Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wanting to Get Off my Medication: Part 7

I took my low dose of an SSRI antidepressant for 2 years. Doing the hard slogging of therapy with Molly, I began to discover that it was ok to do things because I wanted to do them, rather than what my parents wanted. I was driving again, going places by myself rather than always with my husband. I started making art. I emerged from years of depression and shyness, and started to believe that my life mattered.

Because I was doing so well, and starting medication had been such a battle for me, I started thinking more and more about wanting to stop taking it. I'd read studies that if OCD is treated with medication alone, there is a higher chance of relapse after stopping it, as opposed to using Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy in combination or alone. I assumed I'd had so much therapy and changed so dramatically, that I would not relapse.

What I did not realize was that my therapy with Molly, as important as it was, left much of my OCD thinking and rituals intact. OCD is sneaky and evades much of regular talk-therapy, as if shielded in a cloak of invisibility. Some of what I did with Molly was the equivalent of Exposures--she often encouraged me to experience things rather than just research them, and I faced many things I feared out of a desire to fully live my life, but other aspects of my OCD thinking were not even conscious to myself.

I began to obsess about long term effects of taking SSRI's, and soon I was exhausting myself with searches on the internet. I didn't see the danger signal that I was reverting to the searching I did trying to decide whether to take the meds at all. The uncertainty about what the long term effects might be in my life was too hard for me to cope with, and I switched to compulsively searching about how to taper my dose to avoid discontinuation symptoms. I was fatigued from all the energy I was pouring into searching, but imagined that once I stopped the medication, the obsessing would stop. Oddly enough, although I know I talked to her, I don't remember anything about what Molly said about my going off medication.

I couldn't talk to psychiatrist about this because she was gone. One day a few months before, I'd gone to an appointment and there was a For Sale sign in the front yard. She apologized for not telling me sooner she was moving. This was disconcerting. I talked to my family doctor about stopping and she agreed that if my overall anxiety was improved, I could stop the meds once the long nights of winter were over. I reduced my dose slowly over a few months, and I had no withdrawal symptoms. I was ecstatic to be off the antidepressant. It's hard for me to think about how the next few months unraveled into a health anxiety crisis, but I will write about that next time.

Related Posts
Part 1: OCD and Medication Decisions
Part 2: Starting Medication while Struggling
Part 3: The Limits of Research in Medication Decisions
Part 4: My First Prescription for SSRI's
Part 5: Feeling it in the Jaw: Side Effects of Medication
Part 6: Being on Medication & OCD Weeping
Part 7.5: Built on Sinking Sand: OCD and Health Anxiety


  1. I'd love to be off my meds. I am actually at a dose with no apparent side effects. However, every time I get to 20 mg my quality of life takes a tumble due to obsessions coming back very strong. I've resigned myself to staying on them. But if I can get off one day, I will.

  2. Hi Beadfingers--I did go back on my meds, and at a dose with no apparent side effects. It has helped me do my exposure therapy, and for now, since I am making progress, I am staying on them. Thank you for commenting!