It's over, I think. My usage of Zoloft. It's been one hell of a ride despite being just over a year that I was prescribed the medicine. I thought it might be helpful for people considering, or on this medicine, to see my experience with it. So let's go back to January 2012, where it all started.
2011: Horrible year, just horrible. Spent on the east coast in an arguing volatile relationship, a dying aunt who passed away just after a short three weeks' visit, ended up in a brawl with one sister and an almost-brawl with another sister, then had to endure more time with arguing volatile relationship and finally came back home and sank into a deep, dark depression for the rest of the year.
January 2012: I was prescribed Levothyroxine for thyroid disease. I never knew I had this disease or that being tired, exhausted, cranky, slow, lethargic, etc was not the norm. I felt sad at the prospect that this would be a life medication I could never take away, but in just two weeks' time I already felt more energetic and normal.
June 2012: I went in to see my doctor and get my thyroid levels checked as normal but I was prescribed 50mg of Zoloft per day. Here is an excerpt from my blog entry at the time:
Thyroid levels? AWESOME. Problem? My doctor and I are very close. She's a really great woman who has taken the time to get to know me since I started visiting her. She probably knows me better than most other people, which is weird maybe. Regardless, she saw how tired and worn down I looked and started asking me about stuff. I told her I'd gone probably 30 hours with no sleep, and I told her about how down I've been feeling.
And this is the part that's hard to write....after discussing it she suggested putting me on a really low-dose antidepressant. She was really worried about me--early this year I was having panic attacks and anxiety problems, rather manic, and now I seem to be slipping too far in the other direction. Depression. And let me tell you, I know the difference between depression and regular old sad. I've been chronically depressed before. Suicidal. I hate talking about it because anyone can throw out 'I feel depressed'.
July 2012: Holy shit!!! What a month. Is this how normal people feel??? I was dizzy for a good week after starting the medicine. It wasn't unpleasant, but it did impede my driving ability. And I started feeling H A P P Y. I cannot properly stress how insane it is to feel happy after being so sad, tired, burnt out, depressed, for so long. It was amazing. I truly felt like a different person.
August 2012: First warning sign that something wasn't right. I actually don't know if I can blame the Zoloft for this, but I started getting anxious (anxiety is one of the side effects but who knows.) My doctor had prescribed me preventative xanex and unknowingly...literally you guys I had NO idea....but I took several over the course of a weekend, and I became EXTREMELY suicidal. It was the first time I ever called a suicide hotline, and as of yet, the only time. It was a horrible, scary moment. I realized the xanex were fucking with my mind and I stopped them immediately. Things calmed down.
It's a very lonely world, and I am lonelier than I have ever been. Even those nights I spent sleeping outside as a kid, thinking that there was no way out of it. Even in the first physical confrontation between my husband and I, when I lay there realizing that this marriage was going to end up like my parents'...violent and dangerous. Even when I spent years conditioning myself to be okay and accepting of the fact that life is ours alone, and everyone has to be alone for so many things to have any decent quality of life......I've gone through all that and never been as scared, or as close to death, as I was today.
You can read that full story here.
September-October 2012: I vacationed in Tennessee and though some really challenging things happened like seeing my dad, I had a good time. I was constantly with people so it was nice to be out of my own head so to speak. My dose hadn't changed and I was still faithfully taking the Zoloft. I was happy.
November 2012: I was still feeling pretty good about this time. I had finished up my EMT Certification and felt very, very proud. I learned that I would be spending Christmas in Sweden and was ecstatic. I even landed a cute job working for Santa during December at the mall. I was doing well despite the cold weather approaching and my normal wintertime sadness. Things seemed to be going fine mental health wise, anyway. I do recall some mood swings and anger, and usual emo whinyness about love but those are pretty normal with me.
December 2012: Things took a downhill turn even before I left for Sweden. I don't know again how much of this was brought on by Zoloft and how much of it was winter and holiday depression, which has always affected me. Around Christmas, I thought of suicide daily. I can't believe, in retrospect, that I was in my beloved Sweden with so much to look forward to and I just wanted to end it.
But, this was a turning point, because I was doing research on SSRI's at this point and remembered:
What followed was the strangest and most pathetic (debatable) ten minutes of my entire adulthood. The balcony was surrounded by thick glass doors with no way through except to open them, and I couldn't figure out how to open the damn things. I was standing out there pulling and pushing, looking at the snowy trees and looooong fall below me and crying so hard I gave myself a nosebleed while I tried to move the doors. Even in my traumatic state I didn't want to damage the glass.....logic. But it was a new apartment, after all, and I already felt so worthless I wanted to risk death or at least, a very broken body, so breaking the glass would've made me feel even worse in my last few alive minutes. I still don't know how to open those doors (and I never asked, actually....I feel better not knowing.) It was a pathetic and lonely display which ended with me collapsing against the glass and crying and bleeding, then defeatedly going back to the couch and crying until I fell asleep.
"When I was in the doctor's office being prescribed Zoloft, she told me this as well: Zoloft has the potential to increase suicidal thoughts with depressed patients. Jesus fucking Christ!!!! No WONDER I wanted to cast myself into oblivion every ten minutes. Once I read that statement on the website I sat there and facepalmed for the rest of the day. It makes sense now....while I still stand by the fact that Zoloft did give me a new life and the ability to wake up and feel halfway normal, it also really ended up negatively impacting my depression in the end. It's easy for a doctor or a website to say "oh and if you feel suicidal remember it's just the medicine! And call me!" Very easy to say. Not easy for someone who is convinced they need to end their life, to ....well...NOT do that. You could say depressed people get a little bit of tunnel vision."
January-May 2013: This is when things got weird and stupid. I was terrified of Zoloft, terrified of not taking Zoloft, had to be shipped back to America at one point...I mean, I was chemically a mess. I would take the pills intermittently and sometimes I felt great, other days I felt stressed and sad. I had no idea what was even happening so I just rode the tide. Except the tide got really depressing the farther along the year went. I went off the pills entirely, felt horrible, then went back on them, and felt anxious. I quit again when Madi visited in June, and that's when the anger happened.
June-July 2013: I had stopped the Zoloft in June out of frustration. I refused to go back on it. I went through some symptoms of withdrawl: dizziness, tiredness, whatever else have you, but those went away after a week and I wrongly thought that the drug was out of the system and whatever else left was "just me." Then I started having anger issues. And when I say anger I mean like, Hulk, raging, unnecessary anger rages. Constantly. I have no idea how anyone put up with me during that time. But, I did my research:
I did some good old internet research for people who were on Zoloft and their experiences with anger.
I saw a pattern, after reading intensively for hours. These weren't so much medical science articles as much as people pouring their hearts and stories out on forum posts. I won't post any here, but I read a lot and it seems like mine is not the only case of people turning into the Hulk. Especially stopping the medicine...this made other people fly into blinding rages as well. I realized then I probably should have weaned myself down. My dose was 50mg, which is still a pretty low dose, but even that needs cutting into 25 for a few weeks, then down to 12.5. It made sense to me and some of the stories I read were heartbreaking and served to warn me that medicine for the brain can be pretty disastrous. The pharma industry is by no means a perfect system...or even one I particularly like. (Of course I believe in modern medicine and consider healthcare workers the equivalent of miracle workers, but I'm saying the DRUG companies pushing these drugs are total douchebag assholes.)
Current: July-August 2013: So here we are, a year later and god knows what kind of emotional reactions were just me, and which ones were caused by this brain-changing drug. It was so hard for me to mentally block these emotions and think to myself that maybe they were caused by the SSRI and maybe they weren't real as they seemed. It's comforting to know that a lot of my mood swings and dark spots were caused from an outside source and not my own mind, but then again, a lot of the positive thoughts, the courage I've had...what if that wasn't me either? What if that was the Zoloft?
I told Henri that he was, for the first time, going to get to know the me without medicine. Ever since we have been friends I've been on Zoloft. I don't know what's going to happen without it. Maybe I'm afraid, but I'm also kind of excited. And if you're wondering, no I do not blame Zoloft for the bad parts. Not solely, anyway. I do caution anyone using an SSRI to have a good support group and to research more thoroughly than I did. I have no problem with anyone taking medications, but the problem is when you are the person feeling these feelings, you have no way of discerning when you are being totally irrational about the situation. And even if you can discern, most of the time you can't force yourself to feel something different, hence being on the medicine in the first place.
So, I'm about to turn 26 in a few weeks...let's see who I am reeeeeeeeally.