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On depression: three months later

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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30 Comments

  1. It’s so great that you’re writing about this. The more we have people communicating openly and frankly about mental health and their own experiences, the less stigma will be attached to it and the easier it will be for people to be honest and upfront about problems they might have and to seek out treatment if necessary (whatever that may be that works for them – from medication to a change in lifestyle to cognitive-behavioural therapy or a combination of approaches or whatever). I think discourses like what you’ve written here will really make a difference and will help people, and it’s excellent that you’re finding it rewarding too. :)

    • Thank you so much for the wonderful comment Jess :) I really hope this post will be found by people who need this information!

      What I forgot to mention was that my friends, co-workers and family haven’t been awkward about this at all. They have of course made sure to take a little extra care when I have been very tired, but I told my co-workers that I didn’t want anyone to feel like they had to tip-toe around me or treat me any differently than they would have otherwise. For me personally it would only have made things worse if people treated me like I was sick, if that makes any sense. It was important for me to feel like this was only a temporary rough patch :)

    • Thank you Sadie :) It took a while to be comfortable enough with the subject to actually write about it, but I am very happy I did!

  2. yeah, some of the side-effects are less than wonderful, but they are infinitely better than wanting to drive fast into a very solid object (my personal warning point for needing to go back on the meds). The headwork can be hard too. The most confronting one thus far has been “what would you say to your 8 year old self to reassure them?” as it really hit me, at a gut level, not simply an intellectual one, just how big some of the problems I have are. And how simple they are as well.

    So hang in there, love yourself, because you are so worth it and bring light with you.

    • Exactly! I often feel like some people are way too skeptic when it comes to antidepressants. I know that research shows that some doctors are way too eager to write those prescriptions, but I also feel like the words “OMG I don’t want any chemicals altering my brain” come up in about every second conversation I hear on the subject. Like medication is a huge cop-out, you know? It feels related to opinion that some people have that you should be able to “think yourself better”, because secretly depression is not a real illness and just you being a weakling… if you get what I’m saying? I know that every person and every situation is different, and different kinds of therapy work for different kinds of people, but I think it is sad that a lot of people are so scared of antidepressants when they can in fact be SO beneficial.

      Whew. Rant of the day!

  3. I’m really glad to hear you are doing so much better and that you weren’t scared to ask for help in the first place or to accept it. Some people would be put off by the stigma of being diagnosed with depression and being put on pills and therapy but if you can show and tell people the benefits maybe more people will be prepared to seek help. Thanks for keeping us updated – we’re all routing for you.

    • I think I just came to a point where I just thought “Eff the stigma”. If I’m open about it it will only result in LESS stigma, because then the people close to me will see that I’m still the same person, and that once I’m over my rough patch things are exactly how they have always been. And If they know that I have been feeling really awful, they will also be able to see that my treatment is actually working. And that can only be beneficial, right? Maybe it will even make things a bit easier if someone close to me one day finds themselves in the same situation. I hope so :)

  4. So glad you’re doing better Maja, and as always; thanks so much for writing about this. I’ve got a chronic illness that’s exacerbated by alcohol, but in my experience — virgin fruity drinks are just as good and even more refreshing than their alcoholic siblings :-) Virgin mojitos are especially high on the delish-scale (and can be drunk all day long without any nasty consequences)!

    • Oh my god, I didn’t even know you could get a virgin mojito! You need to share your virgin drinks knowledge with me my dear, seriously! :)

      • Of course!^^ I stole the mojito recipe from here http://www.heavenlyhearth.in/2012/05/31/virgin-mojito-recipe/ , and my favourite Strawberry Daiquiri from here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/virgin-strawberry-daiquiri-2/ :-)

        I like making Achilles Heel with just apple juice and lots of lemon. The alcoholic version has raspberry vodka, lemonchello and peach schnaps, but I’ve only ever managed to taste the apple juice and lime when I’ve had it, so I just do that! You can make Long Island Iced Tea with equal amounts cola, unsweetened black tea and lemonade + a lemon wedge for garnish. Another one I like to make is Mai Tai with 2 cups pineapple juice, 1 cup orange juice, 1 cup club soda, and a little bit of coconut milk/cream (whichever you prefer). Piña Colada is easy to make too, you need 1 can of coconut milk w/cream, 1 can of crushed pineapple w/juice, 1 cup vanilla ice cream, 1/3 cup flaked coconut + extra for garnish, 3 cups crushed ice, process in a blender until smooth (so indulgent, mmm).

        That’s the drinks I usually make^^ I’m sure someone’s made a virgin version of pretty much every drink there is, so if you google your favourite one I’m sure it’ll come up! Not being able to drink alcohol is not so bad, leaves more room for ice cream, hehe^^ Good luck!

    • Thank you Letitia! I am pretty much clueless about drinks in the first place, and even more so when it comes to the virgin varieties. I’m learning as I go along ;)

  5. Thanks for this post Maja! I think it is very brave to not only discuss this topic in the first place, but also write follow-up posts for all who might be concerned/interested in the subject. It might not be easy to write about, on the other hands it is a bit cathartic too, in any case I’m glad it helped you too.

    • Thnaks Kali! The nice thing was – once it is out of the bag, that’s it. No use worrying about it anymore. And if someone can gain some positive insight from my posts, then even better :)

  6. Veldig fint innlegg, og veldig godt å høre at medisinene virker som de skal. Kan ikke bli sagt for ofte hvor vikitg det er å få hjelp, depresjon er (etter min erfaring iallfall) ikke noe som går over av seg selv, den må bli tatt på alvor.
    Gleder meg til å komme hjem nå, kanskje vi må feire med en virgin Mojito? Jeg lager noen veldig gode!

  7. Så godt å høyre at du har det betre Maja :-)
    Syns du er tøff og flink som tar opp eit viktig tema, som mange synes det er vanskelig å prate om. Mange klemmer til deg

    • Tusen takk for koselig kommentar Susanna! Det er rart med det, når man først begynner å skrive om det så er det plutselig ikke så skummelt mer :)

    • Den har jeg lest, jeg er kjempefan av Allie. Det er godt å ha henne tilbake igjen, og veldig trist å høre at hun har hatt det såpass hardt! Det er godt det går bedre med henne nå :)

  8. Thank you for being fearless. It’s so great to hear someone talk open and frankly about such a personal topic. There’s no reason why there should be such a stigma around depression and yet there is. But the more we talk about it the more willing people will be to seek help. That being said, in many countries healthcare is not readily accessible to people without means. I hope that having more people talk about depression will make people realize how important these issues are for the most vulnerable people in society too.

    I’m so glad you are feeling better:)

    • Oh, I totally agree. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to live in a country where treatment doesn’t make a huge dent into my finances. Norway is not at all perfect when it comes to these things – in many cities you risk facing year-long waiting lists for help and treatment unless your are in immediate danger of hurting yourself or others – but it is still far better than in a lot of other countries. I am more than happy to see my tax dollars (or kroner!) help make sure that medical treatment is available to everyone when they need it.

      And thank you so much for you lovely words :)

  9. Hey Maja, i found your site so late and i’ve read a lot in 2 nights. I dont know you but i’m so sure that you can solve everything because you’re a smart human. It’s so clear. When i read articles by someone honest and no-fusss like you, i feel so proud of being woman. Maybe that’s why i was surprised that you had depression, it’s like.. you’re so cool for this:)

    • Thank you for the wonderful comment Gül :) Thankfully I have recovered now and been off anti-depressants for a few months. So far so good! I really hope my posts can be of help to other people who are going through the same.

Webmentions

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