*UPDATE* I added The Weight to the beginning of the post because it's a song I absolutely LOVE and although I don't entirely know what it's about, I think it means that everyone has a weight to bear and that mine is (right now) both metaphorical AND physical. I also added the little comic because I think that it is the best representation of the struggle I go through trying to make people understand what it's like to not be able to actually get out of bed to function on even the simplest levels some days. So, if you're reading this, go ahead and play the song while you read. Maybe it will give you some more insight to where my mind is...
Today may have been the worst day yet, since I've gone off the Effexor. I went to the appointment with the psychiatrist I had set up, even managed to get there a little early. I was made to sit and wait for a good 20 minutes past my appointment time, while I assume the doctor looked at my paperwork. She requires her new patients to fill out a rather lengthy packet with information about medical history, family history, history of mental illness, everything. I willingly filled it out, did it in detail and to the best of my ability. Boy did that come back to bite me in the ass.
My mom warned me about this doctor - she's someone she worked with years ago at one of the many mental health centers my mom has worked. She didn't bias me, per se, but she said she didn't want me to go in with any preconceived notions about this lady, either, so she didn't really tell me much. The doctor had highlighted some of the stuff I'd put in my history, and she asked me very few questions about it, and didn't really ask me to give her any detail except on my past suicide attempts. She really locked onto the parts about my parents, which I don't really understand. They may have their own illnesses, but they're THEIR illnesses.
I was really upset by her lack of care about what my problem is currently. She didn't ask me much about why I'd chosen to discontinue the Effexor, or why I was worried about weight gain, or what symptoms I was feeling after stopping the Effexor, or what symptoms I was experiencing with regard to my current episode. She only cared about my history. Then she prescribed me a medication that she told me was a mood-stabilizer (my mom says it's an anti-psychotic that can be used as a mood stabilizer with limited success), and gave me two weeks worth of samples. Basically, I'm pretty sure that she prescribed that to me based on my past history of mental illness and my disdain for antidepressants with the side effect of weight gain. I felt like her care level was about 10% and it was just to cover her ass. She also told me that I might have Bipolar II, which I argued because I don't have any mania, but she says that Bipolar II doesn't present with mania. I'm going to need to do some research into that and see how closely I fit that profile. I'd be more apt to believe that I have dysthymia which is a way more persistent form of Depression, if I'm correct. I was really upset that she didn't address my massive anxiety AT ALL, because that is what I'm struggling with the most right now.
So I got home (I managed to run a couple errands before that - buying more dog food and getting cash out of the ATM for my rent), and ate something and took one and laid down to watch TV to try and turn my brain off. I drifted off to sleep, and when I woke up I immediately realized that I still hadn't gotten the air mattress for the camping trip this weekend so I popped right out of bed and went to the store to get it. While I was there, anxiety washed over me. When I talk about anxiety, I don't mean nervousness. I mean that all of a sudden, I am aware of all of the things I should be doing but aren't, the things I need to do but haven't, and the things I want to do but can't. What really began to stir itself up in my brain was that I am overwhelmingly frustrated with the process of finding a psychiatrist, much less a good one, and how I am going to need to work even harder to find one that actually listens to me, and will help me with what I'm dealing with NOW, and how long it takes to feel any relief at all after that.
I began to think of how long the process is going to be to figure out how to drop my on-campus class because I can't seem to make myself go anymore, and how many signatures I'll have to get and how I'll end up with a W on my transcript, and even though it doesn't effect my GPA, it still shows up. I thought about how I have two totally separate identities when I feel really good: there's my sick me, the yucky one that has debilitating depression and anxiety and can't finish her classes and took 8.5 years to finish undergrad with a 2.6 GPA because she couldn't finish so many of her classes back then and the one that revels in having some accepted excuse for not being able to follow through with things when she needs it (hint, it starts with a "D" and rhymes with repression). The second identity is healthy me, who sort of thinks of the really mentally ill me as the quirky, weird cousin that no one really talks about, and I pretend she doesn't or never did exist, because she might tarnish the shine on the healthy me. I have a real issue between these two identities because when I feel great, I almost forget that the sick me exists. But when I feel terrible, all I want is to go back to feeling great, and hating that I feel so awful when I know that the great version of me is out there, but just out of my reach.
Anyway, when I got home from getting the air mattress (and some fishing lures because I have never had any of my own and I want to go fishing while camping this weekend if it's not too cold), I broke down. I didn't want to get back into bed because I was already all worked up and that wouldn't help, but I didn't know what would help. So I called the counseling center that's on campus at school in Denver. They referred me to a clinician to talk to for a few minutes and then scheduled me for an intake appointment on Wednesday. I'm pretty sure this is just for counseling, which I already have begun with someone else (see: last week), but this counseling center is free and it could get me on campus so that I can actually get to class on Mondays if I can figure out how to navigate this class without dropping it. So I'll go and see how it compares to the one in Westminster, and then make my decision about what I'm going to do. Maybe I'll keep seeing both. They then referred me to the health center on campus where I will be seeing a new psychiatrist on Wednesday, who will hopefully either want to just monitor me and my weight on Effexor or will have me try Pristiq which is a modified form of the same drug that's in Effexor (venlafaxine) and give me some Xanex or some Klonopin or some benzo I can take as-needed. That, I'm super optimistic about.
After I got off the phone, the first thing I did was take one pill of Effexor. After that I tried my hardest to sort of do something constructive with my brain that would also allow me to be in the moment and not entirely fight how intensely horrible I was feeling. So I read another chapter of a book I have to write a paper on by next Sunday, which took awhile because I kept drifting off into la-la-land in my brain and thinking of all the other things I could or should do. After reading for about an hour, Meredi came home and listened to me for a few minutes and let me cry, and after that I started feeling better. I don't think it was talking to Meredi, I think the Effexor started to kick in, but I guess I could be wrong.
Now that it's closing in on 10pm, I feel quite a bit better. I feel calmer, and quieter, and more able to handle the things that often cause me to feel as though my brain is in a tailspin. I'm starting to be able to plan out small details of the upcoming camping trip.
The Ex called me to tell me that his phone had officially kicked the bucket so that if I needed to get a hold of him (I had texted him last week to see if he knew if the camping area I'm taking us to is open or closed since that's his main spot, and never heard back from him), I would have to call his work phone. We chatted for a few minutes about the camping area and how his hunting trip went, and how his dog is doing, and I reminded him that I still have some of his stuff. He said that the tent caved in on him from the snow they got up there this past weekend and so I should probably make some phone calls to figure out how things are looking up there. And now just thinking about having to plan all this out is making me feel anxious again. This is a large undertaking for a person that can hardly get out of bed to brush her teeth some days recently. I am definitely going to need help.
I just Googled "Effexor withdrawal" and I'm quite astonished at what it says. There are "serious withdrawal symptoms" that include "stokelike symptoms." There's a case where a woman ran out of medication, and she had flu-like symptoms, dizziness and nausea. I would get all of those things - and I'd be unable to control my body temperature - I'd be sweating throughout my core, but freezing through my extremities which would make me shiver. I noticed recently a "popping" noise in my head, only when I was lying down to go to sleep, and it didn't bother me at all - in fact I found it kind of calming. But what struck me most was that she could not stop crying, because that was perhaps my worst symptom for at least the first week after I stopped taking it. I felt like a puddle walking around in human form. I was crying for no apparent reason at all up through week two. It was like PMS on steroids. This site also says that there are massive differences from patient to patient, with some people having no withdrawal symptoms after two weeks and tapering down, and some people taper off and still have withdrawal symptoms for upwards of three months after ending. That's really comforting. First, it's nice to know that I'm not the only one that has experienced symptoms like these, but it's sort of disturbing that something I'm willingly putting in my body could cause me to feel so terribly. It's indicative of how nasty the chemicals are that withdrawal symptoms are so awful, and it is upsetting to think that I may never be able to stop taking them not just because the withdrawal symptoms are so bad, but because my illness is so severe too.
I'm not sure why, but I've felt quite nauseated the whole last half of the day, and so I am going to lie down and hope it goes away before I have to work tomorrow. I don't want to spend another day in my bed.
Campagne, D.M. (2005) Venlafaxine and Serious Withdrawal Symptoms: Warning to Drivers. US National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine. National Center for Biomedical Technology. 7(3):22. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1681629/