Stabilizing from An Inappropriate Cymbalta Withdrawal

I am a 56 year old woman who was experiencing severe anxiety, insomnia, chronic belching, low mood, vision changes, nausea, memory problems, focus issues, no appetite, and so much digestive discomfort.  I had stopped Cymbalta at the end of October 2016 per my psychiatrist’s recommendation.  My mood was fine at that time when I stopped 60 milligrams abruptly after being on an antidepressant for more than 10 years.  Other than occasional headaches, my severe withdrawal symptoms began approximately two months later.

When I spoke with Dr. Lee on the phone, she recommended that I gradually go back up to my original dosage of Cymbalta, because she was concerned about the severity of my withdrawal symptoms.  I was so thankful to have been given Dr. Lee’s contact information and to have spoken to her on the phone.  This gave me such tremendous hope.  I noticed right away that my symptoms decreased.  Within a few days of restarting the Cymbalta, my symptoms improved. 

When I began working with Dr. Lee, I was started on some nutritional supplements and learned some energy medicine techniques.  She also referred me to an excellent acupuncturist to speed up my healing process.  I also did a lot of research on my own, and learned that not only was I experiencing withdrawal, but I also had some underlying issues with infections with Epstein Barr virus and Herpes Zoster/Non-rash shingles.  I also used essential oils that I had to help support my healing.  I continued to see my chiropractor who had referred me to Dr. Lee.  This also supported my recovery.  The collaboration between the holistic physicians was truly an integrative approach that allowed me to heal faster and feel supported fully.

Within about three weeks, I began to experience better days.  Once I was stabilized, Dr. Lee began to decrease my Cymbalta gradually with the proper support.  I’m feeling great and write this with sincere gratitude and such feelings of joy.  I feel that Dr. Lee gave me excellent care and support throughout the process.  I look forward to my next testimonial when I am completely off the Cymbalta for more than three months.
— SS

Overcoming ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, and Marijuana Addiction at 22

I am a 22 y.o. guy with ADHD and anxiety disorder.  I’ve had this diagnosis since I was seven years old.  When I first came to Dr. Lee I was chronically using marijuana from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep; had been on a stimulant (Concerta) since the age of 7 and had been on anxiety medication (most recently Zoloft) for the same time period.  It was difficult knowing that I could not start my day off right without smoking some marijuana.  It was doubly difficult knowing that I couldn’t sit down and do a task without having my medication. I found that my short-term memory was slowly fading away, and I was going through serious bouts of depression & anxiety.

I came to Dr. Lee a little hesitant on how a holistic psychiatric doctor would be able to help overcome struggles I had been dealing with for quite a while.  As a side note—I came to Dr. Lee drinking approximately 7 cans of Mountain Dew a day—within the first 2 weeks of my treatment, I noticed that I no longer had the desire to have that beverage.  It was at that point that I knew Dr. Lee was onto something. Originally I was never able to meditate; I wasn’t able to focus on just my breathing for more than just a few seconds.  With Dr. Lee’s help, I was able to overcome that obstacle and learn to focus my breathing and quiet my thoughts to help myself.

As obnoxious as it may be mixing a list of supplements every evening, or stocking up a pill dispenser once a week, the helpfulness of the regimen outweighed the inconvenience.  After being on medications for close to 15 years I found that with Dr. Lee’s help I was able to get off of them in just over 4 months.  In addition, I was able to drop my habitual weed smoking habit about a month after I stopped the medications.  I have been off all of these substances now for close to 3 months and haven’t felt this great in a long time.  During all of this, I was still able to hold a full-time job and was promoted to manager position as well.  I applied to finish a program in college and was accepted recently much to my satisfaction.

Ultimately, this whole experience has helped me gain self-confidence, the ability to know I can overcome hurdles thrown at me in life, and the know-how to keep a positive attitude when the going gets tough.
— M.S.

Healing Depression and Anxiety While Going through a Divorce

I am a 36 year-old Chinese-American female, who is an architectural lighting designer. My acupuncturist recommended Dr. Lee, because I was struggling with grief and bereavement, when my husband unexpectedly ended our thirteen-year relationship.

I was devastated, suicidal, and felt completely alone. I had severe anxiety, waking up every morning with horrible dreams and panic attacks. I was also constantly crying, unfocused, and had no appetite.

When I went to see Dr. Lee, she put me on a nutritional regimen, and we spent part of our time doing psychotherapy and energy work. I found Dr. Lee to be deeply insightful and intuitive, in pinpointing my subconscious processes even without needing a lot of information from me. Those insights helped me to support my physical healing along with the vitamins.

In addition to seeing Dr. Lee, I started an exercise routine and began going to church. I developed my faith and relationship with God, which I never had before. I leaned on my relationships with my family, friends and dog. I listened to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of books, to learn how to control my mind set, and to put me in a positive frame of mind. I took a class from Sharon Fan on the Yuen Method to healing, which was insightful.

I just recently returned from my vacation trip to India and was able to thoroughly enjoy it. I feel peaceful, strong, and in control. I feel that the silver lining to this divorce has been finding myself and becoming free from fear.

I started working with Dr. Lee in April, 2016 and now I find myself strong enough to appreciate life. I came to Dr. Lee with unopened bottles of Xanax, Ativan, and Prozac that I didn’t want to take. I am so glad that I didn’t have to rely on drugs to heal.

My goal is to continue to grow in self-love and to maintain my spiritual, mental, and physical health.
— EPL

Healing from ADHD and Depression in a 24 year old College Student

I am a 24 y.o. male, studying therapeutic recreation in college. I started Zoloft when I was 16 years old, to treat my depression. Right away my depression resolved, but over time I started to have trouble with my attention and focus. I lost my libido about six months after starting Zoloft, and it never returned, even after I stopped the medication.

After being on Zoloft for about eight months, I felt like I was getting brain damaged. My thoughts felt scrambled, and I couldn’t think properly. I weaned off Zoloft under another psychiatrist. I was then put on Abilify, and then the psychiatrist put me on Adderall to help my attention. Abilify didn’t do much for me, besides a little weight gain and perhaps a little more focused. He switched me to Zyprexa, and I was on that from 17 to 18.

By the time I came to see Dr. Lee, I had been taking Ritalin 25 mg per day, Concerta 36 mg in the morning, and Saphris (an antipsychotic) 5 mg twice per day. I was also self-medicating with guarana (1600 mg per pill, up to 15 pills per day). I felt ‘crappy all the time.’

I couldn’t sleep well at night. I wasn’t hungry during the day. I became addicted and tolerant to the caffeine in guarana. I felt suspicious of people, nervous, hopeless, and tired.

Dr. Lee started me on a regimen of supplements and taught me how to do meditation. I learned about what the supplements did for me, and she demonstrated the connection between my mind and my body. I learned about the healing effects of nutrition.

I began treatment with Dr. Lee on 8/12/16, and I was able to wean off all my medications by 12/16/16. During the withdrawal, I was able to attend my college courses. My mood, appetite, libido, and sleep continued to improve over this time. My attention and focus were similar. I could learn the material in class more quickly.

I am much happier with my cognitive functioning and with life. I feel normal. I also feel that I am getting better each day.

I feel like I’m not a prisoner any more to drugs, and I’m not dependent on them any more. I am through with drugs, and I never want to get on them again.

I would like to tell everyone about how integrative psychiatry can heal them of their own drug dependencies. I would recommend this approach, because it actually works, and it’s healthier.
— PEC

The Freedom to be Happy and Pain-free: Healing From Depression, Anxiety, Panic Attacks, and Migraines

I am a 35 year old woman who began seeing Dr. Lee in April of 2009. My therapist recommended that I see her for help with depression and anxiety with frequent panic attacks. I was sleeping only three to four hours a night, and sometimes not at all. I had originally wanted to take medication, as I had some relief from my depression on Prozac several years earlier. However, I was taking Zomig for frequent, severe migraine headaches and therefore could not take several classes of drugs. I had been taking a prescription medication for migraine headaches since 2002.

I was somewhat nervous about trying an alternative health approach, but Dr. Lee quickly eased those fears during my first visit. She thoroughly explained her energy medicine techniques, as well as how nutrition and the use of nutritional supplements worked together to promote healing. I left that first appointment still depressed, but with a strong sense that I had finally found someone that understood what I was going through and could actually help me get well.

After about three weeks of diet changes, weekly appointments, and taking the supplements, I felt as if a dark fog had been lifted from around me. It was as if I could see and feel sunshine again. I could sleep again. I was happy. The panic attacks were gone within another two weeks. I went to a party without any social anxiety for the first time in my life. It was amazing. The only health issue that I still had was the headaches. They hadn’t gotten much better, although through using essential oils, I had slightly decreased my use of Zomig.

I would have been thrilled with just that amount of healing. I had my life back, and I was more than willing to deal with the headaches, as bad as they were. But with a bit more homeopathic and nutritional support, I was able to stop taking Zomig after three months. I rarely get a headache now. And when I do get one, it is mild and really just a nuisance. In addition, I have gradually been able to decrease the amount of nutritional supplements necessary for maintaining my health.

Dr. Lee is exceptionally gifted. I am so grateful for having found her. I would not hesitate to give her my highest recommendation.
— W.B.

Successful Withdrawal From Venlafaxine Hydrochloride (Effexor XR) and Maintaining Wellness

You are most likely reading this because you are looking for help or a solution for getting off Venlafaxine Hydrochloride (Effexor XR). I, like you, was looking for help several months ago and was directed to Alice Lee, MD, as an option to consider. I have my wife to thank for guiding me, her support, and for finding Dr. Lee. Dr. Lee was the best option for me and was able to get me off Venlafaxine Hydrochloride, rid me of the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and I was still a normal person and was able to work full time throughout the process.

If you are reading this, you may have also tried getting off this medication by yourself, or with the help of a traditional-by-the-book-physician who has not done the research, or been on Venlafaxine Hydrochloride themselves. If you have tried to get off this drug the usual way, you did so by reducing your dosage to the next lower dosage provided by the drug maker. You then experienced what I can best describe as reality on delay (or stuttered) and emotions that … well … if you have done this you know what I mean. The emotional trauma of just trying to get off this stuff is worse, much worse, than being on the stuff.

It is then you realize that you are drug dependent. At least this was when it really became apparent to me. Your mind and body cannot do without it. Yeah, I was there too. I tried to get off twice using the method mentioned above. During the second attempt I reduced my dosage, as directed by my physician (not Dr. Lee mind you!), from 300mg to 150mg. Wow … I thank God for the snow blizzard in DC (aka “snowmageddon”) that week. I could not imagine being out and about while trying to adjust to a 50% drop.

I called Dr. Lee, during this second attempt, at the insistence of my wife. At the time I thought I was doing “Ok”…yeah I was having some difficulty but considering the circumstances I thought I was “good.” Not! When I spoke to Dr. Lee, I could hear the concern in her voice. This was my first call with her. Not that it was easy to tell she was concerned, but it was clear she was concerned. Now, in hindsight … I was so out of touch with reality as a result of the reduction…it was significantly ill advised to do what I did.

I started seeing Dr. Lee almost immediately. She helped me to get back to my normal self at 150mg, since I was about two weeks into the reduction, but was still having trouble. I later learned, from my body’s reactions thereafter, that any 50% reduction was a huge step for me. For example, if I were at 2 mg and went to 1 mg…it would be tough.

I went through Dr. Lee program for several months. It took a little over a year for me, but the process got me off Venlafaxine Hydrochloride and did so in a manner that was easier on my body, supported good nutritional habits, and gave me so many more benefits. I hope you realize, as I do, that it was not simply about getting off Effexor. There was the underlying issue(s) that caused me to be depressed and anxious in the first place, before I took Effexor. Well, Dr. Lee helped me through that using a style that was more hands on and did not leave me to talk about and figure everything out myself. Think about it … If I could talk myself through my issues, I would never have been on Venlafaxine Hydrochloride let alone talk to that style of psychologist. Hey, it might not be for everyone, but it worked for me, and I am off!!!

When I read many of Dr. Lee testimonials, one stuck out for me. It was a CEO, a successful individual, who echoed many of the things I was experiencing. And he was a successful, strong willed person based on my interpretation of his writing. Who am I? I am a success story in anyone’s book. I grew up in “da hood”, went to the #1 school in the nation for an undergraduate degree, did some world record breaking work in the area of computer design, and have made at least 6 figures in salary since I was 20-something … and sometimes 7 figures in income. In case you are wondering I am 45 now. I know struggle, determination, hard work, and success! This is all to convey even “successful” people need help sometimes and this is not about weakness.

The true indication that you are off Venlafaxine Hydrochloride is knowing that you will stay off AND you will not have to use another antidepressant again. Did I say I am completely off all med’s? Just so that is clear, I am off. I have been off since Jan 2011. Again, how did I know I was off and this really worked for me?

Well, I was completely off Venlafaxine Hydrochloride by January 1, 2011. On January 15, 2011, I had a serious issue that led me to the emergency room. Around March 15th, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I was scheduled to have the second of two procedures to rid me of this disease on April 29th. Just before the surgery on April 25th, I got the news that my mother had to be taken to the hospital. She too was diagnosed with colon cancer. She died the following month on May 14th. I was in the hospital for about 9 days (April 29th – May 8th) and could not eat or drink ANYTHING for about 7 days. Imagine if I had been on Venlafaxine Hydrochloride during this time. Even I can’t.

Thankfully I was able to attend my mother’s funeral. I was cleared for travel only because the surgeon could not tell me not to attend my own mother’s funeral.

So when I think about, “Am I really off this stuff?” I know that I am. I went through hell right after being off and did not relapse into a clinical depression. All the work that Dr. Lee and I did the months before was solid, and it worked. I thank God I was off Venlafaxine Hydrochloride by the time of my surgery. I am not sure how I would have survived if my body and mind needed to have that drug.

You are wondering if Dr. Alice Lee is part of the solution to your prayers. I know she guided me to a better place. I am free … and I hope you will be too!
— P.W.

Bipolar But Not Budging: A Reluctant Patient’s Recovery Story

I was a straight ‘A’ student in middle and high school. I was on the Honor Roll almost every month; the school gave me a lot of awards and even gave me a scholarship to continue my studies. But after I had graduated from high school in August 2002 that was when my bipolar problem started to show more and more.

I was less busy and just had one part-time job because by this time the symptoms of bipolar were showing more and my health was deteriorating rapidly. I became emotionally weak, depressed, with mood swings, angry, mad, sad, manic, feeling evil, and so on. The days passed and I became worse and worse. I could not even deal with a part-time job; it was too much for me. My every day life was such a disaster that I was living dead. I couldn’t remember what I did an hour before.

My parents were desperate because they did not know what was happening to me or why I was so changed from a happy focused, straight ‘A’ student to a living dead person so suddenly. I failed most of my classes as well and I was about to lose my scholarship. I got to a point that I could not take anymore because I was so ill and the scary thing was that nobody knew a lot of what was going on with me because I did not tell anybody, not even my parents so they were not able to help nor was I in condition to ask for help or to find help for myself. So I had decided to kill myself.

A day or two before I had bought a couple of bottles of Bayer, Aspirin and Tylenol and one night I started taking a lot of pills, drinking from one bottle to the next and the next until I just could not drink them anymore and fell asleep. The next morning I was very weak and vomiting blood. So I was taken to the emergency room and from there they send me to Potomac Ridge because they diagnosed me with bipolar. A few days later they released me with the condition that I had to seek more professional help because they thought that I was doing very well; but I was just acting to make them think that I was doing wonderfully and on the contrary, I was horrible.

So, I was forced by my stepmother to see a therapist and I did for about two or three months then I quit. So after a few days I became worse and worse again. At this time I was even seeing my dead mother’s ghost; I was manic and angry. Sometimes I would leave the house barefoot and did not know where I was going. I was like something was controlling me. It felt like I was inside of a body that was making all the decisions and I just could not do anything about it. I would also panic about anything, and when I became manic I was so strong that my father had to hold me. I am only 108 lbs and he was 200-210 lbs. My family had to call the police to come and take me to the crisis center to get me sedated but the worse part of this was that I did not want to get psychiatric help or let any body help me. Because I thought ‘I am okay or I am not ill’ even though I could see that I was miserable and was causing my loved ones misery. Finally, my stepmother found a psychiatrist and she decided to take me to her for treatment, but I did not want nor was ready to be helped. But she took me to see Dr. Lee-Bloem and when I saw her I instantly hated her with all my heart. So I did not cooperate with her.

At that time I was not ready to get treated. I hated all adults, and she was one. So my stepmother kept taking me and telling me that she was going to continue taking me but it was useless because I was not cooperating in any way, so she gave up and let me be. Finally my stepmother stopped trying to get help for me or even helping me. She gave me all the medications that I was supposed to be taking to monitor them myself. She also stopped forcing me to go to the doctor. Dr. Lee-Bloem also told me that she couldn’t treat me if I was not going to cooperate. She also said that she would not treat me anymore until I made the decision to follow her directions and take my nutritional supplements. For a couple of months I was barely surviving, but I had isolated myself almost completely from the world.

By that time, I was back in college and that was the first year in college. I went from being a straight ‘A’ student to failing most of my classes to finally giving up completely. I would take the capsules of supplements, then stop taking them after I felt better. Each time I would slip back into my mania and depression. I wanted to give up but I had no energy to help myself or to ask for help. Finally, I knew that it was time to help myself. I had the desire to be well because I was tired of being ill and so lonely. Then, I decided to give a try and go back to Dr. Lee-Bloem.

Since I had that desire to get help, because nobody was helping me, and I am one of those people that had to do everything by myself, I decided to give it a try. I opened up to her; I trusted her, followed her instructions and even started to like her. Once I took that step I was able to give the second step and the third and so on. Before coming back to see her I was having from 2 to 3 manic episodes a week, I could not go to school, work or do anything else other than be in my room doing nothing. Now I am fully cured from bipolar from just following her therapy and taking my vitamins.

It is such a relief to be able to socialize better, do better in school, and be able to work. It’s a relief to my parents that I will be okay that they don’t have to worry about me all the time thinking that I may try to hurt myself or become sick while in public. That is one of the best things that I thank myself for going back to see Dr. Lee-Bloem. Now I take little vitamins and go to see her less and less and my parents greatly appreciate what a change the doctor has helped me get. With the EFT and breathing exercises and energy work and with her effort I now feel like I am a new person, as if I was never sick.

Now I have a full time job, go to college more than half-time, I have a wonderful relationship with my parents and I don’t have any bipolar symptoms at all. I am so happy and glad that I returned for my treatment because I haven’t had a manic attack for months and months. I like that because my parents don’t have to call the big guy (police) to come and get me. I also love the fact that I have become physically, emotionally, and psychologically healthy and strong and this allows me to handle any huge or small challenge. That is the kind of freedom that I have been able to get from the treatment. But I just want to make clear a point about the treatment.

I love Dr. Lee’s form of providing her treatment not only because she is a professional, but she is always finding new ways to help her patients. Different forms of treatments work for each individual since we all need different treatment even though many of us have the same illness.

Withdrawing from 14 years of Antidepressant Use

I am a 42 y.o. woman who started taking antidepressants after developing postpartum depression following the birth of my first child in 2001. This began a 14-year-long saga of medication usage and adjustment without any regard for true wellness or improvement. Three years ago, a general practitioner changed my medication, which caused me to be hospitalized several times within 4-5 months. During this time, while on medication, I experienced an episode of mania that lasted about two months. Every doctor I encountered dismissed my requests to get off of medication completely, and would just change my medication, causing me a new set of side effects and the inability to function in the real world.

Once I got back on my feet, in 2014, I knew that I had to take my well-being into my own hands and find a doctor who could help me get off of medication safely and effectively; otherwise, I would be taking psychotropic drugs for the rest of my life. At the time, I was taking Paxil 40 mg a day. My mood was good, and I had few side effects. However, I did not want to remain on a medication for the rest of my life. My search led me to Dr. Lee, whose compassionate care and medical knowledge of both the traditional and holistic aspects of mental health care has enabled me to identify the areas of my body that needed healing and to treat me appropriately.

In the past, when I would taper my antidepressant medication, I experienced unpleasant symptoms, during the withdrawal process, such as mood swings, suicidal thoughts, severe PMS, difficulty making decisions, and lack of confidence in myself. However, this time when I withdrew from Paxil, using an integrated approach of diet, nutritional supplements, and energy medicine (meditation and EFT), I did not experience any withdrawal symptoms, and I was able to continue to work full time. I am happy that I have been able to be off Paxil since September, 2015. The entire withdrawal process lasted from April 2015 to September 2015 (five months). I feel that I am now able to thrive as a mother, wife, and educator. Thank you, Dr. Lee!
— S.A.

This patient history was written for the Integrative Medicine Board Recertification Process (ABIHM).  It is included as an example of how empowering integrative medicine can be for the treatment of depression and alcohol abuse.  Alice W. Lee, MD

 

CASE REPORT

A. H. (Changed the initials) is a 46 y.o. (changed age) male who presented on February 20, 2014 with depression, anxiety, and alcohol abuse.  He reported that he felt empty, lonely, and worthless.  He felt depressed and very tired.  He could not sleep well, and his appetite was unreliable, going up and down.  He had always been “aware of his physical well being, but “lately, I really do not care.”

    He had been a fireman for over 20 years, but due to multiple injuries on the job, he had to take an early retirement at age 45 and found a job that was less physically taxing.  However, he had loved his job, and he found his new job unfulfilling. He felt useless and reminisced about his old job, wishing that he could have continued as a fire fighter. Several close friends and family members died over the three years.  He was prescribed Percocet for surgeries associated with work related injuries and withdrawal from Percocet had been difficult.  

    He began to use alcohol to deal with his pain, losses, and emotional disappointment.  His wife reported that when he was drunk, he would become angry and hit the door and throw things.  However, he did not want to attend AA, because he said that he was not an alcoholic. By the time he came for treatment, he reported that he had been depressed for three years. His drinking was almost daily.

    Treatment began during the intake appointment, where the patient and his wife were able to learn about the role of nutritional supplements, diet, and energy medicine to support the healing process.  The patient felt encouraged through being listened to and respected.  Later during a follow up appointment, when he came alone, he told the clinician that when he felt that he was understood and that the clinician could support him, he felt much better and less anxious.  

   He and his wife were taught how to do Emotional Freedom Technique and the clinician created a template for them to do over the following week, to help him deal with the problem of “not feeling important and necessary on a regular basis.” This was practiced together as a group, during the session with the clinician.  The patient was given guidance and recommendations regarding the use of certain nutritional supplements.  These included: GABA rice (germinated brown rice), to help increase GABA levels and help decrease anxiety; glutathione, pyridoxal 5 phosphate; D-phenylalanine, to help with mood, attention, and pain; and kudzu root for his alcohol abuse issues. He was already taking his own nutritional supplements at home, and he was instructed to continue them as he had before.  He was also taught how to use guided visualization for meditation.  The clinician supported a state of relaxation by doing a guided visualization exercise with him.  The patient stated that he felt more relaxed than he had felt for many years.

    The patient went away to visit his father in law, and did not take all of his supplement regimen as prescribed when he returned two weeks later.  However, he was feeling better, and the rest was good for him.  He was still drinking, but not abusing it when he was with his father in law.  When he returned, time was devoted to help reinforce the use of nutritional supplements to help support his overall recovery.  In addition, he was given a formal regimen consisting of more supplements.  This time, the following were added: Pure Harvest Greens, Hemp protein, Acai powder, Calscorbplex, Opti-Zinc, Organically Bound Minerals, Krebs Ionized Chelates, UBQH (co-enzyme Q10), niacinamide, B12/folate, vitamin D, digestive enzyme, Norival, krill Oil, black currant seed oil, probiotic, and foot detox pads.  

    These supplements were given to support the eight areas of nutritional healing: vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids, anti-oxidants, G. I. health, detoxification, and anti-inflammatory support.  He also had further mood support through Norival, which supplied tyrosine for norepinephrine support and D-phenylalanine for endorphin support. Again, he was supported through a guided visualization and meditation exercise that helped him to relax and be open to healing.

    The following week, he returned and said that he “felt like my old self again.”  His mood and energy were good.  His sleep and pain had improved markedly.  He was no longer sad about his retirement.  

    He returned two weeks later and again one month after that.  Each time, he reported that he felt great.  He no longer had any problems with alcohol abuse.  He had started volunteering to help youth. He said that he felt happy. His libido had returned.  Further follow up was set, but the patient later cancelled due to his busy and productive life.  His fifth and last appointment was on May 2, 2014. The clinician simply offered an open door to her services in the future, if he ever needed further support.  As of this date, November 18, 2014, he has not needed any further help with his problems or mood.

Alice W. Lee, MD, ABIHM