There are a lot of controversies about the use of medications for depression treatment and this is one of them. Your primary goals in life are spiritual and emotional authenticity, deepening relationships and a healthy lifestyle. These goals serve to prevent future relapses. Another is to minimize side effects and the use of medications. As you begin to feel better, conversations with your clinician often turn to the possibility of lowering your medications or weaning off of them all together. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t and sometimes you end up feeling worse than you started.
When Stopping Depression Medication Makes You Feel Worse
Let’s review a few of the reasons that you might actually feel worse than when you started.
Stopping the medication too quickly.
No two people are the same and you will need to talk to your doctor about if, when and how to wean yourself off of your depression medication. Stopping any medication too quickly can result in withdrawal and return of your depression. You are not necessarily addicted to your medication, but your body has made necessary adjustments to its presence. These symptoms can be confusing as you may mistake symptoms of withdrawal for return of your depression. Weaning slowly makes a big difference and answers this question.
You are no longer numb to the pain.
After years of torture in a prison of war camp, imagine finally making your escape. You may be unbelievably happy, but memories of the experience still haunt you. It takes time and effort to let go of these old memories and restore your sense of self. These traumatic memories are eventually “overwritten” but never really go away. Symptoms of relapse are accentuated by these memories of the past. It can feel like the prison guards have found you and are dragging you back…along with friends and family.
You let go of strategies that previously allowed you to cope with depression.
Everything feels like work when you are depressed. Even thinking requires work. When you try to rest, old negative thoughts haunt and overwhelm you. Sleeping is a nightmare, literally, so you learn to sleep when you can. You are in a constant battle against feelings of worthlessness and guilt. You have to fight off these feelings even when there is no energy to fight because thoughts of hopelessness and suicide provide no bottom to this pit.
When a medication provides relief, you eventually let go of the habits that allowed you to survive. Your energy is diverted to integrate your mind, body and spirit in healthier ways that benefit everyone in your life. A return to depression tears down these integrations leaving little to defend you.
Relationships move to a place that doesn’t tolerate return of your symptoms.
When you feel better you reach out and form new relationships. Old relationships adjust to the you they knew was in there. A return of symptoms affects all aspects of your life. Newer friendships, work relationships, even your intimate relationship may not adjust well to a return of symptoms, adding to your pain.
New skills, talents, ways of thinking and responsibilities.
When you recover and are feeling more like yourself, nerve growth factors rise, and your daily practice guides your neurons to new levels of interaction. Your relationship with God feels deeper. Your processing speed improves allowing you to think more quickly and feel more deeply about everything. New skills are acquired in all aspects of your life. These require a sustained level of efficiency and wisdom. When symptoms return, nerve growth factors drop as does your processing speed. You simply become unable to keep up with expectations, even your own.
Safe Ways to Adjust Your Depression Medication Usage
If you are thinking about making any adjustments to your medication, talk to your doctor about it first. Let your him or her know that you want to maximize your growth while minimizing your use of medications.
A few of the considerations will be:
- What are your beliefs about the sustained use of medications?
- How quickly did the illness come on and how serious was it to your life?
- How many times have you experienced this illness and under what circumstances?
- What is the usual course of this illness in anyone? Has someone else in your family had a similar illness? What was its course?
- How much are the medications interfering with your life?
If you decide to wean off of a medication here are a few suggestions:
- Choose a time of relative calm. A sunshiny part of your life.
- Chart your moods, sleep and activity levels daily.
- Chose a partner you trust to work with you. They may see changes first so make them a part of the plan with specific instructions given the severity and directionality of your symptoms.
- As part of the plan know exactly how you are to get in touch with your doctor, therapist and other team members for unexpected changes.
- Renew all efforts to take better care of yourself and your relationships every day.
To learn more practical ways to live a healthy, vibrant life as you overcome disorders and/or addictions, sign up risk free for the Heal in Oneness video course.