Quitting Amitriptyline: My Eight-Week Update

Quitting AmitriptylineAs I write this it’s been eight weeks since I last took amitriptyline before bed. My reasons for wanting to stop, which I wrote about in this post, Why I Quit Amitriptyline, are pretty compelling. And if you’ve read my blog post at week five, Four Ways Fibromyalgia is Worse Without Antidepressants, you’ll know that it hasn’t been a particularly fun trip.

However.

An Active Week!

All of a sudden I realized that I’ve had an entire WEEK without having to beg off some invite, request or activity because I was just too tired. Now, I have fibro, so I haven’t run any marathons :-). But I have been up early, productive with my book as well as writing for clients. I’ve been more helpful around the boat, too. (My husband John and I live aboard our 40’ sailboat Ingenium in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.)

John on Ingenium - 1All This Activity without Amitriptyline

We’ve had a fairly active boat-related week: Sunday we weighed anchor and moved back into the marina so that John could do some required maintenance work on Ingenium’s engine.  Monday and Tuesday it was

  • Sunday we weighed anchor and moved back into the marina so that John could do some required maintenance work on Ingenium’s engine.
  • Monday and Tuesday it was grand-central station on the boat with mechanics, tools and stuff all over the place.  NOT relaxing, no escape possible for a little mid-day nap.
  • Wednesday, engine all back together, we left the marina and anchored in a bay a two-hour motor-sail from La Paz.
  • First thing Friday morning, we returned to Bahia La Paz and anchored in front of the malecon (pier). By 9 a.m. we were at the Immigration office to take care of some visa business, and we did a few other chores in the city.
  • Back to the boat, where I took care of some client work, and I still had energy to attend a pot-luck evening with some friends.
  • Saturday morning we hit the organic farmer’s market to stock up on greens for the next week… and by noon we were weighing anchor again and heading for a longer trip – about five hours – up to Caleta Partida.

Packing the House

Now, all that moving around on a sailboat is a little more involved than jumping into your car. Every time we move the boat there’s a process: sail covers tied, dinghy motor hoisted onto the lifeline rails at the stern, gas tanks and swim ladder lashed down, secure all lines, close all hatches and portholes, clear cabin counters of anything loose, put all dishes away and strap the cupboard doors closed… and then we do it all again in reverse when we arrive at our destination. It’s like packing up your entire house every time you go anywhere. It takes quite a bit of energy for me to go through that process – and I have had many days where I simply haven’t had enough energy to do it, and we stayed put.

A Full Night’s Sleep

But listen to this: once arriving at Caleta Partida last night, we set the boat back up for a few days’ stay in this remote little bay, took a swim, I did some writing, and I made a nice salad with the fresh greens from Saturday’s organic market. I was understandably ready for bed at 9 p.m. I did not take any amitriptyline, of course, and I fell asleep almost immediately, only managing to read a couple pages of my book. And I didn’t wake up until 6:30 a.m.!

And, I was up before John. I did last night’s supper dishes. I took my yoga mat up on deck and did about 30 minutes of stretching along with a few exercises for my shoulder injury and my hip tendonitis. I made coffee and went for a swim. And now I’m writing this blog and it isn’t yet 9 a.m.

In terms of activity, and energy, this is an almost unprecedented week for me, at least over the last few years and maybe since I’ve had fibro.

While I believe that quitting the amitriptyline is one key factor in how much better I’m feeling, there are three other changes I’ve made in the last 4 weeks or so that are worth a mention.Decaf coffee

Decaf Coffee

I’ve switched my morning coffee to decaf. Now, I’ve done this before. Several times, in fact, over the course of my 15-year fibromyalgia dance, going a couple of years at a time drinking only decaf, and then slowly finding myself drinking caffeinated again. But without the sleep-boosting drug at night-time, it just didn’t make sense to consume anything that would contribute in any way to sleeplessness. And I think it’s working.

No More WheatNo more wheat

I’ve once again removed wheat from my diet. I’ve done this at least as many times as I’ve stopped coffee, and it’s the same thing. I know that wheat triggers fatigue for me, but it’s a cycle where I stop wheat, start to feel better, then a little bite of muffin can’t hurt, then soon I’m having my own muffin or a piece of toast. I forget the relationship between feeling better and not eating wheat. It can be months later before I realize my fatigue is once again getting out of control and I cut wheat out again. It’s only been a week this time – but look at the week!

Thyroid Meds

Thyroid Meds - 1I’ve also boosted my thyroid meds. Now, I don’t advocate that you try this without checking in first with your doctor. But I’m about two weeks into doubling my dose. Way back in the early days after my fibro diagnosis I spent plenty of time reading. One of the best books I read was Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum’s From Fatigued to Fantastic. He explained how regular thyroid tests don’t show where the real problem is with fibromyalgia patients, and that those of us with fibro often need more thyroid medication than the standard blood tests indicate.

Well, I’m such a good little soldier that back in 2004 when I asked my doctor for an increased dose, and she said ‘no’ because of the downside risk related to poor calcium absorption, I just stuck with the dose she gave me.

Then Evelyn, one of the women I interviewed recently for my book, The Trauma Trigger, told me how she doubled her thyroid dose for a month, went back to her doctor to report the improvement in her energy, and her doctor agreed to increase the prescription. Hearing Evelyn’s story reminded me that I can take action without the explicit stamp of approval from my doctor and if it works, then I’ll have more evidence to report.

Unscientific But Impressive

If I was a scientist, I would have spent a few weeks exploring each change in isolation. How else will I know for sure which of the changes I’ve made are helping the most? But, I’ve never had much patience, always wanting things done now (do you think this contributes to my fibro? :-)). I’ve accepted that about myself and I’m okay with my non-scientific approach.

So all in all, I’m feeling pretty darned good about my self-care these last several weeks. My fatigue is much better. My sluggish body and brain, morning symptoms of the amitriptyline hangovers, are gone. My pain? Don’t ask. That’s another challenge.

2 thoughts on “Quitting Amitriptyline: My Eight-Week Update

  1. Melissa Reynolds

    Wow what exciting results from coming off amitriptyline. I tried just over a year ago and it was hell! I couldn’t get to sleep or stay asleep. Constant headaches returned and more wide spread pain returned (areas that had been managed flared). But I did manage to find that my optimal dose is half of what I was on, so that’s a bonus! Sleep is such a battle! Even on amitriptyline I only manage eight broken hours by being in bed 9-9.5 hours and almost never sleep long enough in a row to obtain a sleep cycle *sigh*

    1. Boni Wagner-Stafford Post author

      Melissa, have you tried 5-HTP or Melatonin at night? 5-HTP really helped my sleep after I was off the amitriptyline…. I take it with magnesium just before bed. 🙂

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