Autism, Depression

Changing my Brain Chemistry……..

Having completed 6 months of talking therapy I felt that I’d made sufficient progress that I could try and reduce my antidepressant dosage. I’ve been on antidepressants pretty much continuously since I was 16 (the only breaks were during pregnancy). I’ve long accepted that I will need to take medication for the rest of my life. I switched to my current medication of duloxetine back in late 2017. Initially I was put on 60mg a day and this worked well for about a year. In early 2019 I had to increase the dose to the maximum of 120mg a day due to the stress of life. Although this eased the symptoms of my depression it made my emotional range very narrow. Despite feeling most emotions none of these were very intense e.g. I was moved by my daughter writing me a poem for my birthday but I didn’t tear up like I thought I should.

Two weeks ago I started the process of reducing my dose of duloxetine back down to 60mg. I did one week of 90mg and then reduced it the final dose of 60mg. It took about a week for me to feel the difference and the first sign was that I got extremely peed off with my husband when he was complaining about a video I was watching on YouTube (I realised 20 minutes later and apologised!). 

I am now coping with the effect of less serotonin in my brain. My mental state feels a little unstable and my mood can change rapidly. It took a while but I recognise that this feeling is completely normal and it is what it’s like for most people that are not numbed by antidepressants. I’m learning to cope with feeling more. The therapy has really helped me cope with my current life situation, I recognise that I have limits in what I can do daily and that it doesn’t make me a bad person if I make time for myself. 

As well as the negative emotions I have also been able to feel more happiness. I reread my daughter’s poem and teared up even though it was about the fiftieth time I’d read it. I have also noticed that I get more enjoyment from my autistic special interests/fixations. I am able to get a thrill of achievement when I finally play ‘that section’ of a piano piece without a mistake. I have also become completely obsessed with the anime series ‘Attack on Titan’. I’ve mentioned this series before and if I let myself I could write an essay on how I feel about it. From the writing and the character development to the soundtrack it is truly a masterpiece. For the first time I’m even indulging in cosplay! I’m very aware that autistic people can talk for hours about their special interests and bore the pants off neurotypicals so I came up with a cunning plan. When I’m out I wear a very recognisable artefact from the series (a key) that any fan would recognise. If they then mention the series I know it’s ok for me to talk about it. I feel I must mention here that if anyone reading this decides to watch ‘Attack on Titan’, it is very definitely not suitable for children. 

I think on the whole I am better on the lower dose of duloxetine. It is still early days and I know that there are trying times ahead but I have amazing support in my family and I know I can do this!

Depression, Tummy Tuck, Weight

Going through the dark times and coming out the other side……..

2022 has been a year of extremes for my poor brain. I began the year having finally achieved my target weight. It took a lot of time, effort and introspection to permanently change my eating habits and I wasn’t prepared for how it would feel to finally reach my goal. I was obviously very happy but I immediately started to feel anxious as I have never been able to maintain my weight before. I’ve always been losing or gaining depending on whether I was in a diet or binge phase. I was acutely aware that most people who lose weight eventually regain it and this was true of me in the past. I knew I never wanted to be overweight again. The way I have dealt with this isn’t particularly healthy. I now obsessively count calories and ensure that I am at least 200 calories below my maintenance allowance for 5 out of 7 days and eat at maintenance for the other two. This way I know there is no way I can gain any weight so I don’t have to weigh myself every day. I know this way of dealing with my weight anxiety is wrong and I have been seeing a therapist for the past couple of months trying to find a way through.

I have now fully recovered from my tummy tuck surgery and I am ecstatic about the results. I will be having a small revision on the left hand side of my horizontal scar on my tummy as it has healed and left a small fold. This will be done under local anaesthetic on November 7th. When everything is all healed I will post my final before and after photos.

The main reason for my stress this year is that I am having to face the possibility that a close family member may have dementia. I wasn’t sure at the beginning of the year but over the past 3 months there has been a definite deterioration in cognitive function. We are waiting for a brain scan which could take as long as 5 months so there is no chance of any diagnosis before then. It’s a horrible position to be in; it’s like being in limbo. I have no idea what the future holds so I can’t make any plans. If there is one thing that calms my stress it is having a plan of action.

With all these things going on in my life I have been struggling with my mood. I’ve just had a couple of really bad weeks with depression and feeling frustrated that I can’t self medicate with food anymore. I am starting to come out the other side of it now so I’m hopeful things will improve.


Isolation Day #13……..

Like most of the worlds population we have been in lockdown and social distancing for almost 2 weeks and it has taken me this long to adjust emotionally. Like most autistic people I don’t like change and find it difficult. It’s quite weird because my day to day life isn’t that different as I’m not one for going out a lot. What has changed is my weekly routine. I’m used to my Mum coming over for dinner 3 times a week and going to Slimming World on Fridays. I’m used to being able to pop to the local supermarket and getting anything I need whenever I want. I didn’t stockpile anything when the panic buying began and became very anxious when I couldn’t get any pasta (why?).

I am not anxious about the current world situation because thanks to my education in molecular and cellular biology I understand everything that is going on. I’m not a fan of our current government but I cannot fault their response (ok maybe the schools should have closed a week earlier) to this pandemic. They have listened to the scientific experts and responded accordingly. Until a vaccine is available the world is going to face several waves of this pandemic and will have to have periods of lockdown to curtail the spread of the virus. At the moment we do not know if the coronavirus mutates enough to enable the reinfection of a previously immune host. If the virus does mutate in this way any vaccine created will be rendered ineffective and the worlds scientists will be forever playing catch up.

The changes in routine have led to a resurgence in my depression which has a knock on effect in the other areas of my life. I managed to stick to my eating plan until day 8 and then had 4 days of terrible eating. I have since given myself a talking to and devised a way to cope. Each day I am giving myself a list of tasks to do and I’m making sure I go out for a short walk. It’s only when I’ve done these two things that I allow myself to relax and do my hobbies. Without this structure I was watching YouTube videos all day and not achieving anything at all.

As I find writing therapeutic I’m going to be blogging a bit more. These posts will be primarily for me just to record my thoughts so I won’t be linking to them from my other social media. I need to create a new routine to maintain normal brain function.


Brain Malfunction………

Since Christmas my brain has been working against me. I always struggle with my depression in January and this year has been no exception. Just after Christmas I wrote a list of all the things I’d wanted to achieve in 2020. Due to being so unwell in 2019 I felt like it was a year wasted. We are now in the second week of February and I have yet to even start anything on the list.

I’ve mentioned Behavioural Activation in a previous post as a way to stop my procrastination but as of yet I haven’t even begun to look at it. I know I need to make a start and it is getting to the point where I’m just going to have to force myself to do it.

I think I am slowly coming out of it though as I’m finally going to go swimming this afternoon. I really need to increase my activity as I’m struggling to lose the last bit of weight. I am so close to being a healthy weight -only 3lbs away- and it’s become more important to me as I’ve had my genome sequenced (I’ll write another post on this later) and it shows that I’m at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. For me, losing weight was always about my health so this has lit a fire under my butt!

I’m also starting to look forward to the rest of the year. David and I will be celebrating our silver wedding anniversary in September and are planning a trip to the US. We’ve always wanted to go to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida and I really want to visit the Atheist Community of Austin in Texas so we will be doing both.

I think it is obvious to anyone reading this post that it was written over a period of a few days. The first two paragraphs were written two days ago when I was feeling very low and the remainder was written today. I find writing this blog extremely cathartic and I think this post has moved my brain into action.

Depression, Fibromyalgia

Behavioural Activation……..

I suppose most people procrastinate at sometime in their lives especially when needing to fulfil onerous tasks. At school I was always leaving my homework to the last minute unless it was a subject I enjoyed

Since becoming ill with depression and fibromyalgia my procrastination has reached epic levels. Being so tall I have difficulty buying coats with long enough sleeves so I thought I’d have a go at making myself a full length winter coat. I chose a pattern and ordered the required materials back in March. It is now October and I still haven’t made a start. I keep making plans to start on a certain day and end up dithering and making excuses. It is the same with my reborning (making hand painted realistic dolls); I started my current doll back in August and haven’t worked on it since my surgery.

I sometimes think I’m like this because of my perfectionism i.e. while I’m not doing the activity I’m not making any mistakes. I always feel better about myself when I’m being productive and I wish I could motivate myself more.

Behavioural activation is a branch cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that aims to help people engage more often in enjoyable activities and develop or enhance problem-solving skills. One of the symptoms of depression and chronic pain is a loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed. These activities are seen as not being worth the effort and this creates the vicious cycle seen below:


Behavioural activation involves looking at any obstacles to participation in activities and making strategies to overcome them. This may involve breaking the activity down into smaller, more manageable steps. It is often helpful to keep a record of thoughts and feelings while doing activities. This can be used to identify what worked and what didn’t with the goal of finding a positive solution to problems encountered. The ultimate aim of behavioural activation is to shift the person from the cycle shown on the left of the diagram to the cycle on the right thus releasing them from the inaction that made their depression worse.

There is a course on behavioural activation that I can attend locally so I think I’ll go and enrol now.


Social Media Fatigue……..

Having been unable to work for over 10 years due to the fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue I have spent a lot of time on the internet and social media. At my worst times it has been the only way I’ve been able to interact with the outside world.

I have an extremely active mind with a strong focus on logic and reason. In the past I have enjoyed discussing topics with people on social media however over the past few months I have become increasingly annoyed with anything that is based on religion, pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. I have always tried to respect other peoples beliefs in such things but I increasingly want to call people out on – what I see as – their stupidity. I’ve literally typed out multiple angry responses and then deleted them; all but one. Unfortunately this was mistakenly taken as an accusation towards someones friend rather than a general comment on the subject in question. Obviously I immediately apologised and explained that it was not meant as it appeared but it has left me with a lot of anxiety.

The only way I feel able to cope with the anger and anxiety is to take a prolonged break from social media; Facebook in particular. I may even decide to deactivate my account at a later date. It will be hard losing contact with friends that I rarely see but I don’t see another option right now.


My inner voice……..

It has always been a question in philosophy how one can prove to another conscious being of their own consciousness. I know for certain that I am conscious and that I exist. I also accept that my consciousness is merely an emergent property of my brain and that when my brain dies my consciousness will cease to exist. I converse with myself in my native tongue of English and I can remember doing this from about the age of 2.

When I started school I remember questioning why I wasn’t like everybody else, why I couldn’t say anything right or act ‘normal’. As I got older and developed depression this turned into a constant diatribe of internal belittling. I hated myself for being overweight, lying for attention and being what I thought of as a freak. The only way I could comfort myself was by getting good grades and eating junk. The latter was obviously counterproductive.

This inner voice continued well into adulthood. Having a husband that loved me unconditionally and two beautiful daughters didn’t seem to make a difference. Although very grateful, I felt that I was undeserving of it all. This led to some unreasonable behaviour on my part especially when David wanted to do something on his own. It was only when this behaviour was pointed out to me a couple of years ago that I realised how destructive it was.

Once I’d made the decision to change and worked on thinking and acting differently my self hating inner voice stopped. It took a few months but I actually -for the first time in my life- started to like myself. The change was so startling that my youngest daughter asked if I’d started taking a new medication. I no longer feel inferior to other people despite my difficulties. It is these difficulties that make me who I am and I wouldn’t change anything because I’m doing ok.

Depression, Weight

Finally feeling better……..

The increased dose of my antidepressant, duloxetine is finally kicking in and I am feeling a lot better. I haven’t had an anxiety attack for a week. Even though I am in a major flare up of the fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue I am able to cope with it. I’ve also been able to look after my Mum this week when she’s been unwell with a chest infection.

I’ve done a second class of yoga and have identified that I have no balance whatsoever. Any pose that involves going on one leg sees me wobbling about and falling over. David is worse than me so I am in good company. I am enjoying yoga but find it tough going; after 30 minutes I’m dripping in sweat. I’m so glad the room is in semi-darkness because I’m sure my face is bright red. I love the endorphin high I get after class so it’s worth the pain.

I’d really like to start swimming again but I’m a bit embarrassed about my appearance. As I’ve lost over a 100lb the skin on my tummy, arms and thighs has become really wrinkly and just hangs (I am planning on having a tummy tuck when I’ve lost my remaining weight). I know the skin on my tummy won’t show under my swimming costume. It’s a bit ironic because when I was bigger I was still embarrassed about being seen in a swimming costume. I think I just need to get over it.

At the moment David and I are doing life laundry. It is long overdue and the clutter has really been getting me down. The hardest thing for me is getting rid of things that my children have made. I literally can’t keep it all. I have 4 crates of stuff that I’d like to get down to 1 but I’m not sure I have the heart to get rid of anything. Having grown up children is great but I miss my babies.


The grass is always greener on the other side……..

When I am in one of my lows, I often reflect negatively on how my life has turned out. I find looking at pictures of myself when I was little very sad because I feel that that little girl had the potential to become anything she wanted.


While growing up children are always asked what they want to do when they’re older. For me it was to become a doctor and one of my biggest regrets is not having the confidence to go for it when I was younger. I chose to become a mother at the age of 19 and I certainly don’t regret it but it did mean that I had to put my career on hold. I stayed at home with my girls until both were at school. I then decided it was time for me to start my working life.

I’ve discussed what happened in my previous posts so I won’t go into it again. To cut a long story short my depression and inability to cope with stress led to me developing fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. At times I feel very defeated and ask myself over and over again; why couldn’t I cope? I am very lucky that David has a highly paid job so we don’t have any money worries but I hate the fact that I can’t contribute.

This week when I was feeling low I tried to imagine what my life would be like now if I had become doctor. I certainly would have a successful career but would I have been happy? If I had concentrated on becoming a doctor I probably wouldn’t have met my soulmate and had two beautiful children and I might have regretted it. When I realised this a lot of my feelings of regret disappeared.

Life is far too short to keep second guessing your decisions. There isn’t enough time to do everything so you just have to make the most of every day and do the best you can.

Depression, Fibromyalgia

A Quick Update……..

I’m feeling very defeated at the moment. I had yet another bout gastroenteritis which was so severe that David called an ambulance for me because I had gone into withdrawal from my pain medication. I’m now recovered but feeling very, very tired. I’ve tried to reduce my pain medication but couldn’t tolerate the increase in my pain levels. I’ve also had a relapse in my depression and anxiety after being stable for over a year. My doctor has increased my antidepressant dose so hopefully I will be feeling better in a couple of weeks.

On the positive side before I was ill, I did manage to finally go to a yoga class. The first surprise was that the class was held in semi darkness. For me this was great because it meant that I felt less self conscious. I was also able to do the whole class without having to rest. The form of yoga that was taught was hatha yoga. Hatha yoga involves moving into poses and holding them while concentrating on breathing. My flexibility is very much reduced due to the fibromyalgia and some of the poses were difficult for me but for my first class I think I did ok. I can really see how yoga is going to help rehabilitate my muscles so maybe in the future when my muscles are stronger I can try again to reduce my pain medication.