Mood Bear Traps

How do I stop living in fear of the lightening lows? Lightening low is what I call the depressive moods that hit hard and fast and without warning. I have experienced these moods almost every day for the past week, and they are scary. Yesterday I woke up feeling good, then around 1pm I started crying and couldn’t stop for the rest of the evening. I could barely talk or think, I couldn’t relate to anyone around me, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what to do with my hands. There was no inciting incident, nothing I could point to that would provide an explanation for why I suddenly fell into a dark depression hole and couldn’t find my way back out.

Today I woke up feeling better, mood wise, but scared. Scared that something will once again trip the invisible wire and catapult me right back into the darkness. I try to step lightly, stay busy, avoid stress (ha) in case that will save me from having to go through that again, but the thing is that all I’m doing is living in fear.¬†As a general life philosophy I don’t believe in living in fear. I did that for the first three decades of my life and I missed out on a lot of life for fear that life might hurt me. Life hurt me anyway, and I missed out on a lot of joy. I could have saved a lot of energy by ditching the fear and just living, which is how I live now.

I don’t know how to avoid living in fear right now though. I’m not enjoying being in a lighter mood because I know that the dark one is waiting, unseen, to drag me down. Life is a string of moments, fun, scary, painful, joyful, hilarious, sad, boring. I don’t want to give any more of my peaceful moments to depression and anxiety. They’ve taken enough, and despite my best efforts, my mood continues to get hijacked. So I’m living in fear, especially after this week, but I am trying to remember to be nice to myself. The mood bear traps might be lurking around any and every corner, but I can at least give myself some credit for fighting as I walk into them, right? Right.

I am still alive, and that’s not nothing.

Genetic Psych Testing

At the risk of sounding like a human infomercial…

Attention anyone who has ever taken anti-depressant, anti-psychotic, hypnotic, or ADHD medication: have you had genetic testing done by your therapist or psychiatrist?

Did you know that genetic testing was a thing? I didn’t until about a month ago when I heard about it from my therapist. It’s a test they can run in a lab that will tell you specifically which medications will and won’t work with your genetic makeup. It is a cheek swab (no needles required!) that can be done in your doctor’s office.

The results are very specific and will even tell you why a certain medication won’t work. For example, for me, my body can only metabolize Trazodone in low doses. Higher than 50 or 75mg and it builds up to potentially toxic levels in my liver. There’s a green, yellow, and red category for each group of meds (anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, mood stabilizers, etc.) which is self explanatory: the green category will work without issue, the yellow will work but only under certain circumstances (like my Trazodone) and the red category won’t work at all.

Much to my surprise, my red column of antidepressants was extensive. So extensive in fact that I learned that I have spent years of my life taking medications that were never going to work in the first place. It wasn’t because I was broken. It wasn’t because I wasn’t working hard enough. It wasn’t because of a flaw in my character. It was because my liver doesn’t contain certain chemicals to metabolize other certain chemicals.

Yes, I grieved the years lost, where I possibly could have felt better and been more productive. But the validation that this test has given me is absolutely priceless. Never again will I have to play roulette with medications, or forfeit months of my life to wading through side effects only to find that the medication doesn’t help me. This is a huge step in mental health treatment.

Speaking of priceless, the test isn’t. It was $300 and not covered by insurance, but you have an option to pay it over time based on your income level. To me, it was worth every penny I paid that wasn’t in my budget. The test has been around for a long time, but it’s only recently been made more affordable and available.

It’s so recent in fact that a lot of doctors and therapists don’t even recommend it to their patients. That’s why I have taken it upon myself to proselytize the cheek swab. Ask your health care professionals about it, and think about never having to metaphorically throw a handful of meds at the wall and see what sticks. Scrape together some spare change from the couch, work a few extra hours, sell a kidney – if it provides you with even half of the validation it provided me, it will be worth every penny.

Visit the Genesight website for further research. (Note: I get no money for proselytizing)