Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sertraline a.k.a. Zoloft

One week and one day on Sertraline, the generic name of Zoloft.  I guess I needn't have gotten myself so worked up over the idea of taking medication.  The world keeps spinning and life continues; it really was not a big deal after all.

The first day I had a minor panic attack.  I wonder if it was from being worked up about taking the drug or a continuation of the heightened anxiety level I had been at lately that had motivated me to finally try medication.  There are several potential side effects that, if they show, are expected to go away by two weeks.  The benefits, however, could take a month to show.  On day one I was thinking I may quit right then.  That day I had the panic episode, I felt week, my stomach was very upset with a sort of burning feeling like extreme hunger to the point of gnawing but without the growling. My hands had a cold sweat during the panic which I had not felt as one of my panic symptoms in over a year.  I was tired and insecure feeling for the rest of the day. By day two all was much easier.  I had an upset stomach that felt more like a dull and constant hunger, I needed a nap, and I felt slightly drugged and a little weak. Day 3 through 5 I had become use to the feeling of pseudo-hunger and felt pretty normal, in fact less anxious already, but I did feel a little less sharp as though it might be more difficult for me to solve a complex problem.  The best part was that I was becoming less self absorbed and able to enjoy my family again even if I felt a little bit off.  The feeling of being less sharp minded did concern me and I made the mental note to consider that fact later if it continued.  And now, eight days later, I don't feel any of the side effects except maybe a little more desire to take a nap once in a while, a little extra hungry once in a while, and a slightly effected digestive system.  My mind feels about right.  I feel steady.  My anxiety level and OCD symptoms, while there, have receded several degrees from where I was just over a week ago.  It's difficult to be certain how many of the negative experiences in the first days on the medicine were resulting from my own anxiety but I know the stomach discomfort was different then my normal anxiety caused stomach discomfort and so was the tiredness different than my normal feelings of exhaustion.  Those definitely were side effects.  As for the positives, it is hard to say how much credit the drug gets.  It's still early and I'm not even up to full dose yet.  It could take a month to be effective anyway.  I started one week at 25mg per day, now at 50 per day for week two, week three will be 75, week four will be 100, and then I will check in with the Dr. to see how I am doing on the medicine.  Maybe the drug has helped me already, though.  Maybe the time with my family has made the greater difference.  It's hard to divvy up the credit.  I think a lot of the credit goes to the time enjoying my kids and Tami constantly bringing my attention to good things and helping me to relax and enjoy my time off.  One thing does feel different and so I believe that credit does go to the drug even if it is a bit early for full potency.  When I have the intrusive thoughts, they seem to be less aggressive in their speed and frequency of occurrence to the point where I can catch them a little sooner in the process, acknowledge them, and move on.  I still get some gruesome thoughts and unnecessary stress, but I seem to stop them in the first 20 seconds more often now rather then realizing I have been living in an imaginary 3 minute mini-drama/horror movie in my mind.  That I think is the drug.  In time, I hope to be better at this and to be able to do it with a drug.  That those thoughts are happening a little less frequently now could be the drug or the fact that I am interrupting the cycle more often.  I also notice the same bump of my anxiety with the same triggers around my children's safety but they really don't seem to be stressing me out as much as they usually do.  That too, I think may be the medicine.  And, really, I seem to be getting much more rational about what discomfort remains.  I still feel strained breathing but only maybe once per day now and I am able to talk myself through it.  I was getting pretty frantic there for a while but that part of my daily experience is going away.

My net assessment of the drug after the first day would have been quite negative.  I was thinking, "how did anyone get through this torture to get to the benefit to know they could sell this stuff?"  But a little voice in my mind said "how do you know this is the drug and not your own panic over built up anxiety in taking the medicine?"  So I continued.  Now, my net assessment so far is that it's nothing bad.  There are some minor weird stomach feelings which only show up some times now, some tiredness that has minimized now means I would like a nap once in a day, and a dullness of mind that has gone away.  And I think there is the good in a lessening of the level in anxiety, a slowing in the OCD thoughts, and a little less care about the anxiety that remains.  It's not even close to having vanquished the anxiety, but it has blunted the edge that I felt for a while.  I remain hopeful that in short time, perhaps a month, I will have enough peace to take a full and calm metaphorical and physical breath, to take stock of my situation, and with the clarity of seeing above the clouds, find a direction to progress back to a sustainable peace of mind and well being, however long that takes.  In the mean time, I feel much better right now.


  1. So glad the medication is doing its job and you are starting to feel better, Randy. And so glad that Tami is able to be your steadying post while this gets sorted out.

  2. phew! glad to hear it is working out! i can't even begin to imagine. you are awesome for dealing with it all head on....strong and inspirational.

  3. Thank you both for your encouragement.