Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Month on Zoloft

GREAT NEWS! Last month, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. With some OCD in there for good measure.

And no one is surprised. For a long time, I thought I was a quirky introvert. Like, how on some days, I just couldn’t talk to anyone, because I thought that everything I said sounded crazy. Or how I always had to-do lists, and I felt wound-up and nervous until I finished the last thing, and if I was interrupted, it was like a million bees in my skull. But the worst part: obsessive thoughts.

For instance. One day, my car makes a funny noise. Immediately, my brain goes into overdrive: Is that a problem? What’s wrong with it? PANIC. I get on the internet. I research. The panic gets worse: it could be a hundred things. I’m pretty sure that whatever’s happening, it’s expensive. I should take it to the mechanic. Or should I? Is that premature? What if it was a fluke? What if it never happens again? I should test it. I should take it out right now, even though it’s 10:00 at night. No. I hate driving at night.

Generalized anxiety disorder means my brain never shuts up. I wake up in the middle of the night worrying about the car, and in the morning, I wake up thinking about that noise. I feel sick to my stomach, and I can’t stop my racing thoughts. Really, I decide, I should just take it to a mechanic; I know it will cost a lot, but it’ll be worth the piece of mind. Only the car doesn’t make a noise for a few days, and I start to wonder if it’s my imagination. I start to feel a little better. Until the car makes the noise again one day, and it all comes back. I take it into the mechanic, and they fix it, and then I spend the next couple of weeks listening REAL HARD just in case there's still a problem.

This happened usually once a month about all sorts of stupid stuff: a leaky roof, a broken sink, death, a spot on a board, a creaky floor. Vacations were the worst, because probably there was a burglary or a fire going on while we were out, if the pipes weren’t frozen. If Rebecca was going somewhere with Audrey and I hadn’t heard from them in a few hours, that probably meant they were in an explosive car wreck. Etcetera.

This has always been a problem, but every couple of years, it got REALLY bad. And no matter how badly I wanted to fix my anxiety with rationality, it didn't work. I'd make plans, I'd reason with myself, and then I'd spend an entire day (or week) ramming a thermometer into the mayonnaise jar to make sure it wasn't in the salmonella zone. At the beginning of 2014, it got really miserable; that's about when I started obsessing about my anxiety, which is pretty meta. So I wound up calling a nurse practitioner and setting up an appointment.

The nurse practitioner told me that anxiety was one of the biggest reasons why patients visited her. Anxiety disorders are very common; something like 10-15% of adults have one.  They’re highly treatable with Zoloft, which is cheap and has relatively few side effects. But you know: social stigmas. "You should try asking around," she said. "You might be surprised how many people have the same problem you do."

For a couple of weeks, Zoloft ramped my anxiety up to eleven. Then I was only anxious during the first half of the day, and then only in early morning, and then it was kinda-sorta gone.

I'm STILL adjusting. It’s subtle. I still get grumpy and tired and anxious, but not nearly as much as before, and not NEARLY at the same levels. And it's so much easier to let go of it. I feel SO much more patient with everyone and everything, and I can focus on the moment instead of rushing from one problem to another.

We’re working on selling the house, too. I haven’t done much writing lately. I’m okay with that. When I get back to it, I won't feel so much like it's more stress than fun. Right now, I'm enjoying life again.


  1. Instead of Zoloft I drink cheat wine constantly. A side benefit is that this eliminates the problem of the 'morning afters.' The down side is that no one wants to be around me. They say that I smell bad and have bad table manners. But, like you, I find myself more patient with everyone and everything - - as long as no-one asks for a sip of my rot-gut.

  2. Haha, John Lawrence. But Robert, this is really great writing, and also very brave.

  3. Thank you guys so much for reading and commenting. John - I did the same thing, except people kept asking for sips, and that totally brought me down. Meghan - thank you! I really hope that sharing this will help people see that this kind of anxiety really can be a problem, and they are not alone = but that it's totally and easily treatable - no one has to suffer for years and years like I did!