Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Post I've Been Putting Off

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.


heathre said...

cora - thank you so much for sharing. and i'm so happy you have found a good doc that is working WITH you and really listening. me and the ole prozac have been friends for many years now and as I've mentioned before, it was a huge struggle for me to accept that medication could really help me lead a happier, more functional life. for me, it was mainly anxiety and definitely some OCD. I still have my moments where i feel weak or shameful about the meds thing, but being able to openly talk about it - and read other people's struggles helps. I'm really proud of you cora and keep me posted. lots of love, heathre

Nanimal said...

Ahhhh, I too fought the meds. I made my family suffer over my pride (not saying you are, but I was). I got with a fantastic woman over the summer who pushed me to try a med I did not mant to be on. Lamictal. I was scared of side effects as well. At first there were some, but they have all but dissapperared and every once in a while I get a monster headache still - but man oh man, I'll take one day down and out here and there with the improvement on my actual life. I am much more present, I can step back and see things in a more realistic way. My marriage has bloomed this year. I have bloomed this year. It's been hard and I still have bad days here and there - but I bounce back. And people have bad days... I have to remember that. It doesn't happen overnight - which is the hard part. and depending on the meds - mine had to be started super duper small and them elevated over 3 months(!) to avoid side effects. I am so soooo glad I was patient. Good luck on your quest, I hope to hear in 6 months that life is grand.
Oh, and if this is helpful - for me I didn't want to be on meds because I wanted to be in control. Looking back on it - I was so NOT in control. Getting on meds has actually made me in control of me for the first time in I don't know how long.

be strong sister, ain't no shame in this. Best wishes form the midwest!

carmen said...

Cora, I know you have only met me once or twice, but I feel like I know you through Heather. I have been reading your blog since Heather started hers. This post is a gift and I give you so much credit for sharing your struggles and victories. I have my own mental health issues and have been resisting meds for so long (since after my son was born, which triggered some very scary anxiety for me). Things are better now which I attribute to a much lower level of stress because I am not working and my husband and I processing how my "moods" affect our relationship. But, I am so afraid to return to work because I am worried that I will feel like I did when I worked when Jove was young. I have decided that if I feel that bad again I will definitely see a psychiatrist. I saw a psychotherapist before, but it was only mildly helpful. best wishes for contentment and peace of mind.