This is NOT a manifesto against anti-depressants, but tells of MY journey to true clarity and the role that Zoloft (Sertraline) played in clouding matters.
You know that close to four years ago, I stopped drinking. Haven’t had a glass of anything since November 11, 2013. (Note: It gives me goosebumps that I quit on 11:11, which is a power number. It seems the universe parted the waters that day, making a clear path for me to exit tipsy-land.)
Let me re-think the use of the word “tipsy.” It is a euphemism, as is buzzed, to describe an altered state that numbs you from the pain of life.
Such words make you feel better about being a drunk.
I quit alcohol because every bad decision or regretted remark or action in my life emanated from a booze-fueled state. Tired of being embarrassed, I no longer wanted to be voted “Most likely to break something” at every party. Some major falls led to a serious reckoning with how simply dangerous it was to navigate steps and life with a high blood alcohol content.
For me, clarity came when I heard in my spirit “If you keep this up, this is how you will die.”
So 2013 marked a new phase of clarity in my life.
Clarity is not for sissies. You begin to observe things that didn’t bother you before; overlooked slights now hurt. Suddenly, there’s fight in you, because you start to believe that you are worth better.
Sobriety and self-respect go hand in hand. As my self-worth grows, my capacity to tolerate disrespect shrinks.
Wait, Brenda – I thought you were going to talk about anti-depressants?
Sobriety fueled my recent life decisions. What may have seemed to outsiders as a crazy, “Where did THAT come from?” action when I left my marriage, those who know me know I’ve never been more in my right mind.
But that action was just a beginning.
I’ve been on a quest for HONESTY.
As I continued to ask myself the questions necessary to peel away layers of dishonesty, I kept returning to a nagging question mark: My 10-year affair with Zoloft.
In the beginning years of my marriage, we went to Christian counseling. The only thing I got out of it was a prescription.
Truly, that first 50 mg pill seemed like a magic bullet. Perhaps psychosomatic, nevertheless, I felt instantly happier, more able to cope, less irritable and more tolerant.
When entering menopause, the script increased to 75 mg. When we moved to Florida, my new doctor upped it to 100 mg.
Patients should obey their doctors, right?
I visited my sister last year and one of my little blue pills fell on the bathroom floor. She found it and, with trepidation, asked me what I was on.
I thought nothing of telling her – after all, my healthcare provider prescribed the drug!
The counselor had drawn a little cartoon that showed how serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) would build a little bridge to my brain, helping the happy feelings get back where they belonged.
Shirlee, unimpressed by the analogy but without judgment, encouraged me to read about the impacts of these drugs and to consider weaning off of Zoloft. It took many months, but for me, the evidence was clear. If I didn’t get off, I’d be on this drug for the rest of my life.
Thus began Brenda Clear Phase 2.0.
My doctor, knowing of my pending divorce said, “Do you really think this is the best time to detox?”
Taking control of my own body and decisions that affect it, I said, “Yes. This is the very best time.”
Since early June I have been on a steadily-decreasing prescription of Zoloft and last week, went to zero.
Clarity is not for sissies.
My body revolted angrily against the disappearing drug. Irritation has returned, flu-like symptoms, aches and pains, sleeplessness, headaches, cramping – yep, it’s been a real joy ride. But here’s the flipside: I FEEL again.
Yes, the difficult feelings were numbed, but so were the GOOD ones. I now laugh more, cry more, and am more deeply touched by music and words and people.
I am alive.
Eventually, the physical symptoms will disappear. It’s worth it to plow through them to get to the REAL ME.
I’ve missed Brenda. It’s wonderful to get to know her again.
Here are my parting thoughts on CLARITY and the new WOW:
Hot diggity! (Wow, there’s a first-time use of THAT phrase.)
Let’s be INSPIRED this week.
Oh, and if my anti-depressant story has tugged at your heart, let me add that you should never cold turkey SSRIs. There’s a careful way of weaning that your doctor can guide you through. If INSPIRED to make a similar decision, I’m rooting for you.
And if you are not, please do not feel judged. Everyone is on a different journey. Some people have experienced great relief in temporary use of these drugs to get over a rough patch. However, in my case, I found myself ten years later using the drug as an emotional crutch.
After finally ditching the crutches, I am learning to walk – and I hope to eventually fly.