Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Blessings and Curses, Part 1


I believe in baby steps.  Start with small, easy-to-chew pieces and expand as you are able.  As a new mom I can remember sitting on the floor next to Eve's crib, holding her tiny hand in mine and constantly reassuring her that I was there. She could fall asleep. It was okay.  Within a week I was a foot away from her crib, sitting in the darkness singing lullabies and whispering reassurances.  Another week found me two feet closer to the doorway.  The first night I sat out in the hallway, still singing and talking quietly to her was a rough one. She was upset that she couldn't see me and kept rolling over in her crib, pushing her face against the rails to look for me. That step took a few weeks to manage.

Every so often we had a setback.  I'd stop singing too soon and get up to pee or she would be teething and wanted me more.  I was exhausted and in need of some time with Bubba and we both wished there was a quicker way to do this but I couldn't seem to think of one.  One desperate week we had tried to let her "cry it out" against our better instincts and none of us could stand it.  It's just as well because it turns out the stubborn gene runs strong in this family and Eve kept crying for longer and longer each night instead of less and less.  I guess she didn't read the manual.
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In January, my naturopath happened to mention that she was curious whether a lot of my niggling health issues might be due to a gluten intolerance.  When I expressed shock at the idea, citing my lack of digestive issues, she went on to explain that certain individuals differ from the classic celiac symptoms, instead developing skin allergies, rashes and depression as a result of their body's attack on gluten.  I was hooked.

Four years ago I found myself sitting in my doctor's office after a three-day crying binge, ready to throw myself off the nearest bridge or pump myself full of anti-depressants.  Thank goodness he suggested the latter.  Within an hour I was driving toward the pharmacy as fast as legally possible, prescription in hand. The medication he wanted me to try was a relatively new one that acts on both the dopamine and serotonin receptors in the human brain.  It supposedly had relatively few side effects and was getting rave reviews.

Two days later I could barely get off the couch. My ears were ringing, my fingertips felt as though I had plugged them into an electrical outlet, and I suffered from something I can only describe as "brain buzz."  I phoned the doctor, desperately begging for a different drug.  

"How is your depression?" he asked.

"Terrific! I haven't shed a tear in 48 hours and the fog I was in for the last six months has lifted. I feel like I drove out of a tunnel into a sunny day. That part is great, but the rest of this is horrible. I can't function."

He convinced me that these symptoms would pass within a week.  That my brain was simply adjusting to the new levels of happiness bombarding it and, once it leveled off, I would be fine.  I trusted him.  I waited.  He was right.

The drug really did work. I started therapy, began taking much better care of myself, and felt so much better.  Two years later I decided to begin weaning off the drug. Within two days the electric shocks were back, I had a thirst so fierce it couldn't be quenched and my brain was foggy.  Another 48 hours later I began to cry and couldn't stop.

Here I am two years later again.  I recall with uncommon clarity the moment I heard my ND blame gluten intolerance for my depression.  Something within me leapt toward the possibility that I could someday be done with these drugs.  In April I began trying again.  With the help of a new MD (NDs in Washington state aren't legally allowed to treat mental illness) I began a long, slow taper of my anti-depressant.  The switch from full dosage to 2/3 dose went off without a hitch.  I took the 2/3 dose for three months before I went down to 20mg a day.  Again, no emotional symptoms and, with the exception of a slight tingling in my fingertips, I felt great.  My plan was to continue with 20mg a day for at least six months.

Last Thursday I accidentally missed a dose.  Within four hours the brain fog had returned and my fingertips and toes were zinging like a tourist on a zip-line.  I spent the day at work, unable to get home to my meds and decided to deal with it.  Somewhere around 10pm Thursday night I decided that since I was already experiencing withdrawal symptoms, I might as well just stop altogether.

Four days in: every time I turn my head I get a shock in my earlobes, I feel like I'm in a dreamworld or swimming through gelatin and the brain buzz comes and goes 6 or so times during the day.  I decided to do an internet search.

What was I thinking?

3 comments:

chris said...

This sounds awful? What are you going to do? I wish you the best.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Again.

Sister.

How well I know.

Deb Shucka said...

I'm sorry. I have no advice. Only love and prayers that you find an answer soon.

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