I woke up tired and cranky this morning. It wasn’t until I was halfway through my first cup of coffee that I started to feel awake and upbeat. This is a pretty typical morning for me. The thing is, I didn’t acquire a taste for coffee until after college, and this morning I found myself wondering how I made it through college without drinking coffee.
And then I thought, “I’m amazed I made it through college at all. How did I do that?” (more…)
Just like I did last year, I’m going to take a few moments to look back at how this year went, how I’m doing right now, and how I’m going forward.
RUN DIAGNOSTIC (more…)
Today is World Mental Health Day. Since this blog is all about my journey and adventures in dealing with my mental health, I thought I’d write a short post to say:
Hi! My name is Josh. I’ve lived with mental illness since at least high school. I experienced my first panic attack (which I didn’t recognize as such at the time) when I was a senior in high school, but looking back, I was probably dealing with depression and anxiety for longer. But I wasn’t formally diagnosed until much later, in my 30s. I was first diagnosed with generalized anxiety and depression and started on an anti-depressant. A few years later, I realized I needed someone to talk to and help me deal with my wonky brain. After seeing a couple of therapists who weren’t a good fit for me, I found a brilliant therapist, got diagnosed with cyclothymia, and was started on a mood stabilizer. I recently went off my anti-depressant, but have continued with my mood stabilizer, as well as an anti-anxiety med. I stopped seeing my therapist last year after we both decided I’d gotten from her what I wanted and needed. She gave me a hug and we’ve kept in touch since. I still use what she taught me, along with various things I’ve picked up from manuals, self help books, and friends.
What I really want to say is this: if you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s okay, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and you’re not alone. If you need medication to help keep your brain chemistry from being a mean motherfucker, it’s not weak to admit that and it’s not weak to take them. It’s no different from a diabetic needing insulin or someone with high cholesterol needing to take a statin (this is also me). If you need to talk to someone who won’t judge you for your brain chemistry and the assorted psychological issues that we develop from trying to live with wonky brain chemistry, someone who will help you develop tools and techniques for living, it’s not weak to admit that and it’s not weak to see a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or other qualified counselor. Mental illness will often lie to you, telling you that you’re alone, that no one wants to help you, that you’re beyond help. These are lies. You are valued, useful, and deserving of love and care. There may even be aspects of your mental illness that are strengths, features not bugs. I’ve come to see aspects of my mental weirdness as superpowers, not weaknesses. Being different doesn’t have to mean being broken.
If you need help, get help. If you need a friend, I’m here for you. None of us can get through this life alone.
I recently went off one of my meds. I mean, I didn’t just stop taking it cold turkey, flushing the leftover pills down the toilet. I’m not that crazy and reckless. But after being on a mood stabilizer (Lamictal) for almost three years and dealing with anxiety and hypomanic episodes far more than depressive episodes, I decided I wanted to wean myself off of my antidepressant (Celexa), which I’d been on for almost eight years. My doctor and my therapist both agreed that this made sense, so over a course of three months, I slowly reduced my dosage and have been completely off of it for a couple of weeks now. While I was tapering off of it, I didn’t notice any adverse side effects (and I noticed one good side effect, an increase in libido, which the Celexa had been messing with since I started taking it), and now that I’m 100% off of it, I feel as good as I did when I was on it. Maybe even a little better, which I assume is because the mood stabilizer regulates the cyclothymic swing between depression and hypomania better without the added antidepressant in the stew.
Well, except for one thing. I don’t know if this is a side effect of going off the Celexa, I haven’t found anything online that mentions this, but…everything, and I mean everything, brings tears to my eyes. I watch the season finale of The Flash, I bawl. I watch the season finale of Arrow, I get all choked up. I watch the season finale of The Flash again and I get blubbery A-GAIN. Movies, commercials, the teary confession of a teen contestant on So You Think You Can Dance, my daughter ending her first year in college with an A average, it all makes me cry. Not sad crying, just “Oh my god, this is so moving!” crying. I’ve always been easily moved to tears, but this is pretty extreme even for me.
Maybe it’s not fallout from the Celexa. Maybe my emotions are just riding high these days. I think the obvious answer is: going off the Celexa is making my emotions run higher than they have in quite a while. As side effects go, it could certainly be a lot worse. I’d rather cry a lot over things that move me than experience “the zaps” that I’ve read about–or have a surge of depression come at me. I’m definitely not complaining.
But if you see me, maybe offer me a tissue before you tell me about your beloved pet dying or about the wonderful thing your partner did for you recently or before you show me a particularly pretty flower. I’ll probably need it.