BLAME IT ON DRUGS

It’s been a hard, hard month. And this is a hard post to write. I’m not sure where it fits with my professional posts on my life as an artist.

But how I deal with depression has been a topic in the past, and perhaps it’s not so out of place this time, either.

Simply put, the long winter, my laundry list of surgeries and injuries, and my inability to work in my studio caught up with me awhile ago.

In hindsight, it was not a surprise. A good friend, an artist as well as a therapist, pointed out afterward that all my usual coping mechanisms were unavailable to me this year. I slipped from my usual mild depression into a deep depressive state.

It was bad. But what was worse was when I went on medication for it. The side effects from Wellbutrin nearly killed me (figuratively.) I fell lower than I’ve been in decades.

I experienced massive anxiety and agitation. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t concentrate. I felt like I wanted to jump out of my skin. And I cried a lot.

Worst of all, even though I was now able to return to my artwork, I had absolutely no desire to.

I was devastated.

I didn’t realize it was the medication til I followed up with my doctor a month later. By then I was so low, I thought I would never come back up.  I went off the meds immediately, and soon felt merely depressed instead of suicidal.

But tiny little miracles have shown me there is a way back.

I look back now and see the chance encounters, the simple words of near strangers, that gave me a light to see the path at my feet.

I realize once again that though many friends cannot, should not or will not be present for someone in this state, there are some who can–and will. (To be fair, I spared many people the fact I was even going through this.)

I can now accept that chronic pain may be my constant companion, but that regular exercise can help–a little. And as my mood improves, I can bear it.

I realize how blessed I am to have found the martial arts teacher I have. When I am ready to start that journey again, I will have safe passage there.

I am blessed many times over in my loving husband.

When I called a friend who beat cancer last year and found out he’d had the same reaction after he’d gotten through it, I realized my feelings may be normal. When you get through something awful, you expect to feel better and different when you reach the other side. But sometimes you feel let down because you simply don’t. Looking back, I think it’s because it actually takes much, much longer to recover emotionally than we think.

I have a great referral to some docs who will help me sort out what my best choices are. I hate depression medication and their side effects, but I need help figuring out whether that is my best option or not, from someone with more oversight and “industry perspective” than me.  (One said dryly, “Please do not take more Wellbutrin til we can talk, yes?”)

And somehow, knowing all this has actually helped me feel better.

I even worked a little on my new ideas for polymer the last few days, though the results were embarrassingly dismal and uninteresting. But I can remember failing before I found my way to good designs, and the process doesn’t seem as awful as I thought it would be.

There you have it. That’s where I’ve been for the last month. Down, down, down in the dumps.

But suddenly, it doesn’t look so far to the top of the hole anymore.

p.s. Now for the funny part.

The Wellbutrin also raised my blood pressure 30 points, and I lost my appetite.

And even in the depths of my depression, when I weighed myself and found I’d lost five pounds without even thinking about it, I thought, “Well, maybe I could stay on it a little bit longer….”

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21 Comments

Filed under action steps, art, depression, life, mental attitude

21 responses to “BLAME IT ON DRUGS

  1. Consider this comment a hug, and I am holding you in my thoughts and prayers.
    Kathy Regier

  2. I’m so sorry to hear about this. I’m glad you figured out the cause though. I know that I found that meditation has really helped my depression. It’s free, low-impact, and you can do it anywhere (with practice). I know that I have noticed the difference since I haven’t been as regular with my practice. This is just a thought to try and help you out.

  3. Please be patient with yourself…finding the “right” antidepressant is such an individual challenge that I liken it to a science experiment, with you as the rat…the good news is you can talk to the experimenter and stop taking the pills when they react badly to your particular chemistry.

  4. Hi Luann,

    I’m so sorry to hear you’re suffering with the “black dog”. I know how lonely it feels.

    I suspect I’ve always been mildly depressive, but going through my divorce a couple years ago threw me into a very deep depression. Like you, I found the side effects of the meds to be even worse than the depression. But then I needed to wean off them slowly to avoid some potentially very nasty withdrawal symptoms. Ugh.

    Like you said, it takes much longer to recover emotionally than we expect, and longer than anyone we know expects too. I’m much happier now than I was during that dark time, but there will always be scars.

    I don’t have any great wisdom to impart (except be VERY careful what meds you go on!). I just wanted to reach out and let you know that the path you travel is not as empty as it appears.

    Barbara

  5. Dot McQuade

    As a friend of mine said, “Take one day at a time and BREATHE”…

    dot

  6. Oh, Luann! My heart reaches back to you, who were able to support me in my recent bout with loss and grief…

    Thanks for giving me a ray of warm friendship, even when you needed one especially yourself…

    Hopefully this note can reflect some warmth and support back your way… (we can just toss it back and forth!)

    xoxo

  7. I am so sorry to hear that you have been suffering. I don’t even know you but I check your blog almost daily and have been worried about your disappearance. My son has had his share of depressive episodes, last year was the worst. But we got him in a good hospital (behavioral health clinic, whatever) and he has had lots of success with his medication. I hope you keep improving and are able to create soon, as that soothes the soul. I will pray for you.

  8. pat

    I had to laugh out loud at that last sentence! You’re an excellent writer, Luann. I hope your blog will be a tool you can use in your recovery. And I hope you accept virtual hugs from strangers, ’cause there’s one aimed right at you.

  9. Paula

    You have been such a great source of inspiration for me, I hope another hug will help you :)

  10. marj kammueller

    My husband had esophageal cancer 4 1/2 years ago. It is
    difficult – the majority of people die within the first
    two years of recurrences. He is still here and finally
    this past year, feeling really really good again. Its
    been a very long haul. He has been on an anti-depressant for the last year and should have been on one sooner, but is of the mindset, that he can tough it out. Our daughter works in bahavioral health – there
    are lots of different anti-depressants to try. Actually, we tried two different ones before he found the one that worked for him.

    Unfortunately, it takes time for them to “kick in” so
    trial time can be a pain as it does consume so much time before you know if it is the right one or not.

    Keep on — you are a fabulous writer and however you find the solution — we are all rooting for you.

    It can be depressing to be the one standing by, too,
    because you feel quite helpless. We all want to “fix
    things” for the people we care about…. and sometimes
    I think that is why people stay away when others are
    sick…. it doesn’t help the patient or the caregivers, but sometimes that is how others cope….. avoidance works….. Sad, but true. You do find out who your friends are fairly fast. Going through these experiences yourself helps you to become a more compassionate friend to others when they really do
    need you.

    I love your work — you truly are an inspiration and I
    can’t wait for your book.

  11. It’s amazing how differently people react to different drugs, isn’t it? Wellbutrin is supposedly one of most mild ones — it’s also sold as the stop smoking drug Zyban.

    I did wonder where you’d been.

    I hope you’ve got a good doc now. And what? Good luck? That sounds wrong. I think this is one of those things where some people don’t say anything because they’re afraid of saying something wrong.

    So I’ll say I’m not sure what to say. But I want to be supportive, without being obnoxiously full of solutions.

    I like the book Dark Night of the Soul. I think of that as a grief book, not sure it applies here.

    Elaine

  12. alison

    Luann,

    Sorry to hear you are hurting, (was worried about the lack of “blog”) Have you tried St. Johns Wart? (less side effects and has worked for some…)

    ~alison

  13. You are all very, very kind and I truly appreciate all your supportive comments.

    I knew when I posted it would be a hard entry to write, and I didn’t mean for it to put readers in a hard place. I know that it’s only something I can work on, my thing to work through.

    But I just didn’t want to leave a big hole in my blog, either. Or let you think I always have everything figured out! :^)

    I have leads on two great therapists, I’m feeling better & have been outside in the sunshine, working out, yoga-cizing like crazy.

    And the biggest incentive yet? I have visitors coming this weekend, so I HAVE to clean my house. And at least clear a path through my studio….

    Thank you, all of you, for your good wishes!

  14. Deborah Hill

    Dear Luann,

    First another great big virtual hug.

    I was worried also after not seeing any posts. So happy to hear that you are getting through the dark forest.

    I suffered from anxiety attacks for the first time a few years ago when I moved to Switzerland. The doc gave me drugs and sent me on my way. I felt better but then the amzaing 40lb weight gain threw me for a loop. I also felt that since I had not really delt with the root problem that the meds were like a giant bandaid. I was just coasting along. I am off the meds and have a fantastic therapist. The work we are doing is called Cognative Behavoral Thereapy or CBT. Its been all over the internet and news. It also works while one is on meds to get over the hard part. The great part is that it can be used for depression and anxiety. Its been great.

    Also working with a book called Mind over Mood.

    Take care and be kind to yourself
    warm regards
    Deborah

  15. I do hope you find a solution. I’ve had a lifetime of depression, and more than a decade trying different medications, dose levels, and combinations before finding one that doesn’t turn me into a zombie emotionally and creatively. Just remember that you CAN feel better, and keep trying to find what works, pharmaceutically or otherwise. Also remember that whatever you do, it might take a couple of months before you realize it’s working, so don’t give up!

  16. Sending a virtual hug your way….

  17. Luann, I wondered where you were, hadn’t seen you post in ACF in awhile and just bounced over to your blog. Seems to have been a winter/early spring for the blues and blahs. Although not to the level of your own I too have been feeling low this year. I’m sending you lots of warm fuzzys that you might feel more yourself and find that special magical spot in your studio so that you might find your creative spirit again.

    When my dad died in 1999 my hubby and I were faced with 2.5 years of utter chaos dealing with his death and the settlement of his estate Thank goodness for my wonderful hubby I never would have made it through without him. He came up with a mantra that got us through all of those awful days and nights: positive forward momentum. I’ve found that this same mantra gets me through the tough times now too. If I just keep moving forward, one baby step at a time and I don’t let myself stand still and stagnate the end of the tunnel gets closer with each little step and slowly I pick up momentum and begin to feel like I’m back up to speed. If I stop for too long I suddenly become one with the couch and nothing good comes of that, unless of course it’s a well needed nap. Allow yourself to go in your studio and play, don’t make plans to make anything in particular just start messing around with odds and ends, give yourself permission to fail and make mistakes. The more you keep messing around the sooner you will begin to find your “groove” again. Little by little, just keep saying, positive forward momentum, it’s kind of like a chant. Like “ohm” or like the cows say in the CA cheese commercial “moo” but this one makes more sense.

    Hugs!

    Jen

  18. Nancy

    I’ve been thinking about ya, Sistah, and wondering how you’re doing. I appreciate your honesty and bravery posting your experiences here.

    Glad you’re “on the way back.”

    N

  19. Whew that Wellbutrin made me sick and crying all the time! I am liking Lexapro now,it helped me and my sister.

  20. Refreshingly, painful honest account of how our emotions can send us spiraling downward. I too battle depression and have for many years. Sometimes I think it’s the curse of being a creative individual since it strikes so many artists.
    Found your Blog through Bonnie B and am linking yours to mine.

    Welcome back!

    Patricia

  21. Yours truly is happy to hear that you are feeling better.

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