Time flies!

I know I haven’t posted an update for a while, but have got a big shock to see that my last post was in March! So much for regular blog posts!

On the medication side, I have taken the plunge and been gradually weaning myself off my anti-depressant. This had been going fairly well- it was easy to go back to the standard dose I had been on prior to doubling it; it was fine- in fact, really good- to halve that dose and be on half a tablet per day.

BUT, what has been really awful, has been quitting them altogether (which I did almost 2 weeks ago). Googling my dreadful symptoms, it seems I have experienced EVERY SINGLE symptom of antidepressent withdrawal syndrome!

Symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal are sometimes called antidepressant discontinuation syndrome and typically last for a few weeks. Certain antidepressants are more likely to cause withdrawal symptoms than others.

Quitting an antidepressant suddenly may cause symptoms within a day or two, such as:

Anxiety
Insomnia or vivid dreams
Headaches
Dizziness
Tiredness
Irritability
Flu-like symptoms, including achy muscles and chills
Nausea
Electric shock sensations
Return of depression symptoms

The most scary one is the electric shock sensations- that occur inside my head. I think they are becoming less frequent now, but, boy, has it been rough. I have really felt like I am teetering on the edge of insanity.

I guess, the truth of the matter is, I think I have done the wrong thing.  I don’t think I can cope without my meds.  And that makes me really sad.  But seeing as I have come this far, I should probably at least hold out until after all the dreadful side-effects of stopping them have ceased.  If I have the strength!

 

 

 

 

An admission- I am a fan of Kate!

I know it is silly.  But I can’t help it.  I am a huge fan of Kate Middleton.

I loved how she wasn’t afraid to show her tummy to the media directly after the birth of Prince George.

I think she does an excellent job in creating an elegant, royal image, although I think sometimes she errs slightly too much to the conservative side.  But that is definitely preferable to being too influenced by transitory trends.

But, most importantly, I love the work she and Prince William are doing in the promotion and de-stigmatising of mental health issues.

Here is an article relating to her recent speech.  And below is a quote from her speech.  Well said, Kate!

 

 

Update on medication (again!)

I have not been happy with my “doubling the dose” of my antidepressant.  Aside from that initial boost to serotonin levels, all I have noticed subsequently are the side effects.  Namely, dizziness, tiredness, headaches and, worst of all, a “drugged out”, unfeeling sense of distance from reality.  I have given the trial a reasonable length of time to come right and it just hasn’t.  Certainly not how I choose to live.

So, this morning I went down to my previous dose and I will have to see what impact that has on me.  I did a bit of googling- as one does-  on reducing the dose, and it is recommended to drop by 25% per week.  I have just halved it straight away, so I will probably feel a bit weird, but I am sure I will be able to push on through.  Of course, I should have consulted with my doctor before doing this.  But I think my logic is sound.  I have definitely not had a boost in my mood- the bigger bath-plug that my antidepressant is supposed to be for my serotonin levels has not worked at plugging that hole.

At the same time I have been reading about all the benefits that intermittent fasting can have on the brain.  The specific talk I watched (from a Toastmasters perspective, I must apologise for the far-from-riveting way this work is presented) is on this link and the talk is specifically referring to the preventative effect fasting has on the development of alzheimers and dementia.  In my own life, I have definitely noticed that I feel sharper, more mentally alert and yes, even happier, when I get into what I suspect is ketosis, or a fat-burning state.

Now, of course, I am toying with coming off the medication completely.  Given that my life is relatively simple and stress-free right now, this may be a good time to try this.  And, of course, I would love to be free of medication.  I have this constantly suppressed wish to be able to function free of medication.  It is suppressed because I know each time I have tried this in the past, I have turned into a sobbing, irrational loony who thinks the world is evil and everyone and everything is out to get me.  My doctor always tells me that there is no shame in being on medication for life if one has chronic depression.  I get the logic.  But the wish is there.

Should I try it once more?  Dare I?!

A visit to the doctor

I have been taking standard SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) for many years now.  I would estimate that I have been on various antidepressants almost continuously for at least the past 8 years.

My medication of choice has been predominantly Prozac generics and, more recently, Zoloft generics (better with anxiety, as I understand it).  I have tried a number of others that did not work for me (all those dreaded side-effects!) over the years.

I made an appointment to see my doctor last week, because I was wondering about a few things.

  • Firstly, there has been quite a bit in the news (articles such as this) suggesting that having low levels of Vitamin D have been linked with depression, lack of energy and more.  Living in South Africa, up until these kind of articles have been doing the rounds, one always assumed that our Vitamin D levels would be fine because of all our sunshine.  But the articles, plus the fact that I definitely struggle with my mood during the winter months made me think I would like to have my Vitamin D levels checked.
  • Then, I also thought I should just let him know that I am struggling mentally at present and see what he advised.
  • I have also been getting very light-headed when getting up (even just from sitting down, and not necessarily getting up that fast) and I wondered if this was cause for concern.
  • Finally, it is never a bad thing to have blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels checked, so off I went.

 

My doctor took the bloods (which I absolutely hate- for some reason my veins are very hard to locate!), he looked at my blood pressure (perfectly normal, so low blood pressure is not the explanation for the light-headedness); commented that I was very fit (with a very low resting heart rate) and then proceeded to reassure me that being on antidepressants for long periods of time is completely fine- it  is, in his opinion, silly and unnecessary to aim to come off them, particularly in cases like mine where there is such a strong genetic predisposition to chronic depression.

Using the analogy of the brain being a bath, and the pill being the plug (to stop the serotonin- or water- from leaking out and being wasted), he advised doubling my dose of Talomil from 20mg to 40mg.  He explained that the only way of gauging the size of the plug hole was to increase the size of the plug until my mood was more in the normal range.

OK, I get that.  And in reality, if anything, I need MORE rather than less medical intervention at the moment.  I am feeling blue.

He gave me a new script and said he would let me know the results of the blood tests in a few days.  I decided to wait for the Vitamin D results before increasing my dose of medication.  The thinking being if my vitamin D levels were low, I would prefer to work on supplementing that than increasing my medication.

BUT, the Vitamin D results came back at normal levels.  My cholesterol is also normal. I am now having an internal debate.  Do I try a double dose of Talomil?  Is that the right thing to do?

My first experience of TRE

TRE stands for Trauma/Tension Release Exercises.  Up until last month, I had never heard of it.  But I had it recommended to me, as mentioned in this post here.  Then, when my yoga teacher’s email newsletter announced she would be doing a Yoga/TRE workshop, it just felt like it was meant to be and I signed up straight away!

TRE is simply a series of exercises that activate the body’s ability to shake, or tremor.  These tremors release muscular tension and have a calming effect on the nervous system.  This effect is used a lot in nature, where you will see a buck- that has been chased and nearly eaten by a lion- shaking uncontrollably for a bit- and then calmly joining the herd and eating grass, as if nothing has happened.  I have certainly noticed that my dog, Benji, shakes uncontrollably at the vet.  Up until now, I have just felt terribly sorry for him when this happens, but now I realise he is actually rather fortunate to have this way of “getting his nervousness out”, whereas I – in similar, scary circumstances- would suppress all  the trembling and nervousness I may be feeling and store it all as muscular tension.  So, effectively, TRE aims to make me more like Benji!

The workshop consisted of 2 hours of yoga and then an hour of TRE (but only actually tremoring for about 15 minutes).  There were about 6 participants in the workshop and then the 2 teachers.  The yoga part was lovely and time just flew by.  I am finding yoga beautifully healing and calming, so it is a treat to have more yoga than usual this week!

Then came the TRE part.

There are a series of very simple exercises that one needs to follow which seemingly prepare the muscles for going into the tremoring.  They felt almost too simple, especially compared with the yoga, but we all did them dutifully.  The last one before lying on the mat involved sitting with your back against the wall.  We had done this during my very first yoga class, and I had noticed then that this caused my legs to shake (specifically my quads).

We then had to lie on our mats, and, starting with the soles of our feet touching and our knees as wide as they can go, you slowly bring your knees up and at some point – very weirdly- your legs start shaking.  For some of the time, I was not sure if I was MAKING my legs shake, or if it was involuntary (as I think it is meant to be), and from time to time they stopped shaking.  To reactivate the tremor, you just need to open your knees and start raising them slowly again.  If the tremoring feels too much, you lie your legs out straight and it will stop.

It felt a little arbitrary- I was not sure what I should be feeling/that I was doing it “right”/what exactly was going on, but the feeling was not unpleasant, just a bit strange.  Our teacher had warned us beforehand not to have “tremor envy” and I did notice that the people who were not new to TRE seemed to be tremoring a lot more vigorously than I was!  So perhaps one develops this new skill with time.

We were told to drink lots of water and try to have as gentle a day as we could afterwards.  I left feeling not at all sure of the benefits of the practice.

But then, 2 things happened that made me think, perhaps the effect has been a lot bigger than I realised!

The first thing that happened, is that Sophie dropped a glass- that smashed to the floor right next to me- and I didn’t even jump.  Now, normally, I am a very jumpy person.   My standard reaction to that happening  would be to  physically jump (or at least tense my shoulders), and then scream/shout at the person who had given me the fright, as no doubt, adrenalin pumps through my system.  I didn’t flinch.  I just said calmly- “that is OK”, and Sophie and I picked up the pieces of glass and cleaned the floor.

That is pretty amazing on its own.  But there’s more!

My sleep last night was beautifully deep and restorative.  Truly blissful.  I am not feeling terribly stressed or anxious at the moment- without a job my life is as calm as it can possibly be- but to be able to feel that relaxed, was revelationary.

So, despite some initial misgivings during and directly after my first experience of TRE, I URGE you to try it for yourself.  It could be mind-altering and life-changing and I, for one, am booking a private session and I can’t wait for more!  For those of you also in Cape Town, please click on this link to find a practitioner near you.