Off All Meds, Cymbalta Withdrawal, and Waiting for Disaster

The shrink took a vacation (oh, August, the shrink vacation month…could anything be more irritatingly stereotypical?), thus leaving me with the worst physical withdrawal I could imagine. Seriously, could heroin be worse than this? The lesson out of all of this: never, ever quit Cymbalta! For the past few days, I have been having complete autonomic failure. The idea is to go back on my good cocktail, sunburn be damned. Then maybe try lamotrigine. So my skin can all fall off, you know.

The first morning that the withdrawal started, I got the day off on the right foot by arising at my usual crack of dawn hour and promptly passing out. Due to this, I was two hours late to work, which resulted in my being yelled at for another hour and a half.

Follow that with random attacks of true vertigo (walking down halls of hospital – suddenly I’m totally off balance and everything spins), vomiting, shivering, diarrhea, and sweat flashes, and that is quitting Cymbalta in a nutshell. Every time it starts back up, I take a little bit, just so I can function. I have to open the capsules, use the little pellets inside. It is like cutting lines, but a lot less fun, and, I suspect, much more ridiculous.

But – I can sleep, god, sleep after weeks of no sleep, nightmares, and waking up sobbing and suicidal at 3 AM every single night. No more scrounging through Lear and Pale Fire for consolation. This is what the shrink called improvement. Because I was nice. Last time I was in his office, he kept going on about the nice pleasant conversation I was making. I was chatting about nothing because honestly, I was too depressed and suicidal and sick of myself and my misery to even carry on about it. I did what I always do – faked a happy face. But do I really need a shrink for that?

Although the drug did take a certain edge off. Last night I yelled at the partner for overwatering a plant. All of that kind of rage had disappeared. I suspect, though, that that was due to the massive amounts of Valium he had pumped into me to try to fix the sleep problem.

I also totally lost it on a patient the other day. True, the patient was particularly nasty, but on the other hand, was also terminal (I did not know this at the time). After this, I called the shrink (before he left) and told him I was not fit to practice, that he would need to write me some sick days. Mostly wanting to get off to his holiday, he said fine.

But I didn’t call in sick. Arbeit Macht Frei and all that. And I would feel damaged and broken forever and never forgive myself if I ever called in sick over mental illness, no matter how severe.

Everyone around keeps asking me what the hell is wrong, at work, that is. Today I finally made some vague allusions to health problems and let it go at that. It always makes me uncomfortable when people show a personal interest in me, are nice to me. Somehow, I feel better keeping things cold and bastardly.

Despite the horrible physical withdrawal, the suicidality has dropped way off, I can actually sleep, I am somewhat interested in medicine again, learning a bit as I go along seeing patients – opening books, asking colleagues. Today I ran, realizing that I lost almost all my physical conditioning in these last few months. I feel alive. Soon, I hope that feeling of coming back to life, of rising from the grave delighted and full of energy and thrilled to the core, flirtatious and funny and fun will be back.

I am also perversely glad that if I slip into mania, the shrink will not be around to witness it and insist on more drugs. It has been so long since I could write, want to fuck, feel alive at all…I don’t want to quite give that up, no matter what the cost. I need, from time to time, to remember who I am, what I want, to know where I am unhappy in my life.

I also realized, holy shit, it is almost September. I realized that this episode, the idea of changing meds, has been going on for almost 9 months. At first it was a month lost, then three – a season, a delayed start at my new job, and now I am 9 months down the road, having been through hell, sicker than I have been in five years, with no end in sight. This is terrifying. How much more of my life will I have to sacrifice to this cruel master? Soon, it will be a full year, another lost year. I do not want to be sick. I want to be me, thorny and obstinate and moody. I do not want to spend my life in a psychiatric-drug-induced haze. Even if it means I am a bitch. Is that so wrong?

And now that my old self, the one that can save herself, is back…well, now I’ll finally be ballsy enough to quit this stupid shrink. Which, of course, is a sign that I am not medicated well…

How the fuck did this get to be a blog only about therapy? That fucking blows. No more of this. I need my life back. I need my pen. I need my cunt. I need blood.



  1. I definately get the not wanting to be in a drug induced state, and wanting to be me again. M pdoc and I both do not feel it is acceptable to be either in a stupour or having symptoms, thus the guinea pig trials of 35-40 different meds/med combos over the last 7 year MDE (with anxiety and some kind of bipolarity like cycling built in just to really make me hard to treat.)..that blows, but I am now on a “cocktail” of 4 medications and although I am not well yet (I think I need timne where I am not desperately ill to regain wellness)…I feel like I have manageable side effects, and I absolutely don’t feel like I’m in a stupour like I did on many other meds.

    This might not be very “uplifting”, because it has been 7 years of hell…but I think I found meds that help and don’t harm. That’s a plus. I hope you can find that sooner than me. I just want you to know it is possible.

  2. I’ve heard the average for someone like us (bipolarity background) is 10 years to good med combos. That said, you seem to like tegretol and your symptoms seem similar to mine…maybe i should try it. The problem is having no time to go to do all the monitoring required.

    And Aqua, I just really love your blog. And your art.

  3. Thanks Sara,
    I find your blog very interesting as well. I like how open you are. All the drug info pamphlets you have to do tons of monitoring with Tegretol, but my pdoc hasn’t had me do a lot. I had blood tests once, a couple weeks after I got up to 800 mgs a day, that was last year sometime, and then (maybe) I have had blood tests 2-4 other times…once when I took it down to 600 mgs to see where my levels were, and recently before I went back up to 800 mgs again. I love this medication, but of course everyone seems to react to different meds differently. I’m proof of that.

    It wasn’t until I began seeing my pdoc in 2001 that anyome even indicated Ihad a cycling component, and an anxiety component to my mood. I have been strugling with depression/cycling/anxiety since I was 17 (I’m now43). I feel pretty angry other doctors didn’t notice, or even ask about this earlier, despite my repeatedly telling my family dr. and numerous therpists I was often really depressed.

    I feel I’m in good hands now. I guess that is what I need to focus on. Just for your Info, the other meds I am on are:
    40 mgs Prozac (no other SSRI’s helped and ALL had awful side effects except this)
    10-15 mgs Valium…long term, my pdoc says I have so much anxiety I’m one of his patients where long term/low dose use is needed
    20 mgs Dexedrine Spansules (increases the effects of Prozac, and helps with energy)

    I hope you are able to find the medication/s you need and I hope it is sooner rather than later. Good luck.

  4. hey Sara,

    The withdrawl sounds just horrifying…i was just inpatient for 4 days and the hospital shrink took me totally off Cymbalta (60 mg) and put me on Depekote…somehow i knew it was a bad idea and will, as planned, continue the Cymbalta tomorrow morning. What was the dumdf,,, thinking? i even asked about withdrawl and was told there would be no problem…sigh.

    i truly hope you are doing better…..thinking of you, as always, tracy
    note new e-mail!!!!!

  5. Aqua:

    I had a couple of years on Prozac. It totally made me a zombie…and again, the cognitive impairment of all the SSRIs was bad with that.

    Tracy: Email me…I’ll call you. And this guy said that there shouldn’t be Cymbalta withdrawal either. I think the worst of it is over for me but it was really really bad. I guess I could have probably tapered slower than I did, but I wanted OFF.

    I’m now in my usual good mood after I’m off the med, the little bit of time before the brain goes back to shit, but the drug is gone so no side effects. Jake thought I was manic yesterday though…

  6. I found this blog via another blog and have always liked reading your comments there.

    I had been told to quit Cymbalta cold turkey a few weeks ago by my p-doc. It was a nightmare, much akin to what you described so beautifully.

    I went back on it and we are going to start a tapered wean later this week.

    I have added you to my RSS feeder, and can I add your blog to my blogroll:? I really like the way you write.



  7. Thinking about going off cymbalta? DONT DO IT! I’ve been off for less than a week and got my refill today. I am having the worse withdrawal ever. It feels like a bad addiction. Last night I woke 3 times soaked with sweat. I’m having brain flashes with dizziness and I’m shaking like crazy. I’ ache and feel like I have the flu.

    IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING GOING OFF – call your doctor and ween slowly.

    My best to everyone who reads this.

  8. I too am going through cymbalta withdrawal, i have all the symptoms u all talked about but one more i noticed was my eyes look weird, the pupils are pin point, and i have lots of crusty stuff in my tear ducts, feels like gravel, i am going to tell my Doc to never put anyone on this sh.t

  9. I don’t know what to do…never been this sick in my life. And….have to rely on state APN,(I don’t know what the fuck she is…some kind of nurse with an extra course or so on meds), who has not a clue about real suffering from REAL withdrawal.Withdrawl: now called, (lol), “medication discontinuance.” Well, what I am going through is VERY real.
    Can’t eat, throw up if I do, stomach cramps and diarrhea,brain zaps, or strange vertigo, and dizzy, no sleep, cold and hot sweats, but, she says….that shouldn’t happen ! I wish it were happening to Miss Idiotic APN.
    I have been complaining to her boss…wrong move by the way…he is a Drug and Alcohol Counselor, ( I swear I did not know !). I am now to go see them both tomorow. I know I will be seen as the crazed, misinformed, grandiose,medication rejecting “patient,” despite the fact that I am a pschoanalyst,have been for 35 years ! I think I will need to do something sensible about this horrific withdrawal. Did I mention the prolonged crying spells????I am not bi-polar but suffer from Major Clinical Depression ( their term). Please…going tomorrow at 10 am. Any suggestions?

  10. OMG I’m so sorry I didn’t see this, I hadn’t checked this account in a long time, I was on vacation.

    What I finally had to do was this: break open the Cymbalta capsules, they have little pellets inside. Slowly Slowly reduce your dose, take just enough pellets to make the symptoms become tolerable or go away…taper EXTREMELY slowly. Not “half a dose.” Just keep opening those capsules and using less and less of what’s in there, by tiny amounts.

    Please email me and let me know you are ok.

  11. Yes, I thought I was tappered off of Cymbalta this week, finally, only to have a reoccurance that hit my like a brick wall. I weened down from 60 to 30, then, at my doc’s suggestion, began taking them only when the brain zaps began. I had a vertigo attack a few weeks ago, am off balance, not understanding why, but after reading these blogs see what it is. And it’s scary to me. After not taking the pill for over 5 days or so, and thinking it was all better, last eve I began getting the hot/cold flashes, couldn’t sleep, exhibited extreme irritability/anger at my bfriend, woke up like a tiger. Upset stomach began yesterday morning, along with an nauseous feeling this morning and shaking and extreme aggitation. What to do. Now I suppose I’ll begin pulling the assanine pills apart and take sparingly, only when needed. This is total Bullshit and I can’t believe that the drug company and docs would put people on this crap without telling of the long term side effects and withdrawal. How about using another SSRI???? My feet hurt and I’m stiff off and on. Now I know what this is. Thanks for all of your posts and information. To be informed is the power now to fix this some how, some way.

  12. What the hell is up with this drug? I’m bp and considered this as an option. Worse, My Mom has neuropathy in her feet and I suggested it to her for the pain. Thank you for this blog and all the comments. It really opened my eyes. Kathy

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