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, 7 January 2012

Beyond Prozac - Terry Lynch

I stumbled across Terry Lynch, not literally, I mean on Facebook, and stumbled on the fact that he is a GP and had written this book. All I can say is I wish every surgery had a Terry Lynch in it.

This book is so easy to read for a layman (woman) like me, I’ve read some others that have been a bit heavy going, but this is eminently readable.I learned a lot about how psychiatry relies so heavily on medication to treat mental “illness”.

I learned that “anti psychotics” are in fact just major tranquillisers, and there isn’t any such thing really as an “anti psychotic” medication that targets a particular area of the brain. “Anti psychotic” just sounds more “scientific” and targeted.

I learned that there really have been no experiments carried out to actually prove that serotonin levels are actually reduced in people who are depressed, and when you think about it, no one actually offers to test your serotonin level to see if it is low, and then tests it again after taking antidepressants to see if your serotonin is raised.

I learned that psychiatry is very heavily reliant on the pharmaceutical industry and the “medicalisation” of “mental illness” to justify its existence, and that we need to stop medicalising human emotional distress. Quoted from the back of the book “loveless ness and loneliness cannot be explained by chemical changes in the brain and cured by the ingestion of drugs. Lovelessness and loneliness, like anxiety and depression and all the ways of expressing distress which are called mental disorder, are part of what it is to be human..”

I leaned a lot about different mental states like schizophrenia, bi polar, anorexia, bulimia, anxiety, depression and suicide in layman’s terms, and the situations in life that can precipitate them.

I learned just how important self esteem is, and this point can’t be emphasised enough, it’s all about self esteem, and being loved and valued.

I learned that we all need to be a lot more open, that is accepting, and understanding about human distress, and understand that emotional turmoil is a normal part of what is to be human. That we can’t keep medicating it and sweeping it under the rug.

Something in the very last chapter of the book really hit home, Terry’s description of a man who visited him "in the surgery in a huge amount of emotional distress, wailing and sobbing. As he left the surgery, exhausted and barely able to stand, he happened to bump into a male acquaintance of his in the waiting room, Terry overheard a brief interchange between the two. The other man asked him how he was; he replied, “I’m good thanks”. Whatever else he felt at this time of crisis in his life, he did not feel ‘good’, but in this world where emotional censorship rules and distress must be kept under wraps, he did not feel he could tell this person how he really felt. This brief exchange spoke volumes about the subtle censorships, which are rampant within society". Yup I could relate to that.

I did think Jeremy Clarkson could learn a thing or two from this book after his crass comments before Christmas.

Of course, what I’ve written here is a huge simplification of Terry’s book and probably doesn’t do it justice, best go and read it yourself ;) Link to the book itself on Amazon

Link to Terry Lynch's talk at Cork Recovery Conference - this man talks a lot of sense.

Prozac Reduction Timeline


Anonymous said...

Hi Sheila

I read this book in 2004 (OMG time flies) so I think I'll give it another go.

I just went through my Amazon purchases (sad I know) and I bought over 50 books between 2001 and 2010 relating to depression, self esteem,self confidence etc.

It reminds me that we who suffer depression are actually strong people rather than weak people.


Unknown said...

I am sad as well Paul, I have a whole heap of books mostly about the politics/ethics of Prozac/psychiatry, some I've reviewed on here, most listed in a page on the side.

Anonymous said...

Would you say this is the best book you've read about Prozac and overcoming depression?

Unknown said...

Well this book isn't really about overcoming depression, it's more about depression/emotional disorders as actual entities, how they come about, and the part the pharmaceutical industry and psychiatry plays.
Not sure I've read that many books about overcoming depression, although I have done CBT in the past and that was really good. Just remembered, if you look at my book list on the side in the pages section there is one called "The Anxiety and Phobia workbook", that was a good one.

Anonymous said...

I just bought Terry Lynch's new book off Amazon http://amzn.to/xdPex3

I've only had a quick skim through but it look really good - it seemed that every time I had a quick read of a random page I was going "oh, that's exactly how I felt...."

Got good reviews on Amazon too.