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Catching Depression Early – The Good Men Project

So, I’m going through something interesting right now.

On the one hand, I’ve been experiencing mood swings for the last couple of weeks. I’ve recently had a couple of REALLY bad anxious days. Yesterday was one of them. Luckily, I had a therapy appointment in the morning, so I attempted to work through it with Kim; unfortunately, I felt just as lousy when I left as when I got there. It was out of hand. I realize now that I was pretty stable before that, despite some bumps here and there.

On the other hand, I actually felt *happy* on Thursday, and today is shaping up to be not so bad, too. Today’s good mood is brought to you because of a mood swing; Thursday’s great mood was different – it was because I had an appointment with my amazing, kick-ass pdoc, Dr. Nelson, and we worked out a plan to keep me moving in the right direction.

WHAT’S THE PLAN, STAN?

If you’ve read my blog before, you may know that I am a proponent of TMS, a newer, funky kind of treatment for treatment-resistant depression that you can read about here. (You can also read a previous blog post about it here.) You probably also know that I’m on psych meds, and you know that my life has gotten better and more stable since I first started this blog, more than two years ago.

Now, meds are NOT something I recommend messing with unless you and your doctor are on the same page. I stopped taking my meds a few times in the past, and I hate to admit it, but I ended up in the psych unit each time, after only a week or two. So, I’m not about to fuck around with them on my own.

However, after having a great discussion with Dr. Nelson Thursday morning, we agreed on a couple of minor med changes: He’s cutting my Trazodone down from 100 mg/night to 75 mg/night to help with the grogginess I feel in the mornings. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Trazodone, it is technically a psych drug, but is more often used to help people fall and stay asleep. 100 mg is kind of a low dose.) In addition, I’m going to be taking Propanolol every morning to help with my anxiety, which has also been getting way worse lately. (I already have a script for Propanolol for headaches, but Dr. Nelson says it can be good for anxiety, as well.)

Also, I’ll be starting TMS again in a couple of weeks. It remains to be seen whether we’ll do a short round of it or the whole course of treatments; it depends on what my moods do over the next couple of weeks and how intense they become. If I start feeling more and more depressed and my negative thoughts spiral out of control, we’ll do the whole shebang. If, on the other hand, it remains as is – an emotional rollercoaster, yes, but it hasn’t been that terrible (except for yesterday) – we’ll likely do a short course of treatments.

I’m cool with all of that. In fact, I feel hopeful. Not that I was feeling hopeless, but even just knowing there’s a plan to help me feel better makes me, well, feel better. 🙂

It helps that I have very high confidence in TMS. It has helped me when literally nothing else could before, so I know that the probability of it helping keep me on track this time is high. It also helps that I have very high confidence in Dr. Nelson. I’m telling you, he’s the shit!

DEPRESSION CAN COME OUT OF NOWHERE

I walked into Dr. Nelson’s office Thursday morning and gave a quick overview of my recent moodiness. When I told him that nothing had happened in my life to cause it, that my circumstances at home and otherwise have been stable, he said, “That’s a good thing. I know how to treat that!”

I was like, “What?”

He said, “Yeah, when depression is caused by life circumstances, there’s less I can do to treat that. But when it comes ‘out of nowhere’, I know that means it’s your brain chemistry [neurotransmitters] acting up. THAT I can do something about.”

Made sense to me.

And it does make perfect sense. Four years ago, when I was depressed after my oldest brother, Chris, died, I had to go through a grieving process. That takes time. Death is a hard pill to swallow, and until you deal with it, no amount of meds or TMS can change that (in my experience). You just can’t rush the grieving process.

Or if you’re changing jobs, moving, and getting a divorce all at the same time, that’s a shitload of Big Deals happening all at once. Yes, meds and TMS can help you get through it, but all of those circumstances induce some grieving, too. After all, they are all a loss of some sort.

Even a good psychiatrist will tell you that they can only help to some degree; they may even recommend counseling or other types of support. But they will also tell you that it will take time for you to come to terms with your “new life” and with the changes you’ve experienced.

That all actually happened in my life about 15 years ago. I moved from California to Minnesota (I know, I know!), got a new job, had to find new friends, etc., all while going through a divorce. It was really hard, and TMS wasn’t available in the States yet, so when it all came to a head the next year (2005), I was a fucking mess. I ended up in the psych unit three times within nine months. That’s also when I had ECT.

*Fucking ECT.*

Anyway, Dr. Nelson and I talked for about 35 minutes – a lifetime in the world of psychiatry, but the usual amount of time with him – where I told him everything that I thought was relevant, and we came up with our game plan.

I have a KICK-ASS support team that backs me up and helps me however they can, and I now have a life I can’t complain too much about.

Since I’ve been feeling so stable for the last several months, it surprised me when, a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I was experiencing some signs of depression. Within four days, I kid you not, I was right back to feeling that hole in my heart. It’s still there right now, right this minute, but not like it was last week.

So, the idea is to nip it in the bud.

A HOLDING PATTERN

The TMS Coordinator is going to give me a call in the next week or so and tell me when I can start the treatments again. Until then, I’m in wait-and-see mode.

Well, maybe not entirely. My eyes are wide open right now. That’s how I was able to catch this episode early and not be pushed onto my knees in emotional pain, begging for help because I didn’t see it coming.

I still go to therapy weekly, and I know I have Kim’s full support. That gives me some relief. And I have all the tools I need to survive until my neurotransmitters are straightened out, so to speak. I just have to use them.

That’s the hard part.

But I don’t want this to get to the point where I feel that emptiness in my heart all day, every day, deep into my being. So I will use my tools and, hopefully, the depression won’t get any worse before we blitz it with the TMS.

So, it turns out I don’t have to sit here in seemingly unending emotional pain, wondering when and if I will ever feel better. I’m going to do something about it.

Take that, depression! LOL

No, really, though – I do know, in both my heart AND my head, that relief is possible. Feeling better is possible. I know I’m NOT going to feel this way indefinitely. I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel. (And no, it’s not a train!)

I actually feel hopeful about my future (somewhat, anyway) and am excited (WTF!? LOL) to start the treatments. I’m even proud of myself for being able to be present enough to realize that a depressive episode was starting AND for not waiting until it got *bad enough* to deserve treatment.

Does that make any sense? I can’t be the only one whose brain tells them that they have to be in *excruciating* emotional pain before seeking help, can I? I think that, in the past, I believed that I didn’t really deserve to feel better.

No longer, though.

I am determined to make the most of this “waiting period” and do the best I can, every moment of every day.

WRAPPING IT UP

Okay, I’d better end this post before it becomes another 1,415 words!

Know this: You and I DO deserve to feel good. We deserve to be happy and we ARE worth it. Yes, even you.

You can make it, I know you can. Hell, if I can survive, so can you. If you don’t feel like you’re making progress in your treatment, look for a different psychiatrist or a different therapist or try a new kind of therapy or some Eastern medicine like acupuncture or whatever. Just do something.

Regardless of what your brain might tell you, you are not helpless.

If you’re not moving forward, you’re standing still. And when you stand still, you can start sliding backward.

So do it. Stop telling yourself that you aren’t worth it or that you don’t deserve to feel better. Do something NOW.

If you need help getting the ball rolling or just want some extra support in your journey, feel free to send me a message at [email protected]. I’m a great listener!

Until next time. Let’s Keep it Real out there, folks!

Please share the love! 🙂

A version of this post was previously published on DepressionWarrior and is republished here with permission from the author.

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