Coming off antipsychotics

It’s been five years since I started taking Olanzapine. I’ve been lucky because the doctors found a drug that worked for me straight away. Many people with schizophrenia go through a plethora of antipsychotics until they find one that’s right for them. If they ever do. There are some side effects to life on antipsychotics that are hard to close your eyes to, and they persist. Many of us are desperate to come off the medication as there’s often a sense that you’re not yourself on it. You miss the magical thinking and all those great ideas. That was what drove me to stop taking Olanzapine last year. The problem was that the medication worked so well I was sure I didn’t need it anymore.

I was wrong, and within weeks I drifted into another psychosis. The intervention was quick. I instantly started taking the maximum dose of 20mg of Olanzapine and used benzodiazepines to treat panic attacks. I still spent the next six months fighting delusions. Intellectually, I could reason around them, but they were always present as background noise. I deeply regret the decision to come off antipsychotics, because once again I spent time lost in wonderland.

If you look up the statistics for success stories when people stop taking antipsychotics, they’re few and far in between. For people who’ve only experienced one psychotic episode, it’s a possibility, but after multiple psychoses, it’s a different story. Pretty much everyone relapses, and few psychiatrists support their schizophrenic patients quitting the drug. Instead, you try to lower the dose to minimize side effects. These get better over time. During my first months on Olanzapine, I drooled a lot and had nervous facial tics. Now I just sleep a bit more than most people, and I’m not as emotional as I once was. Some would consider being in control of your emotions as a positive thing, but I sometimes miss that person who would burst into tears during a sad movie.

I’ve gotten used to the idea that there is probably no such thing as life after Olanzapine for me. When considering the alternative, I don’t think life dealt me a bad hand.

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