I've been putting off writing this post for a while. A mixture of denial, shame and my ever constant companion, procrastination.
Here goes: a while back, a good friend forwarded this blog posting along to me and this is what I sent in response:
I too used to be on anti-depressants. I've taken Welbutrin, then went off my meds for three years, then took Zoloft, then went off for a year, then took Cymbalta, which I stopped taking this past May. I've chosen to go off my meds because I wanted to see if I was better -- I was certainly feeling so. And I chose to get back on them because I realized I could not control my condition by sheer willpower. I also went to therapy while on the meds. This time, so far, being off meds is going better. And really, it's day to day -- some days are wonderful, most days are fine and every once in a while, I think about calling a doctor and getting a new prescription. And I recently saw a counselor for a couple sessions to help point me in a healthier direction. I don't want to say I've beaten depression -- I think it will be something I deal with for the rest of my life. For me, I think it's a learned tendency. My mom suffered from depression while I was growing up, and I think I picked up a lot of her behavioral patterns, which I'm now learning to recognize, examine and change. But farther down the road, I may figure out that it's not just behavioral for me, but also brain chemistry, and I'll go gladly back on to meds.
I guess I wanted to share this, not to say that people can or should try to beat depression without medication -- that is not my message at all. I just wanted to share my story -- I think the more we can talk about our mental health issues, the easier it will be for everyone to get the treatment they need or stop treatments they feel they don't need.
After sending this e-mail, I began to wonder - am I just fooling myself? Could my life be better, less of a struggle, if I would just commit to staying on medication? If I could find a doctor willing to work with me to adjust dosage or try different meds? I know I do not want or feel I need to see a therapist full time - that part of the e-mail I am certain about it. But, I've been wondering if my habit of getting off meds is more because I feel weak to be on them. I certainly have the family history of mental illness. It's on both sides of my genetic chain and my step-dad's family had more than it's fair share.
I had an episode soon after that e-mail that told me I needed to reexamine taking medication. I also read this blog posting here (in response to the linked posting above) and decided that I needed to do take positive measures to ensure that...I'm struggling with how to say this...that I do what I can to minimize my craziness that hurts the six beings I live with. Essentially, I decided I need to get over myself so my life and the lives of those I live with are better.
So, I started seeing a psychiatrist. Our first meeting was 2 hours long, and we've met two more times for an hour each. He did a thorough intake, asking lots of questions and for clarification. He pondered. Which is exactly what I wanted. I didn't want a quick fix. I wanted to try to pinpoint what's going on and I was more than willing to be patient. He gets it and is willing to work with me. Also, he doesn't treat me like I don't know anything; his attitude is more that I am the expert on me and he is the expert on diagnosing and wants to match our two knowledges together.
This week, he came to some conclusions. He has diagnosed me as having moderate to severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and mild social phobia. We're not certain, but we both suspect that my depression is brought on by my untreated OCD. So, for not, we're not going to treat the depression (i.e., take meds specifically to treat it). He has put me on Luvox, and, due to the side-effects, I'll start taking it next week after my big work event tomorrow and Monday.
I'm relieved and excited - excited by the idea that some of my obsessive thoughts might go away (!!!) and that I have what seems like a better fitting diagnosis that depression. I'm also a little scared because some of the side-effects of the medication are worrisome - headache, nausea, diarrhea, panic attacks (!), restless leg syndrome (!), suicidal thoughts (!!!). My doctor has told me to call him if I find the side-effects worrisome. And he and I are both open to trying a different medication if Luvox proves to not be so effective or some side-effects don't go away.
So, there you have it. I feel better having shared and having it out in the open, in a way. I truly believe that our society would be a lot better off if we'd stop stigmatizing mental health issues and talk about them more openly. This is my small part.