Lighter

I’m finally feeling lighter. Depression feels like a heavy weight on my chest and in my gut. It holds me down and makes it hard to move, hard to do anything. I feel perpetually drained. And it kills any interest in things other than my pets and sleep.

But the weight is lighter. A month after my last medication adjustment and after the adjustment period (read: hell), I actually have some energy, and my motivation and willingness to engage with the world is coming back.

I’m hoping this is the start of some momentum upward and out of the darkness.

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Derailed

I planned on going back to work in January. It got derailed. By medication.

It’s a bit demoralizing, to be honest. I feel like I’m finding a new normal, and then I’m suddenly slapped upside the head by my medication followed by a few punches and kicks for good measure. It laid me flat.

Side note: Anyone that thinks that medication for mental health issues is pointless, let me say this:

Why the fuck would I take medication with these horrible side-effects unless I need the meds to help me function?!

Trust me. Ultimately it’s deciding what is the of the lesser of the evils: depression? or this set of side effects?

Back to how things got derailed.

Getting it “right” in terms of medication is a process. All the available SSRIs, SNRIs, and NDRIs can react completely differently from one person to the next, or even over time for the same person. Will one work? How about a “cocktail” of 2 of the three types? The brain is a funny thing.

Did you know there are various types of depression and anxiety? It’s not a blanket one size fits all term. And those types of depression and anxiety react differently to medication. It also takes a good 6 to 8 weeks for the full effects (both intended and side effects) of the medication to appear. It can feel like a crap-shoot sometimes. And like any gambling, you win some and you lose some.

An adjustment was made by my doctor to my meds (I currently take a SSRI and a NDRI) in mid-December. Shortly after the new year began, I started having horrible insomnia. The medication that was supposed to help give me more motivation and help my energy levels was keeping my from sleeping. A common side effect. But it was doing what it was supposed to do. Just with added insomnia. The kind of insomnia where I not only was having trouble falling asleep, when I did sleep it was never for longer than 2 hours at a stretch. That’s not enough uninterrupted sleep for deep sleep, which means you’re never actually rested. Zombie state occurs. Ultimately non-functional due to lack of sleep. Not really conducive to interacting with other people or working.

So a month after the December adjustment, in mid-January, we added a SARI that was a crappy antidepressant, but fantastic at making people drowsy. Over a couple of days I actually slept more than an hour or two at a time. Yes! Victory!

Or not.

As the one week mark hit, I was having dizzy spells and nausea. The lightheaded feeling from the dizzy spells made me feel unbalanced and walking as if I was tipsy-drunk. And the nausea…two words: banana toast. My doctor said to keep at it, taking the lowest dose possible only at night. Those sensations lasted for over a week before they finally started to calm down and eventually disappear.

I think things have balanced out for awhile. Gods and goddesses I hope so. I still have a number of perpetual side effects, with dry-mouth and tinnitus being the two most noticeable. Every anti-depressant I’ve taken has given me dry-mouth. I can live with it. I’m just very well hydrated and take a water bottle with me everywhere (you should see my water bottle collection). The TapIt app is my best friend. The tinnitus is more annoying, as it’s a constant buzzing like a transformer in an electric power hub. As long as there is other noise, I can more or less ignore it. A white-noise app helps me fall asleep as it “neutralizes” the tinnitus.

So I’m starting again. I’m still scared. I know people are disappointed (my biggest fear) and probably angry or resentful that I literally disappeared for a couple of months. I can understand that and frankly, I know I’d feel the same way. All I can hope for is to learn to make better choices, interrupting my trained-over-a-lifetime patterns. Find balance in my life between responsibility and everything else. Establish boundaries. And hope that eventually people either forgive me or move on. I’m sure I’ve lost some friends/acquaintances over the past few months. I have to accept that; mourn the loss of the relationship, and let it/them go. I know it won’t be a walk in the park; I know that a lot of work will be necessary. But I can’t hide from the world. I can’t continue to be absent.

I’m going to feel the fear, acknowledge it, and then tell it to fuck off and start working at building a new normal.

Onward. And hopefully upward.

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Where I’ve been

I’ve been absent awhile. From work. From friends. From activities. From, really, life.

I needed a break. Or, rather, my body/brain decided I needed a break and they weren’t taking “no” for an answer.

If I look back, I can see the spiral for over a year. My brain tried to tell me, tried to send me messages in the form of migraines, etc. But, like always, I ignored it and just kept going.

And really, that’s both why and how I fell part. Keep going. Just buckle down and get it done. If it needs to be done I will figure out a way to do it, including teaching myself or finding a workaround, and just get things done.¬†And then I hit a wall and I literally could not keep going anymore. I collapsed.

So I’m tired. Exhausted, both mentally and physically. Worn out, worn down, drained. Weary.

I made an effort to stay connected while figuring out why I was so tired and falling apart. Only being out “intermittently.” I really tried, even if it may not have looked that way to many people. If you haven’t been there, it’s hard to explain depression/anxiety to someone.

It’s not a choice. You really just cannot do, well, anything. It’s a struggle to get out of bed to even walk the dog or eat or get some water. Add the “anxiety shakes” when you even think about leaving and going out to interact with anyone or anything and you really just freeze up and cannot do anything. You just can’t. Not won’t, but can’t.

Eventually I admitted that “intermittent” wasn’t enough. The stress of trying to find the energy to get up and go to work, interact with the world, while pretending that everything was just fine and I was doing better was too much. I couldn’t do it. So I took some time away.

I’m grateful I have the option to do that, to take time, with the support of my place of work.

Yes, I am seeing a therapist and my doctor. We’ve adjusted meds. Changed meds. Tried this cocktail of meds, this dosage, that dosage, and hey, here’s one we haven’t tried yet. Anything to help me leave my apartment and interact with more than my pets in person.

Tired. So damn tired.

When my therapist asked me to give him three words to describe “me” to him, all I could come up with was:

  • responsible
  • competent
  • reliable

I’ve been “the responsible one/child/person/student/friend” for as long as I can remember. I was “the good/positive example.” The “good influence” on others. I’ve been “adulting” for decades, and I’m only 40. My sorority and my rugby team in college nicknamed me “mom” before I could legally drink.

I took it as an affectionate nickname, but really, it wasn’t a good thing.

I got called “mom” because I was always there to get things done. Everyone knew I was responsible and would keep it together.

I’ve just kept going, doing what needed to be done, for so long I don’t know how not to. I don’t know how not to fill in the gaps. To be the helper.

And I’m tired. So tired.

I’m going back to work this week. And I’m scared. I’m scared I’ve disappointed people or that I will as I try to integrate myself back into work. That, disappointing someone, terrifies me like nothing else. But I need to be better about boundaries. And I don’t have the energy to be everyone’s helper. I still barely have the energy to get up some days.

I’m sure I will lose some friendships/relationships, that some folks will lose or have already lost their respect for me. If I haven’t disappointed someone yet, I probably will as I try to learn boundaries and how not to always be the “responsible helper.”

I’ve been warned that being public about my battle with depression will hurt me. Hurt my career, my relationships, etc. But I’m too damn tired to hide it anymore. Depression will most likely be with me in some form for the rest of my life. And being silent doesn’t help anyone. I’d rather follow the example of people like The Bloggess Jenny Lawson, Wil Wheaton, and Carrie Fisher (who will always be one of my (s)heroes) who speak out about mental illness and struggles, letting people know that they’re not alone.

Because depression lies. It tells you that you’re not good enough. That you’re in this, fighting this, alone. But you’re not. And I have to keep telling myself that. That people won’t hate me or be disappointed when I just can’t.

Depression lies.

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