Adjustments

I started getting lost in my head again. My body wasn’t cooperating with my brain. I was slipping back to the before. The weight of days were becoming heavier and heavier. 

The doctor told me it would take about two weeks for the zoloft to even out in my system. The first few days went really well, the second week continued the upswing, the third week began to plateau exactly as expected.

Then I started feeling anxiety like I’d felt four years ago when I was first diagnosed. It wasn’t a full blow panic, but it was a persistent and rising hum of being unable to catch my breath, dizziness, chest pressure, and racing thoughts. I took half of my xanax after two days of researching whether or not it was okay to take the xanax with the zoloft (of course it is, the doctor even mentioned that in the initial appointment). I found relief from the anxiety, and the next day I spent the entire day on the couch watching netflix and barely speaking a word. I looked around at everything that needed to be done and said “Fuck it. I don’t care.” I figured I was just having an off day since things had been going mostly okay.

A few days later the anxiety was back with a vengeance, threatening a crescendo into a full blown panic. I took another half of my xanax before bed. The next day felt like I hadn’t even been on zoloft for almost a month. I waited another day to see if things would even out. I felt a little more buoyant, but still as if I was trudging through quicksand.

Time to call the doctor.

I went in yesterday with all my nervous anxiety that had returned–which was probably the only thing keeping me from sinking in the metaphorical mud, and left with a klonopin prescription and double the zoloft dose.

“How do you feel about that?” my friend Alicia asked.

“I think it makes for great ‘crazy meds’ jokes…”

I don’t know why but klonopin sounds way scarier than xanax, and I can just see the look on someone’s face when the topic of mental health comes up and I casually and self-deprecatingly toss out “Oh yeah, I’m on zoloft and klonopin.” There’s something uncomfortable and hilarious about catching someone trying to hide their immediate expression of shock that I’m on something so scary sounding or that flash of judgment, disgust, and fear…at least to me, but that could be the meds. 

Today is the first day of the double dose zoloft. It’s been a pretty good day. I feel like maybe this is what real life is supposed to feel like. Maybe I’m actually supposed to laugh at stuff and not have one single thing ruin my entire mood or send me into a giant spiral of hopelessness and frustration. I dunno, but I’m hopeful…dare I say even cheerful! Fingers crossed this is how it’s supposed to be!

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Because I’m Terrified of Judgment

I’ve moved all of my anxiety and depression posts from my personal blog to this new blog that doesn’t exactly have my real name attached to it. At least not obviously.

I know this seems disingenuous in attempting to remove the stigma and shame of identifying yourself and being open about struggling with mental illness, and I am a little ashamed of doing so, but there are a lot of things in flux at the moment, and I’m not exactly comfortable with someone googling my name and finding posting after posting about my battles with mental illness.

Because there is still a huge stigma.

And I know I’m not helping to cure that stigma, but sometimes it’s a better personal decision to not live quite as out loud as I normally do.

Once things settle down, perhaps I will go back to more public postings. For now though, this is just better for me.


 

I started a free trial of online counseling through betterhelp.com recently. I’m skeptical, but hopeful. I’ve had a few times during the course of correspondence where I feel as though I might be better at figuring out what’s wrong with me than the counselor I’m working with, but she seems helpful so far. She offered to research atypical antidepressants for me since my biggest fear about antidepressant use is the sexual side effects, so that is cool.

I have to be honest here. While I’ve been on meds for my anxiety for nearly four years, and I’ve advocated for many people to talk to their doctors about medications for their own mental issues, I am still scared to death of being on actual antidepressants.

More than anything I’m scared of the sexual side effects.

I was on depo provera for 5 years as a form of birth control and they don’t exactly tell you beforehand that depo is used as a form of chemical castration as well as a form of birth control, which means I spent a lot of time in a state of high anxiety in regards to sex.

Honestly, the lack of desire and general disdain for sex caused by the depo was the biggest issue my relationship has had in the entirety of its 15 years. And a LOT of issues can come up in that amount of time…but that is the one, looking back, that was probably the most difficult to overcome.

Since I came off the the depo and my hormones went back to normal and my husband had a vasectomy, our sex life (and ultimately our marriage) has improved considerably.

I never want to go back to a place where sex is a major cause of my anxiety.

It has been a fragile process– overcoming the societal standards of acceptable female sexuality and truly embracing my desires, as well as exploring those desires with my lover.

The thought of possibly disrupting that process sends me into a tailspin. 

Unfortunately, SSRIs have a tendency to have serious sexual side effects, so I struggle with the battle of known sexual satisfaction and the unknown variable of maybe not being depressed.

Though I’m starting to think if I can find the strength to accept happiness, it doesn’t matter what is going on chemically in my brain…the happiness won’t inhibit sexual satisfaction.


 

I’m scared.

Really scared.

I’m great at giving advice. I’m great at advocating for others. I am not great at following my own advice or being my own advocate.

I want to be, though.

I want to be great. I want to feel great…or at least not bad.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll make that call.

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Having Anxiety is Like Being Allergic to Feelings

After last weeks post describing what it is like to live inside my head with all of the anxiety, panic, and depression, I’ve of course been at high anxiety. Not because I’m afraid of the reaction of others or because there has been negative feedback (it’s mostly all been positive and supportive and “Wow, I’m glad I’m not alone!”), but because some people take it upon themselves to try and share what they think could be causing these things and how I should deal with them. This ranges from shamanistic perspectives to new-age-old-gospel advice to pray (Seriously, if someone pushes A Course in Miracles on me one more time, I will set that book on fire).

This is infuriating in the same way you are trying to tell someone something, but they aren’t listening–just waiting for their turn to speak.

I have to keep reminding myself that those attempting to engage in these discussions are usually coming from a place of compassion and a desire to understand. They want to toss out all sorts of possibilities and see what sticks enough to create a solid idea of causation, because if there is a cause for what is happening, then there must be a cure, and if they can point in the direction of that cure, they have done a humanitarian service by helping you.

Here’s the thing though, no one really knows exactly what causes your body to react with anxiety, panic, and/or depression. We know that the physiological responses exist and what they are and we know there are many external factors that can trigger or exacerbate these disorders, but there’s nothing to say “This is exactly why your brain chemicals go all haywire and your mind and body react the way they do!”

Kind of like we don’t exactly understand allergies. An allergy starts when your immune system mistakes a normally harmless substance for a dangerous invader. Imagine you have allergies, and what you are allergic to you can’t avoid coming in contact with 99% of the time. Your immune system will create a reaction that varies from possibly a constant and annoying mild itch to full on anaphylaxis.

Allergies can develop at any age. You may have eaten the same meal once a week for your entire life, then one day you have a mild reaction. It doesn’t occur to you that it could be the food you’ve always eaten. The next week the reaction is a little worse. You think “Huh, maybe this is what’s causing this reaction” and avoid it the next week. No reaction! So you stop eating it completely, but then it’s served at a family dinner; you don’t even have to eat and your face begins to swell and your throat closes.

When you say to someone “I have allergies” they understand why you have puffy eyes, sneeze, itch from hives, and take benadryl every day or carry an epi-pen.

Of course it’s easier to accept that someone has allergies since you have probably physically observed or experienced an allergic reaction, or you at least know someone with an allergy of some sort and trust their experience with their own body.


 

Anxiety, panic, and depression are similar in that sometimes it can be a single event, or a series of repeated events, often seemingly innocuous, that trigger an emotional response. The body and brain’s response is, “NOPE! NOPE! GET THAT OUT OF HERE!”

Unfortunately, you can’t avoid emotions that trigger panic, anxiety, or depression like you can avoid foods that give you hives. And even though you may never experience the same scenario or series of events that triggered the emotion that caused your panic, you will experience that emotional response again. It might be once a month, it might be every day.

It’s not the event that triggers the disorder, it’s the emotion that you experience.

You wouldn’t tell someone covered in hives to avoid taking benadryl because “it makes them a zombie” or to toss their epi-pen because “it’s better to just breathe through the experience.” So, why would you tell people suffering with general anxiety, constant panic attacks, or chronic depression to avoid helpful medications?

 

*Disclaimerthis article is in no way based in any type of science. It is a creative comparison of severe and/or chronic allergies and chronic mood disorders based on personal experience to hopefully help those who haven’t experienced mood disorders, but want to understand more about them.

 

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