I joked that after finishing this year at uni I wanted to sleep for the next four months. It was a joke, unlike what has actually happened.
Recently after a revelation at a psychiatrist appointment he asked if I want to come off my medication, quetiapine. Of course I know that this is quite a big step in recovery as coming off any medication is hard, though coming off an antipsychotic is even more troublesome. The opportunity to go forward with this was not taken lightly, there were tears and tantrums but in the end I knew it was the right time to do this.
Knowing that coming off antipsychotics is not the easiest thing therefore I felt I had to do some basic research into how to make the withdrawal as easy as possible. Sadly, most of the stories you read from a basic google search are all scary. Upon reading these stories, and my imagination on overdrive, I wanted to make sure I could do everything within my power to make sure I don’t end up in hospital. I’ve managed to pick up some basic tips and hope to find some more as the journey continues.
I am also very keen to look at the spiritual side of recovery, and reduction, as I’ve found mental health recovery focuses on physical and mental aspects. While I’m not sure at the moment where this will fit in with the journey I’m about to face, in terms of sharing the journey with you, I will maintain regular meditation and mindfulness as well as following a spiritual path of discovery.
1) Exercise. No matter how much physical pain you’re feeling, keep on moving. The movement will not only ensure your body is still mobile, but will help reduce the insomnia each night.
2) Bananas. Bananas are a great source of potassium and help with muscle ‘jitters’.
3) Electrolytes. Your body is about to go through a transformation and needs to be able to absorb all the nutrients you put in, so make sure your electrolytes are kept in balance. You can either use Lucozade, which is laden with sugar and will cost you financially in the long run, or make your own. Simple recipes for your own electrolyte drinks can be found here.
4) Journaling. I’ve found during the first week of tapering I have had a few life changing realisations about myself. It is important to write these revelations down because distractions from the tapering process can make you forget them. You don’t want to forget them, they are life changing.
5) The Road Back is a website containing information about coming off all types of medication. From pre-tapering to tapering, antidepressants to antipsychotics. It’s worth a look for how to prepare yourself for what’s about to happen.
6) Keep eating. While you probably won’t have the energy to make proper meals for yourself it is important that you keep eating, your body needs as much fuel as it can get. Prepare some tasty home cooked food before you start, ask a friend to help you, or make use of healthy ready made meals.
My plan for tapering:
I am aware that tapering off these meds is down to the individual and their healthcare professional, so my plan may not be the same as everyone else’s. Therefore, please talk to your healthcare professional for advice on tapering and do not use this as an example for you to take into your own hands.
My tapering plan involves 1/3 of the original dose taken in the mornings and evenings for two weeks and then 1/3 of the original dose in the evenings only for three weeks. At this point I’ll go back to my GP and review how it’s going. I should also be seeing my psychiatrists at the same time so I’ll be able to have both of their opinions as to where to go once I’m at the end of the tapering.
Reflections from the first 6 days:
While I read all the stories of how tapering off the meds can be I think I allowed myself to think that it wasn’t going to be as bad as I had read. Especially from reading how bad things were when people went cold turkey off this stuff. I mean I’m doing this with healthcare professional backing, tapering off slowly and done research into ways to reduce symptoms. What could go wrong?
It has hurt more than I could have ever imagined. I was expecting insomnia, not continuous sleeping or tiredness. I was expecting to be able to have some sort of life while doing this, but the only life I have led is a cosy little relationship with my sofa. I do believe that most of this pain is from taking a morning dose as quetiapine has a sedative in it. While I struggle with natural sleep, especially day time sleeping, the quetiapine wants to knock me out.
Although this has been painful, I do feel that I was meant to be doing this now, at this moment in time. I have recently been growing mentally and spiritually which has allowed me to have better insight to myself and my life. By not having real life contact with the outside world, due to the pain, and social media contact when I choose I have been able to explore myself when the brain allows me to. I’ve realised who I was before these meds and who I am now, that I’m not as outgoing and forthcoming as I used to be and I need to make changes to rectify that.
Week two I feel is going to be pretty much the same as week one as there is no change to the tapering plan. However I will continue to log everything down in case anything spectacular or jazzy takes place. You never know, my sofa might want to end our relationship.
*disclaimer number one* This is not meant as medical advice; this is my journey of coming off quetiapine. Please seek medical advice if you are contemplating reducing or coming off this, or any, medication.
*disclaimer number two* I have always been careful with my blogs not to talk about medications; it’s a thing of mine. I’m not a Dr and I don’t claim to be, therefore I do not wish anyone to perceive my talking of medications as so. While I know that I am sharing my journey with coming off quetiapine I am still wary of stating doses; therefore no doses will be mentioned here.
Right, here goes…
Meds Reduction Diary (this is a long piece and only the diary continues from here):
After having my psychiatrist offered me to come off my meds last week I decided I should do it. I haven’t really needed them, apparently after what he said to me, so why have nasty anti psychotics loitering in the veins.
The first fear I have with this is sleep. I’ve never overcome the homelessness and sleeping with one eye open thing, so natural sleep hasn’t happened for over seven years. I know that this is something that I need to overcome so later this week when I see my counsellor I’ll be bringing this up.
Here goes day one of 1/3 dose.