After searching and searching on the net looking for some answers for my reactions to Zoloft and finding it hard to come up with anything concrete, I’ve decided to write my own experiences.
I started taking Zoloft in April 2012 because I had been diagnosed with social anxiety (looking back, I have had it all my life but I was going through a particularly rough patch). I was in a horrible place, had cut myself off from family and friends and was incredibly miserable and unhappy. Very negative which is unlike me as I like to find the positive in most situations where I can…. I just couldn’t handle anyone being near me (emotionally speaking, not physically). I rejected myself and hated myself and thought everyone else felt the same way. Mixture of severe social anxiety and poor self-esteem. I even stopped paying attention to my poor cat :-(
So I went on Zoloft, and shortly after a chain of events happened where I stopped playing my most beloved sport and lost some more friends. I was eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and for the first time in my life I wasn’t constantly exercising. I’m quite tall and have always had an athletic build so have usually weighed around the 80kg mark. But with the social anxiety creeping up on me over the previous 2 years I was sitting at 86kg. Also, I think got pneumonia, and the small amount of sport I was still playing at a social level stopped altogether for 6 weeks until I recovered and could play part games.
Once I hit the 90kg mark, the heaviest I had ever been, I decided it was time to do something about it. So me being the nerd that I am, decided to research what activity would suit me best and I started at that. I was being more careful about what I was eating. Not dieting though, just looking at portion size and not eating heaps of bad food. I’ve usually been pretty lucky in the way that as long as I’m exercising and working hard and avoid overeating, that I’ve always been able to lose the extra weight quickly and without much effort. To my horror though I put on another 8kg. To be honest I’d say most of it, if not all of it, was muscle. But I’d failed to lose any of the fat. Which was depressing and embarrassing!
The other weird thing that had been happening, was since exercising again after pneumonia, after running or jumpring around I would get dizzy, or really bad vertigo. It was really hard to explain. It’s like I had no idea where I was in relation to the ground. My head would get kinda spinny and I’d be really out of it. My hands and feet would tingle and would then go numb. AT first I thought it was diet and water consumption. So I changed both of those to make sure I was doing all the right things. No change. Saw the doctor as it was starting to get really bad, instead of taking 5mins to appear, as soon as I’d run I’d be out of it. It was so frustrating as I wanted to exercise so badly but my body couldn’t. So they looked at my heart, did a stress test to check it and my blood pressure. Both came back normal, they actually said my heart was very healthy and in good condition because I could recover very quicky after exercise still. Next they looked at my lungs, breating and lung capacity and that also, while not as good as it was before pneumonia, was still above average. Next they looked at my blood sugar levels. While they were low, would usually sit around 5… could sometimes get them up to 7…. It was still within normal range. This took all of about 6 months. FRUSTRATING! Then, I realized one day, that the only thing that was left was a side effect to Zoloft. The reason I hadn’t considered it before was that I was still playing sport when I started and had no problems them. Of course I was only taking 25mg then and I was up to 100mg per day. So I decided that day that I was coming off it.
Thinking about it – I don’t regret taking it. It was a very rough and hard period for me and I wasn’t coping. I was hurting those close to me and I didn’t even care. And knowing that make me so depressed because that’s not me. I was crying myself to sleep most nights and I was a train wreck going from one relationship to another, each ending in a firey mess. Zoloft and my psychologist helped me through that with relateively no permanent damange. Family and good friends will always understand and be there for you in the bad times. I’m a good person and most people just saw me going through a tough time. I’ve heard people say Zoloft brought them back to life. But for me, Zoloft and my psychologist with the help of those closest to me brought me back to life and I will be forever thankful and appreciative of that. I just can’t explain how good it feels to be excited about life again.
I’ve set myself some rules to live by this year.
Don’t overcommit myselfDelegate responsibility instead of trying to do the impossibly by myself and then getting stressed over it and the social anxiety of things not being perfectExercise – it makes me happyGet back to my original size, but healthy. Also more muscles would be nice.No boys until I’ve got a handle on the previous 4 points. I have to love myself and be happy with myself before I’ll let others feel that way about me. It’s working wonders to be honest.
Not only did I have weight gain and issues with exercising on Zoloft, I also found the my crazy oily acne prone skin of my teenage years had reappeared with painfully large cystic acne. Ouch.
So what has happened with coming off?
Well, with the help of the Estelle pill (helps with skin). My skin is just about back to normal. I’d say the rest is due to a very very humid and muggy summer. Not cool for skin.
I’ve finally weaned myself off the Zoloft and have been off for 2 weeks now. When I first came off, I noticed that I had the dizzies just about constantly. I actually found it to be a comfort coz it felt exactly like it did when I was running. So it HAD to be the cause. Which was just a relief because I knew it would in fact go and I wouldn’t have to keep trying to find the cause that was driving me crazy. Yesterday I got through an hour session that included running and burpees with NO dizziness. I could have cried with happiness! First time I haven’t had to deal with it.
I only thing that still hasn’t made much of a change is the weight issue. I’m currently doing a 12 week challenge to focus on that goal. I’ve lost about 3kg in two weeks, which is great, but I’ve worked so hard that I was expecting more. After some reading over the last couple of days I’ve found out that Zoloft can screw with your metabolism and can take about a month or more to get back to where it was. Not sure if that’s with or without intense exercise. So I’ll give it a few more weeks. My competitive spirit is back (haven’t seen it properly in a few years) and I’m winning the challenge so far in terms of points for exercise. Plan to keep it that way. I’m eating the best I probably have in my whole life so just really hoping more than anything that my metabolism will return to it’s normal weight (and the fact that I’m now 29 doesn’t mean it will always be slow from now on!!).
The best thing though? Is that I’m still happy. Yes, I do have periods where I’m getting really stressed, overwhelmed and the socially anxious thoughts start trying to take over but this is where the work that my psychologist has done with me has paid off. I constantly practice mindfulness, I’m no longer a slave to my thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness is a great strategy. Same with cognitive restructuring and cognitive diffusion. I learnt how to do all of these things while being medicated when the edge wasn’t so bad. Now I’m off the medication I’m still using these strategies to help me with the stronger thoughts. I’m currently winning and I plan to keep it that way.
It’s been a touch road over the last 2 years. But you know what? I wouldn’t change any of it. Even the weight gain. Even the dizziness. Simply because:
I know who the important people are in my life – they’re the ones that stuck with me even when I wasn’t very likeable.The weight gain has meant that I’ve gone back to exercise and eating well. Looking after my body and feeling really good for it.The dizziness – because without it I’d still be on Zoloft and wouldn’t realize how strong I had become.
I’m a better person for all the issues. I’ve learnt and I appreciate life and what it has to offer so much more.