Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Exercise Is Good For Your Brain

If you read my post Sunday, you know that I am getting myself off of Celexa and that exercise has been really helpful managing the withdrawal symptoms.  What I didn't mention was that even though my doctor said it was OK to stop, he didn't know that I was going to try quitting cold turkey.

You can Google "exercise and mental health", and the information you'll find in the countless articles essentially point to the same thing - exercise does wonders for mental health, with the leading theory being that the release of endorphins during exercise is what makes you "feel good".  I now know this to be true, first hand.

Without getting into the chemistry, when a patient stops taking an anti-depressant, it's a huge shock to their system.  In other words, with it's new found "freedom", the brain can very easily jump on the express train to Crazytown.  And remember, I didn't step down my medication - I straight up stopped.  So not only was I on the express train, the train had no brakes.  But I didn't realize this until yesterday.

The side effects of withdrawal were completely manageable on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  I think this was the case on Friday because it was the first day.  Saturday and Sunday were work-out days including both high volume and intensity.  But yesterday was a swim day, and a lazy one at that.  In fact, it was essentially an active recovery day.  So I didn't sweat it out, pound the pavement, grind the gears or do anything remotely as strenuous as I did over the weekend.

And mentally, I was a complete wreck.  Ask Kovas and Chris K.  Ask the empty half gallon carton of ice cream that was full yesterday but is now in the recycling bin.  Ask the poor Expedia customer service rep I was berating at one o'clock this morning because there was a problem with a travel reservation for one of my employees.  Since I couldn't sleep, I figured there was no better time than the present to call her.

But just because I'm temporarily crazier than usual doesn't mean I'm not realistic.  It was time for a strategy shift.  I briefly considered making sure I could either run 10 miles or cycle 50 miles every day for the next few weeks to guarantee a huge daily endorphin fix.  But I quickly realized that wouldn't work.  Instead, I called my doctor, explained the mess I had gotten myself into and asked him to help drag my ass out of it.  I didn't get a lecture.  He actually said that some people can just stop.  But it looks like I'm not one of them.

So I'm back on the Celexa - half my old dose for 2 weeks, and then half of that for another 2 weeks.  And then (in theory) I'll be done.  In hindsight, I see the wisdom in this.  Hopefully, I'll get some sleep tonight and not crazy dial any more toll free numbers.

By the way, I rode 42 miles today.  I figured it was a good insurance policy.


Lauren said...

I am on the same medication, and it has made a world of difference in my life. My doctor promises me that he will step me off gently when the time is right, and the time is not right for me right now. Why did you decide to go cold turkey? You posts scared me regarding your withdrawals. I had no idea. But then again, I love, love, love vivid dreams. I used to dream quite vividly in my youth, and then something happened. After journals and journals filled with dreams, suddenly I couldn't remember a single one (at about age 35 or so).

I wish you the best of luck. There is a reason that our types pick up running eventually -- running is a drug : ) A good drug!

Unknown said...

Yikes! Yes I've seen this happen. Or I tell my patients to take their usual dose every other day for 2 weeks, then cut it in half for another 2 weeks then try off. Hope you will be better the second time around! PS. Always be truthful to your Doc!! :)

Johann said...

Between everything you still seem to have everything under control. Your doctor certainly knows what the best approach would be. All the best and take care!

Jennifer said...

I really appreciate your matter-of-fact discussion of this topic Patrick. Keep working' on it! And good job on the ride. I know if I don't work out for a certain period of time I get really mean and unhappy, the chemical ways of the brain are mysterious and scary sometimes, you're dealing well!

KovasP said...

Good thing you weren't too crazy to ask for advice, nor too far gone to take it. Everything in moderation, even quitting. Good lesson.

pinkvision said...

Half now and half in two weeks... cool that you're getting off that med. Have to say it sounds very like a science-y radioactive half life wearing down kind of thing... ;)

A Prelude To... said...

Sorry you had to go through that, but I'm glad you finally called your doc. I wish you the best in being free of the daily pill. I have a feeling you're going to be better than good in a few weeks!

Christi said...

I understand what you are going through. I quit my Cymbalta cold turkey during the holidays. Yea, not too smart! Unfortunately, after being off of it a couple of months I have to go back on it. I just don't produce enough serotin to be a reasonable person. Sucks but that is my lot in life.

I wish you the best of luck and am glad that you asked for help.

Unknown said...

I am with you Christi. I quit cold turkey in 2009 and needed to get back on. I exercised regularly and still could not feel right. I was off of celexa for months but then I decided to face the fact that I need it. Everyone is different, obviously. I hope that you aren't like me and you don't need it to be a sane person, which I'm sure you don't. I think you made the smart choice to switch to 1/2 your usual dose and wean off instead. :) Best of luck!

Aimee said...

I'm sorry you had to go through that craziness! But, I'm glad you eventually called your doctor to get advice. Stepping off the medication gradually sounds like it will be a good solution for you!

Unknown said...

Soooo ... what kind of ice cream was it? Moosetracks? I love that, basically any type of chocolate swirled in vanilla.

And, did you get the reservation issue worked out?

As you can see exercise is doing wonders to help me focus!

Lindsay said...

I admire you for taking these steps! I would've been trying to figure out how I could run/bike too, but i think you are taking the wiser route by admitting you don't quote have the ability to exercise that much every day. Nothing wrong with a little ice cream. Now if you start eating multiple gallons... We may need to worry :)

Kate Geisen said...

Exercise really is a wonder drug. I've read all kinds of studies about its effect on kids with ADHD, and I've been working on developing a way to work it into my classroom schedule on a daily basis. It's sad that physical activity, which can make such a difference for kids, is being removed more and more from school days (not to mention the day-to-day).

As for you, I'll just echo everybody else and say good job recognizing that you needed to talk to your doctor, and good job listening to what he had to say. I hope the gradual step-down works for you!

TRI714 said...

I don't know about this med. What I do know from those close around me is that very few can just wack it. So good on you for keeping it real and being smart enough to let your DR. in on your current status. We aren't Dr's. If I was, I would be doing a 30k/10k brick right now.

valen said...

way to go man, hit and miss without the bad consequences (I'd rate the ice cream as a good one?). good luck in the next couple

DRog said...

Expedia! that was great

nice ride

Big Clyde said...

Whatever it takes, man.

Nice mileage for a Wednesday.

Jill said...

I have HUGE anxiety problems...some days it's so bad I cannot even walk outside my house. I literally call in "sick" to work about 3 times/year just because I am afraid to drive my car. Meds help some. Exercise helps more!

Swimming does nothing for this either...getting in the pool sometimes can set off an attack

I'm not running a whole lot right now; explains maybe the rapid heart rate just thinking about taking the train in SF!

I hope you get some great sleep tonight, Patrick!!

Chris K said...

Cold Turkey? Why? I am unqualified to make an intelligent comment here, but seems that your new plan is better.

Okay, so it takes two weeks longer, but in the big picture, well, you know.

The Green Girl said...

Aw, take care, Patrick!

Barbie said...

So glad your Doc was understanding and has found a way to help.

Emz said...

love this post.


YAY me!
running is what works for me. Oh & a xanax at night.


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