Getting better 

I’ve been on my increased dosage of new meds for one week, but I think I’m seeing a difference. I think they’re working! I went from tears to apathy to caring a little bit. I’d say that’s improvement.

The doctors will say that a person won’t see any progress with meds for 4-6 weeks, but I know I often respond more quickly. I think I’ve seen improvement in just 7 days. My husband thinks so too.

I’ve had a busy week with work and the start of Bible study, and I managed it all well. I “put myself out there” at Bible study, initiating some conversations and welcoming others. I went to a friend’s Open House. I had another friend over for breakfast and socializing. I struck up a conversation with a stranger. I’m reaching out, and that’s a definite improvement over the isolation that depression brings.

I don’t see my new therapist for another week and a half, but I scheduled a distance-therapy session with my old therapist for Monday. I’m really looking forward to that. And there’s another improvement – looking forward to something.

When I’m in the midst of depression, it feels like it “will always be this way.” And that’s a very familiar feeling, like a comfortable sweater which I can wrap around me and cozy into. There’s no real desire to get better, because the illness feels familiar, and it’s easy. Getting better requires an effort. And effort takes energy, which I don’t have when I’m depressed. It takes energy to get out of bed, to shower, to care about the day. It takes lots of energy to engage in conversation, to be interested in what another person is sharing. It’s easier to isolate, to stay home in silence. To listen to sad music or nothing at all. To sleep and hide away from the day and its demands. To refuse invitations, to be alone. Those are all features of depression in my life.

But it’s worth the effort. It’s good to reach out, toward wellness. I’m a more complete person when I’m mentally healthy. I’m more interesting, and certainly more interested in others. I care about them, which is my real nature. Depression steals the real me away, and makes it seem like it’s ok. But it’s better to be the real me, to be invested in others, to pray for them and care about them and want to be with them.

I’m thanking God for these small improvements, knowing they will lead to bigger ones. Thanking God for medications. For my psych doctor who cares and keeps track of me. For friends who reach out to me even when I’m less than myself. For my husband who stands with me through mental illness and health. To Jesus, for understanding and loving me anyway.

Advertisements

This time around…

I think the last time I was in depression was almost two years ago.  That’s what it looks like from my blog posts and medication history (the last time we had to do a major med change).

Not bad. A full year of change and transition, including moving across the country, but it’s only just now depression. Up until now, it’s been loneliness and adjustment. The difference is that depression, as a diagnosis, requires a certain number of particular symptoms. Things like anhedonia, changes in sleeping or eating patterns (too much or too little), isolating, excessive feelings of guilt or hopelessness, irritability,

I met with my psych doc yesterday, and was in a much better state than at our previous appointment, where I broke down. But I’m glad that happened last month, and I told him yesterday how relieved I am to have a diagnosis. To know it’s depression again. He complimented me. Said I was a smart woman, and very self-aware. But depression from the inside is hard to identify, including for someone like me who has been through it before, even so many times.

He asked if the new med was helping. I told him I wasn’t sure. But I’ve moved from crying spells to apathy and he told me that was improvement. He upped the dosage on the new med. This new med is actually one I was taking two years ago, but it had stopped working so I came off of it. We’ll see if the break from it is enough for it to be effective once again.

I told him that I met with the new therapist. He said she’s very experienced and very good. We’ll see. I also told him that I contacted my old therapist. He thought it was great that I was reaching out for help.

In chatting with my sister, I told her that my new therapist has a group – I’d forgotten about that. I may look into group therapy – might be just what I need. I was in a group before, and found it very helpful. The people were welcoming, and I didn’t have to explain myself because everybody already “got it.” Maybe I’ll ask about the therapist’s groups when I see her next time, which is three weeks away (long time).

I just finished a devotional on my You Version Bible app, all about depression. It was really good. Depression: A Devotional for the Wounded Spirit by heartsupport.com.  I think I might repeat it – lots of great Scripture to remind me that I am loved by God, even in my current state.

Lamentations 3:19-24, NIV:

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

    Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is with me. I’m taking steps. I’ll get through this.

 

It’s baaack.

I spoke too soon in July. Depression is back.

It shouldn’t surprise me that much. The doctor and I reduced one of my medications a while back, and I am very susceptible to changes in my meds. As it was, I felt like I had been on the cusp of a depressive episode ever since we moved to Virginia over a year ago. So that change was probably enough to send me into the depressive spiral again, just over these past 4-6 weeks.

I didn’t admit it to anyone, until my psychiatrist asked me at today’s appointment how I was doing. Then I burst into tears.

I’ve been hiding it from everyone, even from myself. Felt ashamed, really.  Which is part of the depression. But I kept thinking I could fight it off, that the symptoms weren’t really there. The doctor added them up and said “It’s back.” And there’s relief in not trying to fight it anymore, but just give in and let the new medicine do it’s work, stop living in denial and accept that I’ve relapsed. I have depression. I’ve had it before and gotten better. I’ll get better again.

The past several weeks, I’ve cried a lot. Been incredibly lonely. Going through the motions of stuff, but not really wanting to do anything. The biggest red flag, though, was increased sleep. I’d go to bed in the middle of the day, for hours, just to escape. And I’d still sleep fine at night. Would stay in bed as long as I could because there was nothing to get up for. Same with sleeping in the day – why not, since there was no reason to be up. I’ve got nothing going on. No one needs me. No one will miss me. I can stay in bed and no one is the wiser.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this lonely, if ever. And that’s been true since we moved here. The only bright spot in my day is time with my husband. The rest is drudgery.

I haven’t felt like doing anything, though I go through the daily motions of work and errands. I felt pretty good on the friends and family camping trip, even read a couple of books. But here at home, I’d rather sleep than read. It’s hard to concentrate (another symptom of depression) so even mindless TV is difficult. Sleep is the easiest.

That was my biggest clue that something was wrong. I’ve never done the sleep thing before, though I’d known it to be a symptom of depression. That, along with the loss of interest in normal things, the loneliness and teariness. The negative self-talk, especially shaming talk. I’m not proud that I go to bed. I’m embarrassed. I kept thinking if I would just look on the bright side, count my blessings, work on gratitude and pray for contentment. But those things weren’t enough, and I was ashamed they weren’t working.

And all of this is part of depression. I told my psychiatrist, who pointed out the signs and told me I’d relapsed. He says we’ll get a handle on it. I hope so. I always have gotten better before.

 

Not depressed

I haven’t been depressed for a while. But I said it out loud today. “I’m not depressed.”

The move to Virginia certainly brought up feelings like depression – loneliness, fatigue, a little hopelessness. For me, that’s different from depression, which is lots of hopelessness.  But the transition of moving was hard, like a mild depression without all the full-on depression characteristics. I wondered if the feelings would intensify and change to depression. I think I lived with some fear that it would come back due to the move.

But today, in my psychiatrist’s office, I told him that I’m not depressed.

We’re going to reduce one of my meds, which makes me a little nervous, because it’s the med that brought me out of depression in the first place. But it has a weird side-effect – chewing. I chew my teeth together all the time; I’m grinding my teeth all day. In an effort to keep this from becoming a permanent motion, we’re cutting that anti-depressant in half. I’m a little nervous about it, about the depression returning without the full medication to keep it at bay. But I think I’m in a better place emotionally, and so I’m willing to give the reduction a try.

It’s nice to not be depressed. My days are full of light, not grayness.  I can hear when birds chirp – the finches found my feeder, and seeing them flit around gives me a brief joy. I don’t dread each day, which I had been doing after the move here. I have energy, and am seriously considering adding exercise back into my routine. This was never a workable plan when I was depressed: I knew I should exercise, but couldn’t work up the energy to do it. I still probably sleep too much – I nap almost every day because I have nothing better to do. But I’m sleeping well at night, so I’m not worried about it – I’m napping from boredom, not depression.  I’m eating and sleeping well. I look forward to seeing people. Looking forward – that’s not depression.

I still have brief bouts of sadness or anxiety, but can usually recover pretty quickly with prayer. Getting my eyes off myself and back onto the Lord – who He is, how He sees me and loves me – eases those emotions. When I was depressed, I couldn’t lift my eyes from my misery, and sure couldn’t see God in it.  I had to trust He was there, because I didn’t feel Him at all.  I depended on the truths I knew from Scripture about God’s goodness, because I didn’t sense it, didn’t believe it with my emotions. I had great friends reminding me of His presence and companionship, His faithfulness and care. That’s the emptiness of depression – so self-focused that I was unable to see God with me. Those negative emotions have lessened. Now it’s just occasional – normal – feelings.

It’s nice to feel normal.

It’s a blah day, not a relapse.

For many mornings in a row, when the alarm goes off I think, “Why bother?” I get up because that’s what I do, not because I want to. I have nothing to get up for. And then I remember that I intentionally planned something into my day so that I will get up. Otherwise, I think I’d stay in bed all morning.

I’ve had several days of feeling “in a funk” – not really happy but not really sad either. A blah mood.

A year ago, I would have blamed all of this on the weather – the gray clouds of the upper Midwest that cover the sun for days and often bring snow and cold. But I’m in Florida now, and while it’s been unseasonably rainy, there was sunshine and even warmer temperatures today. So what’s my problem?

I think it’s because it is February. And traditionally, February has been a tough month for me. According to my old psych doc, even though it’s the shortest month of the year, it’s often the hardest emotionally. Not sure why. But perhaps I’m feeling the way I do because I’ve felt this way for the past nine Februarys. Emotional muscle memory.

It took me a few hours today to figure this out – this thing about February. I should have seen it sooner – I knew I was feeling less than good. I kept arguing with myself that the mood would simply go away, and I suspect it will, now that I’ve identified it and called it by name.

A blah day, or even a blah week, doesn’t mean relapse. It doesn’t mean depression again. It means I’m in a blah mood, and I’ll be in a blah mood for a few days, and then it will get better. To keep it from descending into depression, I’ll keep doing what I know to do – eat well, get enough sleep, exercise some, take my meds, reach out. Get up and do the day.

And if I need to take a day to stay in bed all morning, that’s ok too.