13 weeks on Sertraline - my success story!

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Hi everyone! 

I wanted to share my story with you all start to finish as I promised myself as some of us do that when we felt better we would share our story to help others who need it. Remember that the reason you don't see many positive stories is because those who feel better carry on with their lives as I have and often don't want to recall bad times in their mind.

First of all, please do not think that you will not get better because you will. We all think 'this won't happen for me' and 'this is me now and I just have to live with it.' If I can get better then I promise you can too.

I have now been on Sertraline for 13 weeks. I had what I call a mini breakdown around 3 months ago which at the time felt completely out of the blue. However when many of us feel better we realise that we actually feel better than we did beforehand because there was some underlying anxiety/depression that we'd perhaps not noticed or ignored.

I had a severe panic attack one day that took me to a&e and it all spirraled from there to a point where I wasn't sleeping or eating, I was having many panic attacks a day and waking up everyday in tears. One day I cried for 7 hours pretty much continuously. I realised that the Propranolol and Diazepam I had been prescribed just weren't cutting it and so decided to go onto Sertraline with my doctor. I was absolutely devastated that I was on antidepressants and couldn't believe it had happened to me.

The next two weeks were the worst of my life. I was one of the unlucky ones who had awful side effects: complete loss of appetite, insomnia, headache, brain zaps, fatigue and the worst of all increased anxiety. I started on 25mg for a week then 50mg. I couldn't do anything but cry and panic all the time, I was terrified to leave my home even though I've always been an outgoing person. I completely isolated myself from everyone apart from a couple of close friends/family/boyfriend who had to basically baby me for these two weeks. 

The third week, things really picked up and I started doing simple things with someone else such as going to Tesco or for a long walk. Then weeks 4,5,6 and even 7 I felt bad again. Not quite week 1 & 2 when I had all the side effects but still very anxious. I believe that I had severe anxiety but then developed depression from being so upset and self-pitying/blaming myself/feeling like a failure/feeling like I was going to lose everything.

Then week 8, I had booked a 2 week holiday earlier this year and I was sure I wouldn't go. But it came round and I did go and it was great. The anxiety was still there but I felt 70% back to normal which was just the most incredible feeling. When I returned, I slumped back down for a week. Back to reality and an increase in depression and anxiety. This was very difficult after feeling relatively better but I had still spent 4 weeks going back and forth on whether to increase my dose or not. My doctor said something to me which really stuck in my mind which was if you don't feel yourself yet then what do you have to lose? You can always go back down to 50mg.

The next day I took my first 100mg and was waiting for the horrific side effects to kick in. And absolutely nothing happened. However, after around 7 days on 100mg, my depression had completely disappeared. I had gone from thinking life was pointless and that I was worthless and a burden on everyone who I knew to feeling happy again, laughing, initiating plans with my friends, going on nights out. It was amazing!

I had a small set back when my tablet brand changed as I went to a different pharmacy. I was told that this made no difference by the pharmacist so thought nothing of it but within 2 days I had a splitting headache and the fatigue returned so I got a new prescription and continued with the same brand I was previously on. It was a bit of an annoying setback but within a few days I was back to normal. 

I am now on week 13 and week 3 of 100mg and I feel 90% back to my normal self and I am positive with more time I will be 100%. I started a new job last week and have been absolutely fine. I feel confident again and looking forward to the future.

I wanted to write this post because I promise no matter how bad you're feeling now I have been there and it does get better. It is such an isolating illness that makes you feel alone. I would spend all day on this forum searching for answers and positive stories in tears and panic. And that's why I wanted to share my story with you all as so many helped me in my time of need and I hope this helps at least one person. I feel so narcissistic writing about myself for so long haha but I wanted to give a full overview to be as helpful as I could. Below I will write a few things I realised in my recovery and also some things that helped when I felt helpless. 

1. Caffeine is a major cause of anxiety. I have completely cut this out of my life and now only drink decaffeinated and no fizzy drinks. It is a lifestyle change but you won't believe the difference it makes. 

2. Things to do in the potentially awful first couple/few weeks: read, play a game, do sudoku and crosswords, knit, anything to occupy your mind.

3. I took up jogging once my side effects eased. Jogging is great as even when you're feeling anxious you can put your headphones in and put your head down and let all that anxious energy out.

4. Buy a self help book. I'm not sure if I can write which one I bought here but do some research online and see which have good reviews. It was brilliant at understanding what was going on and gave lots of useful and effective tools to help in your everyday life.

5. Do not be afraid to increase!! I spent far too long worrying about being on antidepressants and increasing my dose. Who cares!!! If you have a chance to feel better go for it!!!

6. Alcohol - I have found that I don't get any more drunk on Sertraline than without. If anything perhaps a little less. Just be careful because if you have depression, it's the day after drinking that is the downfall, not the actual drinking itself. But I seem to be fine now.

I hope that you all feel some relief soon. Do not worry about being on tablets, increasing if you feel you need to and panic when you don't instantly feel better. It is not a sprint it's a marathon as frustrating as it is. You will get there!! xx

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  • Posted

    Hi Kate,

    Thank you so much for your story of hope and your advice is great! I am on the fifth week and seem to have gone backwards after really starting to feel better in week 4 but your story of ups and downs is reassuring. I did make the mistake of trying half a glass of wine on the night before my birthday last weekend. This definitely brought on the depression, heart racing and nausea again for a good few days. Maybe I'll be able to have a drink by Christmas...

    Best wishes

    Clare smile

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  • Posted

    Thank you for taking the time to write this. I needed this story today!.
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  • Posted

    So glad you are feeling so much better! I have been on Lexapro 20 mil for 8 weeks and I am waiting patiently for positive feedback! Feeling somewhat better, but having some anxious moments! Hope I will be back to my old self soon!
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    • Posted

      hi Wilb! You definitely will. I know that feeling of feeling somewhat better. I would sit and think do I feel better? Is it working? Because it's a slow process you can feel like you're not moving forward but you are xx

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  • Posted

    So good to hear Kate and we'll done you. You clearly have been working along with the meds which is what we all should do. I started on 25 in July then up to 50 august time and now on 75.. I'm having good and bad days but I would say that I am way better than before sertaline.

    I know I will more than likely have to take the leap and go to 100 to get the full effect. It does scare me as im still having the odd wobble on 75. Tbh I think it's my own doing as I panic as soon as I take the tablets.

    Please keep sharing as we all love a good posit i've outcome.

    Love Jay

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    • Posted

      Hi jay. I would say that one of the most positive attributes to my progress was/is trying to push myself forward. Don't get me wrong, I had many moments when I thought I can't do this anymore and why me! But jogging in particular has really helped as has the change in my diet (removing caffeine, limiting sugar). 

      What do you think the reason is for you panicking taking your tablets? I know it's hard but if you can try your best think of it this way, every day that I take another tablet is a step towards being back to me. You shouldn't be afraid of them, embrace it and think I am strong because I have seeked help which is an extremely brave thing to do and in doing so I'm slow rly but surely getting better. Remember as well you seem to have increased your dose once a month and they say it can take a while for it to start working. I am by no means a doctor but 100mg is not a high dose so if you feel like you can pluck up the courage then I would go for it. I personally will not be afraid to up to 125mg if it ever comes to it. Once you start feeling better you won't regret it. Good luck. Xx

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  • Posted

    Thanks Kate for sharing.  We read alot of negativity on this site, but we are really searching for some success stories like yours.  Thank you for taking the time to write your success story.  I am happy for you!
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  • Posted

    Kate can I pm you?
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    • Posted

      hello! Yes you are more than welcome (although I'm not sure how as I'm no tech whizz!) But my replies may be quite slow as I don't get a chance to come on here much. But ask away xx

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