Depression


Today I went back to the local clinic for the saline ultrasound.  This is a pretty ho-hum procedure at this point, although it does involve speculum, catheter and apparently about a gallon of water.  My uterus hasn’t caused me much trouble in all this, so I wasn’t stressed.  I do, however, hate the speculum.  So much.  I have gotten a little bit panicky in the past while the speculum was In There, and felt like it was going to start tearing me apart, which doesn’t make me anything but more tense and tight.  Yeesh.  After my last IVF, I had just about decided that I was going to have to get valium or some kind of trank every time I have to face the speculum.

But I’ve been on antidepressants since October, and at some point, maybe November/December, I started taking an anti-anxiety drug called Buspiron.  I didn’t think I was the anxious type, but I was spending too much time in the land of All the Bad Things That Could Happen.  So I said yes when They (my mental health people) said I might want to try it.

I think the anxiety is better, although I still have to grapple with negative and fearful thoughts.  But there has been an amazing change that I didn’t dare to hope for.

Because I experienced trauma at an early age, I have always struggled with various “stress ailments.”  For a while, I had panic attacks.  When I was a teenager I had a few migraines.  A few years later, I had irritable bowel syndrome, and that was horrendous.  I was a little bit clueless about my stress back then… I would go to my job at 6 pm and within a half hour I had what can only be called “foreign country diarrhea.”  Every day.  My doctor at the time asked “is there something that happens every day at that time?”  and I thought… “Oh.  Work.”  Duh.

Some things have stayed.  My sleep has been very iffy since I was 35.  I have TMJ and had constant neck pain before it was diagnosed.  And I’ve just generally always had tension in my body, even when I don’t feel stressed.  Even as over the years I worked a lot on all this crap in therapy, my body just insists that there is still danger.  I hit a wall in working on my singing voice because of this tension, and that wall is always there between me and physical intimacy.  It’s like I had to grow an extra skin to survive, and now it’s too tight.

A couple of months ago my singing voice started feeling … looser.  This is huge for singing technique, and when I was in graduate school, an army of voice teachers couldn’t help me get there.  Some other… inhibitions have dropped away, too, and let’s just say that my husband is really happy about it.  I have also begun to experience an odd sensation that I think is “flexibility,” when stretching.  I never stretched much because it was always so painful.  I’ve been stretching religiously after every workout, and actually gotten somewhere with it for the first time in ages.  I was starting to think it must be the medicine, and then I went in last week for my first ultrasound in a few years and I thought, wow, this nurse is so gentle.

Then the other day, I had the saline ultrasound deal and not only was there a speculum, it was being cranked open inside me by a male doctor I had just met three minutes before.  He said the usual crap, which is so irritating coming from a male doctor: “This might hurt a little… try and relax…” and as always, I tried to relax, knowing I wouldn’t be able to.

Wonder of wonders.  I did.  I relaxed.  The speculum still didn’t feel wonderful, but I was able to let my mind wander a bit, and it was fine.  It didn’t hurt, and they had put everything but the kitchen sink In There.  Finally I understand the women who kind of shrug about their pap smears.  I always thought they were lying or denying, and that it was supremely horrible and painful for everyone.  Maybe not.

This is more wonderful than I can describe to you.  I am getting various parts of life back that I had given up on.  And this is not a tranked-out, sleepy relaxation; this is in the midst of feeling very energetic and awake most of the day.  To feel up, and strong, and alive, and still be able to chill and relax the part of my body that needs to, is beyond amazing.  It would be like if you woke up one day and could figure skate or something.

Because of this, and because of some work I’ve been doing about liking my body better, the insecurities that came floating up from my last clinic appointment are sort of gone.   I had no idea how huge it would be to not feel so violated from a medical procedure that nobody else seems to feel violated from.  It feels like my body is in alignment with my mind, more than ever before.   Before I went on these meds, I thought it would be a compromise, possibly a betrayal of myself, to take them.  I thought it was a kind of giving up on true healing.

Forget that.  This is more healed than I’ve ever felt, and I’m finding strength and insights to invite still more healing.  It rocks.

As if that weren’t enough, the ultrasound revealed some things.  I have always had endometrial cysts on each ovary; they wax and wane, but there are always one or two on each.  I have always had a fibroid attached to the back of my uterus that has been described as “good -sized” or “huge.”  Ultrasound techs always say “oh, did you know you have a..” or “I’m seeing a…” and I always say “Yeah, huge fibroid and cysts, we know about that.”  This doctor said, “well, no.”

Then he said “You’ve got a couple of follicles, 18 and 22 millimeters on one side…” and I was confused.  Follicles?  Eggs?  I’ve always assumed I ovulated, but my ovaries were weighed down with so much endometrial garbage, who knew for sure?  Then the doctor said “You’ve got great ovaries!”

WTF.  I laughed, with the speculum in there and everything, and said “Well, I guess I beg to differ.”  And the doc said that to have that kind of follicular activity was unusual at my age.

I felt a little whisper of “maybe I can get pregnant… ” but it died quickly.  Can you imagine having a pregnancy from a 47-year-old egg?  I am way past hoping for a miracle in that department, and the idea of waiting for the miscarriage or the troubles that might come… that I feel would surely come… I just do not hope for a pregnancy with my own eggs.

But I just stood a little taller at the idea that I have “great ovaries.”   Even though they didn’t exactly come through when I hoped they would.  Maybe they are just having a little bit of Indian summer down there.  It’s foolish but it makes me feel good.

It’s just amazing for my body to do what it’s meant to do, and it’s such a gift to feel that it can heal, and surprise me.  I know that we aren’t ever really whole in this life, but it’s nice to get a little bit closer.

So I’m, I don’t know, 12 days or something into my antidepressants. The short version is, I love it!  From the first day I felt more energetic.  Sometimes I feel caffeinated, which I like.  Supposedly the caffeinated feeling will smooth out after a while.  Just like what my friends said at the beginning of the Magic Mushroom trip in college where we ended up going to New York on a whim with no money and I cried for a whole day when it was over.  “Just listen to Bob Marley, man, everything… is gonna be all right…”

Whoa.  Where was I.

I was at the smaller dose for the first week and then doubled it starting last Tuesday.  I still had some blue feelings and black moods here and there, but it was the end of my cycle, and it’s not like I’m supposed to turn into Happy Robot Girl anyway.

I feel a lot more like “myself” and I had been forgetting who that was.  I’ve been back to my therapist, i.e., regular non-drug work-out-your-life healthcare provider, not the shrink who just tweaks my meds.  When she first told me I would benefit from the medicine to help me have the strength to work out the next bunch of painful life crap in therapy, I couldn’t see what painful life crap there was to work out.  Now I see it clearly and I went in there with sleeves rolled up.

Looking back, I can see why I didn’t feel like I was depressed.  I’ve actually been leaking like a balloon, slowly, through the infertility years.  Then I was pregnant, and we moved, and so much was different that I didn’t have anything to compare anything to.  Now I’m having little memories.  When I was working out with my trainer, i.e., the only truly challenging workout of my week, I was remembering how it felt when I was really fit and loved the sprint at the end of the run or standing to climb a steep hill on my bike.   I remember being sassy and fun with my friends instead of just wondering if they even like me anymore.  I remember being confident, and not apologetic, and being creative, and brave.  I know I’ve been brave just to slog through some of the stuff I did in the last year, even while I am also one of the luckiest 46-year olds who ever lived.

I’m also kinda angry.  You know that guy in the old movie “Network,” who throws up his window and yells “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” ?  That guy was in his first week of antidepressants.

The particular drug that I am on kicks ass, for me.  I am perky in the daytime but I still sleep at night… in the completely crappy way that I sleep.  I think the shrink was pleased that we could choose from drugs without having to worry about ruining my sleep like some drugs do.  Mine was pre-broken.

About the food thing.  I am feeling a little bit guilty about how much this helps with the food thing.  It could be that without the depression and the shame that I sometimes feel spreading through my body like a dark bloom, maybe I’m just having a Normal Relationship With Food.  Hi, Food.  I’m Normal.  Nice to meet you.  This means that I still ate all the M&Ms out of the Halloween candy… and by the way, I don’t know why they call it “Fun Size.”  It’s no fun opening 200 of those things.

But I didn’t eat all the Snickers, and the Twix, eh.  Come get ’em, I could care less.

Anyway, normal for me still leaves plenty of room for emotional eating and all that. But I seem to have access to a “pause” button where I can stop and think “well, maybe it’s NOT a good idea to eat all the Snickers while reading a book so that I don’t even remember consuming 1900 calories in 15 minutes, and I’m actually noticing that I’m really full, so maybe I won’t.”  It’s not miraculous, it’s just: possible.

I’m also just not as hungry, and sometimes not hungry at all.  I’ve skipped some dinners. Again, I’m thinking it could be that this is what normal hunger is like when you take away all the Food Craziness, and I’ve had a few times of being really busy and, yes, forgetting to eat.  I’ve always heard that you should eat bigger meals early in the day and around here we sometimes achieve that, and dinner is just an afterthought.  I’m conflicted about this, because when Daniel is older I really hope to have those family dinners that are going to cure everything from bad grades to athlete’s foot and keep the kids off drugs and make us all taller and more beautiful.  If the studies are true.  But if I’m not hungry, I will have to learn to just eat a little bit.  HA HA HA well anything is possible.

The best part of this is that I can glimpse the real prize, which is knowing how to just be.  Not needing to be thinner or more successful to just like and accept myself.  If I can get rid of the dark stain on my soul, that will be what the ADs are really for, and it will be something I’ve never felt before.

Obviously I am a drama queen and yet at least some of you love me anyway.

The nurse at my psychiatrist’s office, who is obviously used to dealing with unhinged people, quickly located some of my med* at a Walgreen’s not too far away and I skedaddled up there & got it.

I feel so grownup having both a psychiatrist and a therapist, by the way.  It’s like those people who have not just a hair “stylist” but also a “colorist.”  I personally let one guy do everything that grows from the top of my head, but I guess I’m old school.

So, obviously I am relieved and happy to have the whole psychiatristevaluation-prescription waitingwaitingwaiting part of the drama over.  Now I can enter into the “just what is this drug doing to me, anyway” part, and since I was gung ho about taking the medicine —

hm maybe that’s what the waiting was for?

— now I see only good things.  It’s only day 2 and highly unlikely that any of this is real, but I feel like I’m having one of my “good days.”  Good days are when the sun shines, I get enough sleep, I have things to do that I am happy about (like a lunch with a friend), I haven’t overeaten for days and I don’t want to right now, I’m actually interested in doing my workout and working hard, my body doesn’t remind me that we’re carrying many extra pounds, my house is clean, and the Democrats control Congress.

So if this were an organic and naturally occurring “good day” many of those things would need to be true, but only some are.  I have no plans today with friends,  I think it’s going to rain, I have overeaten or eaten things that disgust me the last few days, and the Democrats are probably going to screw things up anyway.  But I feel kind of like I’ve had some new, excellent caffeine, an Acapulco Gold of caffeine that makes me feel peppy and optimistic but won’t give me stomach cramps later.

I hope.

So who knows.  If this is placebo, that rocks too.  I’ll take what I can get.

*The drug is Aplenzin, and what is up with the names of drugs anyway? It is apparently the exact same chemical as Wellb@trin but with a better “delivery system,” i.e., uh, “pill.”