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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

My Battle With Zoloft

I was away. Now I'm back. Back to tell you about my battle with Zoloft.

Spoiler alert: I win.

I know why I went on anti-depressants. My work situation had become intolerable – too much pressure to conform and a very unsympathetic manager who accused me of having a chip on my shoulder. I didn’t. He did. After a bit of nastiness where I said a few things I shouldn’t have and probably louder than I should have, I was called into HR. HR informed me that my behavior was questionable and objectionable. I hung my head and signed their pieces of paper. Then I went to my physician of 5 years, told him the story and asked to be put on ‘something’. His first stab at ‘something’ was Prozac. I took it for six months. Stories about how dreadful Prozac in the long run began to circulate. I quit Prozac. Cold turkey. For four weeks it was like being in a stop/start claymation film where the lead character gets zapped by electricity every once in awhile. I felt like the floor was falling away from under me. But I made it. And I felt good. I got a new manager placed between me and the horrible man I had worked with before. She liked me and stood up for me. Life was good.

Then I got stuck in an elevator at work. For about 45 minutes. I was cool the entire time I was actually stuck. Then the repairman came and lowered me down to safety. I got off. A security guard I know was there. He asked if I was okay. I laughed and said… no problem. Then the elevator repairman stood very close to me – face-to-face and began to tell me how I could easily I could have gotten killed (on the way down I pulled the doors apart about an inch so I could hear them better and get some air). He was standing too close and his affect was a bit shaming – I went off on him. Big time. I stormed away – scared out of my mind. My mind was racing and so was my heart.

I got back to my desk. The security guard came and asked if I was alright. I laughed. He laughed. I thought nothing more of it. Until a month later when I got called in by HR. The HR rep said that there had been an incident. I laughed and explained what happened. End of meeting. Or so I thought. But no… I was written up for it. So I went back to my physician explained what had happened and how desperate I was to conform. That’s when I got sent to his psychiatrist who then put me on Zoloft. With each additional disagreement at work… up went that dose. I spent five years on the max dose. I thought – it’s working! But I kept having less-than-acceptable experiences at work.

I finally had to leave that job after 6 years. Then for the next year and half I struggled in another horrible situation… with another clueless, horrible manager supported by a non-existent HR department – history wasn’t just repeating itself – it was getting worse. So I quit the day after Christmas. Soon, because I was home all the time while looking for another position, I began to notice just how odd my behavior had become. I should have been paying more attention to what my friends were saying to me, and in particular my best friend, Tony.

I wouldn’t go out socially – much.
I would never initiate a social event or gathering.
I wouldn’t answer the phone – even with caller I.D., whether I knew the person or not.
I watched a lot of television – in fact my life was regimented accordingly.
I’d stopped exercising and running – more so since my bike accident the previous summer – to the point of none at all.
I’d sit in the dark all the time. Complaining loudly when lights were on ‘for no reason’.
I overate at almost every meal and snacked non-stop. (Why I didn’t gain more weight than I did is amazing to me. Perhaps it was because I was also incredibly obsessed with weighing myself).
I stopped washing my own clothes.
I stopped deep cleaning. If it was tidy, I was happy.
I collected and stored more and more stuff.
I never cried. My grandmother died. I didn’t cry. Never. No tears.
I would waste incredible amounts of time doing nothing. Sitting in a car. In a parking lot. Staring. For hours.
I’d nap. When I could take no more, do no more, eat no more – I would take refuge in sleep. And dream vividly.

I was sleeping my life away.

Now – keep in mind that I was active before this time. Working full-time, running 2-3 miles M-F (until bike accident), biking (until bike accident), going to college full-time on the weekends, writing music and lyrics, keeping family obligations – and I even managed to mount a musical I wrote and take it to both the Kansas City and Minnesota Fringe Festival.

So, maybe I had reason to be tired. But not THAT tired.

I weaned myself off Zoloft under the guidance of my new physician. She gave me a new prescription for another drug.

I never filled it.

Guess what? I came alive again. I had energy. I had focus. I laughed. And I cried! Initially it all felt like… oops, here we go again – Manic Michael. But then it began to sink in, like your body does when hitting a welcoming bed. I was excited again. About everything.

So my life is perfect now? No. It wasn’t before Zoloft or Prozac, either.

I do more, worry less, and have come to accept myself. I will no longer try to warp myself into someone I am not – not for money, or security or for the sake of having a job.

Very slowly, I’m regaining parts of myself I had let go… come the dawn of summer – I should have everything I need and want again – exercise, friends, social occasions, laughter, the outdoors, a really clean house, empty storage space, etc.

And me. That person I used to like a lot.

Now, when I go to work, I bring with me the most important thing I can...


Next: The failure of the HR movement in corporate America.