In mid September, after a lot of thinking, doubting and talking to a lot of people, I made the decision to go on anti-depressants. I am not opposed to taking medication if needed, but I am one of those people that always try to take care of things without it. If I have a headache, I try to relax and take aspirin only if that is the last resort. So starting on anti-depressants was a big step for me, not one I took lightly at all, but speaking to several people I trust, I decided to try it and see if they would help.
I have written a lot in the past year about the emotional roller coaster I have been on since having the stroke just over a year ago. While the physical recovery was something that was relatively easy to deal with, the emotional part has been an intimidating challenge I was at times not sure I would overcome. One of the major things that helped, was having the support of friends and family. That support was amazing, but at the end of the day, I was the only person who could make the changes that needed to be made in order to move forward. I often times felt like I was weighing people down. I felt stuck in a place I didn't like and I felt absolutely hopeless and frustrated. I wrote about feeling worthless back in August, and it was after writing that that I realized I just needed to do something drastic. At least drastic for me, so a few weeks later, I started taking medication.
Instead of writing what I remember about going on the medication, below are entries from the journal I kept at the time.
September 28, 2012
I started Prozac exactly a week ago. I fought the idea of anti-depressants for a long time. Not that I have anything against them, but I was just worried that they weren't really for me, or worse, that after the stroke, they would have a much more pronounced effect on my personality, or perhaps even be harmful. In addition to that, I haven't felt depressed in a few weeks and am wondering if I even need them after all. But I started them anyway. I was told that they could take a couple of weeks to start working, but as of today, I am pretty sure they are. I just watched an episode of Grey's Anatomy, when Mark Sloane dies, and I knew I felt sad, but I didn't have the reaction I would have normally had, possibly crying. I usually cry at things like that. During the episode, he dies when they take him off life support and his friends are around him. I started thinking about who would be around me if I were dying. Again, I knew I should feel sad, I knew I would normally feel sad, but I can't feel sad or upset by it. I am not so sure I like the feeling at all. I am glad I am not feeling depressed about something, but I find it strange that I don't feel upset.
Actually, in a way I do. I can sense the feeling is there, I just can't access it. It doesn't come up to the surface. Like a person in a dream that you don't really see but you know is there. I know the feelings are there, I can "feel" something that resembles feelings, but they are different in a way I can't really describe. They seem foggy, for lack of a better explanation.
In a weird way, I miss the intense feeling. I didn't think I would, but I do. I miss feeling. As much as I sometimes hate the feeling itself, I love the fact I can actually feel. It makes me feel alive, makes me feel like I am here, connected and in my body, even if I am not really happy about being there, in that moment. So many things have changed for me since December. I am in a body I still am trying to understand, living a life I am trying to sort out and that is finally coming together. The one thing I had, for better or worse, were my emotions They were truly mine. And now they aren't. Is it strange I miss the sad feelings? Have I been carrying them around so long that they became a sort of comfort to me? I do feel a bit lost, naked even, without them. I feel an odd and yet unreachable sadness that I can't access those feelings. Is this just the start? Will I get used to it? Do I want to get used to it?
October 2, 2012
I hate this. The constant feeling of just wanting to stay in bed. In many ways it is worse than the depression. With depression, I knew what was going on and while it was overwhelming, I knew I would get out of it. Now, I don't feel depressed, but I seem to be, due to my actions. I just want to stay in bed. I have no motivation to do anything. I have a new lens for my camera, a lens I have wanted for years and I am not even interested in using it. I see it there on my camera, but have no interest in picking it up. This is making me feel more alone and strange. I hope it gets better. I think what is really odd, is the overall feeling of nothing, but my body and mind acting as though there is something. I am constantly tired, I sleep and sleep. I watched "Steel Magnolias", a movie that always gets some sort of emotional response, and there was nothing. Even the concentration to piece together the words to write this seems to be taking a whole lot of effort. Writing isn't fun anymore. And I have articles to write for a magazine and I just don't feel like doing it. I picked the topics, things that really interest me, like Frank Lloyd Wright, and I just can't seem to get myself to a place where I want to do it. With the depression, I could cry, get it out. Now I just feel hollow. I can't reach the emotion. It is just there below the surface and I can't get to it. I feel like I want to cry, but I can't. There are still so many things I feel I lost since the stroke. Some of them have come back and some haven't and possibly never will, but now I feel I am losing things again, and again, I find myself trying to figure out what this all means and who I am if I don't have parts of myself.
Even Ken and Charise have noticed the change in my personality or mood, not sure yet which is ultimately being affected. Ken said I am more "blah" and seem a bit withdrawn. Charise said I spend more time by myself, keeping to myself. It has only been about 10 days since I started, and normally things don't really start changing for a few weeks. Maybe the stroke is affecting the effects of the medication?
I feel as though I am moving backwards again. I felt so good before I went on the Prozac. Things in my life were moving in a good direction, I felt like my moods had started to stabilize a bit and now they seem to have gone back to the confusion they were. The only real difference now is that I seem not to be so concerned by it emotionally. I can look at it all logically and see the differences, but emotionally, I don't connect.
October 18, 2012
I hings seem to have leveled out over the past couple of weeks. Not thinking about it has really helped, but I still don't like the fact I have to wake up and take a capsule every morning. That said, I do feel better. I still have the issue of not being able to really feel sad stuff, but maybe after everything that has happened over the past almost-year, not feeling the sad parts really isn't all that bad. I guess my biggest fear is losing more of myself. I feel like I have lost so much, become a different person. A person I am still trying to figure out and know.
It has been almost ten months since the stroke and so many times I still find myself trying to wrap my head around it and make sense of it all. I still often feel confused and like a lesser version of myself. I see things on TV and remember when I could do those things. Simple things, like riding a bike or even running. It occurred to me the other day that even jumping is not something I can do right now. I was at the gym last week and was working on my legs. I tried doing lunges, a leg exercise where you step forward with one foot and then lower yourself until your back knee almost touches the floor. Normally I would do it with weights, but as I am just trying to get myself back in shape, I didn't use any. Good thing, because when I stepped forward and started to lower myself, I lost my balance and fell. The gym was only a little busy, but it was still embarrassing. I spend so much time trying to hide the fact there is anything wrong that it sometimes catches me by surprise when confronted with the fact that so much is still on the mend. Or will perhaps never mend.
It makes it both easier and harder that I have almost no visible outward symptoms of the stroke. It is nice because I meet people and they have no clue. Most of the time, I can blend. I have learned to cover balance issues and hide other challenges like walking down stairs. On the other hand, because there is nothing to see, everyone assumes that everything is great, and it is not great. A lot of times, not even good. The moody feelings are gone, but I still feel like a mess inside. I also feel as though I am isolating myself more and more. I am not as much in contact with people as I once was. Even Ken and Charise, who I absolutely love being around, I have been keeping at more of a distance. Instead of spending time with them, I spend my time at the house on my own, watching videos or sleeping. I want to socialize, but at the same time I don't want to. I don't feel depressed anymore, but I do feel lost and misplaced and without any feeling of direction or motivation.
Several weeks ago, I got some freelance work, writing for a group of magazines. I normally love and feel the urge to write, but now I have no motivation or inspiration to write. Even photography is not such an interest right now. I want to take pictures, but when it comes down to it, picking up my camera just seems like so much effort. Ulco is arriving next week and we are going on a road trip. I hope that helps break me out of this place I am in.
I am off to Vegas tomorrow with friends, and then I will spend time with my sister, niece and nephews before more family arrives. I am both looking forward to and dreading the visit. My life seems to be filled with conflict at the moment, every emotion and want having an immediate and opposite emotion and want. I feel like I am pushing forward and pulling back at the same time. It makes no sense to me and probably not to anyone else. People just tell me to be strong and just do something. Do what? I wish I knew.
I am quite tired of things feeling like they are both coming together and falling apart.
Working with the doctor, I went off medication ten days ago. More on that next time.