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 part time 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, (this book is now called "The Antidepressant Solution"). 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!

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Evidence, However, Is Clear - The Seroxat Scandal - Bob Fiddaman

I’ve been following Seroxat Sufferers - Stand Up and Be Counted For a little while and I cottoned onto the fact that the author, Bob had written the book "The Evidence, However, Is Clear" so I sent off for it and read it in one day, that’s pretty fast for me nowadays.

Bob was prescribed Seroxat (an SSRI in the same family as Prozac/Lustral) for depression due to work related problems, what followed was a journey that took him through a tapering process of, what he believes to be, a highly addictive antidepressant. Following almost two years of withdrawal, Fiddaman’s new battle with the manufacturer of the drug (GlaxoSmithKline) and the UK Medicines Regulator (MHRA) took him on a more frustrating journey than he could ever have imagined. (This bit is from the blurb on the back of the book). I understand from Bob’s website/blog/book that he is an activist and winner of two Human Rights Awards and lives in a council flat in Birmingham.

I am really so much in awe of Bob and I learned a lot from his book, about how the pharmaceutical industry has cynically marketed SSRI’s, how the MHRA is hand in glove with the manufacturers of SSRI’s (and other drugs) and not detached as it should be. How they have suppressed information that these drugs are extremely difficult to get off of, and kept the medical profession in the dark about how to get people off SSRI’s properly. I learned how the drug companies peddled the myth of a “Chemical Imbalance in the Brain” which I fell for and believed myself until the penny slowly dropped after 10 years of failure to get myself off Lustral. It’s a shocking read but I wasn’t surprised by anything I read, I’d kind of realised for myself a long while ago that someone must be making a lot money out of all these people who are hooked on and struggle to get off SSRI’s , and believe they have a chemical imbalance. There is a silent epidemic of people who have been put on SSRI’s and haven’t realised they can’t get off them, who think they are on them for life because they have “a chemical imbalance”, and of course I’m horrified that they are increasingly prescribed to children and teenagers around the world with sometimes devastating consequences.

Where I struggle is that I know many people who feel they have benefited from antidepressants as well, and feel they have improved their quality of life, I find myself avoiding discussion forums on mental health on certain web sites now for fear of upsetting people who are on SSRI’s with what I now know. I don’t want to cause additional depression and anxiety for people who are already depressed and anxious and probably wouldn’t want to listen anyway, and there is a place for SSRI’s in some situations for some people (Bob would disagree I’m sure LOL) but SSRI’s should be the LAST resort of the medical profession and not the FIRST resort.

What I really have a problem with is how lightly they are dished out with no warnings. The first time I had Post Natal Depression I soldiered on without drugs, I really struggled, because I didn’t tell anyone, the stigma and shame was crippling in itself, and it took me a good year to really come out the other side, I’m glad I did though and I’m glad I didn’t go into a second pregnancy on SSRI’s and the worry about the effect of SSRI’s on my second baby. After I gave birth the second time I thought I had got away with it, but then I felt the blackness wash over me a couple of weeks after, worse than the first time. This time I decided I wasn’t going to keep it to myself, I was going to fess up, I told Peter and my health visitor, together we went to talk to the doctor, the doctor suggested antidepressants, I was desperate to feel “normal” but my overriding concern was that I would become addicted like the people I’d vaguely heard about who got addicted to valium, and that was the first question I asked, I was reassured that no these were a new class of drug and they were not addictive, I could take them for six months to a year and then come off them..........the rest is history.

I often wonder, if my doctor had said, there is a drug that can help you feel better, but they do have side effects; they can make you feel numb, if you stop them suddenly or come off too fast they can make you feel sick, desperate, and suicidal, they can be extremely difficult to get off, and worse case scenario it could take you as long as 3-5 years to taper off them, I wonder what I would have decided then? If I hadn’t felt the stigma and shame of being depressed and had felt able to ask for support from others instead of running to the doctor as the first port of call I wonder how it would have turned out.
The Evidence, However, Is Clear

Prozac Withdrawal Timeline


Fid said...

Thank you so much for the book plug and well done on going public. Remember what I told you - there are many people out there who will try to shoot you down. Turn the other cheek.


cloudy days and moonbeams said...

I read your blog and just thought wow! You are brilliant!!
So many doctors put people on drugs that they just don't need and then it is horrible trying to wean yourself off them again.
Scarily, I am on seroxat (I've been on and off many many anti-depressants since I was 17) and have been on these for about 7 years now.
For me there were def the last resort. Depression and anxiety traits run in my family and I have had some major 'melt downs' the last being in October :( (I was suicidal and on my meds!!)I had my meds upped and am now getting psychology to re-train my thinking and perception of things - which I'm finding really useful - having some skills and methods to use when I start to feel bad and reading my body and watching for signs etc, rather than relying on the meds!
I think that you know you the best and if you feel that you don't need meds then don't let others tell you otherwise!
Yay you for being so brave!!
Who knows, maybe one day I'll be med free too??
Good luck honey, take one day at a time and always remember you are allowed bad days as tomorrow is a fresh start.

cloudy days and moonbeams said...

Yay you honey for being so brave and sticking to your guns!
You know your body the best and you know when things are not right!I think you are totally right, docs do dose out anti-depressants way too easily!!
I've been on and off meds for 12 years now, currently in my 7th year of taking seroxat!
Depression and anxiety are more prone in my family and I've had some huge 'melt downs' (the last 8 months the worst yet - I was suicidal and on seroxat!!) My meds were upped and I'm now getting psychology! I love psychology as it's about teaching your brain to re-think situations and see alternatives. Learning skills and techniques to use when you spot signs that things are getting worse - not just relying on the meds to pull me through!
You keep going on your journey to freedom hon! ake each day as it comes, remember you are allowed to have a crappy day, as tomorrow is a fresh start with all potential to be loads better!
Really good luck honey!
You never know one day I might be med free too??

Unknown said...

Thanks ever so much for your hugely positive comments and encouragement both of you. They mean a huge lot ot me, I'm telling you this blog has taken me right out of my comfort zone and anyone who knows me personally will know that I am very good at comfort zoning and by nature a private person, but this is something I have felt very strongly about for a long time. Off to look at your blog now mental mum!

susan said...

I am so glad you visited my blog- I've been reading your blog for the last half hour or so with my morning coffee. I had a real bad time with Prozac- I was put on it right after it came out and was being labeled as a "miracle" drug. This was fall of 87. It was a disaster, after about two to three weeks I started to feel sick- and the p-doc told me to stay with it, so I did for about six months getting sicker and sicker. I went off it cold turkey because back then they didn't know or care to know about weaning.

Kudos for doing what you are doing in your blog. I am so glad you hooked up with Fiddy- he's been a rock to me over the last year or so when my kidneys failed, he's like the younger brother I never had. (with a lovely accent). His book was very good, and I hope it gets the wide audience and sales it deserves.

Take care and keep on blogging!

Unknown said...

Hi Susan, thanks for your comment and following, I am very tired today but I intend to go and have a good look at your blog later, I didn't have time earlier.
As for Fiddy, you haven't heard my Suffolk accent yet, I sound like a right country bumpkin when I venture abroad LOL