26.1.13

Day #192: Depression and Me

So, last week I started taking Effexor XR again. Effexor is a prescription drug that treats depression. I don't really talk about it much, but I was diagnosed with depression when I was around 19 years old. I have learned to live with it and I mostly don't talk about it because it embarrasses me. There's a lot of stigma that comes with mental illness and I don't like to think of myself as "mentally ill".

When I was 19, something just felt wrong. My life was fine. I had a good job, I was in college, in the honors program. I had lots of friends, I was accepted into nursing clinicals without having to wait on a 2-3 year waiting list. I had a supportive family. However, something just didn't feel right. I felt sad and empty for absolutely no explainable reasons. I can't articulate what depression feels like. It's nothing anyone can fix. Hell, it's nothing I could even fix.

Anyways, I talked to my doctor about it and after trying out several medications, Effexor XR just seemed to fit. It calmed my mood swings and made the emptiness seemingly disappear. Like any person, situations still arise that make me cry, or angry, or anxious. However, I can deal with it better now. I'm not sure if it's because I'm older and wiser, or I have just learned to reel it in. Throughout the years I sometimes try to wean myself off of the drug and just live life like a normal person, without a mental illness.

However, after about a month of not being on Effexor...the emptiness creeps back in, my moods becomes slightly more erratic and I find that...maybe I shouldn't have weaned myself off. Smeh. 

The best description of depression I have found was written by Elizabeth Wurtzel in her book, "Prozac Nation":

"Some catastrophic situations invite clarity, explode in split moments: You smash your hand through a window pane and then there is blood and shattered glass stained with red all over the place; you fall out a window and break some bones and scrape some skin. Stitches and casts and bandages and antiseptic solve and salve the wounds. But depression is not a sudden disaster. It is more like a cancer: At first its tumorous mass is not even noticeable to the careful eye, and then one day -Wham!- there is a huge, deadly seven-pound lump lodged in your brain or your stomach or your shoulder blade, and this thing that your body has produced is actually trying to kill you. Depression is a lot like that: Slowly, over the years, the data will accumulate in your heart and mind, a computer program for total negativity will build into your system, making life feel more and more unbearable. But you won't even notice it coming on, thinking that it is somehow normal, something about turning eight or turning twelve or turning fifteen, and then one day your realize that your entire life is just awful, not worth living, a horror and a black blot on the white terrain of human existence. One morning you wake up afraid you are going to live.

In my case, I was not frightened in the least bit at the thought that I might live because I was certain, quite certain that I was already dead. The actual dying part, the withering away of my physical body, was a mere formality. My spirit, my emotional being, whatever you want to call all that inner turmoil that has nothing to do with physical existence, were long gone, dead and gone, and only a mass of the most fucking, god-awful excruciating pain like a pair of boiling hot tongs clamped tight around my spine and pressing on all my nerves was left in its wake." - Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation
Now, I can't say that I felt exactly like that. I will say, it's not something that hits you all at once. It slowly creeps up on you, over several years, swallowing you into a void of emptiness and pain. For me, I wanted to know why I felt that way. My life, was great. Why did I feel empty? I never want to kill myself or felt "afraid to live", as Ms Wurtzel put it. I just wanted to not feel empty.

I have kept journals since I was 13. It's fun to read them and see how far I have come. Looking back, I feel like I can watch the depression overcome me and take over my brain. I have learned that it's not my fault. It's not something I can change. I can only grow and learn from it. I am lucky I found a medication that helps me and that I am able to be a functioning member of society. Not everyone is so lucky. I am stronger person because of it.


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14 comments:

  1. I am taking a break from a post i am working on for Monday on my self image..A hard one to share. But I thought I need to take a break and I will catch up on some reading...and was led here :) Funny how things like this work out. Not sure if you have read my testimony yet but too have suffered with depression pretty much my whole life so I know what you mean in this post.
    I am going to keep you in my thoughts and prayers and I am so proud of you for sharing your journey.
    Be the SUNSHINE :)
    Blessings
    Cat

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  2. A lot of people are dealing with depression. Most of them do not feel comfortable talking about it either. So you are not alone. Sometimes it feels good to vent. I hope it gets better for you!

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  3. Thank you for sharing this story with us! There are a lot of people who suffer from depression (myself included) and most aren't comfortable talking about it. It sucks that there is a huge stigma surrounding mental illness, but that's just the way it is. I completely understand and I think you're really brave to have written this post.

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  4. You are awesome for sharing this post. It's not something many feel able to talk about...but I believe there is a piece of healing that comes with getting it out. I do the same - write about it to get it off my chest, and then it lets me go. It's part of the reason I became a blogger, although my first blog was about something completely different...I finally found joy in creativity and now I blog about that. I've been on and off (and back on) meds for ten years. Hugs to you friend! You are most definitely not alone.

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  5. Don't be embarrassed... you're not alone! I've never been diagnosed with depression but I'm prescribed Trazadone which is a generic antidepressant. My doctor prescribed for me to help me sleep as I've had issues with insomnia after losing my job. I had also started having panic attacks. It helps me sleep for sure but I've also noticed that I feel better during the day it well. You're normal and I don't think you're mentally ill. You just happen to have a lot on your plate. ((I read back to the beginning of your blog last night.))

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  6. thanks for sharing, its hard not to feel embarrassed. I feel like that to, its like on the outside to everyone you look so happy, and its like everyone thinks you have your shit together and you dont. Sometimes I feel like everythings closes in, i get so over whelmed, then I cry and cry until it hurts. Ive always been to embarrased to speak with any doctors or anything. So again, thanks for sharing your story :)

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  7. Hi ;)
    I take Effexor XR also. I'm up to 300mg/day. If I have to increase again, I have to add another anti-depressant or Seroquel-and I'm not happy about that. I've been on the med since 2007, since I've had MAJOR anxiety when I started working as an RN. I've had a tough last five years. I don't think of "depression" and "anxiety" as a mental "illness". Depression and anxiety go together. They just do. My brain doesn't produce enough natural neuro transmitters to feel "normal". Some of it's my fault, because I don't exercise. But I lost my sister to cervical cancer 2.5 years ago, so I've been grieving. I'm also an addict and had a problem with prescription medication. I've been clean for 2.5 years tomorrow. That's a lot of stuff to go through in 4 years. I hope you don't feel embarrassed anymore. It's like diabetics, when they don't produce enough insulin and their blood sugar elevates. We just don't produce serotonin and dopamine. I know there are feelings and emotions to go along with it. Sometimes I pray and tell myself, that I have a choice. I can feel this way, or I can do something to help someone else. Sometimes I make phone calls to people I haven't talked to in a really long time, or I clean my closet. This "stigma" is actually getting better with our generation. The same with addiction. My brains wants to abuse anything that feels good, whether it's video games, tv shows, sewing, pills, alcohol, food, or whatever it is at the moment. I just try to keep a balance. Writing in a private journal can help. I guess it's hard to feel bad about depression, when you're an addict. IT's really hard to say to people I don't know. But I'm in recovery, and my mental health is better than it's every been. If you ever need to talk, you know where I am :)

    Karrie
    http://karrie-s.blogspot.com/

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    1. it says clean 2 and a half years. Not 25 lol

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  8. Hi Chelsea! I am on Effexor as well, and I've read (and loved) Prozac Nation. Depression is one of those things that if it hasn't affected you or someone you're close to, you just won't get it. It doesn't matter how many wonderful things are happening in your life now, its about what's happened in the past and the negative program on repeat in your head. I've been on anti-depressants for 13 years. I'm glad to know that there are other wonderful women out there winning the battle. Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day. Find the good. :)

    Katie Pea
    http://craftycrazylife.blogspot.com

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  9. Thanks so much for your post. I, too, suffer from depression and am on the same medication that you are on. Just like others have said--don't be embarrassed. Just like people can't control when they get sick and they don't decide to develop cancer...depressed people don't decide to develop depression. Just as those with illnesses need medication and other interventions to help them, so do those who suffer with depression. Nothing to be shy to talk about--every body has some kind of crazy! lol

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  10. you are so brave to post this! thanks for sharing your journey! <3

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  11. I developed post partum depression after the birth of both my kids and during my most recent pregnancy. Depression is something that needs to be openly tallked about so those that suffer in silence aren't afraid to seek help. Thank you for being one who talks about it!

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  12. This is an absolutely amazing post. THANK YOU (from someone who shares the same struggle) for being SO open and sharing so much. I've been thinking about writing about my depression lately. It isn't something I talk about very often- I tend to get embarrassed by the label "mentally ill" as well- because I don't feel that I am. I've learned to never be embarrassed about it though because it's hand I've been dealt. It's taken me a long time, but, I'm learning to accept it as part of who I am & learning how to deal with it as well. I was also diagnosed with depression around that age- I think I was 18 just finishing High School. I have gone through periods being on and off the medicines...and have tried them all! However, at this point- I've decided to remain on Prozac for the foreseeable future. I actually was on Effexor XR at one point and I didn't respond well to it- especially because I'm AWFUL at remembering to take medicine. One day off Effexor XR and I feel like I've been hit but a bus.

    Anyways, I'm so appreciative that you've shared your story with us & I applaud you for doing so. It encourages me to know that someone who I view as very put together and motivated struggles with the same thing I do but manages it effectively! Never be embarrassed or afraid to share your struggle- as you can see...YOU aren't alone! :)

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  13. Oh wow. At the moment, I'm also on Effexor, but it barely does shit for me. I started out on Zoloft though and I am pretty sure I'm about to go back on it now.

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