My Sertraline (Success!) Story

Edited , 22 users are following.

I made a promise to myself when I first started on Sertraline (which seems like an eternity ago!) that I would write my story when I felt "good" on it & "back to normal."

My journey started in December 2017- I had never suffered from Anxiety or Depression but after a misdiagnosis (I was originally diagnosed with a serious,  lifelong condition but it transpired that this was incorrect!) I struggled to come to terms with things and started to suffer from what turned into a 3 day solid anxiety attack.  I could not eat or sleep,  I felt absolutely terrible to the extent that I ended up at A&E one night to be told that I was suffering from a prolonged panic attack.  I recovered from this pretty quickly but after a few weeks I had a recurrence (my main issue this time being horrible recurring thoughts which,  as much as I tried to ignore/get rid of,  kept coming back) - this started to severely impact my family life (I am married with 2 young children) so I made a GP appointment to discuss ways of treating this.  I was referred to a psychiatrist who prescribed me Sertraline (starting does of 50mg)-  at the time of prescription,  I was not made aware of the (long!) list of side effects but was told that the drug can take up to 2/3 months to really start "working."

The first night on the drug was an absolute nightmare,  I had terrible stomach pains, a constant headache and,  as much as I wanted to sleep,  my mind was racing at 100 miles an hour.  The next day was not much better,  I felt exactly the same and actually told myself that I couldn't take another night of this-  thankfully the following day got slightly better & I managed to get 2/3 hours sleep.  Whilst this was going on,  I came across Patient.info & I really started to do research into the drug.  I quickly decided to take it early in the morning to allow it to "get into my system" during the day,  thus allowing me the best chance of having a decent sleep at night.  I also started taking it with food to properly line my stomach and to avoid the sickness that was accompanying it.  I also drank 6-8 pints of water a day to keep as hydrated as possible-  because I wasn't eating much this was really important.

The first week was insanely hard,  not helped by the fact that it was over Christmas.  I tried to put a brave face on it for my kids but,  looking back on it,  I was obviously not much fun to be around!  My treatment plan (set by my psychiatrist) was to get to 75mg after 2 weeks and then 100mg the following week after that.  The move up to 75mg was fine and I didn't have any major issues with it which was surprising as I was expecting it to be similar to when I started the drug.  Moving up to 100mg put me back a bit and I did suffer from sickness,  insomnia and heightened anxiety but this passed within 5 days.

My side effects during the initial stages on the medication were as follows:

Headaches

Severe insomnia

Severe abdominal pain

Short temper

Heightened sense of anxiety

Hot sweats

Diarrhoea

Nausea

Paranoia

Intrusive thoughts

Loss of appetite (and almost 2 stone in weight over a 2 week period!)

When I first started taking the medication,  I would search this forum almost hourly to find a story of hope to cling on to-  I just wanted to feel like what I was going through was not "unique" and that there was light at the end of the tunnel.  Two of the most disheartening things about Sertraline are 1).  That it can take up to 3 months to start working for you and 2).  It does not work for everyone.  Each day that went by the "3 month goal" seemed so far away but slowly I started to feel better and better.  It started off with an hour where I felt "normal" again and then it would be a few hours the next day etc.  There were obviously downs during this time as well (I did not experience consecutive days of "progress" for at least 3 weeks) but I at least felt like I was taking forward steps.  By the 5 week mark I was at a stage where I felt 70% back to my normal self and had periods of the day where I was 100% myself/anxiety free!  Again,  downs did come but they went just as fast.  I am almost at the 4 month stage now and I can safely say that I am 95% back to "my old self" & Sertraline has played a big part in this.

When I was at my worst I felt very alone as I firmly believe that GPs/Psychiatrists don't appreciate the full effect these drugs can have on people.  What I have learned (although this may not be right for everybody) is as follows:

-Sertraline (or any SSRI for that matter) can (and will for most) help with anxiety or depression but talk therapy (CBT/Mindfulness in my case) is a great help.  I look upon Sertraline as a crutch to get through the initial stages of my anxiety whilst I look upon CBT as the tool that will eventually arm me with the tools required to "cope" with any future anxiety I suffer from.

-Making sure that you have a Dr/Psychiatrist that you trust & that you get on well with.  I actually changed GPs during this whole process as I felt I wan't being taken seriously by my initial one.  Trust/understanding are 2 massively important parts of the process & getting well again.

-I read a lot about sticking to the same brand (manufacturer) and I decided that I would do this (AUROBINDO).  I simply went to my chemist,  explained the situation and they were very understanding.  I am not sure if this makes a difference but my thinking was that,  because the first brand I was prescribed "agreed" with me,  that there was no point in risking a setback by changing to another generic.

-Don't automatically assume 100% as your benchmark for recovery success.  I fell victim to this often-  I wanted to get back to feeling 100% "back to normal" again,  it drove me crazy feeling that I didn't feel like I was quite where I was before I started suffering from anxiety but after a conversation with my wife,  I quickly realised that no one is ever 100% for a sustained period of time.  Life is not a smooth ride and it's ok to be 60/70/80% - that is something Sertraline helps you to achieve over time.

Talk-  I am in my early 30s and I would never have dreamed of talking to my friends about feeling anxious for fear of them laughing at me.  I made the decision to meet all of my mates,  individually,  and tell them what I had been going through.  Without exception,  they all were brilliant and I would say that 75% of them admitted to having either suffered from depression or anxiety in the past-  that was shocking to me but it just goes to show how many people suffer in silence.

Persistence-  After the first 48 hours on the drug I was ready to pack it in as I simply couldn't see any light at the end of the tunnel.  Looking back now,  I am so glad that I did persist.  I cannot tell anyone what to do but I tell you that things did get better for me (although it seems like an eternity at the time) pretty quickly and each day that passed saw me getting that bit better/stronger.

Blood results-  I was told by my GP that Sertraline does not affect organs etc but,  after a routing blood test 3 weeks after starting on the medication,  my liver function was quite elevated.  I was referred to a liver specialist who told me,  in some rare cases,  people can see short term liver function fluctuations and to have the test again in a few weeks time to see if things have calmed down-  I am thankful mine came back to a normal level during this period.

Plan-  Make sure that between yourself/your GP/psychiatrist there is a care plan in place-  knowing when you should up your dosage/bring it down is important,  as is knowing roughly how long your care providers want you to be on the drug for.

Coming off-  I don't have a concrete plan here (I am going for a review in May) but I have read some horror stories where people come off without medical advice to do so or up their dose without instruction to do so-  I feel that the safest bet is having a plan in place (which can of course be edited should it be required) which can be followed with the help of a medical professional.

Even if the above is found useful by only 1 person I will be delighted as I understand how hard things can be on this medication.  I am more than happy to chat to anyone who has questions or to anyone who just needs to have a chat about how they are feeling.

Good luck everyone,  it's not an easy path but just remember what you are aiming for and that it is 100% achievable.

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  • Posted

    Such an inspirational story I wish you well with what you succeed in your journey

    Love Lina xx

     

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  • Posted

    I would like to thank you for your time and brilliant advice and telling your story.

    I’ve been taking  Sertraline  50MG for two weeks now, still can’t sleep even with

    5 MG of Diazepam, when I say I can’t sleep I mean I keep waking up every few hours feeling Axiours and  so worried. 

    I’m going to my Gp tomorrow to see what he can do. Just want to start to feel a little bit better.

    Hope he gives md something to take the edge of the side affects of Sertraline. 

    Any advice would be so welcome.

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    • Posted

      Hi Blondey,

      Sleep (or lack of it) was probably the worst part of the whole initial stage for me.  My Dr prescribed me Zopiclone which did help but I only ever got 3/4 hours at a time and then woke up feeling anxious (very similar to you).  I think this is the medication "settling in" and will eventually level out (my sleep is 100% back to normal now!)

      How did you get on at your GP?

      Good luck with everything,  you'll get there,  it just takes time smile

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  • Edited

    Great to hear a success story.

    I've got a diary running on here and I've been on Sertraline for almost 4 weeks, on 75mg at the moment, raising to 100mg in a few days (with doctor's advice!).

    Unfortunately my personal "trigger" for my anxiety relates to a close member of my family and is not a quick fix so is with me constantly.  I find it hard to believe I can feel better any time soon, however I'm hoping that Sertraline will at least help to a certain extent.  Just this afternoon I had a panic attack and retired to bed where I couldn't move for a few hours. I have now taken the step of booking talking therapy too.

    Thanks for taking the time to post on here.

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  • Posted

    Thank you for sharing your good results, it made me believe it's possible to get better. I'm on the 4th week and as I thought I was improving today I had a terrible day full of intrusive thoughts. Reading your story made me believe in a better tomorrow.

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  • Edited

    Hello Edinburgh!

    Thanks for sharing your story! It really is a great feeling when you read positive feedback especially when someone is having a rough time.  I myself have been on sertraline 50mg for 10 weeks.  The last 3 weeks or so have been magnificent! However, yesterday and today have been rough. There has been a lot of change in my life with added stressors so I'm assuming that this is the cause of the tough days recently.  I find myself panicking about how I feel and it makes me feel spaced out and almost dizzy.  Today when it got really bad I forced myself to do some gardening and it totally helped! So, that just lets me know that  am creating the intrusive thoughts.  I'm a bit bummed because I was not expecting the ups and downs. Have you experienced this on your journey?

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    • Edited

      Hi Christina, sorry for the late reply, for some reason my notifications never worked for your post!

      I was 100% the same and struggled to take my mind off it-  my psychologist recommended that I download s few games for my phone and play them when I’m not feeling great to distract myself,  it really helped!  The intrusive thoughts,  for me,  are the absolute worst,  they were really horrible. You’ll be happy to hear that I don’t suffer from them anymore-  I still get thoughts (as does everyone) but the Sertraline really helped to tone them down and they go just as quickly as they came. 

      I hope you are feeling better now but if you’re not,  please feel free to PM me. 

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  • Edited

    I want to share my experience with Zoloft. Started taking the drug (50 mg) for the first time in 2012. First 2 weeks was a living nightmare as it made the anxiety and depression worse. But fortunately for me, it gradually got better but it took me more than 2 months to be well again. After about 6 months the doc dropped my dose to 25 mg and when I stayed alright for 3 months she stopped the medication.

    Within 3 months, the anxiety returned with vengeance. So back I went on the drug and the living hell that came with restarting. This time I think it took a bit longer to take effect. When Doc reduced my dose to 25 mg on alternate days my anxiety returned. Seemed like the minimum useful dose for me back then was 25 mg. I would attempt to come off the drug one more time a year later, but failed again. This time restarting the drug took about 3-4 months for me to recover.

    All this while, I have been observing and learning from my condition, adapting and fine tuning my methods for dealing with the anxiety and depression. Right now, I have successfully dropped my dose to 12.5 mg and doing extremely well for 6 months now. I am back in grad school doing research and even though things have been stressful I have been coping very well. I have struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life but it seems like the tide is turning, for the first time in my life.

    Hope this useful info for people reading this forum.

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    • Edited

      Hi Kido, 

      Thank you for your sound advice.

      At the moment i’m not  to bad today, however, if I didn’t have Diaspam or zopiclone to sleep I don’t think I could take Sertraline.

      The side affect are so server for me it makes me feel frightened and Axiours all in one.

       Seeing GP tomorrow but I doubt very much he will perscribe me any more Diazpam or medication to sleep.

      Just have to wait and see.

      So glad you’ve come through such a hard time.

      God bless you and I hope you continue to achieve everything you want in life.

      It’s so good to see positive views on the forum.🙏🌈

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    • Edited

      Hi Blondey,

      I think I can understand how you feel. Your mind and body are really tightly wrung up now so you  need to get them some rest. I suggest you do not spend too much time trawling the internet for information on your condition. Its tempting because you might get an uplift when you read something postive, but you could just as likely experience a drop in mood if you encounter something negative. Its like a rollercoaster ride for your moods and you dont need this at this time. Obviously you are reading my comments via the internet, so you should find the right balance.

      Very often during my bad spells I would experience a heavy feeling on the top of my head in addition to tightness in the body. I found doing some simple qigong exercises really helps me. Its so simple you need minimal effort or thinking to execute the moves. After doing the exercise for 10-15 mins I can feel the circulation improving and the stagnant energy clearing. Even if you dont believe in the qi and energy stuff you can experience the soothing effects from the exercise.

      If you would like to try it you can google 'pingshuai english' for the videos on youtube. I do not know these people, just sharing something I found useful.

      Take care

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  • Edited

    I’m not sure where to start. This is the first time I have joined a forum. I have been feeling awful dealing with drug transitions the last 8 months and would love some support and advise from you all.

    So this is my story...  I have been on 40 mg of Celexa for about 15 years  due to having to do with multiple chronic physical issues.  For the most part celexa worked great for me.  I am normally a happy energetic person! However eight months ago I started experiencing daily headaches due to an emotional experience  resulting in my depression returning. I switched from my 40 mg of Celexa to 20 mg of Lexapro  which seem to help my depression fairly quickly however I was completely sedated all day long.  After 3 months of being in a fog, I decreased down to 15 mg of Lexapro for about two weeks.  The drowsiness seem to have improved however my doctor suggested switching to Zoloft which he felt would have less of a sedative affect.   I have been cross tapering for the last month and 3  days ago went off lexapro completely and upped my Zoloft to 100mg. Which was the goal for me. It  has been really hard with the transition with severe fatigue and headaches however no G.I. issues. No longer depressed for the most part but not happy due to not feeling well from the side affects.  Three days ago since I have been on 100 mg of Zoloft I have been experiencing significant amount of nausea and upset stomach. Normally I will push through my discomfort but the last few days I have been getting in my bed after work due to weakness, dizziness, nausea, upset stomach fatigue and feeling jittery.  Does Anyone know if this is normal? When will this feeling go away?  Depression Is my issue, not typically anxiety.  Now I feel like I’m getting anxiety thinking about how I am feeling in that I may never feel normal again or if this is the right drug for me. Please help! This is such a struggle and a lonely experience!  Thanks for listening!

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    • Posted

      Hi lauren, im in a slightly different situation but some similarities too. I have been on and off sertraline for 13 years after getting postnatal deptession/ anxiety after the birth of my twins. I then went back on with both of my other children due to the same issue, then came off all three times. Then 5and a half years ago i had a bit of a breakdown with the same symptoms and i was put back on sertraline 50mg, i had horrible start up side effects but then after a few weeks i was completely ok and myself again. i would still have anxiety every now and again but it was few and far between. Anyway 5 weeks ago some horrendous things happened at home and my anxiety came back with a bang, my doc upped me to 75mg and i got all tge start up side effects again and got worse, after 4ish weeks i was slighty improved but not great still so doc upped again to 100mg and for the first 5 days i felt ok still not healed but better then last night and today have been horrible. All your experiencing i have too so hopefully it means its just the side effects from dosage change and eventually we will feel tge benefit. Im really scared though as it feels like i waill always be like this now and i just want to be there for my children again and be me again. i really do feel for you as this is a crippling and cruel disease and i really hope we both feel better soon. I also get horrible intrusive thoughts too that can stay for hours. its horrible

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