Nearly everyone experiences depression & anxiety at some point in their lives. For some it only lasts for a short time and it goes away. Some people develop great ways to manage & cope on their own or through some kind of therapy or counseling. Other people, like myself, experience depression, PTSD, anxiety or both combined & mixed up in a mutated mashup of hormones & chemical imbalances, and it doesn’t go away. Counseling helps. Possibly some form of therapy is beneficial. Exercise and eating well enhance the journey to recovery and support of loved ones & friends is crucial. But even with all of that, for some, part of the recovery process requires even more assistance in the form of medication.
I’m one of those people. I’ve come to finally accept that even if I work the other parts of “the plan” I STILL need medication to help the part of my being that is malfunctioning function. When I first started taking them back in July 2010, I struggled & wrestled with that decision for the next 12 months. Some of my wrestling & unease stemmed from the regular stigmas that are associated with having to take medication for a mental illness. Taking meds for a physical illness is one thing-people encourage it. Take it for a malfunction of your brain & body chemistry and all of a sudden folks start looking at you out of the corner of their eyes, or sizing you up, questioning everything they thought they knew about you. All of a sudden you’re less capable of executing sound judgement & making rational decisions. Start taking meds and you become…..different. At least to some people-I’m speaking in general terms here.
My rocky road to acceptance also came from grappling with my faith about it. I tried to pray it away-the depression & anxiety. Maybe I wasn’t being “Christian” enough. Maybe I was too sinful. I quoted Philippians 4:6, “ Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” several times a day, especially when I would feel my body break out into a full sweat at the slightest trigger….Alex crying, bathtime, doctor’s appointments, phone calls with my client, Brennan being a 4yr old, driving through a busy intersection or heavy traffice….Name the trigger I was fanning it with that verse. I laid myself on the altar on Sundays, even took the “just pull yourself up by your bootstraps” approach and you know what? I kept getting worse. So I stopped fighting it and realized back in July of this year that yes, I have to take medication. I just do. And I’m finally in a place where God’s given me peace about it because I know He doesn’t have an issue with it. Do I believe God will heal me and make my life with bipolar disorder type 2 manageable? Yes, yes I do. But I believe that adding meds to the recovery & management plan is part of how He’s going to do it.
So. I take medication. I started with Zoloft….that didn’t go so well. It took away some of the sadness, but did nothing to calm the rage, irritability, anxiety, & even suicidal thoughts & ideations I was having. My mood swings were beyond severe. I was switched to an anxiety med, Lexapro. Didn’t really make a dent. By the time I took myself to the hospital in July I was afraid I was going to really end it because I was in such dire need of symptom relief.
I was put on Lamictal and given Clonezepam for immediate relief and boy was it immediate! When I saw my psychiatrist two weeks later, I felt like I was finding something that was going to work. She agreed, so I stayed on Clonezapem but was weaned off of the Lamictal, just to see how I managed. Next visit I explained that I was starting to feel edgy again and couldn’t sleep before 2am-I was cycling through hypomania. We switched to Lorazepam, added a sleeping aid, and an anti-depressant, Fluvoxamine.
The sleeping pills worked well-as long as I went to bed very shortly after I took it. A month
later, I feel like on one hand the meds are working because my moods don’t swing as much. The rage & irritability is gone. Anxiety is there,but it’s bearable. But on the other hand I’ve been VERY tired. I’ve even noticed that I either feel overwhelmed or indifferent, almost apathetic. I’ve also been feeling sad & wanting to sleep constantly. So when I talked to my psych today, we both agreed that taking the anti-anxiety med as frequently as I had been was probably too much-and that the dosage for my anti-depressant was too little. So we knocked one down a bit and boosted the other.
Yesterday a friend of mine said, “I don’t know how you do it. I wouldn’t have the patience to sit through trying different ones to see what worked.” Hearing that made me realize two things: 1) For those of us who need it, taking meds is like going shopping. Whether you’re buying clothes, shoes, a car, or a house, you often have to try on or test drive several before you find what fits, what feels comfortable. The search for the right place to call home can be a tedious and frustrating one, and it’s the same with medication. Finding the cocktail that does the hokey pokey the best with your body chemistry isn’t easy, but it takes time and necessitates some patience & commitment on your part.
Patience. Commitment. Discipline. Execution. Kindness. Forgiveness. All of these need to be a part of your thinking and habits when it comes to living with an illness that requires meds to help you function. At least that’s what I’m learning, cause I don’t know about you, but I want to function! I have a life to live man! Who has time to just exist and be overtaken by something? Life is hard enough on it’s own without our bodies getting all wacky on us. So if you’re on meds, give yourself a pat on the back, be proud, and hold your head high. Meds are just help. That’s it. Don’t we need all the help we can get in this life?
So my cocktail has been switched up again, but I’m determined to stick it out til I find what vibes best with my hormones…my brain…my body…ME. Oh and realization #2 I had? I’m so freakin proud of myself for having the patience, kindness, forgiveness, discipline & execution I have so far with this. So proud. It feels wonderful to listen to my body & to be aware of what’s going on with it. My journey to recovery & manageability isn’t perfect, but I’m still trekking along, picking up resources & nourishment along the way 🙂 Your journey to find the cocktail you need won’t be perfect either, but I just wanted to share my story to encourage you to stay the course. You can do it. I’m living proof it’s being done.