An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

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.

  • graylola

    So strange, because I went off 40mg of Paxil a few days ago (big mistake). Stupid, completely, long story. I didn’t have a name for it until reading this – yes, brain zaps, that’s a perfect description!

    And oh god, the dreams. They are intense and stressful enough that I wake up from them several times a night, but I can’t remember them. You know how a dream can be slippery, but you feel like you can remember it if you can just think hard enough and grasp that tail end of a memory? That sensation, all day long, after nearly every thought I have. I think something, and then it’s gone, and I’m sitting there wondering if I ever had a thought in the first place. It’s as far-gone crazy as I have ever felt.

  • Jawnbc

    Remeron at bedtime
    Wellbutrin XL in the morning

    No crazies, great sleep, a bit of pudginess.

  • Pluckychick

    Ugh! Sorry about the electrical zaps. I remember going through those when i was weaning off celexa. It was like fireworks going off behind my eyes every hour. Of course my doctor said he had no idea what I was talking about. Research made no mention of this withdrawal symptom…puleese. the support forums at the time were choc full of hypochondriacs just like me whose brains were exploding.

    Hang in there!

  • Pluckychick

    Ugh! Sorry about the electrical zaps. I remember going through those when i was weaning off celexa. It was like fireworks going off behind my eyes every hour. Of course my doctor said he had no idea what I was talking about. Research made no mention of this withdrawal symptom…puleese. the support forums at the time were choc full of hypochondriacs just like me whose brains were exploding.

    Hang in there!

  • bee

    I read this and am SO sorry you fell down the stairs. I did that ten days ago and am sitting on cushions, waiting for the bruising to go down, and my tailbone to heal.

    I take a combo of welbutrin, celexa, and cytomel (although there is no sign of a thyroid deficiency). I don’t reach the big “o” but I also don’t try and kill myself. Fortunately, my sexy husband understands that I will still attack him every chance I get…once I heal from the fall.

  • vrcmama

    That is exactly what I went through several years ago when I came off of Effexor way too fast. Everyone acted like I had three heads when I tried to explain how my head would move and my brain would catch up a few seconds later.

  • Plano Mom

    It sucks. For me, it helped to switch when I took the meds, from at night to in the morning. Of course that could have been placebo.

    I’m impressed that Jon can tell you that you look crazy and live to tell about it. Not so my hubs.

  • izzieruthea

    Sooo, I had sleep study done while on Cymbalta…they recommend coming off all meds before the study but it’s obviously not quite that easy with anti-depressants. The study showed that I dreamed all night…once, for over 2 hours straight. I can tell you some dreams that would have you shaking in yo boots.

    I just came off Cymbalta a few months ago…I had all the symptoms and GOOD LORD, it was awful. I was such a complete emotional wreck that I was convinced I needed to get back on the meds because I was obviously crazy. Fortunately, my SO convinced me that it was only the adjustment period. He also convinced me that he wasn’t going to leave me for a more sane person. Whew.

    The mind is both amazing and dangerous as hell. Good luck Heather, I hope you’ll be feeling better soon! Hug Bobo lots when you can pin her down.

  • kottesen

    Brain zaps are the worst. When I came off Effexor I had brain zaps for 6 weeks. I would just be doing whatever and BZZZZTTTT!! It was so weird to have a conversation with someone and have a brain zap. I always half-way expected them to hear it.

  • Tricia

    Oh my God, I am just SO SORRY. I had no idea so many people out there were suffering these kinds of side effects from all of these supposedly helpful drugs for drepression and anxiety! Up until just now, I had many many MANY times wondered if I could benefit from one of these drugs… this post and all the comments are such a welcome reality check. Not to be taken lightly. Got it. Avenue of last resort. Check!

    I am, again, so helplessly sorry for your troubles– but thank you for being candid about your experience. The commercials make it seem like they should just add all this shit to the water supply. Clearly not….

  • powergoddess12

    Coming off Cymbalta was one of the worst times in my life. It took me about 2 months, and lots of headaches, nausea, and dragonlady moods.

    I found some info online about weaning super slow off wacky pills. My dr wanted me to take one every other day. Yeh, right.

    So I took a pill every day, but I would open up the capsules and remove some of the little balls. I know it sounds crazy, but hey, that’s why I’m taking meds. That was the best way I found to slowly get off it.

    It also never changed my big O as opposed to other wacky pills. I just make the spouse try harder…ahem.

  • Kat Barnes

    oh no… I absolutely HATE the brain zaps… so much so that I’m very much considering getting off of anti-depressants altogether… just to see if I can handle me.

  • CatLady

    When I had to go off Paxil years ago, my doctor put me on Celexa and I lowered the dose of Paxil while I raised the dose of Celexa. If you are still having problems coming off the Cymbalta you might want to ask your doctor to try something like that. Just an FYI, I took Celexa and Cymbalta together and when I went off the Cymbalta I didn’t have any problems going off of it.

  • Buddahkat

    I just spent last week trying to convince a young man who tried to hang himself that depression was like any other illness and he has to treat it like that. He had a huge heart and a kind spirit, which was probably overlooked by many because of his outer appearances. I call “bullshit” to those who treat it like someone can snap out of it! I have had the same thing happen with another drug and now the drug I am on is working great for me, except for the occasional night sweats. I gotta say – those night sweats are impressive – It’s like being double jointed…well almost.

  • harrietstreat

    I just wanted to say that you should believe in life after medication, because some of your previous posts seem to suggest that there are only two options: depressed or medicated. I’ve been both but now I’m neither, with the help of a kinesiologist and the use of lots of different therapies including EFT (emotional freedom technique) and visualisation. I know that you can do these things because you tapped into them during Marlo’s birth. Remember that water feature that all your pain flowed over? You can use your mind to alter the way you feel and thus the way you think. It may sound an easy solution to a big problem, but it’s not easy. It’s like childbirth without pain relief (I know, I did that too): really hard, but so worth it.

  • Braidwood

    That sounds like a total NIGHTMARE! I feel sad you’re going through this and I feel angry at the stupid drug companies- and the doctor’s who didn’t believe people were having side effects. GR

    I also less crazy after reading everyone’s comments. How do you all go on with side effects like that?! I’m impressed. Life is hard enough without getting random zaps in your brain. Sheesh.

  • trewqaz

    I can so relate to this post!

    Cymbalta withdrawal sucked. My doctor gave me no taper; just switched me to Celexa. I could never tell if if it was withdrawal that sucked or the starting up of Celexa.

    I am on Pristiq now and I really love it. This is the only drug that I’ve ever been on that didn’t come with severe start up side effects. If I miss a day, I get this weird feeling like the blood is draining out of my lips and I get a bit dizzy, but compared to the Cymbalta it’s no big deal.

    When my little guy was one, we literally did tape his diaper together with masking tape. Not on his tummy, but to itself. Otherwise, he would strip naked during his nap and pee everywhere. We would also layer him in onesies and overalls.

    Occasionally, even with all the precautions, he’d still get loose.

    He’s three now and yesterday we caught him peeing in the dog’s water… be thankful for girls 😛

  • Jeremy

    Ohhh yeah, I forgot about that downside of Cymbalta. The This-Mutha-Fuckin-Drug-Gonna-Make-You-Crazy-Tryin-To-Get-Offa-It part.

    I was stupid enough a few months ago to try and quit cold-turkey, because after being on it 3 years I was all “OMG I’m the HAPPIEST I’ve ever been in my life lalalala” (No more kaka relationship with my ex boyfriend)


    I think the brain zaps I disliked the most. I don’t really know how to describe them to anyone… but they were quite freaky and bothersome. Plus the whole not being able to sit still thing sucked. Especially at night when I was trying to fall asleep.

    Oh those brain zaps though. I never ever want to experience those again. I literally felt like I was crazy. Or that I was going to have a seizure or something.

    So after a Terrible Weekend of Withdrawal From HELL, I went to my Doctor and told her what stupid stupid stupid thing I did. After a slight lecture, we both decided that I need to continue living a happy life on magical Cymbalta. Which is fine. The Doctor made a good point. I was doing wonderful on the drug for 3 years, felt the best I had ever felt in my entire life, etc etc etc butterflies/rainbows/unicorns. It wasn’t worth the risk of me not being medicated, or switched to another medication. Plus, I didn’t wanna end up in the ER again, and a nice 2 week stay at the “special” hospital like I did prior to Cymbalta.

    So alas, that is my little story/experience. I still take my magical Cymbalta 60MG once a day, and probably will until the day I die.

    I really do hope you find that magical drug out there that works perfect for you. It an adventure that sucks hardcore, but is sooo worth it when you feel alive again and happy in your life.

  • pillowfight

    I read somewhere that the brain zaps feel a little bit like someone popped open your skull and is dragging a highly static-charged carpet directly on your brain. Or something like that.

    Not fun.

    I’ve been on Prozac, Remeron, and Cymbalta and fortunately never experienced any of this going off them. I’m now on Lexapro and it lives up to the hype. has some excellent information about tapering off these things, and what typical side effects are. I think you’ll like the introduction. 🙂

  • sexylikeapeanut

    So, as far as Marlo and her diapers are concerned.. my daughter is doing the same thing.. We remedied that situation by putting a onesie on the outside of her pants. She can’t take her pants off with the onesie over them, making access to her diaper mostly impossible.

  • MissMissy

    Oh I remember those terrible electric zaps while going off zoloft. They were constant, ugh! I’m shuddering just thinking about it. I tried to quit cold turkey and it was terrible. Tapering was much better and I whole-heartedly recommend that instead, though I still some zaps. But they do go away, I promise.

  • doobrah

    Jeez — the cure sounds worse than the disease.

  • Alevai

    “Also, Brad Pitt is still missing”. Hilarious. At least you haven’t lost your sense of humour!

    Sorry you’re having a rough time. Hope things start looking up (even if you’re looking down) soon.

  • Meow

    Cymbalta withdrawal is the worst. I’ve heard that the withdrawal from it is similar to the withdrawal from heroin. Having never taken heroin, I don’t actually know this first hand but I do know coming off Cymbalta is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. About a year ago I tapered off just as my psychiatrist directed but it still felt like it was going to kill me. It took a couple of months to get completely off but it was the worst when I went from 40mg to 20mg. The rage I would feel is almost indescribable. I would stand in the middle of my kitchen, scream obscenities and want to seriously hurt someone (fortunately I never acted on those feelings!) That topped with brain zaps, horrible vertigo, fatigue like I’ve never felt before, and memory loss – my husband took me on a mini-vacation to a murder mystery dinner in another state and I remember very little of the entire trip, made the whole experience a living nightmare.

    Once I was completely off and it got out of my system I felt like myself again (good and bad) and my psychiatrist added Cytomel (thyroid med) to my Wellbutrin and it made all the difference. I have had a very horrible year this year (two deaths in the family) but the depression has stayed at bay.

    I wish you the very best in tapering off – I know it’s hard as hell but you’re certainly not alone and it will get better. I had to remind myself every day that I was one day closer to being free of that monster and it somehow seemed to help. Good luck!

  • kalexa

    The brain zaps are pretty typical to withdrawal from any antidepressant. I got them coming off Paxil 10 years ago. I’m currently weaning off Celexa for PPD and get them every now and then, especially if I forget to take a pill. They’re… odd.

  • Stewzie

    Dude, I’ve so been there. I sloooowly weaned off of 120mg of Cymbalta earlier this year. I found that even reducing by 30mg each month made my brain spontaneously combust.

    Don’t know if anyone has mentioned this, but if you undo one of the gel capsules, there are about a million tiny little “beads” inside. I ended up making my own lower dosages by progressively reducing the number of tiny beads inside each capsule until I was completely tapered off. The crazy-dizzy-brain-zaps lasted about 3 months. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I promise. You may also find Brad Pitt at the end of said tunnel. But I’m not promising that.

  • Kristi

    Oh. My. God.
    You have scared me shitless. I hope I never, never have to go off Cymbalta now.
    Thanks for the NEW nightmare (yeah, it’s screwing with my dreams too. Ugh.)!

    Still love ya though.

  • kafe0311

    When I was taken off of Paxil, I felt this way also. It was terrible, to say the least. Hope you start feeling better soon.

  • jaycie622

    Weaned myself off Paxil after about a year on it. That drug is made by the Devil’s elves! I couldn’t stand to go to sleep at night because I knew the dreams I was going to have.

    Hang in there!

  • LaLaBoo

    I use to have those freaky, nothing whatsoever to do with my life, dreams when I took Zyban, to help me quit smoking. But the only symptom of withdrawal I would have would be, a desire for another cigarette. So I stayed on it for a long while. I finally built up a nose for smoke that made it possible to stay away from the cancer sticks and now I’m the ultimate worst ex-smoker on the face of the earth. I despise the smell!!

    But I write you, to advise you stick to flats during this transition and leave those incredibly cute peep toe platform boots in the closet for a while. 🙁

  • Curiosity

    Ugh. Like many others here, I definitely feel your pain (weird brain zaps and all). I would strongly advise taking things as slowly as you think would be possible, and then taking them even more slowly than that. And speaking from both research and personal experience, if you’re trying to taper off and still getting symptoms, and they seem to be getting worse, you’re going too fast. Wait until your system stabilizes again and your symptoms go away before trying to drop the dose at all. You may already know all of this, I just know how much it sucked for me and how freaking long it took me and wanted to chip in what I learned in the process just in case it helps at all. Hang in there, and I really hope that things proceed smoothly for you.

  • juliejackson


    Seriously, I know many people including myself who had to actually open the capsules and take a teeny bit less each day. It is a bitch for sure. But not impossible. The key is SMALL INCREMENTS, (CRAZY) ARMSTRONG WOMAN!

  • juliejackson

    Also, sometimes psychs use Prozac short-term to counter the withdrawals, brain zaps, etc. That worked for me once, too.

    Here is the most valuable straight-talking site I know of on this topic:

  • jambera

    I’ve tried to get off of Effexor a couple of times and gave up. Like you, I had lots of brain zaps. I hated them! Also tingling at the back of my neck. One time I went 3 days and was almost ready to go the the ER it was so intolerable. I’ve been on them much too long.

  • andyro

    I was put on Effexor to help my nervous system settle down in the hopes that my back would quit spasming… turns out I had a ruptured disc in my back… so here I am, trying to taper off from Effexor, and the nausea, dizziness and “Brain Shivers” have made me an emotional mess! It is so hard to describe to anyone unless you are going through it yourself. zzzt! zzzt zzzt! Oops! I blinked before my brain was ready, I guess…
    When I initially told my doctor about this side effect, her response was… hmmm… I’ve never heard of that happening… but I went online and looked up effexor withdrawl symptoms and found a whole internet full of people with the same thing! How could the medical community not know about this? How can they so easily prescribe something that ruins you completely until it is out of your system?
    Will I ever be able to get off this medication? I am fearful right now that I am stuck in this abyss of two hells… one where I am on the meds and numb to everything,gaining weight and not liking myself, or off the meds and sick as a dog for lord knows how long, crying because I am so sick of being sick.
    sigh… I feel your pain.

  • Shmay

    Sometimes my mom will say “Shmay, maybe you should try something?” Something meaning a little pill that will make me “better”. I always respond with a “Mother, I’m not crazy.”

    But really, now you have officially made it NOT possible for me to ever try anything to take away the ‘sometimes crazy’.

    So if anyone ever ‘recommends’ a pill, I’m saying NO and blaming you.

  • Steve O

    “eating itself from the inside out. I get violently nauseated and dizzy. My head fills up with electrical zaps. I twitch uncontrollably”

    Sheesh heck that’s the way I feel most of the time even without any narcotics or booze. Many web pages I visit induce that kind of feeling.

  • rwmorey71

    I had similar issues when changing meds for my anxiety. I’m now taking Paxil but recently my anxiety has been flaring up so I’m talking to my psychiatrist about either upping my dosage or maybe changing meds. If I do change meds (again) I am not looking forward to the withdrawal symptoms. Also, as I’ve been a long time Dooce reader I was inspired to start my own blog about my struggle with anxiety, if anyone is interested in checking it out.

  • southerngirl

    I hope you get your meds straightened out soon. WE MUST FIND BRAD!!!!!


  • soNOTcool

    I started Cymbalta about four weeks ago to help with (ten years of) chronic pain related to type I diabetes. I am taking 30 mg. This week, I finally started sleeping again, but I have been having one continuous dream for the past month. Each night, I essentially pick up where I left off previously. I am actually kind of liking that part. It’s like I’m starting a whole new life. I am my own doppelganger.

    Since starting this medication, I have been terrified of the possibility of having to taper off at some point. Getting my body adjusted to it was bizarre, maybe traumatic. I had what my family now calls “Cymbalta eyes”, where in my pupils were hugely dialated all of the time and my eyes were open substantially wider than usual.

  • andyro

    I just found this page with an idea on how to taper off. I wonder if it works…

  • amberdawn

    I have the same sort of thing but with Zoloft. My dad died about two weeks before my son was born – hello massive postpartum anxiety! How not nice to meet you.

    The worst part is that I don’t think I needed it. I was also given Ativan which immediately got me the rest I needed and calmed me down whenever I needed to calm the hell down. I tapered off of it naturally around eight months ago. Zoloft however has been a beast. I’ve been tapering off for about six months or so, and every single time I cut the dosage I have about two weeks of abnormal obsessing/anxiety over silly things. And the dreams. Oh my god the dreams.

    But overall it’s been going well, and I think I’ll be off of it in the next few months or so. I think taking it slow is going to be the key.

  • LuckyMama

    I have been on “something” for almost 11 yrs…in varying doses. For the last 7 or so years it’s been Celexa. I am near the topping out point of the available dosages and my Dr suggested tappering off the drug…TAPPER OFF!!! I need more not less!!

    I can’t imagine purposely putting myself through tappering off. I’ve forgotten to take my meds and the nausea and jitters alone are enough to send me to a looney bin!

    Congrats to you Heather…maybe, just maybe, you’ll give me the strength to take my Dr’s advice…maybe.

  • lisamaesc

    OMG! Cymbalta is a bitch to get off of! I got off of Cymbalta about 4 years ago. I had been on it about a year. I dug around on the internet and found out about how difficult it is to get off the stuff. The strangest thing I can remember is that I couldn’t drink coffee for 3 months while weaning off of it. It took me about 3 months to feel “normal”….

    I’m drug free right now. I had a doctor mention something in passing about maybe I needed to go on some medication… I said no….

  • danielle darling

    You know, I just wanted to say I am sorry and hope you feel better- and soon. Thank you for sharing this. My doctor wanted me to try this drug because it helps with nerve pain *mine is not due to diabetes, but why not give it a shot?

    I have been looking at the bottle for a few days, reading every single thing I can get my hands on about this drug *the website, the info from the pharmacy, the enclosures, other web info and thinking, I have enough issues, why add another? I recalled that you had started it and came back to follow up. Your story just kind of brought it home, the icing on the cupcake.

    Yup, let us try something else. If I need something for depression, so be it. But, not this one!
    Sorry I cannot make this funny, but it comes from my heart. You are providing helpful, ancedotal information in a digestible manner- on a topic that is anything but light. You do make a difference!

  • devilss

    In this way i have a proposal editing.What should i do?

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.

read more