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!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Chill Pill

A conversation with a friend who is in exactly the same boat as me tapering off prozac, made me realise that yes I am feeling a consistent low level anxiety (bordering on depression) the past few weeks. The big positive thing about being on Prozac full dose is that it really is like taking a chill pill, it makes you so you really don’t give a damn. That was the only thing I DID like about it, and it’s STILL not enough to make me ever want to go back to the full dose because I don’t want the unwanted side effects that go with the “don’t give a damn feeling.

Lately however I have been noticing like I said this consistent low level anxiety which is sometimes hard to shake, we are under a lot of pressure in our life at the moment and so it is hard for me to unravel this feeling, is it the “real me” how I am anyway without Prozac? Is it purely circumstantial and if the pressures we’re under at the moment disappear in time will my low level anxiety also disappear? This is the really confusing thing about having been on Prozac so long, you never really know what the “real you” is, you forget and you never know if what you are feeling is “you” or “Prozac you” or a mixture of both. I suppose the only way I may ever find out is when I eventually get off it completely, but even then my brain chemistry may have altered from years of Prozac so that I never know what the “real me” ever was or is. Confused? So am I LOL

I’m finding it really hard because I feel like I am constantly chasing my tail, never quite on top of things, and like I am doing lots of things “ok” and in a bodgy way when I’d rather be doing less things but doing them well and completing them, I sometimes feel like the boys are being short changed because I don’t give them as much undivided attention as I’d like, and I wish there was more time to cook decent healthy meals. Housework gets me down, that’s the thing I find hard to keep on top of, so I just concentrate on laundry and food and the rest I have to try and let go, but I find it really really hard to turn a blind eye to dust piling up and a bathroom that needs cleaning. That’s when I really wish I could take a chill pill and just not give a damn. That’s maybe one of the reasons why I was prone to depression/anxiety in the first place because I find it hard to “chill” and let things go. I’m always having to tick that list off.

So any tips on how to chill and not sweat the small stuff will be gratefully received.

Perhaps I should just not wear my contact lenses anymore then I won’t “see” the dust!

Prozac Reduction Timeline


Carol said...

Honey - another mega great blog. My only clue is one thing at a time. I do the same and end up spinning on the spot. I make little lists! And I do only one room at a time, and stop when I am fed up. It quickly gets stuff to the point where just a quick once-over once a week keeps it all under control. If you become anxious about it you will procrastinate because it is too hard. So just set one or two goals a day and then pat yourself on the back hugely when you get them done. The main thing here is not to let yourself stress about everything at once. Huge hugs xxx

SMH said...

Well I have negotiated with Peter now, and I now have most thursdays at home to keep on top of the house/shopping, doesn't always work out that way if something needs typing up in the office LOL I make lists in my head. Occaisionally I have a big burst of energy and blitz house from top to bottom in a day. I'm trying to live in the present more.
Thanks for all the comments Carol, it means a lot to know a few people read my guff and are cheering me on in my withdrawal!