I’m coming off anti depressants (and I want to die)

I’ve been on anti depressants for years. Citalopram worked for a long time. And then it didn’t. I tried a few others and finally, with my Harley Street psych, came up with the winning formula of Mirtazapine and Venlafaxine. The Mirtazpine was ace. It would make me sleep for up to 12 hours at night and gave me the weirdest anxiety dreams ever – being chased, moving home, packing, exams – I loved it. Thing about the big M was it made me FAT. I put on maybe 2 stone. I was going through a tough time including a marriage breaking down and my ever present depression and anxiety issues and it was just the little hand hold I needed at the time. Oh yeah, I had difficulty expelling liquids from my body – I couldn’t cry or cum.

Things started to move and change and I became profoundly unhappy with the excess weight I had piled on. Talking to my doc, we got me off the Mirtazapine. That was pretty straight forward. I just stopped it (under his supervision) and lost some weight. then I put it back on. Oh well. I didn’t sleep as well and the dreams went but I was actually OK.

It’s been my ambition to come off the Venlafaxine (Effexor) for a long time. I never wanted to be on anti-d’s for my whole life, that wasn’t the plan. I asked my psych again and again and he suggested that while I was living in a bedsit and waiting for a divorce, perhaps I should wait. I finally moved out of the bedsit and the divorce is all but done so when I approached my doctor 2 weeks ago today, he reluctantly agreed that perhaps now we could start weaning me off the might V. He wanted to wait until next year but could see I was keen and we both agreed if things go too bad I’d hop straight back on it.

I was on 150mg of Venlafaxine for a few years. I knew one of the main side effects would be the electric shocks in the brain. If I missed a tablet one day or was even a few hours late taking it, my brain would buzz and fizz and pop with electric shocks. A horrible, exhausting thing that would totally knock me for six. Horrendous fucking things. I’d also had the trails before, kind of a throw back to LSD, where if I turned my head quickly, the light would follow and create lines that would hang in the air for a second before slowly vanishing. Trippy man, but not really the fun trippy.

I knew those things were coming but fuck me man, I was totally unprepared for everything else. The dosage is being reduced in stages and I immediately dropped from 150mg to 75mg. That was 13 days ago. This is actually a pretty big jump and I was surprised when my doc suggested that. Halve it for a month, if that is OK, then 4 weeks later cut it out completely. OK. I had to admit I was excited and terrified in equal measure. This was what I wanted. To see if I could live drug free. I’d tried before and not really been able to handle the weight of being, but I really believe my life is heading somewhere calmer and I just HAD to find out.

The first thing that hit me, apart from the shocks, was the physicality of withdrawal. Nausea. Sweet Jesus. I felt so so sick. I wanted to throw up. I burped a LOT (I can’t normally burp, I’ve done maybe 20 in my 45 years and yearI’ve done about 50 in the last 13 days). that churning stomach. My shit takes on no form I recognise, it looks like chocolate mousse. The headaches. Blinding. My eyes felt like they wanted to bleed as someone turned a screw behind both of them, a screw too deep inside my head for a simple temple massage to help. Tightness of the neck. My legs ache so so much. I feel 86. Getting out of a chair became a huge chore. Today, 13 days in, this has all lessened significantly although I did wake up with an awful head. I get the nausea for about an hour a day. Around 12.30 it kicks in, with awful sweats, but passes eventually.

i was not prepared for the emotional rollercoaster, which seems pretty much to be on a downward with only a few upturns. I hate myself. I am a worthless piece of shit. I fucking deserve to be miserable. What the fuck have I done of any worth? Everyone is better than me. Quit your job, you don’t deserve it, you’re a fucking chancer that got lucky. Yes you’ve been continually employed for 20 years, you’ve won awards in the last couple of years and you have a loyal listenership BUT you are a cunt and a horrible man and a failure as a husband and a dad and you should just shut the fuck up and die.

What? Where did all that come from? And yet those are thoughts I am getting alone or in various combinations. Frightening, loud, echoing around in my worthless head. I hate myself as a parent, feel I am letting them down as a dad and setting a terrible example.

And pause. For a second. I am well enough in terms of mental health and in terms of drug recovery to suspect that most of what I just typed is rubbish. Maybe. Perhaps it’s real. I’, struggling to know what is and isn’t fact. But I THINK a lot of what I just typed isn’t accurate. I dunno. Now I’m thinking about it, are they true. I am a failure as a husband. I did get lucky.


Just let me type this and then go upstairs and try and sort out the problem with flies in the lift room (that is true, not a fantasy, there is a problem with flies up there).

I’m so tired. I want to sleep. But there’s just too much to do. And the loneliness, THE LONELINESS, I want to be on my own but I want to be held.

Oh yeah, another side effect is I find it really hard to follow a thought through to it’s conclusion. Distraction is a powerful thing.

I’ve been planning my suicide. One of the side effects of anti depressants can be suicidal thoughts. Isn’t that nuts? The thing that’s supposed to save you from that may actually cause it. Well, coming off them has made it seem that killing myself might actually be a sensible idea. Could quite possibly benefit the world. Again, insane drug mumblings. I’m pretty sure that’s what they are. So I’ve agreed with myself to not act on them for the next 6 weeks. Let’s wait and see how I feel when I’m more settled in coming off these pills and then we can talk about it. I’m pretty sure in 6 weeks those feelings will have passed. About 85% confident. If I wasn’t, I’d do it now.

And this is why I’m carrying on doing the show. My head is actually telling me to quit. Quit the one thing I used to think I was good at. I can’t afford to quit. Life is expensive for me right now and I can’t turn a fucking job down. But imagine. My head says I should just quit. Or at the very least take tonight off sick. But no. Keeping on air is keeping me alive. Partly cos I have to focus for 3 hours on something other than me and my best mate is there to give me a metaphorical slap and grab my string as I start to float away and gently pull me back down to earth.

I can expel juice again. I am crying a lot. Crying about my beautiful babies and how I miss them and miss them when they were new borns and how I’m so scared for the world they’re growing up in. I’m crying for the 45 year old men that they will become and I will probably never meet. Fuck. That thought has got me now in floods AND THAT IS CRAZY. I can cum. In a relatively normal time. Minutes instead of hours of pointless self abuse that I often get too bored of to continue.

Remember, this is my choice to come off these pills. Just for today. A day at a time. This too shall pass.

I’m OK. I’m not OK. I might be OK in the future. These anti depressants are powerful bastards. They saved my life and kept me alive when I wanted to die. They have got me through the most distressing times I have ever been through as a human being. I would not be here without those sweet pills. But I need to see if I can stand on my own. Maybe I can’t. What then? Ah well, back on em and we carry on. Carry on. That’s all we can do, isn’t it?

Don’t worry about me. This might seem like the ramblings of a nutjob. They probably are but I’m gonna be OK. Gonna look at the fly problem in the loft, see if I can work out the source then watch some Tim & Eric.

I don’t know who or what I am. I’m just starting to find out.

Peace and love




20 thoughts on “I’m coming off anti depressants (and I want to die)

  1. Lisa Prangle says:

    So great Iain, brilliant you did that. Don’t wanna say brave, bit cliched, but brilliant.

    I’m going through a bit of shit time at the moment in a different way, my brother died 4 weeks ago and I wanted to say you and Kath have proper taken my mind off stuff. Keep going mate xx

  2. jilly says:

    Iain, I’ve read through to the end. Please think of what you would be doing to your boys if you did leave them. Yes life is tough at the moment, but your beautiful boys will soon grow up & they will have free choice to do whatever. Hopefully get back on track with their Dad.
    I list my 1st childaged 6 (cancer) I wanted to die I’ve never ever admitted this to anyone untill now. My second son (now 32) has tried to kill himself. I think O must be a bad mother in my darkest times. Once he started taking meds again he’s feeling better but it was a dark few months last year. Have you got someone who can tell you straight if you needed to go back on them ? I do hope so.
    & I truly hope you manage without them.
    I work in a clinical environment. Many people take antidepressants, & its not always the people you’d think.
    Go tell the flies to F**k off.
    I’m a good listener if you want to sound off 🙂 Big hugs my friend Jilly xxxx

  3. Dean Griffin says:

    I know the feeling mate, I’m struggling with PTSD since being in The Army in Iraq in 2003, I’ve been on loads of anti-depressants, the government won’t help me and I’m struggling to live financially at the moment, that doesn’t make me any better or worse than you, we’re just 2 ships passing through the oceans of life with our own set of problems(WTF does that even mean!).
    The only thing that’s keeping me going is the drive burning inside me that I know one day I will be better, not OK but better, I’m going the right way about it too, I’m into my 2nd of 2 years of training to become an Electrician after my last employer paid me to leave the company I worked at for 4 and a half years, it’s hard, but I’ll get through this, it coesn’t help that I see Veterans taking their lives on a nearly daily basis but that’s not me, I won’t let the bastards beat me, I’m worth more than that!

  4. Karen says:

    What a beautifully honest description of coming off anti-depressants. I work in primary care as a mental health nurse and I am often trying to explain that ADM (anti-depressant medication) is not addictive but it has a withdrawal or discontinuation syndrome which might make them think they are slipping back to their original presentation or even feeling worse or think they are going crazy. I will now point them in the direction of your blog so they can share your journey.
    Keep on sharing and keep looking after yourself.

  5. Lisa says:

    I have never been depressed. I went through a period of panic attacks that left me a little like a zombie for a while back in the 90s. You have just described bits of me though. Not the suicidal thoughts but the menopausal female parts. Horrible thoughts about yourself are quite common I believe, I ignore mine, plus the burping, fat thoughts all of those all came into it with me. Horrible innit. I reckon most of this is our normal. I wish you the best of health on the flip side of this. I won’t blow air up your arse too much but you and your show have saved me a few times since the LBC days and now at Talk. I laugh and cry in equal measure. Be assured that for me anyway the show is great! You can do this cos you are stronger than you think you are. X

  6. Dorrie says:

    Thank you for your honesty. I feel like much of this is too personal for me to comment on. Obviously I don’t know you. However, I certainly wouldn’t say that you’re a shit dad. You sound like a very good, supportive dad. No parent is perfect. My dad really couldn’t care less about me for the most part. I was 17 when he died and I can count on one hand the number of birthday cards I got from him. I don’t have kids myself but to me, a good parent is someone who offers love, support and what time they can. You seem to do that. I really enjoyed listening to your show last Friday with the boys. They are a credit to you. Who knows, maybe you won’t see them to 45 but what’s important is the time you have with them now and the things you teach them. They’ll always remember that and look back on happy times. Anyway, I just really wanted to say that I think you come across as a good and decent person and you do make a valuable contribution to the world. You make me laugh every night (except Saturday & Sunday). Take good care of yourself x

  7. Richard Share says:

    Fucking Hell Iain, that was deep and specific. I don’t think I’ve ever seen those feelings put into words so well before. I’m actually crying for you. I’m also crying for me. I’ve been to so many of those places. I still get dragged there now every few weeks. I’m too scared to contemplate trying to survive without my Citalopram. I’ve tried reducing a few times. It didn’t work out well. I’m sticking to what I know for the time being. It’s brave wanting to go med-free. Just remember that they will always be there as a safety net.

  8. John Cullen says:

    Once again Mr Lee, brilliant stuff!
    I had a strange relationship with antidepressants – I longer take them as they had a rather adverse effect. They worked fine, then I needed a bigger dose – It went a wee bit pear-shaped from there. One side-effect was the filter in my head – It stopped working. I started to say things without realizing what I had said until it was too late.
    To each his own – They are not for me, however.
    Keep on with the show – Its better than ever! It was a joy talking to you and Kath last night!

  9. R says:

    If we wasn’t lonely then we wouldn’t know what loneliness is? We have bad so we see good? We hurt so we can love? I want to be alone but I want to be held, man I can relate to that one. Good luck Iain.

  10. Siobhan says:

    Please keep posting and working. Your experience of anti depressants sounds so like mine which is perversely helpful. The whole experience is a nightmare and you have to be so strong to keep going – and you are doing just that. Please keep going one day at a time don’t give up.

  11. Ted says:

    Dear Iain,
    That’s a very powerful read. You’re the best person I’ve ever heard talking publicly about mental health and what it’s really like. And you’re warm, funny, kind, empathic, natural, nurturing, quick witted, sharp, super intelligent.
    Your boys sounds so happy with you. And I can hear there’s such a good connection between you to both of them. I don’t have any children of my own but I do have 15 nieces and nephews so I have some idea of seeing parents interacting with their children. And I think you do a really good job as a father.
    I think the older they get and the more they learn about you and see the things you’ve done and how you help other people, I think they’ll be very proud of you. And they’ll be very proud to say you are their father.

    As someone who listens to lots of your radio shows and been to a couple of your events I would just like to say thank you very much
    And I look forward to your shows this week, next week, and in the next months and years to come!

    This too shall pass.

  12. Mark says:

    Hi Iain,
    I had a breakdown in 2008 and was on anti-depressants for several years, Citalopram on a pretty low dosage. The reason I had to get off them was the nightmares. I could cope with the vivid dreams, but the nightmares – never mind 4K HD, these were in 40K. It got to the stage where I used to dread going to sleep, counteracting any beneficial effects the tablets might be having. I’m glad you are coming off them gradually with professional help rather than when you went cold turkey – in the short term the side efects are dreadful, but I’m sure a gradual weaning off is the way to go.
    What screams out at me from your piece though, is the loneliness – you even capitalised the word. I know you’ve toyed with the idea in the past of discussing the subject on the show and then backed off (apologies if you have subsequently discussed it – I don’t listen every night). I can identify so much with you saying you want to be held, but not wanting to let anyone get too close. From what I’ve read and heard it’s a huge social problem, especially for men. I have no real friends to speak of, and I have driven away the relatives I have left with whom I could have could have talked about it. I’ve always been fiercely independent, but there’s only so much of doing stuff completely on your own that a person can do to keep one’s sanity. I’ve been trying to convince myself that I have to get out there and do something, even if it’s as mundane as joining a local walking group or something like that – but something inside me stops me every time. Can’t imagine what it must be like when you are under media scrutiny and feel that way. I can’t offer any advice, but it’s a problem that needs to be talked about a lot more than it has been.
    Finally, if I can thank you and Kath – I lost my Mum 2 1/2 years ago (3rd Christmas without her coming up) and I started listening to you on Talk not long after you started (when hardly anyone was listening or calling in !) – you guys made me laugh again. I’m sure you make these little differences for the good to more people’s lives than you know.

  13. Tracy says:

    You probably don’t remember me but my peg was behind yours at Herschel- I saw you walk into the church in Slough a few months back when I parked my car- I wanted to say hello and say – you know what , we have more in common than you know ……. I live in fear of coming off my pills and the horrible feelings that will rise back up- I balance that with the weird nightmare dreams but weigh it up just so as I am able to squash the negative thoughts a little more easily.
    I read and follow Kevin Hines ( you may have heard of him- if not follow him) he is an inspiration and has hit that rock bottom and used it to help others – you also have that gift to reach others and you are very much in good company (good people are always the most critical of themselves!)

    Your honesty even though painful is admirable-you will never know your positive impact as we that tends to stay quiet and only negative ever feels like it gets through. It doesn’t to others though- we see it.
    Stay strong x

  14. Richard says:

    You will know all the truisms re antidepressants simply masking or numbing; therapy to rewrite underlying negative belief systems which are objectively untrue esp as you come off them; intelligence and job being positive indicators for recovery; the “when, then game” (as per last night’s show) which is why Chinese say enjoy the journey as where ever you go, there you are! Cannot believe you are anything other than a brilliant and loving dad. Normal to grieve lost years of kids. I have been telling mine they can leave home at 46 or be stuffed by a taxidermist with outstretched hand asking for money for realism . And now 10 months into the year’s shows, they are brilliant, no noticeable difference and, therefore, upsets stereotype of depressive behaviour. So every success, as you deserve and you have chosen the hard way to live life and work. Usual warning about GP and suicidal ideation but JOKINGLY it would have to be successful as otherwise loyal listenship would do it for you. Not about boys, about you really. You can’t think about the kids all the time. Bills to be paid after all and moods managed but …. think of the kids. Excellent writer, communicator and broadcaster. Hope none of this comes across as pompous as occupational hazard!

  15. Karen Isabella Matthews says:

    I’m crying…this is so raw and open hearted.. you just never ever know what someone is going through…I wish you all the luck and best wishes in the world xxxx

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