Hot Flashes: The Struggle is Real

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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!

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