A few years ago I had an emergency appendectomy (surgery to remove the appendix), and an ovarian cyst the size of a golf ball removed, what followed was 3 years of chronic pain and follow up surgeries and procedures to figure out why I was always in pain. Were there complications in the initial surgery? Was it regrowing ovarian cysts? (I have these anyways and so do approximately 1 in 5 women) They couldn’t figure it out.
I had dye pumped through my fallopian tubes, my intestines examined, my esophagus looked over, I had been cut open more than once in search of this mysterious pain. All I knew is that I was in constant discomfort, some days I could hardly walk or exercise and I was leaving work early.
While I was going through all this my doctor had put me on a medication that is used for chronic pain, peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain) as well as fibromyalgia, arthritis and a few other conditions; this drug is NOT an opioid or a drug that causes dependence. Yet what ensued for the next 5 months was my body knowing down to the day when I should be having a dose.
Essentially I had been taking this medication for approximately a year and a half and I saw no benefit, it wasn’t making anything better, but it wasn’t making anything considerably worse. Along with my doctor, we decided I would stop taking it, I was thrilled. I was taking 2 capsules a day and within 6 ish weeks, I was down to 1 a day.
This would be easy right?
Once I got down to taking 1 capsule a day I started to feel a little different but I would always chalk it up to something else, weather, menstrual cycle, other people, food, etc. I got to a point where I was taking 6 capsules a week for 3 weeks, then 5 a week, then 4 a week and so on until I eventually got down to one a week.
This entire process was living hell.
Coming off of this medication I experienced the worse side effects I’ve ever experienced in my life.
- I was rage-filled, I would randomly become so angry about the smallest things, and then immediately after I would become so overwhelmed with regret for being so angry. Everything bothered me and my anger was almost blinding.
- Electrical currents would run through my brain on a minute by minute basis. They’re called brain zaps and essentially it feels like your brain is being shocked. Turn your neck the wrong way, ZAP, look at a light that’s too bright, ZAP, do nothing, ZAP.
These for me were the worst side effect. Doctors don’t know why they occur or how to stop them.
- Headaches: An obvious side-effect, there was constant head pain from everything.
- Tastebuds and Undereating: The taste of some foods changed dramatically and I would lose interest in foods after cooking the most intense meals. Other moments I would just binge snacks that still had their original taste because it was familiar, salty foods especially were easiest to eat, in comparison to the other basic food tastes.
- Depression & Anxiety: I became exceedingly depressed and super anxious. I felt as though I was living dose to dose, I could feel DOWN TO THE DAY of when I was supposed to take my next pill and was anxious because I wanted to take it so badly so the side effects/symptoms of withdrawal would stay away. I was depressed because I felt stuck in this uncomfortable limbo of pain and side effects, I lost interest in nearly everything and I isolated myself greatly.
I wish I could stress just how intense these side effects were. They were no walk in the park and they lasted the entire duration of withdrawing and approximately 4 months post being completely off the medication.
If you’re coming off medication this is my advice: go slow, talk to your doctor and let people know. Once my parents understood what I was going through they were able to sympathize and not just assume or think I was losing my marbles. The people around you want to help you and make your journey easier, but remember, you need to let them.
I still feel as though there’s a part of me that is/was so frustrated with this entire process only because it took so much energy and time, but, this is just a little piece of my experiences.
I hope you learned something,