Major Depression · medication · Mental Health Issues · suicide

Shades of Dark

lost inside myself

It’s been a rough week. Rollercoaster time. Not sure if it is the new meds, or just me, or all the crap going on around here, or a combination of all these things, but I’ve been sliding farther and farther into the darkness. Depression is something that I’ve lived with since I was very young– the first episode that I remember was the summer after my tenth birthday. I spent as much time as I could hiding out in the spare bedroom in our house, or in the treehouse, always with a book, and finally, after a couple of weeks, I started to feel like hanging out with the other kids, and kinda snapped out of it. That was one of the shortest episodes in my memory, and one of the easiest. I just thought all this weirdness was part of “my changing body,” a phrase that had been tossed around a lot that year. If that’s what it was, well, then my body is still changing, because the weirdness, that darkness, has never completely gone away.

I’ve been on different anti-depressant meds over the year. Prozac was the first they gave me, but it made me feel as if I was wrapped up in cotton batting. I couldn’t feel anything, good or bad; there were times even my senses were dulled, as if I were under water. I told the doc I’d rather feel lousy than not feel anything, because at least then I knew I was alive. She understood that. Next we tried a very low dose of Zoloft, and I stuck with that for a while. I was never sure if it actually did anything for my depression, but I know it affected my sex drive. Eliminated it. Antidepressants are the antiviagra.  Either way, after a couple of years I stopped taking it, since I seemed to be feeling better. (This was about the same time I was taking Keppra for my seizures, and it caused such obnoxious mood swings that I was ready to give up all meds.) Two and a half years ago, after Michele passed away, and all the other stuff that was happening around that time, I began having panic attacks again, something that hadn’t happened in over ten years. And, I could feel the darkness creeping up. So back came the Zoloft, and that’s what I’ve been on ever since.

Until the last month, when, in trying to figure out a solution for my TMJ, Dr Jeff added a small dosage of Valium to the mix, I’d been taking Flexeril to ease the TMJ pain at night, since the muscle relaxant stops me from grinding my teeth so much, and Valium had the same effect. Flexeril had a couple of obnoxious side effects–Sahara strength dry mouth, and, well, I’ll be polite and call it “blockage.” So we tried something else, and it worked, as well as having none of those side effects. It did make me a little sleepier than I am normally (because I’m not tired enough as it is), and I am afraid it may have made the darkness fall a little faster.

I found myself in tears at least twice a day, and on Monday, as I curled up on my bed, trying to take a nap, I scared myself. All these years, all this darkness, and for the first time, I thought how nice it would be to go to sleep and not wake up again. I started an inventory of the various meds in my room, and realized if I took them, I could make it happen. Honestly, this both terrified, and comforted me. If you’ve never been in this place, I don’t know if you can understand, but knowing that there is something there that would take away all this pain, for good, it is an amazingly soothing thought. Fortunately, I am not that far in the dark. I called my sister, told her how I was feeling. She said she’d be home as soon as she could, and told me to take my big basket of meds out to mom in the front room, which I did. Within minutes, our niece, Shelley, was at the house, and then Jolene arrived. Shelley understands more than anyone else. We sat in my room for the next few hours, talking, crying, and eventually laughing. The dark faded from ebony to charcoal to fog.

The fog bank is still hanging over me. Depression doesn’t just go away. I’m seeing the doctor again, and will be for the first time since college, going to therapy of some sort. Get these meds adjusted. Let some light in. There is a part of me that fights the urge to sleep all day, but I am fighting. As long as I’m fighting, I know I’ll be okay. When I’ve stopped fighting, well, then darkness will truly fall.

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome · crazy · Crystal Light · epilepsy · fat · food · headaches · Internet · medication · migraine · neurology · pain · seizures · stress · triggers

There’s A Word for That?

Migraineur:

mi·grain·eur

mēgrəˈnər,ˌmīgrā-/
noun
 someone who suffers from migraine headaches.
Earlier this week, I was doing some research online, trying to see if there was a connection between the two glasses of pseudo-Crystal Light I’d been having now that the weather is warming up and the massive migraines I’d been having, when I learned some nifty things. Such as the word migraineur. Makes sense that there’s a word for people like me, but it had never occurred to me.
Reading about triggers was rather enlightening as well. I wasn’t all that surprised to learn that artificial sweeteners are a big migraine trigger, since they cause all sorts of problems. I try to avoid them, preferring natural sugar, really I do. But for some reason, every summer, I go through this diet drink frenzy where I consume Crystal Light, or the fake store brand equivalent, in all it’s many flavors. No more of that for me. I’d rather be fat than in pain. Sugar is a trigger for many people, but I have to consume a huge amount before it gives me a headache; same with caffeine. Alcohol, on the other hand, give me pain within an hour or two of my first cocktail. No big deal, since I’ve never been a big drinker. Some of the other common food triggers are chocolate, cheese (hard or fermented), processed meats, and gluten. To the best of my knowledge, none of these are triggers for me. Good thing, too, because I don’t want to give up chocolate. Life is hard enough. Other triggers include weather changes, bright lights or loud noises, perfumes, lack of sleep, stress, missing meals, dehydration, hormonal changes, and crying. Yep, one reason I avoid the cosmetics counter at department stores. Those perfume samples are killers. Same as the laundry detergent aisle in the grocery store. First I sneeze, then I get a headache. No fun.
Migraine Triggers infographic
Here’s what really came as a surprise to me, however. In an article called ‘What’s Your Strangest Migraine Symptom?’ I learned that several things that have been happening to me for years are likely migraine-related. And here, I thought I was just crazy. Or had a brain tumor.
One of these symptoms, Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, is a disorder that causes a person to believe that body parts (and in some cases their environment), are changing shape or size. For me, it usually means that I feel as if one hand is growing larger and larger, as if it’s a huge clown glove, filled with air. It never lasted very long, but felt as if it did. Once, when a migraine was so bad I had to go to the ER for treatment, this happened after they gave me the fun shot; that time, I felt as if my ears were getting bigger and bigger.
The first time I remember this happening I was eleven-years-old. I had been reading in the afternoon during summer break, and suddenly, my right thumb began to grow. It didn’t last long, or get very big, and I don’t remember if a headache followed it, but I do remember being totally freaked out. Until recently, I never told anyone about it.
When I was in junior high, I read Stephen King’s ‘The Dead Zone’ for the first time, and one thing from that book has stuck with me ever since. The neurologist asks Johnny if he ever smells anything unusual, like rotting oranges, or feces, when there is nothing there; apparently this  a sign of a brain tumor. Well, it turns out these types of sensory hallucinations are also a migraine symptom, one I’ve had often. I was pretty sure I didn’t have a brain tumor, because I’ve had my fair share of MRI’s & CT scans, thanks to the epilepsy, but thanks to Mr. King, I was always scared. Now, I don’t need to.
I do wish that one of the neurologists I’ve seen over the years had pointed some of this stuff out. I’m especially cheesed that the migraine specialist I’ve been seeing for the last year never mentioned any of this. I appreciate that there are all these online communities, but shouldn’t a doctor have said something?!
I’m sure there’s a word for how I feel.
migraine-art
idiocy · insomnia · medication · pain · RLS · stupid · Uncategorized

The Stupid Burns

Ugh.

It’s been a rough week. I went to see a new primary care doctor just over a week ago, and really liked him. He addressed the issues that the doctor I was leaving refused to look at– insomnia & RLS– and was nice on the eyes. Plus, he did not once tell me I’d sleep better if I got more exercise, or tell me I need to lose weight. He gave me some new meds, and increased the dosage on my RLS med. I was happy.

The problems began the next day. I wasn’t sure if I’d picked up a stomach bug, or if I was having a reaction to on of the meds, but I felt horrible. Stomach cramps, pain, the whole nine yards. By Thursday, I was begging my sister to kill me, but she refused, damn her.

Over the weekend, I went back to the lower dose of the RLS meds, and suddenly *** angels singing *** I was better! Last night, I took the higher dose, and this morning, I’m dying again. UGH.

So, I’ve now spent all this time being absolutely miserable for no reason whatsoever. Could have fixed it at any time. Not only am I in pain, but I’m too stupid to figure out why.

thestupiditburns

 

medication · seizures

Hearings Hell, or, Another Week In Limbo

I’ve been on Social Security Disability since 2009, and last year I was informed my benefits were being terminated. See, I’m epileptic, and have fibromyalgia, major depression and chronic migraines, but since I’d gone 18 months without a seizure, they decided I was cured! (Cue “The Hallelujah Chorus” sung by flying cherubs!) Yeah. As if something I’ve been dealing with every day of my life for THIRTY FUCKING YEARS is just gonna go away. I filed an appeal, and asked for a hearing. Tons of paperwork, four different medical exams (their doctor, their shrink, my GP, and my neurologist) later, a hearing was finally scheduled. That hearing was today.
Of course, I have a nasty cold, and go in to see the hearing guy (he told me his title, but I cannot remember it for the life of me) carrying my cough drops & hankie and smelling of Vapo Rub.
The hearings guy (HG) is a hottie, obviously former military, still got that hair cut, and tall!! Big shiny gold wedding ring on his finger tells me someone else thinks he’s hot, too. And he was compassionate, asked good questions, and really listened to the answers. Together we went through my medical records, and talked about my work history. I told him about how sometimes the pain is so bad I cannot lift a coffee cup; sometimes even wearing clothing hurts. That I have a difficult time focusing or remembering, will find myself standing in a room with no idea why I am there. I lose track of words, much in the same way a person with dementia does, and will struggle to name something I’ve known the name of my entire life. Imagine standing in the kitchen knowing you want a donut, but being totally unable to think of that word.
The HG listened to my side, and asked my sister a few questions, and then we were done. He will have a determination for me sometime next week.
Waiting has been hell, and now I get to wait some more. All I want is a decision, one way or the other. The Limbo is a nifty dance; being in limbo, stuck in that in between space, well, that sucks.limbo

 

anti-depressant · Anyone? · breast cancer · Bubble Meds · Bubble Wrap · cancer · exercise · Fun · Major Depression · medication · Michele · money · Oprah · Scientology · stress · Tom Cruise

I’m Not Tom Cruise. I’m Taller.


A few days ago in a post titled ‘Bubble Meds, Anyone?,‘ I stated that I detest anti-depressant medications. I got several rather obnoxious comments about this (which I have been deleted, because I don’t want hate here), all telling me how evil and stupid I am to not recognize the wonders that are done by these medications. One commenter even compared me to Tom Cruise ranting on Oprah!

Let me say right now that the only similarities between Tom Cruise & I are height. And a sofa.
Anti-depressants, and medications as a whole, are a good thing. I know lots of folks whose lives are vastly improved by their blend of prescription drugs. Heck, if it weren’t for the varied anti-seizure meds I’ve been on since I was 16, I’d not be able to function. It’s quite possible that without those medications I’d be dead now. These medications save lives. I know that.
My issue with anti-depressants in the past has been simply that I’ve not yet found one that works for me. And of course, I want the quick fix. I’m not a patient person when it comes to medications–I want my pain-killers & cough syrups to work NOW!!! When the happy pills didn’t make me happy as soon as I swallowed, well, I gave up. I was young, I had time to wait for the bad feelings to go away. It wasn’t a matter of strength, so much as patience & time.
I’m not that young anymore. Many, many things have changed since the last time I had an episode of major depression. Back then I was living with my parents, I had no one depending on me for anything, my health was much better, and my stress level was lower. Now I’m living with my fiance and we are trying to start a business, my health is not good (although my seizures are controlled!), I’m in charge of a household. (Yes, I am!)
Stress, well, stress is high. My best friend, Michele, who just came through breast cancer with a smile on her face has been sick for the last few months. Two weeks ago they found Stage Four cancer in her bone marrow, the bones on her back, and a spot on her lungs. She began chemo last week. I want to be there holding her hand right now, but don’t have the money for my passport, much less a plane ticket to Toronto, where she lives. (Her mom is there, so she has help.) But can you understand why my stress level just flew up?
Anyway. My point is that I do not have anything against these medications or the people who take them. I’m not looking for a quick fix this time; I’m willing to be patient.
But if Tom Cruise shows up, telling me all I need are vitamins & exercise to fix my depression, there’s gonna be one less Scientologist in the world.
blogs · book reviews · books · exercise · fat · food · headaches · http://pastaqueen.com/blog/ · Jennette Fulda · medication · pain · skinny · topamax · weight · writing

Read This Book!

I’ve spent the last two weeks obsessed with Jennette Fulda. I began by reading an excerpt of her newest book, Chocolate and Vicodin:My Quest For Relief from the Headache that Wouldn’t Go Away, and then searched out her first book, Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir at the library. This led me to the blog she’s known for, http://pastaqueen.com/blog/. It’s been difficult to tear myself away!

Jennette, at her heaviest, weighed nearly 400 pounds, and by changing her eating habits & exercise, she lost half her body weight! I loved reading her stories of this change, partially because she’s honest, and not one bit self-righteous, but mostly because she’s just plain funny. I laughed out loud (lol) when she says “I felt confident enough to sign up for a 5K race. The former fat-girl bylaws dictate that you must run a 5K or you will be forced to gain back all the weight.” Seems that every formerly fat-girl I know is now running 5k’s and I think perhaps that’s why I’m still fat. I don’t want to run.

Jennette’s second book, Chocolate and Vicodin is in stores now. It’s the story of the headache that wouldn’t go away. In February 2008, she got a headache, and has been searching for a cure ever since. Chronic pain is nothing to laugh at, yet she manages to make it funny; the woman has a gift.

Now, I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet; it was just released last month, and I am too broke to purchase it. (It is on hold at the library, and my birthday is coming up, so..) I have read a couple of excerpts and the blog, and I must say, I am feeling very in sync with Jennette.

In the search of a cure for never-ending headache pain, she’s given a number of medications, and I have personal knowledge of several of these. The section of her blog that put my feelings into words is quoted below.
“To complicate things further, although the Topamax was making it easier to eat less, it was also making me stupid. It’s nicknamed “Stupamax” and “Dopamax.” It made it harder to speak right, like someone had placed the English language on the top shelf where it was just out of my reach. I could still see it, but I had to stand on my tippy toes to grab words, and even then I was just knocking them over instead of grabbing them firmly. I just felt…dumb. I found myself unable to focus as well. It put a damper on my mood. The crazy switch was turned off, but the stupid switch was turned on.”

I took Topamax for nearly 4 years, as an anti-seizure medication, and hoo-boy, do I remember that feeling. When I couldn’t find the words I wanted I used to say my brain was skipping, like a scratched record. My neurologist would test me to see how my verbal skills were, and eventually, as they deteriorated, and the Topamax wasn’t controlling the seizures, we switched meds. Right now I’m on a very low dose of it again, to help with chronic headaches (ugh), and I’m skipping every so often. But it is helping me lose weight.

Jennette Fulda writes in a real & humorous manner about things that are happening in her life. It’s feels like talking to a friend. I think this is why I’ve been unable to tear myself away from her blog archives for the last two weeks–I was getting to know my new friend! She’s smart, snarky, strong and talented. Read her books! I promise you won’t be disappointed.