Category Archives: Symptoms

A Change Will Do You Good

sunshineI was thinking of posting earlier in the week, but I was in a pity party mood and didn’t want to dump here. Could be a I missed a dose or two of meds (this seems to happen on the weekends) and wasn’t feeling 100%. I admit I was less than motivated and spent too much time in bed; didn’t have anywhere to be and was feeling a little isolated. But the funk has passed, and I have something to look forward to this week.

I am starting yet another new job (leaving undergrad teaching). I thought I would remain in teaching, but I don’t have a passion for it right now, and the pay is abysmal. So I found a new position in my clinical area and hope this works out well, I should be able to work my way out of debt with the better income. I look forward to working with patients again, I missed it. I particularly enjoy working with the elderly. They are complex, and often have wisdom to share with a youngster like me (haha, had another uneventful birthday this month). I also believe I have an old soul, and am attracted to kindred spirits. So, I am looking forward to this new position. And hoping the black dog will remain silent and not interfere.

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Dramatic Increase in Antidepressant Use

From Medscape Online:

October 20, 2011 — Antidepressant use by Americans has risen dramatically in the last 5 years, with almost 1 in 10 individuals older than 12 years now taking these agents, according to data released from the latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

However, the survey, which was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also showed that less than one third of those taking a single antidepressant between 2005 and 2008, and less than half of those taking multiple antidepressants, visited a mental health professional in the past year. Those who did make such visits were significantly more likely to be men than women.

“Females are more likely than males to take antidepressant medication at every level of depression severity,” writes lead author Laura A. Pratt, PhD, from the Office of Analysis and Epidemiology at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in Hyattsville, Maryland.

The study was published online October 19 as an NCHS Data Brief.

400% Increase

According to a 2010 report released by the CDC, antidepressants were the most frequently prescribed prescription drug between 2005 and 2008 for adults aged 18 to 44 years, and the third most commonly used drug for all ages.

That report also showed that use of antidepressants increased by almost 400% for all ages from between 1988 and 1994 to the period between 2005 and 2008.

The NHANES is a continuous survey conducted by the CDC’s NCHS. It focuses on the health of the US population and consists of a household interview and a visit to a mobile examination center for a physical examination.

For this analysis, data were examined for 12,637 participants aged 12 years and older between 2005 and 2008.

Questions from the Patient Health Questionnaire were included in the NHANES to assess depression symptom severity.

Results showed that almost one third of people with severe depressive symptoms took antidepressants during the study. Although more than 60% of these individuals took this class of medication for longer than 2 years, 14% had taken it for more than 10 years.

“In general, there was no significant difference between males and females in length of use,” report the researchers.

Other findings included that:

  • 10.8% of all Americans older than 12 years take antidepressants;
  • 15.4% of women older than 12 years take antidepressants vs 6.0% of men;
  • those numbers increase to 22.8% vs 8.5%, respectively, for those aged 40 to 59 years;
  • for all ages with severe depressive symptoms, 39.9% of women and 21.0% of men take antidepressants; and
  • whites are more likely to take antidepressants (13.6%) than are blacks (3.9%) or Mexican-Americans (2.7%).

No variation in use was found between different income groups.

“According to the American Psychiatric Association guidelines, medications are the preferred treatment for moderate to severe depressive symptomatology,” write the investigators.

“The public health importance of increasing treatment rates for depression is reflected in Healthy People 2020, which includes national objectives to increase treatment for depression in adults and treatment for mental health problems in children,” they add.

2005-2008 NCHS Data Brief. Published online October 19, 2011

Uncomfortably Numb

Deep experience is never peaceful. —- Henry James

I’m doing most of what I’m supposed to be doing…getting enough sleep (probably too much), taking my meds, seeing the therapist, eating so-so, being somewhat social. I just feel blah. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to do anything outside of going to work. I’m not particularly fatigued, I’m just very unmotivated and I don’t care.

My depression seemed to worsen when my son left for college. He hasn’t gone that far, just downtown to the urban art school campus, about 30 miles away. I still get to see him once in a while and we talk/text regularly. But living alone has been a huge change for me. I don’t seem to be adjusting very well at all. I’ve been lettting the cleaning go, avoiding the kitchen as much as possible, and spending a lot of time vegging. This is so not like me. I’m typically a very tidy person, like to cook, and like to be productive. I feel so out of sorts.

I had great plans for cleaning up the house when my son left. Having him and his friends tramping in and out tending to make for more cleaning up, and I thought of it as this great opportunity to really get things clean. I haven’t even been up to his room except to go to the attic and retrieve a few things. It just seems too overwhelming.

I guess this is what they call empty nest syndrome. I never imagined it could be such a setback in my mood. I’m sure I could be getting more exercise and all of that good stuff, but now I don’t see anything shifting me out of the numb spot. And it’s not very comfortable here either.

Anhedonia

Anhedonia is the failure or inability to experience pleasure. It is a significant symptom in clinical depression. I’ve experienced it before, and it’s not pleasant. Not being able to experience good feelings or any feelings makes you feel emotionally empty. Right now I’m feeling pretty ambivalent about some things that I used to care about a lot. I can’t call it anhedonia, it’s not that strong of an non-feeling. I used to really enjoy gardening and my flowerbeds were very attractive and my vegetables thrived. Right now the only thing that thrives in my yard is weeds. Everything is overgrown and bordering on ugly. And I just haven’t really cared a whole lot about it. It could be just the fatigue/lack of energy that keeps me from doing the things I used to. But I’ve been avoiding dealing with it because it’s gotten so out of control. Today was the first time I had to do the mowing myself (my son has gone off to college). That was a challenge in itself. The mower was not cooperating and kept stalling out. Let’s just say the lawn is less than half done. But I did get the new dog run hung, and that has waited to be done for at least a year. I’m certainly not in a hurry, that’s for sure.

Sometimes I worry the meds are making me unemotional or flat. Maybe that is why I don’t care about things that used to be important to me.

So I guess my feelings about gardening and yard work are no longer what they were. If this continues, I may need to go condo.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

This past week has been ch-ch-challenging. I just took my son to college and that was a bit stressful. I’m doing my best to cope with that colossal change in my life. Then I go to work on Monday to find out from the CEO himself that they let my boss go. Wow. That was a shock. I liked working with him (see previous post, New Environments). He was always positive and motivating with me, but apparently not with everyone else, which was the rationale we were given for his departure.

Of course this would be the week that I also run out of meds and I’m waiting for the new insurance card to arrive so I can get the prescriptions refilled. Not a good week to be off my meds! So my mood took a nose dive and I was dragging through the week. It was everything I could do to make it through the day, and I couldn’t wait to get home and crawl into bed. Too much loss for one week. I admit I shed a few tears as well, I was feeling lonely coming home to an empty house with my son gone.

I am so glad my son is attending a nearby college, he decided to come home for the night on Friday and we spent breakfast together on Saturday. That cheered me tremendously. Knowing I can see him regularly has eased the transition. Now I just need to figure out how to handle the new situation at work.

The Pills That Quell Despair

Everyday part of my routine is to ingest a handful of pills morning and evening. Part of that handful are three specific medications to treat my Depression. One a pretty bicolor capsule, one a small blue pill and one a medium-sized white tablet. Without these, my world would be full of gray, melancholy thoughts, escaping into sleep, and thoughts of suicide. Not a pretty picture for sure. Meds make me feel at least baseline functional. They aren’t “happy pills” by any means. Believe me, I wish there was a pill for happiness, I would be queuing up for that one.

How did I get to be on so much medication? Well, I’ve been on lots of other medications along the way. Started out on the miracle drug Prozac when I was initially diagnosed in 1995. Boy was that a life saver. At the time, I was suicidal and homicidal. Scary even to talk about those really dark days. The thoughts were obsessive, and I felt terrorized day and night. Had the most horrible nightmares too. Plane crashes, fires, murders, any kind of violent mayhem you can think of…it’s any wonder I could cope at all. Prozac took all of this away, so I could participate in therapy and work on things I needed to change. It was such a relief not to have those intrusive thoughts, the kind that make you feel really unglued.

But sometimes the drugs stop working for no apparent reason. So I’ve been through a number of antidepressants to manage my symptoms. I’ve been on four or five different medications between Prozac and my current mix. I’m not one of the lucky ones that can be weaned off medication, but I can say I’ve never been hospitalized. I’ve always kept trudging on, maintaining the status quo the best I can. That is part of my disease, I put other’s needs before my own, so that was one of the main reasons for never checking out…people were counting on me!!!

I understand not everyone benefits or even approves of the use of medication. And I’ve certainly done my share to contribute to the wealth of Big Pharma by taking the newest meds on the market. But medication works for my symptoms, and I need to use them in  combination with therapy to get and or stay well.

Wellness is the ultimate goal, right?

Ex Anxiety

Why after almost 16 years do I still have some anxiety over seeing and dealing with my ex-husband? I don’t normally have contact with him at all since he moved to Alaska (I know, who the heck moves to Alaska??? But what a blessing!) but he has graced us with his presence for our son’s graduation ceremony. I feel very fortunate that he did move so far away, because we had a very contentious relationship and ongoing battle over custody and parenting. Let me just sum it up for now: it wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t in our child’s best interest, but I did what I felt I needed to do to protect and nurture him.

Anyway, I imagine part of the anxiety is for my son. His relationship with his father is strained since dad moved away. My son had some say in where he lived when his dad decided to move, and he preferred to stay in Ohio, close to family and friends. His dad didn’t handle this well, and hasn’t managed to stay in close touch.  He hasn’t seen him for about a year, and now he comes into town just for the graduation ceremony and is leaving tomorrow. Like my son said, it’s almost as if he just feels obligated. I mean who spends twelve hours flying just to turn around and go back in a day?

There has been a lot of acrimony and hurt between us too. At least that is how I feel. Our failed marriage was the result of his infidelity during my first episode of Depression (how’s that for a kick in the teeth?). He subsequently married the woman that he had the affair with, and had another family. Because of the depression, I found it an extremely painful time of my life, and he is still associated with that pain. I have grieved the loss of the relationship after all this time, but the darkness and despair of that episode of Depression still scares the heck out of me. And I associate him with being abandoned at my time of greatest need. Perhaps that is the source of my anxiety, I just never thought of it that way before. Writing is therapeutic too.

So, wish me luck as I put on my game face and do my best to confront my anxiety/my ex. It does get easier over time as my son gets older, and as I become more self-aware. At least it’s only for a day.