Taking Sertraline, Month 1

I picked the best time to start a new drug

Earlier in the year, I was participating in a drug trial for an anxiety pill. This trial ultimately stopped because the data suggested that there was no significant impact made on the lives of us anxious test subjects.

I was upset, mostly because I would no longer be making money for remembering to take a pill once a day. I certainly noticed that I felt only slightly different; maybe I should have lied to keep making dat money. But at what cost? Let a drug be put on the market that only slightly helps people? Not on my watch. My bills will just have to wait.

After my closing session with the trial’s doctor, he offered to prescribe something new to me. I was a little surprised because here I was, all of a sudden being adopted into a doctor’s rotation when I thought I was only test subject #8. It was nice to feel like someone cared about me, though. So I accepted the offer and he put me on Sertraline.

Sertraline is generic Zoloft, an anti-depressant that is prescribed for lots of reasons, including General Anxiety Disorder (hey, that’s me!) He told me to call in a month to check in and to see where we’d go from there.

I sat on the prescription for maybe two weeks (figuratively, not like a hen). Not only did I feel a little uneasy about starting a drug that has known uncomfortable side-effects, but the cheapest pharmacy to get my prescription always closed really early and I’m a late sleeper.

The date of our check in sat in the back of my mind, even though it was a month away. I worried about the weight gain, the dizziness and headaches, the muscle tension and just about every possible outcome. But I decided I didn’t want to admit on the phone to my doctor that I didn’t even fill it, the prescription he was so kind to give me when he could have instead left me out on the street.

First Day

I was to take 25mg a day but was prescribed 50 mg pills. So, I brought my package home and began to slice them in half. Did I lose a pill piece or two because they shot across the room? Perhaps.

Now that I had a bunch of halved pills, it was time to take one. I ate a giant meal because I know I get nauseated when I do anything on an empty stomach (walk, exist, etc.)  I took the little thing and waited.

I felt scared. I decided the anxiety was still present.

Week One

Nausea is probably my worst symptom right now. As I said, I eat generously before I take these. So why do I feel so sick?

I’ve thrown up twice this week, about an hour after my pill. Throwing up is one of my least favorite things in the world, in particularly because I love my teeth. Stomach acid is bad for your teeth, so among other reasons for disliking the experience, my oral health is the main point of frustration.

Because I dislike vomiting so much, I usually decide that I will never again eat the food that caused my sickness. This is how I broke up with hot dogs.

But can I break up with Sertraline? I’ve taken it for seven days, so probably not.

Week Two

My nausea has lessened. My neck and shoulders are tighter than I’ve ever felt before though.

I had a scary experience where a muscle in my neck spasmed. At least, that’s what I assumed it did? It felt like two muscles lining my throat folded on top of one another, causing a sudden pain that I’ve never felt before. It was like I was being choked by a very precise and heavy weight resting against my sternocleidomastoid (yes I looked that up). I couldn’t breathe and I didn’t know how to move my body without causing more pain.

My boyfriend and I were laying in bed when it happened, so I started to make noises but couldn’t really speak. He helped me to my feet but didn’t know what else he could do. I did my best Helen Keller impression as I tried to communicate without words.  I found the way to make everything go back to normal was to swallow. I don’t know why but swallowing acted like a brush to tangled hair (my effed up neck being the hair in this case).

I swallowed a bunch and tried to lightly stretch my neck and trapezius.  I tried to go back to sleep.

Week Three

I’ve started to do some yoga this week. I have a collection of neck stretches I do throughout the day as well. I feel like my neck pain is a self-fulfilling prophecy; I’m afraid of having another spasm, so I’m stretching and trying to prevent it from happening. But, in turn, the fear that it will happen makes me tense, which I notice whenever I really pay attention to my body.

I guess a muscle spasm in the neck is different from being choked. However, I do not understand how anyone enjoys the sensation of being choked (you kinky anomalies). I haven’t had a panic attack since I started taking the Sertraline, but I feel some of the physical reactions to having one when I lay down in bed, fearful that I will wake up again unable to breathe.

Week Four

Wow, I ended that last week on a pretty meh note! This week is a little better, but I don’t know if I’m seeing an improvement that’s significant or not. Sometimes I have good days and I think hey, the pills are working. But then I have not-so-good days and I think they stopped. It’s like… I feel as if taking Sertraline means every day should feel pretty decent, right? Isn’t that the point? Isn’t that why my previous drug trial ended?

I’ve been taking a sketch writing class online for a bit now. We went from talking about Corona to voting on if we should take class online to being forced to take class on Zoom all within four days. It’s weird seeing how quarantine moves so quickly. I’m honestly enjoying being inside a lot because I feel like I’m safe. I like not having to drive places and I like not having to spend time getting ready. I also enjoy not wearing pants to meetings but that’s not because of the quarantine.

I’m enjoying this but feeling bad about enjoying it. I’ve started to not watch the news as much, something I used to do often. I don’t know how much Sertraline is working and how much is me just feeling good about being at home. Is it doing its job, or are my guilty feelings overpowering its potency?

I often force myself to swallow, and I picture myself as a nervous cartoon. As I feel less tension in my neck, I feel it more in my jaw and tongue. My concentration is here and there, and I don’t know how long I can relax at home.

Check in with my Doctor

He asks me how I feel in quarantine, and I try to explain that I’m doing good and bad. I feel so annoying when I try to describe how I feel to him. It’s like he’s asking me to complain, and I can’t wrap my head around that.

I try to describe my so-so-ness, and tell him the story about my neck spasm. He is honestly very understanding, which I really appreciate.

He says that we will try to increase to 50mg. He noted that 25mg is a small dose, and with 50mg, the negative side effects will either get really bad or will start to go away.

So it turns out I halved all my pills for nothing!

I’m going to take 50mg of Sertraline a day and will check in with him next month. And with you too, person who’s reading this J.

TL;DR Summary

The worst symptoms are my neck pain and nausea. My neck has had spasms and I’ve felt tenser because I’m anticipating more. I like being in quarantine because I like being in my own home, but I feel guilty for feeling this way. I can’t tell if the pills are working significantly or not so I’m going from 25mg to 50mg for the next month.

by April Yanko

My name's April, but Post March is my fun riddle alias.

Lover of cats, eater of pasta. Hoping to make you laugh with silly things that come from the heart.