Tuesday, March 08, 2011

I'm on a new drug (which hopefully does what it should)

So after I wrote the previous post in which I 'came out' as depressed, I learned why most people hide depression.

The Oatmeal summed it up nicely in his explanation of the worst thing about Valentine's Day: people say they don't celebrate/recognize Valentine's Day, yet they won't shut up about how they don't celebrate/recognize Valentine's Day.

The analogy doesn't translate perfectly, but essentially many people hide depression in order to carry on somewhat with social activities. When you make it known that you're depressed but that you're working to get over it, people feel all sorry for you and shit. "Oh, yes, RG! I've suffered from depression, too! Was your form of misery similar to mine? Let's talk about how miserable you are some more and focus on that." So you end up engaging in fewer social activities because everyone treats you like you have a terminal disease instead of partaking in the social activity that you're trying to do in order to feel better.

I'll have to edit the list of advice from the previous post:

If you are also depressed, what you choose to do with this knowledge is up to you:

- buck up and stop acting depressed

- take solace in knowing that you're not as alone as things might look

- realize that maybe your depression isn't prominent in others' eyes

- for god's sake keep it to yourself (and your doctor)
As for the meds my doctor put me on, at the 4-week checkup we decided to change drugs. I was on a fairly low dose and my doctor hadn't encountered itching as a side effect.

I also raised the prospect of ADHD, fearing my doctor would instead diagnose me with hypochondria, and to my surprise my doctor didn't dismiss the idea. They're all to do with something wrong in your brain, and the names we give them aren't black-and-white.

So we split the difference: she put me on something else that isn't as strong on depression, but has an off-label use for ADHD. Without the side effects, I could at least bullshit myself into a psychosomatic recovery. Being a mechanically-oriented person, I have a hard time grasping how a drug can affect your mood (or the concept of "mood" to begin with), so I was hoping that at least my subconscious would fall for the placebo effect.

I think the new drug (or the placebo effect) is working. Or maybe I feel better because the absence of the first drug's side effects makes me feel better.

I do notice that I've been more productive at work and at home, and I've had a natural urge to get many things done, instead of simply feeling guilt for not getting it done. When I would previously put something off to the next day, I've found there are more instances when I just do it and get it out of the way. That's been coupled with a few good days where I thought or feared that it would be a pain in the arse, but things went smoothly or something I didn't want to do was cancelled.

I actually woke up in the morning last weekend, instead of staying in bed.

As for the ADHD thing, I don't know too much about it, and haven't even read up on it on the web (which my doctor suggested. Fancy that.). It's hard to know if I'm feeling "worse than normal" because my lifestyle is too all-over-the-map to have a sense of what "normal" is supposed to feel like.

But what I do know is that I have a tendency to start big, ambitious projects and leave them very shortly thereafter. shorter projects are more likely to get done. It's a miracle I still blog instead of Twittering.

Also, I might be confusing ADHD with OCD. When I do get onto something, I often can't stop in the middle of it. That's why there are so many gigantically long posts on my blog posted in the wee hours of the morning (which, in my book, is anything before 9am). Like the first post in the Ken Gray series. I woke up at 6am and couldn't get back to sleep until three hours later after writing out the blog post. By 11am that day I was very tired. Or how a quick impulse purchase of a digital projector turned into a month-long bout of depression.

A couple of nights after switching to the new pill, I reorganized my cutlery drawer. See?

I was up until 2am doing it and two of the other kitchen drawers. I'd have vacuumed, too, if I knew it wouldn't disrupt the neighbours. My latest theory (which I propose tongue-in-cheek) is that I must have had underlying OCD, but the depression was keeping it at bay because I could never motivate myself to bother.

More rationally, the new drug isn't supposed to have an effect until 4-6 weeks in, so I assume the different behaviour is either from withdrawal from the first one, or from the placebo effect, or possibly from the first drug no longer making me feel worse.

What's the point in all this? I dunno. Maybe you find it interesting. Maybe it's just to spite Ken Gray by pointing out I don't give a flying fuck if my blog posts are so long that nobody in their right mind would read it (helps that most of my friends are crazy). Or maybe it's to say that there's a very real possibility that RealGrouchy's back.

- RG>



The thing about mental illness, or what little I have come to understand about it, is that it's a spectrum. How it presents in one person or the next simply depends on where they fall on it. OCD in particular is actually referred to as a 'spectrum disorder', which basically means that there's a whole smorgasbord of symptoms and behaviours, any number and combination of which can be exhibited by any particular person. And if you exhibit signs of one thing, it's not unlikely or unusual that you'll tend towards another (i.e. depression and ADHD). I sometimes try think of it as not so much many, smaller disorders as different symptoms or manifestations of what is basically one entity.

I also struggle a little bit with the term 'mental illness'. Certainly it's appropriate in a lot of cases, but I think it's one of those wonderful blanket labels that gets applied to everything because it's convenient. I would say that a majority of the people I consider close friends have experienced what we would traditionally label mental illness at one time or another, myself included. Does that mean that everyone I know is mentally ill? I don't really think so - I think it depends on where in the spectrum you fall, and the severity of what you're experiencing and how it affects your life. Lately I've begun to think that it's less of an illness, per se, and more just the ways in which different people's brains work.

Unknown said...

Fake it till you make it!

You can start by calling me. :)

Jenn Jilks said...

As someone who has taught ADHD students, and suffered the advice of many professionals who tried to tell me how to teach them, and work with them in my classroom, it's a lot of bull!

You do what you can for you in your situation.

Also, mental health issues have been hidden for way too long. I suffer this, and in my lows would have slapped someone who told me to buck up! If you had the strength to do this, well, you would.
This is much like learning disabled students who used o be labeled 'lazy'.
I have found that the right meds, for me, after moving, caring for palliative parents, leaving behind family, taking a new job, losing mom to cancer (all within a few months), that often you really need meds to get you through. My brain just doesn't work the way it used to and the way it should. I tried weaning off them, and it didn't work. My brain handles stress this way. period
I am happy and productive, and proud to admit that I have depression that is well-controlled.
Take care.

S-Man said...

Thinking of Chinatown: I agree with the opinion that technically (in this day and age), everyone has some sort of illness/disorder. That hasn't changed. There are some people who like to wear blue on Mondays and others who like to shower once it has gotten dark outside. These people, even their lives are in now way disrupted by such behavious, can now be labelled as having a disorder of some type. Same goes for a girl who continuously dates guys she knows are jerks.
Mental illness, however, isn't a subtle behavioural quirk, at least not in my mind. Illness means substantial impairment, which many with severe depression (not the 'I'm-a-little-blue-today-because-something-bad-happened-at-work' kind) experience daily. Same for severe anxiety, schitzophrenia, etc. These are major disruptions in bodily functions - the nervous system, the endocrine system, pathways in the brain, etc.
These kind of things are the ones that require immediate intervention, which is why the drugs used to treat them (for the most part) work.
Yes, the term mental illness is applied to people way too often, but in many cases it is justified.