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!

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year (from somone who hates new year!)

Yes Happy New Year, even though I hate it and hate January and February and don't believe in making New Years resolutions, after all you're just setting yourself up for failure, and if you're ready to do something that time will happen at any time in the year and not the 1st January. Ba humbug! Roll on Easter LOL

OK regardless of the above, my hopes for 2012 are that by next new year I hope I will be off of Prozac if I play my cards right this year (but what will I do with this blog at that point? It will have fulfilled it's purpose? carry on blogging the issues? or wrap it up and just support others in the cause?).

I want to see my oldest son settled and happy and following a particular path in life.

I want to see my younger son continue to do well at school despite his dyslexia.

I want our business to really really grow this year.

I want to make time to enjoy my piano more.

I want my friend who has had a really crap 2011 have a fantastic 2012 where everything comes right for her.

I want all my loved ones and friends to have a good 2012.

I want to meet a particular friend in person who I've been talking to on Facebook for sometime now, and have a really good chat about the ishoos and share (Abilify Danger). I hope to strengthen my friendship with others who I've met through my blog as well.



Mrs No Spend said...

Hi have a great new year. I really want you to get to your end goal. I hope it goes as easily as possible. x x

Sarahmumof3 said...

good luck with all your wishes and I hope that 2012 is an amazing year for you x

Unknown said...

Thanks you two!

Paul said...

Just spent the last few hours reading your blog from day 1.I am so glad I came across it.

Many of your feelings, struggles and achievements ring so true with me.

I was on Prozac twice before (2005 and 2007) but only for a couple of months each - I didn't really want to take them and felt I was giving in.

In Feb 2011 I felt I needed to give Prozac a proper try so I've been on 20mg/day since then. To be honest I think they have just numbed my feelings - both happy ones and sad ones.

I decided today to try and get off the Prozac and approach life using all the skills I have learned and the new found self-knowledge I have achieved over the past few years.

Was going to either go cold turkey or drop to 10mg for a week then 5mg for a week but realised this is maybe not the best way.

After reading a lot on the net today and your blog I have decided to take it more slowly. My trouble is I'm impatient!

Spent a good few years feeling 'flat' and like you have tried all sorts including meditation, exercise, diet, St Johns Wort, counselling, CBT, self esteem boosting etc. I just want to feel 'normal'.

Feeling a bit scared now that I won't ever be able to feel 'normal' and get rid of the negative thoughts that are there when I wake up and usually stay with me. I'll have a damn good try though:-)

It all starts tomorrow - fingers crossed!

Good luck with all your hopes and dreams for 2012. I am sure you will achieve them.


Unknown said...

Ho funny Paul! I was actually standing in the bathroom this morning, wandering for the nth time if this was a good idea, have I put too much of myself out there, should I pull the plug at some point, this blog pulls me out of my comfort zone sometimes,totally alien to my upbringing.....come down and there is your comment on my blackberry LOL and yes I wish I'd stumbled on this blog myself a few years ago.

Definately don't go cold turkey,and I think you're feelings WILL come back, but the beauty of tapering slowly is that it allows you time to get used to the "real You" unnumbed emerging from the Prozac, if you want to e mail me to chat in private (quite a few people do)beautifulsouth7@yahoo.com

Unknown said...

Paul, just read your message again and realise you've only been on Prozac just under a year, it's possible it might not take that long to come off, but still best to take it slow and see how you go.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for that.

I'm dropping from 20mg/day to 18mg (missed 19mg!), 17mg, 16mg etc 1mg/week.

Watching my caffeine, booze, diet and exercise at the same time.

Discussed it with the doctor (I agree - they don't know enough about it) who said I should drop from 20mg/day to 15 for a month then 10.

I'll stick with my own plan than ks :-)


Unknown said...

OK that's still quite fast, but it might work for you, we're all different and I have to try and remember that.
In 2007 I tried 1mg a month and crashed spectacularly again. Let me know how you get on!

Anonymous said...

Will do