I look back on the last post I wrote in this series, and boy…am I thankful that God does not let us know what is coming ahead. He just gives us one day at a time, and gives us what we need to get through it.
My pastor, Bryan Clark, ended a sermon a few weeks ago with the words “You choose to cultivate the relationship (with God.) You do that today because you never know—tomorrow may be the most difficult day of your life.” When I heard those words, they seemed amplified and spoken especially for me despite the large congregation. I thought “UH-OH. What is coming my way Lord?” How is that for optimism? My Pastor’s reminder caused me to lean in, cling to, and abide with God the last few weeks.
What has come my way is a variety of things that honestly has swept me off my feet, landing me hard on the bottom, made me feel like I was drowning & reminded me what it means to suffer. I am at a place now where I am coming up for air and boy, it is so refreshing & life-giving!
I don’t quite know where to start, and I will try not to get too detailed, but it started with a med change.
Like I told you in this post, I have been on an antidepressant for years. Wellbutrin was the med that changed my life years ago and allowed me to be the real me. 4 years ago I had to go off that med because it clashed with the cancer medication called Tamoxifen, which I needed to start on right away. They switched me to Effexor, and honestly it was even better for me than Wellbutrin. I was very thankful.
The last 7 months I switched from the cancer med, Tamoxifen, which was making me sleep my life away among other not-so-fun side effects, and started on what is called an aromatase inhibitor. There are only a few options of medication for treating my hormone type cancer. In order to go on an aromatase inhibitor, we would need to completely shut my ovaries down and put me into menopause. I am not ready to permanently remove my ovaries, so we decided to shut them down chemically. I have been doing this the last 7 months with Lupron injections, (talked about here) & started taking the aromatase inhibitor, Arimedex.
Honestly, it has been a rough 7 months. Especially physically. The side effects of this medication are numerous, the ones that affect me the most are joint pain, stiffness, extreme & consistent hot flashes, & quite a few that are personal and I will spare you from. I was having these symptoms already even on Tamoxifen, but this new hormone suppressor medication + injections just amplified all of it.
Here is the deal. The antidepressant that they switched me to 4 years ago also have side effects very similar to my cancer meds, especially the more personal side effects. Doc decided now that I’m off Tamoxifen (cancer med) that I could go back on the Wellbutrin (mood med I was on 4 years ago). So we started the process of weaning off Effexor.
Still with me?
I had no idea that Effexor is one of the very hardest drugs to detox from. Well, I had read that it was a rough one, and the nurse told me we needed to go slow, but man, I did not know what I was in for.
It was a 3 week process, and it got worse and worse as we weaned down the dose. There was a period of 3-4 days when I finally went from a low dose to nothing, that I would describe as pure mental and physical suffering. I have been through a lot, and I am tough, but that about did me in. There was one evening where I had decided that if things were no better in the morning that I would need to admit myself for monitoring and medical help while de-toxing, at least a few days, until the process was over. I couldn’t fathom putting my kids through that or my Todd, but having me there was no better…at all.
How to describe those days? I knew I was not myself. I knew it could not be helped. I knew I had to just get through it.
Physically, the symptoms really scared me. There is no explaining it really. There was a feeling in my head of ‘zapping’ that happened all throughout the day for at least a week. When I would move my eyes even a bit from one side to the other I would ‘hear’ ….actually feel, a whooshing. I told you– it is hard to explain! It sounds crazy even typing it. It scared me. It happened all throughout the day. I was incredibly foggy. I could not read a book. I would read one sentence 4 times and still not comprehend it. There was constant pressure in my head. Light hurt. I had nausea and felt like I had the flu. I had even more intense hot flashes than normal but then would get super cold and shiver. It took me back to my chemo days, those days that the chemo just knocked me down and took over my body. I hated every minute of it.
In the middle of that, I was due for my every 3 month anti-hormone injection. Here is the thing with those. The week before I have it, I have breakthrough symptoms where it feels like PMS. Full blown. Then I get the injection, and the symptoms get worse for 2 days then get better. I have to stay on course to the day, every three months. I was very scared to get it in the middle of what already was happening with me. I had reason to be, and when I talk about being admitted above it was 2 days after my injection. The de-toxing plus this ‘jarring -to-my-system’ shot was just too much.
This was just the physical. Then there was the mental.
I couldn’t handle anything. I was a mess. I couldn’t handle the least bit of stress, I was unreasonable in my thinking, I cried easily…a mess. I wish I could say I rallied and shut myself down and away from my family so they would not have to deal with me…but life did not allow that. I tried to hide it from my girls as much as possible, but the new school year had started, life was moving fast and bringing big changes for our family. I did my best to keep up.
~My sweet Freshman girl now needed rides to school and all her extra curricular activities. I was used to her walking to school. She now attends a school across town, and I found myself driving there 2 – 3 times a day.
~My Todd entered into the busiest season of his job, and was very overwhelmed with life already. He was teaching and training a large number of volunteers for those 2 weeks. This not only kept him at work from early morning to 6:30/7:00 at night, but he needed me to bring one of our daughters to him to be the ‘student’ as he taught volunteers what they needed to do. More driving for me.
~This also meant he was not around in the evening to help get our youngest to soccer practice as he usually is, which meant more driving for me.
I honestly don’t mind driving my kids around, and actually love it now that I’ve come up for air, but while I was struggling there were days where I really don’t think I should have been driving.
I was utterly physically and emotionally spent.
The biggest life change that came about just as I was coming up for air but still not myself, was the decision to homeschool our Colsie. I’ve always said I don’t have the patience or the skill set needed to homeschool my children, and said I never would. I’m learning to never say never! It is what our sweet girl desperetly needed, and I have seen so very clearly that God is in this decision. She is thriving so far as a homeschooler and God has given us every resource and help we could possibly need to make this successful for the both of us. Time with her has been precious, and I find myself on days like today when I am away to work, missing her. She is with her Grandma – someone who she loves to be with, who is a teacher and is taking a couple of days a week to help out with schooling. Huge blessing! We are finally getting on a good routine and finding we both thrive on the forced routine that her homeschooling has brought.
Yes. I am breathing easier.
I share all this hoping someone will benefit from my experience or let someone who is in the midst of switching medication or de-toxing from medication know that they are not alone, and they will get through it.
You might wonder why would someone take a medication that would be so incredibly hard to detox from and cause such scary symptoms. My answer is because for me, the medication works and is needed. You all know I am all for nutrition, a balanced lifestyle, and finding strength in God. Yes, these things are so very necessary too, but please hear me when I say all of those things would be so out of reach for me if not for medication. I would not be able to focus on the thought process that a nutritious and balanced life demands. As for God? He would be and always has been there for me, but my ability to reach out to Him, think on His truth, read and focus on His words, and accept who I am in Him would not be what it is today if not for medication.
Again, I write this for anyone out there that feels alone. Someone who thinks they should be able to solve their mental health problems in various ways, but can’t seem to do it no matter how much they want to. I’ve been there.
Just as you can’t think positively enough, eat nutritious enough, and pray enough to mend a broken leg…so it is with a broken brain. My life journey is one where I begged God for wisdom and direction in healing my brain, and medication is the main avenue that He led me to.
There are other ways that are as important. I am having a great time exploring how nutrition is connected to brain health, and I recently have started meeting with a most beautiful and wise woman who has agreed to mentor me and disciple me.
I’m SUPER excited about the coming months & all that God is leading me towards. How sweet He is to continue to grow me, guide me, and be so very close to me. He is continuing to show me what #LivingNew looks like, even in the midst of the hard, even in the moments where I find I can barely breathe. He is life. He is air. He restores & redeems. He makes new.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
What about you? Can you relate to any of this?
Have you ever had to detox from a medication? What was your experience?
More in this series from New Nostalgia:
Going There — Mental Illness
Going There — Mental Illness: PMDD & Getting Health
Let’s Talk — Mental Illness + A Health Update