Living versus Existing -being on psychotropic medications long term

Since I was a young child, I had always suffered from depression. At the time, it was likely situational. I’ll spare the details, but there was a lot of alcohol involved, a lot of violence and a lot of terrorizing pretty much everyone in the household. My parents split when I was 5 and I stayed with my mother. She dated a few men here and there, but overall they were decent or indifferent toward me. She met and married my step father when I was 9. He was a horribly abusive person, mostly along emotional lines. Again, I chocked up the depression and suicidal ideation to it being situational in hindsight.

I moved out when I was 17 and did whatever I could to make ends meet. I was lucky to start in the industry that I still work in when I was 19. I had pretty bad PTSD at that time; it seems I didn’t know how to exist without constant conflict. I married the girl I had seen all through high school at 20 and we divorced when I was 22. Shortly thereafter my best friend lost her battle with depression and took her own life which sent me into a downward spiral that would last most of my 20’s. I’m still affected by that to this day on some levels.

So, the question for me always was if the deep depressions I felt were merely a product of experiences, or if they were more chemical in nature. I never did quite feel like myself, though I didn’t really know who that was. I just felt like I was wearing someone else’s skin for the most part. Sometime around 30 I figured out who I was, shed the past and started living my life on my own terms. I then started to see glimpses of the real me from time to time.

Throughout the years though, I had been on such a mix of medications and in and out of therapy with all sorts of approaches. At some point with therapy, there are no more secrets to tell, no more hidden truths to discover and no more techniques to learn in order to cope. As for pharmacology, that’s a tedious process of starting a medication, upping the dose until it’s maxed out, giving it time to work if it’s going to, then tapering off before starting the next one. When single medications don’t work, then the combinations start.

Combinations.. That’s where I’m at right now. I have a high dose of Lamictal, Wellbutrin and a moderate dose of Lexapro. Limictal saved my life. Hands down, that’s the only medication that ever gave me a sense of levity to get through each day without being on the edge of using whatever was near me to take my own life. The thing is though, it dulls my nerves. It takes away that creative spark that’s set me apart professionally. I don’t feel things with nearly the intensity that I used to, good or bad. In essence, I’ve been numbed. The other meds are to help with the depression, but I’m a bit dubious of how effective they are. So as to not rock the boat or start another cycle of trial and error, I’ll just keep taking them as prescribed and see how things go.

So, on to the meat of what the title of the post is about. I’ve been on psychotropics for so long, each altering my mood in one way or another, I feel like I’ve lost whomever it is that I would be otherwise. Maybe that person is gone forever. Maybe this is me and I’m just underwhelmed. I’ve always thought I had pretty good potential to do something important in my life. Not grandiosity or anything, but I’m fairly intelligent, can see patterns in things that most overlook and I’m able to stick with something longer than most if I believe there’s more to be found or gained. Do I like the current me? Sort of.. There’s an emptiness there that I can’t ignore. It’s not that I believe that it can be filled by having a child or some other profound change, but rather it’s just a hole left from life experiences. Would I be willing to take some medication that would make me not feel, or at least not feel sadness or emptiness? Absolutely. Would I be willing to give up whatever must be given up in the way of side effects for such a drug? Yes. I think that would be worth a hefty price. The thing is.. I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t even know who I’d be if I were to try to become someone else or a better version of myself for that matter. I’m not alone in this world. I have a wonderful marriage. I have friends and some family. Even with those people that love and care for me, I feel like I’m a million miles away and have no real way of reaching them, or them reaching me.

Where do the meds drop off and I begin? How much of who I am is a product of medication versus whatever part of me is left?

This week was a blur.. A lot of 10-12 hour days at work. For a week that I wasn’t to travel other than locally, I spent a ton of time on the road. It was a distraction, at least. I worked from home yesterday (Friday). I accomplished most of what I needed to, then promptly went to sleep at 5 for a few hours.

I’ve been sleeping a lot of late when I’m not working. My wife’s taken notice. I need to ask my doctor for a blood draw. My vitamin D is probably bottomed out again. The last time I had it checked it was 4 and the time before that it was 2. 20 is considered adequate and it takes awhile to get it built back up. I’ll have to check to see if I have any refills for the 50,000IU..

So, I was pretty low until Friday. Friday wasn’t bad, so I’ll count that as a win. I’m hoping I can motivate myself to get some things done around the house this weekend. I kind of need to as I fly out Sunday and won’t be home until Thursday or Friday again. We’ll see how long it takes me to get out of bed later.

I talked with an old friend earlier this week. We might get together this weekend for a couple of hours. I’m looking forward to that.

Here is is Monday night and I already feel beat. In other news, after talking with the psychiatrist, we’ve decided to double my dose of Lexapro to try to battle the depression that’s seeped in. I’ve been mostly honest with her about how I’ve really been doing, but I should probably come clean about how strong the suicidal ideations are. It’s logically and objectively making sense to me, which isn’t a good thing.

I know there’s more than this.. Than existing, I mean. It’s not as bad as it can get, but I see that coming in the coming in the near future. Every time I think I know how bad it can get, it seems to surprise me by finding a new low. I’ve been self-medicating with alcohol some nights, which I really shouldn’t do, aside from the obvious, but even for health reasons alone. It’s not a regular thing, at least. I hadn’t had a drink in a couple of weeks, and tonight I’ve only had some. Not even enough to get a buzz.

I’m conflicted about telling my wife how I’m really doing. I owe her that much.. For the hell I’ve put her through with my mental illness, I owe her that much. On the other hand, for what I’ve put her though, I feel I owe it to her to keep it to myself. I’ve burdened her with this too much as it stands.. I don’t know what the hell to do to be honest. Part of me thinks I should leave so that she can find someone else that’s in a much better disposition than me. I know that’s the depression talking, but it’s how I feel either way. To be frank, if it weren’t for her, as cliche as it sounds, I’d not be here at this point. The lows have hit bad enough that I’d not just think about giving up, but would have, or would act on it. I couldn’t do that to her. Other people, yes, but not her. So, I have to figure out a way to push through. Since I have to push though, then I need to figure out a way to make that less miserable. Right now, chemically is about the only option that I see. It’s that, or ECT, or TMS, or Katamine, or whatever else is out there. All of which I could try, some of which would likely cost me my job, which would enter in a whole host of other fucked up problems that would likely make me even more depressed which wouldn’t be good for anyone.

I’ve spent countless hours trying to figure out if what’s going on with me is psychological or chemical. When I look at the world, I think there’s a mix of good and bad in the world. I don’t know what the balance is, but objectively, I think there’s considerably more good in the world than bad, but the bad gets most of the attention so it seems worse than it is. Overall, I am optimistic about most things. If what I experience is indeed mostly chemical, then it stands to reason that there will be breakthroughs within my lifetime that would offer relief. Approaching 40, barring anything unexpected, dare I hold on to hope that some relief can be found within a reasonable time in the next 35-50 years? Will I be so far gone into darkness that I’d even know how to handle being good, much less just ok? I don’t know.. My mind isn’t in a good place tonight. I’ll probably watch a show or something and then go to sleep. That seems to reset my mind pretty well.

Fuck me, this shit gets old..

I’m in the ER waiting to be called back. I should have gone earlier this week. I’m thinking I’m going to miss work tomorrow and have no idea how that’s going to work. I’m completely booked up. There’s nothing that can wait and there’s nobody to cover on short notice because they are equally booked. 

A couple of months ago I noticed a lump at the center of my right armpit. It’s kind of hard for me to see it clearly, but it looks like a mole about the size of a quarter has come in. Last night it was painful. Not sharp pain, but not exactly dull, either. I’ve made an appointment with the doctor to have it looked at when I get back in town this Friday. Hopefully it’s nothing.

I’m also going to have the doctor see what’s going on with my sinuses. I’ve been fighting something now for over a week and I wake up every day extremely congested and my head is killing me.

Exciting post, I know.

On to the real reason for posting. When we were in Rhode Island I found out that someone I used to work with has breast cancer. She had just turned 40, then found out shortly thereafter. I consider her to be a friend; one of the few that I have, anyway. Being so far away, it’s hard to be able to do anything tangible for her. She’s in good hands with her family and long-term boyfriend at least. She’s going through treatment right now and she said she’s having a rough go of things physically. It was caught early enough that she’ll be ok, but she’s still feeling pretty miserable. I’d like to send her something to let her know that I care and that would be thoughtful. It’ll likely end up being a card, either a sincere one or a funny one – she’d appreciate either. Likely I’ll send a check along to help with all of the inevitable expenses that she’s having to deal with. My previous employer has the shittiest insurance money could buy and an extremely high deductible. My friend makes “ok” money there, but not enough to set much aside. I’ll try to find some amount that my wife won’t be too upset about me sending. I hate feeling helpless when a friend is in pain or suffering. She’s such a good person. She doesn’t deserve this.. I know nobody does, and it’s cliché to say, but it’s so, so unfair.

Homesick

I’m feeling pretty down, still. Being sick isn’t helping matters, either. I need to get many bloodwork redrawn as I’ve been extremely tired lately. Even when I’m down, 6 hours isof sleep  usually plenty for me. Lately I’ve needed more like 10-12. It’s likely my vitamin D3 bottoming out again, but I need to verify that.

So, I’m writing this from my hotel room in Pittsburgh. I’m here so often that I’m on a first name basis with the staff and we know the names of each other’s spouses, kids, interests outside of work, where they are from, etc. Though it’s nice to see familiar people, I miss being home more. My new manager who started a little over a couple of months ago is trying to help by traveling in my place to other cities, but I’m still pretty swamped and home usually only on weekends, save another day here and there. The week before lady was 5 days in Pittsburgh, followed by a 5 day trip to Rhode Island for a wedding last week, Pittsburgh this week, Cincinnati next week followed by Pittsburgh for the second half of the week. Hopefully this lets up soon..

Being sick while traveling is hard.. You’re exhausted to begin with from either hours in the car, or stuck in the airport for delayed flights (I’m looking at you, American Airlines and United Airline), layovers, etc. Once I finish at my customer tomorrow I’ll travel home and likely go to an urgent care either about midnight, or on Saturday morning. I should have gone today, but I laid down to nap as soon as I finished for the day and didn’t wake until a little while ago. This has all the telltale signs of a bad sinus infection and some sort of upper respiratory thing. I had hoped it would resolve itself, but it’s been over a week and is getting worse. I should probably cancel my flights for Sunday night now, then drive to Cincinnati Monday night, provided I’m on the mend by then. At least that way, if I need to head home early or can get away early I can head home. Maybe I’ll keep my Pittsburgh flights.. That’s a brutal dive when you’re tired and not feeling well.

Missing Monday wouldn’t be a big thing as I’m taking care of internal company tasks, but missing any more than that screws everything up. I’m booked out for weeks, and I can’t simply reschedule with a customer and put them at the end of the list. It usually takes 8-10 hours to contact everyone and reschedule accordingly. That just puts me behind another day or two.. That’s 4-5 different customers, one day rack for every week until mid November.
I’m also feeling guilty. I’ve been irritable with my wife and have snapped at her a could of times. Both times were completely unwarranted. She’s about the only non-stressful part of my life right now. It’s not fair to her, and it’s not righ. I need to apologize and try to make it up to her when I see her on Saturday.

Still wanting to give up. It’s edging on needing to give up. I’m not sure what to do at this point. It’s not situational. Has nothing to do with that. It’s just the soul crushing depression. I don’t want to mess with medication changes. That could make things even worse. I’ve been self medicating lately with alcohol, which isn’t healthy on a number of levels. I’d see about finding a therapist I could Skype with after hours, but frankly, there’s nothing to talk about. I know about self-care, positive thinking, CBT techniques, distractions, mindfulness, reframing my perspective, etc. I’ve been through all that and practice it. The only thing I can’t do is have a regular routine. What do you do when there’s nothing left? ECT? Finding a doctor that will do ketamine injections on the regular? TMS? That all requires being in one place for long enough to do the therapies. Since I’m in Pittsburgh so much, maybe I can see if I can see someone at Carnegie Mellon university.. I’m really hesitant about ECT as it can have rather bad cognitive effects, both in the short and long term. My intellect is me. It’s what makes me who I am. I don’t want to risk losing that. It’s not a statistically large risk, but large enough to give me pause.

Time for sleep. I need to be in the middle of frigging nowhere in Ohio tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.