Quitting Cymbalta

FIBROMYALGIAAll, 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!

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Fibromyalgia and Doctor Discrimination

fuck fibromyalgiaGot a referral from the physician’s assistant at my primary doctor’s office to see a new rheumatologist. It might have been a week ago. Someone from the office called me and left a message, but I was too distracted by the house and my recent cardiac stress test to return the call. The scheduler called me again today and let me know that Rheumatologist #2 would treat me for my diagnosed muscle weakness but not for the fibromyalgia.

Christ on a bike, people! Call it whatever you want. I’m not looking for pain pills, and I didn’t exactly ask for this diagnosis. In fact, I’d be very pleased if there were a rheumatologist on earth that would even entertain the idea something else could be going on here instead of looking at my chart and trying to scare me off. My physician’s assistant is awesome and doing her best, but she’s not the one with the freaking specialization.

One diagnosis from a doctor who, as it turns out, is a jerk and doesn’t even listen—you’re branded for life.

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Sweet Dreams Any Time of Day

ISpps473syn0sz0000000000I feel so content today. For starters, I’m sleeping better. At my doctor’s recommendation I have been taking a 3-mg melatonin supplement at night before bed. Sadly, I’ve had to set aside the podcast. Since the pain and sensitivity around my jaw and ears has increased, noise and ear buds are beyond uncomfortable.

I had been using ZzzQuil from time to time, but it either makes me feel hella blurry in the morning or it jazzes me up. And, of course, since it’s the same thing as Benadryl, it’s extremely dehydrating. I was literally peeling sheets of dry, dead skin off myself the other day.

Anyway, the first night I took melatonin, my eyes got heavy in 15 minutes, and I slept restfully. I have a feeling that at some point melatonin may stop being effective too, but at least now I have an arsenal of sleep aids and can go with whatever works.

Of course my arms are still so weak I have a hard time pulling my pants up, but … baby steps.

It also helps me considerably to be able to say that we bought a house. I know, I know. Last Monday I was very worked up and pessimistic, but my Realtor recommended another lender who helped us figure out something that would work. Then there was a bit of a rally of support. And, well, the result is that we were able to make an offer on the house I adore Thursday evening.

By Friday evening, the owners had countered our offer. It was more generous than I would have imagined, and we didn’t hesitate for a second to accept. We won’t close until the end of May, but just knowing that something good is coming is such a relief.

There’ll be more gushing over the house in the future, but for now I will just say that from the moment I walked in the door the place felt like home. I’m not convinced I deserve this place, but I’m so glad we’re going to get to call it ours.



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Medical Symptoms and Burying the Lede

heartAfter a referral to a neurologist turned out to be mostly a waste of time, I went back to the physician’s assistant at my primary doctor’s office on Tuesday.

You know what, before I go any further, I just want to say that as medical professionals go, this PA is amazeballs. She’s one of the most personable people I’ve ever met. She listens, she looks up stuff she’s not familiar with, and she’s not afraid to dig for answers when they’re not staring her in the face.

But back to my story. After a 45-minute chat with the PA, I said something that made her eyes get kind of big. She was going through a sort of flow chart related to my complaints of muscle weakness and asking me questions to see what could be ruled out completely and what might need further investigation. “This,” she said, “is related to the heart. You’re so young, that it’s not very likely. But we might want to explore it if you have a family history of heart disease.”

“Well, my grandfather had a couple of heart attacks later in life, and my dad underwent a procedure for WPW syndrome and had a heart attack last year.”

She wrote that information down and then asked if I ever felt short of breath. “Sure,” I said, not even thinking it was a big deal.

“Like when?”

“Well, like when I go up a flight of stairs or walk down the hall.”

Apparently, when it came to listing my symptoms, I had buried the lede. But after being weight shamed by The Rheumatologist from Hell, I thought I was getting winded because I was fat now. Until that moment I hadn’t seen shortness of breath as a symptom so much as a personal shortcoming—despite the fact that even the most gluttonous of humans rarely put on 30 pounds in a few months.

She sent me down the hall for an EKG and chest X-ray immediately after the appointment.

This morning, a nurse called to let me know that my EKG showed signs of atrial enlargement. The next step is to go in for a cardiac stress test on Monday afternoon. Should be loads of fun, considering my annual employment review will take place that morning!

The nurse told me to wear comfy clothes and shoes, to eat nothing for 2 hours before my appointment, and to expect the stress test to last 2 hours.

My PA also ordered more blood tests, but I have to fast for those and haven’t been back yet. Maybe by Tuesday I’ll have that done too. One of the tests she’s ordered is for my thyroid.

Depending on whether they’re seeing the irregularities on the right or left atrium, this heart shit could very well be an indication that I’m hypothyroid, despite being on levothyroxine (Synthroid).

As I mentioned in an earlier rant, one of the rare but serious side-effects of taking duloxetine (Cymbalta) is hypothyroidism. It’s listed right there in the drug information that accompanies my refills. Sure makes me wonder why The Rheumatologist from Hell denied there could be any connection with my weight gain and my thyroid and didn’t want to order thyroid tests after I’d been on the Cymbalta for a few months. Of course it’s too early to say for sure what’s going on. But if your patient is complaining that something’s not right, why the hell wouldn’t you check it out?

While I get fatter, my mobility continues to decrease, and the search continues for answers, there’s a pretty bitter part of me that wishes I knew more about malpractice law.

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This too shall pass…

…Like a motherfucking 3-inch gallstone crammed all up in a bile duct.


I talked with the lending officer this morning. We’ll call her Kay. “I did some more research on the mortgage program you wanted to apply for. I don’t do many of these, so I’m sorry I didn’t know all of the details right away. Unfortunately one of the stipulations for getting this kind of mortgage is that you can’t currently own a home.”

“Oh,” I said. I wanted to explain how it was all so unfair. How I tried selling it and couldn’t. How I couldn’t live there now even if I wanted to. But I knew it didn’t matter. It wasn’t her call.

“If you had been able to sell the property in Indianapolis outright, you could qualify,” Kay said. She was being very delicate with her words. “At this point,  you’re not entirely out of options though. If the buyers get financing earlier than anticipated, you can complete the sale. Or if a family member or friend wants to gift you the down payment for a conventional loan, that’s a possibility.”

Kay’s a kind human being. She let me down as gently as possible. I do appreciate that.

Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone with $26,000, let alone $26,000 to spare. And although my renter/buyers still haven’t paid this month’s rent or responded to my email about when it might show up — I’m locked into a contract with them. If they do end up defaulting I can kick them out and start over, but I have to wait for all of that to play out according to the terms of the contract. Starting over with the nightmarish process isn’t exactly something I’m eager to do anyway. And what about the fees I paid to both agents at the time the contract was signed? Is that money just gone?


I’ve contacted my agent from the sale, and she is sympathetic and looking into the situation for me. However, I am not comforted. According to the contract, if they don’t pay what’s due plus the late feel by April 1, they officially default. I can make them leave and the contract is void at that point, but April 1 is also the day my mortgage for that shithole is due.

Oh and did I mention that I lost my homestead tax exemption because I don’t live in the place anymore? Thanks, Universe. I was secretly hoping you’d claim $1,400 more from me in taxes on a PROPERTY I DON’T FUCKING WANT!

Aaaaaaand fibromylagia flare followed by debilitating depression in 3…2…

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