Living With Depression

Living With Depression

I was diagnosed with depression a couple of weeks ago. It’s a strange illness that affects my perception and judgment.

The relationship problems that I’ve mentioned in previous posts took their toll on me mentally. I’m prone to feeling low in any case, which is related to my poor self-esteem, and the added stresses pushed me further down into a moderate depression.

In terms of symptoms, I have been experiencing most of common ones associated with depression:

  • Persistent low mood. In my case I have had several episodes where I have broken down in tears or come very close.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities. I found I had little interest in programming — my special interest! — or crosswords, something I am usually very keen on.
  • Disturbed sleep. I have had trouble with insomnia and my sleep patterns have become significantly disturbed.
  • Change in appetite. I lost 10 lbs in two weeks and I am still slowly losing weight. My appetite is considerably reduced.
  • Poor concentration. This made it nearly impossible for me to work: my job as a programmer requires mental effort and focus, which I had been unable to achieve. It also means it becomes very difficult to make rational decisions.
  • Fatigue. I have been feeling physically tired a lot, almost exhausted with little energy to get up and do things.
  • Agitation. I have been feeling unsettled a lot and have been a little snappish at times, losing patience much more easily than usual.

My doctor and I discussed the range of treatments available which fall into two categories: psychological (talking) and medication. My initial reaction was almost to reject the medication options out of hand because I have a strong reluctance to take any medicines, even paracetamol for a headache.

I have two reasons: first, I have always found it difficult to swallow pills. Second, I have a fear that there may be some side-effect that will affect the way I think and feel: that it will change who I am.

Having expressed this to the doctor, we began by considering the psychological treatments. These are forms of counseling and therapy including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which I had some success with as a treatment for anxiety. The down side is that where I live the resources are limited and there are long waiting lists: it might take three or four months before I could begin treatment.

This encouraged me to be open-minded about medication, specifically a SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor). The thing about depression is that the brain’s chemistry is out of balance, and in my case the difficulties I am having with sleep patterns and concentration in particular point at serotonin levels being a large factor.

I asked numerous questions about side-effects, withdrawal, whether it would still allow me drive safely, whether it would affect my thinking. Obviously with the last one there I hadn’t really considered the point of the medication: it’s supposed to affect how you think and feel over time, easing the low mood, improving concentration and sleep. And where I am right now isn’t somewhere I’d like to be for any longer than necessary.

After satisfying myself that there were unlikely to be any serious effects of starting a course of a SSRI, and being reassured that it would be safe to stop taking it at any point in the first few weeks should I suffer any adverse reaction, I agreed that I felt it to be the best treatment for me.

I am now five days into the course on a low dosage and apart from some mild nausea, which is not uncommon, I have yet to notice any effects: this is perfectly normal as it can take up to three or four weeks for the drug’s effect to build up to a noticeable level. I still have my low mood, my concentration has not improved, nor has my sleeping. My appetite is still suppressed.

But this is to be expected at this early stage, and I must be patient. I hope that I will continue to avoid any serious side-effects and that my mood will begin to improve over the coming weeks. Only time will tell.

19 thoughts on “Living With Depression

  1. Good luck and hope you get better as soon as possible, but mostly I hope you get better in a consistent way. If the medication helps you, use it as a help. (I’ve been on medication during more than a year, though in my case only the third combination worked with no debilitating side-effects. When we finally found the correct combination, it did help.)

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    1. Thank you. It’s early days, obviously, but I’m keen to get back to feeling my usual self: I dislike feeling so low and tired. But I know it’s going to be a slow process and I’m prepared for a setback or two along the way. It happens.

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  2. Good luck! Medications can be scary but they can be very very helpful for some people too. In my own experience of being super resistant to medication (because I didn’t want it to change who I was at my core) I made two very big mistakes over the years: 1) I stopped taking my meds without telling my doctor and 2) I assumed that because a few meds hadn’t worked for me or had in fact made things worse, no meds could possibly help. I really can’t stress enough how much I regret those two things. Medication isn’t for everybody, and there’s no shame in changing your mind and deciding you want to try something else, but if you do give it a shot (and it sounds like the plan), please remember to be safe. 🙂

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    1. Thanks Nattily. Yes, I do find meds scary, but the thought of waiting months to even start therapy with no guarantees of success was worse. I thought it made sense to at least try the meds, and of course I’ll be seeing the doctor regularly to check how the treatment is progressing.

      I’ve also talked to a few friends IRL who have had SSRIs for depression so I’ve gotten the benefit of their experiences as well. Plus, they’re looking out for me, for any signs I might miss that it’s not helping me. In which case I’ll be back to the doctor right away.

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  3. I don’t like meds either. I’ve been taking melatonin for a while to help me sleep and that’s pretty much the only way I can sleep well. Also, I’ve had some success with a natural supplement called Amoryn, for serotonin. I don’t think I had any panic attacks while I was taking it. Might be worth looking into. 🙂 It’s not really strong but there aren’t any side effects, so it might be helpful along with psychological treatments.

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    1. I’m too early on in the course of the SSRI I was prescribed to judge its effectiveness yet, but I’m relying on my doctor for advice and guidance. If the one I’m on turns out not to be effective I’ll try a different one, but I’m not going to start experimenting. The psychological therapies remain an option, but because of the waiting lists I decided to leave them until I had tried meds.

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      1. Probably a good idea. I tried two medications from a doctor and neither helped, so I went looking for a natural alternative and found one. Not sure if any “normal” doctors would even consider natural things like that…but if nothing else helps and you want to try something on your own, there’s an option. Hope things get better for you soon!

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  4. all the best with that. medication for depression can be very effective but also, indeed, have side-effects that are considerable. Strict supervision of the dosis and adjustments – or change of the type of medication – are key.
    i would still sign up for counselling or similar. even if you have to wait for the appointment, 3 – 4 months will suddenly be gone and while you should have some improvement via the medication in that time as well (if they are right for you), counselling might be more efficient to help you with actions necessary to bring you in a place where your depression and anxiety will not be as acute..

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  5. I really hope those medications work out for you. Like you I am very hesitant to consider meds, I’m just too scared they might make things worse.
    “Obviously with the last one there I hadn’t really considered the point of the medication: it’s supposed to affect how you think and feel over time” 🙂 I hadn’t really considered that either… ehm…

    Since a few months I do have these ‘natural’ meds to be somewhat calmer and to help me sleep (I used to smoke marijuana for that, but it increased my hyperventilation). No matter how natural, I still feel weird about it. And I am not comfortable swallowing pills, either.

    Good for you to take action like this, to seek help. I agree with suburp that signing up for counselling anyway is a good idea. It might help you find some techniques, not only for now but anytime in the future, to help cope with certain feelings.

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    1. Thank you. It wasn’t an easy decision to ask for help because that’s something I never feel comfortable about, but I was at such a low point that I realized I needed to do something.

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  6. Hi bjforshaw!

    I have found you through OM, and the Poetry Critique Group!

    After reading your very positive poem I wanted to check out your blog.

    This post caught my eye because I have been through severe post-natal depression, and found my way through without medication. The deciding factor for me was looking at the diagram of how the serotonin re-uptake inhibitors work. I wasn’t happy about how they basically cut off a natural cycle in the brain. The medical profession do not offer me any alternative.

    I searched high and low and found that there are in fact natural things that increase the serotonin levels in the brain. Perhaps more is known about it these days. Probably there is plenty of information available via google.

    The strangest thing was, that those in the mental health services did not really know what caused the depression. (I filled out a survey which asked me what I thought caused it.) Many years later, I found that the symptoms I experienced would be more related to trauma, grief, and extreme exhaustion. (Sleep deprivation can bring on the same symptoms as psychosis after about three days.)

    A naturopath kindly shared what whole natural foods benefit specific areas of the brain, and endocrine system. Various books at the public library filled in other natural alternatives. Sorting out life’s problems and accepting what couldn’t be changed was necessary, and took a lot of thought and learning.

    Keep on searching for what you need – it will turn up eventually when hunted for vigorously. Sorry, I have taken up a lot of room on your blog… Umm.. love to list the normal foods (not alternative medicines, or pills, or strange herbs..) if you would like? Please feel free to email me – wildersoul@gmail.com

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