Goodbye Moclobemide

TW: Mentions of suicidal thoughts. 

After a couple of months of Moclobemide, it became increasingly clear that it wasn’t really working. It was better than nothing but it wasn’t good enough; I was having less bad days than I’d been having previously but I wasn’t having many good days. I don’t expect constant happiness – I know that that’s not a realistic dream – but I have to believe it’s better than this. But, in order to try something new, I had to get off the Moclobemide first.

I was taking 300mg twice daily before I began to reduce the Moclobemide and I came off it fast. As always, this was a process I discussed with my psychiatrist and we made all of the decisions together, dependent on my medical history and our joint understanding of my reactions to these kinds of medications. This is just my experience. Please don’t start, change, or stop taking any medications without the advice and support of a medical professional.


150mg Twice Daily (+ 20mg Propranolol Twice Daily)

The first phase of the reduction was a little over a week and I didn’t feel particularly different. I was still feeling depressed and hopeless and miserable; I was so incredibly anxious. I didn’t want to be around people: I just felt so overwhelmed and oversensitive. I was feeling pretty unmoored and lost but on the worst days I felt pathetic and unaccomplished and useless. It was awful. Plus, it was a pretty hard week: although I had one really good hangout with a friend, I also had two quite upsetting medical appointments and a migraine that lasted several days.

Sleep-wise, it was still a struggle – as it has been for months. Getting to sleep was frustrating; sometimes it took hours, even on the few occasions that I took sleeping pills (I haven’t found them helpful since I tried ADHD medications back in November last year, which have thoroughly screwed up my sleep). The longer my difficulty with sleeping goes on, the more anxiety I have around it, which definitely isn’t helping. When I finally did sleep, I slept badly with the vivid, stressful dreams that I’ve come to associate with the changing of medications. I’d sleep late – into the afternoon – but even then, when I had managed to get up, I was still tired and sleepy, actually falling asleep on the sofa during the day several times.

I was craving food – particularly salty foods – but nothing satisfied the craving, which was incredibly frustrating.

It’s probably worth noting that I was in the middle of a pain flare up, with the pain mainly in my arms around the elbow. It was pretty bad, worse than the chronic pain has been for a while. It was especially bad in the mornings and was part of why I struggled to get up once I finally managed to wake up. It was so bad one day that I had to cancel my hydrotherapy session because just the thought of washing my hair in the shower had me near tears. Fortunately, it did start to get better by the end of the first phase, much to my relief.

150mg Once Daily (+ 20mg Propranolol Twice Daily)

The second phase of reducing the Moclobemide lasted ten days. It was a hard week: I was very depressed (and the suicidal thoughts were back) and I was easily overwhelmed and upset. It felt like my brain just wouldn’t shut up and kept magnifying all of the most distressing or anxiety-provoking thoughts I had; I was doing my best to keep myself distracted by mundane stuff as much as possible but I wasn’t always successful. As I said, it was a really hard week.

It was still taking me hours to get to sleep, even on the nights I was falling asleep on the sofa. Most nights, I slept badly and I had more of the same vivid, stressful dreams (and nightmares) before struggling to wake up, no earlier than eleven. I was sleepy within an hour of waking and Red Bull didn’t seem to help. I was so tired and so sleepy during the day; I fell asleep on the sofa in the day several times during those ten days. I was so tired all the time that I struggled to get anything done.

I was still craving the sensation of eating – especially salty foods, as I said – but again, food just wasn’t satisfying or filling in any way. I’ve got it under control for the most part – I’m getting better at resisting the urges and eating according to what I should be eating and not what I randomly want to eat which I then get no pleasure out of anyway – but it’s very frustrating. I’m also talking to a nutritionist about the specific salt craving and she’s sent off for blood tests to determine whether I have a vitamin or mineral deficiency that needs attending to.

The chronic pain got bad again after it’s momentary dip. It was so bad that it was repeatedly waking me up in the night and washing and drying my hair was an exhausting experience. I had several really bad pain days that made it a struggle to concentrate, to do anything. I also had a several horrible migraines that took me out of commission for a couple of days each, which was very unpleasant. They have been worse though so I’m grateful for that.

Washout (+ 20mg Propranolol Twice Daily)

The one day washout period was awful. I was deeply depressed with suicidal thoughts; I was barely functional. Fortunately, it was just one day without medication rather than the usual two weeks. That’s always the worst part of changing medications for me so I’m grateful that it was so short this time.


So coming off the Moclobemide wasn’t fun but it wasn’t as terrible as it could have been either. I’ve definitely had worse. I’m just glad it’s over and now I’m onto the next medication, which will hopefully be better. It’s hard to stay hopeful when I just seem to be finding medications that don’t work but even when I do feel hopeless, I honestly don’t know what else to do. So I just keep going.

[I just thought I’d add that, a few days after this, the chronic pain faded and I started to feel a lot better. So that was very good news.]

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.

Reducing and Coming Off Pregabalin

Months and months ago, I had an appointment with my psychiatrist and we reviewed the medications I was taking and how I was faring mentally. There was a lot to discuss but we spent a significant amount of time talking about how affected my life is by the sleepiness I experience, as well as the high levels of anxiety I’d been experiencing despite taking the Pregabalin. The result of this conversation was the decision to reduce and eventually stop taking the Pregabalin as it didn’t seem to be helping.

The reduction ended up being pretty uneven, without any particular structure. That was mainly due to the decision to take my time and take less as I felt able to; I didn’t make any alterations during my assessment period at university, for example, as I figured I had enough to cope with. But there were also periods when I was so preoccupied that I simply forgot that I was in the process of reducing it and only lowered the dose when I remembered. Fortunately it wasn’t as traumatic a transition as some of them have been.


150mg —> 100mg

Dropping from 150mg to 100mg, I noticed fairly quickly that my levels of anxiety were going down. At the very least, I had fewer periods of the paralysing, suffocating anxiety that short-circuit my brain, killing my ability to do anything at all. I also started to have more periods of general okay-ness. I wouldn’t quite describe my mood as good, but it definitely moving in a more positive direction than it had for a long time.

I was experiencing specific anxiety around the spread of Covid-19 but I figured that was normal for most people, especially those who already suffer from higher levels of anxiety or anxiety disorders. My as-needed prescription for Diazepam was helpful when it came to managing that, as well as taking precautionary measures.


100mg —> 50mg

I immediately suffered from side effects after this change. I had almost migraine level headaches that I could only manage by lying in bed in my darkened room. They remained at that intensity for several days before fading to a dull throbbing that painkillers took care of for the most part. I also had trouble keeping food in my system; I don’t think I need to go into any further detail on that.

I didn’t feel any different once the side effects passed but after a while, my Mum commented that I seemed less sleepy. I wasn’t convinced but kept an open mind and eventually I did think that I wasn’t feeling quite as drowsy. Part of that was down to the fact that I was drinking less Red Bull than I had been. That seemed to prove that I was needing less caffeine to function and was therefore feeling less sleepy.


50mg —> 0g

Again, I felt the side effects straight away. I had the same headaches although fewer of them and my digestive system also struggled. But with this reduction, I was also nauseous on and off for days and constantly shaky. It was very unpleasant and still hasn’t faded completely, even though I’ve been Pregabalin free for a couple of weeks. But maybe that’s been underneath the Pregabalin all along. I don’t know.

Aside from the side effects, my ability to sleep well disappeared overnight. I can’t be sure that it’s connected but it did start happening around the same time so I think it’s important to include here. I either wasn’t sleeping or having vivid nightmares that left me feeling disturbed and unsettled throughout the next day. I’ve read that this has been a common complaint during the pandemic so I’m thinking that it’s more to do with that than the Pregabalin however, it did start just as I finally stopped taking said medication. It seems unlikely that there’s no link at all.


Now, a few weeks later, I think it’s safe to assume that I’m no longer being affected by the Pregabalin or any withdrawal symptoms. Having said that I am still pretty sleepy and drinking at least one can of Red Bull a day, usually two. I still feel pretty weak and shaky, especially if I have to stand up or exert myself for more than about fifteen minutes. I’m also still sleeping badly with nightmares almost every night. It’s pretty gruelling.

I’m continuing to review the medication situation with my psychiatrist – although it is more difficult while we can’t have face to face appointments – and there are multiple options to think about. I haven’t decided what to do yet. We’re also continuing to investigate physical causes for my fatigue, although that has been put on hold by the lockdown. The restrictions are loosening but I’m not sure what that means for this situation. So, for now, all I can do is research and hope to make the right decisions when the time comes.