Sunshine through the clouds ~ a respite from darkness
It’s been grim, this last year. Things have happened that have upset me vastly. Today marks the year’s mind of the death of something special, something I have mourned and truly grieved over as much as if a person dear to me died. The reality is they never truly existed. There have been home and family issues I don’t like to talk about and work issues to boot. I hit a rock bottom on my birthday and I reached as low an ebb as I have been in many years.
Depression sucks. Even without it, the last year would have been hard. With it, I went into a very dark place indeed. But I continued to function, somehow. Last week, I saw a full-blown shrink, and talked a bit. Actually, mostly she read the letter I’d sent and asked questions. Gently, sensitively; she respected my views. I was offered a tentative diagnosis and was told that the waiting list for a talking therapy is four to six months. She respected my wish not to take any medication; I’d explained at some length my reasons.
I’ve become aware that perhaps sometimes I seem to be asking for help and then refusing to take it. I’d like to make it clear that as far as mental health medications are concerned I believe they can be a lifeline to those in mental distress and they may well be essential during acute phases with a great number of people. However, during the twenty or so years since I first saw a consultant psychiatrist I have tried a significant number, probably from every family of drugs. My experience was always negative. Side effects made normal existence impossible, even if I did, as advised, persist with them. My body did not adapt to them and any benefits they may have had were swallowed up in being virtually comatose for weeks. My first consultant only prescribed the then-new wonder drug Prozac as a means of stabilising me enough to undergo some form of psychotherapy. This was our agreement; it was what he felt I needed. He was the last psychiatrist I truly trusted and if you’re out there Dr Lee, thank you. However, we moved house and areas before I reached a point of being stable enough, and the same pattern was repeated. Each time we moved, I got sent to the end of a new waiting list until finally, I asked when would I have a chance for a therapy. At that point I was told that was only now available in that area for the acutely ill. I persisted with the Prozac for some years, believing I couldn’t do without it. At some point, about ten years ago, I slowly came off it, explored a lot of alternative health measures and found I could do without it. Moreover I discovered that a number of things I had thought to be the effect of the depression was in fact a side effect of the Prozac. They were things that made life that bit harder to endure, let’s just put it like that. I am not against medication. I am just wary of them. My experience has been poor and I see time and again people experiencing such dreadful side effects that must make life even harder. Some people have no side effects at all and for them, the meds are the ticket they need back to a normal life. But it’s so very individual. Medicine is like that. I have a dear friend who cannot take co-codamol and throws up if she takes it; I have a bad reaction to Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatories but I can cope very nicely with codeine. Just as our bodies are unique, so too are our minds.
My own instincts about my body are often spot-on. I refused to have a hysterectomy to deal with certain gynaecological issues, partly because while it might solve one, it would create several others and exacerbate still more, but also because I had a sense of it being time-limited. I had a “knowing” that menopause was closer than they thought based on blood tests or whatnot. It turns out I was right. Quite without apparent warning, it kicked in just after Christmas and the torment of hot flushes every ten minutes just added to my sleep problems. Lack of sleep, hormonal tsunamis and depression just piled on top of me. I had constant thoughts of harming myself.
This is where it changes.
I was referred to see a gynaecologist but by the time my appointment came I had found a solution. Having tried several herbal remedies to no avail, I found a cream that you apply externally (yes, hormones). The very first night, it worked. Using a topical method means the hormones are absorbed quicker and without the liver breaking them down. The consultant prescribed the same hormone but in tablet form. I’ve not taken any yet; I may not need to. I’ve weighed the possibly carcinogenic effects against the benefit of using the product for a limited period of time while my body adjusts to its new state. It’s worth it. Being woken in a terrible sweat ten times a night is simply unendurable on top of everything else.
I was having sleep issues even before the hot flushes, so it’s something to do with the underlying, pervasive depression. Regular readers will know my search for a solution has been pretty wide. But then I remembered I’d taken 5htp in the past and it helped my sleep. So a fortnight ago, I bought some more. They have worked for me. The only side effect I’ve had is extremely vivid dreaming and sometimes nightmares. Yes, I know. For once a side effect I like. I’ve bemoaned my lack of dreams a long while.
What I hadn’t realise before is that 5hpt is also an anti-depressant. And it is working. I’ve not felt this way for a long while. It’s like stepping from midwinter to early summer in one bound. Oh, I still feel down and upset at things, but in a different way. I feel I can cope with it. Before I felt I was constantly on the brink of losing it.
Now, the curious thing is that I have never wanted a magic pill to take away my symptoms, to just make it better. Not really. I’ve always wanted to understand what is truly going on at a deep level. The why of depression if you like. I have long had an instinct that the answers to this question are somehow very important. This may be why I have perhaps seemed to some as if I have rejected their suggestions; I don’t just want to feel better, I want to BE better, to seek wholeness and healing on a very powerful scale. Many of the short term strategies I have tried over the years are effective only on a short term basis because they do not address the issues that hide at the core. Nowadays, while I do get plenty of exercise walking and cycling, it would be unwise to seek the endorphine rush (itself quite addictive) of extremely strenuous exercise as I have hyper-mobile joints that are subject to damage. Believe me, I have looked into and tried a great many of the suggestions people have made for dealing with depression.
But now the real work can perhaps begin, the soul archaeology that seeks the neglected soul parts, the shadowy bits I am repulsed by and refuse to acknowledge and I can say: here I am, now we can talk perhaps?