Monday, October 12, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving is a day that forces you to face your depression head on. It is a day (or weekend) when we are supposed to take a step back and reflect on the blessings in our lives. When you are depressed you tend not to recognize the blessing in your life or may even see them as burdens.
For me a big part of my own self care is to try to find time to "give thanks" everyday. To recognize the positive things in my life. This is a lot harder then it sounds.
Part of my prayer life for years has been to thank god for the blessings in my life- I try my best to do this before any request, supplication or meditation.  I mean its just good manners to thank the creator for its goodness before asking for something right?
What I am realizing though is that most of the time I don't think I really deserve the blessings that I have received and that is the tricky part of thanksgiving for me. Often if find myself feeling guilty for the blessings in my life - that I don't deserve them. Or worse still I get caught in the spiral of "if I have all these wonderful things in my life why do I feel so empty? Why can't I enjoy them? What's wrong with me?
Those are the thoughts that I have to identify and eradicate- and I know it's not going to be easy. I have to convince myself that  my depression is an illness- not a sign that I am ungrateful- not another character flaw.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


I have been on a series of SSRIs over the past 7 years. It started with a 3 week stint on "Paxil" causing shakes, twitches, and paranoia. That was followed by a year on Celexa with very good outcomes and little side-effects until the depression came back. This lead to the past 5 1/2 years on Effexor. Now let me clarify, this 5 1/2 years consisted of my dose being increased every 6 -12 months so that as of about 6 months ago I was taking 300mg a day with little to no actual control of the depression and anxiety but a whole host of side effects the worst being the perpetual sweats.
So now in addition to CBT I find myself once again changing medications. This time its a slow process as Effexor has terrible withdrawal  side effects including Vertigo and vomiting. So I am weaning myself of the effexor slowly cutting the dose in half every 6 weeks and slowly increasing the dose of my new drug, Cipralex. Of course anytime a drug regime changes there is time spent reading about the effects and side effects indications and contra- indications etc. It was during this reading that a little blub caught my attention. The drug manufacturer included this note for the patients information "continue to take ***** for as long as your doctor recommends it. In some cases ****** is taken for an extended some cases for several months.

Months is considered an extended period? I have been taking this family of drugs for the better part of a decade! I am not suggesting that I want to discontinue  my medication, because without the stabilizing effect of the SSRIs  I would not be able to function day to day and in all honestly would likely be dead by now. But what effects are these drugs, whose makers indicate that an extended treatment period is months, having long term on a person who has been taking them for years? Will there be a day when I can live without them? I mean really live a meaningful existence?
That's what I'm pondering today.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Cognative Behavioural Therapy Journey

I am in therapy. I know that this is common for many of you in urban centers but in the blue collar town where I live, laden with senior citizens and conservative views this is not something you talk about in public. The thing is that I have had to take time off from my work as a school chaplain, and so it feels like everyone I know is aware that I am mentally ill. I am so embarrassed and ashamed just typing it. I have Depression and Anxiety Disorder as a result of Post-Traumatic stress. So says my therapist and psychiatrist. But in my mind I still believe that I am just to weak to handle the things that life throws at me and that is why I am trying C.B.T. It is supposed to help me change how I think... about the world, about myself, about how others see me. I am just at the beginning of this journey now(about a month in) and I am still pretty scared that I may never get better. But I am determined that I will not allow it to get any worse and so I keep putting one foot in front of the other, keeping a journal, using affirmations, taking my medications, exercising and trying to enjoy life in the moment. This is where I hope to chronicle the successes and the setbacks and maybe find some peace.