Weaning off Prozac is going well with the help of 3 simple habits.
The last time you and I caught up, I shared how I felt called to come off the anti-depressant Prozac. There were various reasons why, which you can read about here in Prozac and the path of surrender but in short it was something my intuition was telling me to do — as is documenting and sharing the journey. Perhaps by writing it all down I’ll truly gain some wisdom that will stand me in good stead for the months to come. Perhaps it can also help some other folk a long the way. So without further ado…
I have halved my dose to 10mg per day
A common dose is 20mg per day, which is what I have been on for some time now, but I wanted to gradually decrease my dose rather than stopping cold turkey. Some people report stopping Prozac overnight without any side-effects, however I chose to halve my dose instead, purely to prevent my life being disrupted by the side effects that could occur — in particular a flare up of anxiety.
I have also been very vigilant about supporting myself in other ways while I try a lower 10mg dose on for size. When I was younger I found it hard to prioritise looking after myself in this way. Whenever I felt well enough to come off medication, I wouldn’t give much thought to maintaining feeling well, which led to a bit of a boom or bust pattern to my wellbeing. Things are different now. I’ve come to realise how vital daily maintenance is when it comes to feeling happy and strong.
Here’s the bit where I share three great habits that have been working for me. I hope something in here resonates and support you…
1. Recover your inner strength with cold showers
- 3min shower.
- As cold as I can get it!
- Positive affirmations: ‘Every day I get in this shower I get stronger’.
Those of you who have known me for a while will know I’m a big Wim Hof fan. Wim is a master breathworker and pioneer of cold exposure therapy, and it was his book that prompted me to start taking daily cold showers.
Cold showers have so many physical health benefits, but what I want to tell you about is the way they’ve helped me to transform my mindset. When you start facing uncomfortable things head on, you get in touch with your innate resilience. To be clear, there are many mornings when I simply don’t want to get in. But I step right in as fast as possible before the monkey mind has an opportunity to talk me out of it.
As I write today, one year and four months into my cold exposure practice, I can see that it’s been pivotal in helping me to evolve my core beliefs.
- ‘I’m so up and down’ has become ‘I am strong’.
- ‘I’m procrastinating over X’ has become ‘Rip off the plaster!’
- ‘There’s no time to take care of myself’ has become ‘I make time to take care of myself’.
When low mood starts to creep in, positive beliefs like these are a powerful defence.
2. Track triggers and take steps to remove them
- Jot down everything that makes you feel anxious or blue.
- These might be things or thoughts.
- Create simple strategies to reduce your exposure to triggers.
We all have very different triggers, shaped by many factors including our personality and past experience. When I started tracking the things that get me in a flap, one of the main things that kept popping up was feeling overwhelmed by the volume of emails/messages I have to attend to. So I started experimenting with boundaries, like putting my phone in a different room so I’m not constantly available. I also started activating ‘do not disturb’ on my mobile in the evenings.
Tracking my triggers also highlighted the role of hormones in how I feel throughout the month. PMS sure as hell exarcebates my generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). I took action on hormonal triggers by:
- Circling potential PMS days in my calendar.
- Taking a homeopathic remedy a week ahead of potential PMS days, to ward them.
- Reminding myself ‘it’s the hormones talking’ when I feel off. While everything they say has truth in it, they’re definitely a bit Eeyore.
If you’re new to tracking anxiety triggers here are a few common ones to watch out for:
- Caffeine, alcohol, hunger, lack of vitamins.
- Poor sleep.
- The news — turn it off, if it’s important you’ll hear it through the grape vine.
- A jam packed schedule, a rushed start to the day.
- A cluttered environment.
- Socialising, contact with specific people — and for others it’s being alone that can trigger anxiety.
- Neglecting emotional needs — getting in touch with nature, down time, play time (all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy)
The strategies we need to minimise our triggers are never rocket science, but we do need to take the time to explore and implement them, and make the decision to take action. Sometimes that’s the thing that’s in our blindspot: our ability to initiate change. As the Nike slogan goes ‘Just do it’.
3. Believing recovery is possible
- Trust that recovery is possible.
- When you wobble, hold the intention to trust.
- When others wobble, hold the intention to try to trust anyway.
The difficulty with weaning off Prozac, especially if you‘ve relied on it multiple times, is that your fundamental belief in your mental health has taken a beating. When something has ‘broken’ once, we perceive it to be more fragile. When it breaks twice, three times, it’s easy to start seeing breaking as an inevitability. And yet, the future is not written.
Hold the belief that you’re damaged goods, that your condition is in the genes etc, and that will be your reality. Try instead to trust that recovery is possible and look for evidence that supports that hypothesis — it’s out there. There are so many people who have made remarkable recoveries even when the odds were stacked against them: their personal history, family history, all sorts of unfortunate circumstances — and yet somehow they’ve made it up the mountain. What makes you so sure you could never make it up there too?
On the days you’re filled with self-doubt (and there will be days) tell yourself it’s your intention to recover. Adapting the belief in this small way makes it more authentic, acknowledging our resistance while — crucially — leaving a little room for hope. If the top of the mountain feels out of reach, ask yourself could you travel a mile in the right direction? Half a mile? Ok ok, a few steps. In every moment of our lives we have choice. That’s very hard to hear when you’re at rock bottom. But it’s also how you begin to climb out.
Finally, what do you do when other people doubt your ability to recover? I’ve experienced this a fair bit recently, both from GP’s and loved-ones. It comes from a good place, no-one wants to see someone go downhill. It also comes from a place of self-preservation. Even those who you love you have their limits when it comes to the time and energy they have for picking up the pieces. That’s reasonable.
My strategy when faced with nay-sayers is this:
- Reassure people you’re conducting an experiment. Perhaps your journey will end in you coming off your anti-depressant, or perhaps it won’t. Perhaps you’ll be med-free for a few years, then go back on them. The whole point of weaning off a drug is to find out if that make you feel more empowered. If you don’t feel more empowered, don’t wean off. There are no right and wrong outcomes, just roads to explore.
- Share what strength you’ve gained. In Japanese culture there’s a tradition Kintsukaroi. Kintsukaroi is the process of making broken pottery stronger than it was before, by melding the shattered pieces back together with precious metals like gold and silver. It’s like this with mental health. It’s normal to experience a breakdown in one’s lifetime. If we take the time to reflect on how we got to that point and how we can avoid getting there again, we are safe-guarding ourselves for the road ahead. Sharing the wisdom you’ve gained from difficult times, helps others see more of your strength.
- Practice letting anxious feelings pass on your own. If you’re blessed to have good listeners around you, it’s a hell of a relief to share the load. But be realistic, you can’t expect people to support you coming off meds and at the same time cry on their shoulder. Plan ahead which strategies you will use to support yourself on a rainy day. My first port of call is to lie down and breathe slowly and deeply for 5mins. My second call is to move my body, usually a walk in nature where I find it easier to get perspective. My third call is to shift the focus away from myself, asking ‘what can I do to help someone else today?’ Often it’s as simple as make my fella a cuppa, give my neighbours leftover veg for their rabbits, take something to the charity shop etc. It doesn’t have to be epic to make a difference to your mood.
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Disclaimer — This piece is not intended to offer medical advice. It’s aim is to inspire and inform, only if it resonates with you. Please take what strikes a chord and disregard what doesn’t. I wish you the very best of luck on your journey.