The Happy Pill Diaries Part Two: The Zoloft Effect (and Unexpected Side Effects) (2023)

Beauman Tower|15. October 2021

The Happy Pill Diaries Part Two: The Zoloft Effect (and Unexpected Side Effects) (1)

In the second of five journal entries, journalist Viia Beaumanis recalls the roller coaster ride she went through while taking her first prescription for Zoloft. Photo: CSA Images/Getty Images

The second in a fun five-PartSeries in which journalist Viia Beaumanis, 52, a longtime antidepressant avoider, recounts her journey to emotional well-being through mood-boosting medications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this episode, Beaumanis shares how he received a prescription forZoloft, which improved her mood and sleep patterns, but leads to someveryunexpected side effects.


The Happy Pill Diaries, part one: locked up and broke in times of pandemic

The Happy Pill Diaries Part 3: Will the "miracle cure" finally work?

The Happy Pill Diaries Part 4: The 'wonder drug' is working, but a friend in France needs help

The Happy Pill Journals Part 5: Finding the sweet spot of happiness is a matter of perspective

It is early May 2020.and I'm sitting in my new GP's office just off the Toronto waterfront. I request Wellbutrin.I did my research online. Antidepressants make you fat, they kill orgasms. In the meantime,Harper's Bazaarconsiders Wellbutrin to be the “Happy Sexy Skinny Pill.“

Yes please. I would like all these things. It sounds jubilant. Wellbutrin does not have "sexual problems" andany drug that can make me pass outup to 12.9 percentof my body weight can only improve my prospects. Sign me up.

Only one problem, my doctor explains: I can't take Wellbutrin. The "protocol" for antidepressants is to start patients on Zoloft, i.e.known to have the fewest side effects.

Penalty fee. I take everything at this point. I also ask for some anti-anxiety medication while we're at it: Xanax, Ativan, whatever. Given that crystalline emphasis, what Truman Capote called the "Mean Reds" as opposed to his counterpoint "The Blues", is a feature of my..."stage" these days.

My doctor lectures me about the "addictive" properties of anti-anxiety meds, saying he can only prescribe for one month, "that's all," before reluctantly writing the 30-pill authorization. That seems strange to me considering that almost everyone I know has one.rotateprescription of these drugs. Maybe I need a new one, morejaded,experienced doctor

"If he was prone to addiction, we'd know that by now," I interrupt. A 52-year-old woman who was a waitress at 17, a nightclub owner at 23, and later became a social columnist for a national newspaper and then an editor for a fashion magazine, all jobs that were (mostly in the old days) 70 percent was 'work and inspiration' and 30 percent was 'champagne, cocaine and percodan'.

That explanation falls on deaf ears as my doctor, a beautiful early 30s East Indian enthusiast two decades my junior and unfazed by my obviously stellar arguments, prescribed 30 days of Lorazepam and the same for Zoloft.

FFS I think leaving.

Zoloftis an SSRI, orSelective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. I take it with my collagen shake every morning and notice an almost immediate, albeit slightly manic, increase within the first week. A few days later, close friends notice the difference. I'm definitely in a better mood. Also, you talk faster. On the other hand, under no circumstances can I have an orgasm. A colossal inconvenience, but one I'm willing to put up with for now if it keeps my head out of the oven.

When I have a panic attack (random episodes of overwhelming fear), about once a week, I put lorazepam under my tongue. This is a wonderful instant balm for my frayed nerves and racing negative thoughts. Lorazepam also helps me fall asleep. A lifelong night owl, it's been years since I've been able to get eight hoursin a row, no mattercalendarfor normal sleep times. Going to bed at midnight and waking up at 8:00 am totally refreshed seems like a miracle. I start taking it every night.

I feel much better after a week and wonder how much zoloft is in that and how much sleep I get. Outside of exercise, getting plenty of sleep and maintaining "normal hours" (REM, routine, circadian rhythm) is touted as the number one natural antidepressant remedy.

Unfortunately, due to my doctor's frugality, I have run out of nightly lorazepam and what I take (sometimes two) to avoid a third-week crash. Now I'm up until 3 or 4 a.m. m., not a restful or dreamy sleep. Thank God I'm self-employed, I think as I get out of bed at 10 in the morning to make myself a strong coffee.

The use of antidepressants is also strongly discouraged. Since full-blown alcoholism is unlikely for me, I'm assuming I can have a few cocktails or a civilized amount of wine with dinner while taking Zoloft. What could hurt? This experiment fails spectacularly.

One afternoon I have a drink while I get dressed before going to a friend's house. While I'm there I have sandwiches, olives, crostini, some pate and two more cocktails. I feel good. I'll take an Uber home. The next day, my host calls me to ask if I have "recovered". What are you talking about? He tells me that I fell with him and they had to help me up. That he was "very" drunk. I have zero memories of that.

As a former nightclub owner of Irish, Scottish and Baltic descent, I also have a naturally high tolerance for alcohol. That three drinks in three hours would make me literally drunk is strange. Also embarrassing. Thank God it's a dear old friend who knows I'm experimenting with psychopharmacology. Furious.

A week later, I'm drinking half a bottle of wine with my neighbors while watching a movie. I'm comfortable back with me. And then suddenly so bad I have to get sick. Something I've never done before. For the record, I've thrown up five times in my entire life. Twice it was seafood: a bad shrimp and an oyster that almost killed me. Twice more flu - once a deadly bird flu I caught in Peru. The fifth was the first time I got really drunk as a teenager because I grossly overestimated my gin intake. I have an iron stomach. I don't even get dizzy. But here I am, throwing up 2.5 glasses of wine.

Two weeks later, I wake up with my vagina completely shaved and I have no idea how it happened.

Okay, let's back up a bit here. My close friend and sometimes lover is a lesbian. She is in bed next to me. So I can add two and two. Still, I don't think she can fully convey the strange feeling of waking up to a "surprise" Brazilian. But to be honest, she did a great job. She has an electric shaver.

She is anxious to let me know that I have "accepted." Actually, "I insisted on it." The point is reinforced by the clutter in my bedroom, every drawer pulled out from a feverish search for lingerie. I apparently had a great time.

Essentially, the math is that when I take a drink it's like I've drunk the bottle. Then he cleared a layup. And even though I can't orgasm, my drunk doppelganger is one insatiable slut.

Comedy aside, it's pretty annoying to act sexually and not remember it. I can't orgasm, but I throw a few drinks in it and I can "rape" myself. Great. I thank God that these episodes happened in the houses of very good friends. What if the bars and restaurants were open and I was taking Zoloft and having a drink in public? I shudder to think, 90 percent sure I would have woken up in a stranger's bed with no memory of how I got there or who he was, as some really do (Yes really) bad movie.

I make a doctor's appointment and start cutting my dosage in half with weaning. Six weeks of Zoloft is enough for me. I need something. But not this.

Then I remember that this is the entrance for the depressed. Zoloft is the one with the “least side effects”.


Read the first part of The Happy Pillnewspapers,in which Beaumanis explains the dire circumstances that ultimately led her to see her doctor for an antidepressant.


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