Wednesdays are usually where I write about TMS therapy (transcranial magnetic stimulation) and how wonderfully I’ve reacted to it. (You can read about it here.) It has changed my life. Then I had a horrific snafu with my doctor and pharmacy. Long, long, LONG story short, I’ve been trying to get my prescriptions refilled since January. We have a new pharmacy. Despite me calling, leaving messages, talking to several different people, emailing, and contacting them through the patient portal, they kept sending my medication to the old pharmacy instead of the new one. So a few weeks ago, I ran out. Clean out of Sertraline, which is generic Zoloft, and also my insulin.
Zoloft withdrawal. Ever hear of it? It is one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced in my life. Here’s a write-up about Zoloft/Sertraline withdrawal.
I felt extreme anxiety and helplessness as I ran out. Rationing my medication, counting out the pills, taking one every three days because I knew I was running out and I couldn’t get anybody to help me. Taking that last one suuuuuucked. It was an emotional blow. And as for the symptoms, when they hit? They hit hard. I’m on a pretty substantial dose and ripping that from my system was agonizingly painful. I had massive, massive headaches that absolutely floored me. I have migraines fairly often, and this felt similar but hurt in a different way. I was throwing up. I felt like I had the flu. My hands were shaking and I was randomly dropping things. It was like my hand would just open up and I’d let go of whatever I was holding. I had these brief but intense zaps of electricity through my brain. I’ve never felt anything like it. I was in fear of when they’d happen again. I was SO ANGRY. I couldn’t regulate my emotion. I was weeping, I was raging, and I was swinging back and forth so fast that it was exhausting. I spent my entire birthday in bed, hiding under the covers because of the physical pain and mental anguish. I was sleeping about two or three hours a night, and they were riddled with nightmares. The suicidal ideation came back, and it had teeth. The thoughts were (and are) intrusive. I was having images of myself dying in ways that I had never considered before. It was a present, constant source that went from gnawing quietly at the corners of my brain to screaming into my face full force.
It is terrifying.
I faithfully went to my TMS appointments. I cried because I had been feeling so much better and I saw there was more to life and it could be sweet and beautiful. Logically, I knew my distress was happening because I was off my meds. I could pull myself back a little bit to realize that. Then, after a few more days, I couldn’t see that anymore. I just knew that I was dealing with more pain than I could possibly handle, and it was because I was crazy, and nothing would ever get better.
I’m glad to say I was wrong. It’s getting better. I eventually got through what I think are the worst of the withdrawals. I sent in a complaint this morning, and suddenly a nurse with A Very Concerned Voice got back to me. She treated me like a child. She was calm and condescending. There’s a way people look at or speak to you when they think you are somehow “less than,” and she was speaking to me in that way.
But do you know what? Suddenly my meds magically made it to the correct pharmacy. I took my medication and reminded myself how hard I am working to carve out a beautiful life for myself and my family. It isn’t fair that this happens to me. It isn’t fair if it happens to you. We’re dealt a tough hand and it is hard. It’s hard for us and its hard for those who love us. But life is hard and cruel and beautiful and amazing and it’s worth the effort we put in to be here.
I am a good person and don’t deserve this. Neither do you. Neither does your mother, or your brother, or your son, or your grandmother, or anybody else who deals with mental illness in any form. Nobody wants to be unwell. It just happens.
I’m terrified to publish this. It’s intensely personal and I don’t want to share how I completely lost control of myself. But I also fervently believe in talking about the things that hurt us in order to learn, to show support, and break down the stigmas that isolate all of us. Anyway, thanks to this horrific experience, I have a new understanding and level of empathy that I didn’t have before. I’ve never felt so chaotic, and it feels like a brand on my forehead, like I’ve always skated on juuuuuust this side of “sane enough.” During this experience, I felt nowhere near sane enough, but as my husband said as he hugged me today, “Look at you. It was hard and you’re making your way out the other side.”
Let’s make our way out together. I’m sending you much love, my darlings.
Thank you for sharing your experience! You’re brave and wonderful and you’re absolutely right: Nobody should have to feel like they’re going through things like this alone. ❤️
Thank you, my friend! I really felt like I was spinning off into the universe, and I’m just now finding my tether. <3
You are not alone in your struggles. So many of us you’ll never meet are there with you pulling for you with all our strength. May you find peace.
What a truly lovely thing to say. Thank you, Tom.
Thank you for sharing this painful, difficult episode. It has helped me appreciate how debilitating mental health conditions can be, and equally important, how critical it is to have reliable, humane health care.
Thank you for saying that! I think people in the medical world can simply get compassion fatigue. We all can, but I’m going to personally try to do better. <3
I’m afraid I’ve been down a very similar road with the exact same medication. I’m sorry for what you’ve gone thru, but hearing your story brings me strength and hope. Thanks Mercedes, Love you.
Love you, too! You guys have had a super tough path to walk. We adore you to the moon and back!
This is disgusting that this office was so incompetent that they couldn’t get you your meds for months. I’m so incredibly sorry this has happened to you. I love you friend and I’m so thankful to have you in my life.
I love you right back! Thank you. <3
My dear Mercedes. I am heartbroken that you had to go through this, but fiercely proud of the way you got through this with style and grace (seriously). I love you.
And I love you. Thank you. I was so scared to publish this, and this kindness and support from everyone was not what I was expecting. <3
I LOVE AND ADORE YOU SO MUCH! I screamed that. I hope you heard it. Thanks for sharing your experience, and thank you for being tough as hell to make it through.
You are one of the truest, fiercest people I know. I adore you right back!
Oh my darling darling girl.
It was (and is) really, really hard. But look. We’re still here. 🙂
You are an incredible warrior beauty, Mercedes. Life is far tougher on the strong. You’re not “less than” anything. Rather the exact opposite. And while it seems life takes pleasure in inflicting pain, I like to see it as grooming the strong for an even greater purpose. 🙂
From the Valkyrie herself. <3 Did I tell you that I turned in an outline where a character goes through major medication withdrawal? This was when I was worried about this, but far before it became a reality. So hooray! Research! 😛
Mercedes, I am so very angry that you had to go through this. That is BS. My heart breaks for you. I have been in the abyss. I know that all consuming darkness. I can relate. Holding you close in my heart praying for you and sending healing energy to you. Much love.
I just adore you, my friend. Thank you. <3
Thank you for sharing this. So much of your post resonates with past experiences. You are such a beautiful, brilliant, incredible soul. Please keep sharing.
I hope you know I love you insanely. You rise above everything with such grace. <3
Mercedes when you told me you were sick in bed I had no idea you were going through so much . I am grateful that you told me about TMS even the I am reluctant to try it. (Same with my sister suggesting I do EMDR)
Sharing your experiences are huge because they are so new to me. I cannot say that I know everything you go through I don’t even recognize what I am going through, I can mostly only sympathize. But at least I know what to pray about when I pray for you. You are a superhero to me and you inspire me. I hope this made a little bit of sense. I love you and always self care when needed.
Cambry, I just love you and your family so much! You’re wonderful examples of kindness and diligently trying hard to do the right thing. I’m so happy to know you. <3
Big hug, Mercedes. No one can understand the fear of running out of meds, rationing what you’ve got, and trying determine if you can skip that particular day so you can have that dose when you really need it. I have suffered the frustration of doctors and pharmacies messing up refills. You are so brave to speak about what you are going through. Keep speaking because through you I hear my voice too. Bless you. You are not alone.
Thank you for sharing this with me, Eunice. Even though I logically realize I can’t be the only one having this experience, we’re just so good at isolating ourselves and each other. For me, personally, there’s a lot of shame that I can’t pull it together and be well by sheer force of will. I’d never expect that out of anybody else, however.
Oh my goodness, that sounds absolutely horrific, and I’m so sorry it happened to you. Dear friend, I am so glad you are here. Thank you for sharing ❤️
Thank you, my sweetest friend!
Okay I feel like I need to let you know it’s not crazy. We look at crazy as not normal but truthfully there are more of us abnormal than normal so we are THE NORMAL. I go through this it seems a lot. I get into it with pharmacy about my scripts for my diabetes or whatever it may be for. They won’t get it until they get it. I’m here for you next time you feel like this. I am currently not medicated for my mental issues. Not that I shouldn’t be it’s just I struggle with liver disease and can’t take anything. I do understand running out. I completely went COPD Turkey when I found out I couldn’t take anything. It was a real struggle to stay alive and not want to self harm. I’m so proud of you for for opening up about it. This is a life saver. Thank you for sharing. You can always reach out to me if you need to vent. Or if you need me to their attention at the pharmacy. I’m really good at that. Lol. Hugs
Malinda, thank you SO MUCH for this! “We are the normal.” I love that!
Oh dear heart, I am so sorry that you have been through this experience, but filled with joy that you are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Medication withdrawals are horrific and are too often downplayed by those not experiencing them. The bottom line is that you have been on something required to keep the wonderful you ticking along and then it was ripped from you through no fault of your own. (and not being able to supply the med to the correct pharmacy is completely inexcusable and whoever is at fault needs to be reported) Of course your body revolted. You were not going insane, it was the chemical imbalance you so desperately tried to avoid causing you to react in ways you never would have if you’d had what you needed when you needed it.
You are a warrior and have the battle scars to prove it. But through it all your glorious spirit shines though.
I just love you to the moon and back, Liana. Thank you. <3
Hi Mercedes! You don’t know me, but I came across your website while googling TMS and felt compelled to leave a comment. I admire you for sharing your journey. I’ve undergone TMS, and I also take a sertraline, and I’m sorry that you had to endure the horror of running out and having withdrawal symptoms. And just as importantly, slipping backwards while undergoing TMS due to a medication change – knocking you all the way back down just as you were coming out the other side and seeing your life come together – is tragic. I’m proud of you for staying strong, continuing with your TMS treatment, and defying the darkness of depression!
Amy, thank you so much for commenting! I’m thrilled to say that I got over that horror and I’m doing very well, and on a steady, even keel after TMS therapy ended. I’m hopeful! How are you doing after TMS, and did you have to take another round or two?
I’m so glad to hear that! I’ve done 3 rounds of Brainsway dTMS over the last couple years (for bipolar depressive episodes). I’m now doing weekly maintenance TMS treatments (Brainsway theta burst), which have kept me in remission for the past 9 months (along with numerous meds, including sertraline). I am very happy to hear that you’re doing well after TMS! It truly is a wonderful treatment that saves lives!