Depression, Fibromyalgia

Medication……..

Everyone today is fortunate that we live in a world where many of our ailments can be successfully treated or prevented altogether. I am on a load of medication for my depression and anxiety and a lot of painkillers for my fibromyalgia. It took a long time to find which medications were best for me.

For the first time I am now questioning whether it would be beneficial for me to at least try to reduce my dosage and/or even come off some of them. David has recently come off his antidepressants and has said that he feels more alive now that his brain is not numbed. He is certainly different and although he occasionally gets a little stressed most of the change is very positive.

Painkillers are known to not work effectively for fibromyalgia sufferers and I am on so much I’m sure my mood is affected. I’m not fully alert and often have trouble motivating myself to do my hobbies. There is also the worry of addiction. I have been taking high strength opiates for over 10 years and do get symptoms of withdrawal if I’m late taking them. I know that I am addicted. My two main painkillers are tramadol and codeine. The tramadol is sustained release and I am on the maximum dose and the codeine is taken every 4 hours throughout the day.

I have made the decision to try to come off the codeine altogether. If I do it slowly I will me able to minimise the withdrawal. The tablets I take contain 30mg of codeine and are prescription only; you can get 8mg codeine over the counter so it will be easy for me to taper off my dose. I think I will be able to do it over 12 weeks. Of course if my pain becomes unbearable I will start taking it again.

I’ve been taking these medications for so long that I don’t know what my pain levels are without any relief. If I can stop the codeine successfully I will then make an appointment to see my doctor to discuss trying to lower my tramadol dosage. Following this I will then look at my antidepressants.

Eventually I hope to find the minimum amount of medication that I need to function. Hopefully this will lead to me feeling less doped up and be able to experience more of life.

Depression

Struggling a bit……..

I don’t know whether it’s the time of year but I seem to be struggling again with my depression. It’s nowhere near as bad as it has been in the past but it’s definitely there. My brain feels very slow and I’m starting to feel cut off from the world again. I feel like I’m dangling from a cliff holding on to some very slippery ropes. I keep trying to look ahead to try and mitigate anything that I think that might cause me anxiety before it happens but it’s exhausting.

The first thing to go when I feel like this is my motivation to partake in my hobbies. I haven’t done anything for over a month which is not like me. I’m still able to stick to my healthy eating plan which is a good thing as I shudder to think how bad I’d feel if I started putting on weight again. I think my brain has finally shifted into seeing my way of eating as normal.

I often have a low period from the beginning of the year until my birthday in February so this episode is a bit early. I wish I knew the reason why. It’s at times like this when I fully understand the type of depression I have. There are two types; reactive and endogenous. Reactive depression is caused by external events such as a bereavement. Endogenous depression, as the name suggests, comes from within and this is the type I have. It is thought that endogenous depression is caused by an imbalance in brain chemistry, particularly the neurotransmitter serotonin. Almost all modern antidepressants inhibit the reabsorption of serotonin thereby raising its level in the brain.

I could go and see my doctor and ask to have my dosage increased but I really don’t want to have to take even more medication. I think the only thing I can do is just ride the storm and hope for calmer waters soon.

Depression

Depression Part 2……..

Prior to going to university for the second time I had managed to ‘maintain’ my weight at the healthy level I’d reached when I was 18. This was through my usual cycle of binge eating and panicked dieting. As my depression was so severe I was unable to stick to a diet and during the 3 years of my degree I gained a total of 90 lbs. I despised myself for being so weak willed. My depression continued to be a serious issue and by this time I had been on several different antidepressants without finding one that worked sufficiently for me to live a normal life. My self harming continued and in 1997 I started seeing a psychiatric nurse weekly.

In February 1997 I had a miscarriage which obviously didn’t help things. My self harming reached such a level that my nurse threatened to section me for my own safety and I think it was this that finally made me turn the corner. I fell pregnant again in the December of 1997 and had Katherine the following August. Following Katherine’s birth I started taking medication again and had a couple of good years.

My self harming returned in 2001 and I finally realised the reason why I was doing it. It was a way of letting those around me know how bad I was feeling. Depression is an invisible disease and people that don’t experience it themselves can’t understand how it feels. Realising that it was almost a form of control made me feel so ashamed that it gave me the strength the stop. I have not self harmed in 17 years. That’s not to say I’m cured as I still get the urge to cut, but I know I don’t want to go down that self destructive route again.

I stayed at home with the girls until 2003 when Katherine went to school. I then decided to retrain as a primary school teacher. In the months prior to this, there had been a lot of bad press about the antidepressant Seroxat. As this was what I was taking, I decided to stop taking it. My teacher training course was a disaster. I was placed in a small village school where the headteacher was a total nut job -and that is being kind. It would take me hours to describe everything that went on, so I will just mention a couple things. I was not alone in feeling the way I did about her, she was intensely disliked by the entire staff. The worst thing for me was that she daily humiliated the children she didn’t like (e.g. by singling out them for unwarranted criticism in front of the whole school). I asked the other staff why they didn’t step in and was told that they ‘just have to make up for it afterwards’. Without any medication I had a total mental breakdown after 8 weeks.

I was then put on the antidepressant Sertraline and remarkably over a period of 6 months my depression was stabilised. I still had low periods but they were no longer all encompassing. This wasn’t the end of my mental health issues but it was certainly a massive step in the right direction.

A QUICK NOTE ABOUT ANXIETY

This is a hard thing for me to talk about because I am always worried about how I am being perceived. I am extremely lucky to have a husband who loves me unconditionally. He is the closest friend (and other things) I’ve ever had. I actually suffer from separation anxiety when he is not home. I know this makes me sound like a child and I know this is not normal. I have made great strides towards controlling this anxiety as it was having a such a negative effect on our lives. It did require an additional medication to dampen the anxiety response but it also required a lot of introspection and honesty on my part. Things are a lot better now but I still have to work at it.

Depression

Depression Part 1……..

I started puberty early and was the only girl to start my periods at primary school. Puberty also came with clinical depression. I was a diligent student and sought happiness by achieving good grades. This also meant that when I didn’t get the grades I thought I was capable of, I would berate myself for being stupid and go into extreme lows that I couldn’t get myself out of. I felt that I had no connection to the outside world, that my thoughts were out of my control. I now know that in psychiatric terms, this is known as depersonalisation.

I was lucky enough to have a loving family and felt safe at home but I sought additional comfort in food. This would lead to weight gain followed by panicked dieting. Throughout my teenage years I was either bingeing or dieting. Fortunately I was unable to make myself sick after bingeing so I was spared the horrors of bulimia but it wasn’t through lack of trying.

It took a couple of upheavals for my clinical depression to become so severe that my mother took me to the doctor. The first of these was losing the friendship of someone I had come to value greatly (this will be covered more when I come to talk about my autism). The second was the change of pace in my studies going from GCSEs to A-Levels. I was prescribed the tricyclic antidepressant amitriptyline. It had the immediate effect of making me so sleepy that I couldn’t function at all. I managed to get through my first year of sixth form effectively. In my final school year I managed to get my head together enough to not only succeed in my A-Levels and get a place at my top choice university but also to get my eating under control and finally reach a healthy weight. However I found going to university and leaving home very traumatic which caused my depressive symptoms to return with a vengeance.

My time at university was confusing. On the second day I met David who was to become my soul mate and life long partner. I think we both knew within a few days that we were kindred spirits. Our experiences growing up were very similar; both of us were misfits. I fell in love hard. Being clinically depressed and experiencing love for the first time I suspect would be difficult for anyone. I would go from being deliriously happy when I was with David to being almost suicidal when I wasn’t. We became engaged 4 months later and shortly afterward I discovered that I was pregnant. I left university and returned home. My depression wasn’t too bad during the pregnancy but returned six months after Charlotte was born.

I returned to a university nearer home when Charlotte was eleven months old. Studying for a science degree and being a new mum was tough. With the help of my family I was able to cope with the workload and actually enjoyed it. However during the second year my depression worsened. I started to self harm by repeatedly cutting myself with a scalpel and I didn’t really understand why I was doing it.

David and I bought our first home together in the spring of 1995 and married in the September. I graduated from university with a 2:1 honours degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology in 1996. I then began what I consider to be my adult life.