Returning to the doctor’s office for a 30 day follow-up consultation.

The first 30 days of taking medication for my depression has certainly had its ups & downs, but I can definitely say that I’m happy to be this far into the recovery process and I’m glad it isn’t the 18th of June anymore. A lot has changed and there are many things to be thankful for since that fateful weekend where I realised everything needed to change.

Tomorrow I’m going back to my GP for a one month check-up, to discuss the medication and to see if any adjustments need to be made. I’m also going to be picking up a new script, as I completed the first one, and I’m proud of myself because I didn’t miss any doses this month.

A couple of things I’d like to bring up with her:

  • My appetite is still greatly reduced, even after four weeks of taking the medication. I’m barely eating 1000 calories a day, which is resulting in rapid weight loss, which I know isn’t uncommon. Perhaps she will have some tips to help increase my appetite. I have noticed that my appetite comes and goes and can change pretty quickly.
  • The anxiety medication, in combination with the anti-depressant, has been rather debilitating at times. You really feel like you’re in a haze when you take it. I’ve greatly reduced when I take the anxiety medication, and have felt I can cope better at work and in general by not combining the two, unless I absolutely have to. Thankfully the anxiety medication is not meant to be taken each day, only when necessary, so I’m trying not to make it a crutch. There is no point in “self medicating” with an anxiety tablet, similarly to how I would have done with sugar or alcohol in the past. Solve the problem, don’t change the means to an end only.
  • I’d like to discuss if she believes the medication has kicked in yet. I’m told it takes between 4 and 6 weeks and while I do feel better, I’ve also made some drastic lifestyle changes, like only eating takeaways once in the last month, and cutting alcohol out of my diet. Do I feel visibly better? I definitely feel better than a month ago. Am I able to cope a little better? Definitely. Is it a drastic change that would have happened without the medication? Doubtful, but I’m not feeling amazingly better, just incrementally so. Perhaps that’s how it works, I don’t know.

I’m definitely more relaxed about the appointment than I was going for the first time, and a part of me can’t believe that it’s already been a month since my breakdown. Things can only look up from here, and I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in a short space of time. I am still committed to seeing the medication through for at least six months and would be interested to hear if she feels I should be changing medication or not. I don’t think the dosage is incorrect, but perhaps I’m not on the right kind of medication and she has something that will help to increase my appetite. I have to be honest, that I’m not too keen to experiment that much and may ask to just carry on with the current meds for at least one more month, before looking at adjustments. I’m making strides in the right direction. Let’s see how it goes!

Conrad was here.

 

Recommitting to my mental health and pondering the future 28 days into my depression treatment.

The doctor did say that I would be tempted to go off the meds after a month. She said everyone goes through this, as they assume that feeling better means they can kick the medication and cope on their own. I’ve learned that overcoming depression is not something that happens overnight and I’m not really up to taking that chance at this stage.

Things have changed quite a bit in the four weeks since I saw my GP and received the depression diagnosis. I can certainly say that I’m starting to feel better and looking at the future with optimism once again, but it certainly hasn’t been solely because of the medication. I can now understand more than ever that your medication is meant to be one of the tools that assists you in recovery, and helps to make the process more manageable in general if you are on the correct dosage and able to continue with day to day functions. It gives you the extra push to keep going and to start setting new goals, however small they may be. This morning I celebrated four weeks of treatment with a walk on the beach, which I have to be honest, was absolutely exhausting, but I’m glad I did it, and glad I took the time to do something for myself. A month ago this wasn’t even an option as it felt like I was paralysed or glued to the bed, with no real hope or enthusiasm about anything, so it’s a welcome change and I am starting to look at my mental health getting better in increments, slowly but surely and with each passing good decision.

I’ve got at least five more months of taking the anti-depressants, which is something I have told myself is non-negotiable, regardless of the improvements in my mood. I made a commitment to my own mental health recovery when I told the doctor I would stick it out for at least six months, and I owe myself that. I’m taking a second today to recommit to that for my own future and general wellbeing. I’m continuing with weekly therapy until at least October, having monthly coaching sessions lined up too, and will soon start to actively look for more ways to keep having conversations with people about depression and anxiety. While the support group I went to initially didn’t quite pan out, I’d like to get to a point where I’m actively looking for a new group to go to, especially for the second half of the six months and for when my free therapy sessions run out. Looking ahead, I’d like to slowly start working in more activity into my week – as exhausting as the walk was this morning, I know that the endorphins from the activity are really good for my mental health and I haven’t had that release from activity in quite a while now. We’re not talking about running a marathon here, we’re just talking about working in two activities a week and taking things from there.

I’d like to continue having conversations with people about depression, anxiety and their mental health and wellbeing, not only to learn more for my own recovery, but to hopefully help others seek treatment if they are at the same state I was in last month. There are so many of us struggling with the same thing, but not open to speaking about it we fear we will be ostracised for it. It’s time to be brave and to prioritise our mental health. Own the disease, own that it is something you have to learn to live with. Talk to friends and family, I guarantee you it will bring you closer to at least one other person. I am reaping many new rewards just from talking to my family about it. I want to keep the conversation going and also continue to share my journey, with hopes that others will be able to draw parallels and actively start tackling those small increments I mentioned, just one day a day at a time.

 Conrad was here.

Summarising the changes in my life since starting with treatment for my depression 20 days ago.

I’m almost three weeks into starting treatment for my depression, which has included consulting with a GP, being put on an anti-depressant and anxiety medication, telling my colleagues, friends and family, as well as attending two therapy sessions and joining a local support group in my area. This morning I woke up feeling better than before, like a weight had been lifted in a way, and I wonder if it means the medication is starting to yield some positive effects at long last. I was told it would take four to six weeks, but everybody is different and I’d like to believe that the lifestyle changes I have made (in terms of eating healthily and cutting out alcohol completely) have also contributed to me feeling a lot better than I did a few weeks ago.

I wanted to utilise this positive momentum this morning, by reflecting on some of the changes in my life since I came to terms with my depression, got a formal diagnosis and started what I know will be a long road to recovery. There have been a few interesting changes in these last few weeks, which I’d like to summarise for you quickly.

  • The first major change has been a change in appetite and subsequent weight loss. The medication has really hit my system hard in a way, and the nausea doesn’t allow for you to be hungry too much, which means sometimes eating half a meal, or cooking something and putting it back in the fridge for the next day. I have been making an effort to include more fruit and vegetables in my diet and as I mentioned I’ve cut alcohol out of my diet completely for the six months that I have committed to the anti-depressants. What has resulted, is more than one person mentioning that I’ve lost some weight, which I double checked on the scale, and interestingly enough I am down about 3.5kg’s already. I have been a little bit overweight for a while as a result of self medication (unhealthy eating and binge drinking) and while I want to manage how quickly the weight is coming off, I also am happy that my body is returning back to a level where I am confident and will soon feel like my ‘old’ (renewed) self.
  • This week was my first week back at work, and there have been some real struggles with concentration and motivation to get to work tasks. I showed up for four out of five workdays this week, which is a victory in itself, and found that the medication not only makes it difficult to concentrate, but also causes blurry vision at times. This doesn’t help when your work requires you to stare at a computer screen most of the day. I tried to cut myself some slack and the focus was really just on getting through the first week. Next week, I will try and add more tasks to my to do list, and go from there. Thankfully my employer is happy for me to take it a day at a time.
  • One of the interesting changes that I had very little control over was a definite increase in support from colleagues, friends and family. After playing open cards about my diagnosis, my inner circle has really stepped it up, checking in and opening up to me about some of the struggles they have been going through too. For me, this has been major not only because it’s brought me closer to people I had isolated for so long, but because it also helps my recovery and to bring back that feeling that I can connect with people again. This has always been one of the core gifts of my personality and is something I am making an active effort to start nurturing again, even if that means a quick heart emoji to my best friend at the start of the day. Less can truly be more in certain situations.
  • I’ve started a new phase of exploring, rather than active decision making. This is in part due to advice from my therapist and working through some professional hurdles in my life, but it is worth mentioning nevertheless. I’m usually someone who makes decisions quite quickly, or is able to change course in life rather spontaneously and based on a hunch or an impulse. Usually it means I write a lot of notes and in essence make myself more anxious in the process. The beauty of the recovery journey with depression is that you can start exploring again. What do I like to do? Is this job offering me what I want? Am I someone who attracts selfish energy? Am I too harsh with my family? and other questions have started to come up, and it’s given me a chance to really “dream” a little about the things I like and dislike in my life. I don’t need to make any decisions about my career, or any big plans at this stage, I simply have to take time to explore and continue on what is a new chapter in my journey of self discovery.
  • The biggest change so far, has been truly starting to live life day-by-day. It’s an old cliche for a reason, because it’s true. I’ve mentioned previously that depression recovery does not happen in a straight line. While today might be a good day, tomorrow I could be stuck in bed again until noon. You learn to appreciate the small and simple tasks in your day, and to acknowledge when you’ve had a victory in your day. This morning, my plan was simply to go buy banana’s at the grocery store when I got up. I ended up buying a bunch of groceries, and in fact spending a little less than I anticipated, so I decided to treat myself to a cappuccino at the local coffee shop nearby. When I sat down, I felt an urge to call my mom, and we “had coffee” so to speak (the power of modern technology), reflecting a bit on the week and on the latest happenings at Wimbledon. On the way home, I decided to take a detour and go for a walk on the beach, something I have been avoiding for weeks and something I haven’t had the energy to do. When I got home, my landlady was reading the newspaper on the verandah and we had a nice fifteen minute chat. What started out as a morning of just buying banana’s, turned into one where I had so many great blessings and ultimately built up the strength to sit down and share this post. If you give over control and start to live in the moment, things slowly start to move in another direction. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but I will deal with it when I get there. For now, I am happy to have had a wonderful morning.

Conrad was here.

Ten days after my depression diagnosis, and I’m out of the house this morning.

It’s been ten days since my depression diagnosis and this morning I find myself outside of the house, at a coffee shop around the corner from where I live. This is good news, no wait, great news, as yesterday I struggled to get up from bed, and I barely managed to get myself to a grocery store by 5pm. My landlord knocked on my door to remind me that it was important for me to get out of the house and I had to remind her that while I appreciate the sentiment, there are going to be good and bad days with this thing nasty thing called depression.

Over the last few days, I’ve had two noticeable spells of my mood lifting somewhat – the first, while watching a movie two nights ago, where I found myself spontaneously laughing at one or two of the scenes. The second, was on a phone call with my best friend, who lives about a two hour flight away from me. I don’t even recall what we were laughing about, but we were both in fits for a few minutes, which was a good feeling. That’s one of the side-effects of the medication, not really being all too present (I can’t recall much of what I’ve been talking to people about over the last few days) and feeling like your mind is in a bit of a haze. I equate the feeling to the way Hogwarts looked at the start of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. You know, when Snape was headmaster. Misty, hazy, odd, but eerily calm in a way too.

So what was I expecting? These are anti-depressants after all. I didn’t have many expectations of what they would do to me, considering it’s my first time being on a medication like this, but I did expect to start feeling a little bit weird, which is exactly what has happened. Over the past few days, I’ve had to navigate between days where I’ve felt nauseous and unable to stomach much food, to days where my body seems to be more ravenous than usual. I’ve been meticulous about keeping a healthy diet, and not giving into the temptation to indulge in sugary, processed food, and subsequently sending me into a further spiral. I’m still adamant about giving my body the best possible chance to adapt to the meds and am also aware that a lot of rest is exactly what the doctor ordered.

As I’ve mentioned before, my doctor said it would take about two weeks for the medication to start doing its thing, so perhaps I simply am not feeling the effects yet. It’s really hard to tell if I’m feeling better because I’m getting my strength back and starting to tackle things, or if there is a physiological change. Both are probably closely interlinked. I’m told by friends who have gone through this, that one day I’ll just realise that I’m feeling better, it won’t arrive in a straight line, I won’t just wake up and be OK. So many people expect an anti-depressant to be a “fix” and it simply isn’t that. I watched a video on Youtube recently where someone referred to it as “one of the tools” you use to get your mental health back to a good place. I like the sound of that – it works in conjunction with other lifestyle changes. And I’m making a lot of those.

For now, as difficult as it is to sit in a crowded restaurant (the noise is still just as debilitating as when I went for breakfast with my friend last weekend), I’ve at least got my headphones in, I’m sipping on a delicious cup of cappuccino, I’ve showed up and gotten out of the house, out of my head, and crawled a few more baby steps in the right direction.

Conrad was here.