Zoloft and Primal

By Anonymous

For most of my life, depression, not anxiety, was what I experienced. I am 53 now, and I have experienced intermittent depression most of my life. Back in 1993, I discovered that Zoloft worked pretty well for me for depression, after trying a number of other SSRI's and older depression meds first -- all of the others had undesirable side effects, but as you know biochemistry differs from person to person, and what works well for one person might not work well for another.

I have been on Zoloft about five times since 1993, but never for more than six months at a time. Even though I feel good on it, and it feels like I am feeling everything, I know that I can't access my feelings as well when I am on Zoloft. I can't get into my anger or grief or fear very well when I am on it. That doesn't mean I couldn't do a primal session on it, but generally I can't primal nearly as well if I am on Zoloft, so I have always been off of it at intensives or other times when I am focusing on my primal work.

I use Zoloft primarily to help me function better in my everyday life at times when I have a lot to do and I really can't primal myself out of the depression fast enough to function well in the world.

For the first time in the spring of 1997, I experienced some pretty severe anxiety that was interfering with my ability to function well in my work. I'd heard that Zoloft can sometimes help with anxiety as well as depression, and I knew my body could tolerate the Zoloft pretty well, so I discussed with my family physician the possibility of trying the Zoloft for the anxiety.

Gradually, after two or three months I was feeling quite a bit better -- I guess I will never know whether I would have felt better anyway without the Zoloft, but at the very least, taking the Zoloft allowed me to believe I was taking positive steps to do something about the anxiety. Placebo or not, I got better.

In May of this year, I got another bout of anxiety, not quite as severe, but definitely interfering with my ability to work effectively, so I tried Zoloft again, and again experienced the same general pattern of beginning to feel better after a couple of months. I kept taking it in Sepember, October, and most of November because I know I am sometimes subject to seasonal affective stuff during the declining sunlight months of October and November.

I stopped the Zoloft on Thanksgiving Day, and I have felt great since that time, even better than during the time I was on the Zoloft. Usually when I have stopped Zoloft cold turkey, which is how I have always stopped it, I feel myself sinking into feelings, getting teary easily, about 3 or 4 days after stopping the Zoloft, and at that point I am able to primal and access my feelings much better. It is a few days after stopping the Zoloft that I can feel most clearly how the Zoloft has been keeping me out of my feelings.

On this occasion, I hardly noticed the stopping of the Zoloft during the first week, but now during the last few days I have definitely noticed myself feeling more and feeling more deeply, and the feelings have been genrally very positive -- actually now that I'm off it I'm feeling better than when I was on it (but that is not the same as saying that I should not have stayed on it so long).

I've heard, and it sounds plausible to me, that SSRI's can sort of "prime the pump" in a way that gets the natural biochemistry back on track, and then it stays on track after stopping the medication for perhaps a year or more. This is consistent with my experience.

However, generally speaking, I think Zoloft props me up to feel better in an artificial way. It's like walking around on stilts to be able to see things a little more clearly, but it doesn't change the landscape you stand on. Primal, on the other hand, changes the landscape itself. It is a more permanent and effective way to accomplish genuine changes that can and will last a lifetime. And although the Zoloft gets me out of jams and feels pretty good, it is not nearly as good as a natural feeling state as I get at times when I am well-primalled. Primal has made much more positive and permanent changes in my life.

There might be other meds that would be more effective for anxiety for you, and perhaps for me, than Zoloft. I would talk with a knowledgeable MD, or perhaps a psychiatrist who practices biological psychiatry. I think one of the best, whom I have seen when I was in Seattle, is Michael J. Norden, M.D., who wrote Beyond Prozac. He's on the cutting edge of what psychiatry can do these days, and he often recommends natural approaches as an alternative to the latest medications. If you can find someone like him in your area, he would be a treasure. I don't think he's into primal, but I don't think he recommends against it either.

I have known at least one other person who seems able to primal effectively while on Zoloft, but not me. I don't know how it would affect your feelings of anger and your ability to express your anger. I don't know how it affects meditation, either.

When I'm feeling down and not accomplishing the things I need to accomplish in my everyday life, I get into a downward spiral because I feel worse about myself for not getting things done. The Zoloft can help me function better and get things done, so that at least the objective circumstances of my life are better. In this way, Zoloft can indirectly help change my external environment, and this provides a secondary way to help stop the depression.

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Note: A number of years ago, after prostate surgery, I developed a psychosomatic condition known as prostatodynia which involved pelvic wall muscle spasms with pain referred to the bladder and upper legs. With the onset of symptoms I was no longer able to primal. I was prescribed Tofranil (generic imipramine) by my urologist for the incapaciting pain and in a few weeks I no longer had pain and I was able to primal once again! Tofranil is an anti-depressant and is often used to treat bed wetting in children.
-- John A. Speyrer - Primal Psychotherapy Page Editor

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