celextant says bear nor-norwest

3/27/05

Adventures Off Celexa, Chapter 17

I’m really, really bad when it comes to refilling my prescriptions, and it’s usually through the grace of God or by accident that I manage to get my new dose of meds at the end of every month. I’ve been on Celexa for nearly three years now, and I know the drug inside and out, but I’ve never had the occasion to go cold turkey for four days. Especially the way I did it Thursday through Sunday last week.

Put simply, I kept forgetting. I know there’s some irony in there, but I’ll leave it to the biopsychology/English double-majors to figure it out. As the drug wore out of my system, the forgetting became worse. Those of you on anti-depressants may know what I’m talking about. I’ve been swimming in emotional and physical molasses.

Here’s what withdrawal is like: first, you get these weird crinkles in your brain if you turn your head too fast, almost as if your eyes have turned, but your brain is slow to catch up, and the time in-between is fuzzy and painful. I was used to this; it happens when I play hoops sometimes in the middle of fast, furious games.

On Friday night, however, we went to see the brilliant Shockheaded Peter at the Little Schubert theater, and the play, which hits you like a traffic accident involving Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, did some crazy things to my cerebellum. Later that night, the headaches – more like weird swirlies waves of discomfort, started a low pressure system just off the north coast of my left eye.

And though I was becoming desperate for the drug, I forgot to get to the drugstore AGAIN. Another day without the SSRI, and on Saturday, I began to feel as though I were walking through seventeen feet of Mrs. Butterworth maple syrup. Just getting up for some water took about three minutes of strategizing. Moments of ecstasy were followed by strict bursts of annoyance. I can only imagine what would have happened to my psyche if the Tar Heels hadn’t gone to the Final Four. Which they did, by the way.

By Sunday, sunlight was having a weird effect inside my eyeballs, and I knew it was time. Celexa is water-soluble, meaning that it begins to leave your body the second it is taken. I stumbled to 7th Avenue – downhill, thank god – and grabbed the pills from the pharmacist like a drunkard circa 1883.

And so I’m back in the cool, cool breeze of my wonderdrug, and I learned a few things: first off, keep your meds current, because if there is some trauma that shuts down the city for a few days, you had best be prepared.

Secondly, I had always been told that coming off Celexa was like having a really bad flu. It was definitely bizarre and uncomfortable, but it was nowhere near as bad as the frickin’ flu. I now have a little more faith in my ability to wean off the pleasure pills, and that, in itself, is as comforting as the drug itself.

6 thoughts on “celextant says bear nor-norwest

  1. Alan

    I can relate to this. I’m on daily medication to keep my headaches at bay. One of the side effects of coming off of the medications is headaches. So if I ever decide I want to be free of the medication, I won’t know if I’m getting headaches from withdrawals or from lack of the positive effects of the medication. Nice.

    Reply
  2. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Good God Man, this is NOT the time to be forgetting to take your Celexa! I think you know what I mean, Big Daddy. Parenthood is not for sissies, or for folks weaning off of anti-depressants.
    Anyway, I can relate to your experience. I have been forgetting my Lexapro off and on lately, and I was stricken with the stomach flu over Easter. I couldn’t keep the little pills down, and I now have the biggest headaches ever. I was able to take a pill this morning, but I am still waiting to feel like a human again.
    Do yourself a favor, see if you can get a 90 day supply of Celexa as a maintenance drug. The sleep-deprivation you will experience in the next few months will make you forget how to FIND the drugstore, let alone to refill your prescription at the end of the month.
    And, GO HEELS! I suspect that the luck of little Peanut has to do with the Final Four. Dare I say this, I really think they will win it all this year! The year of the Peanut!

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  3. Arline

    Ian, I can relate – I’m on Celexa also and I forgot to take it a while back, and I had the same symptoms. I tried to explain the whole.. turning your head too fast and your brain having to catch up with you.. my friends said I was crazy. I used to be on Paxil, and if I forgot a pill one day, oooh man. Much, much worse =P Glad you got your happy pills back. Stay sane~

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  4. eric g.

    When I was weaning myself off Paxil, I experienced what the internet later taught me is a common phenomenon: the electric-shock reaction. I felt as if thousands of little shocks were going off in my brain. As you describe, any motion of the head was the equivalent of bugs hitting the zapper in my noggin. (Zach Braff’s character describes this phenomenon in “Garden State.”) Luckily it only lasted a week, but damn if it doesn’t make you wonder exactly what the hell we’re doing to ourselves. But now I’m on a new drug and life is shock-free and wonderful. And go Heels!!!

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  5. Chris

    Another round of SSRIs on me! My Spartans are on a tear and the Heels are next. But remember folks, this time we’re the underdogs and the Cinderella story is about us.
    Go Green!

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  6. Ian

    I’ve already adjusted the blog a bit, but in my post-seratonin haze I forgot to mention that “Shockheaded Peter” – co-produced by True Love and the very lovely and talented Laurie W., was an absolute BRILLIANT night out. Stunning music, excruciatingly funny performances – if you’re in town, go see it.

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  7. cate

    You reminded me of this article from the NYT regarding FDA’s seizure of Paxil CR tablets that tended to split into a drug-containing half and an inert half. At the bottom of the link, you’ll find this sympathetic comment from the GSK spokesperson:
    Ms. Pekarek said the problems with the pills were unlikely ever to hurt patients. Patients who took an inert half of Paxil CR would be no worse off than if they had simply skipped a day’s dose – something that happens often, she said.
    But Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, said Paxil was the wrong drug to skip for a day. Paxil remains in the bloodstream far shorter than Prozac.
    http://www.ahrp.org/infomail/05/03/07.php
    Go Heels! Cate

    Reply
  8. Kmeelyon

    I just saw that you edited your post to say that you loved “Shockheaded Peter.” I’d meant to ask. I saw it here in SF and I still remember how much I loved that show. I don’t recall every caring so much about the fate of some puppet’s thumbs.
    Also I agree w/Laurie’s idea about a 90 day supply of Celexa. You’re gonna be juggling quite a bit in a short time.

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