Why do I write about my mental illness all the time? Because someone else out there is mentally ill and needs to know that it is ok, and that life gets better, and because many years ago at the library where I worked a coworker hung herself after work one day. I had no idea she too was struggling every single day just like I was in the depression hell hole. Possibly knowing I was feeling the same things too might have made a difference. Might have helped her make it through that roughest day. I don't know. I have a wonderful life. Really, I do. I have these trials but I also have wonderful people in my life, I am happy. I know when you are in the depths of despair from the wacky brain chemicals nothing seems happy, and it helps to know that someone else has the same problem yet they are happy... it will come, so get some help and hang on. My diagnoses are major depressive disorder, bi-polar, generalized anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. I've been in treatment for 20 years. I have family members who are bi-polar, agoraphobic and burdened with anxiety. Between us in my immediate family I think I have a lot of experience, an understanding and ability to listen, to encourage, to empathize. When I was growing up mental illness was a thing to be hidden under the rug, never spoken aloud, surely never acknowledge except in a whisper, and rarely. You know what? It is ok to talk about it. I did absolutely nothing to bring this on myself, nor did my children do anything to bring on theirs, other than to be born with this set of genes. If I had drunk myself into dead brain cells, or taken illegal drugs until I fried my brain then I would definitely be ashamed. But I did nothing to cause it. It just was in the cards I was dealt. My theory is everyone has something ..... some kind of trial in life, if not more than one. This is one of mine. When at times I thought my mental illness was just too much to bear I have often thought I would rather be mentally ill than blind. I would rather be hearing impaired than paralyzed. I may think I live in poverty but compared to every woman in a third world country I know I live like a queen. I would rather have my challenges than be a mentally and physically healthy person who is cruel or critical or abusive or dishonest. I would rather not be mentally ill, and I'd really rather not be financially challenged (the hearing loss ~ eh, not the worst thing in life) but if I have to have something I guess the Lord knew which afflictions I could bear and I ended up with the right ones for me. Anyway, now that you have an idea why I talk about it instead of sweeping it under the rug let's move on. I went to the psychiatrist today. She doubled my antidepressant. I knew she would up it. That is how it works. You start on a low dose. See if you can tolerate it. See if you have any ugly side effects. See if there is a glimmer of hope that it is doing something to balance your crazy brain chemicals. If it looks promising then you increase the dose and come back in 6 weeks. During that time you just see what happens next. Maybe it seems to be helping. Maybe something happens that shows you it is not. Maybe you start having a side effect. Which is worse, the side effect or the state you were in before you started taking it. Maybe you bump up the dose again. Maybe an additional drug will help. Maybe the additional drug adds a side effect. Maybe you just need to bump up the additional drug. Maybe you need to wean off of the drugs by lowering the dosages over a period of time and start over on a totally different one. Or a totally different combination of drugs. Try each thing for 6 weeks, 6 weeks or more for each different dosage. You can see how it can take a very.long.time to find the right combination that works for you. Then the question is --- is this enough? Am I functioning enough? Am I teetering on the edge? Am I just dangling over the depression hell hole or back a few feet? Am I as fragile as a cracked china teacup? Shall I chuck it all and try to do without drugs? Shall I spend another 36 weeks graduating up to a full dose and then weaning off another drug after it doesn't work just on the chance it might work better? There is a side effect to every single drug, more likely a long list. Can I tolerate the side effects? Are they going to kill me? Some people can do without drugs. Some people just think they can do without drugs. This year when I could no longer afford insurance I tried to go without drugs and it took a very short time for it to be obvious to everyone that I needed some medication, and soon. Boy, I am just grateful that I live in a time when there is medication to try. And am I angry that I have these trials? No. Sad? sometimes yes. Scared? sometimes, not often. Tired of it? always. The symptoms of two of my 4 problems are (the ones i experience on a pretty constant basis are in red:
A major depressive episode (DSM-IV) implies a prominent and relatively persistent (nearly every day for at least 2 weeks) depressed or dysphoric mood that usually interferes with daily functioning, and includes at least 5 of the following 9 symptoms: depressed mood, loss of interest in usual activities, significant change in weight and/or appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia, psychomotor agitation or retardation, increased fatigue, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, slowed thinking or impaired concentration, or a suicide attempt or suicidal ideation. They left out inability to make a decision and impaired judgement.Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is defined by the DSM-IV as excessive anxiety and worry, present more days than not, for at least 6 months. The excessive anxiety and worry must be difficult to control and must cause significant distress or impairment in normal functioning. It must be associated with at least 3 of the following 6 symptoms: restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating or mind going blank, irritability, muscle tension, and/or sleep disturbance. This description failed to mention the panic attack feeling of smothering, having a heart attack or the rush of adrenilin. I have a panic attack every time I go to the psychiatrist and it took 4 hours after I got home for my heart to stop feeling like it would beat out of my chest.
Throw in the problems I have with underactive thyroid, agoraphobia, an occasional spell of mania, hearing loss and I sometimes wonder how I was able to work for 20 years, raise 4 good kids by myself, or have any ability to function left at all. :) Oh, the psych. said get to a Dr...the constantly freezing, covered in goosebumps while under a pile of blankets thing I have been experiencing for 3 weeks or so means my thyroid medicine is not working. Oh joy, another dr visit in my future....but if this doubling of my antidepressant and getting my thyroid medication increased works in 6 weeks or so maybe I will be a new woman...just about the time the 2 year anniversary of when I had my breakdown and hospitalization rolls around. Please pray and stay tuned. :)