Monthly Archives: November 2012

Migraines vs. depression

So, during the psych evaluation, an interesting idea was floated by my doctor:  that the birth control pill I was on might be wrecking havoc with my hormones and that might, in turn, be exacerbating my depression.

Okay – I can hear the chorus – “but Laura, why are you on birth control if you’re all gay and such?”  Certainly it isn’t due to all the rampant boy sex I’m having (frankly, it’s not due to ANY sex that I’m having these days…).  No, I started using birth control pills a few years back to control hormonal migraines (not nearly so entertaining, I know).

I had been on birth control pills for a bit back in the old days when pregnancy was a possibility (being gay in my head didn’t count as long as I was still dating boys), but had stopped taking them when I stopped pretending to be straight.  Even though I tolerated them well, and had loved how they made my cycle so regular, I wasn’t all that keen on taking hormones.

For a few years, I went the natural route.  I never had much issue with my period (other than the normal annoyance of it), but when I look back, I can see the pattern of headaches when it started shortly thereafter.  It didn’t get bad, though, for probably another year or two — at that point, the pattern became quite clear:  every month I would lose about 1.5 weeks to headaches.  And of those 10 days, I would suffer through about 2-4 days of debilitating migraines.

When I discussed the issue with my gynecologist, she put me back on birth control pills.  And they helped a little bit, though I was still having issues every month — just shortened the time because my period was shorter.  So, then we moved to a period-every-three-months birth control pill, and that was better — it limited my symptoms to only 4 times a year.  So, this past time around, we went full hog and I’m on a birth control pill where I never get a period.  And this? Wonderful!  I feel like I’m no longer a slave to my cycle.  I never have to worry about time of the month (or 3 months) and over the past 6 months I’ve not had even one hormonal migraine.  Victory!

I did try controlling the migraines with migraine medication, but that worked only some of the time.  I’d get a migraine, take pills for it, it would help some of the time, but then the next day I’d get a rebound headache so bad that it almost wasn’t worth it to have treated the first migraine.  Went through a series of a couple of different migraine medications (though I’m sure there are more out there to try), and never hit on anything that entirely fixed the problem.

So, now my psychiatrist is recommending that I talk to my gynecologist and go to a “less progesterone-y” birth control pill (her words, not mine)… meaning, one where I’ll still have periods.  She thinks that we might be fighting a losing battle with the anti-depressants if I’m still on the same birth control pill.

I’m torn.

It’s a quality of life issue:  not having migraines has been life-changing. I wouldn’t wish migraines on my worst enemy — and I know that I don’t even get them as bad as some people do (mine generally only last 5-8 hours).  Let me put it this way:  when I get one, if I had the choice I’d choose to be put out of my misery than have to suffer through one more minute of it.

But – of course – the depression is also quality of life.  And it’s sneakier because depression doesn’t manifest itself as an ice pick being stabbed into my brain over and  over and over again.  Which makes it seem like depression is easier to deal with.

But is it?

I’m not sure.  I’m loathe to give up my period and headache-free existence. But if that’s one of the reasons that I’m miserable and lonely and utterly disinclined to enjoy life? That’s something I need to consider.

I look back, and it’s possible that there’s a connection between my depression getting worse and when I started on this particular birth control pill.  Was I depressed before that? I think so. Did the birth control pills cause me to spiral further down?  I’m not sure, but, maybe.  I will say this, though:  I believe now that I’ve been dealing with depression on some level or another for a good chunk of my life.  This isn’t new, it’s just worse.

So, I’m still thinking on it.  Trying to gather some information, see what I can find. I can go back to one of my previous birth control pills, see if that helps with the mood.  Maybe it won’t make a difference and I can go back on what I’m on now?  That’s a possibility, of course.  I just hate the idea of migraines. Absolutely hate it.  But I also hate the way I feel now.  What to do, what to do…

Better living through chemistry

Surprise, surprise… a real, honest-to-goodness psychiatrist thinks I’ve got issues.

The appointment itself was anti-climatic, as my the few remaining logical brain cells in my head knew it would be.  It was a typical review of all my symptoms, a little bit of crying on my part, a little bit of “there, there… it’s okay to cry” on her part.  A little back and forth, a few probing questions so she could form an opinion, and I walked out of there with a prescription for an anti-depressant. Voila! As easy as that.

The doctor told me that it would be about 2 months before I started getting anything positive from the drugs, and first I would probably have 2-3 weeks of side effects to slog through.  Nausea, headaches, diarrhea … standard fare for this type of medication.  She told me to be patient, to bide my time… basically, hang in there until the effects of the medication kicked in, and to not lose faith that there was hope out there.

I’m ramping up on the medication — half dosages for a week to ease some of the side effects — and then it’s just a waiting game.  My first 3 days have been tolerable:  vague nausea and a slight headache that comes and goes.

All I know is that I have the meds, but it’s sort of just been business as usual — it hasn’t really sunk in yet, despite the potential ramifications, both good and bad. It’s another pill to take in the morning, but without any immediate effects, it’s like nothing has changed.  I don’t feel a victory for having done what I did, nor do I feel troubled because I “gave in” and stopped trying to fix myself. Honestly, it’s almost more of an “eh, who cares?” reaction on my part.  Perhaps depression does has some upsides?

Perhaps I need to view this as simply the next step in me stepping back in and taking charge of my life.  Certainly, I am making headway:  I’ve spent the past 5 weeks eating healthier, dropping some excess weight and going through spurts of training.  And now I can tack on the fact that I made — and went to! — a psychiatrist appointment and started on some medication that has a shot at bettering my quality of life.

Little steps, small changes … but moving … somewhere … nonetheless.

Random Thought Thursday

In order to distract me from the emotional hissy fit my brain is throwing because of my impending psych appointment, here’s a little feature I like to call Random Thought Thursday where, for your entertainment, I just throw down the weird shit about myself that bounces around in my head.

  1. When I go running, I always seem to hug the far right side of the road or sidewalk, to the point where I oftentimes fall off.  Also when I run, I spit left (yes, I’m a spitter…).  Conclusion?  You probably don’t want to run with me unless you don’t mind a little extraneous “hydration” coming your way and you carry a cell phone so you can call for help when I eventually wreck my ankle.
  2. This is the first election year where I feel utterly invested in the results and have found my niche as a committed Democrat.  I’ve spent most of my life blissfully ignorant of politics (here’s a funny:  way back in college, I gave my utterly conservative, totally staunch Republican boyfriend an Al Franken book because I figured that he’d like it because it was funny and about politics.  Heh.  Who knew?),  but now?  I actually get defensive when friends and family are very pro-Republican because that party marginalizes me both as a woman and as a lesbian.  “Want to get married?  Oh no, not you!  Want control over your own body?  Oh no, you have no idea what’s best for you.”
  3. I’ve bowled a perfect 300 game.  Really! And no, I didn’t immediately quit my job to jump into the glamorous life of a professional bowler. Short tennis-like skirts with nylons and bad shoes were never the fashion statement I wanted to make.
  4. I really like hanging out at the library (actually, it’s where I am right now!). I used to work at a library back in the day and there’s something about all these books and the quiet and the air of studiousness that gets me every time.  Of course, it also harkens back to a time where I regularly hid from my boss and read books in the stacks rather than work.  Nowadays, it’s where I come when I need to concentrate while I’m writing instead of trying to multi-task watching reruns of Friends while also attempting to pen the next great American novel.
  5. My least favorite holiday is Halloween.  Even as a kid, while I absolutely loved the candy part, I hated getting into costume. Neither me or my Mom were ever creative enough to come up with anything totally bad-ass for me to be, and that pitiful lack of skill has followed me all through my life. The wedding of a good friend that I was invited to was a Halloween-themed wedding (she, obviously, was a HUGE fan of the holiday) and costumes were required.  I bought a nice dress and wore it:  “I’m dressing up like a girly girl.  You’ve never seen me like this, have you?”  True story.
  6. I like both my licorice and my marshmallows stale.  Yup.  Learned that one from my Mom… open the package, let ’em sit a few days… adds a nice touch of chewiness to each.
  7. I own 6 bikes.  Yea, I know.  It’s a problem of mine.
  8. I have a new-found lust for flavored vodkas.  The sweet ones:  caramel, chocolate chip cookie dough, cake, marshmallow fluff, whipped cream… it’s all good.  Put them over ice with just a touch of water and it’s like candy in yummy liquid form.
  9. I can’t stand to walk past any microwave and see that someone took stuff out of it and left time on the clock.  Why not just press CANCEL??  Is it THAT hard??  Drives me nuts.
  10. It’s only just the first of November and I’m already longing for Spring. Can’t we just skip the winter, skip the holidays, skip the darkness and the cold and the chill? I’m ready for April, if you could make that happen.