When I was down to 6mg of Zoloft I began to hit a wall. This was the same point during my previous taper when my symptoms had deteriorated to the extent that I went to a (so-called) specialist who reinstated me at 25mg. (You can read about it here.) It almost felt as if there was something about the 6 mg mark that crossed an invisible line inside my brain that short-circuited the process. This time `round, the worst of these symptoms showed themselves more physically than emotionally. I was not having panic attacks, nor was I crying all the time. I simply felt lousy, like I had the flu. I ached from head to toe. It hurt to walk. I had no energy and didn’t have any spark.
I felt this most acutely in the context of my teaching a summer course at a local college during this stretch of my tapering. I have taught many college courses over many years and always had been strong and self-possessed in the classroom. But this time I struggled to feel in command of my material. I was really dragging and, worse, I was boring.
I again began to comb the internet for help with how to navigate these low milligrams that had proven so difficult and so debilitating. And, as if from the heavens, I came across a woman who herself had been able to successfully discontinue Zoloft and she explained in great detail what she did.
The best of what I took from her narrative was the remarkable healing effects of supplements. Up to this point I had been fortifying myself generally with a variety of tinctures and had been taking some vitamins. But her detailed regimen of various supplements with specific target areas propelled me to a new level of investigation. In turn I discovered another tool, which in the end enabled me to push through those last low milligrams and reach the end of this difficult journey.
What are supplements?
Dietary supplements are wonderful gifts that are derived directly from the earth and organic chemistry and will go a long way in helping your body and your brain recover from the ravages of antidepressant use. Supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs or other plants, and amino acids. They are widely available in health food stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, on the Internet, and by mail. You’re probably aware of many supplements and may already be using them. Common ones include products such as St. John’s wort, melatonin, Vitamin B complex, fish oils, essential oils, tinctures and the like. Makers of dietary supplements cannot legally say that their products can diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements in the same way that it regulates medicine. But they can say that supplements contribute to health maintenance and well-being.
At this low dosage I started taking Tryosine and Omega 3-6-9 in the morning to enhance cognitive function. I also introduced L-Tryptophan, also known as 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) at night. Tryptophan/5-HTP raises serotonin levels in the brain, which had a momentous effect diminishing the trauma and disequilibrium I was experiencing at the low dose. I took 3 to 4 (500mg) capsules before I went to bed and, as if touched by angels, I began to sleep very well and consistently. I was able to break through that hit-the-wall debilitation I had experienced at 6mg and continue lowering my doses gradually, with minimal trauma. This supplement was the game-changer for me. It saved my struggle.
I am compelled to add that some people avoid L-Tryptophan out of fear of an episode that occurred in 1989. There had been an outbreak of eosinophilic myalgia syndrome which, at the time, was traceable to what researchers thought was contaminated L-Tryptophan. As a result the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pulled Tryptophan supplements off the market. Since then, research has advanced and the link between this anomalous outbreak and L-Tryptophan has been questioned. There is no longer an alert related to its use and it is deemed by many health care professionals a “safe and effective amino acid.” (See “L-Tryptophan: It’s Back, It’s Safe & It’s Effective – Informed Opinion,” by Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, Natural Health Research Institute.) If there is some hesitancy on your part to try this amino acid because of this episode, 5-HTP has had no such issue associated with its use and so many prefer it.
When it comes to discussing supplements it is important to clarify that I do not consider myself a nutritionist, dietician or an herbalist. The information I include here is derived from my personal experience and the research I undertook. It is my hope here to offer a beginning point for fellow strugglers to grasp the value of supplements in aiding the journey to successful tapering and to point you in that direction so that you can undertake your own research and experimentation.
Next post: Reaching the Finish Line