Lowered My Meds, Lowered My Restlessness
When we last met our hero (me), I had upped my dose of SSRI only to find my restless legs syndrome symptoms were too much to deal with, sleep-wise. The plan was to step down from the SSRI and start a new drug.
Adjusting to a new drug: a morning with no wiggling
On Friday, I did not take my SSRI at night, which was the custom before. I’d already halved the dose twice at this point. I slept pretty okay, actually. I didn’t wake up wiggling. I was woken up by my dog at 7 AM on Saturday, but that’s actually okay for a mom who sometimes has tiny, freezing cold bare feet touching her at 5:30 AM and asking for waffles. I took my new drug, bupropion, which has been studied and does not exacerbate restless legs.1
The new drug is the kind that may start to “work” or have effects on me within 1 to 2 weeks, according to my provider, but whose full effects won’t be clear for up to 2 months. All in all, I felt okay on Saturday during the day, knowing I’d basically be “off drugs” all day as my body adjusted to bupropion.
Afternoon and evening: every human emotion under the sun
Around 3 in the afternoon, I got very sleepy. I ate a salad, got off screens, and felt better. Around 5 PM, I started experiencing every human emotion under the sun. My kids got vaccinated in the morning and I was thrilled for them, and also scared about the big, wide, not really all-that-safe world out there. I was feeling insecure, paranoid, anxious, depressed, lucky, woebegone, and generally bonkers, for lack of a better term. I knew it was not going to last forever. I also had a horrific headache, which kept me up late into the night along with my big, bad emotions.
No restless legs, though. Was it a placebo effect? Was my body too busy with the headache and the feelings to think about legs? Or was my body, clearly withdrawing from the SSRI, also withdrawing a bit from the restless legs symptoms?
My restless legs were no worse than they usually are
When I did sleep, it was hard. When I woke up, I still cried 3 times before breakfast, but not as intensely. I took the dog on a long walk along the water, which improved my mood. My legs felt great. Even though I was exhausted that night after a long day of parenting and having had poor sleep the night before, my restless legs were no worse than they usually are, considering my tiredness. In fact, I think they were better.
Minimizing my RLS did nothing for my anxiety
I’m hopeful that going off the SSRI will be okay for me in terms of managing my RLS and anxiety. I’m hopeful that, separate from the RLS, my mood will stabilize as a result of the new meds, the peace of mind that my kids are getting vaccinated, and the various behavioral modifications I have in place, like exercise and good sleep hygiene.
Something very important to keep in mind, though, is that it took me having a big RLS resurgence to realize how bad the SSRI was for my sleep. My anxiety is, of course, going to be worse if I don’t sleep. The lesson for me is that minimizing my RLS did nothing for my anxiety. Looking at the big picture, restless legs and all, is helping me feel better and live a happier life overall.
How often do your RLS symptoms affect your mood?