A year and a half ago, I addressed the fact that I felt that I more than likely had clinical depression and that I was possibly even bipolar. But because people in my situation often are also in denial, I never did anything about it.
I had all sorts of excuses. I took an anti-depressent a few years ago that made me a zombie. I am self-employed, so it doesn’t effect my work. It doesn’t effect my life.
Finally, back in February, I took a look around and realized it was effecting my life. We’ve lived in our house for close to a year, and yet there are still boxes. I wanted them gone, but any time I tried to tackle them I would lose interest. I would lose focus while working. I was putting off things that are important (billing work – I hate billing) for things that were more fun. I went through a stamp obsession, a photography obsession, and most recently a knitting obsession. Mike, thank God, is a saint and not only puts up with it but also tries really hard to help me through issues, although depression isn’t really something you can fix. That man has patience like no other.
So I made an appointment with a psychiatrist. Finally. After a year and a half. Although really, I’ve known I needed to do it for at least 10 years, maybe more. It was very, very interesting, to say the least.
I am not bipolar in the classic Type I and Type II sense. However, I have all of the symptoms of Cyclothymia, which is another form of bipolar disorder. (More links here.) My depression isn’t so deep that I can’t function, and my manic times are short, normally just a day or two. And they really are on a cycle, happening about every 3-4 weeks it seems.
Some things all make sense now. Several years ago I took Fasten for a month or two to help lose weight. I went back to the doctor that prescribed it and told him that I felt so much better mentally – able to cope with things, to focus, to get things done. He said it simply wasn’t possible. Little did he know … sure it was. Fasten was an SSRI, effecting the seritonin levels in your brain – which has a positive effect on people with depression in any form. I told the psychiatrist about this, and he said that years ago when he would try out standard anti-depressents with some patients, they would complain of the same “zombie” feeling that I had. Later, they would come back after taking Phen-Fen and report feeling better finally – they way the anti-depressents should have made them feel.
On top of discussing my past history, symptoms and so forth, we decided to have me take the TOVA test. I told the doctor that I especially have issues with the auditory side of things, much like Jason does. First I did the visual test, which came out close to normal – some concerns, but for the most part, normal. I can focus visually. Then we did the auditory test. It was like I was being tortured, it was that bad. Oh my goodness. High and low tones that I could not tell apart. It was frustrating. Not only did I do terrible on the test, the results are displayed in 4 bar graphs – and one of my graphs had NO bars. None. Then he had me take 10mg of Ritalin, and retest an hour and a half later.
I’ve always wondered what effect Ritalin and other ADD drugs have and if they have any effect at all. Now I can say that they definitely do.
I took the auditory test a second time, expecting it to not be that different. I was wrong. The results were completely different. I could hear the tones. I could focus on the sounds without my mind wondering, counting the tones, or whatever else I was thinking about. I wasn’t frustrated when I finished the test. And my results finally had bars on all 4 graphs.
Instead of being prescribed any form of anti-depressant, I left with samples of Strattera. We are ramping up my dose – today is day 4 of the 25mg; tomorrow I go up to 40mg. I go back in a few weeks to follow up.
So far, so good. So, so, so good. The first day I had a horrid headache – almost like a hangover from the Ritalin. The second day was much better. I’m able to focus while working. I was able to spend time rearranging all of the books in the study – but not in my frantic manic cleaning mode, but rather in an orderly fashion. The internal noise is quieter. I don’t feel so scattered. I feel … good.
I’m glad I finally went to the doctor. I wish I had gone years ago, but everything in life happens for a reason it seems, and it has brought me to a point that I am happy with my life. Maybe that is why I was finally able to face it and go in. As I told him, my life really is good, which makes depression even more frustrating. He called me the sad clown – sad on the inside, but putting on a front of happiness for the world. (I have definite “people pleaser” issues.) Life is good, but I hope that turning this corner will make it even better, for all of us.
If you have any reason to be concerned about your mental health, get help. Talk to a doctor, a counselor, a therapist – whatever. Do it for yourself.