Monday, January 09, 2006
Go Sell Crazy Somewhere Else...
I know this is nothing new to read about in blogs, but I've suffered from depression for a long time. I always thought I was a very self-sufficient little only child who really didn't need anybody else. But thinking back now, I realize that I spent an inordinate amount of time when I was younger thinking I wasn't good enough, thin enough, smart enough... I thought alot about ways to make a grand exit. Hell - in that overdramatic manner of a pre-teen, I even knew all the words to "Suicide is Painless." As I got older, I just figured it was a stage that everyone went through.
The first time it really hit me bad was in med school. I was walking to class one day and cut through a park in Philadelphia. About half way through the park, I started crying uncontrollably. It was incredibly embarassing and even more frightening. Trapped. Should I go home? Should I go to class? Should I just sit on a bench and wait until someone found me? Who? I eventually made it home and cried for hours. Eventually I fell asleep. Over the following weeks, it manifested itself as disorganization, indecisiveness, loss of focus, lack of social skills. I'd walk into a deli to get some lunch but the line was too long. So I'd go to the next place, sit down, and couldn't find anything I liked on the menu. This pattern would repeat itself a few more times until I ran out of time and just grabbed something and headed back to lectures. The meal tasted like ash.
Finally, I decided I needed some help. The first psychiatrist I went to talked to me for about 20 minutes and diagnosed me as bipolar. He wanted to prescribe lithium. Being a medical student (a little knowledge is a dangerous thing) I read all about bipolar disorder and lithium. Some stories I already knew from books like "Girl, Interrupted" and Kay Redfield Jamison's books. While I did have highs and lows, it never seemed to be of the magnitude described. And lithium? I thought I was fat in high school when I was skinnier than Barbie. The 40 pound potential weight gain was like a death sentence for a girl whose depression had a large component of body dysmorphic disorder and low self-esteem. I called my Mom crying. She completely lost it. Then, to top it off, my dad called back later and yelled at me for upsetting my mom. It's not quite as bad as it seems - he did offer His support as long as we left my mom out of it.
I asked for a second opinion and met the doctor who just may have saved my career and my fragile psyche. He spent several hours talking to me. He immediately cast aside the bipolar disorder. He diagnosed me with severe depression. Even better than that, he didn't try to psychoanalyze me. I explained that I'd had a wonderful childhood, loving parents, plenty of lucky breaks...he accepted this and felt that I had just become overwhelmed at a time when I was stressed, sleep deprived, and unable to work out regularly (a major stress reliever for me). Thus began my first adventure in anti-depressants - Effexor - and anti-anxietals - clonazepam.
The first few weeks were rough, and my friends were great. I fell asleep sitting up during lectures. I had nausea. My sleep patterns were even crazier than usual. But eventually it all leveled out. I met with the good doctor several more times during my last two years of med school. We were both happy with my progress and agreed that I should probably stay on medications through residency, if not beyond. After all, a rebound after coming off meds is often worse than the initial manifestation and may not be as responsive to meds. Unfortunately, if I took the effexor on an empty stomach I got very ill. If I missed a dose, a hyperdynamic response would start in less than 24 hours...
I guess that's enough for now. I'll finish the story over the next week. For now, the reason I started this post...
I'm feeling like Stepford Stampy. The seasonal affective disorder is under control. I'm fully functional. But when you take away the worst sadness, you sometimes lose the blissful happiness. Tonight I was watching some very funny sitcoms. Did I laugh? Did I snort white wine out my nose? No. I smiled a bit and thought "wow, that's funny". So very not Stampy. I miss Stampy.
I am fairly new to this blogging thing...anyway I did a blog search on depression and came across you site. I'll be interested to read your story as you finish over the next week. What was particularly interesting is your diagnosis in medical school...myself, I was diagnosed with ADD and the associated depression in medical school...unfortunately it was diagnosed and treated rather late in the game and the damage was to much to overcome and ended up leaving the program. I to have also started blogging about depression as a form of therapy and a way of hopefully helping others. I'll be checking back on your story.
Twisted - Hope all is well in the Mousketeer Nation. Are there any cow characters at Disney? I don't remember any. Please say Hi! to Goofy for me. And thanks for the support. I wish I was in "the Happiest Place on Earth" - Only I'd always be first in line for the rides and the junkfood would be free. Oh yeah, and there'd be booze.