The Great Drug Dilemma: Is it time to stop taking my anti-depressant meds? [FDA recalls fake meds after telling depressed patients it is all in our heads for five years]

by Charlotte on March 18, 2013 · 56 comments

antidep

This weekend was surprisingly calm considering it’s my annual ride on the Cray-Cray Carousel, i.e. the time of year when all my prescription medications need renewal and so I go round and round with the powers that be who like to make this process as painful, expensive and drawn out as possible in order to punish me for having tweaky brain wiring. Last year, if you may recall, I celebrated by falling down the rabbit hole for three months with a nasty case of PTSD exacerbated by the fact that my anti-depressant mysteriously stopped working.

Thanks to a cute little memo from the FDA that came out last October but I didn’t discover until last week, I finally found out why: the generic version of Wellbutrin that I’d been involuntarily switched to contained none of the active ingredient listed on the label. So five years after the fact the FDA finally acknowledged what I and many others have been having a tantrum about and pulled that stupid sugar pill from the shelves. (TEVA brand’s budeproprion in case anyone is curious). I actually sat down and cried when I read the densely worded statement obviously crafted to induce confusion, nausea and weight gain rather than clarity. (Just like their drugs! So consistent, Big Pharma!) Part of it was frustration – why do you need 1200 words to say “We were wrong. We suck. Please stop taking our fake-o meds”?? – but part of it was because finally someone was validating the hell I went through.

For those of you who don’t follow my every emotional whim with breathless excitement, I finally got back on my original generic after a protracted battle with my insurance company wherein I had to sob, rant and whine at at least eleventy thousand people who all told me that I’m nuts and am therefore incapable of knowing what’s going on in my own body.

So when I showed up to fill my prescription last week at my pharmacy and was told my yearly Rx had run out and I’d need to start the process all over again, I lost it. First I was mad at the pharmacy (unfair, as it’s not the red-shirted clerk’s fault), then at my doctor (unfair, she’s just following her office policy), then at Big Pharma (totally justified, see above) and finally settled on being pissed off at myself (because that’s always productive). Why me and my non-normal neurons?!?

I  did what any crazy person off their meds would do: I threw a hissy fit, had a panic attack and spent all weekend in the fetal position. (I wish. When you have four little kids you never get to do anything so indulgent as lay down longer than 20 minutes. Unless you are playing Princess and the Pea with a pile of legos wedged under your back.)

*I would like to interrupt this diatribe to say that I have talked to my doctor about this and have made an appointment to see her… in two months as that’s the soonest she could get me in. But I’m not going rogue or doing anything against medical advice. Yet. Also: I’m not a doctor or even all that smart so nothing in this post is intended as medical advice in any way. I’m simply relating my personal experience.*

For anyone who’s ever stopped taking an anti-depressant or other psychotropic med you’ll know it’s a mixed bag. Depending on the drug, the dosage and the person you can range from a couple of grouchy days to a full-blown psychotic episode, relapse of depression or worse. Personally, having been on half a dozen different meds over the years, I’ve experienced a wide range of effects and they’re generally not what most people go through. (I’m weird! Surprise!) Going off Cymbalta, an SNRI, for instance, was one of the happiest times of my life. I got these things called “brain zaps” that generally drive most people nuts but made me feel like my brain was having a Yo Gabba Gabba rave in my skull. Or like my brain was sneezing. Either way it was oddly satisfying in a tickly kind of way and I briefly considered going back on it just so I could go off it again and ride that crazy-fun ‘coaster again!

But this also means I’ve quit Wellbutrin several times in the past too and while I get a little panicky and grouchy overall it’s not a huge event. (Unless like last year it’s combined with massive trauma and a pharmaceutical bait-and-switch that still makes me want to punch the first Stock Photo scientist I come across.) That’s one of the things I like best about it. So when my emergency prescription finally came through yesterday – I can only get a few pills at a time until I see my doctor – I didn’t rush right out to take it. I’ve been off my meds for about a week now* and while it’s still dark and depressing winter here and I can feel the damp seeping into my brain, for the first time I’m wondering if fighting the depression and anxiety is better than fighting the meds and the insurance companies. (I should add that my experience may not be typical. My husband has a great job but abysmal health insurance.)

Here’s my reasoning for considering ditching my meds:

1. Side effects. Bruxism (teeth grinding), jaw clenching, headaches, brain fog, anxiety, weight gain** and a racing heart are just a few of the side effects I’ve had to deal with over the years. Also, this may be TMI but I can’t orgasm while taking most SSRI/SNRI meds like Cymbalta, Prozac etc. And what is a life without those? In the past the benefit of not wanting to curl up in a corner nine months out of the year was enough to make them liveable but I’m not sure I still feel like that’s a good trade-off anymore.

2. My success with ameliorating my anxiety with diet. I’ve said it before but discovering the link between my panic attacks and my dairy consumption has been one of the most successful and probably the most life-changing Great Fitness Experiment I’ve ever done. I know how hippie-dippy it all sounds and in the past I would have been hugely skeptical of anyone else making similar claims but  after living it, I’m a believer. It’s also opened my mind up to the  possibility that I can perhaps use food, supplements and lifestyle changes to regulate my other issues like depression and PMS so severe it makes Donald Trump look reasonable.

3. My growing skill set and knowledge. I may still possess the same faulty wiring and messed-up chemistry that have made the neurotic girl you all know and (sometimes) love but I’m not the same person I’ve always been. I like to think that all of this stuff I’ve learned about health and fitness has made me smarter. Heck, I no longer thing of gummy bears as a healthy snack just because they’re “fat free” so that’s got to mean something,  right? So perhaps I couldn’t deal with the depression and anxiety on my own before. But maybe I can now.

4. Perhaps my mental quirks aren’t a flaw but a feature. I’ve been reading a lot of books like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain and The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron that make me wonder if my “issues” are only problematic because society in general considers them to be. Our world isn’t structured to accommodate the 20% or so of us that are “highly sensitive” (translation: there is no such thing as “background” music to me and fans make me so twitchy I want to rip them out of the ceiling) but that doesn’t necessarily mean that trait is bad. I grew up thinking I was broken but watching my own “sensitive” children has helped me see the beauty and gift that comes with being “high strung” or “tightly wound”.

5. Nothing is forever. I can try it, right? And if I crash and burn I can change my mind, right?

AND YET. I’m obviously not in the best state of mind to be making this decision. But when else do you decide to go off your meds?When everything’s hunky dory? The worst part of being crazy is not knowing when I’m crazy. I feel sane and rational but that doesn’t necessarily mean I am.

So I’m asking you for advice. Again, I’m communicating with my doctor and will not be supplanting your advice for medical advice – but your experiences are valuable to me. You guys know lots of stuff I don’t. And I do think there is a lot to be said for collective wisdom, even if it’s just as a jumping off place for more research. So please, do you have any experiences with mental meds? Have you ever gone off them? If so, what went into your decision and how do you feel about it now? Any recs for books or other methods for dealing with mental illness? (Also, please be gentle in the comments and not pass judgement on other commenter’s life choices. I’m not saying that taking meds is bad. Each person’s situation and experience is different and valid. Feel free to say anything you want to me, though.)

*Do note that it is NOT recommended to go cold turkey off any psychotropic medication. For me, Wellbutrin is fine that way but it’s known to be different than other more typical meds in this respect. If you suddenly quit, say, Prozac you can get nasty “discontinuation syndrome” or worse and make your life completely miserable. So if you are considering quitting your meds, talk to your doc about how to taper. Also, never cut your pills in half without checking with your pharmacist. Lots of these meds are in “extended release” coatings that can make cutting them very dangerous.

** Wellbutrin is known as the AD least likely to cause weight gain and even helps some people lose weight. I will say that it has never worked that way for me. Never lost a pound on it. Which is fine.

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

KDA March 18, 2013 at 8:49 am

Wow, that article made me so angry. Talk about messing with people’s lives. It’s sad that we can’t trust the generics that our insurance companies push on us. My doctor told me to make sure that my generic thyroid medicine is always made by the same manufacturer because, apparently, actual dosages can fluctuate a great deal from manufacturer to manufacturer. Meaning, something may be label as have 5 mcg of a given ingredient but only has 2 mcg.

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Redhead March 19, 2013 at 6:44 pm

A nurse actually told me the same thing about birth control pills one time – she said if you’re taking them for cramps/PMS, even an off dosage should still work, but if you’re taking them as your only form of birth control and you get a generic with the lower dosage, you could be in for a surprise…

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Sheldon March 18, 2013 at 8:54 am

I amazed by the of information you receive if you will just look for it. Thanks for the article. Great read.

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Janet March 18, 2013 at 9:00 am

How shocking! I had to stop taking all Rx meds when I got married so that it would be safe to conceive (God willing.) I’ve been using the book _The Depression Cure_ by Daniel Ilardi, a professor of psychology at U Kansas, and it’s been really helpful.

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Alyssa (azusmom) March 18, 2013 at 9:00 am

I went off Zoloft about 18 months ago. I’m currently learning about EFT, and I think it’s working. And my doctor suggested taking Vitamin D during the winter. Also seems to help.
Have you heard of a book called “The Hormone Cure?” It just came out last week. It’s by Sara Gottfried, a Harvard (yay!) educated doctor who’s also a yoga instructor. Her theory is that many of us suffer from a hormone imbalance that can be treated without pills. Basically finding the right way to eat and the best exercise. (For example, she advised one client, suffering from excess cortisol, to stop running and try other workouts.) I’m reading it now, but I JUST started it. I figure it couldn’t hurt, right?

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Crabby McSlacker March 18, 2013 at 9:12 am

Oh wow. I can’t believe the insanity you were put through by being forced onto fake meds and told you were crazy for noticing that they didn’t work?

My former-attorney brain says LAWSUIT, as I believe you and others who suffered like you did should be compensated.

But anyway…

It’s such a tough and personal decision that obviously only you can make. But as I recall you’ve had some pretty dark times before when off meds? My only thought would be to see through this years hellish process of making sure you have prescriptions well in place before making the decision to quit, as tempting as it might be not to go through it again. Then the “going back on” decision, if you have to make it, will be a little less of a protracted nightmare.

Good luck with whatever you decide, we’re all in your corner!

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tracy March 18, 2013 at 9:26 am

Wow – every single day another reason to not trust the government combo of Big Pharma/FDA/USDA/whatever government agency you wish to name!! (FYI, my hubs is a NASA employee). I’ve gotten to where I do not trust most docs, either. So sad for you and hoping you find alternative solutions. And for those above: please please report back on the books – hoping you find success as well.

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Leslie Goldman March 18, 2013 at 9:27 am

My advice to is to stay on, and this is coming from someone who has been off and on SSRIs for years, and have had badbadbad things happen when I go off. Usually I feel Ok for a month or so but then anxiety starts creeping back and all hell breaks loose. I am surprised that women like Janet (above) continue to receive medical advice from doctors telling them to stop their meds before conception, when so much research and science says there are safe options and the risk of untreated depression and anxiety on a fetus is so much worse than that of, say, Zoloft or Prozac. I just think of it like hypothyroidism or diabetes. If you were diabetic and depended on insulin, you wouldn’t just say, “I’m going to see if I can go without insulin,” right? Your and my and many other women’s bodies simply need a little help and these meds offer it. Anyhow, I’m here to talk with you if you want, Char.

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Janet March 19, 2013 at 9:31 am

Good thought. I teach in a medical school, and I decided to go off based on my own reading of the medical literature, my history, and the specific drug. My MD agreed with my decision, but it was my decision alone. The only thing that I regret is that I liked some of my drug’s side-effects.

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Katie March 18, 2013 at 9:27 am

I’m actually really curious to read these responses because I’ve been on anti-anxiety/anti-depressants (Lexapro for those wondering) and I have to wonder if I can deal with life without them now. But they’re routine for me at this point – take anti-depressant pill, take calcium supplement, and GO!

I’m REALLY glad you posted the part about not cutting the pills in half because that was exactly how I was going to go about it!

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cursingmama March 18, 2013 at 9:38 am

I’m the family member that watches someone with anxiety and depression struggle with finding the right combination of diet, exercise and medicine to feel “normal”. Recently a blip (at the core of it a belief the meds weren’t THAT helpful) caused the meds not to be taken as they should and now the rabbit hole is sucking them down like a giant sinkhole; it is heartbreaking and frustrating all at the same time because of the way the decision was made.
As a person sitting on the outside who can’t really understand what you feel on or off meds – I would hope anyone considering going off meds ask a trusted person to give honest feedback on how it looks to us on the outside when you’re off and, if necessary, the power to intervene in an emergency.

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Sara March 18, 2013 at 9:49 am

My concern is how bad it gets for you when you are off your meds. I will freely admit to little knowledge of pharma and SSRI’s, but if you wanted to use all your newfound knowledge, could you talk to your pysch about a lower dosage? Like would it partially mitigate the issues and side effects, then you used your new techniques for the rest? Or is it completely useless unless you have the full dose?

If you do decide to continue the meds, you should consider flagging your calendar at the appropriate month next year to make an appt before your prescription runs out so you don’t get blindsided. Assuming they don’t set appts a year out.

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Smac-a-roo March 18, 2013 at 10:01 am

I would like to at least defend a little companies that make drugs, I feel the world is against them yet most people go ahead and use some kind of drug when needed, and there are some amazing drugs/companies out there. I don’t think it is fair to lump all of them into the same bucket. YEs, there are definitely crooks out there, and I do have my opinion about generics – usually, it’s a quick buck, the original company spends all the money, reasearch and development, etc. and when off patent, comapny B copy-cats the drug without all the work/expenses. Also, insurance companies are to blame, maybe even more so. Again, to save a buck., they’ll let you only get generics Just saying. Not all drugs are the same, not all companies are the same, and we are at the mercy of a number of factors (which added toegether, in general, don’t help us) :Save money, not lives…? Sad

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Carrie March 18, 2013 at 10:10 am

You could try some light therapy to help with the depression of living so far up in the deep dark north. I live in Kansas (which is SUPER sunny) but in the winter I would get SAD so badly I could barely get out of bed and would avoid public places like the plague- I couldn’t get myself to go grocery shopping to buy food for my HUNGRY children. This past fall I bought a verilux ‘happy light’ and keep it on all day at work. It has made a HUGE difference. I only had one weekend where I couldn’t get out of bed and that’s been it!!!! The lights aren’t expensive and definitely worth a try!!

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Jema March 18, 2013 at 10:14 am

I agree Carrie. The “Go Lite” changed my world when I lived in the gray winters of MN!

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Jema March 18, 2013 at 10:12 am

Charlotte,
Seriously? No wonder that drug never worked for me! So sorry you had to go through that nonsense.

I came to a crossroads with my anti-depressants as they seemed to numb my entire world, especially my creativity. I tried three, I needed something as I was suicidal and had full out depression after every one of my four babies. The truth is, the drugs numb the sad and they numb the glad.

I finally decided I needed another opinion outside of the prescription drug world, and opted for a naturopathic physician and a fabulous counselor. The more I released some of my repressed pain with the counselor, the more I released my depression.

My new naturpathic physician took an hour to talk about ALL of my physical and emotional symptoms. It seems my andrenal glands are depleted, thus no cortisol, thus no way to balance my moods. The medical community only had drugs as an option, I can say I am finally finding relief and joy back in my life now that someone has found the cause and not just treated the symptoms.

If interested this is the website to find a Naturopathic Dr. in your area http://www.naturopathic.org

You deserve to feel, and to enjoy your life without being numb to the world. Hugs.

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Emily March 18, 2013 at 10:16 am

I really appreciate what you said about ‘extended release’ coatings-I never would have thought about that! I went through a period of depression last year and honestly, I think the best thing is just getting out there and getting work done-schoolwork, lifting heavy weights, whatever that required my focus. I was never so upset and anxious as when I followed others’ advice of ‘take it easy’ or ‘take a day off and just do something fun!’ I can’t worry when my brain is otherwise occupied working and at the end I haven’t felt like I’m not only still depressed but that I wasted a day. (Not saying that you do this, but I just wanted to put it out there for everyone because it was so mind-blowing to me that ‘resting’ was making me feel worse! Think “The Yellow Wallpaper.”)

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Maggie March 18, 2013 at 10:33 am

Ha, I love this Yellow Wallpaper reference! I’m like you: sitting still was NOT helpful for me! :)

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Maggie March 18, 2013 at 10:32 am

I just want to praise your considering that you may be strong enough to go off them. Not because I’m anti-med (meds are the reason a dear person in my life is still alive) but because not many people support that line of thinking. I took Zoloft for PTSD and went off them accidentally (just forgot to take them, so responsible) and was surprised that I was able to cope on my own once I realized I was no longer taking them. My counselor was not supportive, saying that I shouldn’t make that decision on my own, etc. Maybe she was right, but I trusted my body and I’ve never been on them since. So I just want to offer support if that’s what you feel is best. You’re so smart to ask for advice and balance it with your own knowledge of your own body, mind, and heart. You do what’s best for you. And also prayers for patience and cooperation with the Big Bad Guys! What a horrendous battle! But you’re tough . You can do it :)

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Meghan@themeghamix March 18, 2013 at 10:40 am

My experience is strictly with anxiety. I have found that what works best for me is “back-up” meds. 99% of the time I manage with what I eat and don’t eat, working out (and NOT working out), and calling a friend or crying to my husband.
But there are some times or situations where my emotions really get the best of me and so my prescription per my doctor is “just in case” I am having a meltdown kinda day/night and then I take one.

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Laura is Undeterrable March 18, 2013 at 11:10 am

I recently went off all meds. I was on a Celexa for a couple of years, and despite being mildly allergic to it (so very itchy) I was feeling good so I stayed on it. We upped my dose a couple times as I built a tolerance and the crazy seeped in. Eventually I hit the ceiling and the Psychiatric NP I see switched me to Lexapro. I freaking lost my mind. Crying at work, irritable, panic attacks. Honestly, I’m not sure how I didn’t lose my job. After being on it a month, my counselor noted that my increase in symptoms started shortly after switching meds, so she told me to call the NP to discuss. Waiting for his call back (which was entirely too long and it just another reason that I don’t like this man. $160 for 10 minutes.) I decided to just go off them. I couldn’t take it anymore. I also stopped taking birth control just in case that was contributing.

So… I was having major symptoms and then added withdrawls and PMS to the equation. It was a really fun couple of weeks.

I wanted to try just counseling for a while and see how it went, maybe I’m smarter and stronger now and can will the symptoms away and talk myself down.

I will say this – I have a new diagnosis now because of being off my meds. Previously I was diagnosed as Major Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but once I was off meds and back in my “natural state” all my counselor saw was OCD. Given my family history and my symptoms, we’re exploring treatment for the OCD. I started Lamactil – can’t feel anything yet, but I’m trying. Granted, all I feel is anxiety because I’m afraid of THE RASH, but maybe this one will work?

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Sylvie March 18, 2013 at 11:20 am

My husband was put on Wellbutrin this week, after I saw your post about the crappy placebo generic one. Are they now replacing it with a generic that does contain the active ingredient? I am on Effexor and I can tell if I don’t take it regularly. I have “crazy moments”. They’re awesome. (Not.Very not.) Apparently Effexor is one of the hardest to wean off of. My therapist said taking anti-depressants is like taking any other long-term medicine though. Some people are on it forever, and that’s okay, it’s just something that keeps my brain in check. Though I really think my dosage could be increased… especially lately.

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Janet March 19, 2013 at 9:36 am

Sylvie: Check out the article that she linked to. It was just one dosage level of one of the generic drugs. The other generics presumably work.

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Abby March 18, 2013 at 11:25 am

I went cold turkey off of Prozac a few years ago and honestly I had no symptoms except that didn’t feel hazy anymore and, in retrospect, it seems like I actually remember things from once I went off it. Of course that was also around the time I was finally weight restored so it’s hard to separate those things. I think this a hard question to answer. I both agree with people who say you know your body best but also with those who point out that having mental illness is no different than needing to take drugs for any other physical health problems. I wish you all the best in figuring this out!

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Sarah March 18, 2013 at 11:26 am

I made the decision to quit ADs about 3 years ago. It’s not been super-easy, to tell the truth, but I’m still glad I did it. About 6 months ago, my dr convinced me to try a new AD and I lasted for about 4 days before the side-effects reminded me why I quit them in the first place. I’d rather pay out-of-pocket to see my naturopath, pay for some herbs and supplements, be careful about what I eat (dairy gives me panic attacks, too btw), deliberately work on getting enough sleep and exercise and making time for fun stuff, and generally do all the things that I should be doing anyway even if I were also on ADs. You might find out that you really do need them and that’s ok, but what if you find out you can be functional and ok without them? That would be worth knowing, IMO.

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Nicole March 18, 2013 at 11:35 am

I’d love to give you advice…but I don’t think I can. I was on anti-depressants for a little under a year, however I have no history of anxiety/depression/PTSD, and I was on them due to acute stress in my life (aka horrible illness). In my situation, I found that therapy helped a ton and anti-depressants didn’t help at all. While my doctor just wanted me to keep upping the dose until I felt a difference, I decided to quit taking him (not all on my own- I did talk to him about it). And the truth is, I’m glad I did. I don’t feel the need for anti-depressants. I’m not always 100% health- when my health downswings I might have a day or a week (or two) of being pretty down, but I come back up. And I am never down for very long. In the past, before I tried anti-depressants, I would have periods where I felt like my world was literally ending and I might die just from emotional pain/sadness. But I don’t anymore- thanks to therapy. But if I did, I would still take anti-depressants.
So therapy, diet, meditating (I read a ton of books on Buddhism and loved them all. Especially one called “How to be sick”. I recommend it to all my healthy friends too) helped me get to a place where I don’t need medication. But I also know that for lots of people that just isn’t enough. And since your situation is so different, I can’t speak to it. I agree with the commenter above who said that if you find things start going terribly, go back on. I don’t know if it hurts to try, but just don’t get sucked into continuing to “try” through panic attacks and awful depression. However, if you can’t orgasm on meds (maybe TMI except a real problem that I think it is good to talk about. Talk about a sucky trade off!), I think that alone is worth going on a trial off the drugs. I don’t know how many drugs you are on, but maybe you could just cut out the more problematic ones? Or lower the dosage?

Whatever happens- just remember to be gentle on yourself. If you can’t go off meds, it isn’t because you have failed (because it seems like you could easily think that). If you need meds, then you have succeeded in finding what your body/mind needs and giving it to it. It isn’t as simple as just working harder at being happy- because while you can work on “acceptance” and being calm etc., I truly believe you cannot force yourself into happiness by hard work. So therefore you also cannot “fail” at being happy.

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Kate March 18, 2013 at 12:06 pm

OMG the brain flashes! I remember once in college not taking my meds for a couple of days (on accident) and having those brain flashes and feeling like I was falling while standing straight up. I had never been high before then and that pretty much convinced me that I really didn’t want to be on drugs (prescribed or otherwise) unless I absolutely had to.

So now I’m in a similar boat to you. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to mitigate my depression and anxiety with lifestyle choices, but now I’m unsure if I want to keep doing that or tell my doctor I want to go on meds again.

Taking mass quantities of Vitamin D has helped ( i live in Alaska, and began feeling much better when I started taking 5,000 units). I’ve also noticed when I eat better and exercise I function better. But sometimes I wonder if there is something else going on, and I need meds to make me consistently stable.

I wish I had a better answer. Maybe I should work harder at applying lifestyle choices and see if things actually get better. I might also talk to my doctor and get a full medical workup to make sure my body is functioning properly.

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Redhead March 19, 2013 at 7:09 pm

“and having those brain flashes and feeling like I was falling while standing straight up.” – wait, those are the brain flashes she’s talking about it? If I get those, but have never been on any kind of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety or anything like that, what does that mean?

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Ann March 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I function great in the summer. Heck, I function FANTASTIC in the summer! The warmth and sun gives me energy, zazz, and a fizzing happy creative brain. I feel so happy and joyful all the time, it borders on the revolting. But since I live in western Washington, my “summer” is about six weeks long in a GOOD year. And the rest of the time… yeah, dark horrible depression. A couple years ago I started taking antidepressants on a seasonal basis to try to deal, but I hate the side effects and I just don’t like the IDEA of being on medication (though without it, I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through the last couple of winters).

My solution? I quit my job and am currently in the process of packing all of my belongings into my crappy car to move to southern California (it was a tossup between that or Austin, Texas). I’m not really sure what will happen, I don’t know anybody there, but I figure it’s worth a shot. I just can’t do northern winters (which make up about nine months of the year) anymore.

…obviously, not really a viable solution for most people (yes, I’m single and childless). So, that wasn’t terribly helpful. In any case, best of luck.

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Janet March 19, 2013 at 9:39 am

Awesome idea. If it feels too dry in S California (I always felt dehydrated when I lived in LA in the summer), the Bay Area may be a good compromise between sunny and green. SF is quite grey, but across the Bay it’s really nice. And Silicon Valley is also quite warm, with lots of guys to date.

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N March 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm

I stopped taking my bipolar meds a few years ago with the help of accupuncture. I still go to accupuncture but really have been fine although the first few months were a bit rough. Really, I’m not sure I wasn’t misddagnosed. The accupuncture is great though and can really help with your moods. Meditation is really good too for mood regulation although, I have yet to make it a habit.

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Rebecca March 18, 2013 at 12:34 pm

I have to agree with cursingmama, after watching my brother go on and off it’s a very difficult process to see. Since you are doing so well now, why not keep going with the meds and make the decision at a less stressful time?

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Sarah March 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Have you ever been tested for Celiac’s Disease? When trying to find out my issues I went gluten free for 6 months (found out my issue is stress related go figure). Let me tell you it seems hard at first but with some practice and serious dedication you can really see a difference! I ended up going back to gluten when I found out I have Diverticulitis (no nuts or seeds) (and yes it is an old person disease and i’m in my 20′s) which made several of the gluten free meals/breads not possible. I may go back on it but it would require baking and cooking pretty much everything myself and i’m not sure it’s worth it yet! I have had great success just eliminating the nuts & seeds for my digestive issues which cause a lot of my anxiety and depression. Since it took 3 years and several Drs. telling me I was crazy and possibly a hypochondriac (had a low grade fever and terrible pain in my side for 3 whole years before a Dr found out).

There are no typical symptoms but some possible symptoms of Celiacs:
*Intermittent diarrhea
*Abdominal pain
*Bloating
*Irritability or depression************
*Anemia
*Stomach upset
*Joint pain
*Muscle cramps
*Skin rash
*Mouth sores
*Dental and bone disorders (such as osteoporosis)
*Tingling in the legs and feet (neuropathy)

It’s easy enough to try and if it helps you might have a solution. If you want more information just search Celiacs & Depression. I hope you find your happy place and I’m here if you want to talk more!

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Robin March 18, 2013 at 1:30 pm

I have struggled with depression (and eating disorders) but never went on meds. I wonder, are you in talk therapy at all? This might be a “solution” of sorts, meaning you have a professional monitoring your behaviors. None of us is objective about our own actions…or reactions.

I CAN’T get over that information about Wellbutrin, talk about criminal behavior…

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Geosomin March 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Hmmm…I’m of two minds about this. My husband suffers from SAD and can be bi-polar and usually with good diet, regular exercise and a lot of self discipline he can do well. My sis-in-law without her meds, on the other hand, is painful and scary to watch. She has found, however, that removing gluten and dairy from her diet have made HUGE changes in her state of mind and health, but still needs medications to stay reasonably sane so take that as you will. It may not be a good thing for you to go off it…from watching my SIL go off meds and change meds it seems like usually the first week or so are not too bad and then things go all pear shaped so if it were me I’d stay on it until I’d seen my doctor…but that’s me.
I can’t believe the generic prescription had nothing in it…that is just wrong…

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Rebecca March 18, 2013 at 4:26 pm

*headexploding*

My husband is medicated for depression, and it is the best thing in the world for him,
and for me.

Reading that article absolutely INFURIATES me, because now I know that I will never, ever be able to trust that a generic is an acceptable replacement; I will have to pour in hours of research in order to continue to be an effective advocate for my spouse. F#$% you, FDA.

/rant

That said, whatever you do, be cautious, and be gentle with yourself.
Medication is awesome, but if going off of it ends up being a better choice,
that is also awesome.

And hey,
we’ll all be here for you, through the whole process. *hug*

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Eilis March 18, 2013 at 5:09 pm

I’ve gone through the roller coaster of trying various meds for depression (and related anxiety) for years, until I finally hit the right combination of meds. And hallelujah, I finally came out of the fog of depression! Over the last 20 years, I’ve felt good enough that I’ve tried reducing the dosage with a mind to getting off the drugs entirely and counting on what I’ve learned through my talk therapy to get me over the rough patches. And every time a disaster! So, I’ve learned to accept that I was born 100 mg of Ludiomil short, and stop judging myself for being “weak”. Everything Leslie Goldman said above is spot on!
Keep in mind that the FDA rules for generics only require that the generic have a “bioequivalence” of 80-125% of the active ingredient. So a generic manufactured by one company can easily be weaker/stronger than the “same” generic from another company. Good luck in whatever you decide!

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cj March 18, 2013 at 5:20 pm

I can somewhat positively say that I am triumphing over depression (I am only somewhat positive because I still have a long way to go).

After some prescription mishaps which messed with my hormones, being pregnant –more hormone instability, and having a baby –the straw that broke the camel’s back, I ended up in a very depressed state. I didn’t know what to do with it and I didn’t know how to tell anyone so I suffered in silence. I suppose my family and husband knew about it, but I don’t think they could have ever imagined how bad it was. Postpartum depression morphed into clinical depression which was mostly unchecked and un-medicated for 7 years.

Of the prescriptions I did try I was left in various states of indifference, extreme moodiness, still unhappy, and most definitely, weighed down with an entire barrage of side effects that completely negated any amount of progress I might have made. Side effects included fun things like: excessive sweating, night terrors, suicidal thoughts, vision deterioration, ridiculous weight gain, paranoia, the list could go on.

Truthfully, I didn’t have high hopes for prescriptions. On a scale of 1-10 if 10 is awesome, I operated at about a 2 on most days and I would have been happy with a measly 5.

After weening myself off one of the worst drugs known to mankind (Paxil- why is this drug still on the market?! the success rate of Paxil is so low and the extreme risks of going off the drug are shocking), I decided that there wasn’t any hope in modern medicine. I was done with side effects and I took comfort in the predictability of my depression that medication stole.

I started using DoTERRA essential oils in November 2012 and I started DoTERRA’s Life Long Vitality supplements in December 2012. I wasn’t using them for the depression, I was just looking for an alternative to rising healthcare costs.

Honestly I didn’t recognize any positive impact as it was happening, but looking back I see a timeline of steady improvement:

-after taking them for 2 weeks my body didn’t feel so icky and sluggish
-3 weeks my sleep had became more productive, restful, and restorative
-after about 5 weeks I had a clearness of thought and focus I hadn’t experienced in years
-and after 3 months of taking them, I can honestly say I function at a 5 most days, and my down times are shorter and less intense.

As I mentioned before, it is most definitely a work in progress. I never allowed myself to even hope of holding steady at a 5, but now I am wondering if I can go higher. I am working everyday to establish healthy habits to replace the negative habits and it is hard. However, I can genuinely say I am looking forward to see more positive blips on my timeline.

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Cy March 18, 2013 at 5:59 pm

You mentioned that the worst part about being “crazy” is that you sometimes can’t tell when you are. I can’t tell when I am not quite right either. It is always my family that notices when something is wrong and then they have to convince me that what they are seeing is not in their heads.

I went cold turkey when I stopped taking fluoxetine. I did it in secret. Nobody noticed. Once I was sure that the fluoxetine was gone from my system (it lingers for months) I mentioned it to my parents, who could hardly believe me because I hadn’t exhibited withdrawl symptoms typical to that antidepressant.

It has now been almost two years since I last took my antidepressants. I think that I am doing fine. Of course, because I can never tell when something is wrong with my brain I can’t be sure. If I did it over again I would keep a mood journal and note my feelings on the antidepressant, coming off of it, and finally of it. This way I could compare my feelings now with my feelings on the antidepressant, just to be sure.

If you decide to stop taking your medicine,both you and your husband should keep note of your moods and your actions. Seriously check in with yourself every few months and make sure that you are doing okay. I would say trust yourself, but because you can’t always tell when something is wrong, I will say trust yourself but also trust your family and friends to notice if something is ever off.

Sometimes brain chemistry can be permanently fixed by taking antidepressants for a certain amount of time, but sometimes people need to be on them for life. Whichever way it turns out to be for you, remember that regardless of what some people say, this is an actual illness and should be treated like one.

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Tracy March 18, 2013 at 9:07 pm

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and ADD after a year long stint with anorexia at 17. First I was put on Prozac, then Lamictal, then Wellbutrin, and lastly adderall. I’ve never enjoyed the idea of being on such a cocktail and when I decided to go gung ho and be my own doctor for the first time, I didn’t feel the crazy creeping back until 3 months later despite the half-life of these drugs (except the adderall) being sooooooo much shorter. My psychiatrist (whom I adore) says this is actually a normal, but weird, phenomenon. He also said that it’s when patients are feeling the most hunky dory that they decide to go rogue. Just something to keep in mind that I wish I had known.

There’s no doubt that nutrition and exercise and practicing mindfulness have A WHOLE CRAP-TON to do with the quality of life. But for some people, like myself, it’s just too risky. My life stops feeling like it’s worth anything. I become a catatonic slug with random bouts of crying in fetal position and wishing I had a tranquilizer so that I could just pass out… And then it just becomes dangerous.

So if I were in your heels, I would think about how you felt last time you tried going off your meds and prepare for that, knowing that it can happen and that if it does it’s not the end of the world. Like you said, you can just go right back on if you need. But because it’s redonkulously difficult to be objective of your own emotions, keeping a daily record of how you’re feeling can be INCREDIBLY helpful. Currently I use an app called Optimism on my mac (not sure if they have it for smart phones) which has all these fun customizable categories for symptoms and possible triggers, etc. Then you actually have concrete, numerical data on how YOU react to being on or off meds, and then find patterns and correlations and all that fun stuff that comes with nerding out on your own problems!

Anywho, hope that helps a tad.

Much love to you and God bless,
Tracy

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Katie March 18, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Well, shoot. I’m confilicted here. As you know, I am a physiology professor at a hippie college. As a physiologist, I understand just how interrelated hormones and neurons are to our entire pysiology. If normal neurological mechanisms are not working (i.e. serotonin not be re-uptaken after initiating a new action potential in a neron synapse sequence) then there is likely NOTHING that will work, or at least work as well as, an SSRI. (Just using that as an example, since most depression meds are SSRIs.) It is a disease like any other.

That said, the hippie in me argues that food is medicine too. Personal experience (not with depression, but with anxiety) speaks to this also. I’ve been able to treat and fix countless medical symptoms using food and nutrition. Rhodiola supplements have been life-savers along with a dairy and gluten free diet to control anxiety.

Still, though, I have to say that depression isn’t something you want to mess with (speaking again as someone who has only “experienced” it second-hand) and I’d be cautious about thinking you (in the “royal you” not the “charlotte you” sense) are “strong enough” to go off your meds. Strength isn’t a part of the equation. Your body posesses the ability to reuptake serotin from the synaptic cleft, thereby allowing cellular level communication and hormone function to continue, or it doesn’t. That part is black and white.

Food can help though.

What do I know though? I’m not a real doctor. ;)

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Casey Kay March 19, 2013 at 11:35 am

If you feel like you are ready (and the doctor gives the ok), go for it. I have a friend who can’t take meds due to Stevens-Johnson syndrome who manages her bipolar disorder with therapy. She also has many people in her life who make her stay on her work schedule and watch for mood changes. So just make sure you have a really good support system in place.

Also, WHAT? They’ve been doling out what are essentially placebos (and charging pantloads of money for them) for that many years and just now cop to it? Oy, that just increases my suspicions of the entire medical-pharmaceutical alliance…

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deb roby March 19, 2013 at 11:53 am

This is full of awful.

My insurance requires me to get my long-term meds through a mailorder, which I’ve learned to love. It means I have 3 months to visit my doc before I need that refill request AND the mail order company contacts him and asks for the refill. As long as I see him once a year, I’m set.

The fake generics suck! Knowing a drug isn’t working and having everyone tell you you’re wrong defeats already damaged trust issues. And nobody would be taking these meds if they didn’t need them! Imagine if it were one of the anti-depressants that you have severe withdrawal from? Or-like Crabby indicated-a hormone your body needed to function.

Are the powers that be refunding you the money you wasted on their drugs? NO.

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Theodora March 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Wow, I’m so sorry. But thank you for writing about mental health with such candor.

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Redhead March 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Okay, I have NO medical training and am really just an interested observer. That said, my impression has always been that some mental disorders have a chemical imbalance, and require medication to correct the imbalance no matter what, while others don’t necessarily require medication forever and ever amen, but sometimes initially to get the person to a point where the whatever is at a low enough level that therapy can be more effective (and the person receptive to therapy). My impression had always been that depression and anxiety tended to be these types of mental illnesses, while ones like schizophrenia and bipolar often needed more long-term medication. Again – my impression, with no training.

That said, if this is something you want to do, I think it would be a great idea to do some thinking and then talk to your husband and other close friends/family – basically give them a list of warning signs and early signs that you’re starting to slide back down the rabbit hole, and what you want them to do if they notice the signs (after one, talk to you; after three with no change, call therapist despite protestations, etc). If you’re worried that you don’t notice when you’re starting to slip back, then tell them, and help them watch for you. I do think it’s not a bad idea to talk to a doctor/therapist about this, and listen to his/her concerns, but whether you do that or not, definitely get friends and family involved.

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Bekky March 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm

My world was totally rocked by my first panic attack a couple years ago. Not only did I continue to have more at random times (you would have thought the world was ending when the dog ate an almost empty thumb drive) but I was just generally anxious at all times. My husband and I started talking about my anxiety “levels,” a concept freshly conceived for this new obstacle in our lives. I’d give him updates and when something bad happened I’d tell him either “It’s ok, we’re still at like 50%” or “totally maxed out here!” (usually the latter came out somewhat hysterically…) It was seriously brutal. If I’d had insurance at the time you better believe I would have taken whatever pill they would give me. But I didn’t, and we really couldn’t afford for me to go see a doctor, let alone pay for another monthly prescription.

So I’ve had to learn to deal with it myself and now I am really grateful that I did. It wasn’t easy (and it definitely wasn’t pretty) but my husband was willing to help me work through the breakdowns and I’ve had to learn to set boundaries and keep my “anxiety levels” as low as possible, even when stressful things are happening around me. Everyone is different so I can’t speak for or judge anyone else, but I’m glad that, for now at least, I am not tied to a prescription to keep me sane. If you really feel good about this I would say pray about it, talk to your husband and your kids, talk to your doctor and then get ready for some bumpy months ahead. Good luck with whatever you decide!

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Erin D. March 20, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Thank you for being so forth coming with, what can be a difficult a situation for many. Addressing the aorgasmic issue. Anti-depressants can have that as a side effect. It’s not TMI when it becomes PII (pretty important info). I experienced that as well when I started Prozac about 5 years ago. It can be frustrating for partners or spouses, and thus add to the overall mix of issues.
While I stopped taking anti-depressants about 2 years ago, I am grateful for the time that I was on them. They “put me in the game”. I was able to start undoing years (20 in my case) of mental recordings that were making every passing year more and more difficult. I am always at the ready to assess whether or not I may need to go back on. We are all a work in progress.
The “fake-drug” thing is horrible. You should have some (okay, a lot, really) pride in that you are able to talk about it and reach out.
When I finally went on “meds”, it was after researching PMDD. I went the shaky road of self diagnosing and enlisting my OB/GYN in prescribing for me. But they did get me on track.
The notion of diet and exercise as a way to deal with depression seemed ridiculous to me at first. It still does as a stand alone. But through changing my chow, Which automatically made me more active, because I felt better, has done a lot. But I don’t think I would have reached this place if I didn’t ever go on meds. Like I said earlier, they gave me a push in the right direction.
I guess all that to say, don’t think that you will always be on meds no matter what (I thought that at one time). But if you are, then that’s okay too, because you will always be investing in yourself and researching what works and what doesn’t. Most of peoples’ ailments could be served with a little more self investing and research, in my opinion.

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Sarah March 20, 2013 at 9:33 pm

So this is totally a side note but “there is no such thing as “background” music to me and fans make me so twitchy I want to rip them out of the ceiling.” THIS. How do you handle working from home with kids? Can you share some strategies? Just work in the wee hours after they go to bed? I am struggling with being a work-from-home mom, with littles that are, by their nature, repetitively noisy.

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Sarah March 20, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Books to consult: The Depression Cure by Stephen Ilardi and The Chemistry of Calm by Henry Emmons. The latter had way too many supplements for my taste, but the first one is about Therapeutic Lifestyle Change – fish oil, exercise, community engagement, sleep discipline, and light therapy (and maybe something else).

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Sharlette March 21, 2013 at 3:23 am

I think a major issue to take into consideration is the degree of the downs you get…..major episodes are nothing to mess with.
I first went on Zoloft about 13 years ago. Even though it was the lowest dose (25mg I think) I felt ‘spaced out’ and on the first day bof taking them I almost ran someone over and misjudged a turn that I made every morning and crunched the front of my car. According to my Dr. Zoloft is meant to creep in, not have an immediate effect. It made me feel in a way as if I didn’t care….indifferent, someone has said. While this was fantastic for my irrational reactions to people and events, it made me feel less of the good emotional stuff too. I also realised that I had been suffering from depression since I was 15. As I got used to it I found myself getting so much done…..my previous lack of motivation was gone, as were my fears of anything. I also lost weight….way too much weight….at one point my 153cm frame was down to around 40kgs ( 5ft3 and 90pound approx).
Eventually (after almost 12 months)I went off them, thinking I was strong enough, thinking that I had set up enough new habits. Things started off great, but little by little the old crept back into my life. I struggled, and when I knew that I couldn’t do it I went back to my doctor, and went back on them. Only this time the 25mg didn’t work….neither did 50mg……not 100mg either. I have no idea why and my only suggestion from my doctor is that some people are meant to function at a lower level….that they are not meant to have constant days of eight, nine or ten….that theirs is a level 5 existence. *sigh*
So my life now is a mix of ups and downs….some days I could sit and work on a calculus problem, others I can hardly add two plus two…..some days I have boundless energy and get so much done, others the day is gone before I’ve made my third coffee, the sink still full of dirty dishes, dinner not even thought of when the kids come in from school. Now and then I will have a day where I just want to run away and live a quiet existence as a hermit deep in the forest……luckily the days of thoughts of self harm are behind me.

I guess you have to weigh up your ability to cope without the meds, being ready for a worst case scenario by either having meds at the ready or some fantastic support people who can notice your changes and keep an eye on you during that time. I know that if I was still having the days that I was having before I first went on the meds ( complete apathy at one stage, progressing to dark dark thoughts of self harm) I would have kept trying until I found meds that WOULD work for me. Instead, I created some ways of staying safe if I felt the darkness coming on. ( I would get in my car and drive to the police station with my kids just so I could sit for a while in a safe environment……. at all hours of the night)

So also devise a plan, a way of dealing/coping with the various scenarios that you know are quite likely to rear their heads. Share the plan with your support people so that they all know exactly what part to play if you start to slip into one of those scenarios.

Best of luck with your decision. :-)

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Lora B. March 22, 2013 at 8:53 pm

My honest opinion is to not go off the medication. Maybe I am just jaded right now because I went off of my medication about 8 months ago as we were trying to conceive and I felt like I had been doing well and hey, are they really doing that much anyways…..and now 8 months later I am going through a major anxiety/depression yet again. This has happened to me a few times when I have gone off my antidepressants and each time I think, I will never do this again. I think it is easy to forget just how much pain you are in when you are going through an episode. Maybe that is a good thing that you can forget(!) If you really want to consider going off your medication, I would advise waiting for a time that you can do it on your own terms and not just because of the inconvenience of getting the coverage etc. Just my 2 cents. Good luck and big hugs:)

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Mary @ Fit and Fed March 23, 2013 at 11:44 pm

You’re not the first person I’ve known to go off meds due to the hassles of getting the prescription renewed, which doesn’t seem like the ideal way to do it. If you do it, I’d just say have a plan, alternatives you are going to try, maybe someone you are going to check in with from time to time to see how you are doing. And I agree with Crabby, the fake meds episode deserves a class action lawsuit.

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induction burner March 26, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Hey there! I know this is kinda off topic however , I’d figured I’d ask.
Would you be interested in trading links or maybe
guest authoring a blog article or vice-versa?
My site discusses a lot of the same subjects as
yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other.

If you happen to be interested feel free to shoot me an email.
I look forward to hearing from you! Great blog by the way!

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www.lyrica.com May 18, 2013 at 12:53 am

This is a topic that is near to my heart… Best wishes!

Where are your contact details though?

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Alex August 19, 2013 at 6:57 am

Beach Volley

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Ross Vaughn September 22, 2013 at 7:20 pm

It is scary for a teen dealing with teen depression, it can be a simple episode that they’re upset over a breakup. Or, it can be a constant depression that can destroy lives. As a parent of two preteen boys I keep an eye for warning signs that mine may have teen depression … The scary truth about teen depression

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