the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Turns out you guys know what you’re talking about

Excuse me for a second while I cover my mouth, run to the trash and puke. No, this isn’t about politics ALTHOUGH YOU WERE ABOUT TO SLAP ME, WEREN’T YOU? Ha ha! Tricked ya! See! I can be unpredictable! Although I’ve already capitalized nine words in this paragraph, so I guess I still have a long way to go.

No, it’s withdrawal from Cymbalta. Many of you warned me about this, but I didn’t think I’d ever go off of it. It was working, and I was feeling normal. Except… those dreams. Those hours-long, exhausting nightmares that seemed to be another life I was living while asleep. Murders, mazes, friends cheating on spouses, SOMEONE KIDNAPPING BRAD PITT. You know I wouldn’t ever joke about something like that.

I’d wake up in the morning having not rested at all, and Jon would carefully place his hands on my shoulders and whisper delicately, “You look crazy.”

That’s therapy speak for Shit Needs Fixin’.

So I called my doctor and said, listen, I’m living two lives: one when I’m awake and one when I’m asleep. It’s exhausting. Also, Brad Pitt is still missing.

And he was like, think about the blogging material! And I was like, sir, I appreciate the suggestion, but I live with Baby Rambo Armstrong. I have bite marks on three of my fingers. Two days ago she pooped in the tub. And now she’s so adamantly against wearing a diaper that we have to duct tape it to her stomach. Someone needs to find Brad Pitt so that I can have enough energy to deal with the content I already have.

So our plan is to have me taper off of it ever so slowly. Because if I miss a day my body feels like it’s eating itself from the inside out. I get violently nauseated and dizzy. My head fills up with electrical zaps. I twitch uncontrollably. Even on a lower dosage my body revolts in such a way that I fell down a flight of stairs on Friday afternoon. Because I was looking down, but I was still seeing up. For Halloween I was The Woman Tapering off of Cymbalta.

It was so sexy.

  • Schmutzie

    2010/11/03 at 11:58 am

    I had similar issues when I went off Paxil a few years ago. At one point, I was trying to rearrange my furniture, couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it or why everything was green and purple, and decided to take a nap. When I woke up, I saw that I had moved all of our living room furniture into a clump in the middle of the room. I didn’t even leave spaces between the furniture.

    Fun times.

    I hope this gets better for you sooner than later!

  • princess andy

    2010/11/03 at 11:59 am

    i love that you’re really a human and not a robot.

    i never did believe all the naysayers;)

    hang in there…changing meds and dosages suck donkey sacks.

    <3 and hugs.

  • The Christine

    2010/11/03 at 12:03 pm

    Apparently I am also tapering off of some Cymbalta that I had no idea I was taking, because that last sentence clearly read The Woman Tapeworm of Cymbalta. Now you all have a brilliant costume idea for next year.

  • ZWysket

    2010/11/03 at 12:04 pm

    So I am not the only one who thinks dreaming is EXHAUSTING. I am not on any meds but sometimes I have phases when I dream almost incessantly and then I feel mad with the combo of feeling almost worse than if I had no sleep and being obsessed with what I dreamed about.

    So when someone says I am crazy for thinking dreaming is tiring, I will refer them to you and then they will…. still think I am crazy 😉

    I never comment and now I autimatically feel like a stalker for doing so… so I’ll end with: I LOVE YOU.

  • Helen Jane

    2010/11/03 at 12:05 pm

    Much love through the transition coming from someone with two serial diaper-removers.

    Surprise! Tiny! Cheeseburgers!

    (They both currently wear their diapers backwards so they can’t remove them.)

  • spodie

    2010/11/03 at 12:09 pm

    Ohmygosh, the zaps… I just felt one in sympathy. I got them going off Effexor and Cymbalta (at different times). I am so, so sorry. I hope they go away quickly. I swear it gets better – I found that eating lots a chocolate made them less intense. Can’t be anything wrong with that.

  • ander382

    2010/11/03 at 12:11 pm

    I so feel your pain!
    I’m on day 5 of withdrawaling (insurance problems) until I can go back on it tomorrow.

    I’ve had flus, an appendectomy, and kidney stones. I would pick any of those over withdrawling from cymbalta.

    Thank you so much for posting this! People don’t get it, but this is a pretty accurate description!

  • VikkiB

    2010/11/03 at 12:14 pm

    I get it Heather and it sucks! All I can say to you is Effexor ER saved my life! I feel normal and I take the lowest dose. I have been on it for five years and it SAVED MY LIFE! Once you find one like this you don’t look back, ever. Kudos for having humor about it, it is so not funny when you are dealing with it. Cheers!

  • connieemeraldeyes

    2010/11/03 at 12:16 pm

    I found a forum about people going off Cymbalta. They say they all have brain zaps. Here is the link

    You can also have severe liver problems from the stuff too. You don’t want that to happen. My mother was taking medication and the side effect was liver problems. She just kept taking them and it ate half her liver away. It is just not worth taking drugs if it eats your body parts.

  • Mama M.

    2010/11/03 at 12:17 pm

    I’m sorry. This is so horrible of me.

    But I laughed through this whole post. I know I should be sympathizing with you but you just have such a way with words!

    Don’t hate me. Maybe I can make it up to you by finding Brad…I might have to have my way with him before I return him, tho.

  • Camels and Chocolate

    2010/11/03 at 12:18 pm

    That Cymbalta is NO joke. I was on it for six weeks for anxiety, acquired an auto-immune disease (similar to Crohn’s) as a side effect, then had to go right off it again. The weird part is that I had to taper down as you mentioned, and it took me six weeks–the same amount of time I was on the full dosage–to get off it again! Weird stuff.

  • dwneylonsr

    2010/11/03 at 12:18 pm

    You might want to stay away from Effexor also. That was a rough withdrawal for me. Before that was Celxa. That was easy to come off, but had stopped working.

    Right now I’m maxxed out on Prozac. Which seems to work fine except for the bouts of depression. oh wait..

  • ChickWhitt

    2010/11/03 at 12:21 pm

    The fact that you did not already know that the DoCo is always right about everything is inconceivable.

    Don’t forget, we are the monster you created.

  • missaudreyhorne

    2010/11/03 at 12:23 pm

    Rather than be smart and talk to my doctor, I quit taking Celexa on my own. I did taper off, but I remember the day that I stopped taking it completely. Oh, the zaps! And there was that part where if I looked up it felt like all the blood drained from my body and my limbs all fell asleep and if I didn’t sit down I would fall down. FUN TIMES. Thankfully tapering off of Wellbutrin wasn’t as bad, probably because it didn’t do much to begin with.

  • Jodiferous

    2010/11/03 at 12:23 pm

    I am just about to taper off Cymbalta as well. Due to a shipping error, I already know what withdrawal will be like. THE DREAMS! THE CRAZY. Not to mention the random rambling chatter.

  • subjectivitis

    2010/11/03 at 12:25 pm

    Oh, Heather I know exactly how you feel. I don’t think I put it in the comments last time you mentioned going off of cymbalta because I didn’t want to scare you…but I had gone through the exact same thing. I actually started gripping my head in anxiety as I started reading the part about the dreams. Oh, the dreams! Aren’t they awful? I had dreams that my husband left me, dreams about people being jerks and the worst…I once had a dream I was in the Holocaust. And they’re so realistic. It got to a point wherein I couldn’t remember if some stuff happened in a dream or in reality. I could tell if it was in a dream if it was some crazy shit but if it was mundane to slightly weird, I was like, “Did that actually happen?”

    And the brain zaps? Blech. I was nauseous dizzy mess of a woman. And I was exhausted too. So tired.

    But I’m all better now!–At least in that regard.

    I am so sorry you’re going through this hell, and hope it doesn’t last too long. I’ll send you good feely vibes. 😉

  • KatieKat484

    2010/11/03 at 12:34 pm

    I feel your pain. My dr (about 9 years ago) told me I would be fine to just “stop taking” my meds. I spent 8 days in bed. Thinking I was dying. And that the walls were yelling at me.
    It gets better!

    (hint with the diaper issue, turn it backwards so she can’t pull the tabs.)

  • The Dalai Mama

    2010/11/03 at 12:37 pm

    I can’t say that I know what you are going through. The only meds I really ever had to take were fertility drugs and they made me bat shit crazy and that is a sucky feeling.

    I hope that you can wean off of it soon and get on a better medicine for you.

    Onto something lighter…I can’t even begin to grasp that concept of what it might be like to clean shit out of a bathtub. Neither of my angels ever did that.

    Thanks for sharing your struggles (and life) with others who might be going through the same thing and feel like they are alone. The taking the diaper thing off gets better (mine did that for about 4 months and it was hell).

  • GrandParenting

    2010/11/03 at 12:45 pm

    I hope life gets back to ‘normal’ for you soon! Whatever THAT means?

    Dreamless, sleep-filled nights, with no poop in the tub ever would probably be a good start.

    Hang in there!

  • Hagan Squared

    2010/11/03 at 12:50 pm

    Coming off of Cymbalta fucking sucks. I was having “inability to orgasm” while on it and after 6 months I couldn’t take it anymore. I was getting married in 4 weeks. I wanted an orgasm for my honeymoon! Instead of tapering me off and then starting me on something else, my doc straight up switched me to Celexa. The second day I was having so many dizzy spells and brain zaps and nausea and just all kinds of hell. I called his office thinking it was the new meds and he had me stop taking it completely. Ahem. As in STOP TAKING COLD TURKEY. Now I know better.

    Two weeks later I was still having problems with being constantly dizzy and the electrical currents running through my brain. I sat down and did a shit ton of research over the course of two days and found out the best treatment for the withdrawal symptoms? Prozac. I went back to my doctor, and begged for a scrip for that. He did write that for me, but wanted me to try a motion-sickness drug because he had never had a patient have so many problems coming off of Cymbalta before. Fine. Tried his way for two days. Didn’t help at all. Got the Prozac filled and by the next day I felt 100% better. I took that for a month and then was able to stop taking it without any problems at all.

  • tngator

    2010/11/03 at 12:49 pm

    My doctor tapered me off of Cymbalta for 4 weeks but I was a dizzy sweaty mess for 3 months. Those commercials – the ones that say “Depression hurts, Cymbalta helps” – made me want to throw my tv out the window every time they came on. I did discover that drinking a couple of beers helped. But then I just felt shitty again. YAY! Good times! Feel better soon.

  • duffylou

    2010/11/03 at 12:49 pm

    I empathize with your situation completely. Valium. It helps the withdrawal of any anti-depression or mood stabilizer. Your MD should be acutely aware of your situation. If not inform him/her immediately to get yourself some relief.

    I take an unbelievable combination of meds throughout the day to make me a productive member of society. The side effects, I gained 30 lbs and I have nightly dreams in which I talk in my sleep. I am tapering down my dose of seroquel so I might be able to stop eating everything in sight. As far as the other meds, I don’t want to jump off a bridge any more so I’ll talk in my sleep and keep the boyfriend guessing.

  • emilylentini

    2010/11/03 at 12:51 pm

    I got to watch my mom on some pretty strong shit, it was so hard on her even on the meds and became more difficult getting off. I actually still get angry at the doctor that prescribed them.
    But the sentence “You look crazy” made me laugh out loud(which was needed) that sentiment has been such a huge part of our family for so long.
    Thank you for your stories.

  • NCMelissaB

    2010/11/03 at 12:55 pm

    I had a horrible year on Cymbalta. I began to notice that it didn’t last the full twenty-four hours like it had in the beginning, so I would have withdrawal symptoms an hour before I was supposed to take it, so I began taking it earlier and earlier in the day to avoid the miserable side effects. I finally just quit, “Cold Turkey.” The Brain Zaps were almost impossible to tolerate. I did discover (accidentally) that the drug Scoopolamine, which is sold as a transdermal patch under the name TransDerm Scop, really helped with the dizziness, etc. This is the same drug doctors will provide to those who are prone to motion sickness prior to a cruise. It was a real life saver! By the end of six weeks, most of the side effects had subsided. However, after fourteen months, I still experience an occasional Brain Zap. I feel strongly that this drug should be taken off the market or used only in the most extreme circumstances.

    Also, I had trouble finding information on the withdrawal process until I learned the appropriate search term. Try searching, “SSRI (or SNRI) Discontinuation Syndrome.” You’ll find lots more info.

    Thanks for sharing so much of your life with us! I hope this process goes quickly and you find a way to manage the side effects!

    P.S. If you try TransDerm Scop, DO NOT TOUCH THE PATCH AND THEN RUB YOUR EYES!! They will dilate and stay that way for three days, lol. Learned that one the hard way!

  • Amy J.

    2010/11/03 at 12:56 pm

    After reading this I am SOOOO glad I refused to take Cymbalta a year or so ago! We had three suicides in our family in less than 10 months and a sudden death of my father in law…I was a walking zombie of grief and depression. Doctor suggested I take it. I got it filled, sat and looked at it and refused to budge…opting to walk the course of whatever I had to to get out the other side.

    I wasn’t a pretty walk…in fact my feet were so bloody and worn out by the time I got to the other side I was crawling the last few yards.

    BUT…I did it and I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with side effects from medications such as this. While I know they do alot of good for people, I also know that the medical field isn’t even sure how most of them work (honestly…not just saying that. They know what they effect, but aren’t even sure how). That scares the hell out of me. My poor brain/emotions were already fucked over…I just couldn’t fathom the thought of screwing with them more.

    Good luck Heather. Many days I feel like I need something to help me with depression. You’re brave for fighting it…way more brave than me. I don’t even go the dentist like I should, let alone take medications unless I am dying if I don’t.

    Feel better soon.

  • MeganPaige

    2010/11/03 at 12:57 pm

    Oh, my. Oddly enough (and not making light of your struggle…goodness, no), but tapering off of Cymbalta sounds like Fight Club, with the double lives and the Brad Pitt…

  • mandypants

    2010/11/03 at 1:04 pm

    So, going on Cymbalta, I thought I was pregnant. I had insomnia so bad I never slept. I finally just decided to stop taking it and had the most ridiculous dreams for a month catching up. I was going crazy because I never dreamed on it. I wish I had a therapist to talk to about it… it’s remarkably impossible to find someone as a new patient. :/

  • Failjolesfail

    2010/11/03 at 1:06 pm

    Brain zaps suck. I came off Celexa cold turkey (long story, stupid doctor, Welbutrin doesn’t work for me) and spent the better part of a week running off to the car during my work day so I could scream as loudly as I needed to without anyone hearing me.

    Granted, sex drive would be nice. But not depression, not brain zaps and not anxiety is good enough for me right now.

  • wordsupmixed

    2010/11/03 at 1:10 pm

    my so tried to taper off of effexor after 6+years use. her doctor, regular physician tried to get her to taper off rapidly i.e. only a few weeks). Fortunately, friends who knew better convinced her to try a much slower taper. After six months of pure hell, near insanity, and effectively dysentery, I convinced her to contact a psychiatrist.

    Then she started speaking in tongues. Well, not literally but her language use, structure and topic was not normal. She ended up in the hospital for about four days, met up with a decent psychiatrist as part of emergency services and got her on a new drug which seems to be helping but she may be living with the effexor side effects for the rest of her life. Thanks big Pharma, another life you screwed up.

    unfortunately now she is not a person I am very fond of (someone I would not date but could be friends with) so I guess this is another way an ssri can kill a sex life. I miss the person knew before the effexor.

  • Chai_Bella

    2010/11/03 at 1:21 pm

    I am SOOOOOOOOOO glad I didn’t read this BEFORE I accidentally missed my dose of cymbalta this morning since my incredibly flighty psychiatrist forgot to refill my script.

    I feel fine, though. WHICH MAKES ME EVEN MORE WORRIED. Have I been speaking in tongues all day and didn’t realize it? Oh no.

  • sugarleg

    2010/11/03 at 1:46 pm

    had Paxil withdrawal zaps and Celexa withdrawal zaps for months both times. icky poo no diaper style shit storm. good luck Heather, keep exercising real hard (if not too dizzy) and here’s to hoping the docs find you the right cocktail very soon. xo

  • Angelaa

    2010/11/03 at 1:47 pm

    Oh god…I took Paxil for a while about 10 years ago and tapered off it slowly and thought I was ok, until two days after my last dose and the ‘brain zaps’ started. I also started throwing up my guts. All I can say like others is that it does get better (with me after about a week). I went to work as it helped me focus on something other than how the room was spinning around me and I was sweating even though it was 20 degrees outside. Hang in there. It will pass.

  • Denise Laborde

    2010/11/03 at 1:49 pm

    I don’t have anything constructive to add. But I like ZWysket’s comment and I’m going with that.


  • SmileyAmy

    2010/11/03 at 2:01 pm

    Ohhhhh the zaps. How I love these. No one ever knows what I’m talking about when I tell them about “the zaps”. They think I’m crazy.

    Oh wait. I am.

  • slappyintheface

    2010/11/03 at 2:14 pm

    Oh honey (in my best wise old aunt voice), I am so sorry. I know exactly how you feel. Vertigo is a bitch! Please please please go to this website (it is for all antidepressants). They helped me wean off of Paxil.

    What you are experiencing is Prozac withdrawal from the non-taper that you did combined with start up side effects from the Cymbalta. Doctors don’t want to admit that these drugs have to be tapered veeeeeeeeeeery slooooooooooooowly in order to give the brain and body time to adjust. Are you planning on staying on the Cymbalta?

  • pearldoor

    2010/11/03 at 2:31 pm

    Reading this gave me a sympathy brain zap. I’m so sorry.

    I went off Cymbalta while recovering from a tubal ligation reversal. I felt like I had the flu after major surgery, when I stood up, the room spun violently, and the zaps attacked me. I vomited continuously, which feels wonderful when you’ve had major abdominal surgery, and my husband fed me fishstick and cheese sandwiches, because he didn’t know how to cook anything else.

    I had to have a week off work, but luckily, I only had a teenager to live with while this was going on, and he was out of control anyway, so it didn’t even matter.

    then, I got pregnant a month later…..
    I need to go lay down now..I’m having a

    so sorry, Heather….may the gods and masters of the universe protect you, that’s all I can are in for a not so fun carnival ride complete with evil clowns. Cymbalta is the devil!!

  • roslindkay

    2010/11/03 at 2:47 pm

    So, I know you have your own doctor and they probably know all the drugs out there for you, but how about Wellbutrin, which isn’t suppose to cause sexual side effects. Obviously there are numerous SSRI’s for you to try from.

  • musickatt

    2010/11/03 at 3:04 pm

    I am so, so sorry you are going through this. I went through something similar when I tried to get off of Zoloft. I wish I had the answer for you, but alas, I know nothing. Hugs and many good thoughts and prayers coming your way.

  • tonya

    2010/11/03 at 3:08 pm

    You may have already heard this little tip for your diaper Houdini, but it’s a good one. Put her in one piece pajamas with the zipper IN THE BACK. It’s even worth it if you have to cut the little footie parts off. For running around the house and for bed time it’s PERFECT. Someone suggested this to me after my second child had yet again been artsy in her crib and on her wall and you can imagine the medium. I can’t even describe the gratification when I watched the little turd trying to figure out why she couldn’t strip anymore. Ha! Of course, duct tape is good too……

  • missusclark

    2010/11/03 at 3:18 pm

    Oh, Heather. How awful. I thought *I* was having a hard time getting off the Vitamin Z ’cause I was dizzy and bitchy. Guess it’s not so bad…..

    Best of luck getting thru your rough patch and hope you find Brad soon!

  • Not Marlo

    2010/11/03 at 3:28 pm

    I’m about to ask my dr to take me off cymbalta too. I sleep all.the.time. but I have good dreams…at least I have dreams which I never recalled having for years so now I HAVE dreams. However I don’t actually feel any better on this stuff.

    That said, I read taking prozac helps with the cymbalta withdrawl. So I’m going to ask my dr about it.

    I never went to the 60 mgs because when I did I was sleeping 19 hrs. 19 hours y’all! So I’m at 30 and sleeping 12. Gotta get off this too.

  • ronnagail

    2010/11/03 at 3:37 pm

    Speaking of dreams, I actually had one about you last night. I dreamed I was trying to warn you that Coco and Chuck were drowning in the pool, and you yelled at me, and told me to shut up. And then I cried. Weird, huh? I don’t think I’ve dreamed about someone I never met before.

  • foggymorningjewelry

    2010/11/03 at 3:53 pm

    I went through the same exact thing, only I couldn’t adequately explain the electrical zaps in my head. I was trying to wean off Celexa since I found out I was pregnant, but after dealing with those symptoms on TOP of morning sickness and general blahness of pregnancy. I went back on it, needless to say, but went on a much lower dosage. I’m happy, though, because the meds really do help!

    My Blog:

  • Fifi Coon

    2010/11/03 at 4:10 pm

    I know this is completely off the wall – but your ability to choose great shoes has not been altered at all.

    Good Luck with your journey. I have two sisters and a Mom that struggle with depression. We have all tried to lean on each other. It has not been an easy journey for any of us.

  • Crazy Card Lady

    2010/11/03 at 4:23 pm

    Oh, oh….I have the same problem on stairs and I am pret-ty sure I’m not taking cymbalta and I thought the electrical charges were because I have a lot of hair.

    I’m down to my last kid and she’s 16 then I will be home alone and no one will hear me screaming.

    Thanks for sharing Heather. I feel so much better!

  • Amanda Brumfield

    2010/11/03 at 4:37 pm

    God, I hate the brain zaps. I had the same problems with Cymbalta, in fact, I’d like to kick Cymbalta in the left one. It will take a bit, but the symptoms will fade.

    Can I just say, Lexapro with a side of Abilify! That is all.

  • bazanna

    2010/11/03 at 4:37 pm

    i have been on it for a few years and i have the same problem as the poster who mentioned it wearing off BEFORE even the next dose time! omg! i want to get off it so badly, and i have been through effexor withdrawal before, so i’m no stranger. and yeah, i’d rather have a baby or wisdom teeth out or….ANYTHING. it’s shitty.

  • writtendad

    2010/11/03 at 4:44 pm

    I’ve never taken any form of depression medication (so I won’t try to “relate” in that way), but the dreams sounds pretty amazing. In that wholly shit is this real kind of way. But seriously, if Brad already got kidnapped, just think of where those dreams could take you. Or him.

    Maybe it’s not worth it, but it will be like one of those choose your own adventure books that’s missing the last few pages. And Brad may never return.

  • reluctantcrafter

    2010/11/03 at 4:47 pm

    I totally had those “electrical zaps”. I hate to tell you this, but I had them a pretty long time. For whatever reason, Cymbalta is a real bear to come off of. I wish you luck and much happier dreams:)

  • arinsharon

    2010/11/03 at 4:51 pm

    Add me to the list who went through complete hell coming off of years of Effexor, even though I did it very slowly over about 2-3 months. It took several more months for the zaps to stop altogether. And when I was put on Cymbalta a year ago for severe PPD and anxiety, I very nearly ended up hospitalized after starting it, I had such a horrible reaction to it. Although it did make me realize that my anxiety wasn’t THAT bad before taking it, compared to the hell I was experiencing after starting it. Boy did that have the opposite intended effect. But hey, it was the best diet ever. When I saw you say you were going on Cymbalta, I cringed a bit. But everyone has such different reactions to these meds.

    I do sympathize with what you are going through, and hope you find the right med.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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