People often ask me about antidepressants once they learn I've taken them. I've been on a few, actually, and one thing I've noticed is that not only do they affect different people differently, but they affect me differently in the times I've taken them. The first time I was on prozac (for PTSD) it worked extremely well. The one memorable side effect, by the way, was extremely long and intense orgasms. Go figure? I was on it for about six months, during regular talk-therapy, then tapered off as the symptoms disappeared. Within about a year I was finished with therapy as well. After Jesse died, I had no problem asking the new psychiatrist to prescribe it again, but my response was totally different. It didn't really help. I felt a little better, but the insomnia was wearing me out. I had no appetite, and problems thinking clearly. Instead of switching me to something else, the new psychiatrist added amytriptaline (elavil), trazadone, and gabapentin (neurontin). I gained 20 pounds. I couldn't drink at all, not even a beer. My mouth was dry all the time. I lost interest in sex. On the plus side, the neurontin made my sensitive skin invulnerable. I could wear a wool sweater without an undershirt and think it was cotton. At one point the stress caused one (yes only one) shingle. I didn't even feel it, although shingles are supposed to be painful for months. Hope that means I'm done with that for the next 40 years.
At any rate, I began asking to go off the antidepressants after about six months (just like the previous psychiatrist's protocol), but the new doctor would not let me. I had to threaten to go off them without her help to get her to tell me how to ladder down. It wasn't until 18 months that I finally got off all of them. I fought to lose five of the 20 pounds I'd gained, and I'm still uncomfortably big-- and unable to lose it without getting sick from lack of eating. I've never had a problem like this in my life.
This fall, I ended up on zoloft, but not for depression. It's off-label prophylaxis for migraine. It did lift my mood, and doesn't seem to negatively affect my sleep, but it does cause some nausea. It helped me to restart my teaching sideline, and it's been a huge boon in social situations. Growing up shy and introverted, I have had to learn as an adult how to be a social person, so group activities can stress me out to the point of exhaustion. Gearing up to do a lecture or lead a workshop took months of practice and anti-anxiety strategies. With zoloft, negative emotional states feel, well, padded. Buffered. Kind of like neurontin for my inner skin. It's helped a little with the migraines, but mostly it's helped me suffer less, and over shorter periods, from the loss of Jesse, and allowed me a couple of moments of actual everyday happiness. Not euphoria, mind you, I don't think I'll be there for a while. But that mundane joy in being alive. I'd forgotten what that was for a long, long time.