Cooking With Chemicals: Striking a Balance

I took my first antidepressant this february. It was a pink square shaped pill with a much to feminine name for my liking. I took it for about two weeks before I had to request that my doctor take me off it. But this is not a horror story, it’s actually going to sound pretty common to most people who have anxiety and depression.

In january I found myself in a mentally and emotionally difficult place. My relationship of four and a half years had ended, I had burned myself out at work, and I saddled myself with a cross country move. My once annoying, but manageable anxiety disorder has become a debilitating condition*. The first month I did everything I could to help myself short of pharmaceutical drugs. I went to see a Naturopathic Doctor who was fantastic and gave me a murder’s row of natural remedies. Vitamin D drops, L-Theanine, 5-HTP, Vitamin B Complex, Vitamin B12 sublingual tabs, Omega 3 Fish Oil liquid with high DHA and EPA levels. This course of action, along with some serious rest and relaxation, actually really helped me improve, until a monkey wrench was thrown in the gears of my recovery.

After about a month on leave my insurance company felt that I had not taken enough steps in my recovery. They insisted that my treatment include pharmaceuticals. I had been to my doctor’s office to obtain notes in the previous months and the idea of trying antidepressants had been discussed but I felt that I should seek a recover that I was comfortable with. I understood the insurance company’s side of things, they were paying for my time off, and they wanted to see a course of treatment that was more calculable. If I sprained my ankle, I wouldn’t say, I can’t take an anti-inflamatory.  After considering my options, speaking with the psychologist I had been seeing for about three years and consulting with my family I decided that it was an opportune time really monitor myself and see if drugs would work.

With my doctor’s help my first foray into SNRIs**, was with Pristiq. Shitty name, shitty experience. The drug actually caused me to backslide. All of the progress I had made in January was erased in about four days. I slept an hour or two a night, my anxiety was back and depression never came into play because I was pretty much anxious all the time. It took about ten days before I went back in to report on my findings. I probably looked like Desmond from Lost by the time my doctor saw me, disheveled, paranoid, twitchy, 4,8,15,16, 23, 42.*** What was funny was that my insurance company probably prolonged my recovery by 4-6 weeks with their insistence on me taking pharmaceuticals. Not only did they pay for my leave but they paid for the drugs. Seems like a bit of a broken system to me.

Back to the drawing board. The next try was Wellbutrin, I must say the name was less femmy but more Orwellian. After a few weeks or complicated step down/step up drug blending, since you cannot just stop taking an antidepressant, I actually began to feel better. I was having good days, where I felt upbeat, productive and less of a drain on society. I also had bad days that were still quite rough, and my sleep had yet to return to healthy and normal. 

By april my sleep was more reasonable(not great) and my good days tend to out weigh the bad. I must say that I feel like I have found a balance. Between the drugs, daily exercise, a better diet, much less stress, and a great support system, I am nearly back to my old self.  I’ve continued to learn about my own limitations but I’ve found a great step to my recovery from depression and anxiety is being able to talk about it openly and honestly.

Thank you to my, family, friends, and readers for being my sounding board, support system and audience. I promise my next post will have viscera, neurosis and sadness.****

*I did a similar list of these unpleasant symptoms in an earlier post but lets go down this Rogue’s Gallery. Insomnia, No appetite, no energy, major gastrointestinal issues(think diarrhea for about 6 weeks.) high anxiety levels, hot flashes, excessive sweating, back spasms, tightness in the throat and chest, headaches, anxiety attacks(sometimes 2-4 a day). Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, lack of motivation, lack of interest in sex, fatigue, inability to concentrate, in ability to cope with simple daily tasks. Essentially imagine a really shitty flu that gets worse as your stress levels rise. In that first month I lost 27 lbs, I’ve since lost another 5 or so.

**Seretonin and Norepinephrine Re-uptake Inhibitors, are a class of antidepressants that cause cells in the brain responsible for removing Seretonin and Norepinephrine from synapses in the brain. In lay terms, Seretonin is a chemical that conducts small electrical impulses in the brain, in a depressed brain this chemical usually is lacking. These drugs allow the brain to use Seretonin more efficiently. 

***That right there probably landed a laugh out of 1/3 of my readership. Be glad it wasn’t a Dr. Who reference. 

****This is actually going to one day be the name of a Hasidic Earth Wind and Fire Tribute Band.