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PanickedPathfinder

PanickedPathfinder: My Introduction

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PanickedPathfinder

Hello everyone! I'm PanickedPathfinder (PanickedPat). I came across this wonderful website after discovering Paxil Progress had been foreclosed, but from what I've read and seen thus far, this community is a strong and supportive one, too. I'm excited to share my story and journey away from antidepressant use with other likeminded members!

 

I'll attempt to be brief about why I'm here, just to give fellow members the highlights of my experiences with antidepressants. If you have any other questions for/about me, please feel free to message :)

 

From the top:

 

About a year and a half ago (summer 2013), I experienced a severe panic attack. I didn't know what it was at the time. I believed I had pushed myself too far physically (I was unloading a bus at work at the time) and proceeded to solidify that false connection in my mind. For the next month, I tried to "take it easy," which of course meant performing hyper-vigilant body/pulse/fever checks in an effort to stave off whatever "it" was from happening again.

 

This backfired. I had more and more attacks at work, still unknowing what my condition was. I was beginning my senior year at college that fall, and decided, after experiencing upwards of 2 or 3 attacks a day a times, to seek out my campus's mental health clinic. With my therapist, I learned (as well as on my own research) that I was definitely a candidate for panic disorder.

 

School pressures mounted (I know now my real "trigger" wasn't exercise or work, but the prospect of ending/transitioning from school) and, after debating for a month, I decided (no lightly) to begin taking an antidepressant. I saw a new doctor, who, during our first 15-minute consultation, prescribed me 25mg of Prozac and tablets of clonazopan. Needless to say, I was immediately red-flagging. I had hoped to talk about the options and risks, but he jumped straight to the medication. After simmering down from his offhand prescription, I owned up to the fact that I wanted something after all. I took Prozac--and had a terrible reaction. My heart rate soared. I made it to his office, where he immediately took me off of it and brought up Zoloft (sertraline) as a "gentler" antidepressant.

 

I started taking it. 25mg became 50mg pretty quickly. Each new dosage brought about 3-4 days of a unmitigated joy--an emotion I have honestly rarely experienced in life (depression and such throughout most of it). The effects always leveled out. I'd continued working through some minor CBT work with my therapist, but these quickly fell to the wayside with my school work. I continued having panic attacks at work and while playing music. There were stretched of time where so many thing triggered my panic (taking a shower, brushing my teeth) that I was genuinely terrified to leave my little apartment complex. All during this time I was researching on my own, and discovering the world of antidepressant side-effects and discontinuation syndromes that likely awaited me once I finished school. (My goal was to finish school and get off the stuff. Hasn't happened yet :/ ).

 

During this time (and still to this day) I kept equating physical exercise with my panic. Although I'd experienced the physical sensations of rapid heartbeat and hyperventaliation earlier (my earlier years of school I was nearly agoraphobic, and sweat buckets doing everyday social things) I found/find it extremely difficult to detach the sensations of exercise with the sensations of panic (higher heart rate, breathing irregularity, etc.). I am currently making this a top priority, and will keep updating on this front.

 

Anyway, my attacks kept coming, school kept coming, I eventually faded from my therapist/group therapy to finally finish school (it's been a 7-year endeavor). I kept the same doctor (something I still regret, as he is still my GP) and was brought up to 75mg. This was when my anhedhonia started. I felt like I was living behind Saran wrap. I saw the world, I knew I was supposed to feel things--but I couldn't. I was a living ghost behind my own eyes. That voided feeling was worse than any panic I had experienced, and I was brave enough, after nearly a month of this, to come down to 50mg, and later 37.5mg.

 

I stayed at 37.5mg upon graduation, and have only recently (last month or two) been at 25mg. I made this 12.5mg drop without any major reactions, but have learned since that weaning lower and lower requires considerable more conscientiousness. I am endeavoring to integrate my music playing/exercise into my recovery and break those false trigger connections I made when I didn't know what was fully happening to me. I also aim to rekindle the secular mindfulness practices I've let slip away again, as they were really very beneficial. Ideally, I want to be off sertraline before my 2-year anniversary of first taking it (October 2015). I was always meant to be a short-term use--to get through school--but I have become steadily more apprehensive about coming off completely (withdrawal stories, etc.).

 

So--where am I at right this second? I'm at 25mg. I'm graduated. I'm willing to work with a community of other people I can relate to for an extended period of time. I'm more knowledgeable about the options and risks I've engaged with during my sertraline experience. I'm still panicky, but less so. Most importantly, I'm ready to be off sertraline and find, in big part through a community like this one, the kindred support, advice, and stories I'll need to find my way off these drugs and reclaim my life without it.

 

Thanks very much for reading my story. I hope to get to know many of you in the coming months, and to share our recovery stories together.

 

My best to one and all :)

 

PanickedPat

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Petunia

Welcome PanickedPat,

Thank you for sharing your story, I'm sorry to hear that you are still having ongoing feelings of panic, but it sounds like you are working with it and learning better ways to deal with it.

 

I'm glad you found us because we can definitely provide the help and support for safely coming off the remaining 25mg sertraline which you are now on.  Thank you for adding some details to your signature.  If you include information about your tapering so far, that would be even more helpful.

 

You may be tapering too fast, especially now at lower doses. A slow taper will not only minimize withdrawal symptoms, it will give you the best chance at getting through the post-withdrawal year or two without having to go back on the drug.  We suggest reducing by no more than 10% of the current dose every 4 weeks, this reduces the risk of withdrawal symptoms arising. 

  

Why taper by 10% of my dosage?  (The general philosophy of gradual tapering)

 

Tips for tapering off Zoloft (sertraline)
http://survivinganti...oft-sertraline/

 

When did you make the cut from 37.5mg to 25mg?  How are you feeling now?  Are you experiencing any withdrawal symptoms?

 

You can use this thread as your ongoing journal to track progress, write about symptoms, ask questions and communicate with the community, add to it whenever you want. You will find a lot of friendly help and support here.

 

Petunia.

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Fresh

Hi  PanickedPat ,     welcome to SA , glad you found your way here.   

I look forward to following your withdrawal.    Remember , withdrawal has little or no respect for the calendar , and you just can't rush it if you want to stay safe.

Listen to your body after each drop -  sit at each dose until you feel stable.

Go s-l-o-w , and if you're done by October , great , and if not , that's fine too.

Good to meet you ,      Fresh

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Addax

Welcome to SA! This is an incredibly supportive and knowledgable group. Glad you found this site!

 

It's not necessarily unusual to feel there is a connection between panic and exercise. What sort of exercise do you do?

 

Exercise produces cortisol, a stress hormone. Exercise is stress on the body. The more intense the exercise the more cortisol your body produces. This is not to say you should stop exercising. This is just sort of an explanation as to why you associate stress and exercise. I've read here on this site that many people feel overstimulated by exercise during withdrawal, which makes sense because it seems we produce it at a higher level and somewhat erratically during this time.

 

For me exercise generally has a calming effect, which I have a sort of layperson theory about... I say "generally" because during a particularly horrid (albeit relatively short) period of withdrawal caused by some miscalculations in dose, it actually did cause problems and the more intense the exercise the worse I felt. My point is more that people don't always have the same reaction, and that when withdrawing from These drugs our reactions to certain stimuli can change.

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PanickedPathfinder

Hi everybody! Great to meet you! Thank you all for the warm introduction :)

 

Petunia -- thanks for the link to that information. I should have time to look at all the free resources on this site in detail soon, and this is a great place to start. I've heard elsewhere that, especially coming off lower dosages, a very slow taper is recommended. I will say that I did choose to drop from 37.5 to 25mg and, as far as I remember, did not experience an increase in anxiety of other withdrawal symptoms. But I understand the need to baby step it, especially if you want to get off for good. I am unsure the best way/technique to "grind down" my sertraline pills, and I am not willing to transition to another drug's liquid form. Any suggestions for a manageable drug shaving kit?

 

Fresh--wise words indeed! It's funny, actually. I've begun some time-management related changes in my working life, but had the instinctual feeling my tapering would abide by a different passage of time. And yes, October is the goal, and one I feel I am prepared for. This is a reasonable goal I feel, especially compared to quitting cold turkey. But I will stay open and receptive to how my mind and body feel during the process :)

 

Addax--your info on exercise is great! I should clarify, though--I'm pretty sure my main "beef" with exercise and panic stems from the fact that, when my panic attacks started, I had no idea what was happening to me for several months. I grasped out for any semi-logical explanation for their occurring, and latched onto "working too hard/exercising too hard" at my job. Specifically, I remember I was unloading a tour bus, really hustling and bustling, when another attack hit, and I firmly believe that initial relationship I reached for has simply stuck. I am working, slowly, to expose myself to exercise routines (walking, weight-lifting) bit by bit in an effort to sever that ingrained and false connection. Knowing that cortisol kicks in, too, will definiteley factor into my recovery.

 

I'm set to review some literature and panic recovery guides this week. I'll be posting the fruits of my labor soon.

 

Thank you all again. It's an enormous relief to speak about my experience with others with intimate knowledge and encouragement!

 

PanickedPat

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Fresh

Hey Pat , I just looked on ebay for digital jewellers' scales , they can weigh as little as 0.1 gram.     Cost $13.95 with free delivery. 

 

The section  "Symptoms and Self Care"    has a thread specifically about "How To Taper Sertraline" - using scales or by making your own liquid solution.

 

;)

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PanickedPathfinder

03/16/15

 

Finally ready to start reducing my dosage. I'm currently at 25mg sertraline. I saw my doctor for a refill prescription. I told him my plan for a 3-month withdrawal. Tried to talk to him about switching to liquid sertraline, but he brushed me off and filled another 3-month prescription. If I find my withdrawal going poorly, I'll probably see about changing doctors to try the liquid version. I've also been directed to the "Make Your Own Liquid" sections here on the site, so I do have those instructions and resources if it comes to this.

 

For now, here is my plan:

 

I have scored 25mg pills. For now, I want to come down by 1/4 of my dosage every 3-4 weeks. I currently have a pill cutter; tonight, I cut half of a half off (roughly 18-19mg) and am going to see how I feel. It may be nerves, but I'm already feelings a slightly faster heartbeat than normal, but this is probably nerves. I understand the advice and science behind the 10% taper process. Right now, though, I managed to drop from 37.5mg to 25mg instantly and I don't remember feeling any more panicky than usual. Bearing this experience in mind, I do also understand that, as dosages get lower, the withdrawal symptoms can exacerbate.

 

For now, though, my goal is to spend 3-4 weeks chopping half of a half of my pills. Then, depending on how I feel after (or if I can make it to that point dosage wise), I will again cut my pills in half and only take 12.5mg. From here, I will likely begin seriously looking into the liquid sertraline or how to make my own mixture for the remainder of my taper.

 

That's the plan thus far. I'll post my progress and feelings, or any changes I make along the way. Thanks, all!

 

PanickedPat

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tjs19

PanickedPat, it is great that you are starting your journey towards tapering off. Be careful about tapering too quickly - 25% is a large cut, larger than is recommended here. Everyone is different, but it is possible that the cut won't hit you immediately, and you'll think you're ok going by 25%, but really your body may not have processed the reduction in dosage right away. It is a good idea to hold your new, reduced dosage, if you can tolerate it, for a while to see how your body responds before making another cut. The biggest thing is to not rush your tapering.

 

About the exercise thing - while it sounds like in your case there is a mental component to associating exercise and panic, heed what others have said earlier about exercise and cortisol. To add my personal experience - I have been off sertraline/Zoloft for 18 months and I still sometimes get crying fits after exercising - but it is less often and severe than it used to be, when I would cry intensely either right after exercise or even during it, to the point where the only kind of activity I could do was a slow walk. The brain cannot tolerate any kind of stress while on these medications, I'm convinced - the medications condition you to be comfortable only with rest and stillness and not tolerate activity and spontaneity, which is what makes life worth living.

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Petunia

Hi Pat,

Thanks for updating, I'm glad to hear you feel ready to make another cut.  I'm sorry your doctor wouldn't cooperate with your request.  Many people here find they have to be repetitive and firm in order to get their doctor to prescribe a liquid.  Finding a new doctor is an option, as is making your own liquid.

 

Of course I'm concerned that you have decided to make a 25% cut, but understand that you've read all the related information here, so I'm not going to try and convince you to change your mind, you are free to do what you feel is best for you.

 

Do stay in touch and let us know how you're doing.

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Songbird

Hey Pat , I just looked on ebay for digital jewellers' scales , they can weigh as little as 0.1 gram.

 

Ideally the scales should weigh down to 0.001g (i.e. milligrams).  You can get 0.1g and 0.01g scales but they are not really precise enough for the small dose cuts needed for a slow taper.

 

For now, though, my goal is to spend 3-4 weeks chopping half of a half of my pills. Then, depending on how I feel after (or if I can make it to that point dosage wise), I will again cut my pills in half and only take 12.5mg. From here, I will likely begin seriously looking into the liquid sertraline or how to make my own mixture for the remainder of my taper.

That's a 25% cut and then a 33% cut. Ideally drops should be no more than 10% of your current dose, i.e. each dose are you taper, not your starting dose.  I understand you have done a bigger cut before and it went okay, but that is often easier to do at higher doses, in general it tends to get more difficult as dose gets lower.  Somewhere here there is a graph showing what happens to receptors as dose reduces, that may at least partially explain why higher doses are usually easier to taper.

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Fresh

Songbird , you are so right.    The ones that went down to 0.01 weren't precise enough , so I've upgraded to some that go down to 0.001.   $27.95 with free postage.   :blush:

 

PanickedPat , Songbird explains it beautifully.    The thread called "Why Taper by 10%" in Tapering might be worth looking at again.  

 

With these drugs , we can feel fine for the first week , or even month after a cut , and then the withdrawal symptoms start. And get worse.  And worse. 

That's why they call it "protracted withdrawal syndrome".

 

There are lots of stories here from people who tried it your way , and it never seemed to work out well.  For them at least.

 

Please consider the advice you get here.  None of us any vested interest in your path , but as experienced travellers , we'd like to be able to protect you.

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PanickedPathfinder

Been off the air for too long. I missed all of your kind words and advice! Something pretty big happened today, so I need to keep my record alive:

 

So, I did go through with my cut from 25mg to around 18-19mg. My pills are scored, so with a pill cutter, I eyeballed 1/4 of the pill. (I know, this is really bad form, and it was a sloppy mistake--but I told myself it was fine, especially since my pills at that 1/4 mark had a handy number carved into them. If I halved the number, I felt certain I was good.)

 

It's now April 30th, so I've made it about a month-and-a-half at the new dose. Along the way, I did not heed the signs. For instance, when I first started taking sertraline (Zoloft), I remember very clearly the first five or six days, experiencing a loud "white noise" in my head to where I got very little sleep, as well as what I called a "red bullet" of heat and pain right in the middle of my forehead. Touching my forehead, it felt like I was running a deathly high fever, but temperature said otherwise.

 

Anyway, coming off down to 18.5mg, first few days felt great. Then that red bullet crept up--weakly, but it was there. The past month I've also been having trouble falling asleep, and my sleep patterns are off (going to bed 11PM-Midnight, not sleeping until 30-40 minutes later). I told myself I wasn't as panicky, but in the past month, I've had several major panic attacks--the first time in a long while, especially since I was at 25mg for so long. These were the very bad kinds--numb extremities, chattering teeth, almost like shock where I needed a warm blanket and to sit and deep breathe for half-an-hour.

 

Of course, I told myself this was all due to my work (I've always used work as an excuse to deny what happens during panic), so I was naive to it. I've also, as I mentioned, ironically become very paranoid about the kinds of food I eat with this drug. Just as a precaution, I avoid all citrus fruits (I've limited myself to pears and bananas, not apples), sometimes berries, but of course not pomegrannates. I've also noticed (even before this big drop) that lemon/lime juice in particular jump starts my panic. I don't know if it is an involuntary physicological response or not...all I know is that the panic that happens w/o food, and the panic/racing heart that happens around having eaten "the wrong food," feels fundamentally different. The former is a progressive build-up; the latter is instantaneous. Same thing happened with a random PowerBar I decided to eat one day, but those things are packed with powders and metabolizers that scare the sh*t out of me.

 

Anyway, real or not, I'm very anxious (ironically) about the foods I eat/don't eat/think I ate mistakenly which sets me off. Happened today full-tilt. I had some fruit-laden breakfast biscuit thing (after checking the label 3 times for "the bad stuff"), had that immediate physiological rapid heartbeat. Tried to calm down with breathing exercises, and also took Clonazepam I had (0.5mg) which I only use if I really can't calm down. Even that didn't help. Called 911 who came over, hooked me up to heart rate monitor, was at around 160bpm. They ambulanced me up. Three hours later, after x-ray and EKG was discharged. Not the first time I went to the ER, but first time in an ambulance (God willing the last).

 

This I know is my wake-up call--I'm trying to taper too fast. I wish I had logged on this past month to heed all of your advice and stories, and to peruse the site more. I know now I'm not a special case--it's going to require a steady, 10% every 3-4 weeks taper for me, and I'm okay with that. I just really wish I could know what foods I can/can't eat, what those triggers are. I need to start back up with my guided meditation practice, too, and gingerly work up to working out more (as working out is a big trigger--I feel my heart rate go up, my body assumes something is going wrong).

 

I've ordered a very precise digital scale and am hoping to start "shaving" my pills down. I'm going to taper from 18.75mg to half of my scored pill--12.5mg--by 10% every 2 weeks. From this halfway point, I'll do the 10% taper for the full month each drop.

 

Anyone out there have the same concerns with food interactions as I do? Any known facts (outside grapefruit) to avoid? Is this just another trigger I've created for myself that has no real merit, or real research consensus? Believe me, I've tried to find studies and articles about food interactions with sertraline and really haven't found anything substantial--which sucks, because I continually accidently set myself off whenever I eat something that I think (or maybe it does phsyiologically) set me off.

 

Also, anyone know what kinds of OTC pain relievers I can take? I know aceitomenophen is out, and a year ago I took an ibuprofen whenever I get a headache. Since then, I've seen research and contraindication sites say that virtually any OTC pain reliever has minor to major negative interactions with sertraline. This is bad for me, as summer allergy season is coming up and I get headaches. Don't worry--I don't take antihistamines at all--those are REALLY contra-indicated. Any input on either my food or pain reliever complexes would be appreciated.

 

I'll probably post once a week from here. Thanks for all of your concerns and comments and links, everyone. I'm ready to record my progress.

 

PanickedPat

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PanickedPathfinder

Another update:

 

I've received my digital jeweler's scale sensitive down to the 0.001 gram. I spent about 2 weeks getting used to cutting/shaving my pill. I've decided to heed the advice of all you fine folks--I don't want to taper too quickly, as even now I feel that these 10% cuts are having immediate effects (more on that in a sec).

 

This past Thursday, I decided to make my first 10% cut. I was at about 19mg, now at 17.1mg of Setraline (Zoloft). The first day I felt no effects. Second day, midway through, I became really flighty and panicky. Today I woke up with a furious heartbeat. I tried calming myself down for a couple of hours, and I also have a renewed dosage of Clonazepam to help out if I need it. 

 

Mentioned this before and tried seeking answers on the forum, so I'll pose the question here again. I've become very phobic of the kinds of food I eat, specifically fruits. I know that certain enzymes in grapefruit and pommegranites are black label warnings. They metabolize your drug too quickly and can lead to serious consequences. As such, I've been religiously avoiding citrus fruits, apples, even berries. I'm generally sticking with pears and bananas. There are also fruit snacks that I buy that are "Mixed Fruits," but I'm careful to read through what's in them. Anyway, I ate one of these fruit snacks last night, and I'm convinced some sort of juice concentrate in them is responsible for my racing heart this morning.

 

Does anyone out there have stories or advice about eating fruit on Zoloft, which ones are safe, etc? I've become so stressed about having any possible reactions from what I eat citrus-wise (I've noticed, for instance, that lemon juice sets me off--rapid heart beat almost instantly). If I can kick this phobia while I keep reducing I'd be very grateful, but I'm in desperate need of substantial sources that can tell me exactly what fruits/foods I should avoid on these drugs.

 

Never fun waking up to a furious heartbeat. I did take my Clonazepam--it usually helps, but right now I just feel hazy and my pulse still feels high. I wasn't expecting such pronounced effects coming off of the drug, even at the 10% per 2 weeks cut rate. I've read all about it here and your testimonials and other testimonials, but I didn't think it would "strike" so suddenly. Anyway, thanks for listening. Any sources about food interactions with Zoloft would be appreciated. Thanks!

 

PanickedPat

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tjs19

Hi Pat,

 

I had no problems eating strawberries, bananas, or blueberries while on Zoloft or after tapering. (though, my metabolism was totally gone - gained nearly 30 pounds over the 11 months I took Zoloft, even after making a conscious effort to eat more fiber and somewhat fewer calories overall; I still struggle with going #2 all these months later.) The only fruit I made sure to avoid was grapefruit (and Fresca soda, for that matter). I'm allergic to apples so I can't speak to that. Sorry to hear about your racing heart in the mornings - you could be in a really sensitized state and not tolerating some foods well, but grapefruit is the only fruit I'm aware of that's bad to eat while on Zoloft.

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Altostrata

If you think you're sensitive to various fruits, try one at a time and see how it affects you. If you have a bad reaction, stop eating that fruit.

 

Grapefruit is a special case. Generally, other fruits do not have that effect on liver enzymes.

 

If you're concerned about food-drug interactions, see Drug Interactions Checker http://www.drugs.com/drug_interactions.html

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PanickedPathfinder

Thank you very much for all of this information and for sharing your stories. I'm currently 11 weeks away from completely getting of Sertraline for 2 years. I had a few short-lived stints months back with trying to taper too fast, but have stuck with the 10% every two weeks reduction plan. The only withdrawal I've felt consistently is an increased nervousness and slightly speedy heartbeat that settles in for a day 2 or 3 days after I reduce my meds. The success stories here give me hope. I think I could cope with zaps and fatigue after a complete taper, and I'm now down to single digits for my dosages (9 mg, 8 mg). I've decided to speed up the end of my taper (essentially 20% reduction every week until I'm out). If anyone has any experience with the final legs of tapering--if single digit dosages are harder/easier to deal with symptom-wise--I'd be very appreciative for any advice. Thank you all who've posted here. Best of luck to us all :)

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Skyler

Welcome PanickedPat,

Thank you for sharing your story, I'm sorry to hear that you are still having ongoing feelings of panic, but it sounds like you are working with it and learning better ways to deal with it.

 

I'm glad you found us because we can definitely provide the help and support for safely coming off the remaining 25mg sertraline which you are now on.  Thank you for adding some details to your signature.  If you include information about your tapering so far, that would be even more helpful.

 

You may be tapering too fast, especially now at lower doses. A slow taper will not only minimize withdrawal symptoms, it will give you the best chance at getting through the post-withdrawal year or two without having to go back on the drug.  We suggest reducing by no more than 10% of the current dose every 4 weeks, this reduces the risk of withdrawal symptoms arising. 

  

Why taper by 10% of my dosage?  (The general philosophy of gradual tapering)

 

Tips for tapering off Zoloft (sertraline)

http://survivinganti...oft-sertraline/

 

When did you make the cut from 37.5mg to 25mg?  How are you feeling now?  Are you experiencing any withdrawal symptoms?

 

You can use this thread as your ongoing journal to track progress, write about symptoms, ask questions and communicate with the community, add to it whenever you want. You will find a lot of friendly help and support here.

 

Petunia.

 

Pathfinder... I reposted Petunia's response to you which includes information about tapering at 10% a month.  At the rate you are going now, you risk protracted withdrawal.  Please read the information on this site before you proceed further.

 

I moved your last post as it pertains to your journey now.. and there is more traffic on this thread.

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Altostrata

The single digits are more difficult.

 

If you have any withdrawal symptoms at all, you might stop tapering for a while and give your nervous system time to settle down.

 

Your tapering schedule has been aggressive. Listen to your nervous system. If you get withdrawal symptoms, it is telling you to slow down.

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