It's been almost a week since I posted here, and now June is just about finished. I wish this summer would slow down. It's passing by at lightning speed and I'll be back at work in no time.
I've been in a weird place, emotionally, for a couple of weeks now. Remember how I said I couldn't stop welling up with tears at our niece's wedding? I've been like that pretty much nonstop, over everything, recently. I alternate between tearful and emotional and irritated at the world. I'm not sure what's wrong with me, but I have an idea. About three weeks ago I stopped taking Zoloft. I've been taking a maintenance dose of it (50mg) for almost 20 years now. I think that's what's wrong.
I began Zoloft in desperation in my mid 20's after a particularly terrible, long lasting episode of OCD symptoms, crippling anxiety, and black depression. OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) can be a horrible, debilitating mental illness although very few people take it seriously. I still have to bite my tongue when people say, "I'm so OCD!" when what they really mean is that they have a penchant for order or cleanliness. It's so not that. And it's not a joke, believe me.
It would be painful and embarrassing to describe my symptoms here, and so I won't, but I'll leave you with just one example of what the hell of OCD is like. One time when in the throes of it, I hit a pothole in the road while driving my car. I could not (could not) shake the irrational fear that I had hit a person. I drove back around the block probably dozens of times, trying to reassure myself that it wasn't a human being and just a pothole that I had hit. No matter how much my logical mind told me that it was absolutely ridiculous and irrational, my anxiety was kicked up to a level where I was powerless to stop myself. When I finally managed to get myself back home that day, I spent hours obsessing over that damn pothole, still trying to reassure myself that I hadn't killed someone. Imagine this scenario, and now imagine dozens of scenarios just like that happening every single damn day....for months. I was a wreck, y'all. I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep more than a couple of hours a night, just.....couldn't. Couldn't function. Couldn't shake it. Add in the fear of losing my job, exhaustion, unrelenting emotional misery....well, those months were hell. I've had OCD since I was a small girl (my dad has it too, it's a genetic thing) but never like that. I finally had to go to the county department of mental health (I couldn't afford a private psychiatrist and had no health care coverage at the time) and get myself prescribed something to try to crawl back out of the hole I was in. Eventually, slowly, over a period of two or three months, my symptoms subsided, my depression lifted, and I became a normally functioning human again.
Eventually, I cut the dose down to only 50mg and fast forward to now, almost two decades later. I've been (mostly) symptom free for years. I like to think I've found other ways to cope with my weird brain chemistry. I began to wonder if such a small dose as 50mg was really making much of a difference. I still have no psychiatrist; my family doctor (and in years past, my gynecologist) will happily write the script for my refills. While I appreciate the refills, I've started to think maybe I need to speak to someone who specializes in mental health before I continue to take SSRIs. A couple of weeks ago, I ran out of pills, and had not taken them for a few days before realizing it. I considered getting reupped, but then thought maybe a break (just to see how things went) wouldn't hurt anything, especially now since I'm off work for the summer.
Well, I haven't had any OCD symptoms (yet) but I'm definitely experiencing withdrawals. There's the overly emotional responses to everything, like at the wedding. There were very vivid, weird, sometimes frightening dreams most nights for a week or two. There are the "electrical brain zaps" that you sometimes read about, the momentary dizziness that comes and goes, and worst of all there have been two instances where I felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack. Both times I woke up from a sound sleep feeling a strange tightness, a panicky fluttering, in my chest and the feeling of not being able to breathe right. It was scary.
Today I'm just feeling irritable and out of sorts. It's why I've been mostly absent from blogland this past week, since I have nothing good or positive to say. I'm wondering now if this is still withdrawals from Zoloft (how long could those possibly last, you know?) or if I'm just starting up my PMS week. Hormones and brain chemicals can be hell to deal with.
And I wonder if I should call in a refill of the meds, or if I should give this break from them a little more time to see what happens? Overall the worst of the withdrawal symptoms seem to have subsided a little. Of course, I worry about the return of the old OCD monster and depression, but I'm trying hard to be vigilant about that. Maybe I need to find myself a psychiatrist. Maybe I'll get lucky and Dr. Spo will read this post and give me a word of advice.
I'm not quite sure where to go from here. If anybody reading this has any experience with stopping SSRIs, I'd love to hear about it.