Surprise!

fluSometimes I wish I just had the flu.

You know, you have a sore throat, a fever, a cough, maybe even a little upset stomach. There are very visible, outside symptoms. You can go to the doctor, he (or she) can look at you and compare the data in front of them to what they learned in medical school and then make a reasonably well-informed guess as to what is wrong with you. Then they can write you a prescription that is time-tested to cure whatever it is that is ailing you, whether it is actually the flu or some other illness you’ve managed to contract. Lie down for a day or two, take your medicine, and next thing you know, you’re good as new.

If only problems with the human mind could be as easily solved.

As I have written here before, I was diagnosed a couple of years ago with dysthymia or dysthymic disorder. To show how quickly terminology can change in mental health, however, it is now known as “persistent depressive disorder.” I have tried out several medications in an attempt to curb the symptoms of this particular form of depression, experiencing varying degrees of success with each one. I am currently taking Abilify, which is technically not even an antidepressant, but it seems to be working fairly well for me. “Fairly well,” however, does not equal “very well,” so I made an appointment several months ago to see a psychiatric doctor about what I should be taking.

Now, before anyone becomes overly concerned about me, the term “psychiatric doctor” pretty much just means a counselor-type who can prescribe psychiatric drugs (Yes, I am aware I just totally insulted the profession with that dumbed-down description.). I was not wrapped up in any kind of straightjacket or confining clothing, and no one attempted to have me admitted to any kind of facility. The appointment was more like a friendly chat discussing my symptoms and what medicine (or medicines) might work best to combat them.

Have you ever been to see the doctor, though, nearly absolutely convinced you knew exactly what was wrong with you and what the doctor needed to do to cure you? I approached yesterday’s appointment with that type of mindset. I was depressed and had been experiencing some anxiety-like symptoms, so I figured I obviously needed to review antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications and let the doctor determine which ones would work best for me.

How in the world, then, did I walk out of there with a prescription for Adderall?adderall

In case you’re not familiar with Adderall, it is most commonly used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (better known as ADHD). I do get sleepy sometimes, but not enough to constitute a diagnosis of narcolepsy, so that only leaves you one guess as to why it was prescribed to me.

That’s right: Mr. Shy, Mr. Good Grades All Through School, Mr. Back of the Room at a Party was told yesterday he met five of the 10 criteria for adult ADHD.

Huh?

adhdI thought people with ADHD were the ones who couldn’t shut up. I thought they were the ones who struggled with bad grades all through school. I thought they were the ones who couldn’t sit still for more than five minutes at a time. I don’t fit any of those descriptions. I just got A’s in my two master’s classes. Why do I have a prescription for Adderall now?

It actually makes more sense than it might initially seem. I have always had a bit of a wandering mind. I remember being young and my dad trying to teach me how to work on cars. I don’t remember a word of what he told me. I know even now during sermons or long lectures, I have a tendency to nod off or lose attention. I have a horrible time getting organized, and as much as I talk about wanting to be a writer, I never actually get focused enough to put anything down on paper (or computer screen). I can barely pick out a shirt to wear in the morning without having a low-level debate with myself.

This kind of scatteredness is what drew the doctor to his opinion that I might need to be treated for ADHD. Actually, it sort of came down to a coin flip between that and anxiety, and since anti-anxiety medicines sort of slow you down and I’ve been struggling with drowsiness lately, we decided to try the ADHD treatment first.

Today was my first day on the drug, so I’m still not sure how much of what I experienced were actual effects and how much was placebo. I do know I was much more awake than I have been for a quite some time, and I did tons of work at my computer today. On the sort of weird side, I didn’t eat anything between breakfast and dinner. Not a snack or anything. Didn’t even want food. I guess this could possibly be a positive, as I seem to gained a few pounds since I started taking Abilify. Kind of hoping it isn’t an everyday occurrence, though.

As with any drug, one day’s worth of results is not enough to measure the effects of taking it, so I still couldn’t tell you if attempting to lessen the effects of ADHD (which I may or may not even have) is the right way to go for me. There may be a complete reversal of treatment in my future. Or there may not be.

Sometimes I wish I just had the flu.

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Is It Over?

I have been sort of reluctant to write about something going on with me, something I am not exactly used to. I may have touched on it a few times here, but I’ve never been brave enough to bring it fully into the light when it’s happened before. I’m not sure how many of you will believe me when you read it anyway. Tonight, though, I’m taking the chance. So, here goes…

I’ve been feeling really good lately.

My typing those words makes me want to duck and cover. It’s like someone throwing a lit match into a propane grill filled with gas – you know the grill will light up just fine, but you’re also terrified that it will light you up as well. I’m nervous about even speculating that I might feel good, because usually when I mention it, that’s when the wheels fall off and I’m left wondering how I ever thought I could not feel bad in the first place.

At the moment, though, I’m in a good place. I mean, everything’s not perfect, but I don’t figure it ever will be. I can’t even really put my finger on what it feels like to be in my head right now. It’s just … just … clear. The new medication seems to be working, although I’m wrestling with some side effects. My becoming a college student again is progressing along. I’m actually beginning to feel as if I’m good at a couple of things. While this may be totally normal to most of the world, to me, it is not.

can-depression-be-cured-5-638Will it last, though? Or is this part of being (gulp) … cured?

Is there really a cure for depression? I mean, the debate has raged for years as to whether addicts can be cured of their addictions completely or whether they simply learn the means to manage them. Can someone who is depressed ever be not depressed, or do they merely become more and more adept at managing the wolf at the door? As with the addiction question, the answer depends largely on who you ask. Some people believe it can go away; others believe it will always be there.

To be perfectly honest, I have felt the way I do for so long, the prospect of feeling different actually makes me a little apprehensive. I mean, who will I be? Will I be happy in my own head, but unbearable to those around me who knew me before? Will I make wise decisions when I’m not under the cloud anymore, or will the cloud never really go away? I’m happy now. Will I be happy tomorrow?

I suppose in the end, the answers to these questions don’t matter so much. Either way, there will have been a sadness there that will have lightened, and that should be enough. My problem is that I have let this feeling define me for so long, I’m not sure what I would do without it. If right now is any indication, though, I’m pretty sure I can figure it out.

How Can You Tell?

“No, crazy people don’t know they’re going crazy. They think they’re getting saner.” – John Locke, “Lost”

I used to be very reluctant to mention to anyone that I take an antidepressant. Despite the countless number of people who liken taking an antidepressant to any other type of medication, it still seems different to me. I suppose I still have difficulty grasping the concept of depression as an “illness.” If my heart begins to fail, I don’t have much control over that. It seems like I should be able to get a handle on my thoughts, though, and because I tend to imagine people thinking the worst of me anyway, I guess I believe others would frown upon my need for medical help in this area.

You may have noticed I keep using the word “antidepressant.” This is because “antidepressant” feels more reassuring to me than “mind-altering drug.” See, an antidepressant is a calm, reassuring thing that will help me stabilize my mood and live a happier and more productive life. A mind-altering drug actually has the potential to alter my state of being, in potentially positive or negative ways. Finding the right drug for you can be a godsend; picking the wrong one can result in a nightmare.

antidepressantsAfter meeting with my doctor yesterday, we decided to tweak my medication again. Choosing an antidepressant often feels like such a random process to me. If you have the flu, you take Penicillin or an antibiotic; if you’re depressed, well, we’re just going to keep trying stuff until if works. Nevertheless, I often feel a certain twinge of excitement when I receive a new prescription. I suppose this comes from the hope that this one will be The One that makes everything better. Of course, this is accompanied by the apprehension that this one might not be The One after all…

I’ve become very adept at approaching these switches in a level-headed manner. “If I notice any strange side effects or abnormal thinking,” I say to myself, “then I will contact my doctor and make a change.” This is my antidepressant line of thinking coming into play. This is medicine, just like any other medicine. The wild card in all this, though, is the mind-altering drug factor. Here, the question become this: If I’m going crazy, how will I actually know it?

Think about it for a second: Do the majority of people who are insane actually know they are? A small percentage of them might, but part of what makes insanity what it is consists of a person believing a totally irrational line of thought makes perfect sense. Therefore, if a person’s mind becomes altered to the point they begin to abandon rational thought, how would they even know it? And if they don’t even know it, how would they know what to change that might make them better?

At the moment, I believe these worries just constitute paranoia on my part. I think if I really were going crazy, someone would have told me by now. And I’m sure I am oversimplifying the whole “other illnesses are so much easier to medicate” angle. Sometimes people have to run through multiple options of drugs before they find one that works for whatever they’re afflicted with. In the end, this will probably be a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Just in case, though, I’d like you all to make me a promise. If I start acting weird, let me know. Okay? Well, I mean, weirder than normal. I know you already have plenty of ammunition there. 🙂