Every time I went to the doctor, for any reason, it would come up. The constant tiredness. The feeling like I could never get enough sleep.
“I didn’t always feel this tired,” I would tell the doctor. “Only maybe in the last few years.”
I told them about my diet. Told them about my regular exercise. Told them I slept between 8 to 10 hours a night. Let them check my blood.
“Ah,” they would say eventually, after every avenue had been exhausted. “It’s likely just a symptom of your anxiety.”
I would nod. It did seem to get worse around the time my anxiety got worse. Around the time I started taking Sertraline to manage.
It might seem like a glaring oversight from the outside, that it was four and a half years before I made the connection between starting Sertraline and becoming permanently lethargic. But the thing is, I made that connection, not any doctor or mental health professional that I ever brought up my tiredness with – which was every doctor and mental health professional I had ever spoken to. Not one of them suggested it was the Sertraline. I trusted them to tell me if that was the cause. They never did. And as a result it took me that long to riddle it out myself.
Coming off 100mg of Sertraline after close to five years was a hard choice. I don’t think badly of my experience with Sertraline. It did me so much good for so long. It was the right choice at the time, and I’m grateful for what it gave me.
But here’s what I don’t miss about it.
I don’t miss waking up every morning feeling like I slept less than three hours, when in fact I’d had closer to nine.
And I don’t miss coming home from work at 6pm and practically falling face first into the mattress, having counted every hour since I woke as one closer to returning to my bed.
I don’t miss feeling less. I don’t miss crying less. I don’t miss missing out on the euphoric happiness of a beautiful day, or the cutting misery of a sad movie. I sometimes cry just from catching a glimpse of a tiny puppy, which is odd, but not in a bad way.
Sure, I could probably do without the days where even the slightest murmur from another feels like an intolerable aggravation. Or when my brain turns over and over, stuck on a paranoid thought that feeds on itself until it bloats my entire perception. When I can’t bite my tongue back from a passive aggressive barb, or a needling whine, or a question that’s so needy and ridiculous that I should already know the answer isn’t what I fear.
But I’ll take the mixed bag of emotions, and its risk of occasionally pissing off friends and loved ones, over nothing at all.
And maybe I don’t sleep like a log any more. I sometimes have anxiety-induced insomnia. I sometimes have nothing-in-particular induced insomnia. But I also have nights where I’m so into a book, or a meal, or the company I’m keeping, that it’s suddenly midnight and the hours it took to get there didn’t feel like an infinite uphill trudge. And on that realisation, I’m not struck down by the dread of what the next morning will feel like, knowing I’ve missed out on a precious few hours of sleep.
Life off Sertraline means waking up every morning and purposefully donning a mental suit of armour. The strength of that armour varies day to day. Sometimes it does the job, sometimes it takes scratches and dents, and sometimes it feels like it’s not there at all. I never know which kind of day to expect, and it’s not easy. Not every day feels like a triumph of living.
But I do feel as though I’ve woken up. And that’s kind of amazing.