Tag Archives: sertraline

My (revised) Battle Plan: 6 Ways I’m Fighting Depression

Picture of sunset, Cotswolds, England March 2005

“I wish that I had let myself be happier. “ I was reading this article that described the top 5 wishes/regrets of people on their deathbed, and this was #5. It reminded me of a question/accusation people with depression often hear: “Why can’t you just BE HAPPY?”

Here’s the thing. Someone struggling with depression literally cannot “just be happy.” Our brains are malfunctioning in such a way that prevents it. We wish with all our might to have the ability to choose happiness.

When we are crippled with depression, the only thing in our power is to choose to FIGHT. And making that choice is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Choosing to FIGHT depression often looks and sounds simple. Just talk to someone! Just go for a run! Just get better sleep! Just pray! But you guys, there is no “just” about any of that. Each tiny step is HUGE, because every part of you is weighed down with the suffocating blanket of depression.

I write this because I don’t want this post to sound trite. When I say this is my battle plan, I mean it quite literally. As in war, to plan a battle implies there will be fighting and pain. Battle plans are not made flippantly, and are not easily kept. Fear creeps in, opinions differ, doubt rises, and the feeling of self-inadequacy is at its peak.

And making the choice to follow through with ANY of it takes massive effort. If you’re struggling with depression, I hope that this list might be of help to you, even if just to know you’re not alone. If you haven’t yet made your own battle plan, I’m going to be so bold as to suggest you choose something (whatever sounds easiest) from this list to start your own. Baby steps. Because a baby step for other people is a huge, giant leap for us.

My (revised) Battle Plan: 6 Ways I’m Fighting Depression*

  • I talk about my depression. This is one of the biggest issues for me, and for many people. It’s SO HARD to talk about depression, especially during a low moment. The key for me is to be talking about it especially when I’m NOT struggling badly. This enables people (my husband and close friends specifically) to feel comfortable asking me how I’m doing. And this is a big deal. To know that I won’t be judged and that these people love me anyway is a huge relief and support, and it forces me to be open. But choosing to be (sometimes brutally) honest about how I’m feeling is still so hard to do, even though I’ve been talking about it for three years now! But it is by far the healthiest thing I can do for myself and my fight.
  • I get outside and get exercise. We moved to a new flat in September, which now means that Tori’s school is exactly a one-mile walk away. Which means I walk a minimum four miles each day, quite often up to six or seven total, rain or shine. Most days I easily meet my FitBit target of 15,000 steps. While it’s not always fun, it has definitely been providing the exercise I need to help fight my depression. I’m known among my friends for being a “fast-walker” and I do this deliberately to increase my heart rate and serotonin levels. I’ve also noticed that exercising outside has had more positive effects than doing it indoors… Perhaps this is because I’m exposed to natural light, or because I have to be thinking about more than just myself (ie kids, fellow pedestrians, avoiding dog poo, etc). While I liked going to the gym, it got monotonous and dull at times.
  • I take supplements and vitamins. When I remember. For some reason it’s so hard for me to remember to take them! I take a whole-food multi-vitamin, and have adjusted the following vitamin amounts according to what is and isn’t in the multi. All of these have been linked to fighting depression: Vitamin D (it’s physically impossible to get enough Vit D from the sun during the winter if you’re north of Virginia/Spain! I don’t take it during the summer as often), Vitamin B complexKrill Oil (for Omega 3 fatty-acids), and St. John’s Wort. I always look for whole-food, no additive supplements. **PLEASE consult your doctor before adding or adjusting any supplements to your diet. **
  • Light therapy – I own a “light therapy” light box, an amazing gift from my mother-in-law. This one, to be exact. It is not UV rays. It’s basically just an extra-bright lamp that you sit in front of to give your eyes the illusion of being in daylight. I use it a couple of times a week, and while it’s not an immediate mood-booster, I’m positive it has benefitted my overall mood. And when it’s sunny, I try and sit in the sunlight in my living room, even if for 10 minutes while I fold laundry. It really is so therapeutic!!
  • I have memorized Bible verses and am very intentional with my prayers. Why? I know some of you don’t believe in God or prayers, but I do, and I hope you can read this knowing that I’m just sharing my own experience. :-) I can honestly say that I feel a sense of peace and hope when I read the Bible. Hope is something that depression steals from your mind, and focusing on the hope of Christ replenishes my spirit. The best way I can describe it is that it quenches my thirst for peace. Scripture and prayer help me feel more centered and stable, and I swear it makes my blood pressure drop :-) For a list of my favorite verses that help encourage and empower me, visit my resources page!
  • I pay extra attention to the calendar. In the past couple of months since I’ve stopped taking my anti-depressant, I’ve noticed I need to be desperately aware of my menstruation cycle. The days before my period is a very low point for me emotionally, so being objective about it and thinking, “just get through these few days!” instead of “my depression has returned” really helps. You guys, I’ve even set an event on my phone reminding me for several days; it literally says “YOU MIGHT BE HORMONAL RIGHT NOW. IT WILL GET BETTER.” Call me crazy, but whatever works!

So there you have it. I wish I could say that one or all of these are a magic, happily-ever-after antidote to depression, but I can’t. They are just little but difficult things I choose to do, in the hopes that the collective effort will be rewarding. After all, my greatest desire is for you and me to live our lives in full bloom!

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLV)

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*Disclaimer:

I am not a medical professional, nor do I play one on TV. The comments and opinions expressed in these articles are merely comments and opinions. Please seek professional medical advice before making any changes to the diet, exercise, therapy or medication of yourself or your children.

Off meds… How and Why

With my doctor’s guidance, I decided to stop taking my anti-depressant about 7 weeks ago.

IMG_0432This is a pretty big deal for me; I started taking them in July 2012, initially to combat severe post-partum/post-natal depression after the birth of my son (read about my experience here). The medicine helped me come out of the darkness of that experience, and I chose to remain on a low dose (50mg/day of sertraline, aka Zoloft) indefinitely. I had finally realized I’ve been struggling with bouts of chronic depression most of my life, and wanted to see what it was like to have that bit of extra help. I took sertraline for two and a half years.

Taking (and staying on) an antidepressant was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It gave me the ability to see things more rationally, and enabled me to have an honest reflection of my past experiences. This objectiveness also helped me to develop a long-term “battle plan,” and has given me a bit more clarity in those much-less-frequent-but-still-sometimes-there darker moments.

In the past several months, however, I was beginning to wonder if perhaps the drug had side-effects I hadn’t been aware of, the biggest one being FATIGUE. Every day, by 12:30pm, I was exhausted. As in, if I sat down I could barely keep my eyes open, and often succumbed to a nap with my son, even if I’d had a decent sleep the night before. “What’s wrong with napping?” you ask. Nothing! I’m a huge advocate of napping – my very first blog post was about it. However, feeling that you literally don’t have the energy to make lunch or do the school run or play with your kids, even AFTER a nap, is not normal.

This issue with the whole “fatigue” thing is this: every single mother I’ve ever met is TIRED. My kids (ages 5 and 3) are done nursing, fully potty trained at night, generally healthy, and overall good sleepers. But, as every mom knows, somehow WE STILL HAVE TO WAKE UP SEVERAL TIMES A NIGHT. Man, it really sucks, especially if you have trouble falling back asleep quickly. Reasons we have to wake up in the wee hours may include any or all of the following cries from the small people: “I need more water! I need chapstick! My star-light needs new batteries! My sock fell off! I’m hot! I’m cold! I heard Anders cough! I heard Tori cough! I had a bad dream! I had a funny dream! Can I wake up now? I can’t find my teddy bear! I need a tissue! When will my cow-clock wake up? Can you snuggle?” And of course, multiply these requests by a dozen if they’re actually sick.

So it’s been easy for me to say “I’m tired,” but think, “that’s normal, I’m a mom.” And thus I’ve ignored it for quite a long time. But recently I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I was a bit extra-tired because of the sertraline. It is certainly a listed side-effect, so it’s been on my mind for a while.

Here are the side-effects usually listed with sertraline:

“Less serious side effects may include:

  • bluepills_o_default-700x434drowsiness, dizziness, tired feeling;
  • mild nausea, stomach pain, upset stomach, constipation;
  • dry mouth;
  • changes in appetite or weight;
  • sleep problems (insomnia); or.
  • decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm.”

 (http://www.emedicinehealth.com/drug-sertraline/article_em.htm)

Now, you may read this list and think, well, anyone could have any of those issues, even without taking meds. Which is true. But I feel I’ve had all or most of them, to a slight degree.

So one of my main reasons for stopping my anti-depressant is that I want to see if any of those side effects disappear!

The other (BIG) reason is this: I’ve been feeling quite stable these last 6 months, and I felt that if I was going to stop the medicine, now would be a good time to do it. And I’ve had lots of time to fully implement my battle plan and make it a regular part of my life, so I feel much more prepared to go without the anti-depressant. Even a year ago I wouldn’t have said this.

So. I weaned myself off, VERY slowly (DO NOT google “side effects of coming off sertraline,” you’ll be scared for your life!!). I did a 50mg/25mg/50/25/50 dose for the first week, then 25/25/25/25/25, then 25/12/25/12/25, then 12/12/12/12/12, then 12/0/12/0/12/0. So it took over me a full month to do this process, and it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been completely off. Thankfully I did not experience any of the crazy side-effects some people have reported when weaning off sertraline.

So far, I’ve been a bit more weepy than normal (like, getting teary-eyed while watching a cat-food commercial…!?) but otherwise I feel pretty good, overall no big changes yet.

Before I made this big change, I knew I needed to adjust my battle plan a bit… after all, the number one thing on the list was “I’m on an anti-depressant”! I’ll be sharing this new plan with you in my next post, because STAYING off my medicine is just as important as how and why I went off it. In the meanwhile, your prayers are greatly appreciated as I continue on this journey. XOXO