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Asjf

☼ Asjf: 22 years on Sertraline--now off for 9 months

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Asjf

Hi everyone,

I wish i could say i am here to share a story of inspiration but my story is not such.

 

I was prescribed zoloft at the age of 17 and went off back in November at the age of 39 after a very gradual 40+ week taper.

 

At first i felt ok. The initial symptoms of withdrawal were mild, perhaps due to the fact that i was tapering down at only 5mg every two weeks.

 

In January of this year (about 10 weeks after my last dosage) i began to experience quite severe anxiety. It was all day and persistent.

 

After 4 weeks i returned to my GP and he suggested i go back on a low dose of zoloft until my CBT sessions began. He prescribed 50mg of Zoloft (1/3 of my regular dosage for 20+years) and to my shock after three days i went into an almost catatonic state of complete and utter panic attacks. I was immobilized by panic. My doctor told me to stop immediately and also prescribed Klonopin to help with the immediate anxiety. After i was stabilized he prescribed a low dose of Citalopram and the same thing happened after a few days. More Klonopin and no SSRI's. I weened very quickly off the benzo and was then walloped with the most severe insomnia of my life. After 4 days without any sleep the doctor (now a psychiatrist i was seeing) said to continue the benzo and added Lyrica (pregabilin) to help ween off the benzo while thwarting the insomnia. After three hellish months i was finally off the benzo and am currently now weaning off the lyrica.

 

Every step of the way has been hell for me. I'm inside of an existence that has become a rollercoaster of anxiety, depression, fear and nausea, intermingled with short periods of normalcy.

 

All along i thought that this experience was the benzos and lyrica and reemergence of old symptoms but only recently stumbled upon info about protracted withdrawal from ssris--which amazingly is completely off of the radar of the medical profession, as i'm sure most of you know.

 

I'm currently living in a state of hyper vigilance as i never know when in the day i'll suddenly be walloped with severe anxiety and i always feel apprehensive at bedtime hoping i'll sleep ok.

 

The worst part of this whole situation is that i don't know with any certainty that this current state i'm in will ever end.

 

There have been many many days over the last 7 months where i have thought about death as the only relief from this predicament. I'm very lucky to have an amazingly loving and supportive wife who continues to hold me up and a couple of close friends who know what i'm going through. This keeps me going--barely.

 

I struggle with feelings of deep resentment toward the medical and pharmaceutical fields for leading me to this place that i'm in. I wouldn't wish this hell on my worst enemy.

 

I'm glad i found this site.

 

I'm here to find some hope. I'm here to hopefully find stories from others who are in a similar predicament who have found recovery. I need to recover because this is no way to live. I do not want more meds (and doubt i can take them anyway at this point)

 

Thanks for the opportunity to share my story.

Edited by scallywag
tags + paragraph breaks

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Asjf

Just a recap and list of symptoms:

 

Started zoloft 150mg 1991. Stopped Nov. 2014

Currently weaning off Lyrica (pregabilin) I've been taking it daily since Apr/2015. Taking 225mg/day and lowering dose 25mg every two weeks.

 

Wake up in the morning feeling:

Anxiety

Sometimes Depression

Nausea

Mind racing

Fearful

Often disoriented

Wired but also exhausted

 

Sometimes these symtoms subside by early afternoon but also sometimes continue into the evening.

 

I've been practicing mindfulness meditation and have found that sometimes this works well. 'Being' with these physical and emotional sensations without judgement helps create an awareness that the sensations themselves are far less powerful without the thoughts and by effect, emotions that come along with the experience.

That being said, with the continuous and relentless nature of these symptoms it can be very exhausting trying to maintain a sense of detachment from these feelings and it's easy at times to become pessimistic and hopeless about the whole situation.

 

I've really been enjoying reading many of your introduction posts so far. It is very comforting to at least know that i'm not alone in this experience. Thank you to those of you who created this site for those of us who need this kind of support.

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AliG

 Hi Asjf.  Welcome.  You are in a good place for support & help.  All these symptoms, can be "withdrawal".  A "mod" will be along soon to give you more help.

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pug

Asjf,

Your story almost exactly matches mine, it is a bit uncanny. Your symptoms are also very much like mine and I can totally relate to what you are going through. This website is a life saver and I am happy you have found it; I know it has saved me. It sounds like you are in the waves and windows pattern that I am also in; I just experienced 5 days of feeling better which is called a window, but now I am back in a wave of symptoms.

 

Those that have made it through say that it is a waiting game and just a matter of time to get through this, and then we reclaim ourselves. I have seen brief moments of my old self and it gives me hope, which I need now that I am struggling again.

 

Welcome and let's help each other get through this!

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Asjf

Thanks so much for the replies. Its reassuring to know that it does get better. I can't remember the last time i had a full day where i felt like myself. 5 days sounds like heaven.

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raul

Welcome to this wonderful site asfj, as you can see we are people all over the "civilized" world that we have been affected by the antidepressants, we are the "psychiatry errors" (ironically of course). Wish i knew this site before, but it was last year. Here you can find a lot of support for all of us. I hope you get a lot of valuable information here. Best wishes.

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Altostrata

Welcome, Ajsf.

 

Thank you for writing a very complete Introduction.

 

The first thing I would do is to stop tapering the Lyrica. Drug changes keep the nervous system in an uproar. You can resume tapering it later, when you're feeling more stable.

 

Does the Lyrica help you sleep? How much are you taking now? What is your tapering method? See this for background information Tips for tapering off Lyrica (pregabalin)

 

What is withdrawal syndrome?
 
The Windows and Waves Pattern of Stabilization

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Asjf

Thanks Alto.

Regarding the Lyrica, my fear is that is taken too long i'll develop a whole other set of problems.

Will continuing to tale it impede or interfere with my SSRI recovery?

I've read many frightening stories about Lyrica discontinuation and thought that getting off of it as quickly as possible since I've only been on it 4months would be a good idea.

I'm currently on 225mg (75x3) per day. The dosage i was on longest was 300mg daily.

It does seem to help with sleep.

I understand the notion of staying on it until I'm stable but the problem is that with all that's been going on with my mind and body I really dont know if the Lyrica is helping or making things worse. I started taking it while weaning off a benzo (all the while with the SSRI issues happening underneath)

I DO feel as though things are somewhat stable on the Lyrica when i acclimate to a new dosage but I'm really hesitant to be on it for any significant period of time.

However, this is all new to me and I'm open to any wisdom to the contrary from anyone here who has been working with these circumstances for awhile.

Any further input is greatly appreciated. The suffering i'm experiencing right now is wuite frightening at times.

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Asjf

Btw my tapering method has been to lower the dosage 25mg per week. This has proven problematic and my doctor has suggested 25mg every two weeks...

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Altostrata

To help us out, see these instructions Please put your drug and withdrawal history in your signature

Going on and off psychiatric drugs destabilizes the nervous system. That is where withdrawal symptoms come from.
 
22 years on sertraline is a very long time and a high risk for withdrawal syndrome. Your nervous system was already in a fragile state from your previous drug changes and adverse reactions.
 
You've been taking Lyrica for 4 months. Physiological dependency occurs after a month. If you keep on taking it, you are not going to be any more dependent on it than you are now.
 
Clearly,  your current tapering method of 25mg per week is causing problems. Your nervous system is already complaining.
 
If I were you, I'd stop making drug changes and let your nervous system settle down. Then, you may wish to minimize your Lyrica dosage by smaller reductions, see Why taper by 10% of my dosage?

 

Please read the links I've given you to discuss further.

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pug

Thanks so much for the replies. Its reassuring to know that it does get better. I can't remember the last time i had a full day where i felt like myself. 5 days sounds like heaven.

It will happen for you. I didn't believe that it would happen for me, but it did. And even though it went away I now at least know how fast it can happen, and at any time, so that is what I do my best to keep in mind...it will happen again and it could be the next minute.

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raul

pug, nice to read that, i am emotionally into tears when you wrote that, i am now in withdrawl situation with reinstantment, not stable yet, so it is very encouraging to read what you wrote. The best wishes for you.

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Asjf

To help us out, see these instructions Please put your drug and withdrawal history in your signature

 

Going on and off psychiatric drugs destabilizes the nervous system. That is where withdrawal symptoms come from.

 

22 years on sertraline is a very long time and a high risk for withdrawal syndrome. Your nervous system was already in a fragile state from your previous drug changes and adverse reactions.

 

You've been taking Lyrica for 4 months. Physiological dependency occurs after a month. If you keep on taking it, you are not going to be any more dependent on it than you are now.

 

Clearly,  your current tapering method of 25mg per week is causing problems. Your nervous system is already complaining.

 

If I were you, I'd stop making drug changes and let your nervous system settle down. Then, you may wish to minimize your Lyrica dosage by smaller reductions, see Why taper by 10% of my dosage?

 

Please read the links I've given you to discuss further.

 

 

Thanks Alto. I've read the links and they are very helpful. I'm going to talk with my psychiatrist tomorrow about a different weaning strategy for Lyrica.

 

One question: Because Lyrica does not work on the same part of the brain as SSRIs do you feel that continued Lyrica usage will not have any sort of impeding effect on my brain's healing from 2 decades of SSRI use?

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Altostrata

No. Your brain and nervous system will heal around the Lyrica. Sleep is very important for recovering from SSRI use.

 

You will need to taper off Lyrica eventually. You are taking a fairly substantial dosage, in a while when your nervous system is calmer, you may wish to start to minimize it -- by 10% per month.

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Asjf

Thanks Alto. This site is like a life raft in the middle of an ocean of sewage. I'm so grateful to have found it. As i read through the various threads of different members' journeys it's very comforting to know that i'm not alone in this often very painful and confusing journey i'm on. I'm feeling very grateful to have found all of you.

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Pugknows

(((Asjf))))

 

You are going through very similar WD symptoms as I am.

 

Don't worry about the Lyrica and how it's effecting your recovery. You are healing underneath it and it's probably keeping many WD symptoms at bay, like insomnia, which you do not want. Just recently, my sleep has been improving a little.

 

You're going to be fine. Anxiety and depression works like a pendulum. The lessening of one leans into the increase in the other, in my experience.

 

Please consider Alto's advice. She's been doing this a long time and has so much research and knowledge to back up the success of her suggestions.

 

I'll be watching over you and giving you support all the way to the end of your journey. Nobody is left behind.

 

Love, Pug

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Asjf

Thanks for your beautiful post Pug.

I really appreciate these words.

This condition we're all experiencing is so challenging.

I woke up today feeling ok.

Had a nice chat with my wife--i even laughed a couple of times.

Got in my car and went to the gym and did some light excercise.

Felt good.

Left to drive to work and taught a piano lesson.

Went well.

Had a nice time.

Said goodbye.

Felt good.

Got in my car, and withing 5 minutes of driving i was just walloped with severe anxiety--feeling of intense fear, tightness in my chest and abdomen, cold clammy skin, headache.

Nothing prompted it.

It just appeared.

A good day suddenly became a scary day for no reason. My mind tries to rationalize it and tell me i did something wrong or i entertained a disempowering thought.

But when it really comes down to it i did nothing.

I know this is my brain working to correct itself.

But wow it sucks.

I would take any physical disease any day over this 'disease of the mind'.

It really screws with my perception of reality.

I'm sitting here writing these words feeling scared and alone and hopeless even though my rational mind knows that this is not the case.

A mere hour ago i felt safe and loved.

All i can think is that anyone who goes through this will be destined become an amazingly strong, courageous and compassionate person on the other side.

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NervousKitten

Asjf... so glad you found this site... it's been a great help in finding the answers I needed to explain the horrible symptoms I was having and resolve those issues sanely. I was living every waking moment in terror a few months after stopping my long-term SSRI use. It's taken the majority of this year to get through it. My anxiety would send me to the ER (six times last year) and when I really started implementing this common sense advice, I have been better able to take care of myself and not needed to go to the ER since January.

 

It's been a really long, slow process but reading other peoples stories here kept me going. Their experiences gave me hope to continue on without going on new medications and validated my feelings that these symptoms weren't because of a relapse of my original symptoms. It was a reaction to quickly taking away a chemical that was holding pieces of my brain together. I don't regret my decision to come off. I do wish I had known about protracted withdrawl before I stopped. I would have done it much more slowly and taken more magnesium baths :)

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Asjf

Thanks nervous kitten.

I'm just befinning to scratch the surface on this site. I look forward to finding helpful tools to deal with this. It really scares me to think that this could be my predicament for YEARS not months and i'll need all the help i can get.

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NervousKitten

A mere hour ago i felt safe and loved.

 

 

I know exactly what this feels like and can tell you from experience that: 

 

Nothing has changed.

 

You are still safe.

 

You are still loved.

 

Your body just got a huge shot of adrenaline or norepinephrine. That's it. Your body thinks something is wrong, but there isn't anything wrong except misfired stress hormones. Your body needs to metabolize it and that requires rest and a lot of compassion and love for yourself. 

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Asjf

Thanks for the true and beautiful words NervousKitten

There seems to be something very beautiful that emerges from all the suffering that comes with this condition. I've read many posts on this site now and don't think i've ever encountered and more unconditionally loving and supportive group of people anywhere. There's something very special about that.

The last 7 months have been the worst hell of my entire life by such a large margin that anything that's happened to me in the past doesn't even compare remotely. Yet strangely, in the moments where clarity emerges for me i feel a deeper love and compassion for all humanity that i've never felt before. I really need to believe that what will emerge at the end of this is a much deeper sense of connectness with others.

When i was on zoloft i think the opposite occured. I was cut off from the deeper feelings of hurt (AND love) inside of me and i think that fostered a cold detachment to the suffering of others. I'm suffering deeply right now but i know that when this is all over i'll be a much better person.

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Asjf

Btw,

I spoke with my Dr. today and she too thinks that staying put on my Lyrica dosage is wise for the time being.

 

I asked her a question though and she didnt really have an answer so i thought i might get some input here (possibly from Alto if she sees this?) :

 

I'm currently prescribed 250mg/day which i've been taking as 100mg -9am 50mg-4pm 100mg-approx 11pm.

I always feel worst in the morning and am wondering if taking 150mg-9am and then 100mg-at night would be wise??

 

My doctor's answer was: The only way to know is to try it and see what happens.

 

Any thoughts from those of you who have experience with dosing?

 

Thanks for any input.

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Asjf

P.S.

Only having to take a morning and evening dose would be more convenient and get my mind off of meds. Having to take three doses/day i find keeps me too obsessed about meds throughout the day...

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Pugknows

((((Asjf))))

 

You have such a great attitude about all this. It will definitely help you weather the ups and downs of the rollercoaster ride.

 

The anxiety waves do come out of nowhere many times. It's just the area of the brain being worked on the hardest at the moment.

 

Breathe deeply. Tell yourself you are safe and this will not hurt you. Don't try to figure out what you did or didn't do to cause it. You did nothing. It's the healing process at work. Your brain will eventually get your emotions in line.

 

Love to you, Pug

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LoveandLight

Beautiful post!

 

So sorry that your going through this but you will get through. There will be an end.

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Asjf

Thanks LoveandLight.

It's amazing how random these symptoms occur. For months I've been waking up feeling aweful and generally feeling better in the afternoon. Yet today i woke up feeling pretty good and thought 'Wow maybe i'm getting some normal back!' But then around 2pm i totally sank into darkness. I can see how some people might almost think that what we're going through is almost taunting us:)

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Altostrata

Your doctor is correct -- the only way to see what it would do is to try it.

 

It will take at least 4 days for a change to take effect.

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Asjf

Thanks Alto.

From your experience with meds that have multiple daily doses do you think more, but smaller doses will make weaning down the road harder or easier?

Thanks for any input.

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Asjf

Thanks again:)

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Asjf

A very challenging day today. For the first time last night i had insomnia (which has never happened since taking lyrica). Its as though my night time dose did nothing. Then today i was very tired and feeling constant spikes of adrenaline induced anxiety--all day until now.

I'm a musician as my career and have enjoyed a pretty succesful carreer ('successful' for a jazz musician anyway). This weekend i'm playing some shows in Chicago with an internationally famous sax player. In the past i would be buzzing with excitement before a weekend like this--yet now what i feel is deep fear. A fear that i'm going to have an anxiety episode during the show and everyone there will see it and i'll play terribly and FAIL--all the while watching it happen before my eyes.

Since i went off of Zoloft opportunities in my life are fraught with pressure and fear of failure.

I never used to be like this. I was confident and excited by opportunities like this.

Right now i dont know this person i'm living inside of. It's like some sort of nightmare that i can't wake up from. I've been trying to be hopeful for months and months now, reassuring myself that this will eventually pass.

Having read so many accounts of individuals dealing with these symptoms for YEARS just makes me want to give up sometimes. The thought of continuing like this for so long seems unbearable to me.

Everything about this is so unpredictable. When i feel good for a day or two these feelings come back--almost as if they are mocking me. I feel as though i have no choice as to how i feel--i'm at the mercy of these chemical processes in my brain and am a prisoner for now. I just want my life back. I just want my life back.

Thanks for providing me with a place to write my thoughts out knowing someone will read them and get what i'm saying. That gives me a bit of comfort.

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Altostrata

You'll be fine. Do meditative deep breathing when you start to feel odd, it helps.

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NervousKitten

I'm sorry to hear that you had a bad day and can really related to what you said about not knowing the person inside. After 15 years being on antidepressants I had a very challenging time figuring out who I really was, the way I was behaving on the AD was not how I was acting now. The struggle to accept that this was my new normal continues until today. But today I feel so much better and feel so lucky that I am at a point now where my footing is and if I slip, I can keep from falling back into anxious behaviors. I'm definitely not the same person I was on the AD, but I'm starting to like the one that has emerged.

 

What has helped me the most are CBT and DBT classes. My anxious mind tends to look at a situation and think the worst, and that is essentially rehearsing to fail. The classes taught me how to shift my thinking instead to succeed. There are a lot of workbooks available to help identify cognitive distortions and exercises on on how to fix them. 

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brassmonkey

Trust in your chops, when the lights go up get in the zone and let it flow.  I've seen actors practically dead with the flu give the performance of their lifetime and dancers preform entire ballets with a broken foot because the stage is another world. Live your music and it will support you.

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Asjf

Thanks for the support.

Kitten, i just finished a 12 week CBT course. It WAS very helpful. I guess where it falls short for me right now is that so much of what i'm feeling doesn't seem to be influenced, changed or affected by cognitive choices. Its just intense sensations being caused by my brain chemistry. I guess where i DO have a lot of power though is in the choices i make cognitively around those feelings. Sometimes (like today) i get carried away with the feelings and fall into catastrophic thinking.

 

Thanks for the beautiful post Brassmonkey. Youre absolutely right.

 

I just feeling so tired and beaten down by all of these feelings i've been experiencing. I really do hope some sort of end to it starts to appear soon.

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pug

Asjf,

I am pulling for you. I hope the gig goes great and you find the zone. I also understand the frustration of the unpredictability of this process, I to get overwhelmed and weary of struggling through these very unpleasant symptoms, it sucks. Be sure to read some success stories, it helps a ton to know that we do heal and get our life back.

 

Here is hoping you feel better very soon.

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