My adventures with hot flashes started approximately 7 years ago. During my struggles with endometriosis, infertility, and intolerable menstrual cramps et al, I wished for menopause, so that it would all be over. Be careful what you wish for. I certainly did not slide smoothly into menopause. In fact, my entire “female horomoneness” has been nothing but a roller coaster. I’m certain that ages ago I would have been burned at the stake for suspicions of being a witch.
I’m not sure if my hot flashes were worse than the norm but what I do know is that they were dangerous to my health and sanity. When keeping track I would count anywhere from 20-30 per day…mostly during the night and early morning. Cold showers would do nothing for me because as soon as I toweled off, I was hot and sweaty again.
I tried vivelle dot and progesterone first. It definitely helped the hot flashes and sleep but there were side effects that I was not willing to live with. Excuse the TMI here but the main side effects were breast pain and vaginal bleeding. Because I had already gone a year without a period the vaginal bleeding was not considered “spotting” but rather something that needed to be checked out. So an ultrasound, biopsy, and MRI later it was discovered that I did not have cancer but a non cancerous polyp. But, did I want to go through this scenario every single time I had bleeding? No. So, I stopped the vivelle and progesterone and started Effexor.
I am an advocate for those with depression using anti depressant medications for their disease if that is something that they need. I am even and advocate for someone using an antidepressant for hot flashes if that is what they need. It was even a good thing for me for awhile at first. I finally got some good sleep! But, the problem is that after a few years all I wanted to do was sleep. I had NO ambition or motivation at all. I felt like a slug. Plus there were other side effects (or maybe just effects): no libido, no emotion or tears for things that should have caused me sadness, weight gain (35 pounds over 4 years), heartburn, elevated blood pressure….then there are the effects that I’m not sure were related to the Effexor but I suspect that they were: joint pain and stiffness, skin rashes and dryness, sinus problems.
So a month ago I decided to wean myself off the Effexor. So, with a short acting prescription at a lower dose and a taper schedule in hand I started my taper. It was not pretty. My main withdrawal symptoms were: headaches, dizziness (OMG the dizziness), nausea, increased heartburn, anxiety, increased intensity of hot flashes, brain fog, and overwhelming sadness. I took a few rescue doses to keep myself alive, but it was very hard. Thankfully I never got the brain zaps that so many people complain about during Effexor withdrawal. I even took a trip to the ER when the symptoms got so bad I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t really something wrong with me.
But, along the way I had some signs that gave me hope: I started crying again and I started feeling angry and irritable again! I know that seems like a strange thing to glean hope from but it was a sign that the fog was lifting.
So, now I’ve been off the Effexor completely for 2 weeks. The withdrawal symptoms have stopped for the most part and my blood pressure has normalized to it’s pre-Effexor numbers. I’m struggling with the hot flashes but I feel more like “myself” which is more important to me right now. Moving forward my struggles will be getting quality sleep and managing the hot flashes naturally. I am planning to experiment with essential oils first ( I am a young living distributor) and I will update periodically here.
So, my lesson to all: If you are considering going on an antidepressant-research your options, and consider what will be involved if you think you ever will want to stop taking it!