Cymbalta Withdrawal

quitting cymbaltaRemember when I wrote about weaning off of the Cymbalta I was taking for fibromyalgia? Everything seemed fine, and I was kind of wondering what all the internet fuss was about coming off the stuff. I completed the second week of my transition dose without much to complain about. But it turns out weaning is the easy part. Stopping it (even after weaning) is a special kind of hell. I don’t have a lot of energy, so I’m just going to copy and paste some of the things I shared with a select group on Facebook. This stuff needs to be searchable.

And yes, that’s really me. Today. Rocking the ashen-faced, chapped-lip, Cymbalta-chic look. (I think they got the before and afters out of order on those dumbass drug commercials!)

Three days after my last pill.

Silly me. Thought I’d managed to avoid the terrible Cymbalta withdrawal. But, blammo! Here it is. Brain zaps pretty much non-stop, nausea, and the mother of all migraines all at once and without warning. It did seem a little too easy.

Four days after my last pill.

Sometimes things just work out. Sitting on the couch, still in my pajamas, thinking I need to check the details on that meeting with my boss in a couple of hours. Accidentally hit “send” instead of “close” on the calendar event because my brain is just broken today, which emails her a reminder. I’m thinking “crap, but oh well” when I get a reply that she needs to reschedule for tomorrow or Wednesday instead. I’m sooo thankful because I still couldn’t pass a field sobriety test if I tried today, and the brain zaps are back. I am so thankful for this job.

Four days, six hours after my last pill.

So, um, I used to be like “Cymbalta doesn’t work for some people, know what you’re getting into.” After today, I’m more like, “OMG, Cymbalta is poison. Never, under any circumstances, let your doctor convince you it’s worth trying.” From what I’ve heard, people have an easier time coming off opiates. Today has been horrible. If you need me, I’ma be over here hugging a trash can and willing the room to stop spinning.

Five days after my last pill.

Feeling better this morning. Still got the brain zaps and a slight headache, but my stomach has chilled out. I’ve got that feeling like I could sleep for weeks. Glad the worst is over. I should’ve listened to Nancy Reagan.

Five days, twelve hours after my last pill.

Trying a Zofran and some ginger ale. I did feel better this morning, but after about 4 p.m. I started the downward spiral again. Brain zaps got intense, and well… if you know what Zofran is for, there’s no need to get into details.

4:30 used to be my usual dose time, so I’m guessing this my body being all “where the FUCK is my Cymbalta you stingy whore?!?”

Looks like another night curling up on the couch with Panic Binkey. (Panic Binkey, nicknamed by Dan of course, is the greatest family heirloom of all time — one of two twin flannel sheets that my mom used to comfort me when I got sick as a wee tot. Seriously, this thing is like 35-40 years old.)

Ahhh…. Zofran. I think I love you.

Five days, eighteen hours after my last pill.

Y’all want to hear a joke? Pot isn’t approved for medical use in all states, but this shit is! Even funnier? When you ask some doctors about the potential for side effects and symptoms of withdrawal, they’ll look at you like you’re a nutjob.

There are people out there (myself included) that would rather suffer chronic, unexplained pain than stay on this stuff. Think about that if you or someone you know is ever prescribed Cymbalta — especially if the doctor recommends it with the same levity he’d tell you to gargle a saltwater rinse for your sore throat.

Yes, feeling this miserable for the third day in a row while having my sleep patterns disrupted is making me angry and bitter. Why do you ask?

Six days after my last pill.

*WARNING* I might not be mentally stable.

I’m at work for the first time this week. And by that I mean physically at work. I’ve been doing the remote thing, because my employer is just cool like that.

Dan had to drive me here today, even though it’s about a block away from our apartment. When I walked to the company library for my first meeting this morning, I had to grab walls to stay upright. The brain zaps are extra rough this morning.

I whined the whole morning about getting ready because I wanted to stay in bed and sleep. Washing my hair was too hard. Pulling up my jeans was too hard. Standing up was too hard.

I’m lucky enough to have ample PTO, but silly me—I’m trying desperately to hang on to it so I can fucking enjoy moving into my new house at the end of next month. So I’m working through this withdrawal the best I can.

I also have $400 in medical bills (that’s after insurance) to pay because everyone (even the good doctors) thought it was absurd that Cymbalta could be doing this to me. So, after ordering all the freakin’ tests and every last fucking one of those things coming back normal (even my cholesterol was okay this time around!!!!!!!) I’ve got nothing left but anger.

Fuck Eli Lilly. Fuck the FDA. Fuck them in their fucking fuck holes.

Things that Help

This is a personal list of things that continue to help me get through this hell:

  • Dinner rolls. Quite literally dinner rolls. I don’t mean I have them with dinner, I mean they are dinner. For the past three nights me and Sister Schubert have been great buds.
  • Ginger ale and ginger tea.
  • Scrambled eggs with plain bagels or toast.
  • Zofran. On principle, I am against taking a different drug to try and solve a problem caused by a first drug. So believe me when I tell you this  is absolutely necessary for me. I’ve only needed one a day so far, taken about the time I would have normally swallowed Satan’s Curse a Cymbalta.
  • Multivitamin. I don’t know that this actually helps, but I feel better about taking one considering my nausea prevention diet isn’t exactly nutrient-rich.
  • Daniel. I loves him.

Hopefully next week this time I’ll be all smiles saying, “Hey, remember that time I stopped taking Cymbalta? I was such a baby. Hahahaha.”

I’ll keep you posted.

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Cymbalta and Blood Pressure

cymbalta-blood-pressure-fibomyalgiaI haven’t been doing this regularly enough, but my most recent blood pressure results are the lowest in months. I took my last Cymbalta on Thursday, April 16.

My fibromyalgia symptoms aren’t great, but I have moments where I actually daydream of being active. (Then I try a few yoga poses and poop out immediately.) But the point is that my ability to move around is improving.

My resting heart rate is still holding steady in the lower- to mid-90s, but I have hope that will also improve with time and increased mobility.

And I was breathing easier and more evenly after reducing my dose for a week.

I’ve been sleeping a lot and not exercising enough to start melting off the pounds. But I have no doubt that getting back to my pre-Cymbalta weight is going to be a struggle. The chronic pain still lingers; I’ve simply decided it’s better to live with that by itself than to add a host of other weight-related health conditions on top of it.


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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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