Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The little black dog (part two)

Six or so  months ago I wrote about the little black dog who kept turning up at my door.  I think most people figured out that this was not a literal dog, but an analogy originally  coined by Winston Churchill to describe his 'fight' with depression.

Firstly I'd argue that it's not a fight.  I'd say Depression is a wave ...a covers you - can threaten to choke you, but it's certainly not something (for me) that involved a great deal of fighting!  Not least because in the midst of a downer, I don't think one has the energy to do very much at all , let alone indulge in a scrap with something that has no form.

But I digress.  Because there was still a fight - its just that the fight for me was not with depression. The fight was internal, having to accept that I might need some 'chemical intervention' and having to swallow my pride enough to go and ask for that.  The Doctor, on hearing my sorry tale (and believe me it was a sorry one, even those I'd tempered it for prides sake more than anything) sat up in her chair and announced  'I can't believe you're still upright' - and then offered me a veritable cocktail of delights - some to help me sleep, others to stay awake, uppers, downers, and in betweeners.  I declined all but one relatively benign option, and then fought with my own handbag as I walked around first with a prescription for two weeks, and then with a wee bottle of innocent looking pills for another two.

But, finally - as much because I'd spent so much stinkin' money on the Doctor and the prescription, as any other reason - I took one of those pills. And another the next day and another the next day. and by day four I was seriously a different person.  Yes it screwed with my sleep patterns, but so what - I was only sleeping about three hours a night anyway, so it just meant I was tired, and wired, at a different time of the day.  And yes, things seems a little...bright...or something - like my senses had been heightened in some weird way. Which maybe they had, in that the cloud had shifted -  it was just a little confusing when I was also feeling, finally, blessedly removed from that cloud I had become almost comfortable under.

After about three weeks things settled down, and I started to feel normal again.  I admit I was a bit slack and missed the odd day of medication but it didn't seem to make a lot of difference provided I got right back in the swing as soon as I realised.  At the one month mark I had to get a repeat, and the Doctor told me that whilst I had noticed an immediate change (and so had she - she was dead right about how deficient my 'insert name here' hormone was), it would take at least three months, possibly six, to see true outcomes and for the meds to be absorbed and sustainably effective

As three months approached I knew I didn't want to go for a another prescription repeat. I felt good, in control, normal (well kind of, I think, maybe).  She warned me against coming off it but agreed it was my choice and that as long as I did it slowly - over the course of two or three weeks, breaking the pills into smaller and smaller bits, and stretching out each dose - and I was monitored by someone who could watch for any changes - she would support the decision.

And so I did.  Three weeks later the meds were out of my system.  It would be fair to say there were a few times in the next couple of months I questioned my decision - maybe I'd done it too early, not least because the issues that had got me to where I was in the first place weren't all resolved.  But by and large I was feeling pretty good.  Stayed busy with normal life, talked (even more than normal) through what was in my head.  Retired some energy sucking relationships and working on developing the ones that were mutually energising.

Now I fear I've turned into a 'go to the Doctor' preachy kind of person.  I have watched a couple of close friends cope with highs and lows (I'm reluctant to diagnose it) and really struggle to get out of the lows.  Maybe they need chemical help, maybe they don't.  Medication alone will not fix problems, and should not be viewed as such, but it can give you enough oomph, or breathing space, or clarity of perspective to be able to move forward and deal with whatever got you to that place in the first instance.  The first step has to be being willing to talk to someone who really knows their stuff and just might be able to help.  That's probably the bit I found hardest. And it was probably the bit I should have done earlier.

What I learnt is that (cliche alert) prevention might be better than cure, and medication might be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff - but you just can't be too proud to beg.  A hundred dollars on a Doctor and some pills saved my sanity I reckon.  What a bargain.

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