Thursday, March 01, 2007

Let's Face The Music And Dance

Shall we? (Apologies to Cole Porter.) It's way past time. Time for me to admit that I've been depressed for essentially the last 5 years, with the last 2 having been most painful, and that I'm not going to "snap out of it" spontaneously.

In speaking with a friend who shares many of my symptoms, and is debating with himself whether or not it might be time to seek medication, I realized one thing that might have been contributing to my denial of my current emotional state. He said that he was wary of medication that might change how he feels, because the way he feels is all he's ever known. That hit me. Because I think that the reason I've been just waiting for this...thing to go away on its own, is that this is NOT how I've always felt. Far from it.

So I tried to break down the many justifications for the fact that I've basically been hiding in my house for a really long time. Well, let's see...five years ago, I was in a bad way, true. I remember getting a prescription for Zoloft from a GP just so I could make it through performing a solo with the church choir at Easter. But back then? There were heart-rending things going on in my life, things I so much don't want to re-live, that I'm not even going to think about them now, much less write about them. But the point is, these things qualified in every way as "external stressors." So in my mind, I was using the Zoloft as a temporary crutch until things "got better." I stopped taking it when I wanted to try to get pregnant, so that period of medication didn't last long.

I had an easy pregnancy, but there were, again, those same "external stressors" going on, so I had an excuse to hole up and "protect" myself. Bella's birth was easy, and I didn't have any baby blues afterward--as a matter of fact, becoming a mother made me happier than anything has ever made me in my whole life. Anything. Ever. I concentrated my energies on that baby in a way that was pretty consuming. And there were other crises going on which required my attention and focus and energy, so I hardly had time for introspection. And yeah, I might have benefited mentally from some medical help at that time, but I was breastfeeding--another exemption, and after a while, things really DID start to get better--those "external stressors" were fading, and the sun was coming out, so to speak.

And then, in late 2004, my father died. Typing those three words just now required my taking a break to cry. A lot. There is no way, no way on earth, that I can express just how hard that single event hit me, how big a hole it ripped in my heart, and the extent to which it changed, in an instant, the very fabric of how I identified myself. I felt groundless, adrift, lonely, despite the efforts of the rest of my family, who were in as much pain as I was, to console me. My daughter was my comfort, my hope for the future, and my husband was something solid to cling to, and we had been trying to conceive a second time. I mention this because that was my excuse for not seeking medical help for symptoms of depression at that time.

And just a few weeks after my dad's death, we learned we were pregnant, and it was like a miracle, almost a gift sent to lessen my pain. But then at 7 weeks, there was a miscarriage, and we lost that baby. I would never have imagined the level of grief that accompanies the loss of a child you never even met. Never. But that baby was as real to me as anyone else. I can still remember how Alex and I sat in that doctor's office and wept, but softly, so as not to upset all the pregnant mothers who still had their babies. That event prefaced a pretty big crash, and a few months later (because this was "situational depression," caused by external events, and was going to get better at any time!), Alex finally convinced me to seek out some help.

That journey with antidepressants has been covered here before, but to sum it up, each successive medication helped in the beginning, but eventually produced a side-effect of severe anxiety, even panic attacks. So I spent an agonizing several weeks weaning myself off of SSRIs, because, after all, I "felt better." (The irony of me expressing this idea when I am so familiar with the syndrome of compliance-resistant mental illnesses is not lost on me--it couldn't be that I "felt better" because I'd been taking ADs, could it? Alex has done much better than I over the last couple of years in taking care of his brain.)

It's been a year since I took my last anti-depressant. Aside from the happiness I've enjoyed in the bosom of my family, it's been more or less a lost year. A year that saw the death-sentence for my fertility and any hope of bearing more children, the grieving for that, and finally a hysterectomy that could not be avoided, more grieving over the finality of it all, and the hormone-rollercoaster that followed. I'm going to describe what it's been like, mostly because I've been lying to myself about it, and a little accountability couldn't hurt at this point.

I rarely go out. Heck, I rarely put on "outside" clothes, or even shoes, instead living in loungewear and sweats and pajamas. I don't always work up the energy to shower, or some days even move around much, except to care for Bella. The sounds of the telephone and the doorbell are imbued with an aversion that borders on dread--not because I don't like people, and don't enjoy talking/visiting with them, but because of the sheer energy it takes to act "normal" (which is less than the energy it takes to explain "what's wrong?"). I can't even muster up the gumption to smile wanly and say "fine," when people ask, "How are you?" instead answering that query with a grunt and that "so-so" hand-motion, and changing the subject. When I'm alone, and I accidentally catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, my expression is that of someone who is at the funeral of a loved one.

Even internet exchanges, which used to be the one thing I could do easily, since they weren't really "in person," have become strained. I get emails, which I read, and then, not having the energy to respond at that moment, "save for later." Of course, often "later" never comes. I used to post blog entries nearly daily, and it still comes fairly easily once I get started, but the getting started has gotten more and more difficult.

I feel like I have to be clear on something, and that is the fact that I don't feel sad. I don't feel like (my idea of) someone with depression. I feel like someone with...avoision (thank you, Kent Brockman, for that fantastic word). We've lived in this house just over a year, and the living room isn't unpacked yet. One wall is piled to the ceiling with boxes full of books. How hard would it be for me to take books out of boxes and put them on shelves? The paint-jobs in Bella's room and our bedroom are not finished, and the painting has not even begun in the guest room/office and Bella's bathroom. There seems to always be a mountain of clean laundry waiting to be folded and put away, and the Christmas tree is still up.

Oh, and here's a great one: Our electricity got turned off the other day because I wouldn't go to the door. It wasn't a matter of not having the money, it was that I'd put off paying the bill so long that I forgot about it. And if I'd answered the door when they rang, I could have just handed them a check and they'd have gone away happy. But I didn't know who it was at the door, and I didn't dare go see. What if it was someone who wanted to talk to me, or worse yet, come inside? (I'm actually OK with visitors, but I have to know at least an hour in advance that they're coming. Drop-ins make me way uncomfortable.) So I sat in another room and hid, and the power went off. And my under-reaction was, "Oh, so that's who that was." Let's call that my "moment of clarity." That and the afternoon hours I got to while away, pretending I was in "Little House in the Big Woods" until they came back out and reconnected the juice.

So, accompanied by my husband (hey, I go with him, he goes with me--it keeps us honest, and I highly recommend it for anyone who sees a shrink), two weeks ago I sat in the psychiatrist's office and told him how I was feeling. How I didn't think I was "depressed" (why I felt the need to keep saying that, I don't know), but that all things considered, I was avoiding the outside world to the detriment of pretty much our entire livelihood and every relationship I have outside our own four walls, and what's more, I couldn't muster up the feeling to care.

Tomorrow will mark my 14th day on Wellbutrin SR. I wasn't about to try another SSRI after the troubles I had with Prozac, Zoloft, and Effexor. If you have Wellbutrin experience to share, then by all means, do so. If you have "me, too" stories, then let's hear them. It helps. Just in talking to that one other person, that one person who said, "That's exactly how *I* feel," my perspective on this whole issue was changed, and that is why I finally decided to get real and get it out there in the open. Unlike many bloggers who maintain a separation between online and IRL presence, almost everyone in my "real life" knows about this blog. I'm hoping it's like an abscess, and now the healing can begin. While I don't feel remarkably "changed" yet ( says to give it a month), for a little while today, while I was hiding in my cave, I actually had the thought, the conscious thought, that I might rather be out doing something.

And that's a start.


  1. I'd never heard the term avoision - it's a perfect fit for what I did all last summer!

    Been there, Belinda. Call me if you ever want to talk. I don't have ANY answers, but I'm good at commiserating!

  2. Those of us that love you knew something was wrong, and were just waiting for you to talk about it. That's the hard part, and you've gone beyond that. It's pretty much downhill from there.

    I've so been where you are. I spent two whole years hiding behind my 4 walls, too afraid to go to the door and get the mail. Hell, I had to take my shrink to go and buy a washing machine I was so gonzo.

    I can't believe it has been a full year since you weaned off the effexor. That's a really long time to be off meds when you're clinically depressed (and you KNOW that depression often manifests as anxiety and agoraphobia). I'm glad to hear you're back on meds, because they do help. I know that I could not function at all without my precious effexor.

    Anytime you want to talk, or just need a big hug, you know how to find me.

    In the meantime, I love you and would do about anything to make you happy.

  3. yes yes yes and yes. Oddly, I think this began just when we became friends. Perhaps it is all my fault?!!

    I like the Wellbutrin, but I take it as part of a cocktail to tame the whole crazy brain. SSRIs make me crazy(er) as well. Avosion is something I think I will always suffer from as well, but the meds help, as does the husband, my mom, and sometimes just the old "facing the fear and doing it anyway" model.

    love you


  4. Sorry to hear you haven't been well... elated to know you're trying something new to make it better.

    TequilaCon 2008 is only a year away ya know...


  5. I was on AD a while ago.. And one day, I just stopped for a second and said to myself "whoa, I feel NORMAL" and it was SOO nice.

    I've been considering going on them again, 'cause times have been rough, but I'm giving myself a few months to experience "spring" and to see if that helps. (I think pregnancy made me depressed, I'm hoping that I'm able to get over it. Things are going well so far)

    I hope you make it through this... good for you for taking action! Now maybe you'll answer my emails!

  6. (HUGS). I'm on zoloft myself and at one of my medicine checks my doctor did mention withdrawl as sympton.

    I'm here if it helps.

  7. Hi,
    My name is Elizabeth and I actually found your blog when I search for miscarriage/ loss of a baby.
    I cannot claim to say that I have been anywhere near where you have been- I can't!
    I can say that I do struggle with depression sometimes, especially after the loss of a baby (I've had 3 miscarriages and 1 troubled pregnancy which resulted in the premature delivery and death of my daughter Grace) If it wasn't for my husband and prayer I don't know where I would be today- maybe in your shoes, from the depth of which you write. (which btw, during these times in my life were especially hard because who wants to pray to the God who allowed my babies to leave me, and be with Him? I do believe God has a plan- I don't understand why me becoming pregnant only to lose my children to Him fit into the plan! I will say though that he did allow me to give birth to my son Samuel. Through many tears,many prayers and fear through my whole pregnancy, I was allowed to "keep" this beautiful little redheaded baby who will be turning 2 this year!) I am so thankful that you have your beautiful daughter Bella- what a perfect name for her! You probaby dote on her much like I dote on Samuel, because they are both precious gifts, especially when you've gone through what you've been through! I am So Sorry for the loss of your dad, what a tragic thing to lose a parent you are close to!
    I only write to you so that you know that there are others out there that also go through struggles, similar to yours. I hate it when people act as though they know what you've been through, when THEY HAVE NO IDEA! I know they have good intentions, but don't say that when you look at your husband and the next thing you know, you are "popping out" another healthy baby!

    I don't write alot about these things on my blog, because though I struggle with these feelings, I am trying to be a good Christian and be a "light" to others. I want people to be encouraged when they come to my blog (what few people come, that is) so I don't want you to come and visit, and feel as though all I've written is "hogwash". I just wanted to be honest with you, as you opened your heart on your blog to show your inner true self, which btw is BEAUTIFUL- because it shows that you want things to be better, acknowledging your struggles is so much better than hiding them from yourself and the ones you love. (I tend to be innerly- depressed, it comes out in my actions, but often people don't know what is wrong, just that something IS wrong)

    Anyhow, now that I have written you a book- I am sorry, and if you want to discard what I've written, I understand. I just want you to know that I will pray for you- actually pray, and not just say the words, that you will find healing and strength to face each new day and "see the sun" :)

  8. Belinda,

    My 12 year old is on Wellbutrin SR and having gone down the same medicine road you have with him, it has made a difference. Like you, he won't answer the phone or the door and his anxiety levels can get pretty high. This medicine allows him to go outside in small doses and spend time with friends again. We couldn't be more pleased.

    We're thinking about you over here at the CrazedMommy casa, and hope that you have the same success with your meds. Just remember, baby steps, okay?


  9. I know things have been tough and you have not been the same lately (How I can tell that only by your blog, I do not know). I hope this medication helps you and allows you the freedom to move around again. I will keep you in my prayers that things will get better from here.

  10. Belinda~~ It is not lost on me that, from what I have followed on your Blog, you have taken such extraordinary care of everyone else in your life, but have been quietly suffering yourself. I originally "found" you from PSG and followed you here, and the change, though subtle, has been evident. You have helped Alex with his struggles, you have detailed your physical struggles, you have loved and cared for Bella with the instinct of a wonderful Mother, but maybe, just maybe, you have denied the depth of your own emotional struggles in an effort to "keep it all together". For you, i wish peace, and that slow, but certain feeling of "contentment" that time, meds and support can bring you.

  11. i found your blog sometime this summer in when you lost Montrachet. i could totally relate to having to let go of a horse that was a big part of your life. initially i returned because your love of animals but your sense of humor and your love of your family kept me coming back.

    give yourself credit for all the things you have endured and take the time to take care of yourself.

  12. I hear ya. I'm really glad that you made the choice to get treatment.

    The most frightening part of depression, I think, is when the numbness sets in. The crying bouts I can handle. The fear and anxiety is treatable. The numbness? Terrifying.

    Keep posting, I miss you!

  13. I can't stress strongly enough just how much I understand what you are saying. Even though I take Wellbutrin and Lexapro for anxiety, I still have days where I almost don't get off the couch at all, except to fix Kaitlyn's meals and change her diapers. I have things I could do, things I should do, and yet it is easier to do...nothing. In my mind, I have all kinds of grand plans for how I am going to just get up and get everything done, but I don't. I do think Seasonal Affective Disorder has a lot to do with that.

    Stick with the Wellbutrin, and once winter is over, you should find that you feel more like getting out. You exert so much energy taking care of Alex, Bella, and your animals, make sure to save some for taking care of you! And email me ANY TIME if you just want to chat. Love you, sweetie.

  14. Hi, I am a lurker, but felt compelled to leave you a note. I have bipolar disorder and tend to do most of the things that you talk about when I am depressed. It is very, very apparent that you are a loving mother and wife. You are wonderful at taking care of others, but now you must stop to take the time to take care of yourself. I found a wonderful website that has helped me more than any medicine or therapist. It's Read her story and you will see that you are not alone in the world. I am praying for you! It may time some time to get a medicine regime that is right for you, but you will get there and you will be on the road to healing. Talking about it is the very first (and probably the hardest) step. I'm proud of you.

  15. Man, I love me some Kent Brockman. He's such a wordsmith.

    A few years ago I was taking Wellbutrin XL (not sure what the difference is between that and SR), and I really like it ... no side effects. And it jump started my body to produce the chemicals/hormones/whatever that I was lacking previously. I only needed it about 6 months, and I've been fine ever since.

    I like your policy on seeing the shrink with your spouse.

    Good luck with all, and hopefully you'll be answering that front door in no time! God bless.

  16. i was severely depressed for a year, i can't imagine dealing with those feelings (or no feelings, as the case may be) for years. it takes a lot of courage to make a conscious change. good for you! i hope the results continue to be positive. :)

    (came here from karl's blog.)

  17. I have been on various SSRIs, but the one I loved the most was Wellbutrin. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVED Wellbutrin. Sometimes I still crave it (I haven't been on anything for a few years now). It made the worry cycles stop in my head. It's also the same drug as the anti-smoking drug, so it kind of helps with addictions. To me, it felt like I could lie there at night and start a worry cycle and then the Wellbutrin would kick in like popcorn and jumble stuff up so I couldn't worry. I loved it.

    Well, I had one major downside with it. I was sensitive to orthostatic hypotension and got dizzy when I stood up and it eventually got worse, so I had to go off it - but most people do NOT have that side effect.

    The final word of warning is that if you are taking the brand-name, I don't care what your insurance does, do not switch to the generic Wellbutrin. I don't know what the deal is, but my experience with generic Wellbutrin was not good and neither was my landlords. Don't even try it out. Just avoid it, if you aren't on it right now. If you are on it and it is working, great.

    My landlord lost 130 pounds while on curbed his binge eating. He switched to generic Wellbutrin and the binge eating came back. He's back on real Wellbutrin but it just isn't working the same way again.

    And for me, generic Wellbutrin made me anxious, pretty much immediately.

    But again, I'm a huge huge fan of brand-name Wellbutrin. Stick with it. Feel better.

    Sorry this isn't written nicely - just wanted to type it up fast to you before I go do some studying.

    PS: Your blog cracks me up (well, the funny posts do, I mean, not this one.)

  18. Belinda:
    So sorry you are having such a hard time. Avalon is right. Girl, you need to take care of yourself. {{{{{hugs}}}}}}

  19. Belinda,
    You were so present for me during my struggles with my daughter. I noticed you hadn't been posting much and was afraid maybe you were not doing well, but did not want to assume or intrude.
    I have been on and off antidepressants for many years. I have hidden in my house, lost touch with friends and cried every day for no apparent reason. When I stick with them, I am more even.
    It bothers me to need the meds but, bottom line, I do. My family legacy requires it.
    You just take care of yourself and let those who love you take care of you. It is so hard to talk about, isn't it? Almost like it is a choice to have a "flaw" like needing medication....

    you are a dynamic, loving, generous woman. give to yourself this time.

  20. I have been there, still go there from time to time-BUT- medication has helped me, first to cope and now to thrive. It is amazing how we will resist taking a tiny non narcotic pill- not to mention the shame we attach to the act! But here you are sharing your experience- God Bless you!

  21. After 4 weeks on a new double dose of Prozac, I had one of those "OH!" days. That was last Thursday when I got up from my desk at work and went for a walk with my camera in hand. My best friend is a therapist and my boy "friend" is a social worker, they both agree that any SSRIs take 6 to 8 weeks to really level out, so don't give up if you don't feel the MIRACLE after just 4 weeks. I go to the Dr today for my 4 week check up & I am going to ask that he let me continue this doseage for 4 more weeks before we decide to continue or change meds. I CAN tell you that the addition of Klonopin for my panic attacks has been a blessing. I don't have to take it every day, but I am sure greatful that it is there when I need it.
    Maybe soon, we can grab our cameras and dogs, head for the dog park and try to chill out (chill out? unpossible!).
    Just hang in there. It is a road I have traveled for more than 10 years & the meds do have their ups & downs, but they certainally help!

  22. I've got zero words of wisdom to offer, but just wanted to add my good wishes and say thanks for what you give all of us who read your blog.

  23. The part of this post that really got to me was the loss of your dad. I'm sorry for your loss, but I'm also thrilled for you that you had a dad you loved. I haven't seen mine in many, many years, and can't imagine feeling ANY emotion when he dies.

  24. Hun, Been there, done that. Depression isn't feeling sad or down, depression is feeling a serious case of the blahs and severe apathy, accompanied by lack of any motivation whatsoever, sometimes even to change clothes, answer the phone, or take a showwer. But you knew that by now. *hug*

    I am so glad that you have recognised the problem so that you can fix it. That's always the hardest part. I take an herbal suppliment when I "stop going" called "Phyto-Proz Supreme". It's over the counter and it works great for me no matter how depressed or crabby I feel. I like that I don't have to take it every day, just when I get "that feeling" (or lack thereof I should say). It works for me. Might be something to have on the back burner to look into just in case.

  25. I know exactly what depression is and isn't about, and you are right that it isn't about feeling "sad". The right meds aren't "happy pills" or anything of the sort, but just give your mind clarity and focus, help you control your emotions much better, and, in essence, give you your life back.

    Please don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You know you wouldn't want your husband to wait. And don't be nervous about therapy, either. I wish I had done it sooner, since it sped my recovery 100 % or more. Feeling depressed ONE SINGLE DAY longer than necessary is just intolerable to me. Never again.

    I still get sad, still get bummed, even depressed from time to time, but I've learned I had bipolar disorder since then. The meds aren't perfect, but I can be a mom more often than before.

    I lost a pregnancy, too. I was sad, still sooo sad about it. But my son is here. I probably won't be able to have another pregnancy due to health reasons, but I will always have that yearning, I think.

    Wellbutrin, Buspar, and Lexapro--together. It's my "crazy cocktail"! But it works best so far. Paxil made me gain 60 pounds! I'm still working it off. Good luck with the Wellbutrin, I hope you feel better soon. Therapy makes it much faster, if you can do it. Doesn't seem like it would, but it does.

    Good luck,

    Hope this helps.

  26. I know your pain, kinda. I do the same things. Don't answer calls or the door, don't go out sometimes after friends call and don't want to do anything constructive. I've been on a ton of medications and they all seemed to take more of the good me away than take away the bad.

    I think best thing I do is to make myself do things like getting out and doing things I enjoy with other people. Making commitments that make me say, "I want to stay in bed all day, but I have to go do this because people are expecting me." I usually find after I get there I'm okay and even enjoy myself. Try finding something you like and join a group and then realize after the drive you will be out there doing something you enjoy.

    The drugs can even you out, but you have to break up the routine too or you'll just stay in the same rut.

    You are an excellent blogger, and you seem to have a healthy, happy family that's wonderfully crazy. And don't worry, I have tons of piles of books and clean laundry, people who don't are too anal. Life isn't about perfect bookshelves and folded socks, at least it better not be.

    Take care, I'm pulling for you kid. Who else would read my arktimes blog?

  27. While the basic cause is a type of anxiety disorder, it is important to note that agoraphobia is by no means a hopeless situation. Agoraphobia arises from an internal anxiety condition that has become so intense that the suffering individual fears going anywhere or doing anything where these feelings of panic have repeatedly occurred before.