Keep On Keepin’ On

I don’t post as much as I used to. I don’t write anything as much as I used to…in fact, I write very little at all these days.

I’m feeling rather stagnant. Progressions I’d hoped for – find a job, make more friends, be more assertive, etc. – have not gone quite to plan. I’ve made small improvements, I suppose. But I’m not where I want to be.

But I’m also not sure where I want to be. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I like. I used to like reading, and writing, and art. They don’t bring me much pleasure these days. I’m trying to find new things that I might like. It isn’t easy. But hopefully I’ll find something that I enjoy. I could always use more joy in my life.

And I’m trying not to focus too much on the negative, lest I let the downward spiral of rumination take over my mind! Baby steps. I probably won’t be able to attain any major goals today, or tomorrow, and possibly not the next day. But I can get through the day. I can survive – by the skin of my teeth, maybe – but sometimes making in through the day is the best you can do.

So for now, I’m taking things slow. As long as I don’t stop, as long as I keep on keepin’ on, I haven’t failed myself yet. Hopefully you can keep on keepin’ on as well.

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Low Battery

I don’t have enough energy. There isn’t enough coffee in the world to save me, not that I get much of a kick from caffeine anyway. I’ve done the things that are supposed to give you more energy – improve my sleep, eat well, get some exercise. It helps a little, but not as much as I’d like.

I feel like I get worn out very easily. Spoon Theory is a great way to explain energy levels. I’ve only got so many spoons, and the ones I do have are quickly used up by daily obligations.

The area where this is having the most negative effect is with therapy. I’ve been hard at work with my therapist over the past few months, and I feel like I’ve made some improvements. But there are still so many improvements to be made! Some days, it feels like I don’t have the energy to accomplish them – it takes too much energy and I have too little. Yet, I know that if I don’t work on making changes, I will see no improvements in my depression and anxiety.

There are good days and bad days. I get more accomplished on good days. Every little bit helps. And on bad days, when I don’t get much accomplished at all, I just try to remember to take it easy and recharge so that I might have more energy to try again the next day.

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better | Medication Shuffle

To deal with some of the side effects of the sertraline (aka: Zoloft) I take, bupropion xl (aka: Wellbutrin) has been added to my daily medication regimen. My practitioner actually prescribed it at my suggestion, as I had taken this combo of drugs before and found it helpful (though she did consult with the clinic psychiatrist before writing the prescription). She started me off with 150 mg of bupropion. She also lowered my sertraline from 125 mg to 100 mg (I’m not sure of her reasoning here, but it’s one less pill for me to take, so I’m not complaining).

Previously, I had taken 125 mg of sertraline (first a generic, then brand-name Zoloft), and 300 mg of bupropion (brand-name Wellbutrin the whole time). While these medications were not a panacea, I functioned fairly well while taking them, and side effects from the meds were minimal.

I figured things would be exactly the same this time. I was wrong.

The bupropion was only added about two and a half weeks ago, so not really long enough for me to experience the full effects. At least not the good effects. And let me tell you, those bad effects took me for a ride the first two weeks!

The first week, I was riddled with anxiety. I was nervous over nothing almost constantly. Even when I’m not taking medication, my anxiety is usually (though not always) focused on something. But that week, I was simply anxious all the time for no particular reason. It took me a bit to realize this anxiety was probably because of the new med, and that understanding brought me a little relief, or at least the strength to weather the storm. I figured if I just waited it out, the anxiety would pass.

And it did. But the anxiety morphed into depression. I was useless for much of the second week – lethargic, hopeless, and prone to crying (and I’m not normally a big crier). Still, I told myself too wait it out. Sometimes things get worse before they get better.

I’m glad I waited. Things seem to have settled for the most part now. I do not feel that I’m getting the full benefit of the medication combination right now, but the worst of the side effects appear to have passed.

I’m not sure why I experienced those side effects, as adding Wellbutrin went completely smoothly the first time. Perhaps it is because I’m taking a generic this time; I’m generally gung-ho about generics, but I have heard of people having difficulties with generic bupropion. Or maybe it was because of the reduction in sertraline, though I do not feel that the 25 mg drop should have caused such a change in me. Maybe it was because of both of these things.

Nevertheless, things seem to be on the up-and-up now. When I next see my practitioner, my dosages may be changed, but I will just have to wait and see about that. I’ve got quite good at ‘waiting to see’ over the past two and a half weeks!

Treatment update #2

Hi all!

I’m here to update you on how I’ve been doing.

In short: okay.

I’m continuing to take 125 mg of sertraline daily. This may change in the next month or two a) to see if a different medication works better for me, and b) because of side effects (add me to the long, long, long list of SSRI-takers who notice sexual side effects). In the past, I took bupropion (300 mg daily) in addition to sertraline, and this made a bit of a difference. So I may be prescribed that again, but who knows?

I’ve also started therapy; the wait list wasn’t quite as long as I expected! My therapist and I are using a combination of interpersonal therapy, ACT, and mindfulness. We’re off too a bit of a slow start, but I think things are going well overall.

I’m still volunteering. I’ve been going to job-searching workshops. I’ve made a friend! So my social life is considerably better than it has been in the past couple of years. Of course, socializing gives me anxiety, but I push on as best I can.

There are still “sad days” – days where I feel down and depressed for no good reason. But these days are less frequent now, and I don’t get quite as depressed. I figure if I have the occasional day where I lie in bed for an hour or two and feel bad for myself, that’s not as bad as spending a day or two in bed feeling bad for myself.

I’m not cured yet – I doubt I ever will be – but I’m doing okay, and that’s good enough for today. 🙂

Treatment update

Hello all!

Thought I should pop on to reassure everyone I am still alive. In my last post, I said that I was pursuing treatment, so here’s an update on that.

I’m currently being treated for my depression an anxiety. I’ve started taking medication again – sertraline (Zoloft), since it seemed to help before. As of yesterday, my prescription was increased to 125 mg/day. The medication does help. I’ve noticed a significant reduction in my general anxiety, and a small reduction in my depression and social anxiety. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

I also met with a therapist for a screening appointment and have been placed on a waitlist for therapy. I’m not sure exactly how long I’ll have to wait, but I expect it will be a while. However, the therapist I talked to was very kind and I liked her a lot, so I’m looking forward to working on things when my time does come around.

In addition to all that, I’m taking all kinds of supplements – B12 (and man, do those injections ache [apparently I’m a baby when it comes to intermuscular injections]), and iron, and vitamin D, and multivitamins. It seems like this has increased my energy a little bit. That’s nice, because laying around all the time always makes me feel even worse about myself.

Aside from my treatment, I’m trying to get out of the house more. I’ve done a little volunteering that involves socializing with strangers. It triggers my anxiety, but it gets easier with practice. I figure it’s like CBT or exposure therapy – eventually, my anxiety over starting conversations with strangers might disappear altogether! Plus, it’s a good way to brush up on my social skills, which, I confess, have gotten a little rusty from the way I secluded myself as I descended in to my depressed and anxiety-ridden state.

Currently, my only real complaint is that I’m still having a lot of difficulty with concentration. It takes ages for me to read something. I struggle to watch a half-hour TV show. Writing anything isn’t easy because my mind wants to wander. I’m trying to improve things with baby steps – start with 5 or 10 minutes on a task, then 15-20. It’s getting a little easier (or maybe the medication is helping), but there’s definitely room to grow.

I’ll try to remember to post again when I have further updates.

Hope your year is off to a great start (and if not, that things get better)!

 

Down but not out

Hello! It’s been a long time since I last posted. Thanks to those who’ve been reading the blog, leaving comments, and sending messages. And thanks to those who are reading this 🙂

Depression and anxiety have been kicking my ass lately. Anxiety especially. It’s funny, in a way: generally, I feel like I can control my anxiety pretty well, but when it gets bad, I become quite aware that my anxiety controls me.

I wake up anxious. As soon as my eyes are open, the anxiety sets in. My mind starts going a million miles a minute trying to worry about every little detail of every little thing. On occasion, my anxiety wakes me up in the middle of the night. It’s exhausting. I think that makes the mental illness harder to combat – sometimes you’re just too tired to fight.

Panic attacks have been a frequent friend over the past few months. The heart palpitations are always disconcerting, no matter how often I experience them. The palpitations aren’t a medical concern for me, but when my heart is thumping away like that, I can’t help but take notice. My poor heart works so hard for me; I don’t think I treat it well enough.

I’ve begun the process of seeking treatment. Meds and therapy again, probably. It’s slow going (partially because it’s a struggle for me to get anything done and partially because the health system can be slow if you’re not dying on their doorstep [I’m not complaining though; I might actually be dead if it weren’t for Canada’s socialized medicine). I’m not exactly jumping up and down at the prospect of treatment, but medication and therapy were a big help to me in the past, so I’m fine with trying again. Really, I probably shouldn’t have been off meds or out of therapy in the first place, but I wanted to try going without, and I was fine for a while. My brain caught up with me, is all!

In the meantime, I try to keep myself occupied – crochet, paint, read, cook, listen to music…whatever distracts me for a little while. I’m taking things day by day. Today was a little better than yesterday. Maybe tomorrow will be a little better than today. I can hope at least!

Hopefully you have a good day too ❤

 

 

 

Negative Thinking

Hello, all! It’s been so long! I’m afraid I haven’t been in much a writing mood lately, but I figured I should check in and let people know I’m still alive. 🙂


I wouldn’t call myself an optimist. I like to think of myself as a realist. But, let’s be honest, that’s just a fancy marketing-type term for pessimist, isn’t it?

In the past, I have frequently and compulsively let myself mope and ruminate about all the awful things in life. It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing with the depression; do I feel depressed because of the negative thoughts, or do I think negative thoughts because of the depression?

When I began treating my depression and anxiety, I had to confront my own thinking patterns. The negative thoughts were not helping me. If I wanted to be happy, I had to learn to think more positively, or, at the very least, realistically about things. Instead of telling myself ‘Today is going to be hellish,’ I had to begin telling myself ‘Today might be a good day; I won’t know until I get on with it.’

The change in perspective has helped a little, though it’s not a pancea. There’s a bit of a learning curve to it, but eventually it starts to feel natural to challenge the negative thoughts. I assume the eventual goal is that you don’t have all the negative thoughts to challenge, but that seems like a distant goal at this point.

Now, here’s my confession: sometimes I still let myself mope and ruminate and relish in those terribly negative thoughts. I do this for two reasons.

The first reason is that it allows for a cathartic release. Once in a while, I curl up in bed and think awful things and have a cry. Sometimes I feel better after. Not always. Sometimes I feel worse. But the times that I feel better allow me to justify it in my own mind.

The second reason is to combat anhedonia. I spend a lot time comfortably – or uncomfortably – numb. Sometimes it seems like I don’t feel much of anything. Letting myself think negative thoughts and feel bad for a while serves as a reminder that I do have feelings, no matter how well I manage to push them down most of the time. I wonder if this doesn’t make me a bit like an addict. Perhaps I’m addicted to feeling bad. I’ve spent so much of my life feeling miserable that there’s a certain amount of comfort in it. Still, I know this won’t help me to get better, so I try not to do this too often.

But let’s look on the bright side since that’s what we ought to do: at least I don’t mope all the time anymore. Any progress is good.

Three-day Rule

 

Forewarning: this post discusses suicide.

Hello all! Still alive? Yes, me too. I’m going to credit this fact to the three-day rule.

No, not the dating three-day rule. I’m not qualified to give relationship advice!

This rule: if you are going to commit suicide, wait three days…or five days…or a week. Just wait.

Suicide might seem like a really good idea – or, at least, a very tempting idea – at a particular moment. But there is a very real chance that if you wait at least three days, it won’t seem so appealing.

Now, if three days seems like way too long, or if you still intend to attempt suicide after three days, I’ll encourage you to call emergency services (911, 999, 112, or whatever it is in your location), or a suicide hotline (here’s a list of hotlines by country), or go to an emergency room, or talk to somebody…anybody.

But the decision to commit suicide can be a very impulsive one. And impulses pass.

For me, the impulse came on very suddenly. One moment, I was okay (well, as okay as I ever am). The next moment, I was very much not okay. In under an hour, I had a method and a note planned. But I still had a few details to work out (I’m a stickler for details, even in a life-or-death situation it seems!). While trying to work out those details, I came across the three-day rule online. Three days isn’t very many – it’s very few in comparison to being gone for all of eternity – so I figured I could suffer through them. By the end of those three days (hell, by the end of the next day), the impulse was gone.

I’m glad the impulse passed. I’m okay (again: as okay as I ever am). I still have bad days, and I still have suicidal thoughts sometimes. But not every day is awful. Some decent things happened in the months following – like eating great food, or watching interesting T.V., or petting a dog, or talking to my family, or meeting my goddaughter, or spending time with my friends – and I would have missed out on those things if I hadn’t followed the three-day rule.

Take things one day at a time…or three days at a time. Whatever works for you.


If you want to read more about the three-day rule, try this website.

 

Side note: apparently, the blog is 5 years old today! It doesn’t feel like 5 years!

Changing is hard

Changing is hard. Okay, lots of things are hard when you’re depressed. Getting up in the morning. Finding the energy to do everyday tasks. Looking for the will to go on. You know, all that good stuff. But changing yourself and your thoughts is especially hard.

It’s a strange battle, isn’t it? Often, you know what you ought to do or have to do. And often, you just can’t seem to summon up the will to do it.

Let’s say you want to to start exercising more, and let’s say you even found the energy to do it a couple of days. Great! That’s a good start in making a positive change in your life. Then you miss a day, or two, or three, or a month. That change didn’t go so well, and now it’s like you have to start over from the beginning. It can be demotivating.

Or let’s say you’re trying to combat social isolation. You chat with a couple of friends you haven’t talked to in a while, catch up. Everything seems pretty okay, and maybe you’re even feeling pretty good about the whole thing. Then plans you made with one friend fall through and you’re left feeling disappointed and depressed. It’s not really their fault and it’s not necessarily yours. But it can set your progress back.

I know there are changes I should make to improve my life. The problem is that my mind, my depression tells me that these changes are nearly impossible. I think of the cost, the energy needed, the risk and I find it difficult to carry things through. Changing is hard!

And I’m stubborn, really stubborn. I have negative thought processes that have slowly been ingrained in me over the past 20+ years; it might take another 20+ years to rewire those processes.And I’m so, so tired of fighting some days – tired of fighting with myself, with the world. Sometimes I don’t want to change. Sometimes I want to take the easy route.

But I think change can be good. So I try, and try, and keep trying, despite some reluctance and more than a little anxiety.

I don’t think there is some magical way to make changing easier. Take things one step at a time? Get back up when you fall? Pick your battles wisely? It’s all decent advice. But it’s still going to be hard. And it’s still going to seem pretty awful. And it’s probably going to be pretty depressing.

But I hope it’s worth it in the end!

❤ Michelle

Skin hunger (It’s not about eating skin!)

Skin hunger describes the want to be touched (any sort of wanted touch – not just sexual/sensual touch). Maybe you’ve heard the term. It’s become more popular in the last decade or so. We know that lack of touch is very detrimental to infants. A baby’s healthy development requires human contact. Adults need touch too, perhaps not to the same extent that a baby does, but enough that we have a term like ‘skin hunger’ to describe what adults experience when they lack touch in their lives.

I’ve noticed that my grandmother’s personal support worker, who comes by a couple of times a week, will lay a friendly hand on my grandma’s arm or knee. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was something the PSW was taught to do – a way to combat the skin hunger that the elderly might experience. I’ve never asked if this is something my grandmother appreciates. However, I know that she has never commented or complained about it.

My extended family are not especially ‘touchy’ people. My immediate family was/is. Many of my friends are. I would definitely say I’m a touchy-feely person. If you’ve ever looked into the 5 Love Languages, you probably know that ‘touch’ is one of the languages. That’s me. I like to show love through touch; I like to receive love through touch. Hugs, kisses, massages, friendly back-pats, enthusiastic high-fives – it’s all good with me. Not everybody is as receptive to touch as I am. Some people don’t like to be touched. So I tone things down around them, as I want them to be comfortable.

When I’m not around other people who like touch, when I am unable to give/receive touch, my depression always seems to be worse. Some of this might simply be attributed to some level of social isolation (more social interaction, more touch; less social interaction, less touch). But we know that touch can cause a release of oxytocin (one of those feel-good hormones), so perhaps the lack of touch and reduced oxytocin contributes.

While a good hug certainly doesn’t fix my depression, it can make me feel a little bit better. And I’ve noticed that I experience skin hunger much more strongly when my depression is at its worst. I think maybe satisfying the want for touch could help alleviate the depression a little, but it’s not always easy to get touch!

Some people combat skin hunger with massages or other spa treatments that involve touch. I think even haircuts could work. Some people say touching a pet can help (I imagine this works best with a cuddle-able pet like a cat or a dog better than with a goldfish or a snake, but your experience may vary!). I recently saw a suggestion that a warm bath might help with the want for touch (I feel like this wouldn’t be quite as satisfying, but it can’t hurt, right?!).

I’m not currently feeling flush enough to splurge on a massage, and I have no pets to pet. I don’t see my friends very often, but I joke that I ‘stock up’ on hugs when I do. I’m lucky enough to live with my brother, and he is willing to give hugs.It’s not perfect, but it does help (I don’t know what I’d do if I lived alone!). Still, I feel the skin hunger, and it really kind of sucks.

Do any of you get skin hunger? Do you notice any connection between it and you depression? Do you have great tips for fighting it? I’ve love to hear about it if you want to leave a comment.

For now, virtual hugs to all of you!

 

 

 

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