I’m not sure yet…

As my previous post indicated, the doctor added a new medication – Rexulti – to my antidepressants cocktail. I started 3 weeks ago, for 2 weeks at 0.5 mg, then this week at 1.0 mg, and up to 2.0 mg before I see him in a couple of weeks. And he said that if I feel better at the 1.0 mg level, I can stay there.

But how can I tell? I’ve been having such a good time!

My kids have been here – my daughter last week and my son stayed on another week, so my days have been full of family and laughter. We had a wonderful Christmas Day, and my son’s birthday, and all the days surrounding. We saw the new Star Wars movie, played games, watched movies and shows on Netflix. We shopped a little, the guys went hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and we’ve eaten delicious food. We tried a brewery and a distillery. In my mood app, where I rate every day to keep track of mood trends, each day with my children here has been a 9. A 9! I usually live at a 6 or 7, so 9 is significant, especially for a full week.

So what happens when we all go back to normal? When my son leaves to go back north and my husband goes back to work and my days become just me and the cat? Where will my mood be?

The Bible reminds me not to worry about the future. That “each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)” That “… neither the present nor the future, … will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)” It’s only a waste of my present time to worry about how I’ll be feeling in a few weeks.

It will be a week and a half from the time my days get quieter until I see my doctor again. That should give me enough time to assess my mood and any effect of these new meds.

In the meantime, I’m really enjoying the moments!

Wishing you a Happy New Year – full of physical and emotional health!

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How am I doing with what I’m supposed to be doing? part two

As I mentioned before, there are things that I can do, even with depression, to help ease its symptoms. If I’m in remission, those tasks are much easier to carry out. Here are some more thoughts on the steps, and how I do (or don’t do) them with depression in remission versus when it’s full-blown.

  1. It’s important not to isolate myself – to keep up social interaction and positive supportive relationships. This is near to impossible when I’m in the middle of a depressive episode, since all I want to do is be alone, preferably in the dark with the covers pulled over my head. I’ve learned to lean on the folks who know about my struggles, and admit to these friends that I’m having a tough time. They know what to say and when, and how to gently push me to reach out or when to leave me alone.
  2. If I’ve learned anything in my years in and out of depression, I’ve learned the importance of making space in my day, and not pushing myself too hard. It’s critical that I reduce my stress, make my to-do list shorter, and pace myself. I am already my harshest critic (that comes naturally to me, and is amplified with depression) and it’s easy to beat myself up about the things I should do that I don’t get done. But I’m learning to cut myself some slack, practice some relaxation techniques, and even nap if I need to.
  3. A piece that is very important to fighting depression is adopting an “attitude of gratitude.” It’s been proven in studies that folks who practice daily gratitude, perhaps writing things to be thankful for in a journal, have reduced depression and anxiety. It’s impossible to thank God for blessings and be anxious at the same time! Gratefulness also combats negative thinking, which is a huge issue for me when I’m depressed. I ruminate, mull, dwell and judge myself very harshly, and the negative thinking spirals quickly downward. But if I can stop myself, take the negative thoughts captive to Christ (from 2 Corinthians 10:5), and focus on His blessings right now, living in the moment with gratitude, I can slow the negative thinking and self-condemning thoughts before they get too far gone.
  4. I’m told repeatedly by my therapists and doctors to do the things that I used to enjoy, even though depression means that I don’t want to do anything. This is actually a diagnosing symptom of depression – not wanting to do things that used to be enjoyable. Other ways to combat this inertia are to reach out to others – recognize someone else’s need and offer help, maybe even volunteer in a serving capacity. I’ve found it true – thinking about someone else takes my mind off myself, and I can be distracted from depressive thoughts as I try to meet someone else’s needs.
  5. Maintaining an active faith life is critical in my fight against depression. I have to regularly remind myself that Jesus knows and understands how I feel, and He loves me completely, unconditionally, anyway. I’m not always able to concentrate well enough to read my Bible, so I have several other tools that help. I have a couple of books that are simply Bible verses to read “when you feel … (sad, anxious, depressed, lonely, etc.).” I listen to a lot of praise and worship music, and even have made some playlists appropriate for my moods. Lastly, the Holy Spirit will bring Bible verses to mind that I have read or memorized over the years. I may not be able to find and read them from the Bible, though, so this is a reminder to me to hide God’s Word in my heart (Psalm 119:11) – I never know when I might need it!
  6. It’s important to continue to take my medications as prescribed, and to avoid alcohol (a depressant). There’s really only been one time when I really wanted to quit taking my medicine – I think I felt like it was all useless (that’s the depression talking). It’s important, too, to follow my treatment plan and meet with my doctor and therapist – they will encourage me to keep taking these steps. It’s important to have their help to stay on track.
  7. Finally, I need to really listen to myself, and have those closest to me help me identify if I need immediate help. If I feel like hurting myself, if my mood worsens quickly, if I descend and can’t get back up, I need to get professional help. My therapist has been great to be available when I need help quickly – I am grateful for her!

So, that’s a lot to do to keep healthy – a total of 10 steps to take when including the top three from my earlier post (sleep, healthy diet, exercise). And it’s a lot to be intentional about, so it is helpful to form these habits when I’m in good mental health, so they aren’t completely impossible when I’m fighting a depressive episode.

What are some steps that you take to fight depression? What advice do you have to others who struggle?

 

 

 

Concrete, Animals. (not concrete animals, notice the comma!)

/\    /\ 
Archie My 
sweet companion 
for so many years. 
\ I thought we would have /
  / much more ^ time together.\
I was eager to spend 
hours scratching 
under your 
 chin and behind your ears. 
  Your purr is a noise! You tell 
 me that you love me in so many 
 ways. When you wait at the edge 
 of the kitchen and watch for me to 
 sit down on the couch. Just waiting. 
 Then you saunter into the living room 
  without even a glance in my direction. 
 Oh! You're so surprised that I'm there!
 And         you jump onto my lap and lay across the                 
book        I'm trying to read, gently pushing your          
     way      into my lap to demand to be rubbed. You            
       are      such a clever kitty! Petting your                    
rumbling body helps me relax and focus     
                           on the         moment.                         
image