I knew it was long coming but I’ve finally came fully off fluoxetine for the first time since I was 14. God, I was so terrified about a relapse that I kept myself from writing this post for a month but so far so good so I want to talk about it.
I was prescribed fluoxetine, brand name Prozac, after counselling did not help my rapidly worsening depression as a teen. Initially I was prescribed 10mg per day as my body adjusted to it. The adjustment period was tough. The first day that I took it I spent the evening vomiting and then proceeded to sleep for 24 hours. There are no capsules for 10mg so I had to take a foul tasting liquid, which made me gag – the only tolerable solution was to mix it with half a litre of orange juice. I went onto the full dose, 20mg capsules, a week later and began to feel an improvement by week 2. I was sometimes given Prozac by the pharmacist, other times generic fluoxetine but I’ve never noticed a difference between the two except when I was accidentally prescribed liquid fluoxetine which seemed to go through my system within a couple of hours, leaving me to feel like death by mid morning.
I had such horrible side effects at times that I wanted to come off it much to the dismay of my psychiatrist, but she managed to convince me that the benefits outweighed the side effects – it was either dire mental illness or physical sickness. With fluoxetine I became a semi-functioning human, at times I could completely forget the chronic severe depression. Of course it didn’t stop my friends fighting, my teachers wearing me down or my parents making me feel worthless but it took away some of the pain. Infact at times I was numb, and scarily so considering I never felt happiness nor anger or many of the other emotions that make us human but the honest truth was I would have probably already killed myself if it wasn’t for fluoxetine. Fluoxetine was a tool that allowed me to keep going until I was out of the situation causing me turmoil.
The fluoxetine was so good at masking my problems that my psychiatrist tried to take me off it when I was 15 with disastrous effect which I’m pretty sure I’ve wrote about before. After that I ended up on 30mg for six months which is rare for a 15 year old. I remember nothing from the period when I took 30mg. Depression has given me memory issues so my memories of ages 13-15 are very shaky but it’s like the time when I took 30mg never happened. There is little to no evidence that 30mg actually helps according to my psychiatrist so I was wrong to push for 30mg.
I had some pretty common side effects, others were stranger. For example, I had the weirdest dreams – sometimes nightmares that would make me wake up screaming and sleep paralysis. I never really had many dreams until I started on fluoxetine; maybe once a week, but it turned into two or three dreams per night with fluoxetine. The normal side effects that I experienced were extreme tiredness (it effectively cured my insomnia) and appetite issues, although I wonder if that’s more to do with puberty.
It became clear I was ready to come off fluoxetine this year. My situation has changed a lot, I’m a lot busier giving me less time for negative thoughts and I have plans for the future. Most importantly I actually agreed with coming off my medication instead of feeling pressurised and scared like I had in 2015 when the first attempt was made.
So far depression hasn’t returned but my insomnia has come back in full force. I’ve had noticeably more migraines (although I forgot to take my migraine prevention tablets for a few days so I doubt the lack of fluoxetine is too blame) and less dreams. I felt less bloated at first but I haven’t ate very well the last week so I feel a bit heavier now but I haven’t weighed myself so I can’t confirm that. A lot of these changes are due to myself returning to a full timetable at college so I can’t blame all these changes on withdrawal.
Of course I’m no medical professional so please don’t take anything I say as gospel and listen to your doctor. Many people experience no side effects at all and despite the negatives, fluoxetine was a life saviour for me. Hopefully things will regulate soon and I’ll be able to report back in a month or two on how things are going.