Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two Down...

Walked yesterday, walked today. Sounds small, but we got about two feet of snow (some say) over the weekend, so I'm keeping my promise despite some unpleasant circumstances. That should be worth bonus points. So, things are still looking up.

It's a bit odd that, this time last year, I was cranking out the miles running, biking, hiking, whatever, and now I find victory in measly half-hour walks. Whatever, victory is victory.

This might be as good a time as any to talk about what depression looks like for me. I don't know why, but it seems important to get this out there... Maybe some others are suffering like I have for most of my life, not knowing what to call it.

You see, though I've seen therapists off and on over my life, I never accepted the diagnosis of depression. Why? Because I wasn't really "depressed" according to my working definition. I think this is what most people would consider the general description of depression: sad all the time. I mean, that's what the word means, right? I knew about many other symptoms, but they never fit me: suicidal thoughts, can't sleep, no/reduced self-care (such as eating), sense of hopelessness.

When I'm suffering, I'm not sad all the time. I get happy when good things happen, get sad when sad things happen, and kind of don't feel much most of the time. I take care of myself (in a way) too much by eating all I want and otherwise basically being selfish. Never had a truly suicidal thought in my head. Hopelessness? You have to care to feel hopeless, and I don't really care. With all these differences, I've always thought I don't suffer from depression because I'm not "depressed".

To sum up the basic emotional state, which I've previously described as "meh", it's a general feeling of "why bother?" Apathy. Disinterest. General laziness, it always seemed.

It's not that I thought there was a stigma to the term depression, I didn't avoid the diagnosis because I didn't want to be labeled - it just never fit. And then I learned about "atypical depression". The heavens opened, the light clicked on, and I said, "Oh, this is it." The label didn't matter, it was just that I could (finally) see that my symptoms do, indeed, fit the pattern of depression. It's just not what many people (or I) ever envision when we define depression.

Thirty-eight years, suffering on and off for about twenty-two of those years, and I never felt like I had a diagnosis that fit.

I know the diagnosis/label doesn't matter, but somehow it's validating. It's like passing out every time you eat certain foods and then, one day, finding out that you have diabetes. (OK, maybe that's a bad analogy, but you get the idea. Play along.) You have something that makes sense, something specific to treat, and you know how to manage it, or at least you know you'll be able to manage it eventually. It's something to hold on to, something to attack.

In this case, it's somehow easier to fight an enemy with a name.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shift in Allies and Tactics

OK, so, I went to my doctor a while ago to talk about antidepressants. My therapist, though not big into pharmaceutical solutions, agreed that it was worth a shot.

I won't go into details, but it was an ugly scene in the doctor's office. Anyone who has read this blog for a while (as if anyone is left) may remember an ugly history with this doctor. In fact, nearly every time I visit him, I later tell friends about the experience, and they invariably suggest that it may be time for a new doctor.

Well, so a couple of months ago I talk to my doctor about medication for my depression. He makes me jump through some hoops (for example, I actually have to say the phrase, "I suffer from depression," verbatim), tearing me down enough that I actually break down in his office, and he finally prescribes... the medication I didn't want. OK, better than nothing, right? For a while I thought he wasn't going to prescribe anything.

So I try it, and I get worse, or rather my emotions become flattened and dull. Despite common misconceptions, people with depression may not be always sad; I'm not. I'm just extremely "meh" most of the time, but still can have highs and lows. This medication flattened everything. To steal someone else's brilliant way of describing the problem: "I'm getting treatment for depression because I want to feel better, not because I want to feel nothing."

A few weeks later I go back to the doc and he denies that the medication could have such an effect and... he ups the dose. At this time I'm so beaten down by my doctor (yes, really, that is how I felt) that I accept this. So now I'm taking twice as much medication that I'm pretty sure is having no positive effects. (At least I do get enough emotion back that I can enjoy my favorite songs again. For a while, I wouldn't feel anything when one of those "pick me up no matter what" songs came on. Seriously. I would say/sing the words, but not feel anything. We're talking about songs that could make me happy in any situation.)

So, finally, I get my act together and see another doctor. While he describes himself and his philosophies, he makes it very clear that, though he's the person with the medical expertise, we'll always discuss various options and make joint decisions. I'm the final decision-maker unless it's blatantly dangerous or just plain "bad medicine".

ZOMG. Seriously?

I can even print something out that I found on the internet and we can discuss it.

Really? I don't have to be embarrassed and apologetic about researching my own condition?

If I want a second opinion, he's not threatened at all and I can just ask.

Hmm... I was actually too intimidated to ask my (previous) doctor about this. I made this appointment "behind his back".

When I told him about my flattened emotions on my current medication, he nodded as if to say, "Yes, that's a problem I've heard before, and it's not even that uncommon." (My old doctor denied flat out that this medication could have this result.)

Seriously, I sat there stunned, feeling like I was finding an escape from an abusive relationship. How did I let myself deal with such a jerk of a doctor for so long?

Yes, this new doctor is now my doctor.

The icing on the cake? When I called my previous doctor to cancel an upcoming appointment and the receptionist wanted to reschedule, I responded, "Actually, I'm going to try a different doctor for a while." Her surprising response, especially because I have always liked his receptionist: "Ok, but if you change your mind, Dr. XXXXX will decide whether or not he'll accept you back."

You know what? That cinches it, doesn't it? Don't worry, I don't think he'll be faced with the threat of my return.

So: A new doctor. New meds. And two prescriptions I hadn't counted on but certainly can't argue with. The first: drink more water. The second: We made an agreement that I would walk for a half hour every day for a week. Starting Monday.

We even shook on it.

My mood is already looking up.

(Image borrowed from Farther Off the Wall.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Daily Homework

No, I'm still not back. Yet. But I do have an assignment for myself: Watch this video every day for the next week. Seriously, what a video.

Human Chain from NikeSportswear on Vimeo.

(via KanYeUniverseCity)