This blog is not FDA approved
I’m no stranger to sadness. It’s played both lead and supporting roles in my life in various ways at various times. The first time I remember being sad, truly sad, life altering sad, was when my mother died. I was 16. There were moments when I really didn’t know how I would go on. That was the one time I genuinely considered suicide as a viable option, Catholic consequences be damned. I went on, though, because that’s what you did in my house. You soldiered on or suffered the label of lazy or weak by my father. When my sister died suddenly, 5 months after mom’s passing, I went numb, the space beyond sadness. Fact is, the numbness probably saved me.
By 20 I was married and living 8 hours away from my family. That’s when the anxiety attacks started. I’d be woken from a deep slumber by my racing heart and thoughts. That’s when I sought the help of a therapist. It was a relief to drain my head of all the secrets it held. I talked about growing up surrounded by addiction and chaos, the infinite emptiness of being a motherless child, my irrational insecurities, and other such neuroses. It was empowering. I felt renewed after each session and when it was time to leave the psychotherapy nest I did, as a new woman with stronger wings.
My 23rd year on this planet was a big one. That’s when the gift of motherhood was bestowed upon me. I found it scary as hell, but well worth it. Even though I hadn’t had the greatest example of what a mother should be, I like to think I rose to the occasion. It didn’t hurt that my partner in crime, my stoic husband, seemed to have been born with a natural gift for stellar parenting. But as our little bundle grew and grew, I seemed to wither on the vine. I grew more tired and listless as the years wore on. I was sad, so sad, almost all the time. I went on, though, because that’s what I’d always done. I wouldn’t be labeled weak.
When Kindergarten came calling for our little girl, we had moved yet again. My husband was starting a new job in a new town. It was a lot of change in a short amount of time. I withered more, but never stopped. Maybe another cup of coffee would help, another walk around the block. It never did, but I never stopped trying. My husband’s new job meant new insurance and that insurance insisted I find a primary physician. I did, and by cosmic happenstance he was the kind that ordered a boatload of bloodwork on his new patients. That’s when I found out why I was withering. I had hypothyroidism.
After some trial and error and many, many blood draws I found the thyroid hormones that worked for me. I felt better than I had in probably my entire life. My particular form of hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder and that meant my body would further destroy my thyroid gland with each pregnancy I had. That didn’t deter me from having a son years later. My endocrinologist and my obstetrician stayed on top of things, and even though I lost all thyroid function I was able to maintain good health.
When my boy was just a few years old I began to wither again. I grew more tired with each day and the sadness began to take over more and more of my headspace. Eventually, it owned every square inch. You guessed it, I went on, convincing myself that doing anything else meant I was weak and worthless. One day, during a routine check-up with my endocrinologist, I was asked something very simple. ”How are you?” I could no longer hold it in. I was not okay. I spilled my guts and my tears. Without hesitation she suggested Prozac. I was so desperate for help I didn’t even ask why.
Per my endocrinologist’s orders, I followed up with my new primary physician a week later. She ordered some new bloodwork and advised me to consider taking Lexapro instead of Prozac. I did as I was told. While waiting for the results of my bloodwork, the Lexapro started to work. The first unmistakable sign it was gaining a foothold in my brain was the warmth. I vividly remember sitting at my desk and feeling it grow throughout my body. It was comforting and peaceful, like every cup of hot cocoa from my childhood all at once.
Then came the numbness. It had nothing to do with my sense of touch and everything to do with my sense of self. Nothing was sad, nothing was bad. The problem arose when I realized that nothing was happy either, nothing was good. Everything just was. Existing, not living. I was numb again, but this numbness alarmed me. It wasn’t going to save me, it would be the death of me.
Once I came to the conclusion that numbness was more frightening than any depth of sadness I’d ever known my doctor called with my bloodwork results. My iron was drastically low, which more than likely explained my fatigue and depression. I immediately asked about discontinuing my antidepressants. Thankfully, my doctor agreed, but warned that I could not abruptly stop taking them. I would have to taper down slowly, over a week’s time. Again, I did as was told. Again, it led me down a disastrous path.
What I didn’t know when I started to taper off was that I should have most likely been doing it much, much slower than I had been instructed to. Even coming off the low dose that I was on brought on side effects so debilitating I had to spend days at a time in bed. I was so dizzy I couldn’t stand. The inside of my brain felt like a fly being shocked by a bug zapper each time I moved my head. I called my doctor and begged her to help me. The only remedy offered was to start taking my full dose again and start the taper over, this time much slower. I refused. I told her I’d rather die. When I asked how long I would have to deal with these symptoms, she answered, “I don’t know”. While the severity of the symptoms diminished slightly with each passing day, I dealt with dizzy spells and brain zaps for weeks afterward.
These days the brain zaps are so far behind me. I’m antidepressant free. I have a new endocrinologist, a new primary. I take my thyroid hormones and my iron pills faithfully. I’m sad at times, but never crippled by it. I ask questions, to the point of being a pest, of every doctor, nurse, and pharmacist I encounter. I want to know all the hows, whens, wheres, and whys. I don’t ever want to make the same mistake again.
I know that so many people have positive experiences with antidepressants. For some, they are the literal difference between life and death. For me, that wasn’t the case, it was all wrong. The decision to go on an antidepressant should be made carefully, thoughtfully, and diligently with the aid of a competent physician. It shouldn’t be made in haste. It shouldn’t be made on the fly while one is hysterically crying and unaware of any other possible medical complications.
I didn’t know that. I wasn’t able to in that moment. My doctors should have known that. They had an ethical obligation to do such. Prozac, Lexapro, and the like are not to be dispensed like aspirin, yet they are far too often. When that laissez-faire attitude is coupled with a fragile patient seeking help, complications are bound to arise. Mine were able to be overcome, yet I can’t help but worry about the next sad patient desperate for help that may not be so fortunate. I think you should too.
> Sincerely Slapdash’s blog.