Monthly Archives: December 2013

Pills

This is something that is debated among those who struggle with depression and those who don’t.

Whether or not to take medication.

The answer depends on the person.  For some, like me, medication is necessary.  I would probably be dead without it.  I have a chemical imbalance in my brain and the only way to balance it out is with medication.

For some people, medication will make things worse.  It can cause awful side effects and actually make the mental illness worse.  I had a friend who reacted this way to any pills he tried.

What’s unfortunate is that many who are suffering from mental illness will refuse to take medication.  They believe they should get better on their own, and shouldn’t need to take anything.

This is logic I don’t understand.  If you had strep throat, would you refuse to take meds to get better?  What if you had asthma?  Would you refuse to use a puffer?

I’ve said this many times in this blog, but I’ll say it again.  Mental illness is a disease that needs to be treated.  If medication is necessary, then don’t be ashamed or too proud to take it.

Some may only need to take meds briefly.  Others, like me, will be on them for life.  That was extremely difficult for me to accept.  I hate that I will be probably be on medication my whole life.  But at the same time, I’d rather have a life than not take my meds.

One important thing I have learned over the years is not to blindly take whatever treatment doctors hand out.  There are many doctors out there who are pill pushers and will constantly keep upping the dosage if things don’t get better.

But there are also really good doctors who will take the time to work with you to find out which drug, and which dosage is most beneficial for you.  You will probably have to try a few drugs before you find what works for you.

And do your own research.  Take your doctor’s suggestions and then do some investigating on the medication being recommended. Look online, talk to a pharmacist (they are often incredibly helpful and can tell you about specific side effects), and talk to someone who is either on that drug or has been on it.

I was diagnosed with my depression at 16, and I was put on Prozac.  Yes, my deep depression went away, but so did every other feeling a person can (and should) experience.  I was a robot – nothing going on inside.

After a couple of years I switched to Celexa.  It was a better drug and it worked well for me.  But it had some unfortunate side effects including weight gain.  However, I dealt with the slight weight gain because I felt better.  And most importantly I felt emotion again.

Then I switched doctors.  My new doctor put me on Cymbalta.  I was on this drug for nearly 4 years and it really helped my depression.  But I was tired all the time.  I slept so much and constantly felt fatigued.  I would go to work late, miss social time with friends, and spend at least one full day a month sleeping all day.  But I wasn’t depressed, just tired.

Then I found out that in the US, Cymbalta is sometimes used as a sleep aide.  I basically lost 4 years of my life, 4 years of my twenties, because if this drug.  And all that time I had complained to my doctor about my fatigue and she never put the two together.  

I immediately demanded that my medication be changed.

Now I am on 2 anti-depressants, and the combination of them works really well.  Plus I have no side effects.

Another thing I have learned is to take my meds as instructed.

Missing days, trying to ween yourself from your meds, or taking yourself off meds without consulting your doctor are BAD ideas.  It doesn’t matter how good you feel – you CANNOT play doctor and make decisions like that.

If you miss days, it will affect how you respond to your medication.  I have missed the occasional day for various reasons, but more than one day is really bad news.  I once ran out of pills and failed to immediately make a doctor’s appointment for a refill so I was without my meds for almost a week.

I went through withdrawal.

It was not pleasant.

I was shaking uncontrollably, I couldn’t concentrate, and I was unbelievably irritated.

I am now very careful to take my pills as directed.

Taking medication every day an be annoying.  It’s a hassle to remember to take it with me every time I’m away for a night.

But if you need it, then take it.

And don’t give up if the first drug or dosage you try doesn’t work.  It is a bit of trial and error to find what’s right for you.  But once you get it, you’ll be glad you did.

It’s never fun starting a new medication.  When I switched to my current meds from the Cymbalta, it affected me physically for the first few days.  My stomach was a mess and I was exhausted.  But once it settled into my system and I started to feel better I was very grateful I made the switch.

Don’t be afraid to take medication if you need it.  And don’t be ashamed.  All you are doing is treating an illness.

But do ask questions when something is prescribed to you.  Stand up for yourself and your body if you don’t think a specific drug is right for you.

You are your best advocate.  No one knows your body as well as you do.

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Chains

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here.  I started writing a post a week ago, but was struggling with what I was trying to say.

But I think I know now.

Chains.  This word may bring up different images for people, but when I think of chains, I think of being locked up.  Chains are heavy, painful, and depending on how they are attached, tight.

My depression has wrapped me in chains since I was 11 years old.  Chains of fear, self-hatred, loneliness, emptiness and unbearable pain.

Over more than a decade, these chains wrapped themselves tighter and tighter around me until I could barely breathe.

I have spent the last 5+ years loosening these chains, and even breaking some.  I am catching new chains that my depression tries to choke me with before they can wrap around me.

But sometimes something unexpected happens and the chains can be flung at me and locked around me in mere seconds.  The chains can knock me down and trap me, so it is nearly impossible to get up again.

These particular chains come from an outside force, not from my illness.  They come when someone I trusted and was open with about my depression turns around and judges me for what I shared.

It is much easier to fight off the chains I am placing upon myself than the ones someone else is locking me in.  Someone who I thought was my friend, who claimed to care about me.

Someone I respected and looked up to, someone who was a leader in my community, someone I admired, someone I opened up to, shattered my heart when she used my depression against me.  She told me I couldn’t achieve certain goals, and I couldn’t do jobs that most others could do because of my disease.

And she didn’t tell me this just once.

She told me over and over by criticizing everything I did.  It didn’t matter how hard I worked, or even how good it was, it was never good enough.  Which translated to I wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t a full, capable person because I had depression and I didn’t have it under control.

Those chains hit me hard.  And as she continued to wrap them around me, I started to believe what she was saying.

So the chains tightened.

I let her convince me that having depression meant I had limitations and I couldn’t accomplish what others could.

My confidence crumbled.  I believed I would never live a ‘normal’ life.  And that broke me.

But she was wrong.

I am NOT less of a person because I struggle with depression.  I am not less capable than someone who doesn’t.

It took time, and support and encouragement from beautiful people in my life, but I am breaking through the chains she spent 2 years wrapping around me.

They are snapping daily.

And I know I will be free soon.

I pray I will never let someone have that kind of power over me again.  I will look to my Father in heaven to reassure me of my worth and value.

Because if He is for me, who can stand against me?

Hurricanes

Throughout the years many people have asked me what depression is like.  They want to know how it feels, and ask me to describe it.  I have always found it incredibly difficult to describe it to someone who has never experienced it.

If you haven’t experienced it you will never fully grasp how horrific it is.  But I will do my best to explain.

A few days ago, (I can’t remember exactly why), but I started to think about hurricanes.

Hurricanes are destructive storms that can cause unbelievable disaster, chaos and pain.  Once the hurricane passes through an area, everything goes numb at first as the destruction is observed and the shock of the trauma sets in.

Depression is like a hurricane inside the body and mind.  It charges through with an uncontrollable force, raging inside, causing unimaginable destruction to the mind and body.

The storm terrorizes a person from the inside out.  It creates a pain so deep that you feel like you will never recover.  It smashes within you over and over until your mind and body simply gives up the fight.

Once the damage is done to the soul, the hurricane moves on as quickly as it moved in.

And it leaves behind a mess.

It leaves behind fear, chaos, sadness, loneliness and hopelessness.

It leaves an emptiness so deep that you go numb both mentally and emotionally.

It is exhausting, and afterwards many people just want to give up completely.  They want to avoid ever having to go through that nightmare again.

The body and mind need time to heal.  It could be a few days, a few weeks or a few months before a person recovers from that emotional storm.

Hurricanes are a force of nature that terrify and destroy.

Depression is an illness that terrifies and destroys.

But what happens to a city or town that gets hit by hurricanes over and over again.  Can those places ever fully recover from the damage?

What happens to a soul that is hit by depression over and over again?

One of my greatest fears is being hit with depression hurricanes so many times that I eventually may not be able to recover.

But then I look back at all I have been through.  The suffering I have endured and how hard I have fought for my life.

And I know I will always recover.  I have amazing people in my life that love me and believe in me.

And I have a God who will never give up on me.  When I am too weak to fight, He will fight for me.

But I will continue to pray that the hurricanes come less frequently, for myself and others who are suffering.

Treatment

Many people dealing with mental illness fail to get adequate treatment.  This can be for many reasons including embarrassment, failure to report symptoms, lack of a diagnosis, a belief that they can get better on their own, etc.

Many don’t recognize mental illness as a disease.  Even people who suffer from it don’t realize that it is a disease that can be and should be treated.

There is a mentality that someone struggling should be able to fix it on their own.  They think they don’t need medication, counselling or a doctor.  They believe if they just try harder to be happy, things will get better.

If your doctor told you today that you had diabetes, would you try to fix it on your own?  What about cancer?  Would you refuse treatment and try to fix it yourself?

So, why do we do that with mental illness?  It is a disease just like cancer or diabetes.  It can be life-threatening if not treated.  So why do we feel we have to do it alone?

I think it has to do with our society’s view of mental illness.  People don’t see it as a sickness in need of healing.  They think it is their fault that they feel that way.  Some people believe they deserve it because of something they may have done in their life.

I used to cry out at night asking what I did to deserve this pain.  I begged for forgiveness, and promised I would be better.

But I didn’t do anything to deserve my depression.  I am not being punished for some past crime.   I am not suffering because of something I did or someone else did.

I have a disease.

It is NOT your fault that you are depressed or anxious.  It is called mental ILLNESS for a reason.  It needs to be treated.

I know there are many times during my depression when I have experienced guilt or been angry with myself because I had no reason to be depressed.  My life is good; I have food to eat, a comfortable bed to sleep in, clothes to wear, people who love me, people that I love, and I would feel guilty for being so miserable.

I took on the blame for my depression.

I can’t do that.  I can’t control my depression anymore than my dad can control the fact that he has diabetes.  He takes medication, watches what he eats, checks his sugar daily and keeps his body fit and healthy.

I do everything I can to stay healthy too.  I take medication to balance out the chemicals in my brain.  I go to counselling, I see my doctor regularly, I exercise , I eat healthy, and I am open about what I am going through.  That is my treatment for my depression.

I fight hard to stay healthy, but there are times when my depression takes over.  And that’s ok.  I have an illness that I cannot control and it is ok that I get sick now and then.

For those of you who are suffering, please stop blaming yourselves and putting pressure on yourselves to fix it.

For those of you who know someone who is suffering, don’t blame them for what they are going through.  Understand it is beyond their control and give them grace through difficult times.

And get treatment.  You can’t do it alone.  It’s a horrible disease and you can’t fix it on your own.

I have taken medication for 14 years.  I am not ashamed of that.  Without my medication, I would be dead.  I could not survive my depression without the treatment I get.

I also recommend counselling.  It is the BEST treatment!  I think everyone should go to counselling regardless of whether they have a mental illness.  It is such a healing process to have someone help you dig into the depths of your soul and discover who you are, how unique and beautiful you are.

And through that process you also learn more about your illness, your triggers, why you lack confidence, things that have hurt you, people that have hurt (many times people have hurt you more than you realize), and the more you learn, the easier it is to stay healthy.

I know what caused my depression.  It is a chemical imbalance in my brain that I was born with.  For you, it may be a traumatic event from your past, or a situation in your life right now, or, like me, an illness you were born with.

I know what can trigger my depression.  I know the time of year that it tends to get really bad.  I know eating healthy helps my body fight my depression.  I know exercise helps fight it.  I know counselling helps fight it.  I know surrounding myself with loving and supportive people helps fight it.

I know these things because I got treatment.  I accepted help from doctors, pastors, counsellors, family and friends.  And I learned about myself and my disease.

I can’t do it alone.

Neither can you.