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Peachtree: Off Sertraline for One Year


Peachtree

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Will try to keep this succinct. Depression runs in my family and I've suffered with it over the years, seeing therapists at various points in my life. When I was in my mid-thirties (in the mid-80s) my therapist persuaded me to go on Prozac, and it really seemed to help. I bought into the "if you were diabetic, wouldn't you take insulin?" argument, and I was happy to feel that there was something that could help. So for the next 30 years I was on some form or other of antidepressant, most recently Sertraline, at doses up to 150 mg/day. A few years ago I lost my faith that this drug was working for me or was even good for me, and decided that I did not want to be on it for the rest of my life. I began to very gradually taper off, cutting my dose in half for several months, in half again for several months, and so on, until I was taking only 25 mg. I took my last dose on February 28, 2019.

 

I find that I can go several days, maybe even a few weeks, feeling "normal," or what is my best attempt at normal, and then for whatever reason I just crash. I use a lot of self-talk to try and stop the downward spiral. Sometimes I'm successful, but sometimes I am SO down that I wish I was dead, because I can't stand feeling that way anymore. I'm not suicidal, in that I don't plan to off myself; it's only that in those times I feel like I and the entire world would be much better off if I was gone. I also am often extremely irritable, and often angry. I attribute some of it to the crazy world that we live in these days, but it feels extreme. I sometimes get very angry when I am driving and sometimes worry that I will do something really stupid. It's the extremes of emotion that scare me. I'm also dealing with facing old age (I'm a youngish 67), which scares the sh*t out of me. My parents are long dead, many of my cousins and some of my friends have died, and I never had kids. So the future is a little scary. (I do have fur-kids -- two dogs and a cat -- that I adore, and with the dogs especially, I don't want my bad episodes to affect them.

 

I did have some genetic testing done that revealed some mutations that interfere with certain metabolic processes that are believed to influence depression; and as a result I'm taking several nutritional supplements that are supposed to balance out that insufficiency. I can't honestly say whether they help or not, but I'm committed to continuing them for the near future.

 

So that's my story in a nutshell. I'm drawn to this group because I need information in order to help myself. I hope that things will get better, because I want to feel happy again and enjoy the rest of my life.

Can't be super-specific because I was on antidepressants from my mid-thirties until my mid-sixties and don't remember the details now. 

  • Took Fluoxetine and most recently Sertraline (for the past several years).
  • Tapered from 100 mg to 25 mg of Sertraline over approximately two years.
  • Took my final dose February 28, 2019 -- so, antidepressant-free for one full year. 
  • The only prescription drug I take is occasional 2.5 or 5 mg Zolpidem Tartrate (Ambien)
  • Take supplements to help alleviate depression:
    • Lactoferrin, Total Alpha Lipoic Acid, Super-Ox, Lifted "Mood-Boosting Probiotic"
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Welcome to SA, Peachtree.

 

A great deal of what you're experiencing is very likely due to withdrawal from the Sertraline  Although I know your taper seemed very gradual, 50% drops in dose are a shock to the brain and central nervous system, which prefer a much more gradual tapering down in order to recover from what the drugs have done, which is basically to alter the architecture of the brain.

 

The symptoms you describe--depression, suicidal ideation, anger, irritation, extremes of emotion--are very typical withdrawal symptoms and not, as the psychiatrists (who don't believe in withdrawal) like to put it, "return of the underlying condition."  It is very common for these symptoms to persist for a year or longer.  Things will get better and you will feel happy again, but it will take some time and, unfortunately, we can't put  timeline on how long it will take.

 

So that you have a better idea of what you're experiencing, here is some information on withdrawal and on healing from antidepressants.

 

What is withdrawal syndrome.

 

Daily Checklist of Antidepressant Withdrawal Symptoms (PDF) 

 

What you describe as a period of feeling normal followed by a crash is a very good sign of healing and is a typical pattern in healing from antidepressants, what we call the the windows and waves pattern.

 

The Windows and Waves Pattern of Stabilization

 

When we take psychiatric medications, the CNS (central nervous system) responds by making changes over the months and years we take the drug(s). When the medication is discontinued, the CNS has to undo all the changes it made. Rebuilding the neurotransmitter production and reactivating the receptor and transporter cells takes time -- during that rebuilding process symptoms occur.  

 

These explain the healing process really well:

 

Video:  Healing From Antidepressants - Patterns of Recovery

 

   On 8/30/2011 at 2:28 PM,  Rhiannon said: 
When we stop taking the drug, we have a brain that has designed itself so that it works in the presence of the drug; now it can't work properly without the drug because it's designed itself so that the drug is part of its chemistry and structure. It's like a plant that has grown on a trellis; you can't just yank out the trellis and expect the plant to be okay. When the drug is removed, the remodeling process has to take place in reverse. SO--it's not a matter of just getting the drug out of your system and moving on. If it were that simple, none of us would be here. It's a matter of, as I describe it, having to grow a new brain. I believe this growing-a-new-brain happens throughout the taper process if the taper is slow enough. (If it's too fast, then there's not a lot of time for actually rebalancing things, and basically the brain is just pedaling fast trying to keep us alive.) It also continues to happen, probably for longer than the symptoms actually last, throughout the time of recovery after we are completely off the drug, which is why recovery takes so long.

 

AND

 

   On 12/3/2015 at 10:41 AM,  apace41 said: 
Basically- you have a building where the MAJOR steel structures are trying to be rebuilt at different times - ALL while people are coming and going in the building and attempting to work.

It would be like if the World Trade Center Towers hadn't completely fallen - but had crumbled inside in different places.. Imagine if you were trying to rebuild the tower - WHILE people were coming and going and trying to work in the building!  You'd have to set up a temporary elevator - but when you needed to fix part of that area, you'd have to tear down that elevator and set up a temporary elevator somewhere else. And so on. You'd have to build, work around, then tear down, then build again, then work around, then build... ALL while people are coming and going, ALL while the furniture is being replaced, ALL while the walls are getting repainted... ALL while life is going on INSIDE the building. No doubt it would be chaotic. That is EXACTLY what is happening with windows and waves.  The windows are where the body has "got it right" for a day or so - but then the building shifts and the brain works on something else - and it's chaos again while another temporary pathway is set up to reroute function until repairs are made.  

 

We strongly recommend the use on non-drug techniques to cope with withdrawal and deal with any underlying issues you're not facing in the absence of the cloaking effects of the Sertraline.  Take a look at the links in the following link and see which you think may be of benefit to you.

 

Non-drug techniques to cope

 

What supplements are you taking?  If they're working, that's great, but sometimes in withdrawal they can be counterproductive.  We don't recommend a lot of supplements, as many members report being sensitive to them due to our over-reactive nervous systems, but two supplements that we do recommend are magnesium (glycinate is a good form) and omega 3 (fish oil). Many people find these to be calming to the nervous system. 

 

Magnesium, nature's calcium channel blocker 

 

Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) 

 

Add in one at a time and at a low dose in case you do experience problems.

 

How is your sleep?  Is anxiety an issue?

 

This is your Introduction topic, where you can ask questions and connect with other members.  We're glad you found your way here.

 

Gridley Introduction

 

Lexapro 20 mg since 2004.  Begin Brassmonkey Slide Taper Jan. 2017.   

End 2017 year 1 of taper at 9.25mg 

End 2018 year 2 of taper at 4.1mg

End 2019 year 3 of taper at 1.0mg  

Oct. 30, 2020  Jump to zero from 0.025mg.  Current dose: 0.000mg

3 year, 10 month taper is 100% complete.

 

Ativan 1 mg to 1.875mg 1986-2020, two CT's and reinstatements

Nov. 2020, 7-week Ativan-Valium crossover to 18.75mg Valium

Feb. 2021, begin 10%/4 week taper of 18.75mg Valium 

End 2021  year 1 of Valium taper at 6mg

End 2022 year 2 of Valium taper at 2.75mg 

End 2023 year 3 of Valium taper at 1mg

Jan. 24, 2024: Hold at 1mg and shift to Imipramine taper.

Taper is 95% complete.

 

Imipramine 75 mg daily since 1986.  Jan.-Sept. 2016 tapered to 14.4mg  

March 22, 2022: Begin 10%/4 week taper

Aug. 5, 2022: hold at 9.5mg and shift to Valium taper

Jan. 24, 2024: Resume Imipramine taper.  Current dose as of June 28: 5mg

Taper is 93% complete.  

  

Supplements: multiple, quercetin, omega-3, vitamins C, E and D3, magnesium glycinate, probiotic, zinc, melatonin .3mg, iron, serrapeptase, nattokinase, L-Glutamine


I am not a medical professional and this is not medical advice but simply information based on my own experience, as well as other members who have survived these drugs.

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Thank you for all this information! It's going to take me a while to read through and process. You asked about my sleep - I sometimes have trouble going to sleep, but more often (sometimes as much as 2 or 3 nights a week?) wake up in the night and can't go back to sleep because the brain starts working, and it's always unpleasant. Terrible anxiety. Typically I read to distract myself from thinking, and usually, eventually, can go back to sleep. On the whole I think I get adequate sleep, however. It's just lonely and horrible when it happens. I try not to stress about it. I usually feel fine the next day, not sleep-deprived. 

 

Supplements: Lactoferrin, Total Alpha Lipoic Acid, Super-Ox, Lifted "Mood-Boosting Probiotic, Trifolamin (three forms of B12, and Folate), Vitamin D3, Calcium, Glucosamine Chondroitin

 

Can't be super-specific because I was on antidepressants from my mid-thirties until my mid-sixties and don't remember the details now. 

  • Took Fluoxetine and most recently Sertraline (for the past several years).
  • Tapered from 100 mg to 25 mg of Sertraline over approximately two years.
  • Took my final dose February 28, 2019 -- so, antidepressant-free for one full year. 
  • The only prescription drug I take is occasional 2.5 or 5 mg Zolpidem Tartrate (Ambien)
  • Take supplements to help alleviate depression:
    • Lactoferrin, Total Alpha Lipoic Acid, Super-Ox, Lifted "Mood-Boosting Probiotic"
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