depression

I Regret Nothing…Maybe

Looking back through some old (and mostly private) posts, about three years ago, I was falling apart. Depression was worse ever, anxiety was bad, there was lots of family stuff going on, etc. — just a straight up clusterfuck. And then I made things a hundred times worse when I stopped taking my antidepressant and anxiety medicine on a whim. It makes me cringe so hard now just thinking about what a straight up mess I was.

Image result for inspiration get to where i am today

Okay, yeah, inspirational type things like that really aren’t me.

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If I were going to do an inspirational type thing, it’d be something along the lines of, “Yay, you’re less of a fuck up than you were a few years ago. Go, you.” (And now I really want to make that and post it in the comments section of the next person who posts one of those memes. Oh hell, I’ll do it.)

It’s been about a year since I saw my therapist. And in the year range since I wrote anything about my own mental health. And I never dance around those issues with my friends anymore, either. (I say “dance around” because those conversations were very limited and vague.) After spilling my guts the other ways for the better part of three years, it’s been weird not saying anything and kinda losing touch with myself, if you know what I mean. I went from being very in tune with my feelings, moods, etc. to, well, not. 

That kinda bit me in the ass a little, too.

A few months ago, I started having some heart palpitations. A few times per hour, I was having palpitations. Since the only other time I have had heart palpitations is when I was having an awful anxiety/panic attack, I assumed that my heart was about to kick it.

Husband: “It’s anxiety.” 

After waiting for my heart to kick it for a week, I went to the doctor.

New doctor: “Sounds like anxiety.” 

Me: I don’t think so…

<refers me to cardiologist, palpitations worsen>

Cardiologist: “I really think this is due to anxiety, but I’ll do an ECG.” 

That turned out fine, of course, but I still didn’t think it was anxiety. I figured that as someone who has dealt with anxiety pretty much forever, that I would know if anxiety were the culprit. I mean, yes, I was having anxiety and very much on edge a lot, but still…that wasn’t how it typically presented in me.

Psychiatrist: “What’s new in your world?” 

I tell her about the palpitations.

Psychiatrist: “Oh yeah, that’s anxiety, it might be time for you to start back taking a daily medication again.” 

Me, in my head: IT’S NOT ANXIETY.

Me: I don’t think it is. Doesn’t seem right. 

Psychiatrist: Maybe it’s not, but let’s give this a try for a month and see what changes.

I agreed.

Within a few days, the palpitations were gone. Hmph. Being the person that I am, I skipped them for a couple of days, and lo and behold, palpitations started back. So everyone was right except for me on this one.

That definitely showed me that I’m not as on top of the anxiety (or any of the other mental health stuff) the way that I was. Maybe if I had been mood tracking (the tracker goes through a bunch of symptoms on a sliding scale to show how you’re doing with anxiety, depression, etc.), I’d have put it together on my own without wasting a few hundred bucks on having my heart checked. (Or maybe not, it’s possible that I’d have never fingered something I associate with attacks with run of the mill anxiety.) Same thing with my moods — when I’m not diligent about tracking those and being aware of triggers, it’s easy for things to go south and get super irritable. Whereas if I’m more aware, I can tap out or do whatever it is I need to do to stay right. Not so much tapping out these days.

So, I guess I should add this to my New Year’s Resolutions list — track shit, lest I go in clusterfuck mode again. I’ve got an app downloaded to my phone, plus I was gifted a nice adult coloring book/marker set for Christmas. Everyone says it’s really calming, so we’ll see. I don’t anticipate having the patience for it, but it does look pretty cool.

Really, though, I think it’s extra important to be on top of things right now. As excited as I am about getting a cochlear implant, I know the risks. I know that I might lose the rest of my hearing in the implanted ear, that the sound quality might be awful (think sensory issues), that relearning to hear just might not work out, etc. I’m willing to take those risks because the possible benefit is huge, but I know that if things don’t work out or it gets too overwhelming or whatever, that I could be prone to falling into a bad depression. I guess that’s true any day, but more so with that situation, I’d think.

So, here’s to getting in touch with my brain again, so that I avoid the cringe in future posts. Scratch that — there’s always going to be cringe with me — so I’ll shoot for avoiding batshit cringe.

Next up — time to do a catch up on the family that doesn’t involve talking about what cute/funny thing they said. As much as I enjoy doing the Dorky Mom stuff, it almost pains me at times to only show my family/myself through that one lens. That’s the nature of the content and all, but still…

Till then.

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The Struggle Is Real

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt is Struggle, so I’m going to vent a little about my mental health struggles.

I mentioned in another post that anxiety has been a bitch lately. That’s still the case. I can be doing something as simple as cooking (and normal cooking, not burn-the-house-down-with-a-grease-fire cooking) and the sirens start going off. While having anxiety is a normal thing for me, it’s still crazy how quickly I can go from being good or at least okay to wigging out in the blink of an eye. Over nothing.

Have you ever gone out on a float in the ocean and realized that you were too far from the shore before? You know that feeling of panic that completely washes over you and stilts your breathing and makes you feel like there’s a heavy weight on your chest, you’re done for and all? It goes something like that, but again, over nothing, which adds so much frustration to a sucky situation. (In case you’re wondering, no, I never got lost at sea, but before I was Anxious Mom, I was Anxious Little Girl.)

The psychiatrist I see prescribed two additional medications to take for anxiety regularly — one for during the day and one at night — but neither has helped. The nighttime one makes me not function the next day, and the kids require me to be functional, so that one’s off the table. The daytime one also makes me drowsy during the day (but not completely nonfunctional at least), but I haven’t noticed much of a difference with it, either.

The therapist and I have been trying to get to the bottom of this anxiety that seems to have no reason, but no luck there, either. After pushing me a lot last week on a topic I’ve been mostly avoiding for the past year, the only thing that did was trigger some depression to go on top of my anxiety sundae. Otherwise, I’d been doing pretty good mood-wise since restarting one of my meds. I considered asking for a session this week, but decided against it out of fear it’d just make things worse. Better to give it a chance to slack off before we pick up that conversation again than to get into it and make things go from bad to worse.

So, yeah, the struggle is real.

dwight-the-office-struggle-is-real

Well, maybe not quite that real.

On a brighter note, we go on vacation in less than two weeks, so hopefully getting to kick back by the ocean (even if the kicking back is just for a few minutes at a time, because kids) and seeing one of my good friends will do a lot to boost my mood and help me chill a little. And if not, I see the psychiatrist when I get back.

(We’re at the end now, so do I need to post a comment saying “Yo, reader who says ‘there are worse things happening, get over yourself, blah blah blah,’ don’t even bother because you’ll go straight to the trash bin again”? Oh wait, got it covered now. I hate that I have to include these little parenthetical chunks of text at the end of my posts sometimes to explain that I’m not tolerating certain shit, that I have a sarcastic and self-deprecating sense of humor, so don’t go all nuts over a joke, that….maybe I’ll just shut up now.)

I’m Okay (And I Am)

It’s been a while since I did a mental health check in post, so I’m going to do that now.

If you asked me how I am right now, I’d tell you that “I’m okay,” and actually mean it. Typically when someone asks how I am, I respond with “I’m okay” or “I’m fine,” but what that really means is “no way in hell I’m telling you anything.” This holds true even with the people who know and understand depression. Very rarely will I tell someone if things are fucking awful, and even then, it will be a seriously downplayed version of what’s going on.

But today I am okay.

My version of okay:

  • My depression has been much more manageable.
  • My daily mood swings are more stable. I still have ups and downs, but there is improvement.
  • The PTSD nightmares aren’t happening nearly as often.
  • The suicidal ideation that was…tough as hell, I guess (I’m not quite sure how to describe getting stuck with those thoughts) has been occurring less, and I’ve been able to not get stuck in those thoughts for the most part.
  • My anxiety is all over the place still, but if i compare it to my anxiety level a couple years ago (something I may address in a future post), I know it’s not quite as bad. So that’s something.

I really expected to fall apart last week. We had the anniversary of losing Baby N and my grandmother, and that always seems to fall within the early stages of a deep depression. And then an anniversary of something else bad that happened last year is coming up at the end of the month. With all of that, I figured I’d be a fucking mess at this point, but for now I’m okay.

While things had been mostly gradually improving since starting the mood stabilizers, most of this improvement has come about in the past 5-6 weeks when the psychiatrist increased my dosage of Lamictal again. I know what you’re thinking right now — it hasn’t been enough time to have a full blown depression to know whether the higher dosage has truly made an impact. If I were feeling this way during almost any other time of the year, I’d probably be more inclined to think the same and would be waiting for the other shoe to drop, but given that this is historically the worst time of year for me, I truly think we’ve finally hit a truly effective dosage.

I will see the psychiatrist in a couple of weeks and look forward to reporting this improvement. I think there’s more room for improvement, but I doubt she’ll go up on the Lamictal for now since things are manageable. She has major concerns about overmedicating patients with bipolar disorder and prefers to keep symptoms manageable rather than wipe them out completely. She told me before that she expects me to still go through depressive and hypomanic periods, but that they shouldn’t be so severe that I can’t deal. On one hand, who wants to feel depressed at all outside of the normal situational stuff, but then again, if completely medicating away the depression means I’ll also lose the good stuff, well, I don’t want that, either. (And I believe that would happen, as when I was on high doses of antidepressants, I was so numbed out that I had no desire to be creative at all. I was nearly completely devoid of feeling, until they simply stopped working and things would start going to hell.) So, I get her philosophy for sure.

Now on to therapy. The therapist would likely say the therapy is part of the lack of falling apart this month. Maybe she’d be right. We’ve been working on my feelings around these things, plus have been working through the thing that happened almost a year ago. That was the breakthrough I mentioned in my last therapy post, which has us back to weekly sessions now.

And for those sessions — they have been tough as hell. Hence my not writing about them. Well, I’ve tried, but words can be hard to come by sometimes, especially for the tough as hell things. We’ve been doing more EMDR, which led to the therapist telling me that we need to start exploring some abuse that happened when I was really young that I mostly can’t remember. I’m not entirely sure how that will work, but I would imagine that things are only going to get harder in therapy for the time being. I’m hoping I can be tough enough to deal with that and not fall apart as I did before when it came up. With the meds improving things and maybe being mentally stronger than I was several months ago, there’s a better chance at least.

TL;DR: Moods are better, therapy is getting harder.

You’re So Lucky

Whenever I talk to someone about my husband, I’m often told how lucky I am.

“He cooks? Wow, you’re lucky.”

“He helps out with the kids? You’re so lucky.”

“He changes diapers [in public restrooms]? My husband would never. You don’t know how good you’ve got it.”

Those are just a few drops in the bucket of my perceived luckiness (or otherwise good fortune), but they’re fairly representative of the type of comments I’ve gotten over the years. Many of these comments make me question the standards some women have for their husbands. I don’t think it should be considered luck that my husband changes the diapers of the child he helped create or cooks some meals, as he eats, too.

(I also wonder whether people ever think that my husband is lucky to be married to me. Probably not. If I’m letting my husband do so much to help out, then he probably got the short end of the stick in this marriage in their eyes, and they haven’t gotten past the tip of the iceberg as far as the things my husband does goes.)

But this post isn’t really about the roles husband and wife or mom and dad have in the home. Because at the end of the day (when I’m not griping about my husband’s slobbiness or attempts to give us frostbite by adjusting the thermostat), I really do feel lucky. Just not in the ways those other women think I am.

I feel lucky that I have a husband who copes with my mental illness as well as he does. Not only did he encourage me to get help when he noticed things were spiraling out of control, even though I was adamant that nothing was wrong with me, he didn’t bat an eye when the many, many labels started getting thrown at me. I was scared that he might leave me and want to find someone normal, but he told me that I was “perfectly imperfect” and that he loved me just the way I am.

I’m lucky that my husband can pick up on my mood shifts. I’m not talking so much about the big cycles (although he’s aware of those, too), but the ups and downs that I often experience throughout the day. I try not to let things show, but he can often tell by the slight edge to my voice or my sudden quietness that I need my space or need him to take over doing homework with Little Man or whatever it is that I need in order to try to get a handle on myself.

I’m lucky that I have a husband who picks up the slack when I’m depressed. While I’m not about praising my husband for doing chores around the house or running errands, I do appreciate it so much when he takes on some of my load (on top of his full-time job) when making myself get out of bed in the morning is like climbing a mountain. Does everything get done during those weeks and sometimes months? No, but he tries. (For the record I do try, too, but during those times getting one or two chores done feels more exhausting than deep cleaning the entire house.)

I’m also lucky that my husband tries to reel me in when he notices certain moods (I guess you’d call it) getting out of hand. For example, a few weeks ago, we had dinner with some friends. On the drive home, I told my husband I got a weird vibe and didn’t want to do anything with them again. He was shocked, as these are long-time friends of ours. Instead of arguing with me about it, he said it was something we could talk about later, that we didn’t have to make any decisions at the moment.

A week later, he asked if I still felt that way. I told him that I didn’t and couldn’t understand what came over me in the moment to feel so strongly, as no one did a thing the least bit offensive and were awesome as always. I guess it’s just part of the whole mood disorder thing, but the main thing was that he was looking out for me on that.

Staying with that same “reeling me in” theme, I’m lucky that he tries to divert my plots to go off my meds and quit seeing the psychiatrist and the therapist. Yes, I know I shouldn’t do this when I’m of a rational mind. Occasionally I’m not of a rational mind, though. I doubt everything, including the legitimacy of my disorders, and am convinced that all I need to do is quit everything and mentally toughen up. He makes sure that doesn’t happen, thankfully.

So, yes, I think I’m lucky to have a spouse that supports me through thick and thin. Is thinking this a bit hypocritical since I raise my eyebrows at other women when they tell me I’m lucky my husband does things? Especially since this is kinda what he promised when he said his “through sickness and in health” vows? Probably. But I still feel lucky to have someone who loves me in the way that he does.

Tabula Rasa, Medication-Style

One of my negative qualities: I’m too damn indecisive. The exception to this rule: making potentially bad decisions.

Something I’ve been back and forth over the past few months is my medication. When my Wellbutrin-Zoloft combo wasn’t working out, I wondered whether I should just stop them both to see what would happen. Sure, it was possible that they had merely stopped working, but then again, it was also possible that I didn’t need them anymore and that taking them was making things worse.

I didn’t quit them, though, and waited until I saw my doctor before making any decisions.

As anyone who has been reading this blog for at least a month knows, I then switched over to Effexor. This one had a few perks, but ultimately didn’t work out, and seemed to make certain problems even worse.

Again, the thought of just quitting the meds was in the back of my mind. But I waited, since I wasn’t sure how long it would take for any negative side effects to go away.

After the doctor told me that being on the medicine for a month shouldn’t leave me feeling more depressed and having suicidal thoughts and whatnot, I then decided to get a referral to the psychiatrist (which I’m waiting to hear from) and to play it by ear with my meds for the time being.

My options: take a whole 100 mg tablet of non-extended release Effexor once per day, twice per day, or split the tablet and take one once per day or twice per day. Plus Klonopin twice per day, to decrease my anxiety and perhaps help the Ambien regain its effectiveness. And if that doesn’t work, switch back to Wellbutrin and Zoloft while I wait.

That’s rather tricky territory, honestly. I’ve tried a few different combinations over the past week, such as [An Effexor in the AM, a Klonopin around 12AM, and the Ambien at 2AM…trying to make sure I’m good for Baby Girl’s nightly feeding]; [a half tablet of Effexor in the AM, a half tablet in the PM, then the same deal with Klonopin and Ambien]; [nothing in the morning, Effexor tablet in the evening along with a Klonopin, and then another Klonopin at midnight and the Ambien at 2AM]; and finally, [Effexor in the morning, and then another Effexor, Klonopin, and Ambien all at the same time at 2AM].

None of those combos seems to be effective, and quite frankly, I’m pretty fucking tired of playing whatever-the-hell game this would be compared to with the pills. Can you tell that I’m slightly regretting the decision to turn down the psych referral a month ago?

With that said, this week wasn’t so great as far as my mood went at times (surprise, surprise), which is really just downplaying things a bit, since I intentionally burned my arm on the oven rack yesterday, finally giving in to that particular impulsion, to see if it would make me feel better. Well, how about that, a bit of honesty and putting things bluntly.

I could just make the switch back over the Wellbutrin and Zoloft for the time being, but seeing how that lost its effectiveness, it seems to be a bit of a waste.

So, in true Anxious Mom decision-making fashion, I’ve decided not to take any medications today. I’m going cold turkey on all of it over the weekend, which is good timing since my husband will be available to watch after the kids and I can just hole myself up in my room if needed, suck it up, and see what’s what on Monday and go from there.

If I can stick it out, then when I do see the psychiatrist, he’ll be able to start with a blank slate, medication wise. And while I wait on that, I can also get an idea of whether or not the meds were making things worse, if I don’t wimp out.

Yeah, I know it’s not the best thing, but what the hell else should I do when nothing else seems to be working?

My husband knows what’s up, BTW. I tried to convince him to take the kids to the beach for the weekend, that way if I go in Hulk mode, they don’t have to be around it, but he didn’t think that was a good idea. I’ll give that one another go in the morning.