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brassmonkey

Tao of the Brassmonkey

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gigi63
On 5/7/2018 at 2:29 PM, brassmonkey said:

I Think I Have Anhedoina, But I Don’t Care

 

Anhedonia is one of those symptoms that really upsets people, and not with out cause.  It can be very unpleasant and disheartening. It is, however, a very important part of the healing/recovery process and needs to be embraced rather than feared.

 

I experienced anhedonia to some degree for a lot of my time on Paxil and during my taper off of it.  As I have mentioned before, I have done two major up doses while on Paxil. From 20mgai to 30mgai and again from 30mgai to 40mgai.  I first started to notice the anhedonia about a year into the change to 40mgai.  I had been going through a rough patch “life wise” for several years and thought that my lack of caring was due to the cumulative effects of life’s hard knocks.

 

During my downward spiral with the high dose of Paxil, drinking and continued life challenges, the anhediona continued to increase.  About the time I decided to do something about my life I pretty much didn’t care about anything.  I didn’t care enough to care about not caring. Until that flash of insight that set me on the path of righting my life.

It took getting sober and about two and a half years of tapering before I noticed any changes.  Another year and a half would pass before I really saw my emotions start to return.  From there it was a stead climb out of the black hole of emotionlessness. Once I made the jump to “0” things really started to improve. Today I still get small bouts that last for a few hours, but they are nothing like what it was in the beginning.  Now it’s more just normal emotional fluctuations like anyone would experience.

 

So, what did I do to get through it. Not a whole lot. I found that fighting against it only made things a whole lot worse. I found that accepting the anhedonia was much preferable to the alternatives of unrelenting anxiety and panic. I learned to look at anhedonia as a blessing in a way.  Without it I would have been feeling the over whelming panic and anxiety that is so common in WD.  Sure, I wasn't enjoying life, but I wasn't suffering either, and the loss of a happy life to it is only temporary. 

 

When it comes to WD, anhedonia is nature’s way of protecting us from the excruciating experience of constant panic attacks, nonstop anxiety, adrenaline rushes, cortisol spikes, palpitations, suicidal ideation, intrusive thoughts, and the like.  Your mind decides that it is better to feel nothing at all than to be put through the ringer 24/7 with emotions and sensations that wrack the body and soul and slow the healing/recover process to a snail’s pace.  When the mind is allowed to feel nothing, the body is then allowed to relax and direct its energy to where it really needs to be used. This provides for faster more complete healing, less painful WD symptoms and a better quality of life.

 

Yes, anhedonia is no fun.  Primarily because we make it that way.  We all want to regain our feelings as fast as possible.  But we are in a healing situation where the body needs to be allowed to do what it needs to do, because it knows best how to put itself back together.  Once we understand this, accept it, and stop fighting it we will start to heal at a faster rate and life will be much more pleasant as we do so.  

 

You can't fight against it.  This is a drug induced sensation that we have no control over.  Trying to fight it or overcome it just burns a lot of precious energy and causes a huge amount of frustration and anxiety because it doesn't help anything.  The emotions, feelings of joy, happiness, love, and excitement as well as creativity, ambition, and a whole lot more are being chemically suppressed and for the time being are just not accessible. Acceptance of the situation is the best path to follow.  As you reduce your dose further and your body has a chance to heal your emotions and all will slowly start to come back, but it does take a lot of time.

 

One thing I did learn was to look for and cherish all the little moments of joy.  They are popping up all the time but are very fleeting and easily overlooked.  When you look at a flower, instead of thinking "darn, I can't enjoy this flower", watch for the momentary little flash of joy that that flower brings when you first see it, and acknowledge it when it happens.  Stop and try to see the beauty in things, even if you don't feel it. "Wow, the sun on those clouds is really pretty, one day soon I will feel it again".  Stop and recognize the joy/wonder in the scene, but let your body react in its own manner.  This exercise will help reestablish the neural pathways and little by little dig out and strengthen the feelings. It is one of the symptoms that is really good to practice AAF on, as there is nothing you can do about it but live with it as best as you can.  Like a bad house guest, ignore it long enough and it will eventually go away.

 

Anhedonia can be a real relationship challenge.  I went through that for quite some time.  I learned that even though I couldn't call up or experience the feelings they were still there inside, just not accessible.  At the time I had been happily married for 33 years but couldn't summon up any of the feelings I had for my wife.  I mentioned this, and it lead to several "late night discussions".  Once we both understood that it was a manifestation of the drugs things started to improve.  After I had been tapering off of the Paxil for a while the feelings slowly started to show themselves, until, now I am more in love with her then ever.  We celebrated number 39 a couple of months ago.  It's a big test of a relationship, but if the feelings are true in the first place and both people trust each other it is something that can be gotten through and make the relationship all the stronger.

 

Like everything else we feel or don't feel in WD, Anhedonia comes and goes in waves and windows.  It is, however, frequently one of the last things to go.  Some people have it bad until after they jump off, while for others is clears up as they taper.  Given a lifetime, the time spent in ADWD/recovery is insignificant.  We have all had our "life" cruelly taken from us and want it back now.  But to get it back fully we need to let the WD/recovery run its course, put on a brave face, and accept whatever it throws at us, whether we can feel it or not.  With time, the healing will happen and when it knows we are ready, our minds will allow us to feel our full range of emotions again and life will be even better.

Brassmonkey, thank you for this.  I do have questions though.  I personally never experienced anhedonia for many years on my Antidepressant, it seems that , now looking back, that I was beginning to experience it the last year I was taking the full dose I was on, but now looking back, I believe I was beginning to experience poop out that was intensifying in that last year.  Then, when I tapered , too fast over a 10 month period, and crashed, I didn’t really even notice it as much as I have over the past 18 months of my holding for good and steady.  Yes, I agree it is more noticeable in waves but, here is the question running through my own mind, I am wondering if this is two fold. 1) I began to experience it as I was pooping out on my dose but I am also experiencing 2) as a symptom of WD/healing process.  It can all become so muddy.  I am just hoping for it to eventually clear with healing.  

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bromor

Was very happy to read this success story!!  I'll be writing mine....in another 5 months.  I like the idea of being off for a full year before writing it.

It's so important for us to write our stories....to give that hope to others.  It's a tough road but there is a light at the end of it!  I'm a firm believer in that. :) 

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mammaP

Thank you for posting this Tom. You and I must have started paxil around the same time, mine was 1994 but went on to many many drugs over the years. I am so glad that you developed the sliding scale of tapering and shared it here.  We have to be creative with tapering and yours is brilliant. 

I am so glad you joined us, and really happy for you that you are living life and still so much in love wih your lovely wife.  Feeling love after being numb for years is the very best feeling in the world. :wub:  

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rupa

Hi Tom,

Please let me know ,what are you doing for a good nights sleep.At lower doses did you suffer lack of sleep?

How is your sleep after reaching zero to post one year?

Did you experience hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations or just sleep disturbances due to dreams?

How did you cope?

Thank you.

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brassmonkey

Hi Rupa--  I've always been an Olympic level sleeper, any time, any where. Severe sleep disturbance is one of the symptoms I had very little of, and I consider my self lucky for it.  At one point I did go through about nine months of work related insomnia and a prolonged period of disturbed sleep/dreams due to the stress, which is pretty much the same as what is experienced in WD.  At the time I knew that it was stress related and because there wasn't much I could do to remove the stress all I was able to do was get through it as best as I could. I was working 12 hour days on one and a half to two hours of disturbed sleep.  Just the fact that i'd been lying quietly in bed for the night helped considerably.  Insomnia leaves you in a pretty wiped out condition, but functional.  So I concentrated on the tasks at hand and just "got through" each day.  At some point the stress decreased and I was able to drop some of the tension and things improved.  I guess dogged determination is what did it.

 

There were a few things that the drugs threw at me that needed to be addressed too.  For a while I was having extremely vivid dreams, ones where you couldn't tell the dream from being awake. A lot of people are really freaked out by them, but I rather enjoyed them and actually miss them some what. I can still call up scenes from some of them after a good ten years.  On a similar note I sometimes get very clear memories of things I know could never have happened, I've never been to those places or the action is physically impossible. But I think that's something else all together.

 

From time to time I think I feel someone crawling on the bed as I'm drifting off, but I look and there's no one there, so I can write it off to nerve sensations and let it go. Before I started to taper I was having a good bout of myoclonic jerks.  My poor dog got the raw end of that a few times.  He loved to sleep at my feet on the bed.  Those were a bit harder to manage, I tried a bit of massage, which helped some, but in the end it came down to ignoring them.

 

While I was tapering my sleep never seemed to be full restorative, and there was the constant fatigue that most people get, that's caused by the drugs.  Since jumping to "0" that has been improving and I am feeling more rested during the day.  I do get tired very easily, but that is improving too.  It does seem that I really hit a wall at 1:30 am, almost like throwing a switch and I need to get to bed. Then at 9:15 my eyes start to open for the day.  I usually wake up three or four times a night to adjust blankets or roll over and then I'm right back out.  During my taper there were times I would wake up every hour, but would quickly drift off again.

 

When it comes to coping with sleep problems, I found Acceptance to be the big key.  In and of itself insomnia, although very uncomfortable, will not kill you. There are side effects, like slow reactions and brain fog that need to be addressed by adapting ones behavior and concentration, which is a learned response.  For the most part drug induced sleep problems are out of our hands until we have managed to reduce the drug load to the point that they start to resolve.  Until that time we can't afford the luxury of allowing them to dominate us. Accepting them and the limitations they are causing for the short term and living within those limitations will greatly reduce the stress/anxiety that we are feeling.  The lowered stress will also help to improve our sleep.  When we are in the thick of it, it seems that the problem will last for ever, when in fact it will probably only be a real factor for a few months.

 

For people who are not experiencing sleep problems, this would be a good time to develop a key word sleep response.  This is a key phrase that a person says at bedtime to help induce the body to sleep.  It takes several weeks of repetition to establish it, but once there, it can be used in times of disturbed sleep to help trigger shut eye.  I use a key phrase and an action to accomplish this.

 

                        "It's time to go to sleep. I want to go to sleep. I will start falling asleep by giving a big yawn." Followed by a forced yawn.

 

For several weeks I would say/do this at the same point in my nightly ritual, and then go on about going to bed and falling asleep in my normal way.  This gives your mind a touch point to trigger the set of actions, emotions and bodily responses that happen naturally as you fall asleep.  With practice and repetition those reactions will start to happen when that phrase and action are performed. The only kicker is that you need to be going to sleep in a healthy manner while doing the training, otherwise you can train in a faulty pattern that is fairly hard to undo.

 

It's a very simple thing to learn and practice.  I've found it very helpful on nights when my mind is just too active to drop off, while traveling in strange hotels, or on airplanes, just about any place I need to sleep.

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rupa
On 20 May 2018 at 1:00 AM, brassmonkey said:

Hi Rupa--  I've always been an Olympic level sleeper, any time, any where. Severe sleep disturbance is one of the symptoms I had very little of, and I consider my self lucky for it.  At one point I did go through about nine months of work related insomnia and a prolonged period of disturbed sleep/dreams due to the stress, which is pretty much the same as what is experienced in WD.  At the time I knew that it was stress related and because there wasn't much I could do to remove the stress all I was able to do was get through it as best as I could. I was working 12 hour days on one and a half to two hours of disturbed sleep.  Just the fact that i'd been lying quietly in bed for the night helped considerably.  Insomnia leaves you in a pretty wiped out condition, but functional.  So I concentrated on the tasks at hand and just "got through" each day.  At some point the stress decreased and I was able to drop some of the tension and things improved.  I guess dogged determination is what did it.

 

There were a few things that the drugs threw at me that needed to be addressed too.  For a while I was having extremely vivid dreams, ones where you couldn't tell the dream from being awake. A lot of people are really freaked out by them, but I rather enjoyed them and actually miss them some what. I can still call up scenes from some of them after a good ten years.  On a similar note I sometimes get very clear memories of things I know could never have happened, I've never been to those places or the action is physically impossible. But I think that's something else all together.

 

From time to time I think I feel someone crawling on the bed as I'm drifting off, but I look and there's no one there, so I can write it off to nerve sensations and let it go. Before I started to taper I was having a good bout of myoclonic jerks.  My poor dog got the raw end of that a few times.  He loved to sleep at my feet on the bed.  Those were a bit harder to manage, I tried a bit of massage, which helped some, but in the end it came down to ignoring them.

 

While I was tapering my sleep never seemed to be full restorative, and there was the constant fatigue that most people get, that's caused by the drugs.  Since jumping to "0" that has been improving and I am feeling more rested during the day.  I do get tired very easily, but that is improving too.  It does seem that I really hit a wall at 1:30 am, almost like throwing a switch and I need to get to bed. Then at 9:15 my eyes start to open for the day.  I usually wake up three or four times a night to adjust blankets or roll over and then I'm right back out.  During my taper there were times I would wake up every hour, but would quickly drift off again.

 

When it comes to coping with sleep problems, I found Acceptance to be the big key.  In and of itself insomnia, although very uncomfortable, will not kill you. There are side effects, like slow reactions and brain fog that need to be addressed by adapting ones behavior and concentration, which is a learned response.  For the most part drug induced sleep problems are out of our hands until we have managed to reduce the drug load to the point that they start to resolve.  Until that time we can't afford the luxury of allowing them to dominate us. Accepting them and the limitations they are causing for the short term and living within those limitations will greatly reduce the stress/anxiety that we are feeling.  The lowered stress will also help to improve our sleep.  When we are in the thick of it, it seems that the problem will last for ever, when in fact it will probably only be a real factor for a few months.

 

For people who are not experiencing sleep problems, this would be a good time to develop a key word sleep response.  This is a key phrase that a person says at bedtime to help induce the body to sleep.  It takes several weeks of repetition to establish it, but once there, it can be used in times of disturbed sleep to help trigger shut eye.  I use a key phrase and an action to accomplish this.

 

                        "It's time to go to sleep. I want to go to sleep. I will start falling asleep by giving a big yawn." Followed by a forced yawn.

 

For several weeks I would say/do this at the same point in my nightly ritual, and then go on about going to bed and falling asleep in my normal way.  This gives your mind a touch point to trigger the set of actions, emotions and bodily responses that happen naturally as you fall asleep.  With practice and repetition those reactions will start to happen when that phrase and action are performed. The only kicker is that you need to be going to sleep in a healthy manner while doing the training, otherwise you can train in a faulty pattern that is fairly hard to undo.

 

It's a very simple thing to learn and practice.  I've found it very helpful on nights when my mind is just too active to drop off, while traveling in strange hotels, or on airplanes, just about any place I need to sleep.

What great and very helpful reply Tom.

I appreciate it very much.

God Bless You.

Thank you so much.

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brassmonkey

Just wanted to note that I had a migraine aura this afternoon.  I was working along and suddenly noticed that my vision was all shimmering.  Took about twenty minutes for it to resolve.  Its been a couple of hours and no headache yet.  I haven't gotten them the past several times so i don't expect one. Been a little disoriented and have some very mild DR.  We'll see what dinner and a good nights sleep do.

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