It has now been three months since I wrote my blog post On Depression, so I feel like it is about time to give you a little update on how I’m doing. After all, part of the reason why I wrote it was to make depression seem a little less severe and scary, so it seems only fair that I give you an update on how things are going three months down the road. Now, before I continue, I think I need to clarify – depression IS severe and scary. It can feel frightening on the verge of paralyzing, and a lot of the time it disguises itself so well that you end up thinking that this is just the way you are, they way your personality is, and the way things will always be. I hope I managed to explain in my previous post on the subject that this is not the way it has to be, but in case you don’t quite believe me I thought I would write a little about how my experience has been since I started treatment.
First of all, I was put on SSRI in late January after my visit to my doctor. I had been on them two times before, so I was perfectly fine with this – I knew that they are beneficial for me and that they help me immensely. I do know, however, that a lot of people are frightened of these types of medications and are under the impression that they will turn you into some kind of apathetic zombie. Now, as most kinds of medications they do have side effects, they will vary from person to person and some of them can be quite inconvenient to say the least, but the ones I came across were never severe enough to outweigh the benefits. I choose to look at it this way: untreated depression can last a lifetime, while in most cases you will only be on SSRI for a limited period of time. You are supposed to have follow-up appointments with your doctor to make sure that the type of medication is working as intended, and if you experience anything drastic they will do their best to find an alternative that will work better for you.
This guy obviously found something that worked.
For me it went something like this: For the first week I was incredibly sleepy, and I was woozy to the point where I honestly felt half drunk. I would come home from work and sleep on the couch for several hours, and after waking up I still wouldn’t have the energy to do much. All in all, I spent all my free time sleeping or at least laying down in front of my laptop for the first two weeks. By the third and fourth week I had a little more energy, but I still needed afternoon naps and made sure to have very little plans outside of work. SSRI usually take about 4 weeks to kick in properly, so for the first four weeks I was still feeling very depressed with the added lack of energy from my medication. My appetite was suffering quite a bit as well. It wasn’t fun, but I knew it was normal, so I wasn’t worried.
The turning point came somewhere between weeks four and six. It is hard to explain, because it happens so gradually that you don’t notice it as it happens, but one morning I woke up and realized that I was looking forward to the day that was ahead of me. I wasn’t struggling to get out of bed, I didn’t need as much time to get ready in the morning, and I wasn’t second guessing every little thing that I did at work. My confidence came back, I talked more, laughed more and in general started to enjoy my days so much more than I had done just a few weeks earlier. I got back into my workout routine (and stopped eating all that Ben & Jerry’s, too) and now I am almost as strong as I was before I got sick last September. All in all, things are very good indeed.
So, what’s the catch? What am I not telling you? Things can’t possibly just be that easy, right? Well, no, of course not. As I wrote in my previous post on the subject there was also therapy involved, which can always be a challenge. Thankfully (???) I have so much experience in being a nut-o that there wasn’t all that much left to talk about. I also can’t drink alcohol, and while I didn’t drink that much in the first place I really miss the odd glass of red wine, and a whole summer without mojitos will be brutal. However, that is such a small price to pay that it hardly even registers on the radar.
If I were to sum up my experience so far it would be this: see your doctor. Know that the help you need is out there, and while it can take an enormous amount of courage to ask for help it really is worth it in the end. The process can be brutal, but it will not be anywhere near as bad as letting your depression go untreated. And if you have a relapse, so what? You’ll know what to do and what to expect the second time around. It is not a failure on your part, it is chemistry and circumstance. Also, tell people – if only just one person, so that you have someone to talk to. Things get so much easier when someone you trust are aware of what you are going through and can keep an eye on you. You are worth the time and effort, and the mere possibility of coming out healthy on the other end is worth giving treatment a try.
I hope this was helpful or at least a little bit interesting to read about. For me personally it has been so rewarding to write these posts, and your reactions, comments and e-mails have made everything that much better. I’m pretty sure I already wrote this in a previous post, but I’ll repeat it again – you truly are a magnificent bunch.