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A Very Positive Outcome From Zoloft

I guess everyone's situation is unique. I'm a 34 year old female and I've had a panic disorder all my life. Sometimes it's been manageable, other times it has made normal functioning impossible. I have been prescribed prozac, aurorix and valium before with no positive effects but lots of negative effects (dizzy spells and increased anxiety). I have tried various forms of counselling also without any real benefit. The only drug that has helped is xanax and I'm reluctant to take that regularly.

About three months ago my anxiety reached a new peak. I know it probably sounds impossible, but I ended up having a panic attack that lasted for three days, It was the most terrifying experience of my life. My whole body was completely flooded with adrenalyn and my thoughts were haywire and frightening, of course I couldn't eat or sleep and I feared that it would never end - that I had gone mad and that my life as I had known it was over. I have a job I love, a partner I love, a supportive family and all kinds of other blessings. It felt like the most terrible waste imagineable.

I went to see a doctor on the third day and he suggested zoloft. I googled it when I got home and read a thousand terrible stories - people who had gone from a normal weight to obesity in a few months, become zombie-like, become suicidal etc. As stupid and vain as it sounds, the scariest thing for me was the idea of weight gain. I'm a little bit obsessive about my weight and I felt I couldn't bear the kinds of weight gain people were describing. But I was desperate and I began to take zoloft, the lowest dose.

At first it just made me sick. I started with tiny, tiny doses as my doctor advised and it still gave me chronic diarrhoea and nausea and I couldn't sleep. In a sense I think this was a good thing as it forced me to rest (I was feeling terrible about getting so little work done). It didn't seem to affect my anxiety one way or the other - it was still awful. During that first week though I started doing some drawings of my anxiety attacks and then changing them so that,in the drawing at least, they were overcome. My psychologist had asked me to picture a devil and an angel on my shoulders. She said I was only listening to the devil, telling me terrible things about myself and my future, and that I needed to try listening to what the angel had to say. Even though I couldn't follow her advise in my mindset then, I began to draw myself over and over again when I was having panic attacks with the angel on my shoulder getting brighter and brighter. I'm still not sure why, but it really helped. After a while I started doing drawings where the yellow light behind her drifted all around me and protected me from the devil on my other shoulder. Does this all sound crazy? I think I was a bit crazy, but this really helped me through that rough period before I felt any positive effects from zoloft, so I thought I would share it too. There was also a book by Dr Claire Weekes that helped me enormously, called Self Help for your Nerves.

I think it took about a month for zoloft to begin kicking in, and I coped through reading Claire Weekes, drawing, guided meditations and taking more rest than I usually would. I did see a psychologist through this time too, but I'm honestly not sure this was very helpful in my case. My anxiety features a particular kind of horrifying thinking patterns, but I didn't find talking about them or reasoning with them or trying to expose myself to them very effective. This could be for all kinds of reasons though - I don't think my psychologist was very skilled, I think my thoughts might be more symptomatic of my body's health rather than any personal history or issues. I have huge respect for these kinds of professionals, but in my case I'm not sure it helped, apart from the angel/devil image which was hugely helpful.
At this time I was also weighing myself obsessively. I am 5'4 and am generally about 103lbs. I lost a couple of pounds when I initially started zoloft but my weight stayed pretty stable, at 101lbs through the first month. I made sure I was walking a few times a week and paid some careful attention to my diet. I am vegetarian and my lifestyle is very hectic, so my diet/exercise isn't always the best. I began to make some changes like making sure I had a really good breakfast, was having enough iron, protein etc. I was still having panic attacks most days through the first month of zoloft, but I think it was becoming more manageable.

A big change I began to make during the second month was to do with my periods. I realise now how lazy and ridiculous this sounds, but I had never even known when my period was coming! It took me by surprise every month! So I began noticing that, trying to figure out when I ovulate, when my pre-menstrual phase might begin etc. Knowing a bit more about these hormonal changes made me realise how much my lack of balance was wrapped up with this cycle and it's been so interesting and reassuring to make myself really familiar with it all. In fact I think this has been the biggest and most healing change for me - learning to expect and work with my pre-menstrual feelings and to plan my workload around times when I will best be able to manage it, and allowing for lots of rest at the times of the month I most need it. I also joined a women's circle, which I'm loving.

I think it was during the second month that the effects of zoloft were really kicking in and for me it felt like a kind of safe, cocooned feeling. My sleeping pattern regulated. I didn't feel at all zombie like (my job requires me to be intellectually switched on all day and I was coping well) and I was at least as creative and productive as I would normally be. But that sense of being in a safe cocoon - feeling physically comfortable and adrenalyn-free, sleeping deeply and well, feeling safe but not in a confused fuzzy way, more a sense of empowerment to enable myself to feel safe - all of this made it much more possible for me to heal myself I think. I was kind of restoring myself from the inside out.

So by my third month on zoloft, by which time the panic attacks had pretty much stopped, my lifestyle had changed a lot. I was (and am) meditating three times a day using guided meditations I found free on i-tunes, my diet is excellent - lots of nuts and seeds, fresh fruit and vegies especially green leafy ones, fish (this is a big step for me...), I'm going to bed an hour earlier and waking up an hour earlier, using the extra morning time for meditation, journalling, drawing, reading etc, I'm exercising really enjoyably. And I find myself able to think through the kinds of worried that triggered that terrible anxiety experience without falling apart - I can stand at a distance from the ideas and assess them and see them for the confused kind of thinking they really are. This is huge progress for me - not just a step forward from my three-day-attack, but from my mental health for all of my life. In terms of side-effects, the only ones I really experienced were a loss of libido and really strange, heavy night sweats. Neither was a big deal and the pay off was great.

At the beginning of the fourth month I decided to wean myself off zoloft. I would much rather not be on any drug and I felt that I had re-rengineered my life to such an extent th at I was apable of managing without it. I didn't consult my doctor about this, which I know you're supposed to do, but I don't have a huge amount in faith in doctors and throughout this experience I have gained a lot of faith in my own judgement. So then I terrified myself for a week or so reading about withdrawal - about rubberband-like snapping sensations in the brain, unmanageable anxiety attacks etc. I cut down very slowly, literally shaving bits off the pills to make the withdrawal as gradual as possible! I have no real idea whether this was effective/necessary, but I didn't experience any withdrawal effects at all.

After a couple of days I did feel the cocooning effect falling away and I was a little sad about that. It's quite a special feeling and I was sorry to lose it. After a couple of weeks my libido returned, which was nice! And now, a month after stopping zoloft. I'm still feeling really good. I have kept up all the changes I made - diet, exercise, meditation, 'mindful menstruation' :), extra sleep, my women's circle, drawing, journalling etc.

So for me, I don't think zoloft exactly cured my anxiety - it's more that it gave me the opportunity/space/relief to rebuild my life so that I could heal myself. This time four months ago I had no physical or mental energy or motivation to do anything to help myself and I had arrived at a stage where I really couldn't see any light at the end of the tunnel at all - just despair. I had even thought of suicide - not because I wanted to be dead, but because it was feeling too difficult to go on living. I can honestly say now that I love my life. I have never been able to say that before - a good week for me has tended to be a week with only one or two major attacks. I haven't had an attack now for two months.

I know the timeframe of this shift is a very small one - I was only on zoloft for three months and have only been off it again for one! But I wanted to share my story anyway, in amongst all the horrors of shock weight gain and awful withdrawal effects, just in case it's a story that could be of use to anyone else dealing with a panic/anxiety disorder and embarking on the zoloft journey!
feelingbetternow feelingbetternow 31-35 15 Responses Aug 28, 2010

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Thanks so much for your story. I just started Zoloft today under the supervision of a very trusted and competent doctor. I have faith but there is always that "fear voice" about going through the nasty side effects. I too have gone through good counseling and my gut tells me that people like you and me who are willing to look inside as their dominant method of healing end up getting the positive side of SSRI's. Blessings

May I ask at what time of the day you were taking Zoloft?

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for your heartfelt post. This is just what I needed today in my journey with Zoloft. Until I read your post just now, I have been so confused about my recently diagnosed Anxiety Disorder. Like you were, I'm afraid to take strong medications or to be dependent on anything for a long period of time. I have been on Zoloft, small 25mg dose alternating with a 50mg dose, for almost 4 weeks now. I thought I felt better when I went back to just 25mg, so I did that for 4 days and then felt horrible again. My doctor explained that isn't how Zoloft works. So, thanks to her (and your positive post) I am going to try to "have faith" and follow instructions carefully. This anxiety disorder has been HELL and I cannot tolerate feeling like that indefinitely. So, I am moving forward and praying for the best! Bless you and thank you for your positive message. <3

I was hoping I could respond to your message, because I really appreciate the clear honest information you've given . I am not at all saying that other peoples stories were a lie but it seems most of them were horrible almost enough to prevent someone from experiencing there own story. The internet is a life line for someone that is alone and unsure of what to do. I am a single parent of two kids that truly need me, now considering that we do not have a big family there are not many people for me to talk too. Your story alone has encouraged me to keep at it !!! I will keep taking the Zoloft for a few months and see how it work. Between that and a true life style change ill have the same out come..

I am debating on starting zoloft. Doc told me to start 25 mg. my main phobia is dizziness. I have a severe phobia of being dizzy and so obviously taking meds. Is really hard for me. Can you tell me how dizzy I got while on the meds. And coming off of it? I'm so anxious and worried I will get vertigo really bad or bad dizziness any info will help?!!

you my not get dizzy its a side effect that my or my not happen. Tell yourself that and try the medication... apprehension prevent so much success in life!

Wow, I am going through something very similar to your story. I have been dealing with anxiety & depression for the last 15 years of my life. I have also seen multiple therapists and have tried different medications. I have two children, a partner whom I am very much in love with, and a great career at a big company. I just made the biggest achievement of my life, gaining a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration. However, even with all of these wonderful blessings that God has given me, I still have so many days where I feel down, depressed, and sad for really no good reason at all. I also suffer with severe anxiety attacks that are brought on by various triggers. Mostly they happen at work whenever I have to lead a conference call or even just talk at a meeting. It is quite embarassing when this happens because I seem to lose all train of thought and I just freeze right in the middle of talking. It's like I forget the entire English language in a matter of seconds. My heart races, I can feel my blood pressure rise, my whole body shakes and tenses up, I start hypraventalating, it feels like someone is standing on my chest, and thoughts in my mind only make it worse as the minutes go by. I start thinking and really believing that this time, is going to be it. It is going to be the time that I am going to have a heart attack. Just recently I went to my Doctor and told them about the anxiety attacks that I have been experiencing and my Doctor prescribed me to Zoloft. I am on my 4th day of taking it and I really don't feel much different. Like you, I experienced a lot of nausea for the first two days and it made me feel really tired as well. Today though, I feel a bit better. I am hopeful that I will be able to go through the next few months and feel the way you described your experience. I can't imagine what it will feel like to feel safe again. To not have those feelings of feer and flight. It sounds amazing, and I am hopefull that God will help me get through this so that I can come out stronger and healthier. Today will be my first day at the gym! I can't wait to get in there and excersise and feel good about myself. I need an outlet for my stress and anxiety, and I can't think of a better way to do this than with excerise. I just want to say thank you so much for sharing your experience. It was really beautiful to hear how this medication has changed your life for the better. I wish you the best of luck!

Reading this is really helpful to me. I have struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life (I'm 27) and recently after a stressful work situation and a bad break up and just being physically exhausted had a panick attack that lasted over a week. It was pure hell. I have enough money saved up to take a few months off work and try to to heal. I saw a holistic psychiatrist (I've always been against meds) and she said I could try healing on my own for a few months and see how that works. Since I don't have kids to take care of or a job to worry about I think I could try to do this without meds. I meditate, go to therapy and group therapy which is helpful, do energy work to clear out stuck panick and anxiety in my body which is also helpful...so anyways...I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm trying to rebuild my life like you did. Even in the last week from resting a lot and doing all this new work it has made a difference. But I'm scared that no matter what I do I'll always struggle with anxiety and depression. I just don't want the side effects of nausea, weight gain or loss, or a loss of libido.

Hi,<br />
<br />
Thank you for this post, I am a week in on Sertraline (generic zoloft) and am due to increase my dosage tomorrow. This first week has been quite scary, increased anxiety and nausea, as you experienced. I am male so obviously can't relate to the 'cycle' comments but it sounds like you making the choice to be aware of your cycle has helped - well done on making positive changes, it is very difficult to let change into your life when anxiety has been a dominant force.<br />
<br />
I hope you're still doing well, I keep my fingers crossed for myself, struggling to function etc and am scared of the side effects but this post has helped, so thanks again.

Hi,

Thank you for your kind feedback (and for being nice about the girly stuff!). I really hope the good effects of the medication kick in for you soon and give you lots of relief and comfort.

Two years later, I still have a mild attack now and then, but nothing I can't manage. Back when things were really bad, I never thought it would be possible for me to feel okay like this. My bf says I look and seem like a different person.

Anyway, I have my fingers crossed for you too. From someone who has been there and thought I was stuck there forever, I can promise you - it gets better x

How are you doing now " The Riandor" ?

Thank you so much for posting this! after a year of increasingly terrible panic attacks and depression, I finally decided to try Zoloft two days ago. I think my anxiety has increased over the last few days after reading the bad side effects of others who have tried Zoloft, so it is so refreshing to hear such a positive experience from you. I also hope to stay on it for as long as I need to form healthier thoughts patterns and now feel much more optimistic about healing myself :)

How has Zoloft helped you ?

Hi Baybebear. To be honest, I just looked for free downloads on i-tunes and found lots, some of which appealed and some didn't. I'm no good at doing it with a real person there beside me, talking! I find it too awkward! I like recordings that I can just try and discard without hurting anyone's feelings :) I think it helped during that really bad period of my life by just giving me a little break from all that stress and adrenaline, even if only for a few minutes.<br />
I wish you all the very best with your healing xx

Thank you for sharing xx

Luzul - I only just found your reply! But I hope it worked out for you and thank you for leaving a comment!<br />
<br />
Twoluvestu, I do still have panic attacks but they are less frequent and much more manageable now. I have a much better idea of when to expect them and a much better understanding that I can ride them out - that they will pass. I still use xanax occasionally to get through a bad night. If I ever have another episode where the attacks come constantly and are too powerful to cope with, I won't hesitate to go back on zoloft for a while, but so far so good.

Can you share with me a year later if you ever had another panic attack or tried meds again?

Thank you so much for your story, this is my first day, I am believing that it will be great for me, I only need a push like you... So I am grateful for reading your posting, I am also a vegetarian, I meditate and trying a healthy approach. It was hard for me to take any type of medication, so reading about you is great! I know that we are different people, but in my heart I believe that I am going to give it a try! And see how I do, I will post my results.

ps. I have been back at a stable 102lbs for the last two months.