Saturday, December 11, 2004

A patient comments on antidepressants

Some patients have responded to my post about the soaring use of antidepressants. We can't begin to comprehend what these illnesses and treatments are about, without listening to patients. (Thanks for writing, and for allowing me to share these e-mails.) One writes,
"I am 52 years old, mother of two (adopted) grown children, a nurse and a divorcee of 9 years. Looking back I realize that all my life with the exception of my work, where I have become very comfortable and confident, I have had what you might call a "just below the radar" tendency to anxiety and depression. I come by it honestly, (heh, as tho to have emotions is dishonest), many in my family have the same characteristics although for the most part, being of "sturdy stock" it was mostly swept away in the culture of "pull yourself up by the bootstraps". Not to dismiss this casually, in many instances it is the correct prescription. But what happens when major life events, a very unhappy marriage for instance, disrupts that brain chemistry that perhaps is a little vulnerable, and makes life miserable? My story:

"After a number of years of anguishing mental debate I finally came to the conclusion, with the help and validation of my feeling by my mom, I was able to see that divorce was the only viable solution in a marriage terminally wrong. The process was miserable, I was going to counseling and steadfastly refusing medication when it was suggested. I finally came to the conclusion that not only was I anxious and miserable in my personal life, working so hard to be supportive to my children, working out my own new role as a single mother, my work, which was the foundation of my being able to be independent and provide for my kids, was suffering. I was not able to concentrate in any of these roles, mom, nurse, etc. I was put on zoloft and the tumbling, circular thinking became linear and productive again, I was almost happy again. But..... always those buts...

"I didn't like being on medication. It was against my philsophy of self help, I was back on track, getting settled, I wanted off and so, while continuing some counseling, I quit taking the zoloft. For a while things were fine, I was functioning, the depression did not return and then I hit some snags, I was having difficulty to the point of depression and beyond, with a new relationship as well as relationships with both kids. More counseling, another "major depression" note in the chart and back on anti-depressants. (zoloft caused tremors, a bad thing in my line of work, I was put on effexor) Effexor helped very much, things straightened out, I continued to take it with some adjustments in dose (I felt my emotions were overly blunted) for several years.

"I leave out lots of details but the "end" of the story is this: For almost a year now I have been off medication despite the warning that " you've had two major episodes, the odds are that you will relapse". I keep an eye on myself. I recognize the beginnings of anxiety and acknowledge them, I work hard not to be fearful of those emotions, accept them as part of what I call "me". I use a technique taught by my counselor and ask myself these questions at the start of that "circular" anxiety feeling: when was the last time I slept well", how have I been eating?, can this problem wait until tomorrow?-- it works amazingly well. So far, so good. I'm the happiest I've been in years. I realize that I'm not wholly self sufficient, I need to ask for help sometimes, and may again need to do that.

"Some conclusions then: 1. yes, keep asking those questions every day, your patients need to assess themselves, its part of their growth 2. for many people meds alone are not going to work (see end of story above) they need the wisdom of counseling. "adjuvant therapy" as it were. 3. Lack of misery does not equal happiness--in the end you have to go beyond yourself, give of yourself, realize we're all in this together....happiness follows."
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