22 Aug

Patience

How do I do it?

One day at a time.  Finding the smallest victories to celebrate.  Having faith that there are better days ahead.  Believing that no matter what the day brings, I can get through it.

Why do I do it?

I don’t allow there to be any other option.  There are people who believe in me.  I now know there is help waiting for me.  There is the beginnings of a plan, a plan that gives me so much hope.

When will I be better?

Better is for a cold or flu.  A mental illness is not curable.  Symptoms can be lessened with medication, in some cases.  Therapy can teach new ways of thinking.  I know I won’t ever be “better”.  I know I’m on a path that will allow me to have less symptoms and learn new strategies for positive thinking.

How do I have patience to wait?

That’s a great question.  This isn’t something that can be rushed.  Trying to make things happen quicker doesn’t help it actually happen any quicker.  So I relax, I wait, I take one day at a time.  Basically, I do the next thing.

19 Aug

Let’s Talk About Medication

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I’m not going to write about any specific medication.  I’m not going to tell you that one type of medication is better than another.  I’m not even going to mention any medications by name.  I want to share my thoughts on why.  Why should someone take medication for their illness?  It is a personal decision.  You are right.  It is, and I’d respect any decision anyone made around their own health management.  I feel that if I share my experiences about my medication trials I could help someone make decisions about their medication.

Here are some of the lessons I learned:

1. Unless directed by your physician it is NOT a good idea to stop taking your medication.

Within a year after first being prescribed medication I felt better.  In my mind, you take medication until you feel better, then you stop.  I stopped taking my medication, cold turkey.  I was better.   I was better until the day I wasn’t.  It didn’t take long, weeks perhaps, for me to have a major meltdown.  I returned to my family doctor who put me back on medication.  The problem was, it no longer worked like it did before.  Double the dose (as directed by physician), was better, but still not the same.

2. Don’t assume the “natural” route is better than the prescribed options.

I tried that.  I had gone a year or so with no medications.  Some symptoms started rearing their ugly heads.  (And denial, of course!)  A natural option seemed like a great place to start.  This lasted about 6 months.  And it wasn’t just a meltdown that prompted the need for a doctor’s visit.  It was depression and agoraphobia.  I told my doctor what I had been taking and proudly added, “It’s all natural!”  I will NEVER forget his reply, “So is cyanide.”

3. Medication is NOT a sign of weakness.

Another great conversation I had with my doctor went something like this.

Me, “How long do I have to take this for?”

Doctor, “Forever.”

My eyes teared and I just looked at him like he had given me the worse possible news.

He looked at me and said, “You have an illness.  Diabetes is an illness, diabetics needs insulin to survive.  You need this.”

Suddenly, it made sense.  The depression cycles I had previously experienced were not one-offs.   It was an illness.  It was something I “had”.  There was NO cure.  There was management of symptoms.

4.  Research, research and research.  And if still in doubt, ask lots of questions.

Find out all you can about the medication you are prescribed.  Know it’s symptoms.  Know it’s side effects.  Understand the dosage options.  What dosage are you starting at?  Is there room for increases (as directed by a physician), if needed?  Part of owning your illness, is being aware of all the components.

A few points.  Nothing major or earth shattering.  Just a few things that I’ve learned along the way.  Next week’s appointment may address a change in my medications.  I will try to learn as much as I can.  I will ask lots of questions.  I will do my best to know that this may be exactly what I need for my current condition.  And I will know that even when I feel better, I keep taking what has been prescribed.

 

14 Aug

You Can Change the Perception of Mental Illness

Over 25 years ago, when there were little to no sources of support or guidance, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I write about what my life has been like living with a mental illness as well as the other health conditions I have faced over the years. I want to help remove the stigma associated with mental illness and any other illness that does not visibly manifest itself. It seems that little understanding or respect is available to people who suffer from illnesses that are not “seen”.  People should be able to speak freely about their illness and feel no shame.

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Today, there exists a myriad of support systems that are available to anyone in need. Your primary caregiver can offer suggestions to get you started. If only a fraction of these resources had been at my disposal years ago. The internet is a great source for helping you find the support that best suits your needs. The important thing to remember is, no one need suffer alone.

Writing about my experiences and sharing some of what I have learned over the years has become a method of maintaining ownership of my illness. Throughout my life, it became habitual to attempt an existence where I no longer suffered from depression and anxiety. If I didn’t “feel” any of the symptoms I felt before, I must be fine. It was so easy to fill my head with these misconceptions because I didn’t want to have depression. There was a very serious problem with this way of thinking. I had never learned the skills or strategies needed to help maintain a healthy mental state. This unawareness left me vulnerable to the same old scripts and same old ways of thinking that would drag me into a depressive state.

During the last couple years, I have been presented with life changing events that affected my mental state. The help I desperately needed for so long became available to me. I haven’t looked back since. I continue to grow within my situation and learn more and more ways to live within the parameters. Here is a small list of some of the lessons I’ve learned, the hard way.

  • Depression is not your fault. You can not simply suck it up and get on with your day.
  • Depression will not go away on its own. You need to find ways to dig out from under it.
  • Medication can help. Talk with your physician and research what is available. Find a medication that has side effects that you can manage and can relieve the symptoms that affect your life the greatest. There are some very good antidepressants on the market.
  • Do not stop taking antidepressants without your doctor knowing. Accept that antidepressants are not cures but sources of symptomatic relief that you may need for the rest of your life.
  • Read as much as you can about your illness. Learn the skills and strategies that can help you live with it, not fight against it. Knowledge is power and goes a long way towards lessening future instances of depression and anxiety.
  • Seek professional help. Talk to a psychiatrist and get a proper diagnosis. Depression can be caused by other underlying illnesses being left untreated.