You know, I ain't right. And I don't really know where to turn to try and find out why not. All I know for sure is that the last several years (since first dealing with my husband's bipolar disorder and all the drama and trauma that went with getting that diagnosed and under control) have been hard, emotionally, and then the last three years (since my Dad died) have been...tragic, desperate, and then this past year since the hysterectomy has just been bizarre. I've dealt with depression and anxiety, which seem to come and go whimsically, and catch me off-guard. I took one anti-depressant after another, and suffered side effects galore without ever really feeling significantly better. Anti-anxiety meds (read: benzos) helped me through some tough spots, and then I'd go several months without any before needing them again.
The only sure thing is that my moods and anxiety/panic attacks always corresponded with something going on externally. In other words, if things were going okay, I was fine. But somewhere along the line, especially since Dad died, something had gone KABLOOEY with the coping mechanisms that had served me for the rest of my life. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around this, that some external event could occur that could trigger a weakness, a malfunction, in my brain.
One day this spring, while I was discussing this with a wonderful friend--a friend who just happens to have been, for the last few years, a MUCH better friend to me than I've been to her, or to anyone else--who happens to be a doctor of pharmacy, not to mention having much personal experience with clinical depression. I listed to her all the anti-depressants I'd tried, told her how none of them had worked, and asked her, "What can I try next?" She looked at me, and after just a moment's consideration, said, "You know, Belinda, even though you're depressed, you may not have an actual chemical imbalance. I mean, you've been through some pretty horrible, awful stuff, just year after year recently, and you have every right to feel despondent without it meaning that your brain is all wonky...like mine." And then she laughed. And I saw a light. And I loved her like she was part of me, because she got it. And then she told me the hard part.
She said, "Sometimes, you can't even live life 'one day at a time.' Sometimes, you have to live it in 30-minute increments. You can do almost anything for half an hour, no matter how badly you don't want to. So on days when I just want to stay in bed with the blinds drawn, I make a deal with myself to go out to the barn and groom one horse. By the time that's done, I might look over at YOUR horse" (she's been keeping Misha for me for way longer than I meant for her to) "and decide that his mane needs detangling, so I brush Misha's mane. Then I might want to clip his bridle path, and before you know it, I've spent half the day out in the sunshine, DOING something, instead of wallowing."
Just when I had decided that Kerri was the most brilliant, insightful woman on the face of the planet, she confessed to having developed this coping mechanism after hearing a version of it in the film, "About A Boy." She said, "Yep. 10 years of therapy and I finally learn something useful from a Hugh Grant monologue in a movie. Not the book--the MOVIE."
She IS brilliant, my friend, and she's definitely onto something. I can't help but think that, since no AD has helped me feel better--not really--that whatever is wrong with my brain, it's not something that an AD can "fix." I've been off the most recent AD, Wellbutrin, since early March, with no noticeable effect at all. I don't feel better, I don't feel worse. Just the same. The anxiety symptoms have abated (I'm not having falling-down panic-attacks in Wal-Mart any more), but are still present to some degree, in proportion to what's going on in my life.
Something is particularly difficult about mornings, about just getting out the door. Once I'm out, I'm pretty good for a few hours, but my calm seems to have a shelf-life, and I need to get back home in the afternoon. I like to plan things pretty far in advance, but I have trouble committing to things in advance. Anti-anxiety meds help. I'm not wild about how they make me feel, i.e. slightly dopey, but I do use them when I need them.
And then there's the hormone angle, which I don't even know for sure how to approach. Something has GOT to be going on there, since the weirdness has escalated by, um, a bunch, since my hysterectomy last fall. When I first came out of surgery, on estrogen deprivation, I literally felt, for the first and only time in my life, that I had lost my mind. It's like nothing I can describe--the misery, despair, agony, anxiety--the certainty that it's never going to be better, ever. After a couple of weeks, I was able to start estrogen replacement therapy, and it was like a miracle...at least to a point. It made the extreme crazy go away, but like I said at the beginning of this post, I still ain't quite right.
And I can't help but think that a large part of what keeps me "down" and anxious is the disarray of my lifestyle--I keep Bella clean, fed, loved, dressed well, entertained, cared for...and that's almost (but not quite) the limit of my motivation...and THAT is my motivation for this effort. I don't know yet if it will work, but I know that to have peace and calm, I must first have order. I need it, Bella needs it, Alex needs it. And I need to provide it. I'm on my way, I hope...the house is still a mess, but I've done certain chores more regularly this week, and my family has had a hot, homemade, nutritious meal on the table every night this week, with NO takeout. That's got to be a start.
I'd love to hear from anyone who's been through, or is going through anything similar, especially from the hysterectomy angle.