Thursday, January 6, 2011

Medicine and Confessions

Okay, so I've really been touting my feeling-good-all-the-time thing here lately. And it is true that I am enjoying better mental health than I have in years. And it's true that I'm happy. And it's true that I am loving life. And it's true that I'm reveling in it.

However, I feel like I should probably own up to the fact that I've been having some ups and down with my meds.

I've really shied away from putting this up here for a couple reasons but the biggest reason is that I really like pretending my recent stint of peace has very little to do with the medicine and everything to do with me. There's a big part of me that wants to say, "See? That depression thing was just a fluke. That's not really me or a part of who I am. I'm normal. I don't have problems." Never mind that normal is a basically undefinable (and impossible) state of being and that it would be abnormal (whatever that is) to not have any problems. It's just that there's this huge part of me that likes being able to live up to so many high expectations and doesn't want to admit that I need/have medicinal help.

Here's the situation: I take my meds (Paxil 10 mgs) every night right before I brush my teeth. Except for when I notice the bottle getting low. When I notice that there is only about a week left I start to take them maybe every other day. Then when there are no pills left I usually forget to call in the refill. I think part of this problem is because my psychiatrist will only prescribe two months of meds at a time and calling her office and asking them to fax in a refill request is a pain in the heiney. But I think it also comes down to me wishing that I didn't need medicine to be pulled together.

The first couple days off the meds I have this exhilarating feeling of freedom. Around day three I start to crave sugar--lots of sugar-- and my mood starts to cycle up and down faster. By day five vertigo sets in and I'm tired and grouchy and easily confused. So I work out the refill (which sometimes takes a few days) and start taking my meds again. Usually my irritability skyrockets those first couple days back on, but then I even out and I'm good for then next three-ish weeks.

I sort of talked about this with my psychiatrist and she made the comment that it seems like I'm using my antidepressant to manage my stress. She said it in passing but it made me panic a bit. I immediately said, "What? Oh no! Am I allowed to take this for stress management?" She looked at me quizzically and responded, "Well, I don't know what you mean by allowed." That was the end of that conversation. (My psychiatrist is not very chatty or interested in probing the depths of existential questions. She's more of a practical kind of gal.)

I think this too has something to do with my love/hate relationship with my meds. I think in my mind I feel like it's appropriate to take medication for postpartum depression. You know, that's a valid diagnosis. It's real. I'm a little more wishy-washy when it comes to taking it for run-of-the-mill, day-in-day-out depression. I mean sure that's a real condition but it's harder for me to accept it as something I have--especially when I feel so good! But taking a pill for stress management? That seems ridiculous. I find that I mentally chide myself for being too weak or dumb to handle stress without some crutch. And I berate myself for creating a stressful life. It's like my inner drill sergeant is saying, "You got yourself into this mess and now you need to get yourself out."

One thing I got out of all the time I spent in therapy a few years back was that labels are of very little use when it comes to mental health. Labels are handy for doctors and insurance companies and in general conversation, but they are not handy for individuals. When we accept labels their attendant definitions usually end up circumscribing us. The labels change how we see ourselves and who we will let ourselves be.

I was comfortable with the label of postpartum depression. I could mostly embrace regular old depression. And I thought that meant progress. But now I'm thinking it doesn't. I'm thinking the next step is learning to be okay with the fact that my mental health is an individual thing and that I am the source of acceptance. Regardless of the label my psychiatrist uses in my chart, what is important is that I have a plan that works for me. I don't need a label to tell me that the choices I am making for myself are good ones. I just need to trust myself--and take my meds.


Dianna said...

There is a lot to think about with this one. I really enjoy reading all your thoughts on these issues. I just wish I could find any medication to work for me for longer than six months.

Anonymous said...

I think it takes a very strong person to admit when they are relying on meds; when they admit that things aren't as rosey as wanted.

You are strong. You are strong for admitting this. You are strong for being a voice for women struggling with depression after PPD that can't find the strength to admit it to the world yet.

It really is so icky for your body/mind to not stay consistent with the meds, though. Naughty, naughty! Try and stay consistent. Think of it as some other illness, if you must....

Charlotte said...

So funny you should post this today - I was just having a crisis of conscience involving my meds. Yeesh. Will call you and we can chat psychoses;)

Finding Brandy said...

I am also a mormon mommy suffering with depression and other mental illness. I am happy to have found your blog. Would love any support or advice you can send my way.

Katie L. said...

Laura, great post. I really related to your "inner drill sergeant" comment. I guess I'd just say that it is certainly appropriate to take meds for whatever you need, that there's no crutch involved or shame in that. My counselor and I are considering that possibility for me right now, and though it's not my favorite thought, I'm certainly open to it if it will improve my quality of life.

Anyway, you are super. Thanks for talking about this stuff. Have a wonderful day. :-)

Ruth said...

I came over from some discussion about the "Mormon Mommy Bloggers". I have been depressed a few times in the past. What I do is live with a man who suffers from depression. He does take meds regularly and is pretty normal. I consider that he is taking care of his health and I think your last paragraph is Spot On. Each of us has one body to personally take care of and how we do it is up to us.

queensister said...

I've finally found a med that works for me (after trying 5 in the past 3 years) and I feel no guilt in taking it! I can see so many obvious improvements over my anxious/depressed state, that it is hard to feel bad about needing drugs. Not long after I started it, I found myself smiling while I drove the car--just feeling happy for no reason. I've started looking forward to events and feel like I can commit to things. Rarely do I find myself on the carousel of obsessive thinking. And all these improvements allow me to be a much more present mother and wife. Apparently I had "disorder" in my brain and this med has helped to sort things out. If I were diabetic I wouldn't feel guilty for needing insulin. Do whatever you need to take care of yourself--you are worth it and your kids are worth it. Sorry to be so preachy--I know you know this already!