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Cathy4: Zoloft withdrawal gone awry

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Cathy4

Hi Everyone, 

I’m looking for advice and support.

 

Last February I began what I thought was a slow withdrawal from zoloft.  I tapered from 150mg down to 25mg in the span of 6 months.  I went to 25mg on July 1st and a little over a month later I started to notice profound feelings of helplessness/despair, monumental anxiety, increased panic attacks, and this overwhelming feeling that the ground was going to open up and swallow me.  

 

To complicate matters, I’d been taking xanax to “help” with the panic/anxiety—maybe .25 or .5mg every other day.  As I can tapered the zoloft, I began to notice interdose withdrawal from the xanax.  On 8/24/19, I cold-turkeyed off xanax, thinking it was doing more harm than good.  After a couple weeks of Hell (becoming truly paranoid, not eating, waking up with lightning bolts through my head, nightmares, and just overall terror, I upped my zoloft to 50mg.  

 

Close to hospitalization, I called my psychiatrist and he said to go to 100mg of zoloft and start klonopin.  

 

100mg of zoloft was too much, and so I went to 75mg, where I’ve been for the past 14 days.  I am taking .25 to .5mg klonopin every morning.  My question is this:

 

How long does it take to get stable?  Everyday I have intense fear/anxiety and I have developed agoraphobia.  The abrupt xanax cessation brought back ptsd symptoms.  I’m not working right now and very isolated.  I want to begin tapering again as soon as possible because I feel like both these drugs are contributing to my intense fear/anxiety.  Any suggestions/ideas are more than welcome.  Thank you.  

(Oh, and I’ve been on zoloft for... 10 years and before that luvox, prozac for shorter stints.  Also on xanax & klonopin as needed for 15 years but only recently was taking xanax frequently).

Thank you so much.  

 

 

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manymoretodays
Posted (edited)

Hi Cathy4 and welcome aboard,

And oh my........quite the wowser of symptoms and I'm so sorry.  Glad you have been able to stay out of the hospital.  Not easy to do this all by your lonesome though.  Do you have another person in your household?  Not to be nosy, it can help though, especially if you have stopped going out due to agoraphobia and post trauma stress symptoms.  Do you need to give your work a time frame for when you might be back? 

 

How were you doing through the rapid taper of Zoloft, prior to the xanax?  Were you just going down in increments of 25 or 50 mg, with the Zoloft? 

 

Did you hold on the 25 mg of Zoloft then, from July 1st until you jumped up in dose to 100 mg and then backed down to 75 mg?

Can you do a signature for us?   Please put your withdrawal history in your signature.

That would clarify some of my questions.

The how to's are in that link ^ 

If unable to, you could just put some dates, followed by drugs and dosages here on your introduction page.  I did see your previous history in your post too.  Just for now, if necessary, just stick to the past 6 mos. to years time.

 

Benzo dependency generally develops in 2 weeks time.  Even with intermittent dosing, like you did.   You might want to just stabilize your dose of klonopin now, at the very least, in hopes of some further stability with that.  Klonopin has a much longer half life than Xanax does, and so generally speaking, only needs to be dosed daily.  Xanax most people take 3- 4 times a day.   I don't think it's a bad idea to perhaps stick with a 0.5 mg dose daily with the Klonopin now.  Same dose, same time of day.  It may be of value, in offsetting some of the severe WD(withdrawal) that set in from both Zoloft, and then Xanax.

 

Sometimes, most times, tapering is not the answer to WD.  I wish it was that easy.  It's not.

 

Could be awhile until you get stable.  And then again, with the right updose, and usage of the Klonopin.........maybe it will be sooner.  No problem just HOLDING around here.  And then tackling tapering, when your nervous system has had a bit of time to recover.

 

How are you doing on the 75 mg of Zoloft?  And when do you take that?  Is it in the morning alongside the Klonopin?

 

I don't know if you can read and absorb much at this point, but I'll go ahead and give you some of the basic starter information that everyone should read prior to tapering off of their AD(antidepressant) or benzo.  Many of us can't, when we first arrive, already in a state of WD........so, I am not chastising you, in any way..........just saying.

 

So.......anyway......here you have it:

The 10% taper recommendation is a harm reduction approach to going off psychiatric drugs.
We suggest a 10% taper based on each previous dosage.  And then as you'll see, most often, one can get down from the higher dosages, without nearly as much problem, as that which begins to become apparent, at the lower dosages. 
this one^, applies to updosing as well
 
 
 
 

 

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.  The CNS likes stability. Rebuilding the neurotransmitter production and reactivating the receptor and transporter cells takes time -- during that rebuilding process symptoms occur. And sleep is really important during withdrawal.  How are you doing with sleep at this point?
 
This is your introduction/journal page where you have now introduced yourself to the community, you can ask questions here regarding your tapering, give updates, and just keep a record of your journey.   And a journey it is!
 
Love, peace, healing, and growth,
manymoretodays(mmt)

 

Edited by manymoretodays

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Cathy4

Thank you so much, manymoretodays,

 

I have now included my medication signature.  The zoloft 75mg is better than 100mg because I can sleep alright some nights and don’t have the drowsy agitation, rage, and insomnia.  The pretty constant fear/anxiety throughout the day often is barely touched by the klonopin.  

 

During the rapid zoloft taper, I was having more panic attacks and anxiety but that could’ve also been yo-yoing from the xanax.  I started feeling really really weird almost exactly one month after dropping to 25mg zoloft, so I held there and stupidly cold-turkeyed xanax.  Then I really panicked and started upping the zoloft.  

 

7am levothyroxine

8am .5mg klonopin

9am  75mg zoloft w/bite of food

 

10:30am anxiety, feeling that ground is moving or going to move

 

afternoon:  anxiety typically a bit better

evening:  anxiety returns/panic attack, want to gag a lot

 

350mg magnesium a day, two teaspoons fish oil, epsom salt bath if not too anxious to sit

 

meditation both a.m. & p.m. if can sit.  Trying to walk some days, massive social phobias, new phobia of driving on freeway.  

 

Thanks for suggestion to keep klonopin at .5mg.  I feel like I just substituted one benzo for another and worried about tolerance/withdrawals with klonopin.  

 

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Altostrata

Welcome, Cathy.

 

7 hours ago, Cathy4 said:

10:30am anxiety, feeling that ground is moving or going to move

 

 

Does this happen every day?

 

You may have to divide your Klonopin doses. I'll ask @Shep to look at this.

 

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Cathy4

Hi Altostrata,

 

Yes, right now it happens nearly every day around that time.  Thanks very much for checking with @Shep and responding.  

Cathy

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Cbluffs
On 10/7/2019 at 10:09 PM, Cathy4 said:

Hi Everyone, 

I’m looking for advice and support.

 

Last February I began what I thought was a slow withdrawal from zoloft.  I tapered from 150mg down to 25mg in the span of 6 months.  I went to 25mg on July 1st and a little over a month later I started to notice profound feelings of helplessness/despair, monumental anxiety, increased panic attacks, and this overwhelming feeling that the ground was going to open up and swallow me.  

 

To complicate matters, I’d been taking xanax to “help” with the panic/anxiety—maybe .25 or .5mg every other day.  As I can tapered the zoloft, I began to notice interdose withdrawal from the xanax.  On 8/24/19, I cold-turkeyed off xanax, thinking it was doing more harm than good.  After a couple weeks of Hell (becoming truly paranoid, not eating, waking up with lightning bolts through my head, nightmares, and just overall terror, I upped my zoloft to 50mg.  

 

Close to hospitalization, I called my psychiatrist and he said to go to 100mg of zoloft and start klonopin.  

 

100mg of zoloft was too much, and so I went to 75mg, where I’ve been for the past 14 days.  I am taking .25 to .5mg klonopin every morning.  My question is this:

 

How long does it take to get stable?  Everyday I have intense fear/anxiety and I have developed agoraphobia.  The abrupt xanax cessation brought back ptsd symptoms.  I’m not working right now and very isolated.  I want to begin tapering again as soon as possible because I feel like both these drugs are contributing to my intense fear/anxiety.  Any suggestions/ideas are more than welcome.  Thank you.  

(Oh, and I’ve been on zoloft for... 10 years and before that luvox, prozac for shorter stints.  Also on xanax & klonopin as needed for 15 years but only recently was taking xanax frequently).

Thank you so much.  

 

 

 Hey @cathy4


We are all here for you! You will get through this! trust the process and keep your faith high! A couple of things I do to help my taper and keep me going strong are:
1. I meditate a lot, during this taper its can get very overwhelming fast and scary especially when you're getting all these negative emotions and thoughts. Sometimes its important to do sit still and focus on your breath. It helps me a lot! 

2. I journal every night, how my day went and always remind myself of my intention of coming off the medication, that intention will keep you going! Getting your thoughts on paper is very therapeutic, and I have seen it help myself out a lot.

3. Exercise!!! So important, even if its a walk around the block or if you want to do some yoga which correlates to meditation and breath work, but moving your body is really key to producing healthy chemistry in the brain. 

4. Eat a healthy diet! consume nutrient dense food.

5. Be active in your recovery! I know it can be a challenge doing this alone but your not! you got us on this page! We are rooting for you!

love 

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Shep
On 10/10/2019 at 12:19 AM, Cathy4 said:

7am levothyroxine

8am .5mg klonopin

9am  75mg zoloft w/bite of food

 

10:30am anxiety, feeling that ground is moving or going to move

 

That "ground moving" sounds like a benzo side effect and / or withdrawal effect.

 

From The Ashton Manual

 

However, certain symptom clusters are particularly characteristic of benzodiazepine withdrawal. These include hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli (sound, light, touch, taste and smell) and perceptual distortions (for example sensation of the floor undulating, feeling of motion, impressions of walls or floors tilting, sensation of walking on cotton wool).

 

On 10/8/2019 at 1:09 AM, Cathy4 said:

To complicate matters, I’d been taking xanax to “help” with the panic/anxiety—maybe .25 or .5mg every other day.  As I can tapered the zoloft, I began to notice interdose withdrawal from the xanax.  On 8/24/19, I cold-turkeyed off xanax, thinking it was doing more harm than good. After a couple weeks of Hell (becoming truly paranoid, not eating, waking up with lightning bolts through my head, nightmares, and just overall terror, I upped my zoloft to 50mg.  

 

Did the "ground moving" symptom start after you cold-turkeyed Xanax? Did you have this prior to upping the Zoloft to 50 mg? 

 

Does this symptom happen only at 10:30? How long does it last? 

 

Sorry to ask so many questions, but I'm wondering if you may be dealing with Xanax withdrawal, even with the Klonopin.  Please let us know more. 

 

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Cathy4

Hi Shep,

 

Thank You for your message.

The ground moving sensation started mostly after CT xanax, and also after updosing to 50mg Zoloft (actually even more after upping to 75mg zoloft).

 

It’s definitely a more recent (in the past month or so) phenomenon that coincides with extreme shoulder/neck tension.  

 

It happens anytime of day, more often mid-morning and evening, and can last for a couple hours.  Even if I take a .25mg klonopin it doesn’t seem to necessarily go away.  

 

Thank you so much. 

 

So it is still possible to feel withdrawals from xanax even though I’ve substituted another benzo in here(?)

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Shep
On 10/11/2019 at 11:03 AM, Cathy4 said:

So it is still possible to feel withdrawals from xanax even though I’ve substituted another benzo in here(?)

 

Yes, you could definitely be getting Xanax withdrawal symptoms. Both Klonopin and Xanax are benzos, but they are still different drugs.  We recommend a very slow crossover whenever someone wishes to do a crossover, which gives the nervous system time to adjust. The sudden impact of the cold turkey switch no doubt rattled your nervous system. 

 

And as you mention, changes in the SSRI also caused upticks in symptoms.

 

How are you feeling now? 

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Cathy4

Okay, Shep,

 

thanks for that info.  No wonder I’m still having really bizarre intrusive memories coming back.  
 

Yesterday was really rough.  Depressed yet fearful, so I spent much of the day breathing in and out.  At night the scary thoughts come, but once I’m able to get to sleep, I can sleep without nightmares or vivid weird dreams for 5-6 hours, which is an improvement from the past couple weeks.  
 

Maybe today will be better.  I just don’t want to die yet, I feel like if I can get through this and get stable, I’ll be a better person and better able to help others.  
 

Thanks for the support. 
Cathy

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Shep
On 10/13/2019 at 12:11 PM, Cathy4 said:

Yesterday was really rough.  Depressed yet fearful, so I spent much of the day breathing in and out.  At night the scary thoughts come, but once I’m able to get to sleep, I can sleep without nightmares or vivid weird dreams for 5-6 hours, which is an improvement from the past couple weeks.  

 

Sounds like you're stabilizing. As sleep improves, other symptoms likely will, too. 

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Cathy4

Okay, good to hear, thanks Shep.  
 

I’ll keep eating & sleeping and just focus on basic self-care.  I appreciate the support.  

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Cathy4

Update:

 

8am:  .25 klonopin

9am:  75mg zoloft

 

still getting that mid-morning sometimes into afternoon weird equilibrium/tilting feeling accompanied with extreme upper body tension. (So tried dividing klonopin doses)

 

12pm .25 klonopin 

 

afternoon anxiety dissipates a bit

 

6:30-7pm fear, panic attack, feeling like brain wants to throw up, gagging (this has become evening pattern over past week or so)

 

9pm start to calm down, meditation, 350mg magnesium

 

9:45 bedtime, sleep has been BETTER.  So grateful.  Sleeping 6ish hours solid.  
 

 

Been on 75mg zoloft for 23 days now.  Been reading about what it means to stabilize.  How do I know when I’ve stabilized?  It’s not like I’ll go back to how I felt pre-taper, correct?  
 

Thank you.  
Cathy

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Shep
19 hours ago, Cathy4 said:

9:45 bedtime, sleep has been BETTER.  So grateful.  Sleeping 6ish hours solid.  
 

 

Been on 75mg zoloft for 23 days now.  Been reading about what it means to stabilize.  How do I know when I’ve stabilized?  It’s not like I’ll go back to how I felt pre-taper, correct?  

 

Glad your sleep is better. Excellent update. 

 

You may find this post by moderator Brassmonkey helpful regarding what it's like to stabilize. He calls it "withdrawal normal":

 

Withdrawal Normal

 

 

Edited by Shep
fixed typo

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Cathy4

Thank you, Shep.  
Great info.  After doing a lot of reading on this site, I realize I need to be really really really patient.  
 

I do feel like the 75mg of zoloft is amping me up too much, but I shouldn’t make any changes whatsoever right now.  

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Cathy4

Thinking ahead in preparation for taper once I’m stable enough:

 

I’ve read through “which psychiatric drug to taper first when taking multiple drugs.”  I know zoloft is the accelerator and klonopin the brake, however, for much of the time I’ve been on zoloft, I haven’t/wasn’t using the benzos (only intermittently).  It’s only, ha, ONLY been in the past 3 years where the xanax use was ramped up...  so would you all say it would be prudent for me to taper the zoloft first?  Or the klonopin?  I’m afraid to continue the klonopin usage just cause the xanax withdrawal was SO bad (granted ignorant cold turkey).  
 

And also, I’m going to get one of those Gemini scales you all speak of:  has anyone here crushed zoloft tablets and put the powder into the gelatin capsules?  I’ve read the info/tips for tapering sertraline and making a liquid solution intimidates me.  
 

Is it pretty normal to be obsessing about this process and also feel terribly isolated/alone?  (Even though I’m SO SO grateful for this forum).  
 

Thanks,

Cathy

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Shep
16 hours ago, Cathy4 said:

so would you all say it would be prudent for me to taper the zoloft first?  Or the klonopin?  

 

I would recommend tapering the Zoloft first. Insomnia is one of the most common symptoms of benzo withdrawal. Preserving sleep is key. 

 

In your signature, you have ".5 mg or .75 mg Klonopin." Are you still varying the dose? It's best to find a dose that works and keep it the same each day. The more consistency you have, the easier it is on your nervous system. 

 

Also, if you're varying your benzo dose while tapering another drug, it makes it very hard to gage your symptoms - using a higher dose of the benzo at certain times may be masking important symptoms telling you that you are tapering your Zoloft too fast and / or may benefit from a hold. 

 

16 hours ago, Cathy4 said:

And also, I’m going to get one of those Gemini scales you all speak of:  has anyone here crushed zoloft tablets and put the powder into the gelatin capsules?  I’ve read the info/tips for tapering sertraline and making a liquid solution intimidates me.  

 

Yes, you can crush Zoloft and weigh it. If you search for "zoloft" in the Using a Scale thread, you'll see one or two people posting who've used this method with Zoloft. 

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Cathy4
15 hours ago, Shep said:

In your signature, you have ".5 mg or .75 mg Klonopin." Are you still varying the dose? It's best to find a dose that works and keep it the same each day. The more consistency you have, the easier it is on your nervous system.


Okay, I tried doing .365mg for 5 days but I felt worse—massive depression & feelings of rage (strangely simultaneously).  I didn’t feel worse right away but after 4 days.  So I’m back to .5mg klonopin per day.  I’ll stick to that.  It doesn’t do much for the tension/anxiety, but I don’t want to go higher.  I’ll update my signature.

 

Okay, I’ll plan on tapering zoloft first.  I want to start soon but I shouldn’t yet, not stable enough.  
 

When I cold-turkeyed from xanax I went into the woods one day and hid off-trail, convinced people were gonna lock me up.  No need to return to that type of sheer terror.  
 

Thank you, Shep. 

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Cathy4
On 10/19/2019 at 6:33 AM, Shep said:

In your signature, you have ".5 mg or .75 mg Klonopin." Are you still varying the dose? It's best to find a dose that works and keep it the same each day. The more consistency you have, the easier it is on your nervous system.


Okay, I tried doing .365mg for 5 days but I felt worse—massive depression & feelings of rage (strangely simultaneously).  I didn’t feel worse right away but after 4 days.  So I’m back to .5mg klonopin per day.  I’ll stick to that.  It doesn’t do much for the tension/anxiety, but I don’t want to go higher.  I’ll update my signature.

 

Okay, I’ll plan on tapering zoloft first.  I want to start soon but I shouldn’t yet, not stable enough.  
 

When I cold-turkeyed from xanax I went into the woods one day and hid off-trail, convinced people were gonna lock me up.  No need to return to that type of sheer terror.  
 

Thank you, Shep. 

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Cathy4

Sorry about double-posting above. Can’t figure out how to delete it.  
 

10/21

7am light box therapy + meditation + levothyroxine 

 

8am klonopin .25mg

 

9am zoloft 75mg w/breakfast


10am went out to grocery store (trying to overcome agoraphobia since CT xanax).  Did well driving, panic attack in checkout line (lines have also become anxiety-producing).  Clenched fists & tried to focus on exhaling, pretending everything fine.  Got back to car, gagged, and almost threw up. 
 

12:00pm klonopin .25mg, raked leaves in yard for two hours

 

3:00pm sat down for rest & read more about tapering (ordered scale last night)

 

4:00pm  worked out on elliptical, sweated & felt good.

 

6:00pm epsom salt bath, felt normal for first time in weeks.  Didn’t have to be in that hyper vigilant state.  Really excited to feel normal for even brief stint.  
 

Now:  meditation, journaling, magnesium.  Can’t wait to start tapering the zoloft.  

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Shep
7 hours ago, Cathy4 said:

Okay, I tried doing .365mg for 5 days but I felt worse—massive depression & feelings of rage (strangely simultaneously).  I didn’t feel worse right away but after 4 days.  So I’m back to .5mg klonopin per day.  I’ll stick to that.  It doesn’t do much for the tension/anxiety, but I don’t want to go higher.  I’ll update my signature.

 

Okay, I’ll plan on tapering zoloft first.  I want to start soon but I shouldn’t yet, not stable enough.  

 

This sounds like a good plan. Yes, stabilize first. 

 

You've got some great non-drug coping techniques with meditation, journaling, and exercise. This will set you up for a much easier taper journey. 

 

 

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