Farewell Phenelzine 2.0 (The 2021 Edition)

The decision to change my medication has been a long time coming. I was diagnosed with ADHD back in January but, for various reasons, I haven’t been able to take any medication for it up to this point. As I said in this post, my specialist wouldn’t allow me to take any of the classic, stimulant medications for ADHD while I was still taking my current antidepressant, Phenelzine. So, in order to take anything for my ADHD (other than the less common medications that would only make me even drowsier than I am currently), I would have to come off the Phenelzine and either try a different antidepressant or try going without one. That all felt too much to manage while I was doing my Masters – it feels like a lot to manage now – but now that the Masters as is over and I’m already in a period of transition, it felt like it was time to come off the Phenelzine. The side effects were going to throw a wrench in several plans but that was going to be the case regardless of when I decided to do it and I hated the feeling of having it hanging over me. I know I need to do it but a big part of me really didn’t want to (and is still sceptical to a certain degree): over the last ten years, I’ve found it all but impossible to write songs during the periods when I wasn’t taking Phenelzine so it’s not surprising that it’s not exactly an easy decision. But if I want to get out of this limbo state, then I need to try.

So, beginning the 18th November, I started to reduce the dosage of the Phenelzine. For two weeks, I took half my normal dose and then I went another two weeks without anything in my system, giving my body the time to filter out any traces of the Phenelzine (known as the wash out period) and ensuring that way any new drug I take won’t result in a negative interaction. As always, it’s important to point out that this is a plan I’ve worked out with my psychiatrist and my ADHD specialist and is specifically tailored to me. If you’re making any changes around any medication you’re taking, please consult your doctor first.


REDUCTION PERIOD

WEEK 1 (Monday 18th October – Sunday 24th October)

For most of the week, I felt fine, which surprised me: usually, if I miss a dose of Phenelzine, I get hit with a headache pretty quickly but for some reason, that didn’t happen this time. I was tired and a bit more emotional than usual but nothing that out of the ordinary, nothing that couldn’t just happen anyway. I think those first four days lulled me into a false sense of security.

It hit me on the Friday. I felt weak and shaky and had a really unpleasant headache. And that turned into feeling absolutely awful over the weekend: I had debilitating migraines; I felt nauseous, shaky, and lightheaded; I thought I might faint every time I stood up. I also developed an annoying cough and, after multiple COVID tests, I had to assume it was part of the withdrawal and not COVID related (thank goodness – I don’t think I could’ve coped with that as well and I’m glad my family didn’t either).

WEEK 2 (Monday 25th October – Sunday 31st October)

The cough and the migraines continued into the middle of the week and then, fortunately, they started to let up. My sleep schedule was utterly screwed up: I was struggling to get to sleep and not drifting off until between two and five am and then, because I was so exhausted, I was sleeping in to the middle of the afternoon. And as hard as I tried, I couldn’t correct the schedule. I also had really weird, really vivid dreams that took me a while to drag myself out of and separate dream from reality. I did have a sudden, deep dip in mood where I felt really awful and discouraged about the various things I’m currently working on, which was scary: my big fear about coming off the Phenelzine has been returning to that really depressed place I was in before so to feel it happening was horrible. But fortunately it didn’t last and I’ve tried to just stay away from things that trigger those kind of feelings, for the duration of this changeover at least.

By Sunday, things had started to improve and I was feeling a bit more human. Having said that, I was not looking forward to the rollercoaster that the next two weeks were likely to be.

WASH OUT PERIOD

WEEK 1 (Monday 1st November – Sunday 7th November)

The beginning of the week was okay with just minor headaches and some nausea, both of which were pretty ignorable. And apart from sleeping really deeply and the continuation of the weird, vivid dreams, I felt okay. But by the end of the week, I was feeling very tired and just generally unwell again. The cough had faded but it picked up again and then, on Sunday, the nausea was back in full force.

WEEK 2 (Monday 8th November – Sunday 14th November)

This was a very big week. Unfortunately. It was a really bad time to be coming off a medication but, as I said, it’s almost always a bad time. There’s always something happening so I just had to get it over with. But this week held both my graduation from university (I had a great time but physically, I did spend the day counting down to the next dose of painkillers and – on several occasions – actively focussed on not throwing up) and my Granny’s Celebration of Life service (thankfully, by that point, I was feeling a bit better and was able to just focus on the day without too much distraction). Given those two huge things, I spent a lot of the week dealing with a lot of physical exhaustion and pain.

The cough was ongoing and I had migraines for most of the week, although they did lessen in intensity by the end of the week. I was nauseous, shaky, and overly emotional but, again, that had mostly passed by the weekend. On the Sunday, I was a bit weak and nauseous but I felt a lot more human than earlier in the week.


So, four weeks later, I’m finally starting medication for my ADHD. I’m excited but I’m also nervous; I haven’t had many good experiences with medications and it’s taken a lot of trial and error to find the only one that’s helped so far. So it’s a bit scary to be starting over with a whole new category of medications but I’m trying to stay… cautiously optimistic. I’ve started Xaggitin XL and now, I guess, I just have to wait and see.

Quotes That Helped Me (Songwriting Edition – Part 2)

This last week has been pretty rough. I’m coming off the Phenelzine, which has been a pretty unpleasant process, and I just haven’t had the wherewithal to write anything to be perfectly honest. I’ve just been trying to get through each day. But I wanted to post something and this seemed as good as anything, especially since I’m officially finishing my Masters this week with Graduation on Tuesday. So here are some more of my favourite quotes about songwriting. I hope they inspire you.


“Songwriting really anchored me.” – Freya Ridings

“In a lot of ways, songwriting helped save my life.” – Mary Gauthier

“Creating something beautiful out of pain helps ease the pain. So, that’s kind of how I got to songwriting – quite honestly out of desperation.” – Mary Gauthier

“Music is catharsis for me.” – Sara Bareilles

“Songwriting is like going to church. I’m connecting to something, and it’s rewarding in really important ways. I don’t need to share it with anyone to feel good about it.” – Juliana Hatfield

“Music is the purest form of art… therefore true poets… seek to express the universe in terms of music. The singer has everything within him. The notes come out from his very life. They are not materials gathered from outside.” – Rabindranath Tagore

“For me, songwriting is something like breathing: I just do it. But that doesn’t mean you’re fantastic.” – Adam Duritz

“All I do is just try and learn from the best, and realise that however well I think I’m doing, I could always be better.” – Andy Fraser

“I use three main tools in writing: instinct, hard work and dumb luck. Dumb luck is missing a train and, while you wait for the next one, writing a key word, line or verse. When this happens often enough you begin to believe in fate.” – David Massengill

“My favourite songwriting trick is writing something like ‘XO.’ In my brain, I thought, ‘This is probably going to be a love song. How can I change that and find ways to twist that.’ As a songwriter, it’s your job for the song to take twists and turns that people don’t expect.” – Kelsea Ballerini

“I teach songwriting a lot, and I always tell my students, ‘You gotta write the little songs sometimes to get to the next big song in the chute.’ You gotta write ’em to get to it. You never know what’s going to be a little song or a big song.” – Mary Gauthier

“I think you can refine what you do, and become more consistent. And you write better songs that have a better shape and a better feeling. You evolve into and out of things, and go through stages, but, ultimately, you do improve.” – Richard Thompson

“You might ‘write from the heart,’ but you’d better polish with your brain.” – Margaret Atwood

“Don’t be afraid to write bad songs and then start over and re-evaluate. Songs are like plants, in that you grow them. Some grow really fast, and others need pruning and care… And, finally, a song needs to move you. If it doesn’t move you, it will never move anybody else.” – Corey Harris

“Ultimately all you can do is write songs the best you can, then put them out and see if people like them.” – Michael Kiwanuka

“Musical magic is created by human beings: learning their craft, trying things out, practising.” – Joe Jackson

“Songwriting never gets old. There’s always stuff to write about.” – Tori Kelly

“One of the nice things about songwriting is you can be inspired by absolutely anything.” – Jens Lekman

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams

“It’s the ability to recognise valuable accidents that’s the key part of songwriting.” – Dean Friedman

“Anyone involved with songwriting will testify to the fact that each song, no matter how pure or from the heart, has its own story, its own peculiar way of getting written.” – C. Sigman

“I’ve always loved both writing and songwriting. The journey is fascinating to me.” – Manika

“What keeps me motivated to create new music is the joy of songwriting. The joy of being creative. The joy of writing a poem or essay. Writing anything. I just love writing, whether it is music or words.” – Nick Heyward

“Songwriting is the closest thing to magic that we could ever experience. That’s why I love songwriting.” – Rodney Atkins

“I write all the time, I don’t stop. I love it. It’s a fascinating and endless pool of ideas and thoughts.” – Mark Chadwick

“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.” – Plato

“Songwriting is such a sensitive energy. It’s just a vibration of frequencies.” – Victoria Monet

“Combining sounds that are from another universe with the classic songwriting structures never gets old for me.” – Harley Edward Streten

“I’m writing about emotions.” – Sara Bareilles

“My experience with songwriting is usually so confessional, it’s so drawn from my own life and my own stories.” – Taylor Swift

“For me, songwriting has become a practice of finding out what I’m really thinking.” – Kate Dimbleby

“I’ve always used songs and music and songwriting as a way to sort of let feelings go.” – Adam Gontier

“I fell into [songwriting] by mistake and I can’t get out of it. It fascinates me. I like to point out the rawer points of life.” – Keith Richards

“I never judge my own songwriting. It’s just my heart. What’s there to judge about your own heart?” – Jillian Rose Banks

“All songs are living ghosts. And long for a living voice.” – Brendan Kennelly

“I feel like my songs are like diary entries for me. So I usually write about things that have happened to me specifically or sometimes it can be someone who’s close to me.” – Sara Bareilles

“You know, I would say that songwriting is something about the expression of the heart, the intellect and the soul.” – Annie Lennox

“I think songwriting was the biggest way that I found my identity.” – Camila Cabello

“When you write a song… you’re sharing some of your life with the listener.” – Nina Baker


As I said, I hope these have been inspiring. I know they inspire me.

I Don’t Know By Richard Marc – Out Now!

Today, one of my best friends and most trusted collaborators, Richard Marc, released his fifth single, ‘I Don’t Know,’ completing his first project: Mixtape, Vol. 1. I loved working on this song with him and I’m so excited for everyone to finally hear it! Please go and check it out!

You can hear all of the songs here:

Put It In A Postcard

Close To You

Way Out

Nashville

I Don’t Know

You can find all of his music here. Enjoy!