Just recently, I decided to stop taking a drug called Effexor. It was prescribed to me 15 years ago after I told my doctor that I wasn’t feeling myself. I want to share with you my story as I feel that my most recent experience will help many people become more aware of these toxins we are lead to believe heal us when in fact they poison our bodies in a similar way as to a drug addict. As well, I want to hopefully encourage you to open your mind to see that leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle along with quality nutrition can only heal and make you feel the best you have ever felt!
At the time I started to take this drug, I had three young and very active children, a full time job and a husband who coached Junior “A” hockey, which meant he was away from home a lot. Naturally, I felt overwhelmed and at times I found it extremely challenging to cope mentally with the demands of being a working Mom and for the most part having to do it on my own. My Doctor felt that I would feel much more capable to cope with my daily stresses by taking Effexor. Like many of us, I had great trust in my doctor so without hesitating I agreed to start the prescription right away. I must admit, almost immediately I felt that the world was lifted from my shoulders and I came into a sense of feeling OK to cope with everyday tasks.
I must admit, Effexor seemed to work well for many years or so I originally thought. I always had that feeling in the back of my head that I could cope on my own, however continued to use it as a means of security and self assurance. Unfortunately I knew nothing about the drug I was on and the more importantly the dangerous health side effects as well as withdrawal symptoms of getting off the drug.
The first time I tried to stop taking Effexor cold turkey, which was 10 years ago and then again 3 years later, I simply could not with stand the extreme side effects in which affected me immediately. I suffered from disorientation, sinus-like headaches, very vivid dreams, increased anxiety, dizziness, extreme nausea and hot & cold flashes/sweats.
With the doctor’s help, I tried to wean off slowly. Our goal was to get down to 1 pill every other day for a couple of months and then one every third day and so on until I was to stop completely. This was never successful, as I would immediately start to feel the extreme withdrawal symptoms, which forced me to continue back on my regular full dosage just to stop the side effects. I truly believed the Doctor would need to admit me to the hospital and detox me just as you would a heroin addict.
I was upset at myself for not taking the time to learn more about a drug I was willing to put into my all ready healthy body. I believe that my mistake was putting all faith into my physician who was very willing to help me “bandage” my problems with toxic chemicals.
My Decision to Detox…
Just recently, I went cold turkey again but with a little twist. In the past couple of years I have been training one on one with my personal trainer Karen. Karen has worked closely with me and I have been following her nutrition programs, going to the gym and attending her boot camps. Although my weight didn’t seem to budge by much (weight gain and difficulty losing weight on anti-depressants is one of the side affects) I was physically stronger and my conditioning was awesome! That is when I decided I truly wanted a clean, healthy body (and the weight loss as a bonus!!). I did not want to be reliant on this medication anymore.
Over the years I have become so reliant on this little pill that I believed it controlled my state of health and feeling. I would fear of missing a dose and within hours would transition into full out withdrawal symptoms. I knew deep inside that just simply being fit and healthy would control the depression and anxiety. I hated being on this drug and most importantly how it controlled my health; I was determined to attempt cold turkey again.
Focussing on Nutrition…
With the help of my trainer Karen we started the detox process with a clean diet rich in nutrients consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats. I eliminated all processed foods and anything packaged or chemically altered. If man altered it, I avoided it! Karen also suggested supplementing with high quality vitamins and minerals to help eliminate toxins and restore immunity. My clean diet was complimented with a multivitamin, omega 3’s(and lots of them – I took 9 a day!!) extra vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D and Gingko Biloba. I also took natural ginger to help with nausea, natural aids for ringing in my ears and valerian root to help with sleeping. Along with a healthy diet, I have continued to take all supplements but the valerian root as I am able to sleep at night now. The only medication I did take to help with joint pain and headaches was Aleve, the pain sometimes would become so unbearable that it made it difficult to get comfortable and to rest well at nights.
How Fitness Helped me Get Better…
Another crucial aspect of detoxing was committing to daily exercise. I knew that I had to make it a priority of getting myself to the gym or to see Karen. It was difficult at first because some days I was so physically sick that I could barely lift my head from the pillow. Exercising either on my own or with Karen helped me tremendously and was what I believed saved me most from the withdrawal symptoms. The days I worked out I felt my absolute best and for the only one or two days that I missed were my most challenging days of all. So, I made a point of committing to exercise EVERYDAY no matter how horrible I felt, as I knew after training I would feel much better!
Taking Time to Breathe…
Breathing and meditation also became part of my daily routine. Whenever I would feel overwhelmed and the feeling of panic, I would try to stop and pay close attention to nothing but my breath. At first it was challenging however with a few days of practice it became second nature and helped tremendously with encouraging positive thoughts and relaxation.
I know for a fact that proper nutrition; supplementation and exercise are what gave me my life and freedom back from this horrible toxic drug. I promise myself that I will never ever put another anti depressant, anti anxiety med or any drug for that matter into my body again.
I am not a doctor however; I honestly feel that not everyone needs to rely on these drugs to help him or her feel better. It makes no sense to put something in your body that is so toxic and causes such horrific withdrawal when there are more natural ways to encourage a feeling of well being and most importantly to learn to cope with normal everyday feelings that we all have to deal with from time to time. To me, it makes no sense that we have access to an earth full of natural good foods that have their own healing agents and we choose to ignore them. Or when you go to your doctor for anxiety or stress why don’t they prescribe exercise, quality foods, fresh air and simple breathing and coping techniques and not toxins to destroy your body? Instead, my trainer prescribed this and now I’m healthy both physically and mentally!
Karen Gallagher is a dedicated and highly creative personal trainer. She uses her vast knowledge of fitness and nutrition to custom design programs to the individual needs of her clients. Although her workouts can be challenging, she never fails to be there to support, encourage, and celebrate her client’s wins. Karen has a natural ability to motivate, inspire and draw out the very best in her clients. Her outgoing and friendly manner, coupled with her rich educational background, makes her an excellent personal trainer for anybody looking to see results, have fun and achieve their goals! In my years of training with Karen, I truly enjoyed the personal attention, encouragement, and unique workouts she never failed to come up with. Without Karen’s guidance, knowledge and encouragement I would never had made it through my withdrawal. I credit her with all of my success and the only reason that I have my life back!
Wife ~ Mother of three ~ Hockey Wife & Mom ~ Lover of Fitness!