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Discovering I’m Depressed in Four Short Paragraphs

Multiple times a day I wonder if how I feel at a given moment is depression- or migraine-related. I keep concluding that I’m not, but I’m asking myself more than ever and have to wonder if that’s a sign that I am clinically depressed.

Background
I was first diagnosed with depression when I was about 15. I took Prozac for a couple months then didn’t take anything until I was in college. I’ve been on antidepressants more often than not in the last 10 years. They usually keep things under control, but I’ve had multiple backslides. These are major falls off the mountain not small slips.

I’ve been taking Wellbutrin and Cymbalta for three years and added Lamictal six months after starting the first two. I check in with my psychiatrist (whom I love) every three to six months and we play around with meds as necessary. In Octoberwe increased my Lamictal dose from 200 mg to 300 mg. It didn’t seem to be working so we went back to 200 mg on March 8. As I write this, I’m thinking that maybe it was working. . . .

What’s Going on Now
I’ve been hiding out all winter, but didn’t start feeling sorry for myself until recently. Except for the weekend thing (which really don’t feel like depression), I haven’t cried much. I have felt overwhelmed, tired and just generally blah for the last couple weeks. Not to mention that my e-mail inbox is nearly overflowing and even the shortest blog posts are taking me hours to write. I was blaming it on migraine, but the signs are adding up.

That Was Easy: I Am Depressed!
As I write, I’ve become almost positive I’m depressed. Having online depression screening tests rating my symptoms as moderate to severe is a pretty good clue too.

What’s Next?
It takes me a long time to find a cocktail of meds that’s effective. Once I do, drugs have always been quite helpful for me until I hit a backslide. I’ve considered therapy off and on. Trying to find a good therapist is such a pain. In fact, I’ve never found one I liked. Also, three standing appointments each week is my limit.

When I mentioned my mindfulness-based wellness class and meditation, my psychiatrist pulled a related book out of his bag: The Mindful Way Through Depression. One of the authors, Jon Kabat-Zinn, also wrote the book we’re using for class, Full Catastrophe Living. I read a fair amount of both before reading started triggering nausea and dizziness last week.

I really like what the depression book has to say. Particularly about the role of negative thoughts or self-talk in perpetuating depression. I seriously didn’t realize that other people don’t do that all the time. It has been normal for me for years, perhaps forever.

After Hart suggested that I beat myself up every time I let myself down, I’ve become much more aware of my thoughts. I’ve already progressed in noticing — and halting — the negative things I tell myself. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but it feels good to know I’ve already started what I’m trying to do.

Ironically, inability to concentrate is one of my major symptoms. It also makes learning to meditate highly frustrating. The meditation class I’m taking has taught me to not get upset with myself for “not doing it right.” I’m not as wound up about it as I normally would be and am even sticking with a daily practice.

For now I’m hanging in there. I’m trying to not be so hard on myself. I’m even giving myself permission to watch movies when I need to escape. I also stopped writing this mid-post so I could call my psychiatrist. I hope he’ll adjust my meds over the phone, but will make an appointment if I need to.

When I sat at my computer this morning, I had no idea all this would come gushing out. In fact I started out to write a short forum post about differentiating between depression and migraine symptoms. Amazing how helpful “talking” it through is.

What’s your experience with depression? Please share it in the comments below.

7 Responses to Discovering I’m Depressed in Four Short Paragraphs

  1. Sue says:

    Kerrie, I’m so glad that you have a psychiatrist that you like – that’s so important. It’s so hard to wrestle with both depression and pain. It sounds like you’ve got some good tools (mindfulness, meditation) to help you through it.

    I’ve been working with a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist for about three years. I was also shocked to find out that not everyone has negative self-talk going on 24/7. Who knew?

  2. Megan Oltman says:

    Hey Kerrie – good news is you are getting really tuned in to yourself. You’ve got a lot to deal with and you are cutting yourself some slack. You do a lot to help others – you deserve to take really good care of yourself, too. Watch those movies. Pamper yourself as much as you can. Do what makes you feel good and don’t sweat the small stuff!

    – Megan

  3. Reese says:

    There’s the pain from the migraines. There’s the depression from the pain.. physically and emotionally wearing us down. Then there’s the emotional trama and depression that comes from dealing with medical professionals who either don’t believe you, or those who do believe you – but don’t know what to do for you. Personally, the majority of the depression I have experienced has come down to the physicians I have dealt with.

  4. Kelly says:

    My first depression began sometime during my first “big” relationship in my late teens. My boyfriend became abusive, and I learned many ways to survive…the main one was to become a chameleon. I was so completely out of touch with my feelings that I was blank – expressionless (Kerrie, as my friend I know you can vouch for how bizarre that sounds now…but it *has* been over ten years).

    Depression and other mood disorders run in my family. As a woman, it is unsurprising that I have experienced this particular challenge. Over the years, Depression has poked its head out of its cave a few times to see if it can catch me unawares. So far I always see it seeing me, and take the necessary measures to thwart it. I am glad that I know it well enough to recognize its tactics & characteristics so that I can nip it in the bud. For me, talk therapy (I went to a great naturopathic doctor who specializes in therapy and women’s health) and lifestyle changes have been essential. Meditation is one of the few practices that I credit with saving my life – quite literally – and I learned it at 19, when I could barely sit still or form a coherent thought after all the trauma I’d experienced.

    Nowadays, depression feels far away. Yet, I must be honest and say that I monitor this beast quite diligently. I hope to one day be free of the sense that I need to keep a wary eye on that cave…

  5. Kelly McE says:

    Since I’ve been living with chronic daily headaches and had to stop working four years ago, I’ve been through a number of periods of deep depression. Like your other Kelly, talk therapy has been a huge help to me, but I also have a fabulous psychopharmacologist/psychiatrist who coordinates my various medications, monitors my use of pain medications and makes sure nothing messes up my 5 ½ years of sobriety.

    I’ve found that while it was painful to go through the periods of depression, each one resulted in important emotional development. I hope that eventually I’ll learn these lessons without having to be put through the wringer, but for now, the pain has been worth the education.

    The pain led me to Insight Meditation (Vipassana) practice, which has allowed me to heal some very deep wounds. My heart now can fully give and receive love, something I hadn’t been able to do since childhood. I love this practice. I found the most wonderful teacher, Tara Brach (http://www.imcw.org/tara-brach). She wrote a fabulous book, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha (http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Acceptance-Embracing-Heart-Buddha/dp/0553380990). The book, combined with the meditation I’ve done on my own and at Tara’s retreats, have changed my life. Much of what Radical Acceptance focuses on is the negative self-talk that so many of us use to torture ourselves. Tara refers to it as the “Trance of Unworthiness”. I recommend the book to everyone (I’m not getting commissions on book sales (yet) ).

  6. Eileen says:

    I’ve been through similar things with depression. It comes, it goes. It comes…..Started in my teens…on and off prozac.

    Now with migraines, I am on Amitriptyline which I think may help me a bit with the postdrome depression feelings I get that make me think “what the heck is going on??”. Also I know you are in WA – do you happen to also have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)? I know this takes a huge toll on me during the winter months. I am always struggling more during this time, when it is grey and not as sunny, compared to the summer when you can go out and get that natural Vitamin D.

    It’s wonderful that you have a strong healthcare team to talk to!
    Hope you are feeling better this week!

  7. Ahuli Pitt says:

    When I was working with troubled youth a few years ago, I was given the priviledge of attending a two day workshop on suicide prevention. The main thing I learned was to get said person talking and being a good listener—–reading between the lines, so to speak, as to what the person was Really saying.

    The Anatomy of Depression

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