Tag Archives: medication

The Brain Fight

dt_150501_depression_brain_dna_800x600.jpgThings change, whether you want them to or not. A method you use for years can slowly stop working. You may start to like slightly sour candy over sweet. The road you’ve driven down for years will suddenly have a new speed bump. How we react to the changes often leaves a mark on us as individuals. But as I’m constantly reminded change will come, whether I’m happy about it or not. Just like it has now.

I deal with major clinical depression. For a good portion of the last four or five months, it has been knocking my ass to the ground and dancing an Irish jig on my face. So I am now in the process of changing around my medications. The process of trying to wean myself off one prescription and figure out if the new one is working, I will say, is exactly as fun as you imagine it to be. I’ve encountered one drawback so far and we’re back to my previous baseline. Those of you that have personal experience with mental illness can likely relate. I went back to read some of my other blog posts, in particular the ones where I discuss my own depression. I realize that I’ve given a recap of the road to diagnosis and a brief piece about going to therapy. But what I haven’t really done is attempt to explain to you just what it feels like when this disease hits me. I’m going to try to do that. Let me emphasize that this is specific to myself, not anyone else with mental illness. The brain is complicated and we all have different battles with it. I’m going to do my best to try to describe mine.

There really isn’t any fixed situation that sets it off. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I can already tell it’s not going to be an easy day. I may go to bed when suddenly, something will hit me and then I’ll be up all night with insomnia. Or I can go days being perfectly functional and then, suddenly, I want to climb in bed and stay there for the rest of time. So if you think that I can plan ahead for a bout of depression, sorry but it doesn’t care what my plans are. It just waltzes up to my brain, punches it a few times, and say it’s in charge now.

Sometimes it shows up as exhaustion and apathy. I don’t want to get out of bed or interact with anyone. My body can be sore for no reason. I flat our just stop caring. To put it mildly, it sucks. With very few exceptions, I don’t want to be unproductive everyday. It gets boring and I have kids to take care of.  So it’s a fight with myself to get anything done and sometimes I don’t win.

Sometimes I’ll become anxious and irritable. I’m already prone to worrying and things just get intensified. I become angry for no reason and my heart can race. My mind will over-think everything. I have trouble clarifying my thoughts and stumble over words. I  have to try not to snap at everyone. This makes things more difficult when it comes to my kids. They’re too young to understand what’s going on in my head and I don’t want them to think of their dad as just an angry asshole. So I have to try to stop my depression from parenting for me.

Things have been really bad on those times when it all hits me at once. This is despair. There isn’t another word I can use for it. Full, cold despair. I have been suicidal. I do not and have not harmed myself, but it has gotten close. This is one of the reasons we are looking at a medication change. When my mind starts going to that place, I know something isn’t working. This is also why I will never let myself purchase a gun. I’m not making a political stance here. I’m pointing out that, for my own health, I think a having a gun in my home is a bad idea. If you know me outside of the internet and ever hear that I’ve bought one, consider that a HUGE red flag. Let me say again that I am currently safe. I’m not planning anything and I’m not a danger. But my mind has gone to that place. I’ve thought about how maybe my wife can do better than me and I’m ruining her life. I’ve thought about how I must be damaging my children and they’d be better off without me. Yes, I’ve shaken these thoughts off but they come back. Medication helps. Therapy helps. But the facts remain that this is something that can’t be completely cured. This is my brain. I can’t hire an Igor to transplant a new one. This is what I’ve got to work with, so I will do the work.

Interactions with other people can be a coin flip regarding my depression. They can help bring me back or make things worse. Being an introvert can make it harder, since big party situations exhaust rather than energize me. But I will tell you it’s worth making the attempt. I will try my best to reach out to others, but when most of my brain says no one wants to talk to me it makes that a struggle. I very much count on others to make an effort. In fact, I encourage all of you who know someone struggling to do the same. Reach out to them. Don’t just say you’re there for us. Come to us. I know it isn’t easy and we don’t always respond. Being the friend/spouse/child or any close relationship with a person in my situation is hard. But if you can do it you’re being an amazing person. I can’t express enough how helpful it is when friends at least try to hear you. You probably won’t understand everything. But this is not something we’re trying to use as an excuse or a way to manipulate you. We don’t want to be this way and we’re trying. We’re fighting. So don’t give up on us.

Don’t give up on me. I am 38 years old and have been dealing with this monster for longer than I knew what it was. If I could just clap my hands together and change everything I would. This would also mean I’m an all-powerful wizard, which would rock. But this isn’t my reality. My reality is depression is a part of my life that I have to deal with. And whenever I see other people lose their battle, it terrifies me. It makes me wonder how much longer I can keep this up. So I remind myself that I’m stubborn. I can fight. Mental illness may be a huge venomous snake that slithers around my mind, so I need to show it that the brain it’s picking on is a mongoose. It can’t win. I won’t let it. Claws out and we’ll go another round.

Advertisements

Being quiet

Let me be blunt. I’m writing this because I need to see it.

There has been a drop off in posts over the last few months. To those who have been consistent readers, I apologize. The reality is I have been finding it very difficult to gather my thoughts lately. Sure I can keep posting random thoughts while drinking coffee, which I enjoy doing, but my goal with this blog was to have a little more substance and include some more specific life observations. But frankly, my mind has been beating me over the head with a sack of symbolic doorknobs for a while. So I have been quiet.

It’s no secret that I deal with clinical depression. Recently, it has been winning. My weeks have had more crap days than good ones. And the part that pisses me off the most? The fact that there really isn’t a thing I can point to that has caused it. Is work stressful? Yes, but my job deals with the general public so that’s expected. Financial struggles? Yes, but this is also not new.  Neither is being worn out from lack of sleep or frustrated that my wife and I don’t get enough time together with the girls. These are all things I deal with in my everyday life so why should they have suddenly become harder to handle? So I have tried to be quiet. I go to therapy. I go to work. I take care of my kids. I behave like a goddamn adult.

There have been more days than I want where I’ve felt like falling apart. There have been days when I’ve felt like I’m failing my wife and kids. I’ve had way too many days where things are more or less going fine and I’ve still wanted to just hide pray for everything to just stop.

As of today, my doctor and therapist agreed to increase my medication. My first increase in three years. I guess that’s pretty good. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that medication doesn’t fix everything. It’s job is to help my brain get to a level where I can handle things like a regular human. I still have to make things happen. I still have to take a breath and remind myself that I will continue. To do that, certain parts of my brain need to stay quiet. That’s where medication helps. That’s where therapy helps. And this is why, every so often, I need to write posts like this. I need to see it. I also need to share it because I hope that maybe, by not being quiet, I’m helping someone else. Maybe someone who is having a hard time needs to be reminded that it’s not simple, that depression doesn’t always make sense and that is okay. Keep trying, keep fighting. There are going to be days when depression kicks your ass. It will continue to feel like depression is winning. But it doesn’t really win if you keep going.

And like I said, I needed to see this. I need to acknowledge when things are bad. Being quiet does nothing.

Back on the couch

I am going to say something that should shock no one, particularly anyone that knows me or has followed me on this site. I am not perfect. I am extremely imperfect. I more or less accept that. There. We can all move on.

Now, awhile back I wrote a piece about my experience with clinical depression. I’ve mentioned it a bit more in other posts. What I wanted to talk about now is a specific part of my, for lack of a better term, treatment. That would be therapy. Yay! One of the last things people ever want to admit they need!

Before I got the official diagnosis, I had actually already started seeing a therapist after a discussion with my regular doctor. Admitting you need help sucks. It is nothing to be ashamed of, but we get conditioned to think it should be. Much like having any kind of mental illness. So, basically we get kind of screwed. You can’t admit something is wrong and, if you do, then you can’t get help because it’s shameful. Fucked up, right? And of course my attempt was a little late in the game. I still had a breakdown, still ended up in an outpatient program, and had to admit a few things to myself. And one of those was that I needed to be in therapy AND needed to be medicated. Not one or the other. They go together. Much like the comedy stylings of Bert and Ernie.

I’ve been pretty fortunate in that I have had good experiences with therapy. I’ve been able to find people whom I can click with fairly quickly. Some people have to go through a few therapists before they find one that works for them. I’ve only had to change because of moving from one state to another. I have, however, had to stop therapy do to conflicts with jobs or a loss of insurance that would cover it. It was never something I wanted but it had to happen. And each time, I’ve noticed that things just get a little harder to manage. There have been points when I’ve needed to have weekly sessions. Then there have been times when I have been able to go weeks in between seeing my therapist. I stay on the medication and use the things I’ve learned to help myself in my day-to-day. Is it an exact process? No, and it probably never will be.

Let me say that I don’t think I’ve met a single person, mentally ill or not, who couldn’t benefit from some form of therapy. Talking does help and sometimes it isn’t an option to go to your friends or family. They are likely just too attached to the issue you’re dealing with. I’m not saying that you should never go to these people, but sometimes therapy turns in to a venting session. Friends and family have this idea of who you are and are not always ready to accept something different. A trained professional can. They can also help you find better ways to talk to the people close to you that probably never even crossed your mind. Am I making sense? Probably not, but then I am not a trained therapist. What I am is someone who very much advocates how important treating mental illness is. What I am is a guy who is happy to have a great family and might not have made it here without getting help. If anything I say removes the stigma someone has in their head when it comes to therapy or mental illness in general, then that is awesome. But if this has merely bored you, fear not. I’ll get back to talking about things like cat barf the next time a post. Everyone wins.