Paxil Free

A personal record of Paxil withdrawal.

Withdrawal is Not Relapse

Wednesday, October 18th, 2000 (continued).

In a previous message I mentioned feeling suicidal at times. I know that’s the kind of thing that scares people off, but most people who go through this kind of thing eventually get around to feeling something like it. The problem with actually admitting it out loud is that people think you’re crazy — and nobody listens to crazy people, right? (Right.)

But the fact that I can say it out loud demonstrates, I hope, that I’m probably more healthy than the people who don’t say it out loud. And the last thing I’m going to do is smile and pretend everything is a.o.k. when it isn’t. I see people every day like that who are living in Disneyland and it’s a way of life for them. (And between you and me and that wall over there, these are the people who are nuts. Seriously.)

Despite all the depressing things I’ve experienced because of the Paxil, I am not depressed. Believe me, I know depression, and this isn’t it. This stuff is a headache, and there’s no joy to be found in any of it, but my personality is still relatively intact, and I’m not depressed.

When I’m genuinely depressed (which I don’t think I have been for a long time), I don’t want to do anything (that’s one of the things about it). What I’m experiencing from the withdrawal may be similar in that I’m not exactly animated — in the run of my day I do pretty much nothing. I try to read and I try to write as much as I can, but otherwise, I’m a walking turnip; I’m useless. (I’m also lucky to be in a position where my responsibilities are minimal. Yes, I admit it, I’ve had to move in with my parents who are nowhere close to rich but who have a big house and who feed me well and pay all the bills. I know how lucky I am to have them at this time.) But I think most of what I’m experiencing now is the withdrawal, not depression.

Unlike depression, I have the desire now to move, to do things, to live. The desire is there — underneath all the Paxil withdrawal crap, I can feel it there. But when you’re so wired up waiting for the next electrical brain zap to kick in and wipe you out (and other such wonderful conditions of the Paxil Experience), it’s hard to have enough energy to care about that desire, to give it the attention it deserves, to nurture it and to go with it. It takes energy to care, and to live and to make something substantial of that desire. And for me — stuck in the middle of Paxil withdrawal — that energy isn’t there.

I think my spirit is still intact, but everyone needs some kind of fuel to keep them going, and no matter how good-natured I’m able to be, the fact is this: I’m all out of gas. The Paxil withdrawal is using up all of my fuel. Psychic fuel, spiritual fuel, whatever you want to call it — my tank is empty, and I have Paxil to thank for it. I may be bumping around like zombie half the time running on empty, but that doesn’t mean I’m depressed.

My desire to be alive is well intact. But it’s like a car without any gas. As long as the Paxil withdrawal is burning up the fuel, I can’t expect to get any further than the end of the driveway. That’s not depression, though; it’s an empty tank. (I know, I’m repeating myself again.)

And to belabour this point even further, sometimes when I’m scrounging around for some fuel to burn — and being in the middle of Paxil withdrawal is like walking through a desert — it’s easy to feel like, “Man, I’m a goner. No water to drink to quench my thirst, and no fuel to burn so I can start up my car and get the hell out of this place. I might as well just close my eyes and die. There’s nothing here to save me. I’m already dead.” Those may seem like the words of someone who is depressed and suicidal, but that’s not necessarily so. Crawling through a desert like this, who the hell wouldn’t feel like that every now and then? That’s not crazy — that’s normal. It’s human.

And that’s the important thing to recognize. Without it, I would be depressed and I probably would be suicidal. But I know that ALL OF THIS is from the Paxil withdrawal, not necessarily from some underlying depression. (I’m just speaking for myself, remember.) That’s the knowledge that gets me through all of this crap. There’s withdrawal syndrome and there’s depression.

I’m glad I know which is which.

And just to be on the safe side, I am seeing a doctor once a week to make sure that if I do become depressed and genuinely suicidal (which, under the circumstances, would be understandable, even though I think I have a pretty good handle on it), I’ve got someone looking out for me. But so far so good.

Sorry if this turned into a rant.

First response:

Rant away! I could read your posts all day — you’re hilarious! You sound very healthy and funny. More healthy than a lot of “healthy” folk I know.

Second response:

I understand exactly what you’re saying about the suicidal thoughts not being connected to a depressive state. I went through a few weeks of that also. The scenario would go something like this: Early morning brain zaps, a little vertigo, uh-oh, no milk for coffee. Think I’ll kill myself instead of going to the store. Uh-oh, it’s snowing outside. I don’t feel like leaving the house. Think I’ll kill myself. “You’re making what for dinner? I don’t want pasta. Think I’ll kill myself.” It all seemed perfectly logical to me at the time. My husband had to hide the knives for about a week because I’d be standing at the sink doing dishes and the next thing you know I’d have a 12″ chef’s knife at my jugular and very calmly announce, “I think I’ll kill myself.” It was as though there was this little voice in my head whispering, “Okay, NOW!” It was very frightening, but I knew it was the Paxil, and it did pass — like everything else in life. I spent a lot of time in bed with the covers over my head during that period of withdrawal. I figured the worst that could happen to me is that I’d smother from the down comforter! I laugh about it now, but it wasn’t even remotely funny at the time.

Postscript – February 7th, 2001: Despite the knowledge that almost everything I was feeling was being distorted by the Paxil withdrawal — that it was the Paxil withdrawal and not me — I had moments where that thought wasn’t much of a comfort and, to quote AndrĂ© Gide, “Despite every resolution of optimism, melancholy occasionally wins out…” Just after my first withdrawal experience in July, there was an incident where if there hadn’t been anyone in the house at the time, I may very well have taken my life. (I know how you’re probably reacting to reading this. Note: I’m having the same reaction.) This aspect of my withdrawal experience has, I think, left the greatest impression on me. Having lived through it and survived it, it still scares the hell out of me. Despite my optimism, I probably was suicidal at times. In December 2000, near the end of the weaning process, I was feeling so beaten down by the experience that, despite everything I’d been able to deal with, I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore. A human being can only take so much. Nothing has ever pushed me so close to the edge, and it still scares me to think about it, the recognition that I have a breaking point — the ultimate breaking point where there is simply no will to live. I have survived this experience, but sometimes I have no idea how I did it.

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