Being honest with myself

I mentioned back in March that I planned to talk to my doctor about phasing out Zoloft at my upcoming physical.

When I brought it up, he was supportive…but hesitant. He acknowledged that staying on or going off this type of medication (at least in my particular situation) was/is my call, but he wanted to make sure I was contemplating the cut off for the right reasons.

“Why do you want to go off of it?”

“Because I don’t want to be on medication forever?”

“Why not? What if you need it?”

“I don’t *want* to need it.”

“But what if you do?”

“Well, I’d like to see if I do.”

He nodded, and we outlined a very conservative plan for gradually reducing my dosage–25 milligrams at a time, taking a full month to see if each reduction was successful. I walked out feeling pretty good about things.

And then I reduced my dosage and it all went to shit.

I lasted about three days before I slipped into almost a week-long period taken over by that feeling of heaviness. For me, two of the most frustrating things about depression are 1) sometimes it takes me a couple of days to realize *that’s* what’s making me want to punch everyone in the face and 2) sometimes it’s hard to tell if I’m feeling awful because of the depression or because maybe life is just being a big pain in the ass at that moment. But once I figured out what was going on, I had to acknowledge something that my doctor said to me during our appointment.

“You can’t let pride dictate this. Please be honest with yourself about whether you need this medication or not.”

So I was. That day I went back to my regular, higher dosage. And I cried a lot because I *am* prideful and I *don’t* want to need this medication. But I do–at least right now. I need to be ok with that. I’m not quite there yet, but I will be.

(For those of you facing a similar situation, I was recently sent links to this and this. Both of them left me crying and nodding and just feeling very grateful that we live in a time where depression isn’t such a hush-hush thing. People who have it can also be incredibly awesome–and the fact that they’re talking about it openly and honestly makes them even MORE awesome.)

Dearests

I know I’ve done nothing here but post videos and images and links, but it’s about all I can handle right now.

Here’s the thing: a couple days ago, I started to feel like maybe (JUST MAYBE) I was ready to start phasing out my meds. And then I immediately started to feel like I was coming unglued again. So that’s fun.

Anyway, I have a physical at the beginning of May, so I’m going to wait until then to talk about it with my doctor. Until then, I’m trying to cut myself some slack. I hope you will, too.

Thanks for your support, as always. And now I’ll leave you with this song. I’ve been listening to it a lot lately*. It is oh so sweet.

(I thought the drawings on this video were kind of adorable.)

*JR and I have also spent many a morning dancing in the kitchen to this song–maybe my most favorite song in the whole world?)

Whisper whisper

The other day I needed to call our insurance broker to answer a few questions before we submit applications to a new health insurance company. His assistant need to know the dates around JR’s kidney situation and how long I’ve been on my various medications.

(You see, Ross is a robot and basically has no medical history/ailments. And he doesn’t have enough bandwidth to hold such data.)

I got her on the phone and gave her a brief history of JR’s kidney non-issue and told her when I started back on birth control, the two of us chatting away–your typical pleasant conversation.

And then she paused. Notably.

“Ok, hun. Now I need to ask you about…you know?

“…what, exactly?”

“Your…condition.”

“My condition.”

“Your **depression**, dear.”

[VAL SMASH]

I know she was just trying to be sensitive, but I got off the phone pretty frustrated. Sure, I realize lots of people don’t feel comfortable yammering on about being depressed, but there’s no need to treat it like some deep, dark secret that must be hidden. No wonder there’s a stigma. Make people feel like lepers and they’re probably not going to want to be open about their struggles with this condition, despite the fact that it affects 19 million (as in 19,000,000) people in this country alone.

On the bright side of things, the conversation reminded me of this scene from Brighton Beach Memoirs. And it’s always nice to think about Neil Simon.

The state of my mind

We’re closing in on 6 months into Mission: Fixin’ The Sads, so I figured it was time for an update.

In short, things are really good. Sleeping can still be a bit of a challenge, but overall I feel calm and pleasant most days.

That is when I remember to take my medicine.

The things is, when I start feeling better, I tend to forget to take my medicine. You see, gone are the earlier days when I would stare at the clock, willing it to turn faster so it would be time for my next dose (yes, things were a tad desperate there for a bit).

On the days I *do* forget, by the time I remember to take it, I’m feeling…well, not so good. And by “not so good” I mean “OMG WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIIIIIIIIIE.” From there it can take a good 12 to 24 hours before I’m in good, working condition.

One the one hand, I think it’s great that I’m feeling better; that means the medicine is working and confirms my decision to go on it again.

On the other, I get really pissed off at the fact that missing just one dose completely floors me. And those days that I do forget, I live in fear of someone asking me, “Hey, did you forget to take your medicine?” Because it makes me feel like a crazy person that has to be handled. As in, “Oh look, there’s Ol’ Loony Val. She must’ve forgotten to take her crazy pills today.”

(For the record, no one has actually called me “Ol’ Loony Val.” At least not to my face. And really, I don’t mind the idea of *eventually* being called that. Like when I’m 90 or something and I’ve earned the term “loony” just from not giving a shit about what people think, rather than actually *being* loony.)

So there we are with that. I’ll go back for a follow-up some time this month. I’m excited to tell my doctor that things are good. But I’m dreading the part when he tells me that I’m going to need to stay on the medication for a good while longer…because I know he’s going to say that. Truth, what’s with you sucking so much sometimes?

Anyway, how are all your brains lately?

A talk

“Why you taking medicine, Mama?”

“Well, sometimes it’s hard for me to be happy, and I’m just taking this medicine for a little while to help me feel better.”

“Am I happy?”

“I really, really hope so.”

“I like it when you’re happy. It make me sooooo happy!”

“Same here, bud.”

(Just as an update, things are really good right now. The good days are outnumbering the bad by an incredible margin, and I’m feeling great. To those of you who have been so supportive through this, well, there are warm feelings happening in my heart area thanks to you.)

One month later

I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor today — just over four weeks since I took that initial first step to get things back on track with my brain and all. Since it was time to check in with him, I figured it was time to check in with you all, too (since the comments, emails, phone calls, and text messages I got following that post showed me that I am, in fact not alone in this).

I’m feeling good. That heavy feeling is gone, most of the time, and I feel like a fog has definitely lifted. Lower days still pop up every now and then, but overall I think I’m functioning like the rest of the world does on a regular basis. And now that I’m getting a taste of how most people react to stressful situations (and, you know, life) I’m realizing that I definitely should have gotten my little bippy into the doctor’s office much sooner. I mean, how come none of you TOLD me that you can experience something stressful and annoying and yet still function in other parts of your life without letting said experience seep into every part of your existence, thus rendering you useless and in despair?

As far as the specifics go, I’m currently taking 25mg of Zoloft, once a day — that’s half of a regular pill. I tend to be sensitive to whatever medicine I take, so my doctor wanted me to start there and move up to 50mg after a couple weeks. Well, when I did that, once 2pm came around, I was ready for a three-hour, face-slammed-into-the-pillow-drool-all-over-my-chin nap. We agree that I do need to bump up the dosage, but I’m going to try taking the pill later in the day so the sleepies coincide with when I’m going to bed. I go back in six weeks for another follow-up to see how things are going.

When I was talking things over with my doctor, going back and forth on how to time my dosage and what I can do to counteract any side effects, I interrupted him with…

“AUGH. I just HATE this. I hate having to sit here and come up with a strategy to make my brain work properly.”

Being the awesome guy that he is, my doctor looked me in the face and said, “Listen. This isn’t ‘you.’ Having this doesn’t define you. You’re just in a dip and we need to get you back out. It’s not forever. We’re starting here and then we’re going to see how it goes. You’ll get there.”

And then I proposed to him.

Just kidding.

So there you have it. One month in, doing well, with plans to be doing even better very soon. I’ll take it.

First step (reprise)

A while ago I started getting a familiar (but highly unwelcome) feeling — a feeling that I couldn’t shake no matter what I did.

For me, depression has always felt…heavy. You know those aprons they put on you at the dentist’s office when you get X-rays? It’s like wearing an entire coat made of that stuff. A coat you can’t take off. Pair that with a constant undercurrent of anxiety, and you end up with quite a mess.

Currently, I am that mess.

I’ve dealt with depression off and on since 2004. Back then it was severe enough to go on medication. I got off the medication about two years later and managed to control things fairly well through exercise and behavioral changes. When I went off the medication, my doctor told me that there was a chance I’d have to go back on it at some point in my life; depression isn’t something that really just goes away, and certain life circumstances can cause symptoms to “flare up” if you will.

When he said that to me, I nodded and said I understood. But I was convinced that I had gotten this thing under control and he would not be seeing me again (at least not for this issue).

Well. My doctor and I had a little visit yesterday. Ok, a long visit. A long visit in which I cried a lot and said things like…

“I can’t shake this off.”

“My son deserves a mother who isn’t checked out emotionally.”

and the clincher…

“I feel like I cannot take one more step without some help.”

So last night I got a new prescription filled. And to be honest, I was bummed.

No. I was pissed off.

I’m pissed off that for whatever reason, I can’t just snap out of these things. I’m pissed off that there’s something wrong with my body chemistry that sometimes prevents me from being the best version of myself. And I’m pissed off at myself for waiting so long to address the problem this time.

The plan is to keep the dosage very low for a while. I go back in a month to see how things are going. Overall, we’re hoping that I’ll just need to be on this prescription for about 6 months. By then, I should be at a point where I’ll be ready to turn to other options, like exercise, to help control this. (I would love to have been able to make exercise work this time, but when you can barely convince yourself to leave the house or talk to the people you love, you’re not exactly itching to go out for a run.)

Despite the frustration I felt yesterday, today I’m feeling better. It feels good to recognize that something is off and to do something about. It feels good to take care of myself.

I don’t know why I feel the need to share such a personal thing in this space, but here we are. Maybe because I know a lot of you can relate? Maybe because I know a lot of you are going through the same thing and need to feel like you aren’t the only one? Whatever it is, I’m thankful that you’re listening.