When I opened up my browser to begin typing, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share this. It’s pretty personal, and I by no means am an authority. However, writing is a form of therapeutic release for me…and I’ve found pretty little written on the Internet about this subject that I could identify with. So, in the hopes that at least one person finds this and for my own personal release, here goes.
One of my 2019 goals is to wean off Zoloft after 9 years on the anti-anxiety/anti-depressant. Last week, I decided to begin the journey.
I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when I was ten. While I had managed my panic attacks, social anxiety and general feeling of overwhelm for years, it only continued to get worse. Coupled with a few bouts of severe chronic depression, I made the decision to start taking an SSRI during my sophomore year of college. I had been against it for so long, but ultimately, it was the right choice for me at that time. Six months later, I came off the medication when I studied abroad, but when I returned, I found myself in a pretty bad spot and started on Zoloft again. My anxiety and depression became increasingly manageable, and I never felt numb - my feelings were always still intact. However, I knew that I didn’t want to stay on the medication forever (If you do, great! It’s a very personal choice.).
I knew that I wouldn’t want to stay on the medicine forever, but the thought of weaning off kept coming up in the last few years for a myriad of personal reasons:
I’ve struggled with horrible digestive issues for the last five years. I’ve tried nearly every possible solution in the book, with little to no success. And, when the issues started to flare up again and I started to think of how to handle it…I realized that all of the GI struggles started right around the time when I began my second and current journey with Zoloft. While I’m certainly not a doctor, I have a gut feeling (ha!) that this may be related to the medication. Some of the GI issues are listed side effects of the medication, and while it didn’t impact me the first time around, I wonder now if I’m feeling the effects. I’m running out of options on how to treat the issues, so it’s worth a try.
I have become increasingly conscious over time about putting chemicals into my body. I’ve become more and more hesitant about taking pills. Again, my own choice - no judgement on either end.
While it may be shocking to those who grew up with me, I’ve warmed up more to the idea of having children later on (like…way later on), and while it’s not unsafe to take antidepressants while pregnant, there are some risks. I want to be safe if/when that chapter of life happens, and I’d like to be well adjusted enough to life off Zoloft if/when all of the hormones hit.
As of late, I’ve started to experience some of the other common side effects of Zoloft that aren’t too pleasant. No need to get into detail here.
Finally, and most importantly, I have been in a really good place for awhile now. Over the last few years, I’ve learned some really great new tools to manage my anxiety. I finally feel like I can handle things on my own with the tools that I have. My anxiety will never go away, but I feel increasingly more confident that I’ve grown with managing it.
Without sounding too “woo-woo,” this year I felt called to begin the tapering journey (it’s pretty inadvisable to go cold turkey). It felt right. As I mentioned, I’ve been in a good place with managing my mental health. Not to mention, I’m at a stable job and in a stable relationship - with no real major changes on the horizon.
So, I set a plan with my doctor to slowly wean off the medication.
How’s it going?
Honestly, it’s been a practice of patience and a practice of being gracious with myself.
On day one, I seemingly forgot that I had reduced the dosage by 33%. I came home from work feeling like absolute crap (headachey, weak and dizzy) with zero idea as to why. Justin had to remind me that I was likely experiencing a detox and withdrawal symptoms.
I was upset with myself. I was angry that I’d let myself stay on Zoloft that long and that I’d let my body get “addicted.” Naturally, my breakdown spiraled, and I was mad that I even let myself start taking medication in the first place. I also started to feel hopeless. I wondered how long I would feel physically sick while tapering. I questioned it it was worth it to wean off if I’d feel pretty crappy the entire time, and I questioned if I would ever even feel normal again. I started (wonder if I had trapped myself in a cycle of being on Zoloft forever. (I acknowledge how dramatic I sound, but just keeping it real.)
While I still have a few of those questions in the back of my head, I’ve been reminding myself of the point that I was when I decided to get on the pills. It was right decision for me at that time. I’ve also been reminding myself about how tumultuous the last few years of life have been - not conducive to tapering. I know it will ultimately be worth it in the end, and I know my gut feeling to wean off meant something. As the thoughts keep bubbling up here and there, I’ve been trying to practice grace with myself (easier said than done).
This past week has been easier. While I’ve experienced a little bit of dizziness (that also can likely be attributed to being dehydrated and stressed), I have felt less physically ill. Mentally, I’m feeling the same as when I was on 100% of the dosage. Despite some pretty stressful events at the start of this week, I kept my cool and remained calmer than normal, honestly.
I’m excited to see how this journey plays out, and if you have any advice, shout it out!