Tag Archive: Cymbalta

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby — and Chronic Pain

The thing that nobody tells you about Cymbalta is that it takes a machine gun to your sex drive. Seriously. When I was on it, I was so repulsed by sex that I started to think maybe I was legitimately asexual. 

I mean, when the doctor hands you the prescription, it would be nice if they threw in something like, “BTW, you’re never going to want to make passionate love while you’re on this medicine.”

But of course, doctors never tell you stuff like that. And God forbid they give you a handout of some sort that maybe mentions it. No, they just leave you to Google “asexual” at 1 a.m. on a Tuesday night when you realize you’re identifying a little too much with Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory.

Don’t get me wrong, I have definitely been in such tragic levels of pain, that if someone had asked me if I wanted to give up sex so I could feel better, I wouldn’t have even thought twice about cutting off my own vagina and handing it over. 

But the thing is nobody asked me. They didn’t tell me I might have to make that sacrifice when they put me on Cymbalta. So I didn’t even know it was happening. And that’s when you get to some pretty dark places. 

Thankfully, I’ve since gone off Cymbalta, and my sex drive came back like a freight train. 

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other issues related to sex and chronic pain.

Like when you have stabbing rib pain on your right side, so you can only tolerate sports bras, and then he goes to unhook the back, and it kills the mood because there is no hook in the back of a sports bra. And he’s mad that you’re dressed like someone planning to run a 5K, and then you’re mad that he’s mad that you’re dressed like someone planning to run a 5K, and so you just leave.

Or when he wants to cuddle, and you have to explain that, “Sorry, I can’t lay on my right side because when I do it feels like someone is jack hammering into my bones through the mattress. Hope that’s not a deal breaker!”

Not to mention the fact that when you’re in physical pain, the last thing you feel is sexy. And you most certainly don’t feel like having anyone touch you ever. 

First, there’s just the literal pain that can come from someone passionately throwing you against the wall, or even a pillow top mattress for that matter. When you feel like you always have a broken rib, even passionate love making can make you wince. 

Then, there’s the fact that the pain probably keeps you from showering as often as most Americans believe is normal, which means you probably smell, which means you’re probably not feeling very romantic. 

And of course, there’s the side effects from the medications, which make you gain weight, sleep all day, and zone out in front of YouTube videos about makeup while you simultaneously lose the ability to actually wear makeup. 

Not to mention the fact that it’s just really hard to make love to someone, while you yell things like, “OH GOD! OH GOD! OH GOD!  IF YOU TOUCH MY RIGHT SIDE AGAIN I’M GOING TO STAB YOU TO DEATH!’ or “YES! YES! YES! I NEED YOU TO AVOID MY CHEST AREA AT ALL COSTS!”

That’s the kind of stuff that can turn an evening of “Netflix and Chill” into an evening where you actually watch Netflix and chill. 

But even with so many things working against the sex lives of those with chronic pain, that doesn’t mean people should give up. 

For one, that old saying about how, “You can have great sex without having a great relationship, but you can’t have a great relationship without great sex,” is actually pretty true in my experience. Having sex is an important part of being a healthy couple. Of course, that doesn’t mean partners shouldn’t be understanding of the situation, and our pain levels. What it does mean is that avoiding sex, regardless of how legitimate the reasons for doing so are, will likely put a strain on your love life. 

Also, sex is just a good thing to have in general. It helps your mood, it can be a great pain reliever and stress reducer. And, you know, it’s fun.

So I don’t think patients should just resign themselves to the idea that having chronic pain means giving up good sex for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, I don’t have magical solutions to offer people with chronic pain struggling to work sex back into their daily life. But there are a couple things you can at least try.

First, there’s always the obvious “talk to your doctor” advice. Yes, I know that conversation can be awkward — both for the patient and the physician. If you’re up for the conversation though, I definitely recommend it. Your doctor might be able to recommend other medications that don’t kill your sex drive, some less painful positions or other techniques to help you out.

In the end though, I honestly think the best thing you can do is be open about the issues without whomever you’re making love to. Just like with anything, talking about what’s going on usually does the most good.

And if you both decide that maybe you can try to get a wire-free bra with a hook in that back because that’s what he’s into, as long as he promises to never touch your right boob, then great! Or, if you decide that having sex just isn’t worth the pain, then that’s great too.

After all, there’s always Better-than-Sex cake in a pinch.

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Cymbalta sucks. People should sue its makers.

Look, yes, Cymbalta probably saved my life. But it also sucks. So, I’m not surprised people are suing Eli Lilly, the makers of the drug.

I can still remember talking to a nurse over the phone at the Mayo Clinic’s pain rehab program when she mentioned Cymbalta. It was the same pain program my insurance company would eventually deny, prompting the Mayo Clinic to ask for $35,000 up-front, and prompting me to laugh in their faces and instead buy a $7 Yoga DVD at Best Buy and hope for the best.

Anyway, yeah, the nurse. She was all, “Oh! Cymbalta is a WONDERFUL drug! So many people love it! And it works so well! That’s a great drug to go on when you go off opioids!”

But all I could think was, “Obviously you have never been on Cymbalta or opioids or had chronic pain, because Cymbalta sucks.”

I always tell people I was tricked into starting the drug.

My doctor, whom I really do love, put me on it about a year and a half ago. He brought it up at my first appointment with him — the same appointment I also decided to confess that I was having suicidal thoughts daily. He told me he was putting me on Cymbalta because it had been shown to help with pain. I’d later find out that was only half the reason.

When I went to a follow-up appointment, the doctor asked if  Cymbalta had helped with my pain at all. And because my pain is stronger than the U.S. military, it hadn’t. But, then came the reveal.

“Well, how’s your mood?” he asked, slowly.

“Actually, better,” I replied, realizing that had been his secret plan all along.

But you know what? I can sincerely tell you that I didn’t want to kill myself anymore. I mean, I still thought about it, but the drug had sort of diluted the thoughts, and made them less of a legitimate option and more of a fleeting idea I had in passing.

And I totally get why my doctor did what he did. Because when someone is suicidal, it just makes sense that staying alive is the one and only goal. So, in the beginning I was fine with whatever worked — and it just so happened that Cymbalta is what worked for me.

Until it didn’t.

Cymbalta was able to keep the suicidal thoughts away, but it also kept a lot of other thoughts away too. Like my creative thoughts, my writing thoughts and, honestly, my sex thoughts. The drug straight up slaughtered my sex drive.

It also made me so tired. Like, sleep-for-16-hours-a-day tired. Yes, it had help from all the other drugs I’m on, but I can clearly tell you that the fatigue is worse than it was before I started taking Cymbalta.

So, a couple months ago I tried to go off it. I chose the only method I knew and cut it out cold turkey. Within just two days, my writing voice came back like the great flood. And I was getting turned on by my boyfriend again. I even got to see and understand 8 a.m. again for the first time in like a year.

All was well with the world. Except when suddenly it wasn’t. Because Oh. My. God. The withdrawal symptoms from Cymbalta were hell.

Less than a week after my last pill, I was getting so dizzy that I seriously thought I had a new disease. Then, there was this thing called the brain zaps, that I didn’t understand until they happened to me. In short, it literally felt like my brain was being, well, zapped by electricity.

There was also nausea and vertigo and just an overall feeling of falling off a skyscraper.

I can honestly tell you that going off Cymbalta was worse than going off any opioid I’ve ever been on. At least with opioids it only takes like 18 hours to get out of your system, and when it’s over, it’s over. Cymbalta lingered. It took it’s time with me. It gradually poured on the withdrawal symptoms in a tortuous piling on.

So, a week after I went off it, I went back on it.

Apparently though, I’m not the only one staring down at a lifetime of daily Cymbalta doses. According to the Internet, (always a reliable source) there’s a possible class action lawsuit being brought against Eli Lilly.

“Studies show that between 50% and 78% of Cymbalta users experience antidepressant withdrawal symptoms after discontinuing the drug. Yet the drug label misleadingly states that Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms occur in only 1% to 2% of cases,” claims attorney Steven D. Gacovino.

You can read more about it here.

Now, I literally have no idea how legit this whole thing is. Can you really fill out a form on a random website and be part of  a class action lawsuit? I have no idea. But I can tell you that I totally submitted the form.

If nothing else, doctors should be telling their patients about this. They should have a conversation that goes something along the lines of, “Hey, this drug might quell your suicidal thoughts, but you’re never going to be able to go off of it. I mean, you will, but it will be hell. You’ll probably get vertigo and brain zaps and you may not be able to stand up without falling over. Also, there’s no telling how long those withdrawal symptoms are going to last.”

If nothing else, patients deserve to know the truth. I deserved to know the truth.

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