I Look Good and I Do What I Want

a journey of loving my body and myself

in my head June 11, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mae @ 4:52 am

I went to get my head shrunk yesterday. Not as unpleasant as I’d feared, but scary, nonetheless. And the scary part isn’t over.

My father has struggled with clinical depression his whole life. And by struggled, I mean “completely avoided treating until it was far, far too late.” I have never had a formal diagnosis, until yesterday, although I have suspected at many critical times in my adulthood that depression was a problem for me. The reason I finally made and kept my appointment with a therapist yesterday is that in the last two weeks, I’ve slid into a frightening place, a place that my therapist and my husband are trying to convince me is called a pretty severe episode of depression.

I haven’t blogged about it because I didn’t have much to say. Unfortunately, besides some familial drama with my parents (isn’t there always some kind of drama?) my life is the best its ever been. I recently married an amazingly wonderful man, who is the absolute best fit for me: he is as good as any fantasy man I could ever construct. I have a well-paying job, which, if it isn’t exactly a good fit, is in no way terribly burdensome most of the time. I have two cats and a doggy who fill me with joy every day. In fact, one is stretched the length of my left thigh right now, purring. We have friends, and free time, and a house with trees in the yard, and laughter, and passion, and… what the hell is wrong with me that I am plodding through my days like a zombie wind-up toy, winding down and about to fall off the edge of the table?

I am reaching a place I haven’t been to in about seven or eight years. I’ve been here before and its not pretty. That summer was a time in my life that was so viciously horrible that I wince to remember it. I broke up with my then-boyfriend, moved out of an idyllic roommate situation with my best friend’s family, withdrew from all my friends, quit all my jobs, and instead of working and saving for the upcoming fall semester, I crashed with an ex-boyfriend (not the recent ex, a prior one), and basically just laid on his floor all summer, zombied my way through my days and cried myself to sleep at nights. For no goddamn reason (beyond the breakup, which was not the worst of my life by any stretch of the imagination).

The frightening thing is I can feel myself tiptoeing up to that precipice again. That precipice is the one where the consequences of free-falling over the edge are no longer important, I just don’t care, anything has to be better than this. Everything has taken on a weird softness, like I can’t really reach out and burn myself on that hot pot, and that the people swirling around me at work aren’t really there and if I can hide in my cube quietly enough, doing nothing all day, it won’t matter. Things that used to fill me with motivation or desire taste like dry, unsalted crackers and I have no water to even wash them down.

Possibly even more frustrating is my deep ambivalence about everything. I am filled with opposing feelings; on the one hand, I am terrorized by my anxiety that I will be fired for my lack of productivity at work the last two weeks, on the other hand, I am nearly at the point of complete indifference if that is the end result, well, at least I’m not forced to show up and make inane small talk anymore. On the one hand, I am terrified that my husband will get sick of this and rightfully leave me, on the other, I am nearly pathologically driven to confess my deepest and darkests to him, and to reach out and plead for his help. I cried like a baby in his lap tonight, begging him not to blame me, not to desert me, to help me, to tell me its not my fault.

I have so much more to lose this time. I can’t afford to swan-dive off the edge because the relationship I have with him is the most precious thing I’ve been offered in this life. So, even though I have suspected for more than 11 years that I needed to seek therapy and possibly accept the idea that I might, too, have the depression that plagues my father still, I never had a reason good enough to pursue it until now. Because taking care of myself was not a good enough reason, but taking care of my husband and my relationship with him somehow is.

And that is why this is also about HAES and IE. I need to learn how to really take care of Mae, and she is hurting right now. If I had been concerned with taking care of Mae last August, I might have sought therapy instead of weight loss surgery. If I had been concerned with taking care of Mae as a teenager, I might have rejected the sick part of our culture that entices girls into bingeing and purging behaviors. I can’t go back and change those now, but I can start now.

I have learned, and continue to learn, so much from the FA blogs I read. Sometimes, it feels like they are speaking directly to me. The other day, this post from Shapely Prose opened my eyes to something I hadn’t even realized that is now undeniable: part of my intense suffering over the last 10 months, since my lap-band surgery, has been having to give up my bingeing and purging cold-turkey. I was using those behaviors as a way to self-medicate for my depression, and without them, I have been thrown into a very uncomfortable “detox” of sorts. I have made a half-hearted attempt to semi-replace them with one atrociously unhealthy habit, which is drinking wine when I’d rather be bingeing. I have, as far as recent personal research suggests, little to no proclivity for alcoholism, but any way you slice it, that’s a dangerously wobbly crutch. To a lesser extent, I’ve also tried to replace true binges with long, zoned-out grazings, but its also not the same. I have discovered nothing like the powerful combination of bingeing-and-purging, at least for me.

Guess what I have been trying to do, in the last couple of months, since discovering HAES and IE? I have tried to pull back from eating and drinking behaviors that I determined were coming from a place of disordered thinking, and tried to listen for true hunger. Maybe I did this too quickly, or, more likely, was fundamentally unprepared to attempt that at this stage, given my untreated clinical depression.

So, I consider it no coincidence that I am experiencing a severe depressive episode right now. Is it the true and final disappointment, knowing the band really doesn’t work for me? Is it an unveiling of how deep my bingeing and purging wounds run, now that I’ve tried to take away even the poorly-trained understudies? Is it a natural, cyclical occurrence, precipated by my recent family troubles, my wedding, my new marriage? Is it all of these?

I can’t say for sure. All I know is this is a terribly oppressive, lonely place to be. I can’t go on like this. I still am not sure that I accept the therapist’s diagnosis of major depressive disorder. I don’t want to have a broken brain, and I don’t want to have that stigma hanging over me. I don’t want to take medication that can cause (eek!) weight gain and sexual dysfunction. I don’t want to look ahead to the kind of life my father has led as my future.

My therapist told me only to try to accept it before I reject it. I need to sit with it, take it in as reality, feel myself understanding it as real. I still have the ability to reject her analysis after that. She said that the worst thing wouldn’t be to have major depressive disorder, but to let it go my whole life untreated, as my father did until recently. That would be the really bad outcome.

Also she told me that I don’t have to believe everything I think. I’m not actually sure that is possible, but I am working on it.

Ah, insomnia, my old friend, you appear to be back for an extended visit. How long are you staying? Please don’t wear out your welcome.


23 Responses to “in my head”

  1. Hello, Mae!

    I know we’ve never “met” before, but there a lot in your story that I can understand. I’ve been dealing with major depressive disorders for about 30 years, and it’s not been an easy trip. But even though it’s been difficult, it’s worth it to fight through the bad brain chemistry and get back to the good days. They are still there, waiting for you.

    Congratulations on your recent marriage! Having a loving and supportive husband will do you a lot of good. My husband has been a miracle for me, helping me recognize when the depression is getting worse and how to find the way back out again. I hope your man will be able to do likewise for you. From your description, though, I’m sure he will.

    I’ve been married for almost 14 years, and – especially at the beginning – I was always worried that my husband would get fed up and leave me. We’ve had a long running joke about me waiting for that ‘other shoe’ to drop and prove to me once again that life hates me. It took me a while – due to my belief that I’m not worth loving, bad relationships with users and jerks (though no abusers, thankfully,) and my constant sense that the universe just isn’t going to let me be happy – but I’ve gotten to where I trust that if he and I *do* become separated, it won’t be because he chose to leave me. It will probably take you a while to be able to give your husband that level of trust, but – especially if he knows your history with eating disorders and that you are dealing with depression now – he’ll be able to show you that he’s worth it.

    One thing to keep in mind is that depression can often be triggered by stress – and that means either negative stress OR positive stress (and yes, good things in life can be stressful!) Most major stressors can affect you for a year or two. Getting married is one of the biggest positive stressors there is. There’s all the effort that goes into putting the wedding together, and then you and your husband get to go through the process of learning how to live together. And that’s never easy – even when two people love each other dearly. So when you say that there’s not been much but some familial drama with your parents, that’s really not all there is – there’s this whole new life with your husband, too.

    When it comes to medication, I have to say that it’s been a true life saver for me. When I’m off my meds, I can get all sorts of weird – anything ranging from being suicidal to thinking that someone is going to come and take my new puppy away and put him to sleep because he looks a bit like a pit bull (even though he doesn’t look like a pit bull at ALL) or getting so angry at a manager at my old job that I spent about a half-hour telling him *everything* I thought about him, the company and the job I had – in a very menacing tone – and threatening him with legal action if I didn’t my job back after a sick leave – at least that what the people who overheard me said I did – I have no memory *whatsoever* of that. So, yeah, I stay on my meds, even with the downsides.

    If you and your therapist decide that meds might be a good idea for you to at least try, be sure to discuss with him (or with your general physician if your therapist can’t actually write the prescriptions and requests your regular doctor do it) your concerns – that you want to minimize the chance for weight gain and the possible sexual side effects. There’s a wide range of anti-depressants out there, and some have worse side effects than others.

    In my experience, Paxil is about the worst for both weight gain and losing interest in sex, though it did a great job of controlling my depression. Since I wanted to get away from the side effects, however, my doctor switched me to a combination of Lexapro (a version of Celexa that has significantly reduced side effects) and Welbutrin (which also has less side effects than some of the others, though if you have any kind of seizure disorder, it can be problematic.) The combination works really well. I have a few more bad days than I did on Paxil, but they aren’t terribly frequent – may one or two every couple of months – and they don’t last long. My weight gain has leveled off, and, well, my husband’s still here, eh? πŸ˜€

    At any rate, only a doctor can really determine what would be best for you, but it is possible to try different ones, see how you feel on them, if you find yourself with any kind of weight gain or lost of interest in sex, and if there are problems, try something different. And you can also look in anti-depressants that are also useful in treating obsessive-compulsive disorders, which might help some with the issues related to binging-and-purging. While I’ve never had a problem with anorexia or bulemia, I do have obsessive-compulsive issues related to Tourette’s Syndrome, and have found that the Lexapro/Welbutrin combination seems to be helping that as well.

    I’m sorry this is so long, but when you talk about walking up to that precipice, I can see exactly what you’re describing in my head, because it’s a feeling I’ve had far too many times, and I just want to offer you as much … stuff … as I can because I don’t want anyone else to have to spend much time there, if that makes any sense. I wish you all the best, and a swift return to enjoying life again!

    kriselda jarnsaxa

  2. Mae Says:

    Wow, Kriselda, thanks. That is a lot of very good information and things to think about. I had so much anxiety leading up to the wedding and I guess I expected it all to magically resolve after the wedding, but how much sense does that make? Not much.

    Thanks again. That is a really wonderful comment.

  3. Julia Says:

    Congrats on making it onto the fatosphere feed! πŸ™‚

  4. Mae Says:

    Thanks! You’d think I could come up with a better inaugural post, too, but oh well. Such is life.

  5. Mel Says:

    I wandered over here from another blog and read all of your entries this morning. When I’m having a bad body image day, it helps me so much to know that my experiences really are so normal, even if our culture wants to make us think that they’re not.

    I’m about your height/weight and similarly active. I’ve spent years telling people that I hate sports because it’s easier than admitting I’m just too embarrassed to be active in front of other people. Freshman year of college, I thought that joining a crew team would help me lose weight and make friends. It turned out to be a much more competitive sport than I realized and the people tended to be already super fit and skinny. As a fellow slow runner, I just didn’t fit in and quit. I didn’t lose a single pound in that entire 5 months. When I complained about swollen fingers, I was told to drink more water (I drink tons of it- not soda contrary to what most people assume about me) and that I just needed to get used to being active. As much as I try to tell myself that I don’t- I still feel like I need to earn the right to use the gym by losing weight *first* so that I’m skinny enough to go.

    The high heel thing… I’ve done that so many times. It generally makes me hate dressing up because I can’t flit around in short skirts and spiky heels. So I wear sensible shoes and end up feeling like I’m 65 years old and weigh a ton. I’m still trying to find a more fashionable and comfortable compromise.

    Depression and eating disorders have been closely tied together for years, for me. Now I’m on a lot of medication and can’t binge/purge any more because I don’t want to waste the pills. It took me a few months to calm down and realize that I was missing having that option for self-medication, even if I never wanted to take it again for other reasons.

    FA and loving my body the way that it is now have become truths that I can’t deny, even on days when I want to turn back to dieting, hating myself, and dreaming about how things will be one day- it’s what I’ve known so well, for so long.

    I wish that I could sufficiently explain how I felt reading your entries that described things that have happened to me or ways that I’ve felt perfectly. In any case, thank you.

  6. Mae Says:

    Hi, Mel. I think you did a good job of explaining. πŸ™‚

    Even before this depressive episode set in, reading the FA blogs and feeling not alone and not a freak was a real lifeline for me. I think the effects of positive recognition that slender people get all the time, or that not-so-slender people get when they successfully lose weight, are highly under-recognized and under-valued. I think its really amazingly healing for people like us to know we aren’t alone and to be able to provide each other with the kind of “food for thought” that promotes self-love and self-approbation.

    When I find myself admiring the chops of well-known FA bloggers, I should be reminding myself: “She’s awesome with no regard to fatness, and guess what? So am I.

  7. Risha Says:

    Hi Mae –

    We don’t know each other (I’m coming in via the fatosphere feed), but I just wanted to say that I’m glad that you’re finally in therapy. I understand how difficult it is to do anything when you’re in a major depression, even (or especially) something to fix that crushing inability to function in even the most basic of ways.

    I’ve had minor depressions before, especially a protracted period of mostly numbness during high school, but it never got really bad until this past winter. I ended up completely unable to do even the most minor of tasks at work for weeks on end, and eventually reached the point where pulling up my work email sent me into a panic attack.

    The good news is that my supervisor was very understanding. I went onto short term disability while I tried to put myself back together, and ended up in an excellent outpatient program through my local hospital which combined medication with group and individual therapy. I was out of the depression and back at work six weeks later, and while it wasn’t always easy (my father’s death and a bout of mono), it was still a thousand times better than the place I had been in.

    I understand why people don’t want the side effects of being medicated, and honestly, it’s not always the correct thing for a particular person. That’s why it’s important to go to a physciatrist for evaluation instead of a PCP if you think that it might help you – PCPs aren’t trained enough in this area to know for sure whether or not you need it. But if you have these bouts on a regular basis and a family history of depression, then it’s extremely likely that there’s a chemical basis to your problems. People who don’t have that sort of depression don’t necessarily understand that it’s not like when they get sad. You’re in a fog where you might think that you’re thinking clearly, but you have no idea how little rational thought you are actually capable of until you come out of it.

    Despite the stigma, it’s really no different then getting medication for high blood pressure – sure, you can work on it in other ways, but it helps ease a problem that could kill you while you’re working on it. And you’re not guarenteed to have the side effects that you’re afraid of, or not as badly as you fear. Many people have no side effects at all, and there are a staggering number of anti-depressents to try if you don’t like the first, or the second, or the fifth.

    And yes, my husband has stuck by me through it all. I know that it’s probably impossible for you to believe me deep down inside right now, but if you’re in love like it sounds you are, he will no more abandon you for this than you would him in his place.

    Good luck.

  8. Mae Says:

    Ah, Risha, you hit on an important point. Even though I saw my father experience clinical depression, I really didn’t truly understand until this weekend, when I began to do a lot of research, that depression didn’t necessarily mean being sad and sleeping all the time (exclusively). For me, I get insomnia (which my therapist says is a normal symptom) and more than sad, I feel empty and pessimistic and crushed by the weight of mundane activities– like answering the phone– that a week ago were merely minor inconveniences.

    Is there anything more frightening than having to face the fact that your brain is working against you? I mean, when I can’t trust my own thoughts, I can’t trust reality, the sun rising and setting each day, the things I see with my own eyes, and suddenly, banging away on a spreadsheet all day at work loses all meaning to me.

    I am seeing a psychiatrist recommended to me by my therapist. Unfortunately, he comes highly recommended, and seems to be popular. I have to wait three weeks, until July 2nd. In a way, that soothes me, as I can put off facing the reality of medication for three weeks. On the other hand, I’m plain terrified because the last two days, since I saw the therapist for the first time, has felt like a month of laying on the floor in the dark. I’m not, however, just going to barge through the door of any random psychiatrist that takes my insurance, so I guess waiting is what I need to do.

  9. hope505 Says:

    another total stranger ~ *w00t!* hahaha! And here are my credentials for replying: EDNOS and (undiagnosed, formally) bipolar disorder. Funsy wunsy! When you are more in the mood for it, perhaps I’ll share some funny-but-not-really stories about manic episodes I’ve had.
    It took a lot of discussion and consulting back and forth between me, my physician, and my therapist (who is a psychologist, not a psychiatrist) and finally the consensus was for me to try taking antidepressant and anti-anxiety medicines.

    Wellbutrin was our first contender…*ding ding ding!* I felt SUPER! I lost plenty of weight! Wait a minute….I was feeling a little too super…the Wellbutrin tipped me manic.
    My next try was straight-on prozac, and that did the job mighty-fine. I also took a verrrryy small dose of clonazapam every day (still do) and I’m allowed to take extra if Big Stress comes along.

    In short: no, I don’t support “Big Pharma” in general…on the other hand, I cannot believe that I lived so many years (pre- SSRI) feeling so bad a lot of the time. I’m thankful that the prozac helped me with impulse control…the clonazapam helps to not sweat the small stuff….or at least not to get homicidal about the small stuff…*hahaha!*

    And the medicines aren’t like a band-aid that you just wear, and then the pain comes back when you rip off the band-aid and pick at the scab. They can help you feel better long enough to get a grip and work on what’s really the deal…whatever’s going on…with your therapist, partner, physician, family, etc. Also keep you out of jail and the ER, hopefully!
    * ; )
    There is a fairly informative site, as far as consumer experience posts on antidepressant, anti-psychotic and other medicines for depression and other mental disorders, that’s called crazymeds. I don’t remember if it’s .org or .com so you’ll have to google it…

  10. Telle Says:

    It’s almost scary to see someone else write about what I’ve felt. But in another way it’s somewhat comforting to know I’m not the only one who’s gone through it.

    I’ve had depression my entire life. When I was in grade school I asked my mom to take me to a psychiatrist.. she laughed it off. In the adult years I tried one anti-depressant, and then another. Tried therapy. Nothing really worked, so I stopped.

    Then after my second child postpartum depression hit me hard. So I tried one antidepressant, and then another. Still nothing seemed to work. Over a year of misery later, I finally told my PCP that I wanted to see a psychiatrist.. I needed a specialist to help figure out what I needed to be on. Now I’m on THREE meds and in therapy.. but it’s been like night and day. I still have dips now and then, but it’s not as bad and not as constant. I can actually function and enjoy life. My husband no longer has to worry that anything he says or does might send me over the edge. I am so thankful for my medication and how it has helped me.

  11. Risha Says:

    Unfortunately, that three week wait is not unusual even if that particular one weren’t highly in demand. I discovered that it’s virtually impossible to get into see a new psychiatrist in under a month, and that’s if they’re accepting new patients. 😦

    That’s why I ended up going through the hospital. My supervisor (gently) suggested that I go on disability, so I put in the paperwork and came home in the middle of the day. My insurance company had managed to get me an appointment with someone, but that was three weeks out and it seemed like an eternity. My husband came home to support me, but then insisted that I couldn’t just sit on the couch being sad for the next few weeks, and called the hospital for me. I was evaluated the next day, and meeting with their doctor the day after that. So keep that in mind as an option if you find that you can’t make it to your appointment.

  12. Mae Says:

    Hope, I have researched both Wellbutrin and Prozac, since my therapist (who is not a psychiatrist) mentioned them when she explained to me that not all antidepressants cause weight gain and sexual side effects. I fear a manic episode, my father had one in response to a combination of antidepressants about five years ago that was nearly catastrophic.

    Telle, my therapist suspects I’ve been depressed my whole life, too, and in a way, I agree, but its frightening, too, because I don’t know who I’ll be if I’m not me, you know? I had some red flags pop up in my childhood (not as direct as “Mom, take me to a psychiatrist”) that my parents chose to ignore, also.

    I took some test (Beck Depression Inventory) and scored so high that my therapist recommended that I take a leave from work, if possible. I work in a very competitve, analytical consulting field and I’m already behind this year thanks to taking three weeks off for my wedding. Even though I know I could march straight over to Human Resources and file for short-term disability, right now, I’m afraid to do it. Afraid to admit I need the time, even if I don’t explain why, afraid people will talk, afraid I won’t catch up when I get back, afraid that 2 or 4 or 6 weeks isn’t enough time (afraid there isn’t enough time in the world), afraid that I really should be “pulling myself up by my bootstraps,” not laying out of work like a lazy shiftless bum.

  13. Telle Says:

    I was scared to death of taking time off of work too. But then I had one really bad depression episode and my psychiatrist said simply “I’m taking you out of work.” So that was that.. the decision was taken out of my hands.

    And you don’t have to tell your work why you’re going out, just that your doctor has put you on a medical leave. My boss asked if I could tell him and I said it was personal, and he was fine leaving it at that.

    I was quite worried about word getting out about why I was on leave and people talking and treating me different and all that. But since I didn’t tell anybody, nobody knew, and everyone was just concerned for me and were happy to see me well when I got back.

  14. hope505 Says:

    If you can..it would be great to get some medical leave!

    The “bootstrap method” is sort of b.s. seriously…if it’s your brain chemistry, no amount of pep-talks, berating yourself, or escaping will help ‘get you back on track’ because you cannot stick your finger up in your brain and swirl it around until the feel-nice chemicals come out to play. It’s like you can see your boot, and recognize what a ‘bootstrap’ is, but are still not able to pull on them even though you want to and may feel that you should. It’s like that for me, anyways. I see it happening (I’m really overreacting to the store clerk! wow!), I know what it is (uh-oh…feels out-of-control like I’m getting manic! Red flag!) but I still cannot change my thoughts or behavior (now I’m belittling the clerk and – there it is – spitting on the floor of the supermarket. swell.)

    And of course that can feel terrible and scary. Just realizing what’s going on can help.

    Also a note on “sexual side-effects” ~ yeah, my libido did drop considerably, but it wasn’t disturbing or incovvenient…I was still able to have orgasms and everything, I just didn’t want to have them as frequently. Besides, when you are facing your psyche head-on and neck-deep in therapy, sometimes ess-ee-ex is the last thing you want in the mix. But I am single and not dating, so it doesn’t really cause the sort of problem it might if I were in a relationship.

  15. nuckingfutz Says:

    I have tried writing a comment 3 times, and every time it comes out sounding condescending and like I’m trying to talk down to you, and I don’t want that. I just can’t seem to put it the right way today for some reason.

    But I wanted you to know that I know how you feel, too. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 15 – I’m 32 now. So I’ve been dealing with it for quite some time now.

    I hope that you find the right mix (meds and/or therapy) that work for you and that you find your way out of the black hole. I know how it feels to be IN that hole. Not fun, to say the least.

  16. Mae Says:

    Hey, nuckingfutz (heh, heh), that doesn’t sound condescending at all. Thanks.

    Hope, my libido in the last couple weeks has dropped to basically nil, and dude, we’re newlyweds. The unfairness makes me want to howl.

  17. ksfeminist Says:

    Hey, I’m here from the fatosphere feed. I’ve been depressed pretty much my entire life (or at least since kindergarten), though I wasn’t diagnosed until I was almost 22. I too, was very hesitant to go on medication. Much as I hated being depressed, I couldn’t imagine a life NOT depressed. Since I was also battling an EDNOS in addition to depression, I was desperately afraid of weight gain as well. After exhortations by the doctor and psychologist, I went on Prozac. I was still me, I just wasn’t surrounded by a depressive fog. Unfortunately, Prozac had some nasty sexual side effects for me, and I ended up quitting it. Bad idea. Three months later I was a mess and back at the doctor. This time they put me Celexa, and it’s been wonderful. Little to no weight gain, almost no sexual side effects, and it’s approved for bulimia as well as depression. Just keep in mind that if your first medication doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean another one won’t.

  18. hope505 Says:

    “…my libido in the last couple weeks has dropped to basically nil, and dude, we’re newlyweds. The unfairness makes me want to howl…”

    ^^ *haha!* Well now see…if you were on antidepressants, you still wouldn’t be frisky, but it wouldn’t upset you.
    * ; p

    And: ksfeminist is right…even in this day and age, with brain chemistry disorders, it’s still sort of a guessing game as to what chemical combo will work for you, and for how long.

  19. Risha Says:

    The good news is that there are so many of them, and they keep getting better year after year. The list of available anti-depressents staggered me the first time I saw it. There are dozens.

    And a few years ago, I would have had to choose between getting pregnant or taking a mood stabilizer (I’m bipolar), but the reproductive psychiatrist OK’d my Lamictal even though the FDA hasn’t yet.

  20. Looks like you’re getting a lot of good advice πŸ™‚

    One thing I’ve found over the years is that – at least in the areas where I’ve lived – is that there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much of a stigma associated with depression or taking depression meds as there used to be. I’ve found that people respond well if I have to tell them, and it’s really not much of an issue overall.

    Also, when I was still able to get out of the house, I’d meet people through various groups, and – invariably – we’d end up at someplace that served booze. I’ve never been much of a drinker, but when taking anti-depressants (or most any other psychiatric drugs, for that matter) you can’t drink – the combination can kill you. I found that when my new friends would start trying to get me to drink with them, explaining that I couldn’t drink because of the meds, they all understood and accepted it, and no one bugged me about not drinking again πŸ™‚

    You had mentioned some uncertainty about wondering how you’ll feel if – after starting on meds – you’re not “you” anymore, but my experience has been that its not something you need to really worry about.

    I’d first realized I was depressed when I was about 15, but my mother – who didn’t want any of her friends to think she’d raised a defective child (Gods know it was bad enough when – after I’d failed with my umpteenth diet – she finally came to the realization that she’d “just have to accept that [she] had a fat daughter” – and yes, that’s an actual quote) told me that no one in our family needed a therapist.

    When I moved out to Seattle in my early twenties, I decided to try again to get help. I didn’t have insurance, so I had to ask Mom to help pay for it, and this time, since I was half a continent away and there was no chance her friends would see me coming out of a therapists office or anything like that, she agreed to help (and then called my therapist one day to *inform* her that, since Mom was paying for my therapy, that meant she had the right to know what I was talking about – especially if I was saying anything bad about her – and give my therapist her side of the story. That was a fun one.) So, it took me a long time to go from recognizing that I was depressed before I could even contemplate who I might be “un-depressed” – or what I’d think of that person if I ever got to meet her.

    My therapist got me started on meds, and – even though I was really scared that I was going to become someone “else,” I found that on meds, I was still *ME* – just with a lot less dysfunctionality. The best example I can give is imagine you have a car that’s not running really well, so you take it into the shop. Your mechanic tells you that your engine is dirty, and that you need to start putting a gas additive into it every time you fill up to make sure it stays clean. It’s still the same car and the same engine, but they work like new because all the gunk is gone (and the additive helps keep it from building up again.)

    With the meds, I found was still the same person I’d always been in the ways that matter most – my basic personality, my values, beliefs, likes and dislikes, so on and so forth – that core that truly defines who you are. The difference was that I didn’t have to worry as much about me blowing something out of proportion and lashing out at people around me (even if they have nothing to do with the problem) or breaking down into a puddle of tears because I took something the wrong way. I had a lot more control over how I expressed my “me”-ness. Things aren’t perfect, I still have really dark days, but it’s easier for me to be able to detect the warning signs before I lose it and I’m a lot more likely to be able to recognize when I have. (Which, of course, makes it easier to admit I’m wrong, apologize and start fixing any damage I may have caused.)

    The last thing I wanted to mention – I can understand your concern after seeing your father have a manic reaction to meds – that could be pretty scary! (For me to be mobile again, I’d need to have both knees replaced, but after watching the hell my father went through having his replaced and the subsequent infection, I just can’t make myself do it [my general phobia related to surgery doesn’t help matters, either!]) The best thing to do would be to let your prescribing doctor know about your concern, and ask him/her what symptoms to look for and what to do, so you’re armed with that info up front. Then if something does happen, your husband will be able to recognize it and take whatever action is needed (like taking you to the hospital or giving you a counter-acting med or whatever.)

    Anyway, I probably rambled too much again, but I hope some of the extra context helps explain where my thoughts are coming from and maybe makes it easier to know if its at all relevant to you or not πŸ˜€

    Take care!!

  21. Mae Says:

    Thanks, Kriselda, that’s excellent advice about discussing the early signs of mania with the psychiatrist. I know its a slightly irrational fear, because my father =/= me, and everyone reacts differently to antidepressants, etc. etc. but it was really, really, REALLY scary.

  22. Becky Says:

    I’m glad you’ve decided you’re worth helping, and I wish you luck.

    I’m on Prozac for depression myself, have been on it for 8 years, and it has worked wonders for me. I don’t think it caused weight gain… I have gained a lot of weight since then, but I think that was mostly a result of going from basically not eating due to loss of appetite from depression to eating normally, plus I’ve done some yo-yo dieting in there. When I went off my medication recently for six months, I didn’t lose any weight, but rather continued the weight gain I’ve been experiencing since I went off my last diet. As for sex drive… the effects on sex drive are complex. I’ve been on Prozac since before I was sexually active but what I found when I went off it was I had more physical desire for sex but less psychological desire for it, if that makes sense. My body wanted sex but my brain didn’t think it was worth the effort so I just masturbated a lot. Now that I’m back on it, I do have less physical desire for sex, but more energy for it so I probably have sex more often overall. But bottom line is, I’d rather be fat with a low sex drive and happy than thin, horny, and depressed.

  23. I’m really sorry you’re dealing with this; I was catching up on posts and just saw your recent entries about the terrible time you have been having. I’m glad to hear you saw a therapist, and hope that this is your first step in coming back from that awful place. I’ll be thinking about you.

    FWIW I was on a combination of Wellbutrin and Prozac for a while for my depression and OCD, and I liked it pretty well. I don’t think that particular combo caused any weight gain in my case, though Zoloft did. I’ve had the low sex drive on pretty much any antidepressant I’ve ever been on, but honestly I don’t think that’s the antidepressants’ fault; just sort of a chronic problem that I have. Unfortunately.

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