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hoping21

I'll try to keep this kind of short. I've finally decided to post an intro today after reading posts on this site for a few years now which has helped a lot with understanding what's going on since most doctors just told me my SSRI discontinuation/withdrawal symptoms-which were unlike anything I'd ever experienced before and physically and emotionally worse than I'd ever felt-were a return of my depression & anxiety or possibly a bipolar disorder according to one doctor. I knew for a fact that it was not my original anxiety & depression, but I had no idea what was happening in the beginning or how to explain it. 

 

I had social anxiety, depression, & general anxiety since age 12 and was not allowed to drive/take the bus/go out or do much by myself other than going to school (because everything was too dangerous) by controlling, religious parents with their own high anxiety and agoraphobia.

 

I was never allowed to receive counseling for these issues & when I went off to college, it was an extremely difficult struggle going from not being allowed to do almost anything to suddenly being responsible for figuring everything out on my own. I was also not great with time management skills & knowing how to plan ahead. (I actually relate to a lot of symptoms of ADD & Asperger's, which both greatly affect social skills & ability to get through college and would explain a lot of problems I've had. I have learned more about them in the past year, but can't afford to get diagnosed right now so I've just been looking at support groups for days when my nausea is lessened.)  I felt overwhelmed all the time and all my negative thoughts worsened severely. I didn't see the free counselor at college during this time either because I was embarrassed about everything and about asking for help.

 

I finally decided I wanted to try to make a change and try counseling the summer after sophomore year of college at age 20 and was at rock bottom, desperate to not feel depressed. I knew someone who said their antidepressant helped them, so I asked a doctor for medicine and they prescribed sertraline.

 

After taking the first pill, I had a surge of anxiety and racing thoughts that made it impossible to concentrate. Within the first couple days on 25 mg of sertraline, I was gagging and dry heaving over and over for at least 20 minutes as soon as I ate anything. I would also throw up multiple times in a short timespan after one snack or meal. I called my Dr & was told to skip a dose and then change the time I took the dose from morning to night. After a week of this (dry heaving & vomiting all meals) on 25 mg, and another call to the doctor, I was told that digestive issues are a possible starting symptom and to increase to 50 mg. As soon as I increased, the gagging & vomiting increased even more. After 6 days of this, I called the doctor again and was told I could stop taking it altogether since it had been such a short amount of time on it. And to come in for a different medicine Rx after the weekend.

 

The very first day that I didn't take the sertraline, I felt the worst nausea I had ever felt in my entire life. I ended up asking a friend to drive me to the ER because I felt so sick. I told the Dr how I had just stopped sertraline. The doctor said that my pupils were dilated and my reflexes were overactive. Then, he listed off illegal drugs & asked if I had taken those. (No, I've never tried any drug before). He said "You need to tell me what else is going on because the antidepressant couldn't have caused this." And I said "I don't know" and started crying. I do know that people in my family are highly sensitive to medicines and have since found out I have a gene that causes me to metabolize slowly so things build up for longer in my system. Anyway, the Dr left the room and at one point I was given Ativan in an IV by the nurse which did ease the nausea. When the Dr came back, he told me I had SSRI discontinuation syndrome, (he didn't explain what that meant), that I could never try another SSRI, and gave me a Rx for a small bottle of Ativan. My mom said he mentioned something on the phone to her about serotonin syndrome which dilated pupils and overactive reflexes are symptoms of, but I don't remember him saying anything about it directly to me. He also mentioned reinstating a small amount might help but my mom didn't pass this on to me until much later because she didn't want me to take it. 

 

After that, I experienced:

 

-more dry heaving which gradually lessened in frequency

-random times of vomiting after eating and after exercising when I wasn't sick & the food wasn't bad (or sometimes nothing was left to vomit & only a small amount would come up)

-continuing debilitating nausea & dizziness

-olfactory hallucination (putrid smell that wouldn't go away, would intensify around strong scents such as soap & car exhaust)

-uncontrollable crying at every tiny thing (neuro-emotion, not regular sadness)

-uncontrollable rage (neuro-emotion)

-intrusive thoughts & floods of bad memories which I "word vomited" in texts to my sisters

-didn't want to be around people who I associated with bad memories because it would greatly intensify neuro-anxiety. (I'd guess the feeling is similar to what people mean who talk about experiencing bad drug trips and how it's important to be with people you  trust)

-nightmares

-paranoia/suspicion/distrust (felt like my mom & sister were not really my mom and sister even though logically, I knew it was them. Things feel creepy & sinister -almost like a horror movie sometimes. A post I read here compared the sinister feeling to a bad LSD trip. I have never tried LSD, but I understood what they meant & is the closest way I found to describe it.

-cognitive fog (thinking, processing speed, & reaction time is noticeably slower) (I was a slow thinker/processor before, but it feels like I have brain damage now)

-memory problems (I was somewhat forgetful before, but am even more so now)

-depersonalization ("it feels like the medicine changed who I am & I don't have an identity/sense of self which I still hadn't fully formed before sertraline)

-derealization (feel emotionally disconnected & distant from people/atmosphere. I know things are real, but they don't feel real. Sometimes it feels like consequences won't matter or there is no sense of helpful anxiety even in a potentially dangerous situation. Logically, I know they do matter and still want to do the right thing)

-anhedonia/apathy/emotionally numb (don't care about things or have the same amount of passion for interests or feel empathy for other people's emotions or feel spiritual even though I had some spiritual beliefs before. Couldn't feel hopeful about anything/future or feel love towards or from anyone. These emotions have slowly returned to a certain degree since then & levels of ability to feel them have changed at different courses of time)

-blurred/cloudy vision (when DR was at most intense, vision was different. Hard to explain)

-eye floaters ( random black specks & lines) Didn't notice these until a year after DC-ing 

-constant yawning/air hunger

-stomach/digestion issues

-burning, tingling, itching, numbness, redness in feet

-brain zaps/"crackles" (sometimes annoying, sometimes painful, but my most tolerable symptom)

-head pressure/tightness, feels like head is being squeezed

-headaches

 

There was also a period of 6 months where I thought certain symptoms were over and after that period, the dizziness returned.

 

Those are most of the symptoms I've experienced in the past approx 3.5 years.  They're not in order. I'm 24 now. A few have gone away for the most part (vomiting, olfactory hallucination, yawning) and most are less intense. I have really improved a lot, I don't mean to sound overly negative. But, I still have the issues I went on the SSRI for & I have trouble accepting where I am & worrying about where to go from here & the uncertainty of how long this lasts because it has put lots of areas of my life on hold (I wasn't able to go back to college, I hope to someday) and ended up making things harder to deal with when I was told it would make them easier. (BTW, I am now seeing a counselor). I don't understand why people say SSRI's are not technically drugs when they have this much of an effect on your mind, mood, & perceptions.

 

Sorry if I have over shared, I might need to post a shorter version of this at some point that's easier to read. And I'm still figuring out the layout of the website & where to post about certain questions & topics. I just know that sometimes other people's explanations made me feel better because I had some understanding of what was happening & words to describe feelings I'd never had before and didn't know how to explain.

 

I've also had other stress & health issues and a few (physical health) medicines that have affected my withdrawal progress, but I guess that's a topic for a separate forum.

 

Any advice, similar experiences, recommendations, tips for using the site, or insight into what happened to my brain is appreciated if anyone feels so inclined :)

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Gridley

Welcome to SA, hoping21.

 

You had an adverse reaction to Sertraline, and the symptoms you describe are very typical of an adverse reaction.  An adverse reaction means the drug Sertraline was like poison to your central nervous system.  Doctors know nothing of adverse reactions and typically will diagnose, as your did, a "return of the underlying condition."  This post by Brassmonkey, one of our moderators, explains what happened to you:

 

But I only took it for a Week

 

I think that some of the most unfortunate members we have are the ones who only took the drug for a short time and had an Adverse Reaction. Over the years I’ve seen a good number of members join who have taken their drugs for one day to a week and then stopped.  Yet they are suffering very acute symptoms.  This is an Adverse Reaction, acute symptoms that hit immediately and hard.  Some people’s chemical makeup just isn’t compatible with psych drugs and their body immediately tries to reject them, but in doing so throws itself into chaos.

 

The good news is that their body will sort itself out and they will return to normal.  The bad news is, it’s going to take a long time and there is nothing that will speed up the process.  There are a lot of coping strategies and tools that will help soften the experience, but time is the only thing that will cure it.  By time, we are looking at a minimum of eighteen months, but more than likely two to three years for a full recovery

.

That may sound very bleak, but it’s not going to all be pain and suffering.  These people tend to have a more linear recovery. The first several months will be acute.  Then things start to improve is a noticeable manner, with life starting to resume and get back on track.  All the members I have known have made full recoveries.  They then go on to graduate college, attend med school, and start successful careers in a variety of fields.

                                                                                                     ---------------

 

It is very encouraging that your symptoms have improved, and, from what you've written,  you are well on the way to full recovery from your adverse reaction. You're well past the acute stage.  

 

The symptoms of an adverse reaction are similar to those of antidepressant withdrawal, and you will recognize many of your own in the following link:

 

Daily Checklist of Antidepressant Withdrawal Symptoms (PDF) 

 

Regarding the symptoms that led you to take the Sertraline, we recommend non-drug techniques.  Counseling and non-drug therapy might also be helpful.  Take a look at the links in the following link and see which techniques you think might be helpful for you.

 

Non-drug techniques to cope

 

The following techniques are helpful for anxiety.

 

Audio:  First Aid for Panic (4 minutes)
 

CBT Course:  An Introductory Self-Help Course in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
 

Audio:  How to Recover from Anxiety - Dr Claire Weekes
 

VIDEO:  Peace from Nervous Suffering - Claire Weekes (1 hour) (http://sendvid.com/vgquc1dg)
 

Anxiety Stuff - all kinds of stuff about anxiety attacks and things that help …

 

10 minute Restorative Yoga for Relaxation | Up the wall

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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