Persistent SSRI Withdrawal Syndrome
The emotions had become erratic. They had gone from a month of an emotion like happy happy joy joy then a few weeks of another like despair (I am worthless and want to die) or irrational anger; then it cycled down to a few days including grief (my best friend just died) before becoming hours of each then minutes. Finally during the peak, where each emotion was at full intensity, something just went bang and it stopped.
I stopped taking Citalopram (40mg) in October, 2016 after 13 years on various SSRIs and SNRIs. The withdrawal ended December, 2017. I cannot guarantee it has gone, it may return in a new guise, hell, it’s had plenty so far. I cut the drug off dead without tapering as I had developed severe parkinsonism and was losing control of my body. The rapid cycling in bipolar ceased immediately, and no mania has occurred since despite being due and the depressive symptoms like leaden paralysis relenting with the depressive episode.
There were no breaks (windows) or waves (spells of symptoms), just full blown for fourteen months. The first 8 months were comprised of crippling anxiety, irrational rage and horrific intrusive thoughts one after another. As it was coupled with intense dissociation, at one point I began to believe that I had committed suicide and was in hell. The intrusive thoughts overtook my whole being, one after another accompanying the anxiety and rage. They were present before and are still present now, but nothing like the intensity and quantity they were during those first 8 months.
The Rage lasted 2 weeks full force and I’m kinda surprised I didn’t murder anyone. It was completely insane anger that blew up every 30 seconds and had me screaming at imaginary people so much that I lost my voice. I still get irrational anger, it can be triggered easily, it never truly went away. The only escape from The Rage was Amitriptaline, which is very short acting and kept running out.
This all gave way to something new around 8 months after cessation. I lost my fight or flight reflex, ceased to be scared of virtually anything. This paired with a dissociation so intense I was barely in the room I was in, almost perpetually lost to my inner world, which I strived to break through by trying to instigate fear. I never put others at risk but put myself at great risk on many occasions, desperately trying to connect with the real world, to feel something. I lost my concentration span completely and just drifted away into another realm.
I started cycling in 3-4 week cycles of sadness and irritation, and happy happy joy joy ‘look no consequences to anything’, which gradually cycled down to days of each emotion, when grief joined the party. Then it became hours, then minutes, then it was gone. Suddenly my strength came from within, instead of being constantly reinforced by those around me. I could sleep, I got my concentration span back, I was back in the moment, back existing in the here and now. 14 months after it started, it all just stopped.
I’m still clawing my way out of the puddle it left me in, but suddenly my emotions are triggered by events, not from random chemical changes in my brain. I’m learning my own self worth and trying to retrieve some self esteem from where it went. One thing that is still missing is my sense of fear and my fight or flight reflex and need to be aware that this affects my decision making processes of the balance between danger and fun. And I have a massive addiction to caffeine that needs addressing, I now have to drink red bull to get to sleep.