Thursday, March 15, 2012

It Ain't Easy


This is a personal post that has nothing to do with weight. Feel free to skip it.

At 55, I am an energizer bunny: the last time I had my period was only 5 months ago. I'm not even officially into menopause because it has to be a year since my last period.

I am finding this time in my life physically and emotionally just HORRIBLE. Besides the hot flashes (which were worse this summer because of the ambient heat, but still a pain in the butt now because they wake me up at night), I am in a scary emotional state.

I think part of the reason I am going through a relapse of Graves disease (hyperthyroidism) is the fact that I'm starting peri-menopause. Graves is totally messing up my hormones, so I am even more emotionally unstable. I work in a very stressful environment. It's just the nature of the work and can't be changed, but my relationship with one co-worker in particular has become absolutely toxic and my ability to stay on an even keel around her is sorely tested. Although I had hoped to be able to overcome the stress of her presence thanks to the thyroid medication, the last time I worked with her (three days ago), I could literally feel my thyroid hormones going totally berserk again. I had my monthly blood test yesterday and wouldn't be surprised if my endocrinologist called to up my medication. I have some, but not total, control over whether I work with her or not. On a bad day, I am ready to quit my profession, but that would be financial suicide.

I have also been suffering from a (mostly) low-level headache for over a month. I saw my GP two days ago and we had quite the talk. We both think the headache--which is, BTW, much alleviated since I saw her--is stress related. She had me do a quick and dirty anxiety/stress measurement test. My score was frightening.

I do love my GP. She's a caring, wonderful woman. But I think she's a bit fast to prescribe pharmaceutical solutions to life's problems. When I was truly depressed over my failed hip surgery, all I needed was the promise of revision surgery to bring me out of the funk. However, I took my GP's advice and went on an anti-depressant (amitriptyline), which just made me gain weight. In retrospect, I know that it was totally unnecessary.

This time, she gave me a prescription for Effexor. Does anyone out there know anything about it? The reading that I did on the Internet has scared the pants off me. When I spoke to my GP, I specificially asked about how easy it was to wean off this drug. Her answer: no problem. That's definitely NOT what I'm reading on the Internet. Anyway, I've done my reading and talked about it with my low-key but very supportive husband and I haven't filled the Rx.

A few weeks ago, I signed up for an 8-week stress-reduction, self-esteem and mindfulness meditation course especially for women that starts at the end of this month. I told my GP about it but she still felt we should kick start my "recovery" through medication. I, on the other hand, feel that with the support of my husband, I want to wait and see how the course goes before plunging into something that may be very difficult to get out of (Effexor). I am also considering a weekend meditation retreat in mid-April. I believe very strongly in the power of one's own mind, although my mind is so "busy" that calming it down seems like a superhuman task.

Anyway, that's where I'm at. Thanks for listening.


  1. Just a quick note -- for a patient-oriented, med-positive site where you'll likely find info on effexor from the perspective of people who actually use it, try Crazy Meds at and the Crazy Meds Talk forum at

    I get irritated with doctors who look at me blankly and write a prescription, but I also try not to be too afraid of medication when necessary. This site has a good balance, as many of the people on it have issues where medication is not optional.

  2. Thanks, Fat Chick. I'll definitely check these sites out!

  3. Been there re the challenges of meditation and a crazy monkey mind. I started out with what I called meditation with training wheels. I've found that starting with giving your senses something to focus on is much easier than just sitting. I still use classical music and Flickr slide shows a meditation tools!

    I used to use the Resperate device at my neurofeedback doc's office. It uses deep slow breathing to (mostly) reduce blood pressure, but you can do the same thing with a clock with a stop watch ... just work on slowing your breaths down to 6 or 7 per minute. That may help as well.

  4. Hmmm. Along the lines of the own choice would be to 1) rent a beach house with a friend for a week, 2) take the time to teach each other everything you know about healing the mind, 3)create your own healing rituals, together, and 4)let the experience set you free. :)

    1. RNegade,

      Wanna rent that house together?

  5. Yep. I know just the place. :) I'll send you the link via email.

  6. Hi! I came over after seeing your comment at Ellen's blog.
    I do know something about Effexor. My husband is on it and it's a nightmare in some ways. We want to get him off it if we can. If he misses ONE day, or even 12 hours, he can feel so bad it's worse than before the medicine. He has depression. I also tried Lexapro (which was the effexor before, I believe). I just have anxiety and it was after I had my daughter and I was exhausted, etc... Just to say that after only one week, when I decided to stop taking it, I was in a state of depression, despair... that I have never experienced. I was so upset. I told the psych to NEVER put me on anything like that again.
    Once I used Prozac and it was great. It's truly safe for getting off of. That comforted me. SOmetimes they use these new drugs for other reason.... Even our doctor, who is very good and doesn't cater to the drug companies, uses them a lot.
    Sorry this is so long.
    I have to say that if you can give your meditation and stress reduction class a try first, do it. I think that sounds great, by the way.
    But I've also made the mistake of digging in and not going on a med that really would have helped me.
    Whatever you do, I'll be reading and hope to support you somehow.
    You've been through so much already. I'm really rooting for you to feel better.

  7. Big, enveloping hugs right back at you. I ache for what you are going through and know that like you, I can only offer internet support but believe me, I'm here.
    I started reading about hysterectomies on the net and was scared half out of my wits (one of the reasons why I've waited so long to even have a discussion about it). My doc said that people rarely write about the good things they encounter. They heal, recuperate, get better and move on. It's the extreme cases that are put out there for everyone to see.
    Now, having said that - my husband was put on Effexor and after a month he had to go off of it. Slowly, slowly weaned off. Teresa's right. If you mess with it, the side effects are difficult. My husband in particular had mood swings and very vivid dreams - sometimes so real they were frightening. I would hate to see you go through anything like that if you have another alternative.
    Thank you again for your comment on my blog. It meant the world, and I'll be thinking of you. One way or another, we'll get through it.

    1. Hi Ellen. Thanks for your kind words.

      You're absolutely right. Mostly it's the bad stuff that gets posted on the internet. I had the same experience with my hip replacement. People preparing for surgery would visit forums, but most would disappear soon after surgery. When things go well, no one sticks around.

      This being said, I'm just hearing too much about Effexor to feel comfortable about trying it. If I did have to go off it suddenly, I might find myself in a situation where I couldn't get out of work contracts and then I'd really make a mess of things on the work front. In my line of work, I can't just sit back and relax for a few days. I either have to work properly or not work at all.

  8. I can speak both as a pharmacist and as someone who was once on Efexor - and swore never to go on it again. Getting off it can be nasty . I will be honest. I always used to think withdrawal symptoms from anitdepressants were just people imagining things - that it was all in the mind. When I came off I felt crap, looked on the internet and discovered loads of people who had experienced the same symptoms. This could not have been me expecting it to happen . Efexor has its place in the management of depression - but there are much better drugs than Amitryptyline that could be tried , In this country Efexor is not used first line - but then neither is amitriptyline.

    I do not believe drugs should be used as a first line for mild to moderate depression- but if things like CBT, or hypnotherapy/NLP are not available then they may be a better option than doing nothing.

    My personal view is I will move heaven and earth to avoid going an anti-depressants .

  9. Thanks, Sally. I was hoping to hear from you since you are a pharmacist.

    I totally agree about moving heaven and earth before going on anti-depressants.

  10. On a possibly related tangent - I found relief from night sweats and moodiness with a natural progesterone cream. If interested, look for a cream that lists Progesterone USP as the active ingredient (not from soy or wild yam). You can find these at a health food store usually. Do check with your doctor first, there are some contraindications, but it's generally very safe and a natural way to ease into the next stage of life. I use it still, a few years past menopause.

  11. Thanks, Karen. I actually was using a progesterone cream for a few years, but I found that all it did was make hair grow in places where it hadn't grown before. Yech.

    1. Really hope the meditation helps! I think you're making a smart choice here. :)

      Also, do whatever you can to avoid that co-worker. I know you said it's not entirely under your control whether you work with her or not, but please use whatever influence you have to steer clear. Your body and mind are being strained as it is by the hormonal swings and headaches; you don't need the extra burden of a toxic person. Rooting for you.

    2. re: hair growth. Sorry you had that side effect. I had heard that about testosterone (male), but not about progesterone as yet. I'll be watching myself now hahaha.

    3. Don`t worry, Karen. I was wrong about that. I was also using a testosterone cream at the same time. That was the culprit.

      I hesitate to use any hormonal therapy right now because of my thyroid problem. But I might just ask my endocrinologist if I can use a progesterone cream without throwing my hormones into a tizzy again!

  12. Agh. To steer clear whenever possible, is what I'm trying to say!

    1. Hi Human,

      I understood perfectly and really appreciate your support!