I never use it just to muffle unpleasant emotions.

So I went from three pills to two to one, then back up to two, where I’ve been comfortable for a couple of months. It doesn’t matter to me how long I stay at this dose, but I will try to reduce it again this summer or fall.

Corinna West Helps With Reducing My Medication

Corinna West Helps Me With Reducing Medication

Corinna told me I’m  not defeated until I give up on reducing medication.  A setback is a delay, not a defeat, she said. Not everyone can come off meds completely.

People who get off meds are not “more recovered” than people who don’t.  Recovery is about self-esteem, personal satisfaction, relationships, and community connections.  It has nothing to do with medication.

I’ve been taking a mood stabilizer and anti-depressant since 1977, the two I’m on now since 1995.  Stands to reason it’s going to take a long time to get used to taking less or none at all.

(I never mention psych meds by name because someone might take or avoid one based on my experience.  That’s a fallacy.  Everyone reacts differently to every drug.)

I Saw No Reason to Risk Reducing Medication

I’ve been very lucky with medication:  no side effects except some dry mouth and a few extra pounds I control by avoiding sugar and white flour.  I never took the anti-psychotics, atypical anti-psychotics, SSRI’s, or major tranquilizers that give so many people foggy minds, sleepiness, cognitive deterioration, and morning hangovers much of the time.

I saw no reason to risk my health trying to fix something that wasn’t broken until I read Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic in 2010.  I was 62, and thought stopping or reducing medication might be good for someone my age.  And I had Corinna, who had been successful, to watch out for me, and warn me if I was going off track.

When I started on meds 35 years ago, my biggest fear was having other people realize I was losing it before I did.  It happened many times in my early days on medication.  So I needed a peer who knows me intimately, who had done it herself, whom I talk to all the time, to prevent me from humiliating myself or going back to the hospital.

My prescriber, in the private sector, was willing to work with me on reducing medication, protect me if necessary, encourage me when possible.  So I sailed into an unexplored ocean, like Columbus, hoping not to sail off the edge of the world.

Reducing medication is risky. What has or would help you?

 

 

 

Wordworks Blog Author: Ken Braiterman

Ken Braiterman, Wellness Wordworks board chair, has been an activist, news reporter, opinion writer, and columnist since 1968. From 1997 to 2009, he was New Hampshire's leading advocate for recovery-based mental health services. He is an advanced Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) facilitator.

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