As I’ve been reading the Dooce archives this past week, I’ve been reminded of my own struggles with chronic depression. So, I’ve decided to tell you the whole long story of what happened in the last couple of months or so.
In late July, we had a huge family crisis. I’m not going to say what it is, because it’s not really my thing to tell, but it was the thing that caused Chris and I to head to therapy. My mom’s reaction to that was “be careful, sometimes those therapists will ruin your marriage”. We weren’t too worried about this, but we were cautious going in. We both knew that we wanted the relationship to work, and to do that we needed to learn to communicate.
I’ve been depressed and on meds for it for most of the last 17 years. Until very recently, the only time I was drug free was when I was pregnant, and the 17 months I was nursing. So I know myself, and I know that I need to be medicated to be tolerable to myself, and to others.
About two weeks after we started seeing the therapist (whom we both loved, BTW), I made the incredibly stupid decision to change my medication. I’d been on this particular drug at a moderately high dose for over a year, and I was so damn tired all the time. My doctor and I went through everything we could think of before dropping the meds and nothing came back positive or worked at all. So we decided to switch to a drug that I’ve never taken before because it is contraindicated for people with a history of seizures. But it’s been a really long time since I had a seizure (knock wood), and there was never a reason found for me to have them. So I was willing to take the risk, as this is a drug that works very, very well for my mother and brother.
My doctor wanted me to wean off my current meds, and then see what it was like to be drug free for a bit. I was to call him when I felt I needed to be prescribed the new med. The plan was to wean to half of my current dose each week. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy because as always, I had done my research. I knew I was going to feel horrible physically, but I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming depression that would take hold of me. By the time I was off the old meds, I was feeling so shitty that I was working from home 3 days a week, just to spare my co-workers my irritability.
The feelings of worthlessness, and fatigue, and hopelessness engulfed me. I couldn’t drive my car without thinking about driving it into a ditch. The only thing in the world that kept me going was my daughter. There was no way I could bear for her to grow up without a mommy.
I called the doctor for the new medication, and started it the next day. I knew it was going to take some time to start working so I also went to visit the acupuncturist. Now, I’m usually a skeptic, but the first time I went, she put a needle in my “happy” spot, and I smiled for like 10 days. I almost *never* smile (not because I’m unhappy, just because I don’t smile). So I thought she could help.
She did help. For 24-48 hours after I would see her, I would feel BETTER. I could bear life, go to work, joke with my co-workers (who really are the greatest bunch of guys ever). But in the end the depression was stronger so I called in the big guns and found a psychiatrist. (I always read that as Pee-Sigh-Kye-A-Trist — thanks Animanics)
When I called the office, the had to ask me some questions and see if I really qualified to be seen. WTF? I almost started bawling on the phone. The next day they called me back to make an appointment… two weeks later! I thought I was going to die. I didn’t think I could handle another 2 weeks.
Amazingly, the next day, the three week mark after starting the new drug, I felt better. It could have been the drug, it could have been the weight of the world lifting off my shoulders because I *was* going to do something. I don’t know. I don’t care. It was a huge relief. By no means was I “all better”, but at least I could cope.
When I finally got to the Pee-sychatrist, I told him all of the stuff going on, and he was awesome. He wasn’t the kind that says “tell me how that makes you feeeeeel”. He even encouraged me to go back to school if that’s what I wanted. He told me that if I wanted to be the nurse or doctor, that I would probably be MORE sought out because I have a background other than medicine. THAT surprised me.
Oh, yeah, and he doubled my dose of meds. This was an experiment. If I was feeling better on this med, could I feel “all better” if we doubled it? Awesomely, he just told me to double my pills instead of prescribing the higher dose single pill. That way, if I needed or wanted to, I could drop back to my old dose.
The first several weeks were pretty awful physically. My stomach hurt so badly. I really couldn’t eat much, but I was forcing some food down.
(I’ve always had an issue with food. Whenever I would go out anywhere I would think, “where can I get something to eat or drink?”. I would count the minutes between meals. I couldn’t pass a cookie or a doughnut or almost anything in the office without eating one – or more. This, of course, lead to a few extra pounds. Twenty or so. I’d been trying very hard for the last six months to lose those pounds. I weighed and measured and wrote down and counted the calories of EVERYTHING I ate. Yes even the two cheerios that fell on the counter when I was making breakfast for Alexis. I had been eating 1500 calories per day, and swimming a mile and a half every day all summer and I GAINED weight. WTF?)
All of a sudden, I wasn’t thinking about food anymore. I could actually work through lunch and not really notice. I wasn’t getting in my car and trying to figure out where the nearest coffee shop was on my way. I wasn’t looking longingly at the crap on the table at work.
I lost 10 lbs pretty quickly. (Again, knock virtual wood) I have hope that I’ll lose the other 10 and finally fit back into the 15 pairs of too small jeans or so in my closet. (I already made it into 2 and now one of them is too big)
So all of this long story is just to say that changing the meds has made me happy. I feel GOOD. I haven’t felt this way in, well, ever. I have energy, I have spirit. I have a libido! Chris and I are doing well, at least *I* think so. Sure the stress of life gets me down a bit, but being up more than down is so much different than what I have ever experienced.
I have hope.