Monday, 17 August 2015

Sertraline || My experience and withdrawal process

So, this is a very personal post and as I write it I am not 100% sure if I am even going to post it... but I want to be brave and talk about something important that might help someone else. This post purely reflects my own personal experience and by no means reflects the experience of others. Over the past few weeks I have spoken to people who have shared my experience and people who have had a totally different experience and have found that this particular anti-depressant has changed their lives for the better.

www.myfriendirmajane.com

(Sertraline is an anti-depressant used to treat depression, anxiety, panic disorder and OCD.)

It is amazing how the taboo around mental health has lessened in recent years and I think if there wasn't one at all, there wouldn't be so many people suffering from various mental health issues. Talking to someone can be such an amazing way to work out how you are feeling and maybe why you are feeling that way and can even lead to you being able to help yourself. 

Doctors are very quick to jump to medicating mental health issues. Some people find that it works wonders (I personally know many people who do) but all too often the case is quite the opposite. Sometimes anti-depressants are prescribed because doctors have gotten to the end of their list of obvious answers to your problems and still haven't managed to work out what is wrong. This can often mean that many people are prescribed various anti-depressants when really there may be other ways to deal with whatever you are having problems with.

In my case (and this is where it gets personal) I suffered from anxiety and low mood for years (I would say from the age of 15) and after being back and forth to the GP and being sent to various heath care professionals with no luck I was prescribed Sertraline. At first the dosage was fairly average but each time I went to the GP to tell them that I felt the medication wasn't making a positive difference their response was to 'up' the dosage. I also want to add that during this whole process the GP never checked up on me to see how I was coping, something which I think should be very important.

By the end of the process (and by the time I eventually decided to put my foot down)I was on a very high dose of Sertraline and feeling very 'numb'. All this medication did was to completely dull any emotions. As much as I didn't enjoy being anxious, the feeling of complete numbness (or emptiness) was far, far worse. For two years I was not experiencing the normal ups and downs of life. I was glad to not experience the horrible 'downs' that anxiety brought but imagine never feeling the incredible 'ups' of every day life. Never being able to feel excited about anything, happy or able to enjoy life. That is how it felt. 

When doctors prescribe this medication (or any other anti-depressant) do they tell you that life will lose any excitement? That it will no longer be fun? That you will push people away because you are aware that you are boring and no longer enjoy being with friends? No. No they don't. It does nothing for your self-esteem. They sell them to you as if they are a miracle drug. As if after the initial period of your body adjusting you will no longer feel anxious and will be able to get on with life. 

When they give you anti-depressants do you expect to spend years of your life as a recluse unable to cope with day-to-day life, going through the motions of getting up, dressed, make-up on, going to work all without any feeling or drive? Unable to find any motivation to do things you used to enjoy? No, you don't. 

I lost any joy I found in listening to music, watching films, reading books. I haven't read a book in two years as I am unable to concentrate long enough. A lack of concentration was not something I suffered from before these tablets and I do, of course, blame them for losing any enjoyment I once had in these things.

I haven't even got to the worst part yet. 

Once I decided enough was enough, the doctors (after much persuasion) agreed that I should start to ween off the Sertraline. I actually came off slower than they recommended after doing some research of my own (and I think I would do it slower if I was to do it again). 

This is where it gets nasty. I have never experienced anything quite like the withdrawal from Sertraline (which after doing some research I have found it can last anything from two months to two years). There is a reason it is referred to online as 'the dreaded withdrawal'. I have experienced a lot of physical and mental symptoms from the withdrawal process which I will list for you now...

Physical
  • shakiness
  • pins and needles through my whole body (constantly)
  • a feeling that can only be described as an electric shock that occurs very randomly
  • weakness (especially in my legs to the point of being unable to walk more than a few metres without feeling overwhelmingly tired)
  • extreme tiredness
  • headaches
  • hot and cold shivers
  • nausea
Mental
  • extreme anxiety
  • heightened emotions
  • paranoia 
If I had known these side effects of withdrawal I definitely don't think I would have given in to the wishes of the GPs to put me on medication in the first place. 

Of course this is my personal experience and other people I know have taken sertraline and have got on well with it, but I didn't.  I just want people to maybe think carefully before taking any sort of medication and to not be afraid to tell the GP that it isn't agreeing with you. You know your body better than anyone else.

Now that I have been totally free from any medication for two weeks I have sought some help in the form of herbal remedies. You may laugh but honestly there is so much research to show that certain herbs can really help with the withdrawal process and can even help you to cope better with anxiety (and at this point I am willing to try anything to make this process easier... I can see how easy it would be to give in and take the medication again to make this go away.)I feel like it has helped me to cope with the process a little easier, although I still have a long way to go. I might do a blog post about herbal remedies some time in the future after I've really had time to give them a good go.

I know that now I am off medication (for good may I add) it wont be easy. I won't just wake up one morning and the anxiety will have left me (apparently I am now having to deal with two years worth of anxiety all at once), but at least without my emotions being dulled and my concentration being none existent I might actually be able to think things through. 

I am currently undertaking CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and am feeling really positive about it and about my own ability to help myself through the process. I might do a blog post about my experience with CBT once I have finished if anyone would find that interesting (or even of nobody reads it I might just do it anyway).

I just want to add that you are not advised to start or come off medication while undergoing CBT but in my case I had to come off sertraline now. 

I am extremely proud of myself for sticking with this and coming off anti-depressants. I am proud of myself for standing up for myself when I knew something wasn't right. 

I hope this might help someone else in the same position I was in a few years ago or might help someone to listen to what their body and mind is telling them. Again, just to clarify, everything I have written is my personal experience and I don't want to undermine the use of anti-depressants where they are genuinely needed. Sometimes they can turn people's lives around and this, of course, is amazing.

I know writing about it and publishing this post has helped me to deal with my anxiety about people knowing I suffer from anxiety! Sounds strange but it's true. 

I would love to hear from anyone who has had a similar experience with sertraline (or any other anti-depressant) and from anyone who has had a completely different experience to me. If you want to talk about anything I have written about in this post please feel free to email me personally (myfriendirma@hotmail.co.uk).

Please be nice! 

Irma xo





18 comments:

  1. I feel exactly the same way as you regarding anti-depressants. After my first ever death of someone really close to me I just lost all feeling and motivation and actually had suicidal tendencies (you have been honest so I will be honest) and so the GP's put me on Citalopram which actually heightened my suicidal tendencies and made me feel worse and like there was NOTHING in the world. It was horrible. I came off straight away. I didn't wean myself off like recommended. I wanted none of it in my body anymore, all whilst they kicked me off of CBT as my symptoms were too harsh for them to deal with
    many years down the line I am still here and depressant free. Really don't think I will ever go back onto medication! I too looked into herbal remedies and any other remedy people suggest, such as yoga and exercise and find yoga to be such a relaxing and great release for any stress or anxiety I may feel. Why don't you try that?

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    1. Thank you for being so honest, I really appreciate that :) I am sorry you were feeling that way, I hope you are feeling in a better place now. The medication made me feel worse than I ever did before I was on it, which really defeats the purpose of taking it. I think something like yoga might be great for me, I used to exercise all the time and just haven't had the motivation over the past year or more so I think I might try that :)
      Irma xo

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  2. great post, really informative ive heard yoga is a good remedy for stress.
    www,mybubbaandme.com

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    1. Thank you, I think I might try yoga :)
      Irma xo

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  3. This post brought me to tears. I think what you've done is incredible and you should be so proud of yourself! I can truly say from the bottom of my heart that this post will help people having to make the same difficult decision you have had to! Much Love and good luck with the rest of your journey,

    Emma (agingerblondie.blogspot.co.uk) Xx

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    1. This comment genuinely made me cry... Thank you so much for being so kind :)
      Irma xo

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  4. Had no idea you had been on these hope u are ok. I know myself all about this from strugglin in the past being on anti depressants, in councilling and off school for 6months its a hard struggle for people to take seriously! My mum struggles still with this everyday and it means i often go ages without seeing her! Thanks for being so open mental health isnt easy to speak about! Xx

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Awk Emma thank you for commenting :) I hope your mum is doing okay and I hope you are too :) I was so nervous to post this but I'm glad I did because people have been so nice about it xo

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    3. Awh I didn't know you were going through all of that. I am glad you have come through it now! Yeah it's good to be able to talk about these things and k ow that other friends have been through similar things. Thank you for being open about your experiences xo

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  5. Im sure you were nervous its not easy to talk about and many people dont get it unless they har experienced it! Love reading your wee blog :) xx

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    1. Yeah I think it's hard to relate to unless you or someone very close has experienced it. Awk thank you :) xo

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  6. I really disagree with the way you're referring to your particular medication as "antidepressants" as though this is the case with every brand. There is a wide spectrum of medications and brands that affect people in very different ways. For example, is this a benzodiazepine? An SSRI? An SNRI?
    I appreciate what you're doing here in sharing your story but it does also hurt the cause of bringing awareness and understanding to mental health by labelling it all as something that will numb you and disallow you from feeling happy.
    Personally I take Efexor, which is an SNRI, and although it is not a cure-all, it does actually allow me to feel happiness and experience good things much much easier than I could when I was off it. Again, not claiming that this is always the case with everyone, but I feel very strongly about where you said that you should have been told that antidepressants "will" numb you.

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    1. Thank you for your opinion on this, I am really interested in hearing lots of different opinions on it. I thought in my post I had made it very clear that this was my very personal experience and did not reflect that of anyone else and that they can be amazing for other people but aren't for me? If I did not make that clear then I am sorry because that was the whole point of this post. I just wanted to share my experience. I name the particular medication as sertraline and took a photo of it as well and if anyone wanted more information on it they could Google it or speak to their GP because I am obviously not a medical professional.

      Thank you
      Irma xo

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  7. Thank you for sharing your story. I had post natal depression with my first child and was prescribed antidepressants and I too remember that numbness. I literally felt like a zombie. I couldn't feel happiness, sadness, hurt nothing and I hated it! Luckily I didn't have any side effects when I came off them but like you, I wasn't aware that there would or even could be side effects. Mental health is such an important topic and more people like you need to speak out about it. Thanks for sharing xx
    Lydia
    http://bitsofthisandthatblog.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Km sorry to hear you had to go through that, it is great you didn't have any side effects coming off medication though. I hope more people will talk about it soon because it will help people to talk.
      Irma xo

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  8. This is incredibly interesting to read, thank you so much for sharing your story! I'm 16, and I've been experiencing anxiety and low moods for a couple of years. Last year it got to the point where I would have panic attacks every day and pass out at school as often as once or twice a week, and there was a massive freak out that I was seriously ill. When it turned out I wasn't, I was given low dosage propanolol to reduce the anxiety, and I was put on the waiting list to start CBT (which I'm still waiting for). I'm glad to hear that it's working well for you. I appreciate that a beta blocker is completely different from Sertraline, an SSRI, but for me, medication is working relatively well. My anxiety, panic attacks, and general mood are a lot better. However, propanolol makes me tired, and if I forget to take it then I have intense heart palpitations and am likely to black out, which makes me worry that I'll never be able to come off of it, or that I might have a withdrawal as tough as yours sounds. One I've thing that I am incredibly thankful for is finding a new GP that listens to what's wrong and then suggests and discusses various things that might help, while still respecting that I understand my own mind better than they do. I appreciate that it's rarely that easy for a lot of people, and I do wish that CBT didn't entail a 3 month wait, but so far my experience with the NHS and with medication has been positive. Thank you so much for posting this, it means a lot to see people talking about mental health as something that needs to be treated (whether by CBT, or by medication) and not ignored. Xx

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I love reading your comments and always reply :)
Thank you lovelies xo

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