Wednesday, April 27, 2011

When Side Effects are Worse than Symptoms

I was only 17 when my doctor put me on Wellbutrin for my ME/CFS and fibromyalgia symptoms.  Shortly after starting it, I began waking up in the mornings on my own.  I didn’t take naps during the day anymore; in fact, I hardly ever slept. 

At first I thought it was great.  Then I started developing paranoia, anxiety-attacks, and even minor hallucinations.  I was so scared…I thought I was developing schizophrenia.

It wasn’t until I talked to my mom about what was going on that I realized that it was probably from the Wellbutrin.  I was so used to having no response to medications at all, that I actually forgot there could be side effects. 

My doctor lowered the dosage.  I continued taking Wellbutrin only because I wanted so desperately to be awake more hours than I was asleep.  After lowering the dose the side effects went away; a while later all the effects diminished.

Telling me I had developed a tolerance, my doctor upped the dose.  Again I enjoyed having insomnia, rather than sleeping all the time.  A little while later, the bad side effects came rushing back, even worse than before. 

I was at my aunt’s house when I actually started blacking out.  I felt like I was in a dream that I couldn’t wake up from.  I wanted to turn it off, to make it stop, right there and then.

My aunt called the doctor, who said to slowly go back to the old dose.  For the time being, there was nothing that could be done.  I had to be taken off the drug slowly to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms. 

It took awhile for the symptoms I had to dissipate and despite following the doctor’s directions, I still had withdrawal symptoms.  It felt like something was crawling through my body, and I desperately wanted it out.  It was the worse feeling in the world; I couldn’t even fall asleep to sleep the feeling off. 

Later on, my doctor actually tried to convince me to try Wellbutrin again.  That time I refused.  Being awake only a few hours a day beat what I had gone through.  At that point, my doctor said that there was nothing else he could do for me; I would have to just deal with it.   

My experience with Wellbutrin made my symptoms seem bearable.  I figured that was as good as it was going to get.  Still only 17, I gave up on ever finding a doctor who could help me or a treatment that would work.  No medication beat awful side effects.  

(Story continues in upcoming posts.)


  1. I enjoy reading this! I am so sorry you have to go through this too!!!!!!

  2. Reading this has lifted me out from darkness into light. You have said all the things I wish I could say. And your link to the Hunter-Hopkins Center has given me new hope. I am currently at the end of the anti-depressant nightmare. And as horrible as this experience has been, it is not nearly as bad the Gabapentin trial my rheumy insisted upon. What made me really depressed is my ability to function seemed to greatly decrease while on my antidepressant Doslupin after already trying amitryptiline.

    Anyway, I digress. I just meant to say thank you and I look forward to further posts!

  3. You’re welcome. I am happy to hear that this blog has helped. I am also glad that you found the Hunter-Hopkins Center link helpful—it has made a huge difference in my quality of life.