All, and I do mean all, of my tests came back normal. The thyroid cascade, the urine test, the lipid test, the cardiac stress test, the x-rays, the—god, I can’t even remember all the new ones. After the nurse at my doctor’s office called with this information and I thanked her, I hung up the phone and cried. People who’ve been in a similar situation will understand the frustration of knowing that there is unequivocally something wrong with their body, but not having any data to go on.
A little perspective for anyone who hasn’t been in this boat: My spirits were actually lifted when my resting pulse before the stress test was 117 and the cardiac technician was all like, “Whoa. That’s tachycardic.” I figured we were finally getting some clues about what was wrong. But when the cardiologist reported my results to my primary physician’s office, the comments were, “Stress test was normal. Patient has extremely low aerobic capacity.”
I interpreted his seemingly contradictory statements to mean, “It’s not exactly normal for a healthy person, but seems about right for a fat woman with fibro.”
After I got over my self-pity, I messaged my physician’s assistant to let her know I was going off the Cymbalta. I didn’t ask for her approval, I just said: this is what I’m doing, how would you recommend I proceed. Her instructions were to go from my current dose (60mg daily) to taking 60 mg every other day for two weeks, and then quitting entirely after the two-week transition was complete. (Unlike the prescribing doctor with the crummy attitude, she didn’t bother to threaten me with increased pain for going off the stuff or lecture me about pushing myself physically despite being diagnosed with fibromyalgia or tell me to eat food without calories.)
My physician’s assistant doesn’t have any more answers for me, but she’s respectful. She has the courtesy not to push a woman (who was simultaneously diagnosed with fibromyalgia and depression) over the edge. She’s not sugar coating my results or anything, but she’s not adding to my stress or causing me harm. It’s so hard to believe that “do no harm” bit isn’t actually a standard trait among all doctors.
But back to the part about me quitting Cymbalta. As of last night, I’m halfway there. I’ve completed the first full week on the adjusted dosage, and already my weight has stopped climbing. It feels almost as glorious as losing weight at this point. It’s frustrating that the rheumatologist outright denied Cymbalta could affect my weight, directly or indirectly. But fuck that shit. It doesn’t matter whether or not a doctor believes it. I’m the only one living in this body.
The withdrawal hasn’t been as severe as I’d worried it might be, but there are definitely some things that make it unpleasant.
- I’m so exhausted that I worked from home 4 of 5 days last week. I finally went in on Friday for some meetings and came home totally fibro flared. The pain is coming back, but I’d rather deal with the pain than be deprived of the ability to make my arms and legs move at all. Cymbalta was turning me into a zombie.
- During transition, the brain zaps get pretty intense in the last 6-8 hours before it’s time to take a pill. They came on pretty strong when I was walking to a meeting Friday afternoon. I was walking down a flight of stairs and doubted my ability to keep myself upright. Hitting level ground didn’t seem to help either. I made it home without falling or vomiting, but the worry that I would embarrass myself was always there.
- My heartburn is coming back. This has been an off-and-on again struggle for me since I hit my thirties. Heartburn runs in my family, so I don’t attribute that to the withdrawal per se. But while I was on the Cymbalta, it had actually alleviated my heartburn symptoms. (The only unintended but welcome consequence of being on the drug!)
We’ll see how week two goes!