So I am writing the blog post I would have liked to have read back when my doctor first brought up the notion of me taking antidepressants for my anxiety.
I am not anti medication, quite the opposite actually but I had been taking propranolol since I was 19 and with the help of CBT really managed to push out of my comfort zone. My doctor first brought up sertraline/zoloft probably about 2 years ago but I said no mainly because I was scared of the side effects and being on medication long term, coming off them, if it would make me worse, so many extra worries rather than concentrating on the fact it could make me better.
I went back to my doctor in November of last year and told him I thought I was ready to start antidepressants, he agreed that it was probably a good time. I was really struggling with my grief, my anxiety was worse than ever and I think I was starting to get depressed. I picked up the prescription and it sat unopened on my bedside for 6 months until I a) was much worse (eye roll) and b) plucked up the courage to face all the side effects.
I remember sitting up in bed before going to sleep with the tablet in my hand and taking about 20 mins and a pep talk from Michael to take it. My fear was that once you’re on it, you’re going to experience whatever side effects it throws your way and you can’t just stop taking it if its bad. I think this played in to my claustrophobic thinking and I left ‘trapped’ in to the situation. Well I took it, fell asleep and woke up feeling like utter shit.
Days 1 - 5
These were the worst, and if you can get through these days it is plain sailing to a more mentally stable life. I experienced increased anxiety (god that was awful) sweating, headaches, palpitations, dry mouth, sensitivity to light and sound, no appetite fatigued, and incredibly dizzy. These individually are tolerable but all together just awful. I got to about day 6 and thought, I can’t take another one to make me feel like this, but I did and the next day, the headaches eased, the dizziness was a bit better and I managed a dog walk and dinner for the first time that week.
If you can, I would advise maybe taking a Monday off work, take them on a Friday night. And hopefully by the Tues morn you will be over the worst of it. You may also be some of the lucky people who have little no side effects!
Much easier days, the side effects eased off and by the 2 week mark I would say they had all gone bar the decreased appetite, tiredness, and a little headachy. Anxiety/depression wise I didn’t feel any different but I didn’t feel worse.
1 month in
This is when I started to notice the lift in my mood but Michael said he thought he noticed a bit before that. My grief wasn’t as heavy, my anxiety wasn’t as all consuming and I was starting to enjoy the things I was doing a bit more than just on a basic level of knowing I should be enjoying whatever I was doing. I felt the tired side effect was still there and I was able to sleep quite easily all the way though till 11am, then a nap again around 2.
3 months in
This was the sweet spot for me, I was still on 50mg, the doc said I could go up if I want to but I was feeling good so decided to not to mess around with it. You may think “3 months is a long time to wait to feel better” and I agree but up until this I was feeling better bit by by bit it was just throughout August I realised it had dramatically made me feel like my old self. The tiredness isnt as bad (I still do not like early mornings). My appetite has returned, my focus and mental clarity is so much better and I just feel lighter and brighter about things.
My doctor told me that I could stay on the sertraline for as long as I think it is working then we slowly ease off of it. I now need to take this, combined with my therapy and try and regain some of my confidence back with going out and travelling. This is my favourite time of year and I find it much easier to do things when its cooler and darker (no idea why). On the whole it has been a really positive experience and its so nice not feeling so blue and overwhelmed by the smallest things.
If you are thinking about starting anti depressants or just want to know more then please speak to your GP. They aren’t solely used for depression as a lot tackle anxiety, a very interesting BBC article came out last week about sertraline. There is a lot of information online about anti depressants, the truth is everyone reacts differently and whilst sertraline may not be for you there are so many others to try.
I hope this post was of some help, and if you have any questions then please message me!
(for the eagle eyed/pharmacists amongst you - these are actually my propranolol featured and not my sertraline)