Let’s be honest about depression.
Published in 2008.
**If there are errors in this post it is because I knew if I previewed it I’d never publish it. Deal with any errors and just take the honesty for what it is…my experience poured out for the possible benefit of others.**
It has been six months since I wrote this post. Six months.
Six months since I was handed a med that supposedly would help govern the constant tears and the ebb and flow of sadness that was slowy reaching a depth I felt I couldn’t tread.
It has been six months since I told Jeff that on most days I could not tell which I wanted more…to live or to die.
It has been six months since he said, “Let’s go see a doctor.” and took me in.
If I look back on the last couple of decades of my life I can see slowly increasing cycles of emotional undercurrents; they hid behind a smile, a joke, or laughter. When I couldn’t hide them I’d hide myself. If you asked anyone if Heather was capable of depression they’d look at you like you were mad. “Heather? The one that loves life? The goofball?! NO WAY!”
The same person that loves life can hate it.
The same person that laughs with you Friday night can be buried under their bedsheets on a Saturday morning here and there…not wanting to face a new day.
Don’t get me wrong. I am blessed. My life has been blessed by any standard I can see. I know of God’s mercy when I look at my life and I’m so very thankful. I love my husband and my children and now, I even have the pleasure of raising my children near my parents, and having family I love all around me. My life is good.
So what was wrong with me?
I was depressed.
I am depressed.
But I’m not gonna fight it with meds anymore. For one, the meds are terrifying. And? In order for them to work they will, I can see, have to be slowly increased over a period of time until I won’t be able to live without them.
Is that what I want?
Before anyone reads this as a judgment on their personal decision…
…please understand I am speaking for myself. I want to share MY EXPERIENCE. You have YOUR experience. For most of you, I don’t personally know your experience, so when you read mine, please take it as MINE.
Let me first introduce you to my history with meds. I have none. Baths have been the remedy for body aches. Showers and early bed times remedy headaches. A heating pad remedies muscle pain. Tylenol or Advil (whichever we have) is reserved for when I have to be out in the real world with my pain, but for the most part, I just don’t do “drugs” – even over the counter ones.
There is one drug I love – Alka Seltzer Cold and Flu. That stuff knocks me out when I can’t sleep and gives me the rest I need to heal.
I’m an Alka Seltzer junkie…thought you should know I love me some plop-plop*fizz-fizz.
But seriously, no recreational drugs (and I’m not just saying that because my parents read this blog – I’m 35, they’ve long since heard more than they probably wanted to know), and although I love a good margarita or two, you won’t see me staggering out of the restaurant, because one-I don’t believe in drunkeness, and two, I have a deep need to be in control. Oh, and I hate the “buzz.”
Buzz = blech.
SO…why I agreed to take a mind-altering drug to help me deal with sadness shows you how desperate I was for a solution. It also shows you how much I had forgotten about myself. I didn’t need drugs – counseling, prayer, vitamins, healthy diet, exercise, yes – definitely. An antidepressant? No.
The antidepressant that was prescribed for me was Effexor. I began with the starter pack – I believe it is 35mg and then, after a week or so, I went to 75mg. I never went above that dosage.
The immediate effects? The worst headaches I’ve ever experienced. A pain would begin in my jawline, move up and behind my ears and then pierce through to right above and around my eyes, finally circling the entire part of my skull. NO amount of Tylenol could touch this bad boy. I spent a lot of time in bed trying to sleep.
Oh, and I squinted. A lot. It hurt too bad to release the constant squinched face.
There was nausea, achyness in my jaw, and my head felt like it weighed about 50 lbs.
And then, it was gone – the headaches, that is.
So, after about 3 weeks on the meds, I FELT AMAZING. Yep, I was thinking GOOD STUFF.
It was like a new day. Oh my goodness, “Has the sun always been this bright?” I thought. Everything was touched with glitter and the days shimmered with hope and excitement.
“This is life on Effexor?” I said over and over. “WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG?”
And then, I went somewhere and forgot the Effexor.
And the headaches were so horrible that the weekend was barely manageable.
I came home and got back on track and within 3 days I was back to feeling like I had died and come to live in Utopia.
When it was good–it was that good.
The only side effect? Well, there’s no other way to say it-sex wasn’t as heightened. For everything else that just glowed, I figured that I’d be on the mountaintop sexually, but that wasn’t so. I didn’t lose the desire for sex – it was there. I did lose some of the sensitivity of the nerves in and around my vagina (great…crazy Googlers are going to arrive now) and when I asked my doctor about it he shook his head knowingly.
Apparently that numbness would likely stick around.
I’ve gotta tell you that is a side effect I didn’t want to stick around.
BUT…I have other areas that still liked to be handled and so, I figured I’d make do.
Getting off the Effexor Train
It was never my intention to be on antidepressants forever. I wanted to use them to help cope during a hard time and then, when I was ready to cope without them, get off.
Not so easy.
I noticed that some of the sadness had returned and I knew that I could increase my dosage and it would fade away (or be hidden away, it seems) but I was truly convicted that I was making the wrong decision if I did that.
I didn’t want to be medicated any more.
I felt strong (the Effexor maybe?) and wanted to fight my fight again.
My initial thoughts were that I’d make an appt. and ask for my doc to wean me off the Effexor. I knew I was on the lowest regular dosage, but I could go to the starter dose of 35mg and then go down from there, right?
My plan was ousted though when I lost track of time and the days and took my last pill right before a weekend. And you know what, I had no refills left.
I figured I’d cut my losses and go for it.
I went off.
Going cold turkey is pretty stupid for a smart girl.
So, I recognize that going cold turkey off antidepressants isn’t smart, but I wasn’t about to shell out the money for another month’s supply after 3 days of being off the things with only mild nauseau to show for it.
But the nausea turned to dry heaves.
Then the headaches.
Then the nightmares – I have had nightmares like you cannot imagine. The kind you can’t wake up from. The kind that follow you through the day and you have to pray away.
Then the night fears – waking up and just knowing you saw something out of the corner of your eye. Scooching closer to Jeff and for the first time since childhood, pulling the covers over my head to protect me. Oh yeah, because cotton sheets are like armor to the evil things that come out at night.
I have not been as productive as normal, because I have to take too many short breaks. To work for more than 2 hours straight puts me right into dry heaves; the nausea is that bad.
I’ll crawl into bed sweating and wake up shaking so hard I can’t hardly walk to the bathroom.
The other day I preset 911 on my phone because I could hardly breathe when I woke up from a short morning nap, could not stop shivering and was terrified I was gonna die and no one was gonna be around to help me. I was having a panic attack.
I have never had panic attacks.
Going off Effexor after only 6 months, on a LOW DOSAGE, is the equivalent of the first trimester of pregnancy + having the flu + hallucinations + every other bad thing you can think of…right down to weird itches.
I still feel like I’m in detox.
I am on my 8th day. It is getting a bit better. I do sleep, but it is not restful. I am working, but not the hours I could before. I have a few hours in my day that are manageable – from about 4:00 to about 8:00 I feel better than I do the other parts of the day.
I think the worst part of detox is behind me.
Short of being thrown in stocks and force fed this drug, I hope to never see it again.
IF you are considering going on it–please consider what it will take to get off it. Do some Googling. My situation is mild compared to what some experience. The side effects are absolutely terrifying.
I’m anxious to just feel normal again.
Whatever that is.