As I said in another article, I suffer from anxiety and depression as another 20% of the population in the UK (where I live). For this reason, I decided to refer myself to a doctor who prescribed me an antidepressant (Zoloft) and a beta blocker (a medication often used to slow down the heart rate). Now, antidepressants are a great resource for those who struggle with depressive symptoms and cannot improve their situation by exclusively using therapy, which is usually the first suggestion made by any doctor and should thus not be excluded a priori. And, I am saying this as someone who got to go through a full-blown mental breakdown and a teary fight with their best friend, just to be told that I was to give it a shot since meds could not do it all.
Anyway, I started taking the meds hoping that they would give me some kind of relief and overall, after having spent over a month on them, I must say they did help. However, it was not as simple as that…at all. Instead, for most of the time I found myself on the phone with my doctor planning what to do next, how to increase the dosage, what was my goal and see if Zoloft was even a good option. What I should also add is that such medicines do take a while to take off and you could even find yourself dealing with worsened symptoms at first. So, there is really no short nor easy way out: all you can do is try, fall and hope to be strong enough to hold on. That’s why I would say it is fundamental to seek additional help; this can come from your family, friends, therapy, or anything that can actually improve your mood and make you feel more “stable”.
Personally, I have not yet found an exact dosage, maybe not even the right drug and am still waiting on a therapist to contact me back. In fact, relapses are quite common and also the way I can tell that there is still much room for improvement. Nonetheless, I strive to maintain the most positive and the least discouraging attitude — yet, it is not easy and sometimes I do feel like all I wish for is to give up and cut everyone out of my life. But, although burning bridges has always been a natural flair of mine, I reckon that it is not good enough of a solution. Not that this was easy to admit either!
In a nutshell, everything is hard in life and this is particularly true when you suffer from a mental illness. This does NOT mean you are to cave in to it though!
Anyway, I am rambling here, so I will try to get back to the point of the article. One of the most striking side effects I wound up “suffering” from (and here I am using quotation marks because I am not entirely sure whether it actually is bad or rather interesting…) is a dreams galore. And by this I mean LOADS of long, articulated, detailed and very much vivid dreams — and SO weird, as in “being-kissed-by-my-crush-while-taking-a-highschool-class-and-being-paired-up-with-a-transphobic-kid-while-someone-was-trying-to-break-into-the-school” kind of weird. The most recent one occurred the other night and it’s still incredibly fresh into my memory. If you just want to skip to it, you can find it in the last paragraph; if you are interested in the sciencey reason behind it, instead, keep reading.
As I found these dreams to be pretty eerie and my best friends, who were obligated to listen to me telling them what they were all about while staring at me as if I were raving or bluffing, I wanted to discover more and track back their source. Then, it struck me! I suddenly remembered that one of the secondary effects listed in the patient information leaflet was “nightmares”. Google thus opened to me and off the top of my head I typed “dreams on sertraline” (Zoloft): about half a million results showed up. I scrolled through a few pages and all of them were very similarly saying the same thing; that is, antidepressants DO make you dream of goofy, complex and at times creepy situations. Apparently, the VERY sciencey reason behind this is that, while these drugs tend to reduce one’s REM sleep (the one that takes place when we are dreaming) and consequently may seem to wipe away one’s ability to dream; that way, the brain ends up lacking REM sleep and whenever it can get some, it will try to “pack” as much as possible of it all at once — leading to an abundance of real-feeling dreams. That being said, there is probably way more than what I have just tried to sum up here, and takes on the matter can always vary; but this is the general explanation I managed to find online and it seems reasonable and sound enough to me.
Coming to my dream: it was sheer bewilderment. I was back to work (bubble tea shop) and I had to get everything ready for the day, but we were already running late, we had some new items to prepare (boiled mixed vegetables and fries, for some reason) and ingredients were missing from the kitchen, so I decided to go to the storage room to look for them. Once I got out of the store, the city had completely changed and our storage room was now inside of a shop in this brand-new mall. I enter the mall glass door and it’s massive, full of people and stores of all types, and then, I realized that I was no longer wearing my top and had to cover myself from people’s sight. This did not stop me from wanting to find the storage and so I continued wandering around. Not having gotten to any result, I decided to exit and at that point I was in a car with my grandma driving. She was riding ruthlessly and I was trying to guide her to where I was directed, but she was going too fast; all of a sudden, we were heading against a wall and could not stop the car. I was screaming, sure we would have crashed and died on the spot. Yet, another plot twist occurred and somehow the car rode along the wall up for a few meters, before delicately sliding back — as if we were on a ramp. We continued driving, this time looking for someone, as I said then, I HAD to meet.
At this point, things are a bit unclear and I am not entirely sure whether what happened after was still part of this dream or if I had woken up for a few instants and begun a new one. So, I will stop here and I guess, now you can understand how I must have felt after waking up.
These drugs are not something we can take lightheartedly; in fact, they are quite powerful and can lead to challenging side effects, but for the very same reason, they are also very effective and should thus be used when needed without shame nor rebuke.