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, 29 October 2012

C'mon Inner Peace I Don't Have All Day!!

The people who mentioned it gets hard near the end, they were not wrong!!  Anyway I realised this blog was turning into a right misery pity fest so I want to turn it around again into a more positive story of recovery and celebrate the fact that I have in fact come a long long way even if there is still a bit or work to do.

I’m getting the adrenaline surges I used to get years ago when I did cold turkey but not as severe, it becomes a bit of a downward spiral because adrenaline surges means it’s hard to relax/sleep and in turn the tiredness/exhaustion makes the surges feel worse and more desperate; the one positive thing about adrenaline surges is that they appear to eat calories and I can now eat cake and lose weight.!!Has to be some benefit doesn’t there? Yesterday I had a couple of strong coffees in the morning and couldn’t help but notice how very on edge I felt an hour or so later, so I guess that’s something I’ll have to cut down or eliminate, hopefully temporarily. I have taken some advice and this is the positive action I am taking:

       Out with the bungee jumping

       Out with the trips to Alton Towers, no more Oblivion for me, at least for the time being

Cut down on tea and coffee


       Replace tea and coffee with chamomile, green and rosehip tea (boring but soothing)

Eat healthy

Magnesium citrate (was already taking magnesium but apparently magnesium citrate is much better absorbed and is good for the nervous system and muscles)

Melatonin (good for sleep)

Learn about Mindfulness, “Wherever You Go There You Are” on order.

Keep up with the exercise, sadly weather for cycling is not good but I still have the X trainer.

Continue to appreciate my caring and supportive husband who worries about me, and my funny affectionate sons.

 I’ve been trying to unravel whether this is “withdrawal” or mind and body rebelling against the crutch I’ve had for so many years now disappearing, and even whether I ought to up dose a bit or tough this out. At the moment I’m going to stay at this dose, take positive action as above and mull over how to proceed in the future.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Peter Hitchens writing in the Daily Mail about Felicia Boots

Peter Hitchens often writes on this topic in the Daily Mail. I have actually been avoiding this story because it's really so painful, but it is actually really important to share this, as most people will be missing the point entirely and blaming the post natal depression, the real story is that she stopped taking her pills cold turkey. Thank you thank you Peter Hitchens.

Investigate the evil of these pills

I bit my tongue when I first read of the tragedy of Felicia Boots, her life now a desolation of unbearable grief.
As soon as I learned that she had killed her own children and then tried to do away with herself, I was sure that I would find she had been taking ‘antidepressants’. And so it proves.
Our courts let many people off because of spurious claims that they could not control themselves.
Probe: Peter Hitchens wants an inquiry into the usage of antidepressants following the tragic story of Felicia Boots, right
Probe: Peter Hitchens wants an inquiry into the usage of antidepressants following the tragic story of Felicia Boots, right
But I believe that in her case the judge was right to say that this unhappy woman was in the grip of ‘forces that were beyond her control’.
It will be pointed out that she had recently ceased taking these pills, because of a perfectly reasonable fear of passing on the drugs to her children through her breast milk.
To anyone who has studied the matter, the fact that Mrs Boots became unhinged after ceasing to take her ‘antidepressants’ will be no surprise.
Normal human beings become abnormal, possibly for ever, as soon as they first ingest these powerful, poorly-researched chemicals, often prescribed by doctors shamefully ignorant of the growing body of expert criticism of them.
The effects of coming off them can be even worse than the effects of starting to take them. I have absolutely no personal stake in this argument. I have simply observed what seems to me to be a pattern, both among several people known to me and in a growing number of news reports.
I will be told this is ‘anecdotal’. Very well, then. Let us have a proper, fully-funded inquiry that will settle the matter once and for all. It is very urgent. Prescriptions of ‘antidepressants’ grow all the time.
If there is the slightest risk that they make good, kind mothers lose their minds and kill their own babies, I can imagine few more pressing matters on the agenda of any government than to establish the truth and act on it. Please, somebody listen.

Link to the article (scroll down)

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Cutting Up Rough

Just had one of the worst few days in a long while, since I embarked on this taper in 2008 my withdrawals have been fairly benign and I’ve been pretty much able to work through them. This time however I’ve had a few days that have felt much more crippling in intensity, I’m wondering if it’s because now I’m below 1ml each cut I make is more than 10% of previous dose. At this point I could make micro cuts, which could be endless, or just leave even longer between cuts and accepting that the withdrawals will be more debilitating when they do hit. At the moment I am thinking the latter; whatever, it’s just really frustrating to be so near and yet so far to the end. It’s so tempting to just think to hell with it and just drop this last bit dead but I just know Prozac and my brain won’t like it and will cut up very rough.

These past few days I’ve had the following:

·        Wired/caffeinated feeling

·        Insomnia (one night I got so fed up I went downstairs and made a packed lunch and sorted laundry, went back to bed and still couldn’t sleep)

·        Free floating anxiety

·        Crying

·        Despair
At my lowest point I nearly deleted my page off Facebook and this blog, until P talked me out of it, and now I’m so glad I didn’t, I would have missed the page and all the wonderful people out there. This time I even had to take a couple of days off my local authority job and I felt really bad about that, I’m so used to rarely being off sick. The plus side is that I work with a great team of people, and I felt able to tell the truth about why I was off sick and even had a lengthy chat about it with a colleague when I did get back and it was all positive.

Today I feel like I’m definitely coming out the other side and I’m just left feeling like I’ve been through the wringer and feeling a bit spaced out.
I do just want to address something that I know people think but are too polite to say or ask, everyone who goes on these drugs went on them for a reason, depression, anxiety (and nowadays PMT, ADD, ADHD, physical pain or any number of different ailments). How do I know I’m not just depressed still? Of course I’m not naive enough to think depression will leave my life forever, of course I will always be someone prone to depression/anxiety as part of my makeup and I am ever mindful of that fact. Having had depression I know that with no drugs involved it just doesn’t shift that quickly, it’s a longer haul. When doing a slow taper off a drug the depressions are mercifully time limited and do shift in a way that depression wouldn’t.

My youngest son is 14 this coming week, this means its 14 years since this story started.

I just want to end this post with a picture made by a good friend Paul:
My Prozac Reduction Timeline

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Today is World Mental Health Day

P is in a lot business networking groups on Facebook, and he received an invitation to an "Afternoon tea and talk" event at Arlingtons Brasserie in Ipswich this afternoon, it's a mental health awareness event with interesting things going on,  at first I thought I wouldn't be able to go and then I realised I had in fact swapped my work days for a staff meeting so I could in fact go.

 A portion of the proceeds of the event are going to Suffolk Mind and The Mind Sanctuary in Suffolk. This was too good an event for us to miss as it combines business networking for P and mental health awareness which is of interest to us both.

The Mind Sanctuary

Suffolk Mind

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Antidepressant Withdrawal is Hell!

When I shared this picture on my Facebook page a while back I was shocked by how much response it got, so many related to it or had something to say about it.

I could tick at least half the things on that list and many people I know could tick nearly all.

Monday, 1 October 2012


So a week into my tiny cut this is how I've been feeling, my sleep pattern has temporarily gone to pot and I've been dragging my weary ass through the days, it's. just. a. drag. On saturday I'd had a good nights sleep but despite that I just felt like someone had pulled my plug out, I felt drained like when you have flu.  No emotionals this time, just tiredness,  I know it will pass. I really was hoping to speed up the last bit of the taper now, but P, very sensibly said what does it matter? who cares if the last bit takes another load of months? enjoy the stability in between the drops? I know he's right darn it!!

I'm married to someone who can sleep on a clothes line at the drop of a hat, I however have to go to bed the same time every night and no matter what time I go to bed, I always wake early, I never sleep the clock round, and I daytime sleep just doesn't come easy, and if it does I get a thumping headache, so routine is important to me, I've found talking to other members of my family that they are much the same, and I think it's to do with being brought up in a farming family.

Prozac Reduction Timeline