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Depression, Antidepressants, and SAD, Oh My!

About two months ago, I realized something significant. My antidepressants are actually working. Am I always happy? No. Am I even happy most of the time? I guess it depends on how you define happy. But, to be honest, that’s not what depression is really about. Depression is about not being able to cope with stresses in life. It’s about shutting down when life gets too hard to deal with. It’s about brain chemistry and not being able to enjoy the simplest of pleasures.

I have a very stressful job. I think about quitting almost daily. Some days, like any other job, are worse than others. When my antidepressants weren’t working, I’d “cope” with my stress as a result of my job and my depression in very unhealthy ways, like:

  • Burning through my PTO (paid time off) like there’s a hole in my pocket
  • Having a ton of Fibromyalgia flareups
  • Overeating
  • Over sleeping
  • Procrastinating my to do list at work
  • Being extremely irritable and grumpy
  • Being anti-social
  • Sitting on the couch doing nothing while I’m at home
  • Going into victim

I know my medication is working because even though I’m still extremely stressed and I’m not always happy, I’m not depressed like I have been in the past. And, I’ve realized I can cope with the stress in healthy ways. Sure, I’d still love to quit my job if a better opportunity presented itself. But, until then I know I can survive.

When I’m in a good place, I:

  • No longer burn through my PTO, which is nice because I can actually take vacations
  • Take 5-minute walks to breathe when I realize I need a break
  • Don’t procrastinate and just get the job done
  • Stick to my diet (lifestyle change) and take care of my physical health, which in turn allows me to take care of my mental health
  • Exercise to release endorphins

Seasonal Affective Disorder

My only concern is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), something else I’ve been diagnosed with. SAD affects me during the winter when it’s dark before I go to work and dark before I come home. I’ve never been in as good of a place as I am in right now before with medication and I don’t know how it works or will work with SAD. I can already feel SAD affecting me. Or, today I started wondering if I’m beginning to fall into its clutches. I’m not sure if I’m just tired, bored, and stressed (remember HALT BS?) or becoming depressed. They often feel the same to me in the beginning.

I had hoped my medication was going to keep SAD away this year, but SAD may be too strong for my meds. I just don’t know since it’s only seasonal. If I do fall into SAD’s clutches, I hope once it starts getting lighter again and SAD eventually goes away, I can go right back to being in a better place.

SAD be damned. I’ll get through this. I always do. I’ll just remember that everything is better in the spring. 😉

I’m glad I’ve been able to see how awesome it is to feel “normal” since I haven’t felt normal for more than half my life. I hope my antidepressants continue to work so I can keep feeling normal and keep coping with life in healthy ways.

HALT BS

Have you ever heard of HALT BS before? It’s something one of my therapists taught me. HALT BS and the drama triangle (another topic for another time) are two of the main things I took away from my sessions with her. Learning about these two things changed my life.

HALT BS stands for:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired
  • Bored
  • Stressed

Why is HALT BS so important that it changed my life? If you feel or are in any of these states of being, then you’re more likely to relapse into your self-destructive routines, whatever they may be. Some of my self-destructive routines include:

  • Overeating
  • Over sleeping
  • Being anti-social
  • Negative self-talk
  • Going into victim (part of the drama triangle I mentioned above)
  • Being codependent

When I first learned about HALT BS, I didn’t really understand it or believe it. However, seeing how I’ve relapsed into my selt destructive routines time and time again, how true being emotionally aware really does affect my mental illnesses and all that entails.

I relapse most often when I feel one of these emotions. All of these emotions really affect me. It’s really important for me to take care of myself and make sure I’m getting the sleep I need, following my keto diet, taking time to decompress when I’m stressed, etc. Otherwise, my anxiety and depression creep in much more easily than if my defenses were in place.

I love that it’s HALT BS formed with these emotions not another phrase. It helps me remember to stop, think, and act instead of just acting, which is something I do a lot, toward my self-destructive tendencies and what’s “normal” for me right now. It helps me remember that I’m continually working to change my normal so that positive and healthy behaviors become second nature to me.

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A Life-Changing Decision

If you’ve been a blog reader for a while, you may have noticed some changes. If not, that’s okay. I’m about to tell you about them anyway. 😂

I recently read FURIOUSLY HAPPY by Jenny Lawson* and it was kind of life-changing for a couple of reasons.

I realized more profoundly than ever before that I’m not alone as I deal with my mental illnesses and chronic pain and there are others, like Jenny and me, who need constant love and support.

I read FURIOUSLY HAPPY on my Kindle and I’m glad I did because I highlighted passages that spoke to me, which isn’t something I normally do (not even with my Kindle). This passage spoke to me the most:

“And when we see celebrities who fall victim to depression’s lies we think to ourselves, ‘How in the world could they have killed themselves? They had everything.’ But they didn’t. They didn’t have a cure for an illness that convinced them they were better off dead. Whenever I start to doubt if I’m worth the eternal trouble of medication and therapy, I remember those people who let the fog win. And I push myself to stay healthy. I remind myself that I’m not fighting against me … I’m fighting against a chemical imbalance … a tangible thing. I remind myself of the cunning untrustworthiness of the brain, both in the mentally ill and in the mentally stable. I remind myself that professional mountain climbers are often found naked and frozen to death, with their clothes folded neatly nearby because severe hypothermia can make a person feel confused and hot and convince you to do incredibly irrational things we’d never expect. Brains are like toddlers. They are wonderful and should be treasured, but that doesn’t mean you should trust them to take care of you in an avalanche or process serotonin effectively.”

Depression and other mental illnesses are hard to live with. Even now that I’m in a really good space, I’m afraid I won’t be in the future. It’s a constant fear; a worry I needn’t have but I do because there is no cure. I can only treat the symptoms for a while.

I thought that if I documented my day-to-day struggles not only would I selfishly help myself, but maybe I can help others that struggle with mental illness and chronic pain too.

I laughed so much while I read FURIOUSLY HAPPY. So much. This is huge! I don’t laugh when I read. Authors might as well be telling their jokes to a robot for all the good it will do. I usually don’t or won’t get their humor.

Why was laughing while reading FURIOUSLY HAPPY life-changing? I’m an Aspy, you see. An Aspy is someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. Or, if you’re in the United States like I am and want to be “technically correct, the best kind of correct” (ten points if you know that reference) and realize Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer a “diagnosis,” then you’ll know I’m on the Autism Spectrum.

Being on the Autism Spectrum is new for me. Well, being on the spectrum isn’t new, but recognizing that I’m on the spectrum is new and it matters quite a bit. My mannerisms, my reactions, my focuses, even how my mind deals with my mental illnesses and chronic pain is affected by ASD.

(PS, does this mean that everyone with ASD doesn’t laugh while reading? No. It just means that’s my experience and that’s why reading FURIOUSLY HAPPY changed me.)

What does this mean for my blog? It means I’m not going to be focusing on books anymore. I’m still going to be reading, of course. I may even post a review here and there. But, I’m shifting my focus to more personal posts and life in general. I’ll focus on my journey to get healthy and what it’s like living with the myriad of health issues I have.

🥂 Here’s to the beginning of a new journey!

*I need to add that FURIOUSLY HAPPY is not for everyone. There’s quite a bit of profanity and the humor is often quite crude. However, if you’re not easily offended and you or someone you know suffers from any kind of mental illness, I highly recommend reading this book. It’s funny, heartfelt, honest, and very insightful. I’m glad I read it and I’ll read more from Jenny Lawson as I feel like she and I are kindred spirits.