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Themadwomanintheattik: My story on Zoloft

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Themadwomanintheattik   
Themadwomanintheattik

This post is more of a description of the past 13 years of my life on Zoloft. I want to preface this post by saying that I am in no way unique, nor is my situation. There are tons of people that find themselves in my situation or one similar to it and I only post this for educational purposes in the hope that it can help someone.

 

My background information with Zoloft: If you don’t care about my background information and just want to get to the good stuff, scroll down.

 

I started taking Zoloft when I was 19 years old. I was a student at Yale, studying nursing. I drank a lot of coffee at the time and was also taking Xenadrine (a weight loss pill) at the time to give myself energy to exercise and also the energy to stay up late to study. I had no prior health problems, or mental issues other than worrying a lot about performance in school and the occasional arguments that I would have with my boyfriend at the time. I was always a worrier, a bit obsessive compulsive, with an average amount of insecurity. I didn’t do drugs, however, I did try marijuana once or twice at the time which I found I didn’t like because it made me feel paranoid and just chose that pot would not be my thing.

 

I had my first panic attack while sitting on the couch watching a comedy with my boyfriend at the time. I literally thought I was going crazy/psycho and was afraid of what I would do if I lost control. I became afraid of the panic attack themselves because I had no idea about what they were or why I was having them. I got stuck in an endless cycle of worry and being scared of my next panic attack. I couldn't sleep at night because I was scared that I would die in my sleep - so I literally would stay up until I just couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. I stopped going to my classes and started failing in school. The only relief I found was in sleeping, when my body was so exhausted that I just couldn't stay awake any longer. I stopped hanging out with my friends because I was too scared of being stuck in a vehicle and not being able to escape while having a panic attack. Let me be clear, I didn't think I was going to die - this wasn't health anxiety (at the time, although it turned into this later). This was, I am really freaking afraid of losing control and I think I am literally going crazy and if I go see a therapist they are going to lock me up in a padded room and I can't imagine this happening to me.

 

While all of this was occurring, good things also happened in my life. I tend to remember this period as the beginning of the dark ages, only because the panic attacks started around this time (BTW, 19 is the average for when panic attacks usually begin occurring in people who are predisposed to having them.) I had a heart to heart with my English professor at the time about what was occurring. He told me to write about it and write about it I did. I even won an award for that piece, which I still remember to this day.

 

My boyfriend at the time smoked a lot of pot. I didn't. I did have the occasional cigarette. I was exposed to a lot of second hand marijuana smoke because we lived in a tiny apartment together. I'm not blaming my condition on marijuana, just trying to paint a picture of my environment with the onset of the panic attacks. The boyfriend I was with at the time kept telling me that I wasn’t attractive and if I just lost a few pounds I would be strikingly beautiful because I had green eyes. To a 19 year old, this is one of those statements that absolutely devastates you. If someone told me this today, at 33, I would tell them where the pit of hell and to return to it. However, I was 19. This was my first relationship. This would set the tone for all of my future relationships. He always kept me in a state of not ever feeling good enough, whether it was physically, intellectually, or with anything in general. I grew up in Texas, he grew up in Connecticut. There were jokes about me being from the south. In looking back on all of this, I was 19, struggling with school, struggling with this dying and poisonous relationship, while also dealing with the emotions that the relationship was itself causing. A good combination for panic attacks.

 

I finally convinced myself to go see a family physician and I was prescribed Zoloft. My boyfriend had a lot of psychological issues and was diagnosed as bipolar and had been on medication for most of our relationship, so taking medication for panic attacks didn't seem odd to me. At that time, I would have done anything to make the panic attacks go away.

 

They started me on 25mg, then I went up to 50, then 75. I stayed at 75 mg for a long time. Slowly but surely, the panic attacks stopped. When I was just adjusting to the Zoloft, there was a period that I went through where I was scared to take the Zoloft. I don’t know if this fear was from being scared that I would die from it, or just being scared in general. I did notice it made me very sleepy and dizzy, and flat out sick; I was desperate so I continued to take it. Some months after taking the medication, I recall finally feeling a sense of peace. The panic attacks still came, but they weren't so bad as before. I felt I had some control over them; I could literally tell myself hey panic attack, see ya panic attack, and they would go away. I also noticed that the zoloft helped other things, things that I didn't even realize I had. I didn't worry any more about what people thought of me, or if my hair was perfect while going to class; or even the occasional rude remark from my boyfriend at the time. Hell, I actually started to distance myself from him and felt OK about it. There wasn’t that little insecure voice in my head any longer of you can’t do this, come on, don’t even bother. There was a new voice, saying, trying never hurt anyone. Honestly, it was amazing.

 

I honestly began to see the world with different eyes. I didn’t feel the need to please anyone any longer, I began to live for myself.

 

I did notice at times that when I would forget to take it, that I would feel odd the next day. Almost like a dizzy feeling, but not dizzy ? It's like my body wanted something that it didn't get. As soon as I took the Zoloft, it would go away. This sometimes made me wonder if Zoloft was habit forming.

 

I was also on the Depo shot (birth control, do they even still offer this?) at the time, so this didn't effect the efficiency of the Zoloft at all, although my ex would tell me I was a raging b**** the week I would get my depo shot. I didn’t really give a crap about what he said at this point though.

 

Another side effect of the Zoloft was that I never got horny. I would try to and literally couldn’t. Having sex with my ex boyfriend was absolute torture. I would literally lie there like a dead fish (I think he even said this once) and stare at the clock. I admit that this might also be because I had fallen out of love with him (although I don’t think I really loved him, it was more of a first immature love sort of thing). Anyhow, I felt as dry as the desert (sorry for TMI) and honestly never had the desire. I always felt dread on the days when I knew he would want sex. I honestly just wanted to finish school and break up with him.

 

Fast forward -- at some point I upped my dosage of zoloft to 100 mg. My boyfriend and I had broken up after being together for 7-8 years. I was feeling depressed about school because at that time I switched majors because I felt nursing was too stressful for me. I switched to English/Literature because I had always loved reading books. I also moved to my aunt’s and no longer lived with the boyfriend. There were a lot of changes in my life.

 

After switching to 100 mg, the zoloft made me quiet.. I began to internalize a lot of my worries and issues instead of talking to people about them. I had always been a rather goofy person - the class clown if you will, and on this medication, I became more serious and introverted. Before I took this medicine, I was a little introverted, but way more outgoing than I am now. I didn't see anything wrong with this as the panic attacks were gone and in all honesty, that's all I cared about. I also developed a love of gaming around this time. I started playing magic the gathering online and really enjoyed the dynamics of the game. I also started learning chess to get my mind off of what I was going through.

 

Year 7 I think it was? I was given the generic form of Zoloft, Sertraline, because it finally became available. I didn't think anything about it at the time. After taking it I started getting headaches and feeling nauseated. I had no idea that the generic form could be different from the original. I always thought the generic was exactly the same as the other stuff. I chalked it up as nothing and just pushed through it, and came out fine. The symptoms went away and I carried on.

 

I gained a lot of weight while on Zoloft/Sertraline -- about 3 lbs a year. Initially the zoloft didn't make me hungry because I always took it at night, but when I started taking it in the morning (about 6 months ago) I would notice a huge increase in hunger after an hour. I have probably gained a total of about 30-40lbs, just being on the zoloft, if not more.

 

The Zoloft decreased my capacity to remember small details. The literature and studies all say that it doesn’t do this, however, the only study I’ve seen online that they actually researched this on was in patients who had been on the drug for only a year. I couldn’t remember anyone’s name, even if they had just told me their name. Although I now understand that this is common in a lot of people, even if they aren’t on Zoloft. But this goes deeper. I found I was having trouble remembering just words in my every day interactions. I found myself stumbling to even have a normal conversation. I couldn’t look people in the eyes for very long and continue speaking to them. There was always this need to cut things short, whether it was a dinner, or just me chatting with someone.

 

The one thing I’ve always loved about myself is my mind. I have chiseled it and made it what it is to this day, and people who have known me for years have seen me go from this talkative person who is well educated to a quiet person that can barely remember words.

 

I was on the zoloft during my whole pregnancy with my twins, who are now 4. I also breast fed while on the sertraline for a year. They are both healthy by the way. The only thing I noticed was that I had issues bonding with them after they were born via c-section. Some people will say this might have been post partum depression – I personally don’t think so. Zoloft suppressed 90% of the emotions I had, whether it was anger (especially anger, I considered myself an idiot when it came to getting angry or passionate about something) or sadness. When I should have felt sad over something, I found myself not feeling anything. When I should have felt angry, I felt neutral. It was really odd. When I was younger, I didn’t really care so much, but as you age, people begin to question your reactions, and you yourself begin to question your reactions, and it’s very noticeable.

 

 

The zoloft worked for me, for over 13 years. But for the last 6 months, every time I take it, I get a headache, or a panic attack, or I get jittery, or all of these at once. I have crying spells where I just start thinking of something and the tears come. I feel hung over most of the time, like I'm living someone else's life and just watching the actions of a robot. I wake up and feel like I’ve been underwater for the past 13 years of my life. I’ve even started to feel really sad that I’ve been on this medication for so long. I don’t think I ever meant to stay on it for this long, and none of my doctors suggested I come off of it. In all honesty, I don’t know really who I am anymore without the medication. But I’ve done a lot of thinking, and I feel that person THERE, the one that I was before I got on this medication. I'm also in a good place in my life - I'm with a great person who has always been there for me.

 

I've spent the past 6 months in dedicated research on Sertraline, tapering off of Sertraline, increasing my dosage of Sertraline, panic attacks, anxiety in general, and SSRIs. I couldn't figure out what I really wanted to do - go see a doctor, go to therapy, just suffer through the zoloft symptoms because maybe it's working, even on a limited level.

 

I am by no means against medication - zoloft worked for me when it worked. But when it stops working, it becomes confusing to figure out why it exactly stopped working.

 

Recently (6 months ago) I started exercising just to be healthy. Nothing major, just 30 minutes a day on the treadmill at the YMCA during my lunch break. I began to feel that same old feeling, like my body needed something that it didn't have, but this didn't make any sense to me because I always took the zoloft religiously, at the same time every night. I let it go and just thought, whatever, it's probably just me exercising and my body adjusting. Fast forward 3 months and I'm having panic attacks daily and can't figure out why this is returning with such a vengeance. I signed up for therapy and went to see my family physician. I saw three doctors during this whole relapse. The first one wanted to increase the zoloft to 150 mg. The second one wanted to put me on Buspar and taper me off of zoloft at the same time. The third one wanted to know what my baseline was without any meds. All three of them had never even heard of the withdrawal symptoms that occur when coming off of these meds. Most of them just told me, it'll be okay, people do fine.

 

I was against increasing the dosage because I feel like 100 mg is a good dose to be at. Any higher and will I be a freaking zombie? I already internalize everything. I didn't want to try to the buspar because there's a moderate to severe interaction with zoloft when taken together; gee thanks doctor, didn't you just spend most of your life in med school? The only choice left is to titrate down or get off of it.

 

At this point I feel like the Zoloft is doing more harm than good. I feel that it works on some level, but that little help that it's giving me isn't enough for me to just keep on waking up and feeling like I've been submerged and drowning under water.

 

Another thing to note is that the zoloft itself has caused more panic attacks in the last 4 months than I care to think about. It has made me anxious, it has made me feel jittery, light headed, and given me vertigo.

 

So, I have decided that the medicine has definitely stopped being as efficient as it once was, and therefore, I think it's better for me to lower my dosage and see if the side effects go away. My plan is to titrate myself down to 75MG for a couple of months, and then go down to 50MG. I plan to take centrum and fish oil to help with the symptoms, if there are any.

 

I suspect there will be symptoms, in fact, I literally expect the worst. I will keep posting my results so that this will help someone who also wants to try coming off of this medicine.

 

Yesterday I took 50 mg, and today I took 75 mg because I felt going from 100 mg to 50 mg might be too much of a jump. I feel a little dizzy and jittery but nothing major. I actually feel more awake and not in such a fog. I’m also not having issues remembering just simple words.

 

Thank you for reading and I wish you all well.

Edited by baroquep

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baroquep   
baroquep

Hi Thewomanintheattik,

 

Welcome to Surviving Antidepressants (SA), I am very glad that you found the site before you really got started on your taper.  I would ask that when you read this message, that you go back immediately to 100mg of Zoloft.  Your plan to taper by 25mg will likely cause you extreme difficultly and I am hoping that you can avoid destabilizing your central nervous system by making such a large decrease.  It already sounds as though you have been having difficulty with Zoloft over the years and decreasing by such a large percentage is not recommended (unless you have had an adverse reaction to taking the drug which doesn't appear to be the case).  Though some people are able to successfully go off quickly or all at once, withdrawing from psychiatric drugs abruptly can trigger withdrawal syndrome.  As a general principle, the longer you were on the drug, the longer you may need to take going off of it.  Some people take years to come off successfully.   Small dose reductions, no more than 10% of current dose, held for at least one month, appear to pose the least risk.

 

Surviving Antidepressants recommends tapering by no more than 10% of your current dose followed by a hold of about 4 weeks to allow the brain to adapt to the changes in the central nervous system (CNS).  When changes are made too quickly, doses are alternated/skipped or the drug is discontinued abruptly, the brain is unable to adapt to the changes and this results in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.  


Before you begin tapering what you need to know
What is Withdrawal Syndrome?

Why taper by 10% of my dosage?

Tips for Tapering off Zoloft / Sertraline

 

We ask all members to provide their drug history as a signature.  This will be a permanent part of your introduction and It helps moderators to be able to see all of your details at a glance.  You can find the information on how to complete your signature at the link below:
 

Instructions:  Withdrawal History Signature
 
    •    Please leave out symptoms and diagnoses.
    •    A list is easier to understand than one or multiple paragraphs. 
    •    Any drugs prior to 24 months ago can just be listed with start and stop years.
    •    Please use actual dates or approximate dates (mid-June, Late October) rather than relative time frames (last week, 3 months ago)
    •    Spell out months, e.g. "October" or "Oct."; 9/1/2016 can be interpreted as Jan. 9, 2016 or Sept. 1, 2016.

 

 

Please feel free to connect with other members in their introduction topics, Surviving Antidepressants has a very supportive community who share their experiences tapering off of antidepressants and are here to help.  I hope you find the information useful in helping you make an informed decision about how to taper safely off of antidepressants with as few withdrawal symptoms as possible.  If you have any questions specific to your situation, please post all questions or topics in your own introduction thread and a moderator will stop by with assistance.

 

Best,

BaroqueP

 

Edited by ChessieCat
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LexAnger   
LexAnger

Hi Themadwomeanintheattic,

 

i just us tread your first introduction post. I want to say you wrote a very comprehensive and informative summary with well thoughts!

 

i feel you started having reaction issues to the increased dose of Zoloft and tapering off it is a good decision. Unfortunately even fast tapering the drug may help with the reaction, Withdarawl could be the exact opposite animal you have to handle too, unless you are one the lucky group who are able to stop these meds without side effects, which no one knows before trying.

 

i think slow taper will be a safer approach which can help with the reaction at a level while taking care of withdrawa in the same time. Hopefully when you reach a lower dose, the reaction will be under control. I saw ppl had similar situations, eventually they stabilize after a period of slow taper with reaction in check.

 

Best luck!

lex

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ChessieCat   
ChessieCat
14 hours ago, Themadwomanintheattik said:

Yesterday I took 50 mg, and today I took 75 mg because I felt going from 100 mg to 50 mg might be too much of a jump. I feel a little dizzy and jittery but nothing major. I actually feel more awake and not in such a fog. I’m also not having issues remembering just simple words.

 

I would like to tell you of my own experience because it might help you to understand what these drugs do to the brain.

 

I reduced my Pristiq 100mg to 50mg and had very bad cog fog for 3 weeks.  At the end of the 3 weeks I was unable to type.  Because I am a professional typist of 40+ years I new something was very wrong.  Fortunately I had joined SA a few days before this happened and they had suggested that I increase my dose.  I did this and after about 4 hours I was able to type again.  I have since been tapering with only mild withdrawal symptoms and am now down to 19mg.

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