What to Expect from Effexor

Day Zero (Sunday)
I am so incredibly depressed tonight that I can’t do anything except sit and cry.

I’ve been depressed before, and even suicidally depressed (after taking Wellbutrin for 12 days, but that’s a different story), so I know how low I can go. This is about as low as it gets, with weak suicidal urges, but not strong ones (I had strong urges on Wellbutrin). This is where I stop screwing around and go get help. The red flag comes up. I’ll go to the doctor tommorrow morning and get some medication to help me. To fix me. Because I’m broken.

It’s completely unfair. I have depression year-round, but I have been controlling it pretty damn well. Except I moved to upstate New York last year and the amount of sunlight I get has been substantially reduced. It’s not fair, because it’s just seasonal affective disorder that’s got me down now. All I need is sunlight. A week in Florida. A sunlamp. I can’t afford either, so I’ll go get medication for half the price of a sunlamp.
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Day One (Monday)
I went to the doctor’s office at 9 a.m. I know she’s got some early morning “urgency” hours, but I missed them. They are before 9 a.m. So I made an appointment to come back at 12:30 p.m. It’s my day off, and I have to keep busy, so I steam clean the wall-to-wall caperting in my living and dining room. By the time I am done, I have just enough time to change my clothes and get to the doctors office.

She prescribes me Effexor. She doesn’t mention the side effects going on or coming off the drug, only says something nebulous about not being allowed to just go off it, because she has to reduce the dosage before coming off. She also says to make an appointment to come back in four to six weeks.

I drop off my prescription for Effexor 75mg tablets at CVS Pharmacy at 1:30 p.m. I go and get some lunch: a double cheeseburger for $1 at McDonalds. I run another errand before going to the gym to work off that cheeseburger.

.I pick up my prescription at CVS and take it. My co-pay is $30. The bottle says take with food, but I just ate not long ago and I’m not hungry. It makes me feel a little sick to my stomach right away, but other than that, nothing. Over the next few hours I started to get a little spacey. I have been on Zoloft before, I know how some of these SSRI drugs can work. I have some very, very low-grade headache-like pain, tightness in my chest, and achiness all over…of course those problems could either be me quitting smoking and using the nicotine patch, or it could be the result of my overzealous “I might be depressed but not fat,” workout.

Later, I had trouble settling down to sleep for the night, even though I was tired.
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Day Two (Tuesday)
I didn’t sleep too well last night. I feel like I didn’t get any sleep at all. I stay in bed for most of the morning, only to get up for a little while to check for jobs online. Depressed, I may be, but I am a very motivated depressed person. My girlfriend motivates me, especially when she says nothing. I know she expects more. I know I will eventually pull out of this depression too, and I’ll lament all the time I wasted feeling sorry for myself. I do what I can. There’s no jobs. I make a phonecall and talk to the boss of a company that competes with the one I work for, he says ‘sorry, no openings, but send your resume.’ I say thanks.

I am working the late shift today, from 2:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. I usally work 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. I hate the late shift. I’m especially going to hate being so tired and having to work. I write at a newspaper for a living, so every day I am on deadline to come up with some news and then write two stories. Two stories a day, and I just don’t have the energy to get out of bed.

I eventually do get out, and eat a donut and take my 75 mg Effexor pill. It makes me sick, even though I did eat something. I’m just not very hungry in the morning.

And later, I find that I am just not hungry during the day. I force myself to eat another donut about 4 hours later. And a piece of pepperoni pizza 4 hours after that. Work turns out to not be so bad, I get my work done efficiently, but then I am left with hours left on the clock and no desire to work on stories for the coming days. I just sit at my desk and surf the web.

I find the job I have been waiting for, and I am ready to apply. I send my stuff via email. I’ve been waiting for this opening. I feel no enthusiasm applying for it, at last. It’s a job up here where there is not enough sunlight. I need a job in Florida.

I am still depressed, but I am starting to feel a lethargy that never accompanied my depressions before.

I am pretty spaced out too. I know dizziness is a side effect of Effexor, and I’m not dizzy, but I feel like I could be, so I am pretty careful about where I place my feet. I’m pretty sure this is just the placebo-effect of reading up on the side effects a little last night.

I feel sick to my stomach all day. The spaced-out feeling has only gotten worse, although it starts to clear in the evening. Again, I am tired, but have a hard time falling asleep. As a depressed person, I have fought insomnia all my life from time to time. The best way for me to cope with that problem has always been to crawl into bed an relax, even if I don’t go to sleep for 3 hours.
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Day Three (Wednesday)
Again, I didn’t sleep well. I am sleeping, but not deeply. Like taking eight 1-hour naps in the night, my body seems recharged, but not my brain. My brain is tired, but juiced up on extra endorphins that I am not used to. Effexor is clearly working and I have not even been on it a full 72 hours, yet.

I eat my 75 mg tablet of Effexor pretty early. I have a donut waiting for me in the car to go with it, but I figure I’ll just eat it on my way to work. I take the pill about 10 minutes before I am ready to leave for work and that turns out to be a serious mistake. I find myself in the bathroom dry retching before I can get out to my car for my food. I eat that donut right away and immediatly I feel a little better. The queasiness I have had the first two days is still with me.

But it subsides by noon. The medicine-head feeling I have carried with me also departs by lunchtime, mostly. Some of my appetite returns, but only, I suspect because I have been eating so little. I’m not very hungry, but I feel like my body needs a little fuel. I eat a half a roast-beef sandwich.

My mood is lifting. I was active in our weekly noon meeting at work. It was still a bore and a waste of time, but it didn’t frustrate me as much as it usually does, and it was much easier for me to actively participate – usually I have to force myself to do so.

By 4 p.m. I feel well enough to call my girlfriend, whom I have tried to share this with, and keep her out of it at the same time. A confusing situation to be in probaly for her as much as myself.

But I am better now. I know the drug hasn’t even reached its full effect. I feel this because of two prior experiences taking Zoloft, a few years ago.

From my former experiences with Zoloft, I also know that I am going to be somewhat manic, especially as I adjust to the Effexor. It’s not really mania, but I would still classify it as “more active than normal.” Instead of sitting in my apartment alone, and lonely and depressed, I will be spending future days sitting, standing, and pacing, more bored and understimulated than anything else. The underlying problem of my dull life will remain, but I won’t feel bad about it.

The serotonin boost seems to have affected my sex drive by reducing it, but there are only minor physical symptoms as of yet. I can only hope that Effexor won’t make me impotent and and/or unable to orgasm. The problem with Zoloft was just a great difficulty coming to orgasm.

By 9 p.m. I start to feel hunger, something I haven’t really felt since I started Effexor. I make myself a snack – half the portion size I think I’d normally make. Then I end up eating only half of that reduced portion.

I still have trouble getting to sleep.
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Day Four (Thursday)

Again, I slept poorly, but better than previously. Especially towards the end of my sleeping time. I woke up around 7 a.m., but was able to go back to sleep until about 10 a.m. more deeply than usual.

Morning wood assures me that I can still get it up. That’s a heartening thought to start my day with.

Donut for breakfast again. Slice of pizza for lunch. My appetite has actually returned today, but out of habit, I am not eating much. Just because I can. Usually my willpower is weaker. I overdid it a little at dinner, however, but not as badly as I could have. It’s official: I have an appetite again.

Around noon, I took a vitamin B complex pill. It is a supplement that I had previously used for about five months to help control my depression. It worked amazingly well but then plateued, and when I started taking Effexor, I stopped taking the vitamin pill because it had stopped working a month ago anyway. The vitamin seems to have replentished something the Effexor was taking out of my body. I started to feel less like a doped-up medicine head within 15 minutes.

The medicine-head feeling has remained, on and off, like a tightness in my scalp, and it causes me to squinch up my face, my eyebrows, etc. I am always frowning. Except when I am smiling or laughing. And I am.

I am fully recovered from my depression today. But some of the Effexor side effects remain, like the loopy feeling I have in my head. It starts in the morning and seems to fade in the evening. But there are other problems.

I am now officially a space shot. I can drive no problem, but tonight, on my way accross town with my girlfriend, I completely forgot where we were going before we got there. I mean I had no clue what our destination was by the time we were halfway there. And we had a specific destination when we started. This semi-confusion is similar to when I was taking Zoloft a few years ago. I can deal with it. I hope it doesn’t get too bad.

The other problem is an energy I feel in all my limbs. I feel like I need to run, not walk. I am juiced up. I hope I’ll get used to having the extra endorphins in my body (in my brain really), but I am afraid I’ll never get used to it. I find that I can’t sit still, either. I’m always wagging my legs back and forth. Again this is reminiscent of when I was taking Zoloft. It’s a small price to pay compared to feeling suicidal. But it’s a negative side effect, none-the-less.

It’ a little easier to wind down for bed tonight. I expect to sleep better than I have. And I deserve it. Going on this drug has been physically draining.
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Day Five (Friday)

I have energy and I need to write what I have got so far. This could be the last entry, because I feel like the drug is now operating at full capacity. I slept pretty well last night. Thank God. I needed some sleep.

I’ve been losing weight thanks to my loss of appetite, and despite its return and my slight binge last night, I am still down another pound. That’s ok by me, because I am overweight. I started my day with my vitamin B pill instead of the Effexor, and then 15 minutes later ate the Effexor. It still seems to get absorbed into my system and demands energy from my body to metabolize the pill. I had thought, after yesterday’s experience that the vitamin B pill would help, but, not so much. A little maybe.

I am jittery. This has been a problem that I didn’t want to admit over the course of the last 5 days. Just slightly jittery. I can deal with that, too, as a small price to pay for being happy when I would otherwise want to kill myself.

The total extent of my side-effects, to-date, are: restless sleep(under control, I can sleep well enough, now), jittery hands, slight medicine-head feeling, frowning in my face to try to control the feeling, forgetfulness(yesterday’s post about the car trip), queasiness (that hasn’t gone away completely but fades with time after I take the pill). I have also had some low-grade headaches – two of them. All it took was a single ibuprofen pill to alleviate. Usually when I get sinus headaches, it takes as many as four or five 200 mg pills to alleviate.

Also I talk too much. Damn cop pulled me over today for not having my car inspected. And I know better than to offer any extra information, but I did it anyway. Blah blah blah. My mouth runs of its own accord to anybody who will listen. So, instead of a $20 ticket. I could be facing a $100 ticket, and a suspended registration. Damn. Depression has tried to ruin my life several times. And it’s constantly messing it up for me in one way or another.

That isn’t trying to put the blame on something else. Depression is a part of me. It’s my gravest problem., and I have spent my pre-adult and adult life trying to cope. It’s just such a monstrous task that it’s overwhelmed me on several occassions. It’s just not fair, man. But I do what I can. What I have to.

I didn’t want to go on medication, but it seems to have helped me. I hope to go off it as soon as I can. My intension was to suspend this diary until I went off the drug. But I got a call today from my doctor’s office saying they wanted to put me on Effexor XR. And I called back and left a message asking “WHAT THE FUCK FOR?” I hate messing around with this shit. I hate meds. I was more polite, but I made it clear that the medication was working just-fine-thank-you-very-much, and I wanted to know how the XR dosage would mess with my body compared to the 75 mg once-daily.
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Days 6 through 27

Nothing significant to report daily, but a short summary of the past three weeks:

The drug is working. I am generally in a good mood, but am constatly, slightly “out of it.” I have no other side effects except occassional difficulty falling asleep, and constant, extreme difficulty getting up in the morning. I have been sleeping, on average, 10 to 11 hours per night because I just can’t seem to drag myself out of bed. The jitters have receded but I still talk a bit too much. My appetite has been fine, but last week, I was unable to orgasm while having sex with my girlfriend.
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Day 28 (Saturday)

I decided I would go off Effexor today. I have been thinking about it for a week, since I failed to orgasm when having sex with my girlfriend because of this drug. We went 45-minutes. She’s a trooper, but enough was enough, and after 45 minutes of intercourse I was still unable to ejaculate. The longest I used to go before was 20 to 30 minutes. The doctor warned me to come to see her before I went off the drug because she said she would have to step the dosage down. Well, thanks to my inquisitive mind, I asked her, when she prescribed Effexor, what the minimum dosage was. I have been taking the minimum dosage – 75 mg daily in a single pill. I asked her also if I should step up my dosage, and she said that wasn’t required. So basically, she just wanted more money from me at a second visit.

I have read absolutely awful things online about Effexor withdrawal. I thought I knew what to expect – most people report severe withdrawal symptoms ranging from “shocks” in their brain, to flu-like cold symptoms and a general intense feeling of bad. A small percentage reported no withdrawal symptoms, and I could only hope that I was in that small percentage.

I took one half of a 75 mg pill today at about 10 a.m., intending to use my remaining three pills in halves to step down my dosage for six full days before going cold turkey. But I started to have some withdrawal symptoms by about 3 p.m. They got worse as time progressed until about 9 p.m. when I took another half pill. The worst of my withdrawal symptoms was the slight tremors in my hands, and the extra jitteriness throughout my body which I also experienced when I first went on the drug.

The half pill took away my withdrawal symptoms.
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Day 29 (Sunday)

I took a half pill this morning, but did not take a half pill this evening. I was fine.
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Day 30 (Monday)

No pills today. I am off Effexor. I have no withdrawal side effects. I am one of the lucky few.
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Day 37 (Monday)

I have been off Effexor for one week, and just today I feel like I am truly off of it. My mood began slipping almost immediatly after quitting a week ago, but it is only today that I find myself aware that more than a month has slipped by, and I really, truly, did not notice the passage of time. I have been in a happy haze for the past month, but that haze has kept me from pursuing any short-term plans further out than a few days. I just wasted a month of my life on a drug trip.
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