It's beneficial to me to write this, and I hope it helps or at least puts into perspective for anyone else what being on zoloft is like.
I come from a happy home, nothing drastically bad happened to me growing up. I have generalized anxiety, maybe some social anxiety, and yes, it can lead to panic attacks. As a child, I was very smart, excellent memory, very creative, and I said over 30 words before I was one. I did go through a period where I stuttered horribly. The doctor told my parents, "nothing to worry about... she is just thinking faster than what she can verbally communicate". Growing up, when I was in a comfortable situation or place deemed in my head as "comfortable".... I would be talking a mile a minute, making everyone laugh. But when I went out in public, specifically in school, I didn't talk at all. My anxiety was so bad and every day it was like living hell. It made me very tired. I felt claustrophobic I guess you could say and I just wanted out of there. But yet it made no sense because if I saw the same people in school outside of school in a place I felt comfortable, i would be socially outgoing and full of life. I just don't like being places where i feel like I can't leave. I also like to be in control of all conversations. Then as a teen i found relief by hanging out with friends, smoking pot, and drinking alcohol. Made the anxiety stop. By the time i was i guess around 23 or 24 I thought enough is enough, this anxiety is debilitating and wearing me out. So I told my doctor and he put me on zoloft.
I believe i took half a 25 mg pill for a week, then 25 for another week, then 50mg, and that is where i stayed. I remember the first 2 weeks I was on it, my hands were a little shaky and my mouth was dry. I did feel a little "speedy". I didn't have insomnia or weight gain, but within the first week the anxiety lessened and by the end of week 2 i felt great! Then after a few more weeks i had zero anxiety (before going on zoloft, i remember having at least 3 panic attacks, they would happen in the evening, and one time i went to the emergency room). THe only side effect i had on zoloft was that i was unable to cry, never really had any dreams, and decreased libido. But i was full of energy, i wanted to go out in the world and talk to everyone. (before zoloft, even something simple like standing in line at the deli to order lunch meat would give me major anxiety). Panic attacks were completely gone.
So when i found out i was pregnant at the age of 28, i weaned myself off over a one week period, not good. Really, you need to take a few months for the weaning process. But i was pregnant, and even if they say it's ok, i didn't want to chance it. Well, i was really sick. Got the brain zaps for a few days, dizziness for about a month. ALso, extreme nausea for the first 4 months and diarrhea. Partly due to pregnancy, but i think it was also withdrawal from zoloft. My anxiety came back, so i just didnt leave the house much while i was pregnant (but I was stay-at-home mom, so luckily with the help of my husband I was able to do that). Also, when i was pregnant with my son when i was 21 before going on zoloft, i wasn't sick at all during that pregnancy. Which is why i think the pregnancy of my daughter and that sickness was partly due to not being on zoloft. So, after i had my daughter, everything healthy and good, i went back on zoloft about a month after i had her. I just couldn't take the anxiety any more, and with children you need to be out in public doing things and talking to teachers and such and there is no time for anxiety.
So i stayed on zoloft 50 mg. At one point, I felt really good like i didn't need it, tried going off it for 5 days, but the withdrawal was awful so i said screw this, im staying on it.
So now i am 34. Feeling good. People describe me as friendly, funny, creative, outgoing, helpful, kind... but that is because the zoloft 50 mg helps the real me to shine through. WIthout it, I am very withdrawn, for fear of anxiety. It's like fear of fear. I have been working full-time and I deal with people all day, and I really don't think i could do this without zoloft. But then something happened 3 months ago. Something was going on with my daughter, and the doctor told me they would have to rule out that she doesn't have a tumor (flash forward... no tumor... she was totally fine.. just a fluke). I was taking 50 mg zoloft. But I was so upset about that and waiting 2 weeks for the test results was quite unbearable. I was throwing up, getting diarrhea, stomach pains, weak. Couldn't sleep. I was so upset. I felt like something snapped in my brain. I kept getting these weird hot tingly sensations that would only last a few seconds but made me feel like I had to pass out. My face didn't turn red or anything, I would just feel real hot and tingly or numb in my arms and legs. So, got her test results back, a clean bill of health, by the grace of GOD thank GOD!!!! But for 3 months after that, i would momentarilly get those weird hot flushing type feelings. SO I thought maybe the zoloft just isn't working, or maybe could the zoloft be causing it? Like a rush of serotonin or something. I didn't tell my doctor. So, I just decided to stop taking it... BIGGEST MISTAKE OF MY LIFE!!!! Over a 2 week period, i cut down to 25 mg, then the last week took 25 every other day, which is a big big NO-NO!!!!
So, a week after that, I started to feel dizzy. I had severe nausea. I went to the doc. I told him I think I need to be on something but could i try a newer SSRI, and have some zanax (lowest dose possible) to help me adjust. He said you can have zanax and also 10 mg lexapro. Well, with work, i waited 2 weeks to start the lexapro, because I was waiting until when we would not be as busy in case i had side effects. So i was taking 2 zanax a day 0.25 mg for 2 weeks and no SSRI. I had no appetite. I could only eat if I took a zanax, and i was dizzy without the zanax. So, finally, at this point it was 3 weeks or so of no SSRI, i took the lexapro on a friday night. Also, stopped the xanax because i ran out. Saturday, did not feel good, had those hot flushes all day, and had a panic attack. Had racing thoughts and flu-like symptoms. Muscle spasms. Very faint. Extreme nausea. COuldn't eat. I only took the lexapro friday, saturday, and sunday night because on monday i almost passed out and had to lay down, had to call out of work. THe lexapro did not work for me at all! So the next 2 days i took nothing, no zanax, no SSRI, i just basically was on the couch suffering. Luckily, my office was closed over the holiday. But it ruined my christmas. I couldn't go to any family functions. I told my children i had the flu (but really it was a little bit of discontinuation syndrome as well as my old panicky ways were coming back). My husband was scared, he thought i was losing it. So the day after christmas, which was wednesday, I called the doctor. I was freaking out. THey called me back in zoloft 50 mg and also 30 pills low dose zanax 0.25 mg. So wednesday i had to take 2 zanax, and i only took 25 mg zoloft. Felt a little better, but still nausea, no appetite, diarrhea, but the flu-type symptoms and muscle spasm pain started going away. The doctor told me go right back in and start on 50 mg zoloft, but it had been nearly a month at this point off of it, and i was scared. BTW, over this time period, i was living off popsicles and TUMS because i couldn't eat, i had also lost a lot of weight, and i felt my hair was falling out more than usual. On thursday, i had to take 2 1/2 zanax throughout the day, and the 25 mg zoloft at night. I had to work and that was rough but i made it through. On friday, i had to work. I had to take 2 1/2 zanax throughout the day again just to make it through work. All of a sudden, around 3, i actually felt the nausea lift. I ate a piece of pizza and i almost started crying. I had gone for 3 weeks of severe nausea and no appetite and for that to go away felt like a miracle. I was still shaky but I also noticed the racing thoughts that were giving me a headache were going away, thank GOD. On friday night i thought "ok, the doctor told me go right back on 50 mg and i didn't and i might as well get this over with because if not i am just gonna be sick all over again when i titrate up to 50mg. Also, zanax has a nasty withdrawal. I need to get back to normal and not rely on zanax to get me through." so, friday night i took the 50 mg zoloft. Saturday, was a little rough. Very dopey and tired. Nausea all day until nighttime. Irritable. I had to make a conscious effort to not snap on people. I took 2 1/2 zanax throughout the day to get me through. BUt i made it. Didn't leave the house all day though. So saturday night, took the 50 mg pill around 8:30 and went to bed.
Today is sunday. I woke up. I took only half a zanax (half of the 0.25 mg). I don't want to take the zanax, but i don't think it is wise to just not take it after being on it for a few days. So today i already took half, then this afternoon, i will take the other half. THat's my plan, is to titrate down on the xanax, so that i don't get nausea worse from going off that. Then i dont want to ever to zanax. I plan on staying on 50 mg zoloft forever. This was the worst month of my entire life. That drug is a miracle drug for me. So today, i felt nauseous (but mornings are always really bad for me) and i still had diarrhea. I forgot to mention, throughout this, ive had diarrhea in the morning. I feel a little foggy and dopey but i know that will pass once i adjust. I have to say, I am feeling more like the old "me". The anxiety is starting to go away. I know it takes time, so i figure i'll just play it safe and take things day by day. Every day is a little better.
Now, throughout all this, the causes of those hot flushed feelings were never found. I had CBC, CMP, TSH, free T4, thyroid autoantibodies, ANA, all that stuff checked out. Also had triptase checked. Everything normal. The only thing i do notice is that i have, ever since that experience with my daughter, is a very rough time in the mornings, specifically between 6 to 8 am. THat is also when cortisol is highest in the body. I get better towards the evening. Also, my blood sugar is usually around 75-80, perfect, but on the low end. I tend to run low on sugar. So, it is important to keep that from getting too low. What happens in the body when sugar gets too low, the pancreas stimulates more cortisol production (fight-or-flight response). Too much cortisol, leads to adrenal fatigue, anxiety, depression. I don't have depression, i only have anxiety. So my theory is that (after this month of nausea lifts) I need to eat every 2 hours, healthy foods, to keep that cortisol in check. I was paleo a while before all this started. I felt great being paleo. You eat fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and no grains. I would only eat one grain a day, maybe a potato or some rice. But generally i don't eat bread or pasta, or any additives or preservatives or nitrates. But that's another thread. BTW, the low end of normal sugar range is from before being paleo, so it's not from that. Ive had hypoglycemic tendencies since when i was a kid (used to pass out at sports events if i was cheerleading or whatever and went to long without eating).
So, my goal is to get better. Then, eat healthy diet once again. Then, get back into exercising. All this will take time. ANd i know that. I hope my story helps someone out there. SO here's to a happy new year 2013 to all :))))