This summer, I did a deep share about one of the Gate Passages I was going through in getting off of anti-depressants. In my 15+ years as a psychotherapist helping kind souls through trauma, I’ve seen firsthand the silencing effect that the stigma of struggling with mental illness can cause. With the new Moon in Scorpio happening November 18th, the time is right to share rather than be silent. It's time to continue telling this story.
It’s been more than 6 months since I took the last dose — a minuscule cluster of tiny white balls stuck to the end of my moistened right pointer finger. I took a super longtime coming off — more than 2 years. By western medicine standards, this is unusually long. Typically, docs recommend 2-3 months, which I say isn't nearly long enough.
It’s been a wild ride.
The first few months were a dark time of recurrent and prolonged panic attacks that triggered my survival fight/flight/freeze response, with a heavy heaping dose of sobbing spells. I felt as if I could feel all of the agony on the planet without a filter. It was all of the feels, all the time. Even though I had so little of the medication in my system by the time I took that last dose, I still felt the withdrawal effect big-time, which is not uncommon for sensitive people.
Between you and me, I’m relieved that I survived this part. There were moments when I didn't think I could. I did it with tons of support. I did it with the sheer knuckle-down determination to use all of the healing tools I’ve learned ... every single one of them and especially when I felt like I couldn’t do it.
Since then, I’ve noticed some interesting things about being off of anti-depressants.
All of them have to do with my heart.
First, I cry all the time. I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad. I cry when I read about homeless dogs. I cry when I read about people doing kind things for others. I blow through tissues like they're going out of style.
Next, my sensitivity is off the charts. Anti-depressants by design take away the extremes of feeling — the dark lows and the happy highs. Most people wind up humming along in the middle. That’s where I hung out. Along with erasing the extremes, the meds dulled this sensitivity. It didn’t erase it by any means, but I'm surprised how the meds covered it up. I feel this sensitivity most in my heart center.
I deeply long to feel connected to people. This too was something that I couldn’t feel so much on meds. I knew it was there intellectually, but now it’s a persistent ache in my heart. It's what neuroscientist Stephen Porges talked about at the trauma conference I went to a few weeks ago when he said that we human beings are wired for connection.
Lastly, I notice a lot grief for stuff I never dealt with. Lost loves. Lost opportunities. Although it should not surprise me given the work I do, I was pretty freaking surprised how much grief I've stored in my heart saying not now, maybe later. This grief is now demanding like a screaming, hungry baby that I face it now, and I am.
No matter how ...
you look on the outside or what you do for a living, Gate Passages are hard for each of us. Even so, they bring gifts. All of these things going on in my heart since that last dose is a gift.
If you need support going through your own Gate Passage, I'm here.
Meanwhile, pass the tissues.