fake fruitions and SSRI discontinuation syndrome

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Villum (redacted), modified 10 Years ago.

fake fruitions and SSRI discontinuation syndrome

Posts: 60 Join Date: 3/24/11 Recent Posts
Something strange happened yesterday after i had been practicing. Just after i opened my eyes, i started getting little shocks in the middle of my head. I have already reached a conclusion about what probably happened, but i might be wrong, and also, i have the (vain) hope that it might help others be clearer about what's happening.
Here's as full a description as i can remember:

Background and Context
I've been practicing a hybrid vipassana lately, which so far seems to be working out ok. I don't note explicitly, but try to focus the mind towards the "holes" in experienced phenomena, and try to experience the nature of these gaps. I combine this with part of what is described in A letting go approach to Jhana at the hamilton project blog - i try to combine a light focus on whatever phenomenon im investigating with a "letting go" that lets the gaps in phenomena appear more clearly.

Anyways, yesterday i did this practice. I started by going to a light 2nd-jhanic state by concentrating on the witness (or what i think of as the witness). When i didn't need to focus hard anymore, and the pleasure got a lot subtler, i started looking at phenomena. I start out with touch-sensations, and usually stay with a specific sensation until it fades, which often happens when i begin to really see there being gaps in it. Or i change if something presents itself very vividly, like a pain somewhere suddenly being very noticeable.

Things began to go better, and i stabilized in a state where there was less annoyance and things really began to open up. All touch-sensations had some vibratory/holed quality at this point, and i began to notice the hints of the same sort of gaps in what i think of as my awareness-space (the non-place where the "witness" seems to be not-located at the centre of. physically centered between the eyes, and a bit in, but seeming to reach out further than the head, at least when i don't really con centrate on on noticing that it's not really a physical area).
With some distractions (not that i began to think, i just forgot focusing), i began to get a sense of this "awareness-space" being "gappy", and with the help of some mental bystander-noting "See how it perceives, see how it is aware" to "open up" persistently solid sensations, my inner world took on a very gappy/vibrating nature. Now, i might have phased out into some sort of momentary cessation here, there was some physical jerks, and some maybe-discontinuities when the "letting go" went really we', and the entire mind seemed to be gappy/vibratory/flowing.
Anyways, after trying to get even the very "core" of my being to vibrate like this, and seeming to come at least very close a couple of times, it stopped and opened my eyes.

Strange event
This is when i suddenly felt a jolt in the center of my brain, a bit electricity-like. Thought was certainly interrupted, and i think i blinked every time it happened. There *might* have been a total blinking out - as the "zaps" continued, i tried to be notice whether everything blinked out or if my thoughts were just interrupted, combined with blinking and the surprise of a mild electrical shock.
The zaps seemed to hit in the middle of my brain, and began *hard*. I had the first of them a couple of seconds after i opened my eyes, and thereafter they seemed to continue with 2-10 second intervals. They seemed to come mostly when i wasn't attending to them, i had the sense that attending to the area where the sensations happened sort of blocked the 'zaps'
In the beginning, i thought "Yay! These must be fruitions. So i did actually get a path. Wow. Nice."
But after a while, i noticed that the zaps were familiar - the physical sense of them seemed very much like what i get when i forget to take my antidepressants and similar medications - SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome . Also, i did actually forget my antidressants at least the last couple of days before, and hadn't taken my Ritalin that day (which has seemed to affect the SSRI-DI too) After a while, i noticed that the shocks actually seemed to travel up from my heart before zapping me in the center of the brain. This made them feel even more like the SSRI-DS zaps, and after 10 minutes to an hour (not sure), i began to get zaps other body parts too, though still mostly in the head.

The presentation was still very different from the other times i had SSRI-DI. They started out very suddenly, just when i stopped meditating, and instead of hitting perhaps every minute or so, they were very fast (at least once per 10 seconds, i think they started out at one every 2-3 seconds, and intensely felt). And the zaps usually seem randomly distributed in my body, instead of hitting my in the middle of the head.

So, thus far i've concluded that the vipassana "jump-started" and "focused" a case of SSRI discontinuation syndrome. There might have been fruitions in the zaps too, but i've gotten enthusiastic before, and it doesn't seem to help my practice.

I wanted to post this because it was really strange, and i wondered if anyone else had experienced something like it (and might have some other explanation). Also, to inform you guys that it seems vipassana might be able to affect the way SSRI-discontinuation syndrome presents, and might also be confused with fruitions by other people (at least, if it's not just something that happens to me.
I guess i kinda hoped they would turn out to be fruitions, as well as the ordinary brain zaps, but i haven't noticed anything else special. I think i get distracted and irritable just as i usually do, and my self doesn't seem any smaller.

Anyway, all comments greatly appreciated. And (before you ask) i will be mentioning this to my psychiatrist too, since it might be something else entirely.

And thanks to you all for being here emoticon
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: [formatting broken] fake fruitions and SSRI discontinuation syndrome

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
if you are aware the formatting is broken people might be more likely to read it if you fixed it. you're missing a <close square> bracket: " Jhana<open square>/url at the hamilton "
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Villum (redacted), modified 10 Years ago.

RE: [formatting broken] fake fruitions and SSRI discontinuation syndrome

Posts: 60 Join Date: 3/24/11 Recent Posts
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
if you are aware the formatting is broken people might be more likely to read it if you fixed it. you're missing a ]: " Jhana[/url at the hamilton "


Thank you so much! Sometimes I look in all the wrong places when trying to solve a problem. I really did think i had checked everything. Thought something was wrong with the boards. emoticon
Anyways, fixed emoticon
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Eran G, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: fake fruitions and SSRI discontinuation syndrome

Posts: 182 Join Date: 1/5/10 Recent Posts
Hi Villum,

A few things come to mind. Mostly based on my own experience, nothing "official". Hope you find this helpful.


Villum:
Now, i might have phased out into some sort of momentary cessation here, there was some physical jerks, and some maybe-discontinuities when the "letting go" went really we', and the entire mind seemed to be gappy/vibratory/flowing.


Try not to worry about cessations or fruitions or any of that stuff. I know first hand how easy it is to get hung up on "attaining" and the maps and all that stuff. It's not about any of that. It's about a lasting reduction in suffering. If your practice is slowly making you life more ease-ful and more peaceful then it's working. If you're getting fruitions and jhanas and all that but your life is full of craving and clinging, then is this really working?

Villum:
Anyways, after trying to get even the very "core" of my being to vibrate like this, and seeming to come at least very close a couple of times, it stopped and opened my eyes.


"Trying" is often a pointer that one is doing too much. Trust the practice to unfold on its own just as it is supposed to. It seems to have an uncanny tendency to do exactly that.

Villum:

Strange event...


That sounds like quite the experience. I've had some weird energetic stuff happen to me but nothing that seems to fit this description. The mind is an interesting place where interesting things happen. Probably a good thing that you're talking to a professional about this, especially in the context of possible interaction with SSRIs.

What is your off-the-cushion experience like now?
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Villum (redacted), modified 10 Years ago.

RE: fake fruitions and SSRI discontinuation syndrome

Posts: 60 Join Date: 3/24/11 Recent Posts
Eran G:
Hi Villum,

A few things come to mind. Mostly based on my own experience, nothing "official". Hope you find this helpful.


Hi Eran. Thanks for the reply. Your things-that-came-to-mind *do* seem helpful ;) emoticon

Eran G:
Try not to worry about cessations or fruitions or any of that stuff. I know first hand how easy it is to get hung up on "attaining" and the maps and all that stuff. It's not about any of that. It's about a lasting reduction in suffering. If your practice is slowly making you life more ease-ful and more peaceful then it's working. If you're getting fruitions and jhanas and all that but your life is full of craving and clinging, then is this really working?


Yeah, i know. I did the same thing with the jhanas, (chasing higher ones) but after seeming to get to 8th (i didn't really, i think), i was sorta satisfied, and it's not so important to me anymore. I know it might well be better to not focus so much on attainments, but i don't think i really can do so until i complete a path.
However, even the buddha said that desire is needed to get to the extinction of desire (at least i think so, can't find the sutta. And i know it's not exactly the same thing ;) )
I have, however, changed my practice lately by focusing more on everyday mindfulness, since being more aware of what habits i'm following and when i give into silly temptations seems to what i need to reduce suffering and make my life better right now. I also have the distinct feeling that my insight practice could really benefit from/needs a more mindful approach to life in general.


Eran G:
"Trying" is often a pointer that one is doing too much. Trust the practice to unfold on its own just as it is supposed to. It seems to have an uncanny tendency to do exactly that.


I will experiment with being more open to where the practice might lead. Thank you for the hint emoticon

Eran G:
That sounds like quite the experience. I've had some weird energetic stuff happen to me but nothing that seems to fit this description. The mind is an interesting place where interesting things happen. Probably a good thing that you're talking to a professional about this, especially in the context of possible interaction with SSRIs.


Before i started practicing insight, getting my pulled hard in various directions by mysterious forces that dissolve if you look at them really close would probably have been at least as strange. That doesn't even seem unusual to me anymore. This was strange because it started when i finished the sit and opened my eyes - immediately after i finished the sit. Also, "zaps".

Eran G:
What is your off-the-cushion experience like now?


My life at the moment is mostly shaped by not being able to sleep enough, and being way too disorganized. But really, the sleep is what i notice most. Usually can't sleep until 20 hrs after i went to bed. I'm also finally finishing my thesis, so most of my time goes with working, or failing to work on that. Really need more sati there, too. Mood seems to have stabilized since last week, where i had some unexplained depressive tendencies and sudden dip in overall energy.
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: fake fruitions and SSRI discontinuation syndrome

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
I can speak from experience about this actually, I've gotten Paths but also take SSRI's (25mg fluoxetine) and have been dealing with discontinuation syndrome as well as the Dark Night ñanas over the last week. That's no fun, I can tell you!

These "zaps", as you know, are standard discontinuation symptoms and always occur for me when I stop taking them. The main thing I notice is that these "zaps" are experienced with full awareness, there's a sense of being a step behind the experience which seems like there's a discontinuity but, if we're being honest with ourselves, it's not really the case. I think you're probably right in your assumption about them being related to discontinuation and it's commendable that you can be as honest as this.

One thing I would say is that you're confusing your terms quite a bit here and it's not a true representation of your practice, I'll point a couple of things out which may be of use to you:

I've been practicing a hybrid vipassana lately, which so far seems to be working out ok. I don't note explicitly, but try to focus the mind towards the "holes" in experienced phenomena, and try to experience the nature of these gaps.

Gaps, spaces, holes, these are all just sensations. What's important is seeing that these same sensations just arise and pass like everything else, their nature is as impermanent, selfless and unsatisfying as every other phenomena. If you're seeing things at this level then you're doing fine so just be accurately aware.

I started by going to a light 2nd-jhanic state by concentrating on the witness (or what i think of as the witness). When i didn't need to focus hard anymore, and the pleasure got a lot subtler, i started looking at phenomena. I start out with touch-sensations, and usually stay with a specific sensation until it fades, which often happens when i begin to really see there being gaps in it.

The Witness is in the 6th samatha jhana, not the 2nd. What you're describing also sounds to me like moving into 4th ñana/2nd jhana so just continue paying attention to what's happening, gaps and all.

Or i change if something presents itself very vividly, like a pain somewhere suddenly being very noticeable.

What do you change here? If you're noting then you want to be paying attention to that pain, note it and watch it closely because it will change from a solid object labeled "pain" into something more subtle and filled with insight which is exactly what you're looking for. If the pain becomes more noticeable then it's trying to get your attention because it's got something really important to show you. Don't be rude, let it come in and stay for a while. emoticon

I guess i kinda hoped they would turn out to be fruitions, as well as the ordinary brain zaps, but i haven't noticed anything else special. I think i get distracted and irritable just as i usually do, and my self doesn't seem any smaller.

Don't worry about it, if you practice well then these things will happen. After stream-entry it wasn't obvious exactly what had changed and it took a while to really understand it, but you know something is completely different. In my experience, being distracted and irritated doesn't change post-Path so don't use that as a benchmark, just practice well, tighten your technique and let us know what's happening.

- Tommy

P.S. - I mentioned SSRI discontinuation and vipassana recently on my practice thread here (post #14)so see if that's of any use to you.
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Villum (redacted), modified 10 Years ago.

RE: fake fruitions and SSRI discontinuation syndrome

Posts: 60 Join Date: 3/24/11 Recent Posts
Hi Tommy. Thanks for the detailed response, and for sharing your experience!

Tommy M:
I can speak from experience about this actually, I've gotten Paths but also take SSRI's (25mg fluoxetine) and have been dealing with discontinuation syndrome as well as the Dark Night ñanas over the last week. That's no fun, I can tell you!

These "zaps", as you know, are standard discontinuation symptoms and always occur for me when I stop taking them. The main thing I notice is that these "zaps" are experienced with full awareness, there's a sense of being a step behind the experience which seems like there's a discontinuity but, if we're being honest with ourselves, it's not really the case. I think you're probably right in your assumption about them being related to discontinuation and it's commendable that you can be as honest as this.


It took me a while to figure out that i seemed to have awareness during the zaps. The zaps come on quickly, and noticing the sensations in some detail required a few tries. It did seem that the ones were physically felt somewhere inside the head interrupted my mind much more than when they hit in other parts of the body, but thats probably quite natural. I don't think the zaps used to hit me in the brain like that, usually they're mostly in the arms and legs. Still, looking at them seems like good insight practice, i don't usually get the opportunity to examine the way my mind reacts to being shocked a bit. With time, it might help me notice other important things emoticon
Thank you! I do try to be as honest as i can with myself, but sometimes my enthusiasm gets the better of me for a short while. (and i do note the enthusiasm ;) )

Tommy M:
One thing I would say is that you're confusing your terms quite a bit here and it's not a true representation of your practice, I'll point a couple of things out which may be of use to you:


Thank you! That kind of comments are always very welcome.

Tommy M:
I've been practicing a hybrid vipassana lately, which so far seems to be working out ok. I don't note explicitly, but try to focus the mind towards the "holes" in experienced phenomena, and try to experience the nature of these gaps.

Gaps, spaces, holes, these are all just sensations. What's important is seeing that these same sensations just arise and pass like everything else, their nature is as impermanent, selfless and unsatisfying as every other phenomena. If you're seeing things at this level then you're doing fine so just be accurately aware.


That might be an important point for my practice, will see how it works out on the cushion. I'm at least intellectually aware that the gaps between sensation-vibrations are sensations too, but i hadn't thought about it that way. However, after i experiences started splitting up into vibrations and and i read and experimented some, it seemed to help sharpen my awareness if i was focused towards the gaps between individual sensations, instead of the individual sensations - because they're harder to "see". But i think it will help me to remember/be mindful that the gaps between sensations are nothing special, just subtler.

Tommy M:
I started by going to a light 2nd-jhanic state by concentrating on the witness (or what i think of as the witness). When i didn't need to focus hard anymore, and the pleasure got a lot subtler, i started looking at phenomena. I start out with touch-sensations, and usually stay with a specific sensation until it fades, which often happens when i begin to really see there being gaps in it.

The Witness is in the 6th samatha jhana, not the 2nd. What you're describing also sounds to me like moving into 4th ñana/2nd jhana so just continue paying attention to what's happening, gaps and all.


Yeah, but i was focusing on the sense of the witness that's still present (seems to me, at least) in ordinary awareness. It kind of seems like the center of "mental space". I used this as my focus to get to 2nd jhana.

Tommy M:
Or i change if something presents itself very vividly, like a pain somewhere suddenly being very noticeable.

What do you change here? If you're noting then you want to be paying attention to that pain, note it and watch it closely because it will change from a solid object labeled "pain" into something more subtle and filled with insight which is exactly what you're looking for. If the pain becomes more noticeable then it's trying to get your attention because it's got something really important to show you. Don't be rude, let it come in and stay for a while. emoticon


That was what i was trying to say. Must not have been a good day for expressing myself clearly. I'm still not good enough at looking at pains, however. Sometimes when i try to really focus in and note their feel, they trick me and i end up just feeling and reacting to the pain for a little while (focusing, focusing, ow!)

Tommy M:
I guess i kinda hoped they would turn out to be fruitions, as well as the ordinary brain zaps, but i haven't noticed anything else special. I think i get distracted and irritable just as i usually do, and my self doesn't seem any smaller.

Don't worry about it, if you practice well then these things will happen. After stream-entry it wasn't obvious exactly what had changed and it took a while to really understand it, but you know something is completely different. In my experience, being distracted and irritated doesn't change post-Path so don't use that as a benchmark, just practice well, tighten your technique and let us know what's happening.


I will, thank you! And i'll add keep a resolve to better notes about my sessions, to help me with that good practice and tighter technique emoticon

Tommy M:
P.S. - I mentioned SSRI discontinuation and vipassana recently on my practice thread here (post #14)so see if that's of any use to you.


Was interesting to see another perspective on the discontinuation syndrome and the zaps. It seems we experience it a bit differently, but that's probably due to different medications (40mg citalopram and a couple of other medications on top).
I did think i got something good out of examining the zaps. They're quite different from everyday experiences, and i've never noticed them before as not-solid, and as feeling both a zap and a mental reaction to the zap.
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S. Pro, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: fake fruitions and SSRI discontinuation syndrome

Posts: 86 Join Date: 2/7/10 Recent Posts
Hi Villum,

I had similar experiences when I stopped Venlafaxine (Effexor). I stopped it cold turkey which as I knew at that time was not the way to do it.
These so called "brain zaps" where pretty annoying but they stopped after a week.
What happened precisely was that these zaps felt very much like electricity. They originated in the left part of my chest and rushed up to the brain in split second. When they hit the brain my mind went dull for a split second and my vision blurred.
Those brain zaps ocurred every couple of seconds just like you describe it.
I didn´t meditate during those days.

Cheers
Sven
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Villum (redacted), modified 10 Years ago.

RE: fake fruitions and SSRI discontinuation syndrome

Posts: 60 Join Date: 3/24/11 Recent Posts
S. Pro:
I had similar experiences when I stopped Venlafaxine (Effexor). I stopped it cold turkey which as I knew at that time was not the way to do it.
These so called "brain zaps" where pretty annoying but they stopped after a week.
What happened precisely was that these zaps felt very much like electricity. They originated in the left part of my chest and rushed up to the brain in split second. When they hit the brain my mind went dull for a split second and my vision blurred.
Those brain zaps ocurred every couple of seconds just like you describe it.
I didn´t meditate during those days.


Yeah, that's exactly what the ones i had felt like. Makes me even more totally certain that the experiences i had weren't fruitions. It's also nice to know that the specific kind of brain zaps i had were not some strange and worrying variant.

Thanks
Villum

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