Wednesday, July 27, 2016

From Science Experiment to Stability

Two years ago, my primary care provider came to the conclusion that he could no longer treat my depression.  He had changed my meds a couple of times over the years, but the cloud just wouldn’t lift and the tears were always at the ready.  So he referred me to a psychiatrist.

After talking for 30 minutes, I felt a real connection with the psychiatrist.  I felt she was really listening to me and could almost finish my sentences.  She determined that I should be treated for Bipolar II instead of Depression.  I was unfamiliar with Bipolar II (not-so-high highs/low lows), but trusted her judgment.  I just wanted to feel better.  I needed to find stable again.  So, she changed my meds.

I hate med changes.  You never know what you’re going to get.  I was being weaned off my old meds and geared up on my new meds at the same time.  I didn’t know what to expect.  And let me tell you, it was by far the worst I’d ever felt.  In addition to being depressed and crying due to a relatively long depressive episode, I was fighting some pretty severe anxiety.  It was a long three months.

Mere weeks into that transition, it earned me a month off work.  I’d never been put off work before due to mental health and it scared me.  It wasn’t my idea to take time off; it was my employer’s.  I worried about whether I’d be able to go back.  First, I didn’t know if I’d even be able to.  Second, I didn’t know if they’d let me.  So on top of the depression and anxiety, I was scared.  As a single woman in her 40’s, I was the only one paying my bills and saving for my retirement.  I had to work.

It was during that month off work that I really got to know my new counselor.  He taught me several techniques for centering my mind and calming my nerves.  He was so patient with me.  Not only was he a great listener, he was completely non-judgmental.  These are things I learned to value in a counselor.  He also taught me how to talk about my emotional situation without getting upset.  This was something that I’d always struggled with.  My close friends and family could now be part of the healing process, where I’d never really been comfortable with that before.  And they were invaluable.

Over the next few months, we figured out what doses of medications I needed to be on.  I was feeling really good again, back at work, and relying on the techniques that my counselor had taught me.  I was living and surviving with my mental illness.  Things weren’t perfect and my depression would come back, but for shorter durations.  I could live with that.

Then one day I couldn’t give blood because my heart rate was too high.  I started monitoring it and realized that my heart rate was over 100 beats per minute most of the time.  It was time to go back to my primary care provider.  After discussing it with my psychiatrist, they decided it was my anti-depressant that was raising my heart rate.

So even though I was doing well emotionally, I had to go through another med change.  Again, I was scared.  I was scared that I’d have the same fits of depression and anxiety that I’d had before.  I was afraid that we wouldn’t be able to find another combination of medications that effectively treated my depression without adversely affecting my heart.  And that fear brought out the worst in my depression.

It took time and I felt like a science experiment again.  But we found it.  We found the combination of meds that kept my depression at bay.  And now, just two years after my worst bout of depression and anxiety, I’ve been seven months without a depressive episode.  This is the first time I’ve been able to say that in years.  I honestly don’t remember the last time I went seven months in a row without a depression.  And I feel blessed.  I feel healthy.  I feel good!  I know I’m not healed.  I know another bout of depression and anxiety can come about.  I know it might show itself as a manic episode or a depressive episode.  I know.  But right now, I’m enjoying the stability.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

My Nails

I haven't had my nails polished since February 29th.  This is how much they've grown since that day.  That was the day of my dad's viewing, the day before his funeral.  I don't know why I haven't polished them... or at least UN-polished them.  But it's been a nice reminder to think about my dad.

I don't know that I need the reminder.  I think about him all the time.  Mom and I go walking a couple of times a week.  That walk usually takes us through the cemetery where we stop by his grave.  Or I think about him when I'm having problems with my car... the old one, not the new one.  But I thought of him when I went to buy the new car too.  He most definitely would have had some insight that would have been helpful.  Or I think about him when I hear something he would have said.  That happens more than I thought it would.

I'm sure I don't think about him as often as my mom does.  But it's amazing to me how often I think of the dead.  We had another death in the local area this week, a really good guy, younger than me.  I've thought about him often in the last few days.

My mom told me once that she read that the dead hear us say their names.  So I find myself just saying Jesse or Dad every once in awhile, just to say hi, just to let them know I'm still thinking about them.  I hope they know we still think about them.

I figure the next time I cut my nails, all of the black polish will be gone.  But I'll still have plenty of reminders of my dad.

Friday, July 1, 2016

It's all about the meds...

Okay, it may NOT be all about the meds.  But I know that my meds have a lot to do with it.

I HATE having to change meds.  You just never know what's going to happen when you have to go through a med change.  But I've been taking my current meds since early December and the timing of that (and my depression-free status) doesn't elude me.

I take Latuda 60mg.  And if you follow me on Facebook, you know I spend nearly $1,000 for this every month until I hit my deductible.  (I just changed companies so I have to start over with my deductible, but at least it's only $4,000 now, instead of $6,000.)

From WebMD
This medication is used to treat certain mental/mood disorders (such as schizophrenia, depression associated with bipolar disorder). Lurasidone helps you to think more clearly, feel less nervous, and take part in everyday life. It may also help to decrease hallucinations (hearing/seeing things that are not there). In addition, this medication may improve your mood, sleep, appetite, and energy level. Lurasidone is a psychiatric medication that belongs to the class of drugs called atypical antipsychotics. It works by helping to restore the balance of certain natural substances in the brain.

I don't have hallucinations, but this drug definitely helps me to think more clearly, feel less nervous, and take part in everyday life.  It also improves my mood, sleep, and energy level.  It's expensive, but it's working.

I also take Escitalopram 10mg.  It's a generic version of Lexapro.  This one is rather inexpensive.  I like that in a medication that works.

From WebMD
Escitalopram is used to treat depression and anxiety. It works by helping to restore the balance of a certain natural substance (serotonin) in the brain. Escitalopram belongs to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI). It may improve your energy level and feelings of well-being and decrease nervousness.

When I was taking the Latuda by itself, I was still weepy and moody.  When I was taking my anti-depressant by itself, I was still outright depressed sometimes.  But the two of them together, that's keeping me even keeled and positive, hopeful.

Six months in a row now.  Nearly seven.  I think they're working.  I'll continue to take them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Six Months

I have been depression-free for more than six months.  I had to go back and read a handful of journal entries to know when I fully came out of my last funk.  The best I could tell, that was the first week of December.  That means, more than six months has gone by without me having to endure depression.


That's HUGE for me!


And it's not like the six months have been easy.

  1. I made it through winter, which is particularly dreary and hard for many to deal with, let alone someone with depressive tendencies.
  2. I was working on a contract with a drop-dead date.  We were losing employees regularly to lay-offs or because they simply found other employment.  The pallor at the office was sometimes depressing... and I don't use that word lightly.
  3. I left that job and took another job, filled out paperwork for a security clearance (which I hate doing), and struggled getting my medical insurance turned on again.  New employer, new environment, new tasks, new boss.  New everything!
  4. And probably the worst of all, I lost my dad.


I've had a few weepy days in there, but for the most part, I've been tear-free.


Today, I feel great!  I can't imagine feeling any better emotionally.  Who knew these days could last for six months?  I'm feeling so blessed.


In reading my journal entries from before this happy six months, I came across the following:


Robin, my counselor would keep reminding me that this is just temporary.  This is just temporary.  I've been here before and have gotten out of this before.  This is just temporary.  I can survive this.  Just a little bit longer.  I need something else to focus my mind on.  Then before I know it, this will be past.  This will all be in the past.  And I can live in that happy place again.  Even if for just a little while.  A little while of good is still worth it.  This is just temporary and God still loves me and apparently needs me to get through this.  I can do this.  Just for a little while.  This is just temporary.


I remember typing that.  I remember forcing myself to regurgitate each and every word.  This is just temporary and I can do this.  I remember repeating Robin's words in my head.  And he was right.  It was just temporary.  And now I'm in a happier place.  And that place has lasted more than six months.  I have been blessed with six months of no depression.  What did I do to deserve this?


The fact is, I probably DON'T deserve to be this healthy.  But I'm going to try my best to be grateful for it every day.  Thank You, Jesus!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Just Catching Up

Fitbit:  I've decided to stop wearing my Fitbit.  Actually, I decided that a couple of weeks ago.  And I'm happy to say, I'm glad I did.  I was getting so hung up on how many steps I hit in a day.  It was a little unnerving.  I'm glad to not be tied down to that little contraption any more.  If anyone wants a Fitbit, let me know.  You're welcome to mine.

VBS:  I'm teaching music at VBS at St. John's this week.  The theme is a campout.  The theme song is Kum Ba Ya.  So I've gotten to sing that song SEVERAL times this week.  The preschoolers and kindergarteners have another song... the first and second graders have another song... and the third and fourth graders have another song.  So I really only had to learn four songs.  Dealing with so many kids in such a short period of time wears on me.  I'm just not a kid lover. Looking forward to the week being over.  Only one more night to go.

Work:  My new job is going pretty well.  I'm working on the IT budget.  Not by myself, thank God.  It's enough to keep me busy though.  I'm really happy to be back on the IT contract.  I'm also spending some time studying for my Security + certification.  It's a bit overwhelming, but it gets a little more manageable with every day that goes by.

Health Insurance/401(k) - I've been trying for a couple of weeks now to enroll in both of these with my new company.  I finally got my health insurance lined out yesterday.  I've already racked up $1,200 against my new $4,000 deductible.  I'd like to see it counted.  So I need to figure that out yet.  And I need to call about managing my 401(k).  But I'm working on it.

Mental Health -  I haven't had a depressive day since early in December.  That's six months depression free.  Six months!  My meds are definitely working.  Robin has taught me several things to keep my mind focused on being more positive and dealing with stressors better.  That's definitely working too.  Here's hoping I can go another six months!

Cats -  Mom was on vacation this week so I watched her cats this week.  So I got some feline therapy each morning and afternoon.  Yea, me!  Time spent with Barnaby and Elliott is good for me.