Depression isn’t the end of the world; it just feels like it might be.Depression creeps into your head, stands in front of your goals with a butcher knife and starts cutting away your confidence. Accomplishments and achievements are wiped away. You know what’s happening … you know it’s the depression (and sometimes, it’s partner anxiety comes along for the ride) but you can’t stop it. How do you fight something that is a part of you? How do you accept yourself, love yourself, and hate yourself all at once?
Depression Versus Creativity
It’s said that some of the world’s greatest art has been created by those who have been classically identified as being “mad”. There’s even been whispers that some of the greatest literary works in the world were birthed through the self-medicated haze of authors who suffered from a variety of things, including depression. Papa Hemingway, for example, gave us “A Farewell To Arms” while completely blotto and Steven King was coked out of his mind for a good part of the 80s. A look at Vincent van Gogh shows a man so haunted by his demons that he is considered to be “where discourses on madness and creativity converge.” So we have some proof that self-medicating works to stimulate our creativity; but my liver can’t keep up with Papa, my polycystic kidneys probably can’t hang with King and every time I see Vincent van Gogh, I think of the episode of Doctor Who and I start sobbing uncontrol … fuck.
(Twenty Minutes Later)
Okay. I’m alright. You’re alright. Where were we? Ah yes, self-medicating.
When Self-Medicating Goes Wrong
When you suffer from depression (and anxiety! Don’t forget about that little motherfucker), you get put onto what I call the “Medication Merry Go Round”. Because the brain is a funky place (some funkier than others), there is no “one size fits all” for treatment. Some people do well with talk therapy and can come off their medication once their situation stabilizes. Some people start on one medication and it works right away. Others, like myself, apparently live to help keep Big Pharma in business because … yeah. So here’s the thing. I’ve been self-medicating for YEARS … I’ve been doing it so long, it’s my normal. I bury everything under this glossy facade and discourage anyone from getting too close to see the cracks by working. ALL.THE.TIME. Work is my coping mechanism. I self-medicate my depression by throwing myself into my work. At work, I can be anyone (or in this case, I can be a 6’1″ brunette with a killer body, a British accent, and a penchant for making men cry) and no one can see beyond that. Or when I’m writing, I could get lost in my characters because I could hear them (no I’m not fucking schizophrenic) talking through to what the next adventure was going to be. I didn’t have to be me … I could let go and relax into the comfort of someone else’s head. And I gotta tell you, as a coping mechanism for depression, it kinda sucks. Because right along with your ability to melt into that other person comes your good pal depression and his friend anxiety; whispering in your ear about how you suck and it’s going to fail and you’re never going to do anything so you may as well give up.
Depression and Anxiety Are Dating
**SPOILERS** I’m gonna talk about my experiences with depression medication here. My experiences are just that … Mine. Your mileage with medication may vary. Do you.
In late February 2016, I called my primary care doctor because I was having trouble sleeping. This isn’t new … night terrors, trauma, and a natural inclination towards insomnia have been my constant companions. I was taking 10mg of Ambien but it wasn’t doing the trick. So I took a page from Papa Hemingway and started drinking a vodka tonic WITH the ambien (and two Benadryl) so I could get at least five hours of sleep. My doctor suggested something called Trazadone. I forget the dosage she had me starting off with … might’ve been 50mg but I honestly don’t remember. It did the trick for about three weeks and then …
When my panic disorder manifested itself (3 April 2016 approximately four minutes after The Walking Dead season 6 finale), I thought I was going to die. I’m forty-two years old and I’ve never had a panic attack in my life; but I have had a heart attack. They felt different because I never felt my heart attack but I knew something was wrong. I went to my primary care doctor, who sent me to my cardiologist, and ultimately thought perhaps this was a one-off. Too much excitement from The Walking Dead apparently. But they kept happening .. and they were increasing in frequency, duration, and strangely, their affect on me. There was no rhyme or reason. They just came out of nowhere. I’d be sitting in the chair and all of a sudden, I’d be sobbing uncontrollably and shaking because I couldn’t catch my breath because my heart rate (normally in the low 50s) would be hovering around 118 or so. And it would last anywhere from five minutes to two hours.
I spoke to my doctor and, since the only change was the Trazadone, I discontinued that and she suggested Wellbutrin. Unknowingly, I said I’d give it a whirl. At this point, we’d identified that I might be having some depression and Wellbutrin is great for depression. Do you know what Wellbutrin is not so good for? Anxiety. My panic attacks for the fourteen days I was on Wellbutrin were almost constant. I’d wake up shaking because the house was too loud (yes, the house. Not it’s occupants … the house), or the lights were too bright, or sometimes just my eyes would open and I’d already be crying (did I mention trazadone, in addition to kicking my panic off, also gave me sleep paralysis? Yeah … good times). My income tanked, my job was driving me insane and I just needed HELP.
I went to see a psychiatrist and a therapist. I know I have issues, all right? The therapist was very nice as I went through all my baggage and bullshit, writing her notes and hmm-ing where appropriate. Ninety minutes of talking about my life, my abuse, my history … and in the end, she pushed my psychiatrist appointment up so I could see him sooner. She’d tentatively put out that I may suffer from PTSD, Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Moderate to Severe Depression.
PTSD … okay, I can see that one. I know where I’ve been. The rest? How can I be depressed? I work all the ti … oh. Yea. Coping mechanism. Okay, so maybe all those things. A week later, I’m walking out of the shrinks office with a prescription for Zoloft, Clonazepam, and something called Doxazocin (for night terrors). Great … now I’m a walking fucking psych ward, right? So that works for a couple of months but it really only gives me flashes of relief. I’m still anxious, antsy, and having meltdowns in public (I can never return to the Publix in Sebastian, Florida. My meltdown wasn’t pretty). So when I see the doctor again in August, he suggests a “mood stabilizer”. Welcome to the party, Gabapentin. WHEE!
That shit FUCKED me up. I was supposed to take it three times a day and for about the first ninety minutes after taking it, I felt like I was drunk … like fall down, the floor will catch me, drunk. Unable to work, drunk. So I made the decision to cut back to just two a day instead of three. One when I go to bed, and one overnight. And holy shit it WORKED!
In November of 2016, I entered NaNoWriMo for the first time. My goal was fifty-thousand words by the end of the year. My panic attacks were fewer and their intensity diminished. Great! Bitch, I wrote almost NINETY-THOUSAND WORDS! In NINETEEN DAYS. Yeah, let that sink in. My book, To Touch Magic, was written in 19 days with the help of Gabapentin, Zoloft, Clonazepam, and let’s not forget the pain meds for my kidneys! Dude, I was so fucked up. But I got my book written and edited and published. Holyshit I’m a PUBLISHED AUTHOR!!!
In January 2017, we moved from Sebastian to Ocala. I started with a new shrink. First thing he did was take me off the Gabapention, the Ambien, and the Clonazepam. I was weaned off over a seven-day cycle. He increased my Zoloft to compensate for the other meds being gone. And my Albert … the jerkface muse … has refused to talk to me since. Oh I get a peep out of him once in a while but I’m not writing like I did. It’s harder for me to get the words out and even with my inspiration for my character LITERALLY a click away (It’s @theHughHunter … and that link is VERY NSFW) it’s hard for me to put the story on the page. I can see it but … it doesn’t come out.
Addiction versus Self-Medicating
I don’t say this often. You’ll be hard pressed to find where I ever say this again. I’m an addict. Through my own creation and my disease, I’m addicted to opiods. I think that was part of my coping mechanism and it happens to a LOT of us. Whether because insurance is so expensive or treatment is too expensive or whatever … booze and pain killers are a great substitute for actual feelings. Until your body remind you that you aren’t twenty years old anymore and it can’t take that kind of abuse.
I last took an opiate on July 9, 2017 so as of today, I am just barely eleven days sober. But I’m still drinking wine every day just to get to sleep. I started with one glass … I’m up to three. I’m going to ask my psychiatrist for something … anything … I think I might have to go back on a mood stabilizer of some variety. I’m back on the Medication Merry-Go-Round.
This was exhausting … but strangely cathartic. I’m not going to re-read it because I’ll only edit the fuck out of it and then delete it.
If you have a spare, I could use a hug. Or a spoon. Or recommendations for a good white wine.
D. Jordan Padrona
I’m powered by coffee, wine, and sarcasm
I write fantastically filthy pornography (original and fanfiction)
Sometimes I record it (audio producer)