For all of you out there who either have a loved one who is being taken off their medication in order to start a new one, or those of you who have someone who just decided on their own to stop their medication, here are a few possibilities of things that might happen. This is not researched and I do not know if science has looked at this phenomenon but I’ve just spent the last two weeks living through it so you might say I’m an on-the-scene reporter.
My husband has been on medication of some sort for depression for over twenty years. Pills have been added or subtracted, dosages increased or decreased, all in an effort to find the right combination that would deal with his anxiety and depression.
Last week he had had enough and told his psychiatrist that he was willing to try something drastically different, something that would stop the deep pain he was suffering on a daily basis. The psychiatrist agreed it was more than time to try something different. He wrote out a schedule for going off the meds – five in all – and then starting the new medication – only one pill that would be increased if it showed indications that he was improving.
And so the journey began. The first couple of days were full of sleeping and depression and not talking hardly at all. He was out of it and went to bed at an early hour. The second day was about the same with a little less sleep. The four days that followed were repeats with variations.
This is probably one of the biggest things I observed. The amount of sleep increased and the feeling of being totally and utterly exhausted was a frequent complaint.
Then the new medication began. He awoke the first day very angry and depressed. No one on the earth could do anything to please him. He got worse as the day went only complicating it with the conversation that he wanted to die – not necessarily commit suicide but he stated he would be content if he just went to sleep and never woke up. Picture a talk like that fill with the “f” word and you have an inkling of how that day went.
By this time you can imagine that I was about ready to either sock him silly or bang my own head against the wall. I didn’t. Instead I channeled Mary Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. I put out an e-mail to family and friends and said simply, “Okay, I need some help. A phone call or visit or email to him would really help and it would take a bit of pressure off me. Whatever you can do, will do and don’t talk about depression except to inquire how he is doing.”
It helped more than I could have imagined. It was good for both him and me.
The next day he awoke feeling depressed but not as bad. But some of the stuff that was surfacing was interesting. He didn’t have filters over what he said to people and suddenly after so many years of not dreaming, he was dreaming and wanted to talk about the dreams.
And the day after that he felt even less depressed. He even started to compliment me. He joined in conversations. He did some work around the house. We are hopeful that this is the beginning of a good stretch for both us.
I think when medication is removed or added, it affects the brain in ways we have only begun to understand. So I share this for those of you who care for a hurting other to help in the understanding of this difficult time, an understanding that books or doctors don’t usually tell us about. Everyone’s experience will be different but threads will be the same.
The important parts:
- I tried to stay calm during all of this. It wasn’t easy at some times, but in the long run it helped immensely. I also tried not to react even when he talked about wanting die. Both of us just talked about it as something that had surfaced and needed to be brought into the light.
- I made sure to take time each day only for myself. If I needed to get out, I did. If I needed to just read a book, I did. I made sure that I was okay during this time.
- I willingly asked for help when I realized I could not do what everyone together could. And I wasn’t ashamed to ask. And it was absolutely wonderful that everyone responded. I think that people need a concrete way in which they can help. Visiting, emailing, calling. All of those are good. But what’s even better is for the caregiver to tell them exactly what is needed.
So that’s what I’ve been up to. The report is in and the past days have been very positive and hope is strong.