I’ve been taking antidepressants on and off for the past 4 years, and I can finally say I’m antidepressant free. I’m not opposed to antidepressants–if they help you then by all means, take them. But I didn’t personally notice any benefits, only side effects. There may have been times where they did help my mood, but it was so minimal and my anxiety/depression still affected me to such a degree that it didn’t make much of a difference whether or not I was on them.

Doctors would tell me I needed to take them and that they would help me feel better. I tried 3 types of antidepressants and none of them really worked. I still had severe anxiety. I was on Zoloft from 2016-2017, and the only reason I stayed on it was because I was afraid of what might happen if I stopped taking it. Like maybe I’d get worse or would experience horrible side effects to the point where I’d need to go back on them. It’s been a little over a week since I stopped taking them, and I wanted to write a quick blog post about how I’ve been feeling and what I’ve noticed. Before I begin to describe it, I want to note a couple of things: 1. I am still taking BuSpar, an anti-anxiety medication on a daily basis (so I’m not totally drug free, though I am aiming for that goal), and 2. I’ve done a lot of work to get to a point where I felt ready to stop taking antidepressants–a point at which I haven’t felt that my emotions were out of control for the past several months. While I don’t know whether or not the antidepressants were helpful, I didn’t want to risk stopping. I talked about my experience with antidepressants in a previous blog post if you want to check that out.

I slowly tapered off my dose which was originally at a whopping 300mg of Zoloft, the highest dosage. It wasn’t helping at all, so I decided to slowly go back down to 100. I was on that 100mg dose for about 9 months. When I decided to stop taking it, I tapered down to 50mg for a month, then 25mg for a week. Basically I just cut my 100mg pills in half until they ran out, and then cut some old 50mg pills in half until they too ran out. And then I just stopped taking them. In the past week and a half since I stopped taking them, I’ve noticed quite a few side effects…

1. I felt a little depressed. The first day or two off of them I didn’t feel any different, but then I did notice a mood shift. I felt a deep sadness for no apparent reason. I’m not sure if it was lingering sadness that the antidepressant had been covering up, or if it was the lack of serotonin, but it wasn’t debilitating. I hesistate to even call it a depressed feeling but I was definitely sad. It was fleeting though and only came in waves over the course of two days.

2. I was super tired. I get mentally/emotionally drained pretty easily in general, so I generally feel super tired by the late afternoon most days as is. But I did notice more fatigue the week after I stopped taking antidepressants. Apparently that’s a common side effect of coming off of them.

3. I felt dizzy/faint, accompanied by a pulsating sensation in my head. This was the worst of the side effects I experienced. It was at its peak 3-7 days after stopping, and then for 2-3 more days it only happened in the morning. I believe that was when my body recognized that I was no longer taking an SSRI. Again, this is a common side effect of going off antidepressants, especially the quick-release type I was on (Zoloft). It only takes a few days for Zoloft to be totally flushed out of your system whereas other more long-lasting SSRIs, like Prozac, take about a month to fully leave the body, which is why I experienced withdrawl symptoms. My body didn’t have as much time to get used to the SSRI being totally gone. When I went off Prozac about two years ago, I didn’t experience any noticeable symptoms. The pulsing brain feeling is referred to as “brain zaps,” and I think mine were on the less painful end of the spectrum because they’ve been described by others as an electric shock type of feeling, and I just experienced some weird pulsations.

I’m really proud of myself for trying antidepressants even though initially I was hesitant to do so. Though I didn’t experience a lot of benefits from them, I no longer see those who try them as weak or lazy as I, like many others, unfortunately once did. I was desperate to feel better at the point where I tried them. And now I’m proud of myself for all the hard work I’ve done, all the hours of reading and research, and all the therapy sessions that led me to a point where I can officially say I’m off of them, I know how they affected me, and I don’t think I’ll have to go back on them anytime soon!