Continued from Part Three:
Thanks to everyone for the really supportive comments - both here and on Facebook. It's going a long way to scratch that itch I have for external validation (old habits die hard). And it means I've touched some people. Which is what this was intended to do.
I also want to point out that what I've been writing about are the hard times associated with my mood problems. There has been a lot of really wonderful stuff in there, too. I don't feel like I've been cheated out of anything or that my life has be ruined by what I've had to deal with. In a lot of ways I feel blessed to have this opportunity to get to know myself and others better because of it. My life has been richer and happiness more appreciated because I've know the other side, too. Life is grand. And the really great people I share it with (both now and in the past) have all helped me learn along this odd, winding, bumpy road.
So, back to my mom (sorry, Mom). In the '70s and '80s less was known about depression than now. Our belief at the time (and it might well be very true) was that Mom's depression was purely chemical with a genetic origin and the only solution for her was to be on medication for the rest of her life. At the time there was very little focus on nutrition (hell, there STILL isn't), exercise or any other lifestyle solutions. So the solution was drugs ... forever.
When I started taking drugs in 1998 or 1999, I pretty much thought I'd be on them forever, too - after all, that's what my mother's situation was and I figured I'd follow the same pattern. The meds certainly seemed to help, if not totally fix the problem - at least after finding one that worked - and there is always a trial period where different drugs are experimented with. (Here's a tidbit for you on how insensitive some people can be: I told one employer that I was going to be changing medications - I like to let people know in case there is any odd behaviour or I have to take time off work or anything. His response: "Good!" -- and it wasn't a pleasant "good, I hope you're feeling better soon and I'm sorry you haven't been well", it was a "good, maybe then you'll be easier to deal with!". Nice, eh?).
So there it was. The drug solution. I'd be on them forever. Okay, well, if they fixed the problem, I guess I'd have to live with that. And that's the way it was for about 3 years.
I had what I consider to be my second "nervous breakdown" early on in 2002 - while I was taking the medication. So I guess it didn't fix everything. Noel and I were engaged to be married, he had landed a job in Calgary so we moved in late Feburary (-30C! - it was just great ...). Three weeks after we moved, we were married. For two of those three weeks I was really sick with bronchitis. Didn't know if I'd recover in time to say the vows. Then, about 3 weeks after that, my Grandmother died - about 3 days after starting a new job. For some reason that is still unknown to me, I insisted on both speaking and playing my flute at the funeral. This all happened in the spring, so throw in income taxes and inter-provincial car inspections, and I had about 6 of the 7 major life stressors happening within 2 months. And I wondered why I shut down and couldn't function.
I was at work one afternoon (fortunately alone in a lab) and just couldn't stop crying. Of course we were in a new city, so I went to another strange doctor to see what we could do. It basically came down to just taking some time off and trying to get over it. Which I did. But that job didn't last long, either. I stayed with them doing fieldwork over the summer, but in the fall when there wasn't any more immediate work, I walked away and didn't call them back. And they didn't call me.
I did get a part-time job, and then Noel and I decided we wanted to have a baby. Well, I think any responsible grown woman needs to consider very carefully if she wants to carry a baby while taking seriously mind-altering drugs ('cause, let's face it, that's what they are). So my one and only trip to a psychiatrist (so far) was to discuss whether I should get off the drugs to get pregnant. He said it would be wise to do so, but the prospect scared the living shit out of me. It had been three years on medication. I had no idea what my brain would do left to it's own devices. My visit to the psychiatrist was very interesting. Very clinical. Very matter of fact. I am lucky to be able to deal with this disorder in a non-emotional manner, but if someone is truly fucked up, I wonder how that environment affects them. Anyhow ... off the drugs I went.
And I felt good. I was very surprised. I don't remember any serious withdrawl and I certainly didn't go straight into a downward spiral. And within 5 or 6 months -the time in which I would have noticed a decline - I was pregnant. And, well, frankly, the hormones of pregnancy are so crazy I wouldn't have been able to tell if I was having problems. I was off anyhow. And being pregnant, I actually felt more emotionally stable than I had in years (aside from the regular crying and stuff that all soon-to-be moms go through).
And then there was parenthood. Again ... don't take this the wrong way. My son is the best thing in my life and I couldn't imagine life without him. I love him more than anything in the world. But becoming a parent is stressful. And stress is my main trigger. So the euphoria and exhaustion of parenthood kept me going for a while, but the daily stress created a gradual decline. And, I'll tell you, relating to a child put a great big mirror up in my face that said: this type of behaviour is neither warrented nor acceptable. I found myself (at times - we all have good and bad days) getting VERY impatient with this little boy. And I didn't want to be. And I found myself being very unhappy. And I didn't want to be. And, really, there was no reprieve from that until he got into pre-school and I got some good alone time.
When Daniel was about 3 I tried to go on medication again. I tried one type, but it caused an unpleasant side effect (I honestly don't remember what it was - dry mouth or shaking or stomach problems) and then another with a different side effect and then a third which worked really well for 2 weeks until I broke out in a rash. Well, I was slated to try another but wanted to give my body a few days to get the old one out of my system. And I felt fine. So I didn't bother with another after that.
I kept the pills that gave me the rash and found that if I took half a pill when I was feeling bad that it would help and the rash wouldn't come back if I took it occassionally. And that's how I've been using them ever since. If I'm having a bad time or going through a stressful period, I'll take the pills. And I try not to wait until I feel badly depressed or anxious. If I feel like my husband is mad at me when he isn't, or if I'm getting a little snarky with my son, I know I'm off and I decide if it's worth the sleep disruption and take a pill (because if I take a pill, I'll wake up between 3 and 4:30 and be awake for an hour and a half - and then I'm tired, which makes the anxiety worse). If I don't need them ... I don't take them. And that works for me.
I did go to one councellor here in this small Alberta town we live in. I went a couple of times and she basically just told me I didn't need her. I guess she deals with such mentally ill people that she couldn't see what benefit she could have for me. Again, I think the medical system failed me in a way.
More to come ... how I treat these mood issues, and how I manage to function (mostly) well in society.