Mental Health Update

Well, it has been 1.5 months since I started on meds, so I figured it was time for an update!

First of all I’ve got to bring up the fact that I am super-phobic of medication, so the psychiatrist gave me the lowest dose possible as a starting point, to ensure that I would stick with them (I have tried meds in the past, but have been immediately scared off due to the overwhelming side-effects hitting me all at once!). So I was told not to expect a huge change at this dosage, or anything at all really, aside from the side-effects disappearing after the first week. Which they did! And the side-effects I did experience were manageable: I started off with a small boost in energy, followed by some tired headache-y days, then 24hrs of feeling dizzy and mildly nauseous. Nothing that ibuprofen, a cool glass of Coca Cola, and a nice cuppa tea couldn’t remedy! ;) All of which transformed into me just feeling actually kinda normal, much to my relief! It was then that I did indeed notice a difference in my mood and anxiety levels already!

After having a bit of meltdown 2hrs after taking my first SSRI pill, my friend Shannon called up and sweetly offered to take me out for a girls treat at the end of the week: my first mani/pedi! I was anxious about leaving Jake, mostly because he still hasn’t solidified his feeding times and I would hate for him to need me while I’m out and go hungry. :( I also have this irrational fear of something terrible happening to my children the moment I’m not around. But! Shannon was right. I needed a some girl time, and an hour or two out of the house for some chats while being pampered was the perfect escape!

It was at the mall, surrounded by all these people, that I noticed something was …missing. I wasn’t trembling! I didn’t feel anxious! I still had thoughts “I’m too quiet” “I need to be more chatty” “I need to initiate conversations too”, but they didn’t send my brain into overload like they usually do. For once I felt a strange calmness. It happened again at a family birthday party we went to. I suddenly realized that I wasn’t shaking from the inside out, but was still and calm. Amazing!

Over time I’ve had my dose increased to a “therapeutic” amount, with no ill side-effects, and it is still working wonders for me to this day! Mainly I notice an evenness in my moods, less extremes and irritability caused by being in a never-ending state of frayed-nerves anxiety. As a result, my children are happier- baby Jake is all smiles, and our sensitive two-year-old has been throwing fewer tantrums, and when he does, I have the internal resources to cope with a smile! (Which extinguishes them pretty quickly!) This alone alleviates a lot of my guilt about taking medication while nursing. (Though I still wouldn’t try anything that wasn’t approved/considered safe for breastfeeding.)

So, for regular, everyday panic and anxiety, I have noticed a huuuge difference. No more insides trembling, racing heart, shaking hands, and subconsciously holding my breath out of nerves. However, when I do have to face something outside of my comfort-zone, I will still experience some pretty severe panic attacks, exacerbated by guilt for getting this way in the first place. It’s a little unsettling, too, as it seems to take a lot longer for me to shake them. As in, several hours! Even if I take a nap I will wake up and it will just keep going! And now I get new symptoms, too: upset tummy, heart palpitations, restlessness, and trouble breathing. I can feel these random bursts of adrenaline surging through my system, even hours later. I will have to bring this up at my next appointment. But for the regular, everyday ups and downs of life here at home, I am no longer subjected to the uncontrollable bouts of anxiety, irritability, and depression I once was. And that in itself is life-changing.

Another medication I was prescribed was to help me sleep. I thought this woman must be crazy, because I could literally sleep all day as it was! But she explained that my anxious mind is affecting the quality of sleep I get at bedtime, so if I could calm down my brain for nighttime sleep, I would be better-rested and have more energy in the morning! I quickly discovered that I can only handle a small fraction of the dose of this SARI medication, too- which is just enough to allow me to sleep through the night, yet still wake up to nurse Jake (whom I have moved out of my bed into the bassinet beside me for safety), and also feel clear-headed when I wake in the morning (though it does take me a few minutes to shake the fog). Initially I wasn’t going to bother taking this med every day, and the psychiatrist said that was totally up to me. But as soon as I got a taste of real sleep – the kind where dreams happen, and you have actual energy during the day; no longer counting down ’til naptime from the moment your eyes open in the morning! – I didn’t see the point of skipping a dose unless I came home really late or something. (Because I need to be up and functional in the mornings.)

So to say I am happy that this psychiatrist referral worked out so well for me would be an incredible understatement. It has literally changed my life. Now I know what it feels like to be walking around without a cloud over your head. My baseline mood has always been a pretty low one (dysthymia), and the SSRI has helped to raise that baseline so I’m feeling lighter and even happy! My sense of humour is back, I’m smiling more (which is starting to rub off on my husband too!), and I’m starting to relax more around people, even doing things that would freak me out too much before (like stopping to briefly ask a random stranger for directions)! For once, I’ve gotta say, I’m starting to feel optimistic about my life! It can get better. :)

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