Tag Archives: depression

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…

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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.

Leap of faith

I have to admit:  I’m scared.

Coming up on Friday, I have that appointment with a psychiatrist to discuss getting a prescription for some sort of anti-depressant. This was my therapist’s idea and I initially was resistant to it (“I don’t need no stinkin’ help!”), but as time has passed I’ve been swayed by her arguments.  Basically, I’ve gotten to a breaking point where I know that something has to change and this seems like one of the few flotation devices left in this ocean in which I’m drowning.

So, what am I scared of, exactly?

(note:  if the doctor is any sort of professional, I understand that my fears are unfounded, but, frankly, logic has very little bearing on how afraid I am)

  • I’m scared that I’ll go into this appointment and the doctor will think that I’m either lying or it’s all in my head. This plays on a couple of fears of mine — first, the fear of asking for help, making myself vulnerable and basically being rebuffed and laughed at for my attempt.  Second, the fear that I should be able to fix this myself by “looking on the bright side” and simply “deciding to be happy” (because it’s just that easy, didn’t you know?)
  • I’m scared of being utterly intimidated and overwhelmed at the appointment. Let’s face it:  this whole situation makes me want to curl up into a ball and pretend like it doesn’t exist (see how well that’s worked so far?).  In the face of a doctor that might not have the best bedside manner, I worry that I’ll clam up and not ask the questions I need to ask for fear of sounding dumb or weak or unintelligent.
  • I’m scared about all the potential side effects — everything from dizziness to weight gain to decreased sexual desire (though, with the current state of my dating affairs, this might be a bonus) to tiredness to hair loss to extra limbs growing out of my chest (who really reads all the fine print?).  What if all I’m doing is trading in one problem for another?
  • But probably the thing that I’m scared most about is this: the appointment will go fine, the doctor will listen and sympathize, tell me that things will get better…and then I’ll be prescribed medication and it won’t work.  That I’ll still feel sad. And like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. No way out. That this pervading loneliness is my destiny.  That I’m too broken to fix.

Yea, that last one, that’s the one that keeps me up at night.  Classic fear of failure, but with stakes that take my breath away.  What if I’m just too broken.

But having run out of ways to make this better on my own, I know I need to make this leap to try and save myself.  So, I will go to the doctor’s office on Friday (after having shrugged on my bravery coat of armor) and hope for the best.  Hope that my random choice of doctor from my insurance list is someone who will listen and understand and be kind.  Hope that there’s…. hope, I suppose.

That’s all I really want.

Back with a vengeance

Over at The Bloggess, she says something incredibly wise:  depression is a lying bastard and life will be brighter again.

(an aside – if you’ve never heard of The Bloggess, go there right now and read! She’s awesome and it’s much better than being here.  Plus, I’ll wait for you to come back.)

I’m struggling to keep this in mind — that this monster that keeps climbing on my back is doing nothing but whispering lies in my ear.  Nothing good or positive or healthy comes from this voice.  You’re boring.  And ugly.  And will always be alone.  And never have sex ever again.  No one in the world wants you.  That’s what it tells me.  Among other things.  (I mean, if it could toss in something helpful, that’d be nice, though.  Perhaps a reminder to change the filter on the furnace or something like that?)

When I’m at my most logical, I can see the fallacy behind these words.  No, I haven’t found someone to be with, but does that mean it’ll never happen?  Of course not.  And I’m quite sure that my stable of friends would argue with me if I told them I was ugly or boring.  If I were as awful a person as the monster tells me, I’d be utterly alone in this world.  And that is far from the truth.

And yet, I’ve been really challenged to work my head past these feelings and move forward. It’s hard to battle something that doesn’t play fair, ya know?

I had made an early August appointment with a psychiatrist to talk about going on some meds, but in the end, I cancelled that appointment.  See, for a few weeks at the end of July, life was good.  Really good.  I had met a girl.  Someone I liked! I thought she was cute and good company and everything she said to me indicated that she felt the same.  The only downside?  She lived about 2.5 hours from me.

It ended up being the relationship that never was.  After the initial date, we made — and she cancelled — 5 more, all with good, plausible reasons.  But fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me 5 times, who’s the idiot?  Whether the excuses were real or not, it was clear that I was a very low priority and if it’s that way in the beginning?  It’s never going to get better.  You can’t make someone love you. Or even meet up for a drink with you, as it turns out.

After that I went all to hell — much worse than before.  But I had already cancelled the psych appointment.  And when I finally called back, she wasn’t taking new appointments anymore.

For weeks I wallowed and dwelled and hated my life.  It was crying binges during the day and spending entire weekends where the only conversation I had (talking to the dog doesn’t count!) was with the checkout person at Trader Joe’s.  I ate with abandon and my only exercise consisted of using the remote control and doing 12oz bicep curls with my drinks. It wasn’t much of an existence, that’s for sure.

But very recently, part of me woke up and decided that if nothing else, I could control my eating and health.  I decided that even if I didn’t have the motivation to work out, I could eat healthy and watch calories.  I think things got so out of control that I picked the one thing that I *could* control.  If even just a little bit.

And so, I joined myfitnesspal.com and started tracking food.  Joined in with the community.  Even managed to get myself a dozen or so friends that check in on me.  And that’s been good.

In the spirit of trying to take care of myself, I also went through my insurance and found another random psychiatrist who was accepting new patients and made an appointment (I have another 3 weeks to wait)… one of those things that sounds easy as pie but is impossibly difficult for me to do (that’s a blog for another time).

So, we’ll see what happens.  This mood/depression/whatever has been hanging around most of the year, and it’s definitely been bearing down on me lately. Despite the fact that a potential girlfriend made me feel better, I don’t believe getting rid of the depression is that simple.  I think the uplift would have been temporary and would have gone away eventually, with or without someone in my life.  In the end, I need to fix myself, not distract myself.

So, while the depression has been back with a vengeance, perhaps I might be crawling back up as well.  At least I feel like I’m making some healthy decisions in spite of myself.  With every good choice I make, it makes a little easier to make the next one.  I’ve started doing a bare amount of exercise.  And I even promise not to cancel the psych appointment, no matter what’s going on by then. Because I need to remember how depression can lie … life will get better. Sometimes you just need to take the first steps.

More on anonymity

I was reading yet another poignant article on The Rumpus and it got me to thinking again about how I’ve chosen to remain anonymous in this space (you know, as anonymous as one can get on the big ol’ world wide web).

And I’m starting to think that one of my problems — something at the core of everything that I deem “wrong” about myself — is my basic inability to share myself with other people.  Ironically, not complete strangers, mind you, or people that I meet only virtually — you guys probably hear more than you want — but with anyone that holds a spot in my “in real life” life.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who simply was private.  Someone who took a little work to get to know really well. But as I look closer, I find that with the exception of one, perhaps two people in my life, no one really has any idea what’s going on with me.  I’m not private, I’m utterly closed off.

Most of my friends would respond, if asked, that I was just fine and doing well.  “Sure”, they’d say, “she’s still single and I know she’d love to be in a relationship, but her job’s going great, she’s always busy and up to something fun.”  In fact, many of my married with kids friends would probably admit to being a little jealous of my lifestyle, as theirs no longer allows for the independence and spontaneity that I enjoy.

Now, my family?  None of them have absolutely any idea that there’s anything even close to out of place in my life.  Depression?  They’d never think it. Lonely?  They look at all my friends and activities and would it would never cross their mind.  Struggling with being single?  They’re quite sure I’m single by choice.  I’ve never been one to share much of my social/dating life with them, so no information now isn’t a change.

This leads to the question:  why?

The answer is a little complicated, but it boils down to a few bullet points:

  • I don’t want anyone to know that there’s anything wrong with me.  I don’t want the pity, the knowing glances, the “oh you poor thing”.  I don’t know how I would handle anyone wanting to talk to me about the problems I’m having.
  • It’s easier to just act happy — I think it makes me more fun to be around.  And it helps me — sometimes putting on that mask makes it become reality for at least a little while.
  • I already think bad things about myself and hate myself for them — why would I want the people I love thinking those same things and perhaps coming to the same awful conclusions as I have?

Seems a little ridiculous once I put it in black and white.

A little background:  growing up, my family didn’t talk much.  We joked, we laughed, we teased, we had fun, but we rarely talked about anything of consequence.  When I came out to my parents, that was one of the first times that I had spoken frankly and openly with them. So, for me to, say, make this blog public to friends and family?  A little terrifying.

But if I’m honest with myself, I’ll notice that I spend a lot of energy keeping myself closed off.  A simple example… I don’t tell people, “No, I can’t go out on Thursday because I’ve got a therapy appointment.”  Of course not.  I give a vague excuse and move on, hoping they won’t press for a more descriptive answer.

One day I’m going to have to take that leap and open myself up to friends and family.  Perhaps it won’t be through this blog — there are things in the archives that might hurt some feelings or cause some friends to be a little weirded out (do straight friends get weirded out when they find out they were the object of your love?) — but in some way I think it’ll have to happen for me to move forward.

It’s occurred to me that this might be a huge part of why I’m still single, even.  It’s funny because a way-back-in-time ex-boyfriend described me as “emotionally unavailable” when we were breaking up (oh, okay — I was breaking up with him)… he wasn’t so far from the truth, now, was he?

Session drama

So, I’m in therapy.  It hasn’t been long — about a month or so — but this has been a struggle since day 1 and continues as such.

By the time I get back home after a session, know what I most want to do?  Curl up into the fetal position and rock.  Nice, eh?

Therapy hasn’t been much of a feel-good, esteem-building exercise (though I’m not sure why I thought it might be that way) and rather, it’s an hour of crying and being pushed to acknowledge that at every turn I try to sabotage myself.

And yea, yea… I know… it’s good for me.  The tears and the trauma and the drama all point to her pushing me into facing some truths about myself that I’ve conveniently opted to ignore.  A lot of the therapy centers about the fact that most of my relationships have been ones of unrequited love — you know, the typical story:  girl becomes friends with Chick, girl falls in love with Chick, girl doesn’t make feelings known to Chick, Chick is oblivious (or straight or married or in a relationship), girl tortures herself for months or years on end until she finally lets go.  Whew.

But really – that’s how my life goes.  I could easily name half a dozen of my friendships that have followed that scenario — pretty much every girl that’s been a best friend.  And in every case, Chick hasn’t had any idea (other than perhaps the feeling that I was a bit of a stalker-type and too attached).

My therapist aptly noted:  “You never choose someone who will return your feelings.”  Um, yea.  No idea.  Just happens that way.

Or something like that.

Another gem from my therapist:  “You’ve got a million excuses why you can’t change your life.”  Not quite a million, I replied.  Sure, probably in the hundred thousands, but not a million.

(And yes, I make lame jokes when cornered.)

Of course, to me, they aren’t excuses, but reasons.

A concrete example of my “reasons”:  the apartment in the city.  My reason for not having one yet?  My oh-so-lovable pit bull … apartments have breed/size restrictions, as it turns out.  My therapist pointedly questioned: why not pay more for a place that will accept the dog?  I can’t afford it.  Why not recruit the help of friends and family to watch Belle while I’m in the city and get a pet-free apartment?  Well, because I couldn’t do that.  Why not?  Because why should someone else take care of my dog?  (see how good I am at this game?)

And on and on …until I end up in tears because I can plainly see how stubborn I’m being while trying to find a solution.

I’m not sure where the resistance comes from.  The apartment was *my* idea, and I felt like it was something that I really wanted to see happen.  But as my search got more difficult instead of being creative in finding solutions, I kind of just gave up.  “It’s fate”, I thought.

All this to say that I still need some work.  Until I can sit through a therapy session, confident in the direction I’m headed and the decisions I’m making, I likely still need to be there.  Even though the sessions turn me into Humpty Dumpty who breaks apart and can’t quite get put back together again.

(An aside:  this post has spewed out of me, all jumbled and feeling a little random and unorganized.  I’m usually all about the editing, but this time around?  I like the idea of the post reflecting my own chaotic and slightly dramatic feelings about this.)

Let’s talk…

… depression.

For me, it slowly wormed its way in and set up shop before I even really noticed. It was my bad mood, just worse.  It was my PMS over-the-top emotions without the PMS.  A pervasive sense of loss when nothing important in my life had changed.  But it sneaked up on me; I lived like that for a long while before I even noticed the shift.

I’ve almost entirely stopped working out.  In turn, I spend that time eating and drinking instead.  I’ve gained twenty pounds (20!) in what feels like a heartbeat.

I had to go and buy fat jeans the other day.  Yup.  Shoot me now.

My therapist says that this can be attributed to the depression.  That somehow because of this thing lodged in my brain, I lack the ability to make the decision to exercise on a consistent basis.

Somehow, I don’t entirely buy that, but okay.  I guess it’s nice to have a reason handy if anyone were to ask why I’ve become such a fat ass.

Frankly, I think that I’ve been using it as an excuse.  I’ve been depressed before and I’ve managed to train through it (and use training to help as well).  And I’m starting to get annoyed with myself — this might turn out to be the biggest motivator I’ve encountered in months.

I feel a real sense of needing to make this stop:  no more brooding, crying, eating, drinking, and sitting around.

I wonder if I have it in me to do this on my own?

State of the union

Since it’s been awhile…

In most ways, things haven’t changed too much around these parts.  Belle’s still running the household, I still am not really dating at all, an apartment in the city hasn’t happened yet, and I still (kinda) have a roommate.

So – the puppy?  She’s doing well.  Still freakishly scared of storms and loud noises (she’ll bury herself under the clothes in my closet), but otherwise doing quite well.  She’s earned the right to be left at home uncaged (which is a relief for both her and me), and has only caused trouble once or twice.  And frankly, she’s still the most adorable, best dog ever.

Who wouldn’t love a face like this??

And the dating?  Yea, hasn’t really been happening.  I’ve gone out on a few first dates, but nothing more than that.  I have been going out into the city more, though — but while those nights are fun, I haven’t had any luck meeting anyone, either.  It’s just not the place where I feel most comfortable, ya know?  It’s funny, because inside the clubs all the noise and people and everything gets to be too much for me, so I head outside; I hang out on the sidewalk with all the smokers.  Of course, being very sensitive to smoke means that these girls that I talk to?  Probably not the best match.

The apartment.  As it turns out, that gorgeous face you see right above here?  No one is very keen to rent to her (she looks so mean, doesn’t she?  Sheesh…).  Breed restrictions at almost all apartment complexes bar me from moving in and my stellar credit and even my willingness to pay upfront don’t sway those opinions.  I’m keeping it at, but in the dozens of places I’ve looked into, only one would have allowed my dog.  And, unfortunately, it was in a location that I really didn’t like and wouldn’t settle for.

And the roommate, K.  She’s in the middle of a white hot, all-encompassing, new, totally-in-love relationship.  The whole joke about what a lesbian brings to a second date?  (“a u-haul”)  Not so far from the truth here.  Literally, after two dates K started living at the GF’s house (though all of her stuff still lives here… I’ve become a storage facility).  She’s spent 5 nights here at home in the 3 months of her relationship…I miss her, but if nothing else, it’s easier that she’s living with the GF rather than the GF living here (actually, I wouldn’t allow that — that was something we agreed upon when we set up the roommate thing).  I still see K occasionally — she’s still my personal trainer and will stop by to pick up clothes — but the house is a little emptier than it had been.

All in all, if it weren’t for the pesky depression thing, I would say that things are moving along much as they had been.  Close, but no cigar on that one, I suppose.

Disappearing act

Seems I fell into a bit of a rabbit hole.

The name of that rabbit hole?  Depression.

It’s something that I don’t really like to talk about, but it feels safe here, only because I have some amount of anonymity.  I don’t know why I can’t tell my friends and family that I’m suffering, but I can’t.  To them, I’m doing just fine, thank you very much.

I guess I don’t want them to feel sorry for me, that’s certainly part of it.  Or worry, even. But a lot of it is that admitting to depression feels like giving up to me; essentially saying that I’m unable to control my own moods.  I base my life on being accountable and responsible for my actions and being able to blame a mood disorder for my erratic behavior screams “COP-OUT!!”.

Of course, my logical mind screams back the undeniable fact that depression is a medical issue that needs to be fixed, just like a broken arm or bad vision.  But it’s hard when the symptoms are hidden and difficult to differentiate from someone who’s just having a bad day.  Because it’s something that can’t be tested for and indisputably diagnosed, it seems like an excuse instead of a disease.

All that said, I have taken some steps:  I’ve started seeing a therapist.  And she, in turn, has recommended that I see a psychiatrist regarding the possibility of going on medication.  The psych appointment won’t happen for another month, but in the meantime, I talk and cry and whine to someone with letters after her name once a week, for whatever that’s worth.

What I do know:  I’m tired of being emotionally fragile all the time.  I cry too much, wallow too much, feel sorry for myself beyond what’s reasonable.  The idea of taking mood stabilizing drugs scares the crap out of me.  But it’s like the old axiom goes:  do the same things, get the same results.  What I had been trying was obviously not working, it’s time to change directions and pray for the best.