First things first for anybody stumbling across this post who doesn’t know me–I am not a doctor or a pharmacist. I’m not an expert on medication. This isn’t going to be a scientific post.
However, in the last few years, the amount of medication I’ve had to take has increased significantly. It’s changed multiple times, and it’s been incredibly frustrating. And this past week, I had yet another battle with it. I’ve also seen countless posts about this anti-depressant or that anti-depressant, or whether or not it’s even worth it to be on anti-depressants. So, I’m going to share my experience.
I’m going to be vague about exactly what type of medicines I’m on when I tell my story, because, again, I am not a doctor and I don’t want it to come across as a recommendation. Everyone is different, and what works for me may not work for you the same way.
This journey starts 6ish years ago. I’ve had severe headaches all my life, but that year, they suddenly got really bad. I ended up in the ER because I passed out from the pain–and was diagnosed with chronic migraines–something I’ve probably had since I was young and just never had a name. I saw a neurologist and we tried multiple medicines. The acute ones (meds you take when the pain hits) all made me feel worse.
Have you ever rode a Gravitron at the fair?
That’s about what all those acute medicines felt like. So, we tried a daily pill that I started small and ramped up slowly. And it was really weird at first. So weird I almost quit that one too. It made everything fizzy taste metallic and flat. It sucked up my appetite and I had to be forced to eat even the smallest amount, and I was thus very lethargic (did I mention I also cut caffeine cold turkey at the same time?). It was scary there for awhile.
But it worked. Once I started stairstepping up, my body got used to the drug, and those side effects gradually went away. I wasn’t pain-free, but my migraines were greatly decreased. Six years later, I know I have found something that works, and I have a severe attack once every 3-6 months…instead of every 3-6 days.
Which brings me to my next challenge: Depression. We’ve talked about this quite a bit on ILR, and I’ve mentioned my course of anti-depressants before. One of the first things I did when I moved to Dallas was look for a doctor who could prescribe my migraine meds, as they were due for refill, and the neuro I was seeing in Indy wouldn’t do so without an office visit.
I can’t tell you how lucky I got. I hate doctors. There is so much anxiety about trying to make appointments months in advance, waiting for hours in the office, getting to see a cold man for .5 seconds and not being able to ask any of your questions…it’s SO FRUSTRATING. I hit the jackpot when I found a doctor who has organized his family practice into an urgent care-type setting. He doesn’t even take appointments, I just walk in. Everyone in his office is amazingly friendly, they know who I am when I call or come in, and I GET TO ASK MY QUESTIONS.
This was huge when a month or two after I had my first visit with him, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I took my recommendations from the therapist to him, and we sat down and talked about the options. We tried an SSRI first, but it made everything worse. I tanked. Not only was I more depressed, I couldn’t keep my eyes open or focus on anything. I wasn’t anxious…because I felt NOTHING. I was a zombie. So I went back after a month trial.
The moment he walked into the room and looked at me, he was like NOPE. He knew immediately I could not continue on the SSRI, I didn’t even have to ask. He switched me to a completely different anti-depressant, and after just a few days it was like someone turned the lights on. My anxiety did come back, although not as strong, so it’s more manageable–especially now that I know what it is–and I do have an acute medicine for it, but honestly…I don’t take it that often.
“Wow, Haley, that’s a lot of personal information.”
I know it is. But I’ve heard people say over and over again, “I am scared of taking anti-depressants because what if it messes me up too much?” or “What if I have to take it for the rest of my life?”
Here’s the thing–you may have to try more than one drug before you find one that works for you. It’s so important that you get with a doctor that can answer your questions and is willing to work with you to adjust how you are feeling. You know your body. If something really doesn’t feel right after an appropriate adjustment period, talk to your doctor about it. This trial and error is scary, I know, but now that I’ve been on the right medication for more than six months, it’s really made a difference.
As for the second part–yes. You might have to be on a medication for the rest of your life. Or, maybe your doctor will find something new to try, or maybe you’ll be ok after a year and can come off. It’s another “everyone is different” situation. For me, I know I’ll have to take at least some kind of migraine medicine forever, if not the one I am on now. As for my anti-depressant, I am going to take it as long as it works. When/If it stops working, I’ll try something else, but that’s a bridge I will cross later.
Big pharma isn’t paying me to write this. And again, I’m not a doctor, I’m not a pharmacist. The only experience I have is my own.
But as of November 16, 2015, my medication is working. The lights are on. And I just want to help you find the switch too.