Hey there! This is my first time posting on this platform, so I hope you'll forgive me if I'm in breach of any protocols or haven't used the space appropriately. I tried to read as much as I could before diving into this, but frankly, there's a lot of stuff to sift through, and it got overwhelming at points. So, if I've erred, please, don't hesitate to let me know so that I might make amends.
My signature pretty much says it all. I've used Venlafaxine (Effexor) to treat social anxiety disorder and chronic depression since I was about 21-years-old (I'm now 30), often bouncing between 150mg and 225mg to varying degrees of success, and with little issue save for some of the nastier side-effects. In my case, those side-effects were weight gain, loss of energy, libidinal ones, and if I miss my dose by even a few hours, the worst brain zaps imaginable. There's been very little interruption of this medication, save for one spell of going cold turkey for a few months, and a few quick run-ins with Fluoxetine (Prozac) and Escitalopram (Cipralex).
Ultimately, I kept coming back to Venlafaxine because it worked better than any other medication I'd tried, and I could live with the side-effects even if I'd rather not. So from about 2017 onward until the spring of 2021, I kept on Venlafaxine at about 150mg without interruption.
The side-effects really started to weight on me in the months leading up to that spring, particularly the weight gain. I figured that there had to be a better way, and I'd heard great things about Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), so I thought I'd give that a shot. I consulted with my doctor who said that we could do this without issue, but would rather I tried Vortioxetine (Trintellix) instead because of the prohibitive cost of Desvenlafaxine. His plan was to taper off of 150mg of Venlafaxine over a month, and then immediately switch to Vortioxetine. It seemed like a good enough plan to me because, well, I didn't know any better. This, of course, was when my life got ruined, it seems almost irreversibly at times.
Simply put: I did not take well to the Vortioxetine. It was an awful, awful experience. I had more panic attacks in my first two weeks on that medication than the rest of my life combined. I'd lost the capacity to think or to speak or to remember anything. I was in constant discomfort. It was like my life had been turned completely upside down. Worse still, I started to develop pure obsessive compulsive disorder, something that hadn't really been a thing for me to this point in my life. I tried and I tried to stick it out, but I had to quit after a month. I couldn't bare to live like that. And my doctor threw in the towel and told me to talk to a psychiatrist.
So I did precisely that. I had to wait a month, though, at which point I was without any medication and I suffered such debilitating withdrawals that I had to go to the hospital. I didn't really know what was going on at the time and I'd never felt worse in my life. But, eventually I got through that, and I spoke with a psychiatrist at the hospital. They told me that Vortioxetine was a terrible choice on my doctor's part, and my experience was pretty much par for the course. She said it's by far the worst medication for people with anxiety or social anxiety. She also wasn't particularly fond of me tapering off of Venlafaxine for a month when I'd been using it for the better part of a decade.
I started taking Desvenlafaxine on June 1, 2021, with a dosage of 50mg for two weeks, and then up to 100mg. And it didn't really do much for me, which was devastating. I'd wake up having panic attacks. I'd have regular panic attacks throughout the day. On top of it all, I'd developed tinnitus. My social anxiety was in an awful place. I tried to stick out for as long as I could before I threw in the towel on that and switched back to Venlafaxine -- the devil you know, right?
The switch back to Venlafaxine offered some relief, but I didn't feel anything like I used to before this whole ordeal. I was still an anxious mess. My pure OCD compulsions remained, another devastating blow. I felt spaced out constantly. It was a better experience than I'd had on Vortioxetine or Desvenlafaxine, but hardly a good one. This would still register as the worst I'd felt from a mental health perspective at any point in my life prior to last spring, when this medication SNAFU turned my life upside down.
Worse still, I couldn't really get my dosage up to a helpful level. I seemed to feel worse when I moved up to 75mg. It was like my body and my mind couldn't handle this drug that at one point was a feature of my every day life for years at a time. So, I went back to 37.5mg, feeling awful constantly. Anxious, depressed, suffering pure OCD compulsions... it felt at times like I'd lost my mind. And as it became clear that this wasn't doing much for me, I started to slowly wean myself off of Venlafaxine, one half-bead at a time. I'm now down to one bead, which is about 12mg, if I'm not mistaken.
I've felt better as I've weaned down, if only slightly, which is both good and bad. I still feel awful relative to where I was before this medication ordeal started last spring. And I really do need this medication to get through day-to-day life.
My situation feels hopeless. I'm watching personal and professional relationships deteriorate because I can't handle even the most rote social engagements without freaking out completely. I've contemplated taking my life on a few occasions, and came very close to doing so last November.
I've spoken to a psychiatrist who wants me to try starting Sertraline, but frankly, I'm kind of terrified given my experiences the last few months. I just don't have anymore room for my life to get worse before, well... I don't even know.
Any advice on what to do? I'm totally at a loss here, feeling failed by my doctors, and in a hopeless loop that leaves me feeling awful on day-to-day basis, unable to live the life I did at this time a year ago.