Wednesday, December 23, 2015

the drug from hell

Over the past few months I've been slowly coming off one of my medications, and it has been going very smoothly. Until it didn't...
I don't want to speak ill of any medication, but I felt compelled to share my experience honestly, because it was quite scary.
I was able to come off of two others with no problems, as I have done before with many medications, halving the dose for one week, halving it again for another week, and done. No problems.
Then I started weening off Cymbalta. I came down from 60mg to 30mg for a week. or so
After about 3 days I started noticing I was feeling nauseous but didn't make the connection.
After 5 days I said this is going fine and went down to 10 mg, and stayed on that for 3 days, then stopped.

Three days after having nothing in my system all hell broke loose. It began at night, I was lying on my couch and was feeling really anxious. Then my big toe on one foot felt cold... Which led to a full blown panic attack. Within hours my body was trembling. My nerves were firing at every turn of my head, I could feel electricity in my skin.
This went on for two more days.
I had panic attacks, tremors, nausea so bad I didn't eat for 2 days. Brain zaps. I swear could hear my eyes move. Head aches so bad I couldn't see.
 It was horrible. This led my to research withdrawal symptoms for Cymbalta, which was an eye opening experience in itself....
With the help of my doctor, we decided to go back to 40mg immediately, and start a ween SLOWLY.  I mean slowly, by 5mg at two weeks each.
This is going to take months, but I've never been more determined to get this drug out of my body.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The identity crisis coloring book

    In the last year, between the death of my father and the death of my depression,
I have become increasingly aware that I am not what I thought I was. 
Not this is a bad thing, its actually been very interesting to observe.

I have always considered myself to be very self aware,
but I didn't realize how much being depressed what part of "who I was"
It helped defined how I thought, what I chose to do, and how I chose to perceive everything around me

I feel like I am finding my identity all over again. Which feels kind of uncomfortable

I am realizing that I am not as introverted as I thought I was. I am not as self conscious as I thought I was.  I am very good at finding humor.  Much less pessimistic.  And actually quite happy.

I guess I always thought that I was using my entire mental capabilities when I thought about anything.

 I pictured it kind of like a color scale. 
 Positivity was on one side and negativity was on the other. 

When battling my depression, I would attempt to pull as many colors as possible from the positive side. 

I've now realized that there was about a half of the positivity side that was being covered the entire time.

My thoughts have a much larger range now. There are options and patterns that I never explored, they were hidden from my depression.

When you see things a certain way your entire life, you can't possibly imagine another way to do it. Which makes you think that there are no more options. You've tried them all.
It's like trying to picture a color that you've never seen before.

I think it's important to never think you've seen all there is to see, even in your head

Friday, August 21, 2015

One year of lessons.

One year ago today I had my first TMS treatment.  I will say, as any cliche one year anniversary calls for, I can't believe its been a year. 

I feel so thankful to have learned about this treatment and am truly blessed to have amazing doctors at the New England Center for Mental Health. 

Since completing the treatment back in October, I have successfully reduced my medications and can say that my clinical, biological depression has gone into remission. 

That does not mean I am in the clear. My recent work now has been a trauma based therapy, which I have great hope for now that the cloud of depression has dissipated. 

I have learned great things about myself, my disease, and my treatment over this last year. 

I'd like to share the biggest two lessons I have learned. 

     1. Biological depression is a tricky illness. I have come to believe that individuals endowed with biological depression have an amazing set of character and personality traits. Traits, that when you have depression, feel like mistakes. Burdens. Part of the illness itself.  But they are not. That is only half. 

  • emotional sensitivity
  • empathy and understanding
  • introspective
  • observent
  • creativity
they are clouded by depression. This cloud covers half of the spectrum of these traits.
It covers the positive half. 
I've found that without depression, I can finally see the positive half of these traits. 

Before, my emotional sensitivity was essentially all depression. I would respond strongly to everything that was sad. Now I have been responding to things that are happy, and a whole other range of emotions with the same intensity that I previously felt for only depressive emotions. 

Empathy is defined as "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another". Before, this trait was reserved for feeling and understand other people's pain. 
Now i believe in the ability to have the same level of understanding for other people's joy. 

To look inward at my goodness the same way we would look inward at my flaws, or try too much more often. 

To observe greatness in the world with the same frequency that we would observe tragedy. I have been able to observe myself and my emotions as well. 

My message to other depressed people is that  those "Things" about you that make you feel that depression is just the way you are; They are not symptoms. 
They are character traits.
and They are wonderful character traits when you can unlock the other half of them.

2.  Stumbles can be great. 

I've learned that taking a step back, slipping into old habits or reactions, are a wonderful way to gauge progress. 

Previously, depressed me would go X amount of days without a panic attack or a self destructive thought. When day X rolled around and I took that step back, it was a shower of guilt and disappointment. I ruined my progress, said the depressed brain.

Now, when I do have a stumble, I can see it as an opportunity to learn about myself and my progress. 

I know that sounds cheesy, but its 100% true. 
For example, the last panic attack I had happened in front of my new boyfriend, not exactly the ideal moment for anyone with mental illness. 
However, I tired to observe it rather than judged it. 

I noticed it was very brief. About 10 minutes. 

It came to a conclusion without me needing to call my father. 
I came to a conclusion by myself, through talking. 
These were all good things.
And I realized, without this slip up, stumble, or step back, whatever you want to call it, 
I might not have noticed how long its been since I've had a panic attack, or how much shorter it was, or how easy it was to come back down. 
Without it, I might have missed my own progress. 

 A great message to other people struggling with depression is to try to observe yourself. Never judge.  

I was told this so many times over my life, but I feel like it is just recently that I have actually been able to execute that mindfulness. Without judgment we are free to take what we have in any direction.
Just listen.

Anyway, I hope these two lessons might speak some comfort to other people. I know I find comfort and, most of all, optimism, for my future in my treatment.

This is a process that I believe in, and will never give up on. Thank you all for your encouragement during these incredibly taxing few years.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A small and large change.

A little over a week ago I have a follow up with my doctor out of New England Center for Mental Health.
   I was very happy to hear that about 4-6 patients have applied for the TMS program there, so     congrats and good luck to those individuals.

I also made the decision along with my doctor to see how I reacted to coming off one of my medications since my depression has been in remission for about 8 months now.

When I gave my talk about my experience with depression and TMS to about 30 people, I opened the floor to any questions.
  One of the best few questions I got were about medications.
  Someone asked me if I hadn't yet gone off medications out of fear.
  My response was no, but it did make me think.
  Weeks later I still think my honest answer was no,
                   but I understood the need behind the question.

My goal for TMS was never to be unmedicated.
My goal in my depression will never be to be unmedicated.
Medications improved my thought process and I will always advocate for them to be tried.

That being said I'm curious to how I will feel if I was to come off medications, and rely on TMS and talk therapy as my only treatments.

So far I've been 10 days at half dose, and will continue another 4 days of this before stopping completely.
I was surprised and a little disappointed to find that I felt quite anxious at about day 3, and felt this edge for about 4 days.
The good news is that I felt that anxiety reduce over the past few days.

I will wait about a full week after having no medication in my system to fully gauge how I feel.

Anyone who has been on and off medication knows how hard and intimidating this process can be. Especially for people who are prone to anxiety.
My plan is to stay calm and observant. And emotionally detached from the result.
I think it's important to not feel that being unmediated is the positive result.
If it works lovely, if not, there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Thats the idea anyway.

Monday, June 8, 2015

On this day.

I'd like to share my thoughts on loss today.
I feel very often that the english language inhibits us from proper expression at times.
Sometimes there are no words to describe a certain feeling.
but I try my best.

5 short years ago my family was effected greatly by the devastating and unexpected loss of one of our own. Ryan, at an unfair 25 years old was taken. A son, brother, cousin and friend to many.

The journey of grief is different for every situation. I find myself still angry and unsettled about his death, unlike my father's. I catch myself phrasing  my father died  but  Ryan was killed.

And unfortunately that is how I will always feel.  I feel robbed in a sense. I feel my family, especially his sister was robbed.
I feel my father's death was too soon and unexpected and possibly could have been postponed, but it is easier to swallow and accept than Ryan's, even after 5 years.

But here is what I've experienced that feels somewhat soothing. (Again, no word to describe)

     I've always somewhat disagreed that time heals pain. I felt it was improper phrasing maybe,
          that it promises too much.
    When Ryan was killed, I found that I thought about him in the form of a person.
     In my head I pictured a young man. A physical being.
     A living human that was now gone.
     What time has done is given me a new perspective.
     When I think of Ryan now he is in the form of energy.
     A bright energy that is all around.
     I see his humor.
    A large smile.

      Time hasn't made it hurt less,
           but it has given me a new form of him to appreciate and love.
      In a way, it makes me feel good.
      In a way, I feel like we have a new relationship.
      We are no longer equal bodies on the Earth,
             but I can still have a new relationship with that energy I imagine is his strong spirit.

The loss is still there, but there is a sense of something new, which helps make the pain somewhat bearable.

Monday, June 1, 2015

On the rise overtime

Its been far far too long since I've written, which is a habit I will cut.
It has been almost a year since I started my treatment of TMS and 8 months since I finished.

I gave my first talk about the treatment, which I will be posting soon.

I want to share with everyone how positive this experience has been.  I feel so happy and fulfilled. And nothing has changed.

    At the moment,   I just left my job.
                                I have very few friends in the area
                                I no longer have my brother in my house, who I miss greatly
                                My father, and core of my life, is no longer here
                                I still have yet to finish my degree

And I feel fine. I finally don't feel depressed.

I've had bad days. But that finally feel normal.
Everyone has bad days.
Chronically depressed people have bad months.
Normally, my depressive episodes were about 3 weeks to 3 months.
The most I've struggled is at night time. Mostly the thoughts are related to my father.
I feel sad and sometimes I feel angry at the situation. which is normal.

I have found myself again. Something I haven't known in years.

When you have depression for so long, you lose sight of yourself.

The question of "what is my personality and what is my depression?" has been in my head since I was a young child. 

I have found my humor again and it gets my through my sense of being alone.
I am making decisions faster.
I am enjoying social interactions.
I am enjoying dressing my body.
I am enjoying my quirks as much as I can .

My next step is to find a good therapist maybe.
I haven't been to talk therapy in a while, and although I don't feel depressed,  I feel like I have the chance to grieve in a healthy manner.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

the mid life crisis

Yesterday I had a classic "what the fuck am I doing with my life" break down, which hasn't happened in a pretty long time.

I can't even tell you what sparked it.

It was kind of a normal bad day at work.
The store was having an event and we were all given a goal for a selling amount that we were supposed to reach.
I was about $4000 below my goal given.
Not very good numbers...
The store was busy. People everywhere.
I was stuck cleaning dressing rooms and taking returns at the counter while I imagined my pay check of nearly minimum wage on my bank statement.
So I was getting frustrated and flustered, rightly so.

About half way through the day I started getting PTSD-like flashbacks, but not of a traumatic experience. 
It was all the details of the day my dad told me about his diagnosis, only it was the details of everything before that moment. 

As I stood in the middle of my sales floor I was transported back to that day in such vivid detail. 
I was standing at the top on a small hill, looking down at some strange rock structure that lives on the side of Whitcomb Ave. It was warm out. 
I had my camera with me. Trying to set up which shot I liked best. 
Matt was off to my left, watching my run up and down this stupid little hill a million times. Giddy like a little kid. 

There I was doing something I loved
It was a school project. The hardest photography class I've ever taken. 
Excited. Happy. Warm. 
My life wasn't perfect but I was healing from the precious events months before

Then the wave pulled away.
The sensory details stop in my head just as abruptly as they came.
I'm in the middle of racks of clothing. Stacks of pants in my hands. 

The voice says how the fuck did this happen? and when?

I thought about how my life was turned upside down again just about 3 hours after that happy memory. 
How that same camera has been sitting in my living room untouched for over a year. 
How finishing that class is not only unenjoyable, its impossible. 
I'm working a job that has nothing to do with my passions or what I want for my future.
I need to finish school. I need to work a job I love. I need to use a camera.
And that "just do it" attitude isn't a reality. 
And why not? 

I don't know. 

I stepped out back and called a friend. I spoke my thoughts as clearly as I could. We spoke for a while and I was grounded  enough to go back to work. 

I am still looking for a therapist to talk to. I feel like those are times where it would be beneficial to speak to a professional. 
Not that my friend didn't do an amazing job of responding, but I believe it is more healthy for both parties to but those thoughts into the hands of a professional. 

I feel like I should say something more positive to end this post but I'm not sure what to say. Today I feel better. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015

a blessing in disguise

Last Sunday was both a horrific day, but also one of the greatest days in my progress to date.

The horrific part was that I had a panic attack at work.

Some quick background information:
     I started having anxiety attacks in late elementary school and into middle school, mostly in 
     the late hours night. 
    Starting in 8th grade  and through high school they turned into panic attacks.
The difference between the two is large:
                          Anxiety is a psychological response
                          Panic is a physiological response
In the earlier years of these instances I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder. Meaning I was anxious all the time, which lead to random panic attacks. 

But the more I looked into myself and my therapy, we found that was completely wrong. 
My panic attacks were not random. 
They were all triggered. 

Finding the difference is a diagnosis of anxiety disorder and PTSD is huge. 

Gradually, I was able to work with therapists to identify my triggers and either avoid them all together, or better plan for when I couldn't. 

So back to my work story:

      I was being faced with my strongest trigger: Someone aggressively yelling at a loud volume and a long duration. 

There are two thresholds to panic attacks: physical and mental. 

I knew that I would be facing this trigger prior to it happening, to I prepared myself.
As the argument started, I focused on my breathing. I focused on my words. 
Remain calm. 
Don't engage. 
I am safe here. 
There is no real danger.
Breath in 1,2,3, Hold 1,2,3, and out 1, 2, 3...

Then I felt it. The horrific partAfter about 10 minutes I started feeling the first threshold coming. Physical
    The creeping numbness in my fingers and toes. No. Not here. Not now. Please remain calm 
    I tried to rest my hand on my hip. My entire arm was shaking now. 
    Now I can feel my skin is red. 
My blood pressure.
 My heart beat hurts. 
My chest is filling with pressure. 
My eyes welling with tears. 
Threshold reached, control is no more. 
      Something in my chest breaks, like a dam, and the air is gone. I try to breath in but my lungs are no longer under my control. My tears are no longer under my control. My legs as well. 
              I am now on the ground in a fucking puddle of pathetic embarrassment...
Between my hyperventilating gasps I say I'm sorry repeatedly to my manager while the other person leaves the room. She helps me to a seat. 

Then I realized. The greatest part. I was no longer crying. My body was still in flight or flight mode. But, I never reached the second threshold
The psychological threshold. 

I was present. 
I didn't dissociate. 
I didn't feel threatened.

I sat and talked about what just happened with my manager, a very understanding woman. I told her how having panic attacks in public is my biggest fear, especially at work. 

Once my legs were stable, I drove home. I heard my father saying he was proud of me. 
A blessing in disguise, he said. He always said that.
He was right. What a blessing. 
It proved to myself that I may not be able to beat the fight or flight response, but it was possible to conquer the negative thoughts and the dissociation. 

This might not sound like progress to many people, even might sound like a nightmare to some, but this was kind of a good day.

It can only get better from here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

as time passes

It has been roughly three month since my treatment ended, roughly one month since my last post and roughly a year since my father died.

I am sad to admit that November and December were very hard months for me.

My anxiety has shown its old ways more times than I feel is average.

     I've observed that small, insignificant things have been triggering anxiety responses like those I used to feel. Stupid things that normally wouldn't bother me are giving me overly emotional responses:
                            Boys, being called weird, having bad days at work; things that I haven't let bother me since high school.
The cycled thoughts at night begin

I'm wondering if something is triggering some sort of regression to those years where I had bad anxiety.

Many people have told me that its probably due to the time of year.
I'm not sure if I believe that I would have emotional responses due to the stress I went through last year in these past few months.
It is a possibility.

My next steps are to speak with my psychopharm about she thinks. Many people need "maintenance treatments" of TMS. We will see.

On a better note, brought back two things I truly loved and lost from my life for a while. Drawing and playing soccer. Even though they are just small activities, its probably the most I've done for myself in a while.

When people say depression makes you lose interest in things you love, that is an huge understatement.
It eliminates them. There is zero desire to do anything you love, because you aren't good enough to do it.
Both playing soccer and drawings were two of my favorite things to do and things I also shared with my father.
I'm proud of myself for taking at least those small step to include some passions in my life right now.