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ShellMadeOfDrugs: finally off SSRIs and I've lost myself

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ShellMadeOfDrugs

Hi everyone. 

 

I've been on SSRIs of one sort or another for 23 years. I had depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and severe social anxiety my entire childhood, and felt like I only became myself when I got on Prozac at age 12. My social skills hadn't developed normally because I had been too scared and depressed to interact with other children, but I was able to catch up in my teens with the help of medication. I tried to get off a couple times, once in my late teens and once in my mid-20s, but it didn't go well.

With medication, I have mostly done well, except for chronic insomnia that can at times be crippling. I have gone through many kinds of treatments, therapies, medications, and lifestyle changes in an effort to manage my insomnia. 

Now I'm 35, and until a couple months ago, I was the happiest I'd ever been in my life. I was recently married, had an exciting career, and was mostly keeping the insomnia under control through a strict cognitive behavior therapy regimen. I was taking 50 mg of Zoloft, a low dose that I had slowly reduced to over several years. I started a two-month taper using a liquid formulation with the goal of starting a family medication-free.

 

I know Zoloft is considered one of the safest SSRIs during pregnancy. But I really wanted to be medication-free for my baby, and it seemed with all the life skills and support systems I had built, that should be within reach. All seemed to be going well until I got down to about 20 mg. Then I started having awful, crippling bouts of insomnia that would leave me sobbing in despair and frustration for hours at night. I became emotionally hyper-reactive to everything; even something silly like not being able to find my socks could send me into violent fantasies, yells and sobs. I also had physical symptoms -- excessive sweating, diarrhea, and nausea. 

I held steady at 5 mg for a couple weeks, and it seemed to be getting better, so I slowly dropped the rest of the way. Things were rocky for a few days, then seemed to ease off, and I relaxed thinking I was on the way out. 

I've been off Zoloft completely for just over two weeks now, and it's suddenly gotten much much worse. That makes no sense to me because Zoloft has a short half-life, so I wasn't expecting a delayed reaction. But my insomnia is so bad lately that just thinking about my bed makes my throat close up, dreading the hours and hours of torture that will be my night. Half the time I am so tired that I can't function, literally not safe to drive to work. And for the past few days I have felt a rising cloud of depression and constant misery. A big part of me now believes on a bone-deep level that I am worthless and have never done anything worthwhile in my entire life. It seems obvious to me that the things I took pride in while I was on medication were stupid delusions, and I was just making a fool of myself with everything I did. Part of me does not want to go back on medication, even though I know it would fix this, because I don't want to be the stupid pathetic deluded fool again. Better to huddle in clear-eyed torment. And I can't bring myself to believe that it's okay to have a baby on Zoloft, even if my medicated self would have said I was being irrational. 

I know that untreated depression during pregnancy is associated with worse outcomes than taking Zoloft. So having a baby like this isn't an option either. But right now that seems moot, because I no longer feel I have the right or capacity to bring a child into the world. When I leave the house now or do anything besides curl up and cry, I am like a puppet-master pulling the strings of my own body, putting on a grisly charade of a functional living human. 

 

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Gridley

Welcome to SA, ShellMadeOfDrugs.  I'm sorry you're having such a difficult time.

 

If you tapered off 50mg Zoloft in two months, that is much faster than what we recommend, which is no more than 10% of current dose every four weeks.  

 

Why taper by 10% of my dosage?

 

As a result of your fast taper, you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms. These ones you list are typical.   These links will help you understand what you're going through.  Often, there is a "honeymoon period" after going off the drugs, after which withdrawal symptoms can strike very hard.

 

 
 
When we take 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 it really well:

 

 

   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.

So that we may better advise you, please complete a drug signature using the following link.  Please include drugs, dates, doses and specific information about your taper including the date of your last dose and the amount of that dose  The last 24 months are the most important.

 

Account Settings – Create or Edit a signature.

 

The feelings of self-loathing that you describe are common in withdrawal.  It's important to realize that these are, in very large part, not your genuine feelings, real though they seem,  but rather is "the drug talking."  Please read:

 

http://survivingantidepressants.org/topic/14397-neuro-emotions/

 

So what can you do?  Reinstatement of a very small dose of the original drug is the only known way to help alleviate withdrawal syndrome.  The only other alternative is to try and wait out the symptoms and manage as best you can until your central nervous system returns to homeostasis.  Unfortunately no one can give you an exact timeline as to when you will start feeling better and while some do recover relatively easily, for others it can take many months or longer.  
 
Reinstatement isn't a guarantee of diminished symptoms for everyone but it's the best tactic available.  You're still in the time period where reinstatement predictably works, up to 3 months after last dose.  It is best to reinstate as soon as possible after withdrawal symptoms occur. We usually suggest a much smaller reinstatement dose than your last dose.   Your system has become sensitized and If you take too much it may be too much for your brain and can cause you become unstable.   Then, once you've stabilized on that dosage, which can take several months,  you can begin a 10% per month taper down to zero.  Reinstatement works most predictably within three months of the last dose.  Please read:
 
About reinstating and stabilizing to reduce withdrawal symptoms. -- at least the first page of the topic
 
Once you've completed your drug signature, we can recommend a dosage of Zoloft to reinstate.  I know you may be reluctant to go back on the drug, but it will be  very small dose that you'll be able to taper down to zero within a reasonable time.  Please don't reinstate without letting us suggest a dosage.
 
We don't recommend a lot of supplements on SA, as many members report being sensitive to them due to our over-reactive nervous systems, but two supplements that we do recommend are magnesium (magnesium glycerinate is  good form) and omega 3 (fish oil). Many people find these to be calming to the nervous system. 

 

 

 

Please research all supplements first and only add in one at a time and at a low dose in case you do experience problems.
 
This is your Introduction topic, where you can ask questions, post updates and connect with other members.  We're glad you found your way here.
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ShellMadeOfDrugs

Thank you, Gridley. I chose an 8 week schedule because it seemed like a moderate taper from the other sources I was reading (I had not yet found this site), and I was already on a very low dose. Also, I was in a rush to try to get pregnant because I was already 35 and worried time was running out. But as the resources here confirm, it seems like I was not actually speeding anything up. 

I am already taking fish oil, and will look into magnesium. (Also taking vitamin D and folic acid). 

I can't quite bring myself to decide to go back on Zoloft at the moment, but I understand that a low-dose reinstatement is likely in my future. I've got an appointment with my psychiatrist in a couple days and I'll bring up the points you raise. 

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bubble

Hello Shell from me too. 

 

Most of us have been in the same or a very similar situation. The reason we are here is because psychiatrist were of no help whatsoever. Over 90 % of them deny withdrawal symptoms or believe they only last for a few weeks. When we come to them with such symptoms they say our original condition came back or drugs unmasked some other condition. So a solution is more drugs and higher doses.

 

It is very hard to accept that our brains adapted to the drugs over many years and physiologically changed to the point were they can't function without them. Those changes can be reversed but it takes a very long time. It has nothing to do with whether the drug is short acting or not. We need to regrow a new brain.

 

I also have a history of over 20 years on drugs and was able to reduce only very slowly or I would become dysfunctional and suffer badly. When I even tried to speed up my taper the wheels would come off the bus. The longer I was off the worse it got (which is counterintuitive as many things here). I also thought that nothing could be worse than being pregnant and on drugs so I had to accept that I would never have children. And now at the age of 42 I got pregnant while still tapering. I'm very sad and worried but we made it to week 29 and so far everything is ok. There was just no other way.

 

I don't have a message but just sharing my experience so that you know you are not alone. With 35 you still have time. There are a lot of women taking antidepressants in pregnancy and I believe that a dose makes a difference.

 

Good luck with whatever you decide.

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Gridley

 

23 hours ago, ShellMadeOfDrugs said:

I've got an appointment with my psychiatrist in a couple days and I'll bring up the points you raise. 

 

Please be wary if your psychiatrist suggests a large reinstatement dosage.  Over the time of your eight week taper, your brain became accustomed to the lowering doses.  Reinstatement of a large dosage, such as your previous 50mg or anything close to it, can be very destabilizing.  The reinstatement doses we suggest are very small, in the range between 0.5mg to 5, depending on the drug and the member's last dose.  

 

If you decide to reinstate, please don't do so without letting us offer a suggested reinstatement dosage.

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Altostrata

Welcome, Shell.

On 7/27/2019 at 1:05 PM, ShellMadeOfDrugs said:

All seemed to be going well until I got down to about 20 mg. Then I started having awful, crippling bouts of insomnia that would leave me sobbing in despair and frustration for hours at night. I became emotionally hyper-reactive to everything;

 

This is a fairly classic description of antidepressant withdrawal syndrome. You already were in a withdrawal state when you decreased to zero.

 

If I were you, I'd reinstate Zoloft right away. Since you've been off for only 17 days, 5mg might be the right dose for you. You'd stabilize on this and taper off by miniscule amounts later.

 

Or, you could try 1mg Prozac, it may be easier to taper than Zoloft.

 

On 7/27/2019 at 1:05 PM, ShellMadeOfDrugs said:

I've been on SSRIs of one sort or another for 23 years. I had depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and severe social anxiety my entire childhood, and felt like I only became myself when I got on Prozac at age 12.

 

On 7/27/2019 at 1:05 PM, ShellMadeOfDrugs said:

A big part of me now believes on a bone-deep level that I am worthless and have never done anything worthwhile in my entire life.

 

Does it not seem odd to you that you needed a drug to "become myself" when you were 12? Was there any stress or unhappiness in your family life?

 

The neuro-emotions of withdrawal syndrome can amplify fears and self-hate that were always there, but dulled by the drugs. If I were you, I'd see a counselor to work through this so you can understand where these feelings come from -- they're not a brain disease that came out of nowhere.

 

On 7/27/2019 at 1:05 PM, ShellMadeOfDrugs said:

I know that untreated depression during pregnancy is associated with worse outcomes than taking Zoloft.

 

"Untreated" meaning not taking drugs? There are many ways to cope with "depression" -- another vague term.

 

There is no doubt that mothers who feel unhappy, isolated, and abandoned before they have a baby will have even more difficulty after the baby is born. In the US, women are mostly left on their own with a newborn, a very inhumane way to treat new mothers.

 

You clearly have a tendency to intense self-blame and self-doubt. Again, this may have been dulled by drugs for many years, but is not a brain disease. It's up to you to decide if you want to commit to therapy to learn how to manage it or rewrite the script, or if you want to continue to depend on drugs.

 

PS It sounds like your life-long insomnia was drug-induced. You now have withdrawal insomnia.

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RichT

Hi Shell,

 

I’m sorry you’re clearly suffering so much. There are many people here who are going through this, and many who have gone through this and come out the other side.

 

It’s very common for withdrawal symptoms to appear a while after a change of dose - it can take months sometimes for bad effects to appear.

 

Don’t be afraid of going back onto a small dose. It worked for me! But as Gridley says, a big change / re-instatement can destabilise your system even more. You could suggest to your psychiatrist that you try a small dose and see how it goes. That’s what I did with my psychiatrist and he was happy to try that. 

 

Re-instatement isn’t guaranteed to work, and my experience of it is that it took away the worst of the withdrawal symptoms but left symptoms that are bearable but sometimes still tough. There’s no comparison, though, with how I was feeling before I re-instated.

 

warmest wishes,

 

Rich

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