Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Sertraline and Me

I always had a knot in my stomach.  I always saw the dark side of the story.  I worried.  I often had a hard time getting out of my own way; my irritation took over more often than I liked.  I didn't notice that as extreme or unusual, it was what it was.  It was who I felt I was.

In 2001, it all came crashing down on me.  My college freshman was coming home for Thanksgiving.  I should have been over the moon, thrilled, singing Pirates of Penzance at the top of my lungs.  Instead, I was flat.  Ahedonic.  Lacking in affect.  Absent highs and lows.  Stuck in a corner of myself that showed no exit signs.  

I mentioned it to my gynecologist. It might have been related to oncoming menopause, but my slumped shoulders and stories about sleeping the day away concerned her.  She sent me straight to a psychiatrist.  

It was lovely.  One hour all about ME.  She listened, she questioned, she probed, she smiled.  Then she wrote me a prescription for a whiff of an anti-depressant , made a follow up appointment, and sent me on my way.  

It took some time for the medication to kick in, and then some time to find the right dose.  Being anxious on top of being depressed was no fun at all; the whiff  became lighter and then, one morning I woke up without that knot in my stomach.  I was flummoxed; it was an old friend and I kind of missed its presence. Turns out that when I asked others about their stomach knots, no one knew what I was talking about.  I'd assumed that I was normal.  Apparently, I was not.

My mood improved, my smiles returned, we had a lovely visit with the big kid.  I saw the doctor once more, then realized that $275 an hour was a lot of money to spend weeping over my childhood sorrows.  My friends would listen for free.  I had the prescription, and was assured that since the dosage was stabilized my gynecologist could write the refills.  I bid farewell to the lovely therapist.  I was on my own.

I found myself less stressed at the end of the day.  I was less likely to fly off the handle.  I didn't take the same destructive pleasure in pressing an argument to its ultimate and often ugly conclusion.  The medication was working.

After five years of taking that little blue pill every morning (it gives me heartburn if I take it and lie down to sleep), I wondered if I needed it any more.  I didn't take it for a few days.... and the response from my family convinced me that I ought to start taking it again.  MOM!! Are you taking those pills?  You are getting weird again.

Over the years I've tried cycling off several times.  I take a more measured approach, cutting the pills in half, spreading the withdrawal out over a week or more.  Each time, the same thing happens.  I get scared about things that shouldn't worry me.  I worry about things that shouldn't concern me.  I'm concerned about areas of my life that I'd otherwise ignore.  I ignore the good parts and find myself focused on the bumps in the road.  It's not a happy place to be.

So this week, when I thought that I ought to try to stop, I was prepared for the waves of sadness.  I noticed a frown where a smile had been.  I began obsessing about the caravan from Honduras, about voter suppression in Georgia, about Ted Cruz cozying up to a man who'd insulted his wife.  The monsoon rains didn't help; gloom outside, gloom inside.

And so I took the whole pill this morning.  Whether it's Dumbo's Magic Feather or a very fast chemical reaction, I am happier sitting at the clean desk writing to you than I was last night, snuggled on the couch next to TBG, finishing a Lynda LaPlante novel.  

I think I'm on this medicine forever.  It works.  Why do I worry?


  1. Been there. Done that. Take the medicine.

    1. Yup. I'm addicted and happy about it....I guess.....

  2. Maybe I should ask my dr about this drug. There are times I really would like to be in a happier place, but I think my feelings go along with my energy level, which is not what it once was. That's what depresses me the most. Still, something to ask the dr.

    1. And as we age and slow down perhaps we begin to notice that which the pace of our former lives masked. If all you do does not leave you in a perpetually content space (you participate in all the activities that are said to lead to mental health) then maybe it's chemical and can be fixed with a pill. It saved my sanity, let alone my marriage and my relationship with my children. And all that's missing is the angst.

  3. I took Prozac back in my 40s when I was having bouts of depression. I did it twice. Once for a little over a year and another time for about six months or so. Both times I gradually got off and found it worked for me better as it seemed to have stifled my creativity as well as sexual interest. I also have used and still use a low dose of Lorazepam for anxiety. Pretty much I only take it when I wake up at night and can't go to sleep with all kinds of negative feelings. I've stuck to that dose and one a day to avoid concern I'll need more and more and it will be less effective. It might be that it works for me because I expect it to. I almost never take it during the day even when I feel anxious. I need it most for sleep. Because it's a controlled substance, it has complications and I know doctors hate to prescribe it. I had never heard of what you take and looked it up. It might be more effective but I don't have an appointment soon with my doctor to discuss it. I also started using a light for seasonal light disorder when I am up here and the sun is seen less.


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