From The Way Way Back

This is an honest look into my current major depression.

It’s like I’m sitting in the way way back of a car on a road trip. The scenery seems to pass in slow motion, sounds are distorted, and the unexpected extra movements make me feel light headed and sick to my stomach. The people sitting in the front seat try to talk to me, but they have to repeat themselves a few times before I can hear and understand them. It’s hard to reach the things I want. When I have to ask the people in the front seat for what I need it’s hard to say it so they understand me. It is almost impossible to get comfortable.

This bipolar downswing I’m in has the power to make me unrecognizable to myself. I don’t recognize normal human functions. If I do leave the house, I watch other people incredulously, wondering how they can just go about their day, knowing where to walk, what to say, how to dress. I don’t know any of that right now. I know that people care about me. People are worried about me. They don’t know how to help me, and that makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong. I should know how they can help me, and I should be able to tell them.

It’s unbelievable to me that at one time I had a job. That I had a social life. That I didn’t panic at the thought of responsibilities outside of myself. At one time I had goals, and I felt like I had a purpose. Now I see a series of failures. Among the failures are my psych meds. They trick me into having hope by working for a few weeks, but then suddenly leaving me here, in a low period, unable to imagine a way out. I no longer believe that medications are an answer. I’m not sure I believe they can even help me anymore. I’ve been on this ride too many times.

Thoughts of death, thoughts of hurting myself, making myself bleed in order to feel a little relief plague me every minute. Thoughts that I am useless, I am unattractive, I am worthless, I have no purpose. This pain is all I know right now.

Yeah, this will get better. It’s only bad for a little while then I’ll feel better for a while; I know how this works. Like I said, I’ve been on this ride before. I’m just ready to climb out of the way way back seat, and I feel pretty helpless to do so at the moment. This isn’t any way to live a life.

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)


Feel Less

So many major life changes, crises or otherwise, have happened to me over the last year, and I have felt every single feeling that has arisen along the way. I feel everything fully, to the point where my capacity for feeling emotions has shrunken to almost nothing. I was not aware that this was possible until now, but it is. I don’t know how to halfass anything in my life, from work to play to relationships to, apparently, feeling emotions. How much of that is the bipolar vs. innate personality or character, I’m not sure. But I don’t quite understand why I feel my feelings so strongly, to an overwhelming and depleting level, and other people don’t.

Can a person learn how to feel less? Is it possible to let some feelings in but not others? I don’t want to stop feeling altogether, but with the new medication cocktail I’m taking and my reduced emotional capacity, it seems like that might be where I’m going. Right now I often use apathy as a coping mechanism because I am fearful of irrational emotional ambushes.

I just started reading Carrie Fisher’s novel Postcards from the Edge, which is about chemical addiction; openly truthful about how people use drugs and alcohol to avoid or cope with their feelings. Honestly it would make so much more sense for me to self medicate. People get by in life by wanting to ease pain and dampen their feelings, and I think it’s a common human denominator to want those things. But for some reason I face everything head on and want to deal with feelings unfiltered and until they make sense or dissipate. Someone who does this without self medicating is going to be deeply affected by the emotional roller coaster. Why can’t I learn to self medicate like a normal person? It would save me so much grief. But then I wouldn’t stop, ever.

I’m so deeply affected by the intensity of my own feelings that I need prescription medications to make me stop feeling much of anything. The modern lobotomy. The meds will keep me alive, possibly allow me to create some sort of productive stability in my life, but they’re also taking away my feelings. I am frustrated that these are the choices I have. I don’t want to make either, and neither makes me very excited about my future as a human. I just want to feel things on a healthier scale. One that doesn’t destroy me.

But until I figure out if that’s even an option, I’m taking meds that work on a sliding scale of effectiveness, stockpile things and people that make me feel happy, and figure out how to get through a half a day at a time.