10 Mistakes I Made Trying to Quit Antidepressants

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In her final installment of the “Going Off” series, New York Times columnist Diana Spechler listed 10 things she’d tell her former (medicated) self. I must confess. I was prepared to hate the list, as I disagreed with much of what she wrote about in the previous columns, like choosing between medication and creativity. As I mentioned before, I do worry that the series will provoke many people to ditch psychotropic drugs without the supervision of a physician, and I pray that no lives are lost as a result.

However, I think she did a good job with her list, which includes everything from making sure you have 24-hour support, tapering slowly, cleaning up your diet, trying out meditation and relaxation techniques, protecting your free time, guarding yourself against the barrage of opinions on depression and how to treat it, and anticipating small pockets of hell here and there. Her last paragraph reads like someone who has been off medication for 20 days, not 20 weeks (because that is the case) and so as a veteran medication-taker, I wonder if her picture will be as rosy a few months from now — “The time will come when you wake each morning not woozy with dread, but excited that the sun is shining “—but maybe I’m just jealous.

I can’t write a column like Diana’s because I have yet in my 25 years on psychotropic medications to be able to go off of my drugs completely.

I tried once, when I listened to some well-intentioned friends and family that promised me the land on lollipops and unicorns on the other side of medication. Instead I ended up being hospitalized, donning a paper robe that hardly covered my butt.

Ten years later, I can see where I erred.

I began my second attempt in January of last year. In 18 months, I have successfully weaned off of two of my medications. My hope is to continue this process … gradually … until I’m off of everything. It may take another two years. Or it may not be possible. I’m prepared for the latter, as I know that some people simply need to stay on their meds in order to function as decent human beings. I think we should all–as family members, friends, and co-workers–exercise tolerance, understanding, and compassion in wrapping our brains around that concept.

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6 thoughts on “10 Mistakes I Made Trying to Quit Antidepressants

  1. Thank you Therese!
    I tried to get off my meds once, and I turned into a screaming banshee. So I have been very fearful about trying again, but I would like to. I made many of the mistakes that you mention. You have given me a good roadmap to follow when I am ready to try again, and also permission to accept the possibility that I may need to remain on medication for some indefinite time.
    Thank you for your website, it is a godsend. It is particularly of value to those of us who live in communities where mental illness is viewed with a great deal of stigma.

  2. Another great post.

    I’ve tried many times throughout my “prescribed” life to go without meds for similar reasons as you mentioned. I recently went over a year without daily meds, only taking one as needed (which I rarely took even when I desperately needed it.) I certainly made many of the mistakes listed here. Now I have a list to help me the next time around as I’ve recently started back on meds.

    At first, I was disappointed at having to get back on meds after trying other “holistic” (and at times helpful) alternatives , etc., but then I realized that I’m actually stronger than I thought for getting the help I need at this point in time.

    My doctor’s been great and has often supported med-free times when we both felt it appropriate for me. He’s also open to holistic and dietary approaches. I plan on sharing this post with him.

    Blessings!

  3. Good article Therese, with a profound sense of reality.
    Yes, there are lot of people desperately trying to quit or reduce their medication with little preparation and alternatives, but struggling with addiction and withdrawal symptoms that make the situation worse, only to restart with increased dosage and number of drugs. In a holistic, complimentary medicinal view point, my belief and opinion would be obtaining a balance, as gradually as possible, between medication and complimentary or alternative methods like exposure to nature, exercise like aerobics, swimming, walking, etc, increased group interaction, avoiding stressful situations from life, media etc. The complimentary part will slowly weigh up over medication with time. In a spiritual view point any disease or suffering is a call for Acceptance and Transformation of the self and will continue to exist until the transformation is complete.

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