I was prescribed Sertraline (Zoloft) in 1998 when I had postnatal depression. I was told to take it for a year to 18 months. I went from deep depression/anxiety to euphoria in the space of about two weeks, I felt pretty damned fantastic, there was nothing I couldn’t handle. As time went on I continued to feel well but my emotions were dampened down, so I was functioning well, no depression, but no “joy” either. After a few months of feeling well I decided I didn’t want to be on Sertraline anymore, didn’t read the patient information leaflet or talk to a doctor, not that that would have helped anyway. I just stopped taking them. My head felt terrible, it began to feel water logged, if I turned my head there was a time lag between my eye balls catching up with the fact that my head had turned, so dizzy, gradually intense sadness would kick in, really really intense sadness and anxiety, oh the anxiety, pumping adrenaline and nerves shot to bits. I went back on the Sertraline.
The doctor told me to do the alternate day thing, alternate days for a fortnight,then every third day for a fortnight, then one tablet a week, I did this various times over the next few years to no avail. I tried a pill cutter and halving the tablet, it wouldn’t break down easily without crumbling so that was unsuccessful. Every time I tried something, I ended up in worse shape than the time before, it was all getting steadily worse. I tried meditation, healing, exercise, cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling, fish oil capsules, NOTHING touched it. I pressured my surgery to refer me to a psychiatrist for advice,but the psychiatrist had no clue and could only recommend switching to another drug. I did switch to Citalopram for a while, and Mirtzapine, I felt constant fatigue on Mirtzapine, and then back to Sertraline. Yet another psychiatrist recommended halving my dose of Sertraline and taking diazepam to mitigate the withdrawals, so replace one powerful drug with an even more powerful addictive drug.
This is my description of how withdrawal felt from my blog, I only recently found out that what was happening had a name,akathisia:

“5am and for about the 3rd night in a row I’ve barely slept, I can’t stop the adrenaline pumping round my body, my stomach is tightly knotted, I’ve barely been able to eat properly it makes me feel sick. I’m clammy, sweating and crying and P is trying to reassure me, but he has to go to work. I get up and drag myself through all the motions of the day and making sure boys get to school, I feel like the living dead, I make sure they get fed and make sure they and no one else is aware of what’s going on, I don’t hang around at the school gates. Oh I do kind of tell a few people I’m not really feeling right but I play it down.
The constant adrenaline is tormenting me on the inside and I can’t stop it.It’s been building up over a period of months and I’ve been fighting and fighting the feelings but it seems to have reached a peak of exquisite torture.It’s like being at the top of a roller coaster that never stops. Someone else mentioned birdsong, and it was a funny thing, the torture was worse in the mornings and over the summer months while it was slowly building, birdsong in the morning outside the window had become a kind of torture as well. I had to go to work only 2 days a week and God only knows how I managed it. I had taken
my last Sertraline tablet months ago, and come off it as per the doctors instructions, and now my depression/anxiety was back tenfold to punish me for daring to presume I could stop taking it. I must be wired up wrong, no one else feels like this do they? What is wrong with me? Maybe I really am insane, maybe I just can’t cope with life without my tablets, how come everyone else can cope with life, and I can’t? There must be something fundamentally wrong with me. By now the Orwell Bridge was beginning to look a bit attractive and I just wanted to escape the adrenaline surges torturing me, my nerves were in shreds”.
This was 2003,at the end of 2003 I gave in and went back on the sertraline.

In 2006 I attempted another withdrawal, but at the same time we found ourselves going through a stressful life event, I tried to tough it out but ended up back on the Sertraline again.
So here I was, several years later and no further forward, and not for wont of trying! Everytime I went in a book shop or library I would try and find anything I could about antidepressants and depression, but nothing really enlightened me. I rummaged around on the internet but couldn’t find the answers. Until one day, I was browsing around Waterstones, and “Coming off Antidepressants” by Joseph Glenmullen jumped out at me, I read it avidly, and discovered TAPERING!!! But, all the examples in the book referred to liquid Seroxat or Prozac, I was really upset to find Sertraline was not available in liquid form. Armed with my new information about the simple concept of tapering, further digging led me to Dr Healy’s protocol of switching to the equivalent dose of liquid Prozac. These two pieces of information became my secret hope, I latched onto them. I decided to take a leap of faith and switch to liquid Prozac. At the beginning of 2007 I marked up my calendar with a schedule, I was going to go down from 5ml to 4.90ml the first week, 4.80ml the next week and so on, as my sons would say “epic fail”. By about mid February the nightmare was unfolding again and I had to give in and go back to the top of my Prozac dose, I was devastated.
Still I hadn’t given up hope, P was sympathetic but he couldn’t understand why I didn’t just give it up and accept I “needed” the drugs like a diabetic needs insulin. After lots more research, and P having interesting and enlightening conversations with a client who was a pharmacist about my problem, I started my taper again in May 2008, this time much much slower and here I am four years later down to 1ml liquid Prozac and still sucessfully tapering. It has needed a lot of self-discipline. I kept this blog/diary of my progress; I’ve been amazed to meet a few others who have been tapering longer than me. Nowadays my withdrawals are fairly benign, but I still feel a bit scarred from the experience,the akathisia has left me still feeling like my nerves are quite raw and very close to the surface but I can live with that now.
There is a huge assumption that these drugs are benign and harmless, they are not; they can cause extreme agitation and internal torture. They are dished out like smarties and people left to deal with the results. Starting them is like playing a game of Russian Roulette, you might be a lucky one who can take them and come off them with ease, or you might not. My understanding was that they were meant to be taken for only a year or so after you feel “well” but many many people are stuck on them for years or forever, I know many people who’ve given up hope of coming off SSRI’s and I hear many people say “oh I’ll be on these the rest of my life”. There is NO support or advice in place through doctors or psychiatrists on how to taper safely off the drugs.....if anyone does find any help in the UK, please let me know, although it’s a bit too late for me now as I’ve almost done it myself, but I know a lot of other people who might like to know!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

1.50mls (6mg)

I decided to go to 1.50mls today as I have been feeling really well, I toyed with the idea of pushing it to 1.45mls but then chickened out as that would be a nearly 10% reduction and as I am now getting pretty low down I'm aware the reductions could impact more and I might be more likely to suffer a harder withdrawal. With prozac it takes a couple of weeks for a withdrawal to impact as it stays in the system a lot longer than other ssri's. The advice I've been given is to never reduce by more than 5-10% of the previous dose.

Prozac reduction timeline

1 comment:

PDH said...

I just wanted to say that I'm really proud of you!

Depression in this country is not treated like any other illness, as many of its suffers do not always look like they are ill until the symptoms get so severe. Living with somebody who suffers from depression can be challenging particularly when that person is in a dark hole. I used to believe the doctors when they say that the Prozac is the only treatment that is effective against depression as it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. What the doctors failed to tell you is that Prozac itself has side-effects that mimic the depression itself. It is also the case that depression is caused by not only genetics but also from your environment. In your case it was caused by childbirth and a husband was working so hard that you often felt alone.

The reality is that depression is more prevalent today, due to the fact that our lives are so much more busy. I myself used to concentrate so hard on developing my career and earning money, rather than concentrating on what is really important, which is family and this is so true for so many other people in the UK and around the world. We may have less money than we used to have, as I decided four years ago to give up working in London but we have a much happier home life. I personally believe that you have to work out what is truly important in life both to you as an individual and of course as a family. Supporting each other is so important and often something that we all overlook.

I remember when you went on to Prozac after the birth of our son and it was obvious that you are suffering from a severe bout of depression but in hindsight I wish we had looked at some of the alternatives. The problem is that doctors are under pressure and handing out medication is often looked as a way of getting the patient out of the doctor’s office and no attempt is sometimes made in treating the actual condition by talking or counselling.

I remember that I was once convinced that depression could only be treated by Prozac or other types of medication in a similar family and when you are tempted to come off the medication I was always convinced that depression was returning. I now look back at those times and realise that I was wrong and it wasn't until we found that simple booklet that explained that withdrawing from Prozac can cause withdrawal symptoms like coming off hard drugs. The drug companies and the doctors obviously don't tell you this when you start to take medications as often you are desperate for a quick fix.

I wish I could put into words what it's like seeing an individual struggle for so many years against a condition and not know that the drug that she is taking is causing the problem when you chose to come off. We all have anxieties and bad moods the treatment that we all need is to talk instead of just relying on medication. I do understand medication does have its place for severe cases but I am shocked at how quick doctors are to hand out medication that can have such major effect on people's lives.

I myself once went to my doctor with symptoms of being tied and the doctor in question was ready to prescribe me antidepressant rather than check my sugar levels, which in my case was the root cause of the problem. Shocking I know but it is often the case that depression is misdiagnosed or sometimes just an excuse to get the patient out of the office.

from
PDH (husband)
proud of you x