By Jamie Bornstein
I tried to wean. I really tried. It was not some half-assed attempt.
I would not go so far as to say that it was a failure, but it was definitely not a success.
My prescribed dose of Celexa since 2008 has been 20 mg daily. With my doctor’s consent and guidance, slowly I decreased. I started by alternating 20mg and 10mg doses. That went well. If there were any perceptible changes in how I felt, they were slight. I had no concerns.
After a few weeks I dropped to 10mg daily. I tried to not focus on the change and for a while I thought I was doing quite well. I was proud of myself. After all, I dropped my dose by fifty percent. Okay, maybe I was a bit moody. Perhaps I was more irritable than usual. But I was not panicky, and I was not emotionally impaired, and that alone felt like a win.
A few weeks later I dropped to 5mg daily, but I did so with mixed emotions. On one hand I could see complete detox on the horizon. On the other hand, I knew things were not quite right. I was not in a state of crisis, but I was not feeling normal either. Withdrawal? Maybe. The underlying panic-prone Jamie shaking off a celexa induced six-year snooze? Also possible.
That’s a hard zone to sit in, but I decided to stick. So on I went at 5mg per day. I can’t recall how long I lasted. I did not keep close track because when you keep track you focus on it, and that’s exactly what I did not want to do. Still, I don’t think I made it that long. After a few days I began to have what felt like mini brain shocks.
Picture a guy hot wiring a car in a movie. He touches the two wires together and zap! A spark. The car does not turn over, so he tries again. Another zap. It felt like that. As if various wires in my head, which have been separated because they were not playing nicely together, were reunited and immediately back at it, clawing at each other. It was fleeting but it was real, and it was very disconcerting. It’s possible to ignore a zap or two. More than that, though, takes serious willpower – more willpower than I possess.
And with that, I caved. I am now back at 20mg daily and, I am happy to say, feeling quite good.
I’m proud of myself for trying and I’m not willing to feel bad about myself for not fully succeeding. I believe in the use of pharmaceutical therapies even while I hope that I will one day not feel dependent on them. I’ve accepted that this is a long haul process, and perhaps a lifelong one. I’m okay with that, because when it comes down to it, life is short. I’m not willing to live it in an impaired state when, thank God, I live in a time when amazing therapies exist that dramatically improve my quality of life.
Jamie Bornstein is the founder of Mental Health Safe Space. He lives in Sharon, MA with his wife and three children. He is the assistant director of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, North America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.