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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy pills

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I think my first encounter with depression happened when I was a junior in high school. No one called it "depression" then, but that's what it was. I don't recall all the details, but I do remember a succession of disappointments -- cut from the soccer team, not being selected for yearbook -- had something to do with the overwhelming sadness I felt. My parents sent me to the school counselor and I got through it.

I don't recall being especially depressed during college, though the self-medication I did at weekend fraternity parties during my freshman and senior years might have been an indication of something going on. Or that could have just been my own personal "girls gone not-quite-wild" endeavor.

My first major depression as an adult came in the form of post-partum depression after Charlie was born. It wasn't depression in the long crying jags, sort of way. It was post-partum OCD, which was characterized by what they call "intrusive thoughts" and is really not something I'm ready to write about in detail yet (yes, 15 years later), but suffice it to say, those 15 months were the darkest of my days, ever.

It was during that time that the most-wonderful-woman-in-the-world-who-quite-honestly-saved-my-life encouraged me to look at depression as a disease like diabetes. There is treatment available and it improves health and quality of life, so use it. And mostly I do.

Sometimes, though, I think "I've been doing so well, maybe I'm 'over' it." So I stop taking the antidpressant I've been on for years. And usually, I do ok...for a little while. And then my view of the world begins to change. Sometimes I get sad. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that all I want to do is stay in my bed, or once out get back in it. Mostly, I get very irritable and the world is full of idiots who don't know what they are doing.

So duh, just take the meds, right? Well, it's not actually that easy.

When I don't take the antidepressant for several weeks, or a month or longer, I feel things I don't usually feel when the drugs are managing the chemicals in my brain. I cry at situations where normal human beings would cry, when, medicated, I find tears hard to come by. I'm a little more spontaneous and free to be silly with my kids. I actually have a sex drive. (TMI?) Is it any wonder that many of the most famous artists and thinkers in history have also been classified as a little crazy?

That's where I am right now. I didn't make a conscious decision to stop taking my antidepressant. I thought it was on auto-fill at the pharmacy and I just didn't pay attention to the fact that I'd run out and hadn't gotten a call that a new prescription was ready. A week or two went by and I thought, "Hey, I'm doing pretty well. Maybe I can handle this." Then another week or two went by and people around me kept getting more and more irritating. I could hear myself being unnecessarily snappy. Mike commented that I seemed to be on edge. I do find myself tearing up with greater ease. But I am kind of enjoying the thought of being "free." I'm not paralyzed by sadness. I'm not feeling a magnetic pull to my bed. I'm not having any crazy thoughts.

So I'm here, trying to decide where to move from here. Go back to the antidepressant which has served me well and which resolves the world of so much of its idiocy (as I perceive it to be) and takes the biting edge off my anger? Or stay drug-free? If I choose Plan B, I know I'll need to employ some other techniques for dealing with it -- things like exercise, meditation, etc. (For the record, Mike is all for Plan A.)

I'm not sure why I felt compelled to write about this. Maybe that's part of the unmedicated inhibition that I'm experiencing? Maybe because I suspect others know where I'm coming from. Who knows? I guess you can just call me crazy.

10 comments:

Eternal Lizdom said...

I appreciate this post so much. I don't have experience with Depression - aside from briefly facing it last year. I did consider medication but went with the diet and exercise thing first and then lots ofs tuff changed in my life and things have been immensely better since then.

I do know that my relationships are still recovering. My home and my husband and my kids all took damage. My biggest regret is that I didn't face it and handle it sooner. But I can't focus on the regret. I just have to watch and make sure I'm making my best choices now.

You're in my prayers.

Janet Doll said...

I've been on an antidepressant since shortly after my son was diagnosed with autism. (I have a friend who jokes that when a doctor gives an autism diagnosis they need to give the mom a prescription for an antidepressant). That has been over 7 years now. I'm not even considering getting off at this stage of the game because I don't want to be a screaming maniac and I need to be able to concentrate at work. I haven't noticed the side effects that you have.

One thing you might consider is to get back on your meds while you start your life-style changes. When life is steady (what ever that means!) slowing get off the meds. Drop to 1/2 dose, then 1/2 dose every-other-day, kind of a thing.
Good luck with whatever you decide.

kimybeee said...

I started having panic attacks the day I broke my foot 9 years ago. I ended up having a crippling attack almost 5 months later and life really changed.

I have been medicated since a few months after that big attack. I realized that I suffered from anxiety my whole life. I have missed a lot of events over the years and still do if it involves travel or crowded spaces.

I would not trade my medications for anything - and I mean anything! I am very outspoken about my anxiety to let others know it isn't something to be ashamed of or to hide. I never miss a dose and I love how much better I feel and people around me are the same with their meds.

Only you can decide what is best for you and different meds are able to give you various levels of emotion to make you comfortable. Going on and off the meds is very hard chemically for your body. That is why you taper up and taper down when starting or ending the meds.

Amber Page Writes said...

Sigh. I do the same thing. For me, though, being on seems like a better idea for the moment. But I hope your experiment becomes a success!

Cherie said...

I have no advice on medication but I love the way you write friend. I am certain that sharing your struggle is helpful not just for you but countless others. Living in tension is so hard and also beautifully messy. Hang in there. *hugs*

designHER Momma said...

oh yes, I too have been there.

Crystal said...

I could have written a lot of what you've wrote here. I have been right where you are, struggling with whether or not to continue with anti-depressants. For me, the right decision was to leave them behind. Things like prayer, the dreaded diet change, and journaling have been a HUGE help for me. And I know I always have the option of going back to the meds if I need them. Just knowing that is strangely comforting for me.

I'll be praying that you are led to the right decision for you, whatever that might be. Thanks for writing this.

Michelle said...

Thank you for writing this, Amy. I think being very aware of where you are, and how you doing, and knowing you have options are all very, very good things.

dd said...

On a different topic (the subject of an earlier blog post)-
The Patriots have resigned Austin Collie

Cyndy @ Back in the Bush said...

My advice is to talk to your doc about it. Maybe try a different med or a different dose. I know that for me, when I go off the meds, I do the same thing...I feel better at first but then slowly, almost without me realizing it, things get...out of hand. Let's just leave it at that.
Good luck!