Wednesday, July 25, 2007

There is just nothing easy about it. Part IV

It's a bit bewildering and can be very frustrating trying to find the right medication for depression. First you have to stop denying something is wrong and get diagnosed which is a huge step. In my case, talk therapy helped with immediate issues like damaged self-esteem and all the other gifts that go along with divorce. But when the talk stopped helping, it was time for drugs. For me anyway.

My therapist was a psychologist which meant he could not prescribe drugs. He wrote a request for me to bring to my regular doctor who is an internist, asking that he prescribe an appropriate medication for someone with dysthemia. Low level, chronic, depression. My favorite description for that is "a lack of joy."

I remember sitting on the chair in the exam room that day when my doc walked in. He is an excellent doctor (driver, excellent driver, buys his underwear at K-Mart) and he is also a smart ass. A gi-normous smart ass. He asked me the usual, how was I feeling, anything new, why did I come that day, etc. I handed him the note from my therapist feeling every bit the little girl handing a note from Mommy to the teacher. No, maybe the principal. He read the note and said "I won't be anybody's prescription pad. Hop up on the table."

After taking my blood pressure and listening to my heart, thumping on my back and pushing on my belly, he finally said something else. "So. What makes you think you are depressed?" I think he was sorry he asked. I immediately burst into tears. I tried to tell him about my divorce and my husband sleeping with half the western world and how I had anxiety attacks and would get diarrhea and I could barely leave the house and I was afraid I was a bad mom and.. and.. and .. by the time I took a breath I saw my doctors face with the look a lot of men get when women cry. The - 'I will do anything if only you would stop crying!' face. That may have been the only visit to his office, ever, that he did not make a crack about his wife, tell me how brilliant his son was or give me a tip on the ponies.

I left with a prescription for Prozac. It was the drug of the moment, everyone was doing it. It was not necessarily the answer for me but it was a place to start. Unfortunately the only way to find out if a med will work for you - is to try it. And if you don't know what you should feel like, don't know what "normal" feels like - it's an arduous and sometimes very long process to find the right drug for you. I tried many many drugs, some for as long as a year, some for as short as a week or two, and when I was asked if it was helping my answer was generally close to the same thing. "I don't know. Maybe. It's hard to tell." Which I know now, for me, meant NO. Because when I did find the right medication - or actually - combination of meds - I knew it.

It was night and day for me. But first I went through going to the OB/Gyne because I was sure I was experiencing peri-menopause and was put on the pill for a while. I tried drugs that made me physically ill and some that made my mouth so dry I could not spit. I took meds that did seem to help. A little. When I found the right med it just so happened it was at the same time I was on the pill. I thought hmmm, why not find out if it is the birth control pill or the anti-depressant that is helping me. Hormones on one hand, depression on the other. I'm a nutcase on one hand, I'm a normally hormonally crazy woman on the other. Hmmm.

I went off the anti-depressant first. I realized about 2 weeks later that there was this sort of darkness creeping in. Irritability, apathy, the hopelessness was starting to envelop me. It wasn't as bad as it had been - but I recognized it. It was almost like pulling a light blanket over my head, just enough to dull the world around me and put up a barrier. I knew for a fact that the blanket over my head would become heavier and more than I wanted to bear again. I went back on the meds. A few weeks later the light started to show through again. Ah-h-h. Picture a hammock, sunshine, and drinks with umbrellas ahh-h-h-h-h.

When I say it was like day and night for me - I do not mean the change was apparent immediately. It was a gradual thing, I needed to recognize 'happy' - and learn how to not be frightened to apply the word to myself. Surprisingly, coming out of depression can be a scary experience in it's own right. Sadness may be the only thing some people remember feeling. Being happy - or knowing just what that is and how to BE it - can be a daunting task when all you have known is NOT. It doesn't happen overnight but it is so worth it. It's much easier to learn 'happy' when you don't have bad feelings dragging you down. Hope becomes something you can feel - and oh what a gift that is!

I still have days when I get in a mood, feel down or sorry for myself, but the difference is that those days don't last. Everybody has those days and they don't frighten me anymore. I wish I could say now this is what you have to do to feel better. This is the way to achieve happiness. I don't hold the key, or any keys for that matter. I just know what I went through.

As far as trying different meds and wondering how to tell if one is effective or not? My advice - give it at least four or five months if it doesn't have side effects that bother you. Then ask yourself how you feel. If your answer is "I don't know" or "okay I guess" - and not - "good!" - then move on. You should know when you feel good. You need to have faith that you will recognize 'happy' when it hits you.

Some people never need medication, and some people suffer from a much more debilitating depression than I ever have. It's a complex thing, there isn't one answer for everyone and God knows I'm not a doctor - hell - I don't even play one on TV. So that's always the first place to start. Your doctor. And if your doctor doesn't listen to you - get louder, say it again, let them know you're serious. If that doesn't work - find a new doctor.

Being happy is not over rated I'm telling you. If you think you may need to seek help - you probably do. Just like millions (and I do mean millions) of other people out there. We aren't alone. It just feels like it when you are depressed.

Nite. :)


  1. I know my mom ,who suffers from depression, doesn't even believe that she does. Several doctors have told her so but she said that she doesn't so she won't take anything for it. When I had some trouble with it back in 2001, it was around the attacks of 911 and we found out someone we knew was on flight 93. I did try to use some anti-depressants but didn't like the way that I felt on them so I went off after a few months. I did try several ones but now I do meditation and other things and it has helped me stay depression free.
    Different things work for different people so I am glad you have found the treatment that works for you.

  2. I am so glad that you pushed through and came out on top! You sound like you are doing so well today...I am sorry you had to work so hard to get to this point, but look at you now kid!

    I am inspired to keep pushing through all of the crap that is in my way to come out on top!

    Have a great day!