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What It’s Actually Like to Have Treatment Resistant Depression
November 14, 2016, 12:48 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I read an article this weekend. It was titled “What It’s Like to Have Treatment Resistant Depression”.  I’m not going to lie, these days I scroll by 80% of the posts that have anything to do with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and anything in between. Most of them are posts that are more or less titled “What you need to know about a person with…” or “What you didn’t know about…” or “How to love a person with…”

It’s silly to think that someone could put something so personal like how someone might love me despite–or in spite of?–of my mental disorders. Of course none of it has ever applied to me, which is fine. Maybe it’s applied to someone out there–but there isn’t just one way to love someone, regardless of their emotional issues.

BUT I DIGRESS.

I am not here to simply rant about the state of internet coverage of things close to my heart.

I am here to talk about that post I mentioned all the way up there. Anyway, like I said, I usually pass on most things, but this caught my eye. I am mostly drug resistant and it’s not something I have seen spoken about in any sort of length to give me information or hope or a high five.

So, I clicked the link

 

and immediately regretted it. It was half a page of a girl saying she had tried 9 medications in a row and nothing worked and that she decided to stop medications and that deciding if you want or need to be on medication is right for you is a big choice.

That’s it. Those were the shining words of hope for people out there who feel like a prescription drug dumpster. I was irritated.

I am irritated.

 

So, allow me to tell you what it has been like for ME to deal with having treatment resistant depression.

I was diagnosed 2? 3? years ago with bipolar disorder after living under the impression that I had manic depression. The diagnose came as an extreme relief because all through college I had tried different anti-depressants and nothing seemed to work at all. I was hyped. Pumped. Let’s do this thing. Shut up and take my money and hand me some pills.

The first round of medication prescribed for me didn’t work. I went in to see my new psychiatrist about 4 times between two months to make sure I wasn’t making it up. I felt no better, no worse, nothing. Ok. Let’s taper down off of this and start a new one! It’s just a matter of finding the right fit!

The second medication made me break out in a rash. Ok. Let’s taper down off of this and start a new one! It’s just a matter of finding the right fit!

Imagine this, off and on, for 2 or 3 years–a number I probably have a hard time remembering because of all of the medication I have been on.

If you look up the basic list of anti-psychotics or anti-convulsents–you will see my life story. The list of meds in my chart needs its own page. We would start my sessions with “Ok, what haven’t I given you yet? How about this sublingual tablet? It’s flavored!”

I was on THAT medication the last time we went to Disney. Not only did it not work, I was at a level of depression where I was having to actively remind myself to be happy. If you suffer from depression you know what this is. You find yourself surrounded by something that should most definitely make you happy, but you feel nothing. You smile. You force yourself to smile the entire time hoping that you will trick your brain and sometimes this even works.

But, so, I was at Disney like this, taking these dissolving tablets that were supposed to taste like black cherry but tasted more like probably what those rainbow puddles of car fluids you see in parking lots taste like. I’m just guessing here. It was mostly terrible.

I went off medication. Twice .And I cannot even begin to imagine what deluded thoughts I was having before the second time because the first time was a horrible idea. I pretended that I wanted to be more organic with my emotions. That I was losing touch with myself. That I felt like a robotic pill taking machine. Maybe at the time, these were all true, but then I went over the cliff. If you ever decide to go off of medication all together like this to “detox” or whatever, you will go over the cliff. You may be able to bounce back, I don’t know.

I didn’t bounce back. I went over and landed splat on the pavement and stayed there until I peeled my sorry ass up and skulked back to the psychiatrist.

We started all over again. This time, we tried combining medications. Sometimes a second one to counter a side effect, sometimes a second one to take just for fun to see what would happen. This mostly kept me afloat and for some of the combinations, it helped for a little bit–maybe 2 months. Then, I would buckle again and my mind pushed out any help whatsoever. Again, I threw a hissy fit. I can’t do this! It’s affecting my short term memory! (it was) I’m having a hard time concentrating! (I was) I’m losing track of my thoughts or having a hard time thinking of specific words! (I was)

So, I went off again. Actually, exactly a year ago today I went off my medication for the second time. And began one of the most difficult years of my life. I went over the edge much faster, hit the pavement much harder.

I remember literally feeling like I was face down in the mud–like in those military training courses ,crawling under barbed wire–and that a boot was firmly pressed between my shoulder blades. I wrote about it as often as I could but for a little bit I grew silent online. I gave up hope for a little bit. I thought about killing myself in a serious manner for the first time in my life.

I–at the mandate of my loved ones–went back to my psychiatrist at some point in the midst…probably pretty early on. She threw me on one of the strongest and most commonly known medication for this sort of thing as a sort of hail Mary. Let’s just keep you alive for a little bit, ok? We will deal with the side effects once you stabilize. It took a while to stop wanting to kill myself. I had people around me, not many, but some who I could report to when I was afraid. I felt afraid a lot. I knew I was having these thoughts and that they were absolutely not me. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t get any better for a while there. She kept upping my dosage  and with it came a whole new slew of issues.

When you are drug resistant, the normal recommended dose rarely applies to you. The milligrams you pump into your body are high and disturbing for some people who don’t understand. Even then, sometimes it still won’t work. Sometimes your brain is just that big of an asshole.

I don’t know how long it took me to at least get my head above water. I eventually did. I woke up one day and my heart felt a little lighter; or rather, it felt something. It wouldn’t be a consistent feeling, at first. I would have two good days and then be low for the rest of the week. But, it was something.

Eventually, I was able to come off the MILLIONS OF MILLIGRAMS I was taking of this ridiculous medication. Withdrawing from a medication that just minimally was able to do its job for you seems like a cruel joke but ISN’T THIS ALL JUST ONE CRUEL JOKE?

I withdrew. I started the combination I am still currently on. I did hard things and got myself out of the damn mud.

When you are bipolar–or at least my version of bipolar–you have big upswings and downswings. Medications work to make that central line stronger, easier to stay at. Being resistant made this stabilization hard, but I kept at it.

My center feels stronger these days, but I still have the occasional downswing. The upswings are harder to come by, I imagine it’s like a heart working harder to bring that blood back up from your toes into the center of your body. It happens. I get happy. I get excited. There are things in my life that make it easy almost to feel at peace and more than content. But it is still hard work. I can constantly feel my brain trying to form a wall between me and the help of the medication I am on.

I know I am still resistant and that I will never be able to find the perfect medication for me. I have learned to be patient, strong, open minded and willing to cope in different ways.

So, if you are struggling with finding the right medication for you–for anything you’re suffering from–know a few things that post failed to mention:

It sucks.

It is okay to admit that it sucks.

It is frustrating and you will have to work harder than everyone else to feel okay.

Do not back down. I whole-heartily endorse NOT GOING OFF OF ALL YOUR MEDICATIONS.

If you are feeling out of control or disgusted with your body–like I have in the past–listen to your doctor. Mine tried to convince me to at least stay one a low dose of something to keep me buoyant. I was too proud to take her up on that offer. TAKE YOUR DOCTOR UP ON THAT OFFER. You may think you will learn more about yourself off of medication but I promise you it is nothing you ever want to know.

You can live like this. I have come to realize I can live a life where I am using a slew of defenses to keep myself safe. Complicated people require complicated treatment.

 

Being drug resistant does not make your disorder a puzzle or a game. You cannot be solved; cannot win. There are no exact pieces to make you whole. Once you face that and accept what you will have to do, you will feel more like a piece of clay thrown onto a spinning wheel. You mold, you bend, you arch–sometimes you cave in and have to start all over again–but that wheel always keeps spinning you can always keep evolving–surviving–being.

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