On the 57th day after I had taken the last sliver of the last dose of Zoloft I crossed an invisible boundary.
I had passed through the dreaded eight-week mark when my first tumultuous attempt to quit had gotten the better of me and I reinstated. My doctor had said at that point, “You’re right on time.” These words seared into my thinking that the eight-week mark signified the point at which the brain, being emptied of chemicals, will either carry on or self-destruct. I had no idea if this was so — it simply was the notion imparted to me by my doctor during my first failed attempt to discontinue. Thereafter I considered the eight-week mark the definitive point at which I would either be free or flailing.
I was free.
So, on this day, 57 days after the last dose, I felt the time had come to get on with what was left of my life. My battles would no longer be defined by chemicals. They were soul battles now.
I had been a reasonable candidate to be put on these drugs. I was the daughter of a man who had had a breakdown and at the time when I was prescribed them, I was in a collapsing marriage. Yet somewhere in there, over the years, another invisible line was crossed, a line that moved me from a place of “being held together” by these drugs to a darker scene of being pulled under by them. And so, amid these other struggles, there was yet another battle to fight.
The larger question remains: But are you still depressed? At the time of my 57th day, it was the depths of winter in New England, so it may not have been the best moment to assess the situation. But I could say this: when I have felt the dissonance of depression it seemed manageable. I knew that if I could get myself through the artificial visceral assaults that the meds inflicted, I could negotiate a stretch wherein I pine.
I did notice distinctly that the bouts of the racing heartbeats diminished. One night, at this point, I was lying in my bed and said to myself, “Thank God my heart is still.” (The racing heart so often showed itself when I would lie down to go to sleep.) There were moments I thought the racing heart would be the end of me — for what heart can endure such relentless pounding? Again and again, though I did not long for it, I resolved inside myself that if the racing heart works itself to death, I am ready to die trying to get off these chemicals. Now, having survived, I consider the wonder of the heart.
My conclusions are minimal but stark when I think about what happened here:
Second, many doctors are at best, ill-prepared to help their patients deal with discontinuation and, at worst, are complicit in keeping them on these drugs. (Pharmacists too have a role to play here, but that is another post.)
Third, the body (including the brain) wants to heal itself, and will, if we take up the role of its advocate and helper.
All decisions during the season of withdrawal must serve the end of your healing. It takes that. Every decision during this season must be measured against how it will impact the greater purpose of your recovery.
So, on the 57th day after the last little bit of Zoloft was given entrance to my bloodstream, I knew now that decisions can be made based upon a greater scheme. Now my choices were free and I could — indeed must — step into them by way of new ground, solid ground.
Future posts: I look forward to engaging this blog with topics related to the latest news, patients stories, interviews and guest posts. Please let me know in the Comments section if there is a particular topic you would like me to explore and discuss. Thanks for reading!
Also, coming soon! I have written a short book highlighting helpful tools that enabled me to successfully taper and discontinue SSRIs. This book will be available both in ebook and print formats. Coming soon!