Every time I hear that “Tick Tock” song on the radio, I mishear one of the lyrics in the chorus as “party on top.” …And it makes me think of a reverse mullet every time.
And no, that statement has no bearing on the rest of this post whatsoever.
Trying to pin down and compare emotional responses and perspectives is a difficult thing. Am I better on the Wellbutrin than I was before I started trying medications? Hard to say. It is better than the Prozac. Better than the Luvox. More consistent than the Ritalin. Much better than the Cipralex, and eons ahead of the Effexor. But down to subtle details? That’s tough.
Because in the moment, things always seem to make perfect sense to me. When I’m having terrible PMS, I often recognize that I am overreacting to something. When I’m having a sudden and intense emotional period because of a change in medications, I can tell that isn’t really me. But in the day to day? The “normal” state of things at any given time? It all seems to make sense given the circumstances. I am sad because my relationship is more distant. I am not doing much because everything is boring. I don’t want to make phone calls because the thought of them gives me a headache. And nothing seems “so bad,” or like a concern that’s really valid enough that I need help.
And then after the fact, my medication changes, and my world takes on a different set of complications, and I have a What the Hell Was I Thinking moment or two. And I boggle at how I could have found things to be normal, or that I didn’t fully recognize just how bad things had been. It’s amazing what can seem perfectly natural and justified at the time.
So I’ve been trying to keep track, in those moments, of the things that I realize are a vivid sign of being unwell. So that when the meds change again and I’m back in that place I will know without doubt that if that feature is present there is still something wrong. So I don’t have to wonder if a particular medication is working or not, or if I should be feeling guilty for not being back at work. I’m sure that the list is woefully incomplete, but I can only identify the ones that have at least temporarily cleared up, or that were medication-induced in the first place. There are a lot of features in the description of depression that I have never yet had a break from (Do some people truly not feel guilty or inferior all the time?), so for now, they remain just an unremarkable and stable part of me.
Features I now use to identify when I am having problems:
1) Lying on the floor out of a lack of seemingly better options as an activity.
2) Frequent thoughts of death, or heightened awareness of all the ways in which I could end my life (swerving into traffic, turning on the gas, etc.).
3) Finding picturing my own suicide “comforting,” even if the thought is not accompanied by any actual desire to act on the image.
4) Arriving at every appointment 45 – 60 minutes early, because I “wanted to make absolutely sure I wasn’t late.” (this was a part of my Prozac Anxiety phase)
5) Finding the duty of changing my cat’s water bowl every morning an overwhelming responsibility, and one that I sometimes need to build up to.
6) Sobbing. Not crying, but sobbing. Over something that is itself totally inconsequential.
At least 2, 3, and 6 I had before I started all this, to varying degrees. Number 5 was not an issue, and number 1 was totally a new one on me. With the Wellbutrin, I am doing better with these (though I still register highly on the other features of depression). I still cry a lot, and rarely for justified reasons, but I can feed my cats without needing any elaborate self-talk.
Of course, rather than making me feel hopeful, the improvement just makes me feel like I must be cured now then, and guilty about being off work. Because feeding my cats for one minute every morning equates somehow to being able to face down a stressful ten hour day. Because I am depressed still. And I feel guilty about things like that.