My experience with Zoloft

Zoloft is a really strange drug. To properly explain how strange it is, it's important to have some kind of understanding as to the drug's mechanism. If you're not interested in learning some pop-neuroscience, skip the next paragraph.

Warning: pop-neuroscience ahead

Zoloft is in a class of drugs called SSRIs, or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, which probably does not mean much unless you're familiar with this variant of biological vernacular, but is actually a very expressive string of words. For those unfamiliar, our brains have chemicals called neurotransmitters in them. The electrical wiring of our brains has gaps in it. Information is transmitted through these gaps chemically, via neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are necessary for the operation of our neural networks, because it's difficult for electrical signals to jump these gaps. A whole bunch of neurotransmitters is ejaculated from a neuron into this gap, and the next neuron slowly and sloppily sucks up the neurotransmitters in the gap. However, it's very difficult the second neuron to get all of the neurotransmitters, thus some of the ejaculated neurotransmitters are reuptaken (reuptook?) by the first neuron. One such neurotransmitter is called serotonin; it's popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness, which is a very narrow but mostly effective view to take. Now that I went and explained all of that, it hopefully will make sense if I explain that Zoloft just prevents serotonin from being reuptaken by the first neuron, allowing the serotonin to stay in the gap longer, giving the second neuron a longer chance to suck it up.

About a month ago, I was prescribed 25mg of sertraline (also sold as Zoloft, Lustral) for depression and anxiety. I've always been a particularly sensitive and mercurial person, and people use words like intense to describe my demeanor.

Zoloft isn't the kind of drug where you take it and feel the effects soon after. My psychiatrist advised that it might take up to 3 weeks to notice any effect on mood and stress, although that is a conservative estimate, and a lot of people notice an effect after a week or so.

For the first few days of taking it, I did not notice much of anything. The only effect it was having was that it made me subtly sleepy, and upon indulging that sleep I typically awoke feeling alert and refreshed.

Within a week or so, I noticed an effect on my mood. The words I would use to describe this change are clumsy, and I feel a visual representation is more expressive:

before.jpg


after.jpg

Instead of having pretty good peaks and dreadful lows, my mood after a week or so of Zoloft began to flatten out, which turned out to be a welcome change. There's always a small part of me that questions if the elevated mood-highs are worth the devestating mood-lows, but then I get a taste of a low and drop that line of questioning. 

My psychiatrist decided to increase my dose to double, and this 50mg dose brought with it a different glance at Zoloft's more subtle effects. After becoming acclimated to this dosage, I began to find it incredibly difficult to read books and remember the plot. Audiobooks remained an option, but when I tried to visually absorb the material, I had no recollection of the plot or of the characters. On top of this, I began to develop the viewpoint that I only had to do things that made me happy, because as I reasoned, isn't happiness the point to life anyway? My anxiety was sharply muted, and for the first time of my life that constant buzz of background worry was silenced.

These newly developed attitudes and disabilities brought with it a wave of academic failures, stemming both from my technical inability to complete certain work (e.g. I couldn't read), and from the disappearance of much of my anxiety. Although I normally procrastinate before starting assignments, the constantly building worry usually reaches a point where I'm forced to begin, giving me a nice inertia and usually allowing me to finish on time. 

tl;dr: I'm trying a lower dose of Zoloft because high doses make me too happy to do actual work.