To begin, as an aside: I am a lucky guy.
I am surrounded by many people who understand — or try their very best to understand — that dealing with chronic Anxiety and Depression sucks. They also appear to understand — or simply accept — that the struggle is not (for many of those who suffer) a constant one. Many of us live normal lives. Therapy, brain tricks, and / or medication can, and often does, help many us be just like everyone else.
As I said, I am lucky. Not everyone is surrounded by people who understand, try to understand, or accept. And for those who struggle and do not have a supportive community. I truly cannot wait until the stigma of mental illness is a thing of the past.
Hey, I don’t fool myself. I know that while I have a huge and hugely supportive community, there are people in my life who are clueless. For me — while they are rare — there are people who use my mental illness to pity me, belittle me, and / or gain advantage over me.
To them — to borrow a classic “Kids in the Hall” line — “I squish your head.”
Second, and as less of an aside, I am someone who is an advocate of using medications to address Anxiety and Depression. Not everyone is. And I am not out to proselytize. I share this simply to let others who are considering using medications know that many sufferers benefit from medication.
Now, to the substance of this post.
While medications can help you get to normal, I am not going to gloss over the fact that for some people it’s not easy finding the right medication. Sometimes there are side effects that you must live with that you will not enjoy; sometimes those side effect are temporary. And if (and often, when … sometime in the distant future) that medication stops working, and you must find another, as with nearly any drug (e.g. caffeine, nicotine, cocaine …. I only know about caffeine, by the way) there are withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms may be worse the longer you were on the medication that made you normal … that was a surprise I was not happy to hear at my last get-my-head-out-of-hell visit.
And the withdrawal symptoms are experienced — often — while you are trying to find the new medication for you that has its own side effects.
This may not be fun. This may not be easy. But, hey, not everyone who works to live a healthy lifestyle always thinks, “It’s fun having to exercise everyday, eat my vegetables, and skip the yummy, sloppy pile of nachos in front of me.”
Same with finding a medication that works for you and then living with it. It is not always fun. But it makes you healthy. And healthy is good.
Now, about that Dr Seuss quote: “There is no one alive who is Youer than You”
The brain is a complex organ. And, as is obvious by observing others around you, your brain is unique. You may be smarter than others, dumber than others. You may be more prone to happiness than those around you. You may be an extrovert; I am an introvert. You may hate gardening; I love gardening. You may get headaches more often than others. Your memory may suck, or it may be super awesome.
I’m no scientist, no doctor, but I bet that some of this has something to do with the fact that your brain is different than others. It developed differently. I resides in a body of someone who experiences different experiences than others. You likely consume slightly different food and drink than those around you.
As such — and for many other reasons I have no clue of — your brain is unique.
So it should come as no surprise, your brain is going to react to a medication differently than others. There may be some predictably. There may be some standard that applies to most people. But there are always outliers. And there are always surprises.
Now, when you are tinkering with your brain, you’d really prefer the variability be minimized. And you’d hope the surprises would be small.
Sometimes you’re lucky. Sometimes you are not.
For me, transitions from one drug to another never seem to be easy. There is often emotional and physical pain involved. And, while I’ve never had transitions that last more than a few weeks, I know that sometimes they can last longer.
As I’ve noted in previous posts, I like to let those around me know what I am going through. Why? Because I’d prefer to control the understanding of why I am acting weird. I don’t want people throwing false assumptions on me.
And so, I have told some of my colleagues — because I am struggling and I am going through a medication transition — something to the effect of:
“I am struggling right now. I have been going through a sucky period of Anxiety and Depression. I am trying to find a medication that will help me get back to normal. I know a bit about the likely temporary side effects (as my body and brain gets used to the drug). So, I may seem irritable at times. I may be quick to anger. I already know that I am tired and fatigued. Sometimes I will have to leave work to make things better for everyone. There may be a few days when I just have to call in sick. But at the end of this process — hopefully in the near future — I will be back to my normal self.”
Usually with a few tears in my eyes, I say something like, “Soon I’ll be cheerleading as I usually do” … or something to that effect.
My colleagues nod. Thank me for telling them. And then, they always ask how they can help.
As I said, I am a lucky guy.