As you can probably tell from the frequency of blog posts this week, things are starting to improve for me. I’m on the final week of switching back from Venlafaxine to Mirtazapine. Then in 3 weeks time, when the changeover is complete, and my brain chemistry has had a breathing space of sorts, I go to see a consultant to discuss long-term medication plans. I don’t think I will come back off the Mirtazapine, it really helps me sleep, and doesn’t give me side effects, and it certainly has helped to some extent over the last few years. But we may look into augmenting it with another antidepressant, because on its own, it isn’t enough to completely knock the depression on its head. I’ve put up with this, and with the once or twice a year depressive episodes, because I thought that was as much as I could expect. But no, I’m informed, the right medication regime (especially when paired with the right therapy) should effect a complete remission, for a minimum period of 12 months. Thankfully Mirtazapine is the polar opposite of Venlafaxine (funny, that, when they are in a small category of drugs that are classed as SNRIs) and plays happily with anything and anyone. Venlafaxine is more of a stroppy, elitist type, that refuses to play along with anyone.
I am not a fan. If you have been, or are on, Venlafaxine, and find it effective for you, that’s great!!! Please don’t be frightened by my words, or upset. There is no question that everybody reacts differently to medication, and especially medication that affects brain chemistry. And there is no way to predict the effect without trial and error. A phrase which nicely sums up my experiences on this drug. It was a trial, and it was an error. It made me sicker than I could have dreamed possible. If I’d had any idea of the effect it would have on me, I would have run screaming. It’s not making it easy for me to come off it either. Discontinuation is harsh, they say the worst of its type. I feel like I have a good dose of ‘flu. But hey, I’m sleeping better, my mind feels like it’s my own again, and my mood is improving. What are bone aches and the chills and vertigo in comparison?!!
Over the years depression and anxiety have been my regular bedfellows. As one doctor said to me, it’s a question of managing it, not curing it. I found a marvelous book recently about clinical depression, The Depression Answer Book. If you have had, or do have depression, have a friend or relative with it, or want to know more about this illness (and everyone should know more about it) then I would urge you to get this book. One of the comments made in it really opened my eyes: every time you have a depressive episode, it destroys brain cells, leaving you more vulnerable to future episodes. So with each successive episode, the chances of a recurrent one increase, and the intensity of each episode increases too.
This might not sound like good news to me, but I welcomed it gladly. It explained why over the years, instead of getting better, I have got worse. I can stop blaming myself for that now, and accept that relapses are inevitable and involuntary, and concentrate my energies on making them as few and far between as I can, and as little damaging as possible. Settling on the right medication plan for me will go a long way towards achieving that end.
For now, I’m definitely swimming back up to the surface. The going is slow, I was a long, long way down, and I’m very tired, physically, mentally, emotionally. There are necessary halts and delays, and times when the surface feels so far away that it is unattainable. But there are also times when I can see the sunlight glinting on the surface, and shafts of light reaching down to me, calling me onwards. That is enough, for now.
I am sad that I’ve lost a large chunk out of my life this year. I really remember very little about the last 5 months, they have gone by in a dark blur. I was startled to find that it is May already. Summer is almost here! Where did Spring go?! Never before have I been ill for this long, or been so out of touch with my world. Life before this seems to have belonged to some one else, and at this moment, I can’t see much in common with the now me and the then me. I don’t know if that will change. I don’t know what the future holds. I’m letting go of that, and just concentrating on making the most of now.
That’s one of the best things that this last few months have brought me: the ability to LET GO. Nothing else, so far in my life, has managed to teach me that all-important lesson. I am, after all, a complete control freak. When things get difficult, I tighten my grip. Like when you are first learning to spin, and you are so determined and so enthusiastic and so nervous, and your instinct is to hold on to that mass of fibre as tight as you can, and all that it results in is a sweaty, knotted mat of unspinnable fibre. Then you learn to relax, to let go, to allow the fibre to sit soft and gentle in your hand, and like magic, it starts to spin itself into yarn.
I think this is one of the keys to happiness in life, learning to let go. Realising that your world will not fall apart if you do. Learning that you can still achieve what you need and want to, without straining every nerve and muscle in the process. Learning that you can probably achieve more by fighting less. Finding out that there are people around you who will catch you if you need to fall. Who will fight for you when you can’t fight for yourself. Realising what really matters in life, and what does not. Letting go of expectations, both your own and other people’s, letting go of rules and prejudices and pettiness and anger.
Letting go of everything, except love, and life. That’s where contentment lies. And that’s a lesson well worth learning, at any price.