By Jennifer Ann Butler
I am two weeks into withdrawing off of Wellbutrin (an anti-depressant) and I feel like my skin has little caterpillar legs on the inside and is going to tap dance off of my body.
I had my first date with an anti-depressant when I was thirteen years old. The best way I can explain it is that I was born with the volume turned way up on life. My hypersensitivity made day-to-day life quite challenging. I could hear electricity and people’s bones creaking, feel other people’s emotions, and see things that most said weren’t there. From a young age, I figured death as the only way out.
Since my teenage years, I’ve maintained a love/hate relationship with some form of medication. Most made me feel like a zombie. Others made me twitch. Others, yet, gave me stomachaches and caused hallucinations. I always felt disconnected from who Jen Butler really was. It was as if I was standing in a room full of mirrors; I could see my reflection, but I couldn’t connect with it on a human level. There would always be the piece of glass between us, preventing true connection. This resulted in a numbness that increased the longer I stayed disconnected. I remember times when I was so numb that I would run red lights to see if I could feel anything. I’d drive my motorcycle 110mph+ just to get some form of a sensation.
To be fair, much of my numbness could be attributed to my tendency to self-medicate. After two surgeries to remove early-stage melanoma when I was 22, I found myself enjoying the regular consumption of narcotic pain pills. This, combined with anxiety medication and a few shots of vodka, was a great way to not give a shit.
I had watched movie scenes of addicts withdrawing off of heroin and the like, but I never saw myself like them. I worked full time at a job where I had to be there by 7AM. I was in school full time, happily maintaining a 4.0 GPA. I exercised regularly. I counted calories and watched what I ate. People came to me for advice. I was quick-witted. I mean, sure, I was consuming over a liter of vodka each week, drinking 10+ servings of caffeine each day, obsessing over thoughts of self-harm and suicide, and chewing on pills like Pez. But, me? An addict? No way.
Sometimes I would catch echoes of my inner voice, which resembled more of a hoarse whisper back then. The whisper would tell me to stop numbing myself. Stop drinking. Stop taking these pills. I’ve tried, I would tell the whisper, but without medication, I’ll want to die. Without medication, life is too loud. There is something wrong with me. I need to do this in order to function like a normal person. I need to take the edge off.
I have been operating on these beliefs for over half of my life. But still, no matter how many shots of vodka I guzzled or what type of prescription cocktail I consumed, my inner voice would find a way to be heard. What if you’re not broken? It would challenge me. What if this is part of your journey? What if your sensitivities are your super powers?
On March 29th, 2014 I awoke from a nap and was drawn to sit at my computer. I felt as though I was in a trance of some kind. I channeled 27 typed pages from a being called Archangel Michael. (Before this moment, I never believed in angels or even in God; I was an atheist, through and through. Even to this day, the skeptical part of me is still like, “What if it wasn’t an archangel?” And I’m like, “Dude, I don’t care if it was Santa Claus or telepathy from a stink bug; what was said is profound. The end.”) Afterward, I read the message that had been typed through me. There, in the middle of page four, were the words I’d been feeling for so long: You are here to help others like you. Your writing will help save people from suicide. You must stop numbing yourself.
A week later, I had my last sip of alcohol. It was a big swig of Grey Goose vodka directly out of the bottle and took place at around 9:30AM on April 5th, 2014. Since that sip, my life has transformed. I pushed forward through withdrawals, cravings, and the increasing volume of life as I released my numbing habits. I researched the brain and how food and alcohol affected it. I changed my diet. I increased my physical activity. I slept more. I started meditating. I thought, What would it look like if I was a healthy, happy person? And I lived that way.
The longer I went without numbing myself, the more I awakened spiritually and emotionally. I isolated for six months because of how overwhelming sober life was and how many new facets of spirituality were being presented. It was during these six months that I finally accepted the presence of a higher power. It was also during these six months that I began to learn how to utilize my sensitivities for good rather than hide from them. I studied energy, intuitive abilities, mediumship, animal communication, and became certified in Reiki, an intuitive healing modality. I opened my mind to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I was given these sensitivities for a reason. Maybe, just maybe, with the right amount of knowledge and practice, I could use these to help others.
Throughout my journey, I healed all sorts of stuff. I processed and released a cornucopia of limiting beliefs. I shed old theories adopted and carried forward from past lives and healed traumas from this life. I made consistent progress.
I transitioned into eating an organic diet of vegetables and grass fed meats. I switched my laundry detergent and hand soaps and toiletries to all-natural products that were healthier for me and for the earth. I focused on supporting my detoxification system. I was feeding my brain what it needed, working through the decades of emotional trauma I’d previously suppressed, and overall creating a healthy and stable environment for my future self. Because of how clean my lifestyle became, ingesting chemicals in the form of an anti-depressant felt counterintuitive and counterproductive. It no longer felt in alignment with my path.
On January 1st, 2015, I stated my New Years’ Resolution: to get completely off of medication by the end of the year.
I stopped hiding the fact that I was on medication from friends and family. In fact, I began openly talking about it in my blog and on social media. People reached out to me thanking me for the transparency in my writing. Most of them in turn shared stories of their own similar struggles. It was freeing and rewarding [and initially shocking] to receive such real and raw feedback after sharing the one thing I had kept hidden for so long. I realized I wasn’t alone in hiding, which motivated me further.
The shame I had previously felt each time I took a daily dose began to dissipate. I learned to accept that Wellbutrin had acted as a guardrail as I traveled the arduous journey from my dark pit of despair to more stable ground—because trust me, it was really dark for a really long time. It kept me from swerving off of the road, figuratively and at times literally.
I spent the first part of 2015 diving deeper into personal work, eating for my blood type, exercising, meditating, doing energy healing, and devouring self-help books. I also began offering my intuitive services to others, which was a terrifying leap of faith in itself. I embraced my sensitivities rather than feeling ashamed of them. I cared for myself as a sensitive human being rather than trying to force myself to harden up or act invincible.
It took a handful of months of this very clean, very self-loving lifestyle before I truly noticed a difference. Suddenly, I began feeling high-strung and overly energetic each time I took Wellbutrin, as if I’d consumed too much caffeine. My doctor and I lowered the dosage from 300mg to 200mg. It was a tough drop, especially due to my growing sensitivities, but I survived it by upping the dosage of self-care.
In early December 2015, we lowered from 200mg to 100mg. I experienced a very trying two-week period of time, but I remained gentle and loving with myself. I allowed myself to eat and sleep a little more. There were a few days where I slept 14-16 hours and still felt exhausted. I look a lot of naps. Some days I was too wiped out to write my positive affirmations or even go for a meditative walk. It didn’t matter; I kept going. I kept breathing and sleeping and crying and allowing my body to process and release the medication as well as its corresponding limiting beliefs.
On December 31st, 2015, I took my last dosage of Wellbutrin. I felt nervous, of course, but I also felt supported… By my therapist, my psychiatrist, my friends, and, most importantly (and for the first time ever), I felt fully supported by myself.
As I write this portion of the article, it has officially been one month since I last ingested an anti-depressant. It has not been easy. It has been downright difficult. I have been groggy, exhausted, lethargic, sad, and sometimes completely numb. Throughout the process, I ate more, slept more, and worked less. I dealt with anxiety and short bouts of panic. I became even more sensitive than I had been prior. (As in… I watched Lord of the Rings and was sobbing because my heart hurt for Gollum. Seriously.)
Many of the days spent detoxing consisted of me wearing the same blue pair of fart-smelling sweatpants and the same mis-matched socks… For days… Without showering. One day, I had a dear friend come over and bathe me. THAT is how “gone” I felt and how little motivation I had.
I refused to give up. I held a knowingness in my heart that each moment of struggle was one step closer to freedom. It was one step closer to actually connecting with that girl in the mirror.
I continued doing my visualizations when I could convince myself to and allowed myself grace when I couldn’t. I continued repeating my affirmations, even if I didn’t believe them in the moment. I continued to pray and to focus on the energy of gratitude, even when my present moment seemed to encompass nothing but lack. I kept writing every day, even though most of what came out was admittedly crap. It was scattered and oftentimes nonsensical and other times nothing but victimizing brain goo, but I chose not to judge it. I told myself I needed to wade through the crap in order to get to the good stuff.
Then… Out of nowhere… I made it. I survived the hardest weeks of withdrawal and detoxing and made it to the good stuff. I feel more in tune with my inner voice than I ever have been. I no longer feel disconnected from myself. I am calmer. I am more peaceful. I am more gentle and loving with myself. I am all of the things I’ve worked so hard to become.
The moment I stopped treating my sensitivities like a curse and began embracing them as the blessing that they are, my life began coming to life. I now utilize these beautiful gifts to help others. These people, in turn, will use their gifts to guide others toward healing and awakening. My argument is that this is why we are here. Our society is waking up… And we each have been chosen to play a part in that awakening. The more sensitive we are, the larger impact we stand to have. It’s time to stop hiding.
I’m not saying that awakening needs to look the way my journey has looked. I also am not saying “QUIT ALL DRUGS NOW!” I think there can be a time and place for medication. For me, it was a good temporary bridge during an extreme time of need. I don’t believe I’d still be here today if I hadn’t had access to anti-depressants during my darkest years. What I am saying is that having depression isn’t a death sentence. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. It’s an invitation. An invitation to dig deeper and embrace your sensitivities. You are worth it. One thing I know for sure: the world is in need of your superpowers.