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.

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