Even I recovered in the end...
I used to post here years ago - I don't know if there's anyone still around who would remember me, but basically I turned up at the start of 2006 at the beginning of an almighty sertraline withdrawal (which had already been going on for a few months) and then spent the next couple of years going through the wringer. I don't need to go into the details of this, as I'm sure you all know exactly what I mean, but I had a pretty horrific time of it... there were people here who'd had it worse than me, but I think I was probably in the top 5% in terms of how difficult I found it, and how long my symptoms lasted. A really, really horrible period of my life which I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Whatever you're going through right now, there's a good chance I had it too, and for a very, very long time. Seriously... it was grim.
Anyway, I'm just dropping back in for two reasons. Firstly, I sort of vanished from the site once I started to feel better and I wanted to come back and say thanks properly to the folks who helped me out at the time. So thanks - this place helped me out a lot.
Secondly, I can remember that when I was going through withdrawal myself, it was always good to hear from people who'd had it really bad and recovered... so here I am. I still have depression, sure. I have moderate anxiety issues and a whole cornucopia of hang-ups which make my life less than totally wonderful. But I don't think there's a single major problem in my life right now which I can point to and say "that's lingering withdrawal, right there" - and that's been the case for several years now.
Now... I've been off SSRIs for seven years, so that might not sound like much of a boast. But I was convinced I'd never recover. A year after stopping the pills, I would regularly find myself thrashing around on the floor screaming and howling; two years after that I was still in hell. I'm naturally a pretty pessimistic guy (like a lot of people with depression, I guess) and sometimes it was impossible to see any light at the end of the tunnel. I began thinking that the only reason I hadn't ended it all was that I didn't have the guts. And anyone who's been there will know that it's a pretty scary place to be, mentally.
Years after coming off, I still had PSSD. For someone like me, who'd always been what we in Britain call a randy git (and this hadn't been affected at all by a high dose of SSRIs) that was a big problem. My sex drive was still strong... the problem was, my mind was writing cheques my body couldn't cash. Erections were unreliable - though not completely gone - but the worst thing was the horrific premature ejaculation. It was like being a teenage virgin again... I could get started, but then seconds later... oh dear. To the guys here who are having problems even getting that far, that may sound not so bad, but trust me - it really is. Orgasms were almost totally pleasureless, of course. This went on for years. Just when my confidence needed a boost, it got the biggest kicking imaginable... and life's greatest pleasure was gone.
And while all this was going on, my life itself decided to go badly wrong. I haven't even got the time to list all the disasters and general "challenging" events from that period, but let's just say that even without the withdrawal it would have been a very difficult time indeed. As it was... I still don't know how I made it through.
But I did. I hung on, and eventually I got better. I'm not religious, I'm not into meditation or anything like that, I don't believe in any kind of alternative medicine and I'm even slightly dubious about the benefits of therapy (at least for myself - I'm sure it works great for others). I'm not what you'd call a positive thinker. I don't have great willpower, either (currently giving up smoking, years too late, and it's an absolute nightmare!). I found a couple of doctors who were sympathetic, but none who had anything useful to say, let alone anything useful they could do.
What I'm saying is, I went through one of the longest, hardest withdrawals and post-withdrawal periods I've ever heard of; I was totally unprepared for it, very badly suited to it, and unless you count the forum, I had nothing in my life to help me through. And somehow, I managed to beat it. What does this prove? Well, it proves one thing for a start: if a loser like me can do it, so can you.
The recovery was slow and painful, but I became conscious of every little improvement as it happened. I got used to the pattern: something would get better for a while, then suddenly everything would swing right back and all that recovery would vanish. But I learnt the trick - once something had recovered temporarily, it was only a matter of time before it recovered permanently. It made no difference if it came back for a while... it had already revealed its weakness, and sooner or later it was going to be gone for good. That was true in every single case.
I spent a while "pampering" myself, when things were really bad. If I was incapable of doing anything that day, I did nothing. Sure, I lost a lot of time I'll never get back... but what was the alternative? Then, when I had a good day, I'd grasp it with both hands and get as much done as I could - so when things got bad again I had some kind of achievement to point to, something to remind me that it wasn't always like this, and wasn't always going to be.
The PSSD was probably the last thing to go. It can last a horribly long time, I'm afraid. But once it's gone, believe me - you're so glad to be fixed, the joy drowns out any bitterness! Again it was a slow process, with lots of gradual improvements followed by depressing relapses, but after a while it was obvious that things were starting to change... and they did. Eventually, everything fell back into place. I'm 40 now, and I have a well-functioning sex life which is more affected by the fact that I was a smoker until a fortnight ago than it is by anything to do with SSRIs. I lost four or five years of my sex life, which doesn't fill me with joy. But I got it back, and it feels good, and ultimately that's what matters.
These days, I'm basically just a guy with moderate depression and anxiety... more or less what I was before I ever touched an antidepressant. Right back where I started, after going through a nightmare - that's pretty depressing, right? Well, not really. I coped with full-on nightmarish withdrawal, so now I find I can cope with depression. Things are a LOT easier than they were five or six years ago, and I made it through that - so making it through this is a piece of cake by comparison. No, I don't feel great every day. Yes, I feel a bit exhausted still by everything I went through. And yes, I can see little ways in which the whole experience damaged me: I certainly can't be the hard-living guy I was in my younger days, that's for sure. But I'm capable of enjoying things now, and looking to the future with a bit of hope again. It's all behind me now, that horror... and at last, everything's up to me. I'm not at the mercy of crazy bubbling brain chemistry with a life of its own any more. It's all up to me again - and that's the most important thing in the world.
And all I have to say to anyone who's currently going through long-term, heavy withdrawal symptoms: just hang on. You don't have to do anything... just hang on. So long as you don't let it beat you, in the end this stuff will just melt away. It really will. There'll be a bit of mental "tidying up" to do afterwards, as though a hurricane has passed through your house. But you'll be so glad you survived, so glad to see the blue skies again, you won't care too much about that. If it ever seems like everything's hopeless... well, it's not. It's really not. Honestly, it's simple as that.
Good luck to everyone. You'll get there in the end.
Edited by Altostrata, 01 February 2013 - 10:09 AM.