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.)


sukie said...

Good for you!

Karen said...

Hey, old friend. Thanks for popping in. :)

Thad said...

Hi Karen,

I am so glad to hear that you have found a Doctor who will be a partner in your health, rather than a disappointed, over bearing, controlling,(do I need some more adjectives) father figure.
At one point in my life (nearly 8 years ago) I was feeling as you were, and was prescribed Paxil. I found that within one week, I felt nothing at all. Just "flat-lined" emotionally. Like a zombie. I actually quit taking the medication altogether and never went back to that doctor.
I wouldn't recommend to anyone to completely stop taking a medication without consulting a doctor, but it worked for me. I think that if I had been taking the medication for some extended amount of time, I would not have quit cold turkey (so to speak) like that.

Anyway, I see that this post about walking every day is a few weeks old. How are you doing? Are you still walking every day? How do you feel?

Amazingly enough, I live in Reno also. My wife an I just went to the REI garage sale, and are so excited to starting walking/running. We are SOOOOO done with the gloom and cold!

Hope all is well with you.


Karen said...

Hey, Thad.

I took some time off from the walking, but then the weather just became too lovely to ignore, and I'm in a decent routine now. Don't tell my doctor (because he surely actually knows this already), but I think the sun and fresh air is doing more for me than the medication.

So I'm doing better everyday. Thanks for asking.

And: REI garage sale?!? How did I miss such a thing? I'll have to be on the lookout in the future.

Thad said...

Hi Karen!

It's it wonderful to be outside again? This little 3 week cold snap has been great for the ski hills, but awful for weekend gardening.

You can get on REI's mailing list (via website or visit to the store) and get great info about upcoming events (one of which is the garage sale).
They have all kinds of classes/events/retreats relating to outdoor enjoyment in the sierras. Many of them are actual "meet on the mountain, go hiking, have a BBQ after" type of events. Check them out!

The next REI Garage sale in Reno is June 12th, 10am to 3pm. Don't miss out!

Karen said...

Thanks, Thad. I've marked my calendar.

And, yes, the weather and fresh air has been fantastic! I was a little disappointed that spring break was this week rather than the previous week, but it's been grand nonetheless.

Really looking forward to getting back on the bike once it warms up a touch more! REI classes might be nice additions. (Still want to learn how to kayak.)