Archive for February, 2011

Withdrawing from Cymbalta… fun it is NOT

I write to you this afternoon on the other side of a horrific night battling with some serious demons. At first it manifested itself as being completely annoyed beyond belief at my partner, then as though there were bugs crawling under my skin that had to get out. I felt like screaming. I felt like running a marathon, I felt like taking a whole bunch of pills and saying sianara to the world.

Then when I came home, I felt even worse. Restless as all get out. Legs twitching, body tensing up, and a strange buzz in my head that feels similar to when you come home from a gig and your ears are ringing. My poor partner, we’ve had our rough patches lately and I don’t want to have to inflict this shit on him again. I had to take my emergency Valium (my final one) to actually fall asleep. I got up at 6am and was restless again til about 9am, when I drifted back into sleep only to wake 3 and a half hours later.

Where did the weekend go.

Withdrawing off any medication is pretty damn hard. It’s quite funny and ironic because I’m forever telling my clients that it’s ‘not a good idea’ to take yourself off your psych meds, but when you’re in the same boat, it’s a completely different story isn’t it. I don’t want to be taking this shit all my life. I can see how people could get trapped into doing so. The fact is, I’ve been told by a few professionals that I don’t really need to be on psych meds. Most of my problems are situational, and it came through a lack of ability handling them that suddenly I was crippled with anxiety and unable to function. I am dealing better than ever with problems I encounter in life, but I don’t attribute that to a blue and white pill I take every night.

I’m on the lowest possible dose of Cymbalta available in Australia, 30mg. I was told by my doc initially that this was a ‘starter’ dose and that the therepuetic amount was 60mg for it to work effectively on my anxiety. I was thrust up to 60mg after a month on the 30 and probably went back down after about a month. I turned into a complete zombie, uninterested in anything. Devoid of emotion, or fun. I was a ghost of my former self. Clearly the dose was too high, and I dropped down to 30 after telling my doc that I just couldn’t handle being someone that only exists outside of herself.

Since then, I’ve been maintained on 30mg and things have been going alright. About a month ago, I made the decision that it had been about 10 months since I started, and I wanted to be a touch more ‘normal’ again.

I have sought medical advice for withdrawing off Cymbalta, so it hasn’t been a completely autonomous experience. The doctor I booked wasn’t my regular (she’s on maternity leave, bloody breeder), in fact my previous experience with her was in short, fucking awful. She has the most atrocious bedside manner, and never once asks the important questions one asks (the first time I saw her, I was pretty much in the midst of a panic attack, but because it was New Years’ Eve, she sent me off on my merry way with two dozen forms for blood tests and scans, not even having asked me how I was feeling). So despite that, I went in with an open mind, and got a rude shock when she gave me information about Cymbalta that my previous doc neglected to tell me. The withdrawal from SNRI‘s is particularly bad because unlike the regular SSRI’s, it works on two different neuro-transmitters: seretonin and norepinephrine. She provided a brief overview of withdrawal effects: dysphoric mood, irritability, agitation, dizziness, electric shock sensations, anxiety, confusion, headache, lethargy, emotional lability, insomia, hypomania, tinnitus, seizures… Thanks doc. I am sufficiently freaked out, and worried I am fucked.

After a discussion about how we would go about addressing negative side effects (prescribing Prozac), she advised I do the two days on, one day off approach for a while before then doing every second day, then spacing it out even further.

Well, since I started doing this, I’ve had two major breakdowns, both facilitated by alcohol and one by another substance. Last night was particularly bad and it is making me worried – the change is so small that I shouldn’t be feeling so out of step. But alas. Maybe I need to go back to doc and tell her that me and Cymbalta are having a difficult break-up. It’s like a manipulative and overbearing boyfriend who keeps reminding you that as much as it is better for you to leave, he will make it damn near impossible to.


My weekend

A little about how easily I procrastinate and achieve very little.

I planned to wake up this morning, go to the gym, then my therapist, then buy a new tennis racquet, then go to Flight Centre to see what options I have to go overseas later this year. As it stands, I only managed one of those things, and that was the one that I’d pay a cancellation fee for if I missed.

So that’s how I usually spend my weekends. I start with a whole bunch of great ideas only for them to fizzle out in favour of me just lounging about. It’s not good. To say that I suffer from a lack of motivation is an understatement.

No wonder I haven’t done anything creative in years.

And another thing…

I stumbled across a great blog the other day…

1000 Awesome Things

It’s such a wonderful page, especially when you just need a reminder about the many hundreds of perfectly simple things in life that are truly awesome.

I think it’s a great pick me up for anyone who’s had a less than perfect day. I wrote to a close friend of mine today, who is currently in Thailand and reminding me why I miss her so much. We’ve not known each other very long, but it feels like we have. There aren’t a lot of people I’ve met that I can truly say “get” me, so meeting, befriending and becoming very close to one is something to be cherished.

I just came across this awesome thing on the blog and immediately thought of her.

Sick = time off = way more shit to catch up on upon return = sick (etc)

I got home from work about half an hour ago, and I lie in bed praying to some spiritual force that I do not get the lurgy any time soon. I say this partially out of my hypochondriac self which builds mountains out of two sneezes and a cough. Partially out of the absolute worry of missing time of work at a specifically crucial moment right now (2 case conferences over next 2 weeks, for starters).

It made me wonder about this interesting 9-5 conundrum of a world we live in. I suppose it is not specific to the field of social work, I think it may as well apply to any high-stress job that requires you to think on your toes consistently and frequently. How often we push ourselves to the point of burn-out, or actual physical sickness, to be rewarded with so called “sick days” to cure ourselve = take the time off of our work, heal. But there is a Catch 22, isn’t there.

I think I, as well as many others, tend to go into that wave of anxiety when I’m ill and not at work. The random thought processes of “I should’ve gone in”, “Maybe I could do some of this work now”, “I’ll just make a couple phone calls”… within the first day of being off sick.

As my time off increases and the sickness intensifies, the anxiety reaches the level of “Holy Shit the world is ending without me”, “What the hell did I do to deserve this”, and the inevitable:


As much as we want to use the time off to actually get better, our minds will no doubt wander to the goings on at work, and create a picture of the completely unachievable backlog of work that will greet us on our return. I sometimes get more stressed about going back to work than I was just before taking the time off to recover. The way I visualise my job after a bout of sickness – like a tip, and you need to sort out recyclables and rubbish, but to varying degrees of urgency. Say for example, that hidden underneath some of it is some serious nuclear waste that would probably need to be taken elsewhere STAT. Ha. And I suppose add a computer, e-mails, report-writing, case-notes and phone calls to the tip scenario and you pretty much have a recipe for another episode of burn-out.

So – this is me just riffin’. It’s been ages since I had time off for anything other than anxiety-related issues, but now that I’m feeling twinges of a problem, I’m having a bit of a freak-out. I have way too much to do, body. Please just heal yourself now!

On a completely different hand – I wonder what daytime TV is up to these days?


The last two days I had no contact with clients, instead working solidly on my chronology for a mental health referral for Jane.

I have been trawling through case notes, emails, contact with her, other services to collate information for this thing. I’ve been so entrenched in the case that I’m starting to go a little nuts myself. All I’ve been thinking about is Jane. Couple that with 2 nights’ poor sleep, and I have a recipe for a 3rd night of nightmares.

Luckily I have a fairly cruisey next couple of days, despite having to write up another one of these monstrosities for another client, Mandy. And Friday is a day off, which I think I badly need to save myself from fatigue.

What will I attempt to do on that Friday? Yes, let’s examine something to look forward to! Perhaps a massage? Pedicure or manicure? Haircut? Gym? Sleep-in?!

Can’t wait.


This year has seen no shortage of drama in my home state of Queensland.

As much as I speak of my allegiance to my mother country, there is also a special sort of connection I have to the north.

When the floods hit, I was absolutely mortified, shocked, in awe and so incredibly sad. Those were my streets, and they were underwater. It was surreal, and so devastating.

Now, as Cyclone Yasi bears down on another part of the state, I feel nothing but fear. I’ve not been in a cyclone in my lifetime, however I’ve had nightmares about them for as long as I can remember. I don’t know where this irrational fear came from, because I grew up in a remote Western city too far south and too far inland to ever be affected by such an event. Regardless, something must have planted a seed.

I find myself now obsessively checking Twitter and ABC News getting as much information and footage into my head as I can. I don’t know why. Every now and then I remove myself from those news streams to give myself a “break”. Then I’m right back into it again. I did it with the floods, and I am doing it again with Yasi.

Lord knows why the sudden obsession. Historically, I’ve never really cared about natural disasters, even when they’ve been in my own backyard (Black Saturday). And now, perhaps because Qld is getting the rough end of Mother Nature’s stick, I am forever glued to find out more.


When I was 16, there was quite a large storm that came through where we lived at the time. It was a freak event, and really only caused chaos in a couple of suburbs. My parents were out, and I was doing homework around the time that it hit. I recall hearing the winds pick up, the rain pummelling down, then the power going out. That freaked me out the most (and it always does, whatever the situation!), and I found my imagination going a little haywire as my mind played tricks on me while my eyes adjusted to the twilight. Having animals near me has always calmed these sorts of spurts of ‘hallucation’ (if you could call it that), and I got my dog into my bedroom, cuddled her tight and hoped that it would all pass.

I opened the curtains, to let more light into the room. I had no idea where the candles were. This was before we had mobile phones, so I had no way of safely calling my parents to find out when they were coming home. From my bedroom, I had a clear view of our entire backyard. Slowly, I saw tiles come off our roof as the wind increased. A couple of our old palm trees snapped like the cliche. The whole outdoor lounge skipped its way down the lawn and into the pool a good 200m down. And when the pergola blew away, I nearly lost my shit. I literally grabbed our dog and crawled under the bed, with my walkman. I turned the music on full bore to block out the noise, and cried like a baby. *

I can’t imagine what people go through when cyclones or hurricanes hit. Disaster movies do their best to sensationalise it, but all I have to do is grab my piddly experience during a one hour storm, and multiply it by about 100.

If anyone from Cairns, Innisfail and surrounds is reading this: I’m thinking of you, and keep safe.


(* My parents found me there, asleep, 3 hours later when they got home at 10pm, long after the storm passed. They had no idea it even happened)