Pharmaceutical Groupie

Monday, August 14, 2006

Depression: My Introduction

I've fought depression for most of the twenty-two years I've been alive. When I was younger, I thought my feelings were merely reactions to specific events, such as my grandmother's death and my brother's attempted suicide; an extended period of sadness. It never crossed my mind that my feelings were similar to the ones going through my brother's head while he was tying his noose.

I know better now, of course. I also know that, like my brother, my depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Research suggests that depression may be caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Scientists believe that certain medications can help balance the levels of two of these neurotransmitters called dopamine and norepinepherine.

- from Wellbutrin XL

(Not all sources of depression are chemical, however. Certain symptoms can be triggered by poor health and diet, and I've always advocated trying alternative treatments before talking to your doctor about prescription medication. Often times, a healthier diet and exercise can alleviate those symptoms.)

In 2002 I was diagnosed with Dysthymia, commonly known as chronic depression. I refused medicinal treatment. My mom and brother were both on it at different points, and I didn't like the personality changes that occured. I opted for the alternative treatments. I joined Curves, a fitness program for women; I also made regular appointments with my school's counseler and visited with her during my study breaks.

After graduation, I no longer had my school's counseler to talk to. While regular exercise was helping me physically, I was still struggling with my emotions. Fed up, I decided to consult with my doctor.

After my doctor suggested that my depression was likely triggered by a chemical imbalance, I was given a prescription for Paxil and started me off at 10 mgs. I noticed a change immediately. The biggest change was my lack of fatigue. After a week on Paxil, I didn't feel tired or drained at all. I also noticed that I wasn't as apprehensive in group situations as I once was. I was a good feeling.

I found out, however, that the good feelings wouldn't last long.

About four months into what I now refer to as Paxil Hell, my fatigue returned, and it was worse than ever. It literally returned overnight. I woke up one morning, and I could barely keep my eyes open the entire day. I also couldn't fit into my favorite pair of jeans. I was told that there'd be possible weight gain, so it wasn't completely unexpected.

Two weeks after that, I was falling asleep at work nearly everyday.

One week after that, I was almost 30 pounds heavier than I'd ever been. For a 5'2" girl who normally weighs under 105 pounds, that extra weight did a lot of wear and tear to my body.

It was during my two-week Christmas vacation that I decided to quit Paxil, cold turkey. I had had enough. While I was feeling slightly better emotionally, I was also feeling extremely tired and bloated. I continued exercising at Curves, going four times a week instead of my normal three days. I also forced myself into a regular sleeping pattern, giving myself eight hours of sleep a night; ten hours on the weekend.

I eventually lost most of the weight, and I'm just bearly managing my fatigue. I was feeling okay without the aid of medication for awhile, until late 2004/early 2005 when my life was once again rattled my triggering events, in rapid succession:

  • My grandmother stroked and was put in a nursing home in late November. She was diagnosed with dementia soon after.

  • A friend hung himself a week after New Year's Day. I was brought back to my brother's attempt when I was ten years old.

  • Two weeks later, my father died of kidney failure. This one doesn't really need an explanation.

Naturally, I've been hesitant to give medication a second try, but my last-ditch efforts in alternative treatment have done nothing in granting me emotional relief. Tomorrow morning, I'm making an appointment with my doctor and diving back into the world of antidepressants. Let me state for the record that it'll be a cold day in Hell before I go near Paxil again, but I'm ready and willing to give others a try.

I'll do my best in making regular updates, but I can't make any promises. ;)

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  • firstsies! i always knew i'd get your cherry! ♥

    i think it's great that you're going to see the doctor. i know you're wary, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and go for it. i really hope that in the long run you'll be happy you went.

    By Blogger vixen, at 1:17 AM  

  • I was hoping it'd be you. [/Veronica]

    My main concern is preserving my health. I felt like complete and utter shit on Paxil, and I don't want to go back to that. Ever.

    By Blogger Rx Groupie, at 1:56 AM  

  • God, that Paxil sounds like a nightmare. I'm hoping beyond hope that you can find the right solution for YOU, and that you'll never have to go through that shit again.

    (This is your fellow Rhode Islander, by the way. It took me a minute to even REMEMBER my Blogger username. I'm so unable to handle two journals at once.)

    By Blogger Shayla, at 2:15 AM  

  • Wow, not only did Vix beat me to your cherry, but so did someone else. *waits in line for sloppy thirds* I mean uhm... Yeah.

    I forget - have you gone to a therapist yet? As much as I sometimes dread the old theraparista, it has helped.

    I honestly think Paxil is the DEVIL. While I was on it, my left arm had this lovely trick of just randomly going numb. It would suddenly be all pins and needles up and down my arm. Freakish.

    I wound up quitting mainly because they ran out of my 'scrip and I just didn't want to deal w/ the meds anymore.

    I think you are making a very smart choice in staying clear of Paxil.

    I'm going to try eating better and doing yoga and seeing how those help me out.

    By Blogger cmce, at 11:12 AM  

  • Rx Groupie -- I decided to check out the link on Vixen's site to yours and was thrown by how real it is. I like that you're so up front about it all.

    I've struggled with depression, too. On and off since about junior high. And like you, it was certainly made worse by life events (the death of both my parents at separate times).

    I've heard horror stories about Paxil -- crazy stuff about quitting it, too (neurological symptoms, really unpleasant). You may want to ask your doctor about Wellbutrin. I was in a pretty bad way a couple years ago, just no motivation and wanting to sleep pretty much forever, and Wellbutrin turned me around. They had to play with the dosage a bit to get it right, but within two months, I was probably 90 percent improved. I don't know if it saved my life, but it certainly made it more manageable. And while there are surely side effects, I haven't experienced any.

    I'm really sorry about your dad. Really, really sorry.


    By Blogger Trish, at 1:22 PM  

  • It's good to see you, Trish!

    I've heard a lot of good things about Wellbutrin. My only concern is that it contains buproprian, which is currently being tested as a weight loss medication. As someone who's bearly their average body weight, I'm concerned about how that may effect me.

    I've still got a week to think on things, so there's pletny more time for research. I hate that this blog's been comatose, but there's really not too much to update on. Perhaps I can do a definitive post on Dysthymia.

    Thank you for sharing your story, and I hope Wellbutrin is offering you the kickstart you need. :)

    By Blogger Rx Groupie, at 6:53 PM  

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