Friday, January 12, 2007

sanctioned addiction

It's been a while. And I have no real excuse other than the fact that I have been busy and haven't really felt like making time to blog. I have been writing, but nothing I want to share with the internet world, though some of it I hope to turn into something I would someday like other people to read.

I've officially been promoted to assistant manager at work, which is exciting. The interview for it was tough: about 2.5 hours of detailed question-answer-follow-up-question-follow-up-answer discussion with three people. But I passed and the promotion went into effect this past Monday.

Otherwise, I've made a decision. I'm going to stop taking my antidepressants. I have never talked much about them here on my blog, so I'll explain. Several years ago, I realized that I was dealing with and probably always have dealt with depression, possibly manic-depression, though it had always been undiagnosed and written off as mere moodiness. I saw a therapist once every couple weeks for a while, and then I decided, after much reading and discussion with my therapist, doctor, then-husband, and my journal to start taking anti-depressants. It was not a decision I came to lightly, though one particularly shitty weekend was sort of the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

I was first put on a very low dose of lexapro. After several months, when I felt it wasn't working, that dose was increased. I felt better. Not perfect, but stable and less "moody" and more productive and functional. About a year later, I stopped the therapy, but continued with the meds. Some time after that, I encountered a weird plateau with the meds, where they just simply stopped working, as if I had built up a tolerance. My doc thought about upping my dose, but neither of us liked that idea much. So instead, she kept my dose of lexapro the same but supplemented it with a low dose of wellbutrin. It was lovely, and I felt some relief again. But of course, maybe a year later I hit another platuea and the doc and I kept the meds the same but played with the doses.

Anyway...this process has been ongoing for years now, and I'm tired of it. Granted, a lot of changes have taken place in my life from the time I first started meds to now. A lot of ups and downs, which certainly helped trigger the chemical side of this so-called mood-disorder. I've been dealing with that non-chemical side of it all as well, in non-medical ways, such as choosing a different career path when I realized I hated my job so much, I'd rather have been sick than go to work. And by getting away from a life in which I felt miserable and paralyzed, by coming down here, where I could rebuild and then move on again. But I can't help wondering, to what degree have my meds helped or hindered my choices, my efforts to make my life what I want it to be?

I hate being dependent on mood drugs such as these, and I have wanted to stop for a long time now. Every few months, I admit, I play with my dose without the consent of my doctor. I'll just decide I don't feel like taking the pills for a few days, or I will pretend I forgot, because I never wanted to admit to how shitty it feels to rely on them so much. However, as some of you have witnessed, Heather without her meds can be a bad bad thing. Not everybody understands depression, myself included; it's a complicated, spongy issue. For one thing, as I've mentioned here before, I am certain that I was misdiagnosed and rather than depression, my problem is manic-depression (bipolar disorder). This could be why it's been a nonstop struggle to get the right meds and the right doses.

Regardless, I want to stop being at the mercy of drugs for my emotional stability. Several weeks ago, I started to slowly wean myself. I started to take my pills only every other day, rather than every day. And then after a week or so of that, I cut my dose in half. Then, last week, I stopped altogether. It hasn't been a sudden halt, which I've done before and is horrible. Rather, I've stopped the pills slowly, so as to minimize the withdrawal--which is usually unpleasant to say the least. It hasn't been bad. I have been somewhat anti-social throughout this, because I need time and space to deal with potential side effects. It's no shock that a side-effect of altering--or stopping--antidepressants is depression. One of the big challenges is deciphering whether any down moods are real depression or just a side effect of the withdrawal, a result of stopping the meds that have been in my system for years now. If it's just a side effect, I know that once this withdrawal period is over, the depression may improve, but not if that depression is real depression, not just the withdrawal. However, the biggest challenge is figuring out whether my good moods now are truly good moods or manic episodes. The manic side of manic depression is the hardest, because it's great and you live for it. Anyone who's ever experienced this knows what I'm talking about. These moods are so amazing that it's just about worth the down days to get these high days. My energy, optimism, and ambition on those days are uncontainable, almost to a dillusional degree. I've been having a couple days like that now, and I love it, but I don't trust it because I am sure that right around the corner is a mood crash.

I want to get through the withdrawal, to get the pills out of my system completely so that I can step back and decide in a fully unmedicated state how to best handle my mood issues. Maybe I should stick with the meds. But if that's the case, I need different meds. Or maybe I'll see that I can find non-chemical ways to deal with mood swings. I don't know. It could be miserable, but it could be great. It could be a big nothing, or it could be cathartic. Whatever it is, I need to experience it for a while so I can decide what to do next, figure out what I need and what I want in terms of this so-called mood-disorder.

This is a little scary. I don't want to experience the kind of depression I've felt before. But I also don't want to be addicted to these pills. Not unless I discover it's the only way for me to get by. I'm going to go forward with this, though, and find out what happens. I don't want to need the pills anymore, but I'll just wait and see.


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