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Apr 18 2014

Adventures in Mental Health Care

You may have noticed from the fact I’ve flaked recently, but Wellbutrin stopped working in a big way. It did a great job removing depression at first – which unmasked an underlying anxiety that increased and increased and increased. Then it stopped working on the depression. Sigh.

My day job has spent the past several months jabbing the rage, depression, and anxiety buttons nearly constantly. It’s got to the point where I have nightmares about it, which added insomnia to the list. Double sigh.

And my doctor is on sabbatical so she can spend time with her kids. Triple sigh.

Image is a cat collapsed face-down on the back of a sofa. Caption says, "I love you, couch. You understand me."

It’s really hard to cope with change when you’re super-depressed and anxious, so it took me a while to work up the courage to go through the process of getting a new doctor. Luckily, a friend at work went from all storm clouds all the time to near-blissful happiness, and her doctor was accepting new patients. I saw her Tuesday. I bloody love both her and the new clinic. She was a lot more prompt and thorough than my previous doctor. She found me something that will, with any luck, destroy both the anxiety and the depression in one go. We’re phasing out Wellbutrin. I’ve got some Xanax to fill in the gaps while the new stuff gears up to full effect. She listened to me when I told her my tiny little body burns through ordinary doses of drugs in a flash, and dosed accordingly. And she also sent me down the hall to the lab to get my thyroid tested, which I’d meant to ask for and completely forgotten. I love docs who actually look for other underlying causes rather than just assuming you’re mental.

She assessed me for bipolar, what with my mother’s history, and assures me it doesn’t sound like that’s me. A bit SAD, depressed and anxious, yes, but the Dread Disease is not mine. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. I was terrified I’d end up in my mother’s shoes someday. Sounds like that bullet’s been dodged.

So that’s one doctor I hope sticks around for absolute ages, because I already love her. And I love the lab tech, who shoved a needle in my arm without even a pinprick of pain. I have no idea how she did it. Maybe voodoo. And then, I was able to skip a few steps down the hall and fill my Xanax prescription right there in their own pharmacy, in five minutes. Gorgeous.

While the Venlafaxine works its way up to therapeutic doses, I’m self-medicating with Buffy and sewing. Side effects have me sleeping more than usual and feeling wonky, but they’re not bad and getting better as my body adjusts. Communication comes in bursts, so my apologies to those who’ve been waiting to hear from me – I’ll be contacting you soon! My brain will begin functioning adequately to do more than one thing at a time with a big rest between, so blogging will ramp up to full capacity soon.

And, biggest news: I’ll be leaving my dread day job soonish, no later than the end of summer at the outside and likely much earlier, so you’ll have much more of me. Yes, my darlings: I’m gonna make a go of writing at last. Also, sewing. And swag. And prints. I figure with all that and a lot of shameless self-promotion, plus having some of you spread the word to folks who might enjoy my stuff, I should be able to mostly make it. I’ll probably pick up a part-time job to pay some of the bills and get me out of the damn house, but it won’t be the constant stress marathon my day job has been, and not nearly the drain on my time.

Thank you, Obamacare, for making it possible for me to make that move. And thank you, my darlings, for being there while I struggled my way to a point where this can even be considered. Without you, I wouldn’t risk it. With you cheering me on, I’m willing to leap that cliff and see if I can sprout wings.

If not, people will always need a friendly voice on the phone to walk them through technical stuff, so I’ve got a fallback. I’d say no worries, but I’m a native worrier, so I’ll just say, few worries.

Thank you for being patient with my vanishing acts. I shall return with much substance soon. For now, you’ll get more pretty pictures, and I’m off to have another dose of Buffy. Laters!

46 comments

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  1. 1
    Lithified Detritus

    Sorry about your difficulties. I’ve often wondered where you found the energy to do all of the research, writing, and everything else while working full time. Adding depression to the mix just makes it seem impossible.

    I’m very glad to learn that things are improving. Hang in there, we are all rooting for you.

  2. 2
    René

    I am also very sorry to hear about your pain, Dana. As a life-long sufferer of (deep) depressions I can claim some expertise. So allow me to tell you that, slowly, it gets a little better. My depressions are getting less deep as I get older. But still I can say I survive on Remeron (Mirtazapine). So there is some hope. I sincerely hope you reconquer your life.

    A big chunk of a depression is the feeling of GUILT. In a way it is very triggering for me to read about your pain. It fills me with guilt: my pain cannot possibly as bad as yours. Is this something you recognize?

    Anyway, all the best to you.

  3. 3
    Rowan vet-tech

    Massive hugs if you want then. And to help with self medicating, here, have some pictures of 4 day old foster kittens!

    Jicama: http://imageshack.com/a/img842/7522/15sg.jpg
    Potato: http://imageshack.com/a/img841/7411/34yr.jpg
    Moar Potato: http://imageshack.com/a/img845/2065/8cw8.jpg
    Turnip: http://imageshack.com/a/img835/5463/qe9g.jpg
    Yam: http://imageshack.com/a/img843/1497/2l1p.jpg

  4. 4
    smhll

    I really relate to your photo as I spent a lot of the fall and winter hugging my couch. I’m sorry you are going through this. Changing doctors sounds constructive.

    If you watch Buffy discs with Spanish subtitles it counts as an educational activity, even if you never glance at the screen. :-)

  5. 5
    Trebuchet

    I’m so glad things are looking up, Dana! There is indeed a huge difference between doctors. Sounds like you found a good one.

    Best of luck with the writing! You do it so well.

  6. 6
    b. - Order of Lagomorpha

    Yay! And big yays to doctors that actually listen and *hear* what you’re saying. I hope the new meds work out for you.

    Also, try spinning. No, not the bicycle kind, though I know a lot of people like it–spinning wheel or, more appropriately for someone who likes to wander and look at rocks, spindle spinning. It’s very peaceful even to those not doing it. When I run one of my wheels or start dangling a drop spindle, my husband falls asleep almost instantaneously; he says it’s very soothing. Caution: the learning how part is not soothing and tends to add to your vocabulary of Very Bad Words, but once you have the knack, it’s magic.

  7. 7
    seraphymcrash

    Hooray that things seem to be looking up!

    This is also one of those benefits of obamacare that is often overlooked. It allows people to take the risk of trying to do the thing they love without threatening them with illness and death.

  8. 8
    catlover

    Dana –
    Hooray for you! SO glad that you were able to find a really good new doctor — who actually listens to ya! I, too, hope she stays around for a very long time! And I wish you all the best once you quit that stressful job. You’ll do fine — people need someone who can sew well, and as long as you have that part-time job, you should be able to make it OK.

    I LOVE your blogs — the ones about Mount St. Helen’s were awesome! Your blog is one of the first ones I look for here on FTB. :)I am rooting for you, and I send you lots of warm fuzzies and hugs — if you want them!

    rowanvt –
    Thanx for the pix of the adorable darling little kittens. Cuteness overload!!

  9. 9
    moarscienceplz

    Dana,
    Mega-congrats on all the (good) changes, now and to come!
    I love your writing, keep pounding those keys!

  10. 10
    jenniferphillips

    So happy to hear that you had a positive healthcare experience, and even happier to hear that you’re making life changes that will lead to better places. I’ll just leave some hugs and supportive shoulder pats over here :)

    ~Danio

  11. 11
    jane

    I hope from the bottom of my heart that these new changes work out for you! Half the battle is feeling optimistic again.

    You’re a sweetheart!

  12. 12
    Anne Marie

    I hope the changes in meds go as best as they can! Venlafaxine has worked very well for me. My only issue has been remembering that due to its short half-life and the side effects of sudden withdrawal (mainly just nausea and a general feeling of blah crumminess for me), it’s not one I can forget to take or suddenly quit (even more than my other psych meds). As soon as I found that out though, I’ve had no problems and just keep enough around. I’m wishing you every success in getting your regimen settled! (:

  13. 13
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Yay for finding a doc who listens and medication that hopefully kicks ass.
    And for getting reassurance that you’re not walking in your mother’s footsprints.
    I wish you the best of luck with your new business. Nothing compares to making your living bydoing the thing you really love.

  14. 14
    lyle

    You had remarked on Misha behaving differently, I wonder if she detected the changes and tried to help as much as she could? It seems that pets can often read their owners and that our smells to pets may change as things change also (we don’t have the sensitive sense of smell of dogs and cats). She may have decided that comforting you was what she should do.

  15. 15
    rq

    *hugs*

  16. 16
    Al Dente

    Glad to hear things are improving.

    BTW, I showed the picture of the kitteh on the couch to my daughter. She said she feels the same way about her bed.

  17. 17
    grahamjones

    biggest news [...] I’m gonna make a go of writing at last.

    Congratulations and good luck!

  18. 18
    Chris Rhetts

    Boy, I can sure sympathize with the insomnia problem. I’ve had problems with it off and on, but nothing I couldn’t eventually overcome. However, someone very close and dear to me struggles with it 24/7. Its just heartbreaking to stand by and watch – and not be able to do anything about it.

    I’m glad to see you will be spending more time exercising your talents. I’m no expert on the subject, but I’ve always believed creating fresh and original things – things you can be proud of – has a way of canceling out much of the negativity which causes insomnia, not to mention a host of other difficult stuff.

    One of the things I like to do is woodworking. Whenever I design something, then put it together and it looks as good as I planned, it makes me feel good about myself. Go ye forth Dana, writeth, swageth, and printeth! You’ll sleep better.

  19. 19
    Zugswang

    I’m glad you’re doing better, and I hope that SNRI ultimately works for you. That’s the first line class for concomitant depression and anxiety, and the relatively minor side effects, at least so far, bodes well. And I’m really glad to hear that you’re happy with your doctor; it’s harder than it should be to find good mental health care in the US. Best of luck!

  20. 20
    bodach

    Hey Dana (that’s my daughter’s name, too!) Just came out of lurking to wish you the best from Kenmore, WA and hope that you’ll soon be back in the saddle, crushing rocks and so forth.

  21. 21
    Trebuchet

    Bodach, you’re right in Dana’s neck of the woods — she’s in Bothell. Not too far from my neck of the woods either.

    Dana, I hope everything’s ok. The past couple of weeks’ silence is making me a little worried!

    1. 21.1
      Lithified Detritus

      Agreed.

      1. F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

        I’m generally putting the silence down to “If I go in there, I’ll get sucked in, and I don’t want to do that right now.” So, enforced vacation is my hope, and not things being more difficult for Dana.

      2. rq

        Yes, definitely… Anyone maybe have a better way than email to see if everything’s okay? :/ Alternatively, I’m perfectly okay with waiting it out, I just worry a lot.

        1. Trebuchet

          I sent her an e-mail more than a week ago. Even included adorable duckling pictures. No reply so far. I’m worried.

          1. Lithified Detritus

            I sent some pictures of spring wildflowers – also have not heard back. Definitely getting concerned.

          2. rq

            I also emailed her about a week ago, with pictures of spring and a cool little rock formation. No reply. Which is why I’m worried… :(

          3. rq

            Either way I sent off another email today. Maybe there’s someone else on the FtB network who might have a better contact?

          4. Trebuchet

            I asked another FTBlogger if there was anything on the “backchannel”. While being careful to point out that it’s none of my business. No response as yet.

          5. Ophelia Benson

            That was me – and sure it’s your business. Sorry I was slow to reply; just the usual email fail. But I got nothing.

          6. rq

            I emailed PZ yesterday, but he’s notoriously slow with email, and I don’t want to abuse the Pharyngula monitor email. :/ Maybe I should?

          7. Trebuchet

            Thanks for the reply and email Ophelia. I wish I had kept Dana’s phone number on my phone after she called me at the pumpkin hurling a couple of years ago.

            rq: Ophelia says in her email that PZ doesn’t know what’s going on and is also concerned.

          8. Lithified Detritus

            Is there some way to access phone records that far back?

          9. rq

            Dammit, thanks for the info (thanks, Ophelia), but that is not making me any less concerned. :/ Her gmail did pop up as timed out today (you know how it shows other gmailers online or not online in your own gmail), so that’s probably a goodish sign.

  22. 22
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Hey Dana, I really hope things are improving for you. I wish you all the best.

  23. 23
    rq

    A bit of research, and Dana spotted with Lockwood, just a few days ago. I’m assuming that is a recent picture. Judging from a few other posts, she’s been travelling. (Did we miss the memo???)

    1. 23.1
      rq

      DAMMIT and right below it says ‘photo unmodified, July 2012′. Yeah, I feel smart. I did, however, email Lockwood. Still worried.

      1. Lithified Detritus

        Contacting Lockwood is an excellent idea.

        1. rq

          He got back to me and said that he’d noticed the hiatus, but as someone knowing depression, was trying not to interfere in case she’s been working through stuff (on top of working a day job, etc.). He did say he’ll pass on our concern, and hopefully she’s just taking necessary time.

  24. 24
    Trebuchet

    Thanks to Jason Thibeault I’ve been led to Dana’s Twitter page: https://twitter.com/Dhunterauthor
    She last posted on the fourth and sounds reasonably normal. That makes me feel better.

    Dana, please come back to us and let us know you’re ok! We miss you. You have friends here.

    1. 24.1
      rq

      If she’s doing okay, then I’m willing to wait it out. :( Still sad, but a little less worried. Thanks for the info, Trebuchet.
      (Alternatively, I could open a twitter account…)

    2. 24.2
      Lithified Detritus

      Good to know – thanks for chasing that down. I guess she just needs some space for now. Since she seems to be OK, I’ll assume she will return when she is ready.

  25. 25
    Lithified Detritus

    For your edification while we await Dana’s return, here is a country song about geology. Other than a fleeting reference to god, it’s quite refreshing and entertaining.

    1. 25.1
      rq

      OOoh! While listening to that song, here are amazing photos of MSH post-eruption, and here are some previously unseen photos of the eruption. Obtained via Lockwood’s twitter account. ;) Jaw-dropping, but at least you don’t need a headline to tell you so.

      1. Lithified Detritus

        Wow! Amazing pictures, and an amazing story.

        1. rq

          And that country song was fantastic. :D I loved the intro, as well.

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