You and your carrots can FUCK RIGHT OFF!

I take antidepressants. Two of them actually. Every day. Morning and night. Do you want to know why? They get me out of bed and they get me into life. They are my flashlight and my high-vis jacket, my survival tools in my ongoing battle against the dense, grey fog that surrounds my brain. I use them to break free from the confusion and stride towards the road ahead, flagging a little from the exertion perhaps, but seeing the way forward and powering on without fear. 

So tell me I’m the pharmaceutical industry’s bitch. Tell me I’m weak. Tell me your story about how you cured yourself using only glo-sticks and cucumbers. Go on….I dare you! 

It seems to me that there is a counter-productive and dangerous trend emerging. A trend towards distancing oneself from the “weak ones”, i.e. those brainwashed by the pharma industry and too feeble-minded to even know it. Those who seek to medicate. Those who gladly hand over their hard-earned cash for the sweet relief of psychopharmaceutical intervention.

Depression survival has emerged from the shameful shadows of it’s past, to a time when it’s acceptable for it to be worn like a badge of honour. Honour being defined as having overcome “that nasty episode” by channeling your inner strength. And vegetables. And vitamin shakes. And jogging. And hypnosis. And whatever other bullshit you want to peddle as long as it doesn’t come in pill form. Or have to be dispensed by a person in a white coat.

It seems pretty clear to me that none of the following are acceptable responses to an article where somebody has BRAVELY publicly declared their mental health difficulties:

  • The pharma industry makes a trillion bazillion dollars every year from people dependent on anti-depressants and it’s all a big ruse and you are just part of it you sad bastard
  • My mother’s cousin’s sister had depression and then she went jogging every day and now she is fine and owns a ferrari
  • I thought I was depressed but then I realised it was my lifestyle, so I cut out all gluten, sugar, alcohol and liquids and now, living on sunflower seeds alone, my life has never been better

And yet every day I read these inane comments. The discussion turns away from the bravery of the author, the stigma meaning we even need to label the author as such and the ways in which “normal” people can better understand and help those of us in difficulty. Instead, we turn in on ourselves and we ostracize those who medicate and we criticise their choices, with each person trying to outdo the other to tell the anecdote that *proves* the non-medicinal way is best. And we need to STOP. We need to stop right now. How can we expect the world to stop judging us when we can’t even stop judging ourselves?

You and your carrots can FUCK RIGHT OFF!

Today I Cried

Today I cried. Really cried. A full-on 30 seconds of wailing and hegs and sniffling. And it was amazing. 

In the past I’ve written about how much I hate the numbness that goes with this disorder and, possibly to a larger extent, the medication it requires. I can’t actually remember the last time I cried and I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said it was more than a year ago. I well up on occassion but I can’t recall the last time tears managed to escape my eyes and flow down my cheeks. 

This morning Mr. Moany and I had an argument a charged discussion and suddenly my eyes started leaking. At first it was just a few sneaky tears, much to Mr. Moany’s horror. Especially when I sobbed “I don’t know why I’m crying”. It actually had nothing at all to do with our discussion. More likely, the final straw in a shitty week had come and I exploded. Not literally though…thankfully!

Within about one minute the moment had passed and it was if my meltdown had never happened….apart from the tomato face and the snotty tissue that is. And I felt amazing.  As if my reset button had been pressed. I have always been a fan of a good ol’ cry. There’s nothing like it sometimes. A bad week, a crappy day or just life in general: it can all be released through our eyes in the same way indigestion is relieved with a burp or gas is released through your rear end. Crying is emotional farting via the eyes. I hadn’t realised how much I had missed the ability to cry until today, but more than that, how much I actually NEED it. Hopefully this morning was a turning point and I have finally found a medication that balances mental stability with emotional capacity. Hopefully!

Today I Cried

Lets Talk About Sex…!

I feel like I know you guys well enough now to pull up a cocktail, kick off my shoes & indulge in a good ol’ chat about “sexy time”. There’s a point in every good friendship where someone broaches the topic of sexuality and the reaction of the other person determines the relationship forevermore. A shared laugh makes a sex-friend for life, one who you can tell your funny “vibrator in my handbag on the tube” stories to. An embarrassed silence puts that friend firmly in the “hobbies & shopping chats only” file. And maybe you might wait a week or so to call them again. So lets jump right in and see where we end up!

You’ve made it past the first hurdle. Your partner lovingly caught your hand as you walked down the street, or caressed your neck from behind while you were cooking dinner. Whatever the trigger, you’ve made it all the way to the bedroom (or couch, or balcony, or…ahem, I digress!). You can feel the tingle in your “special place”. That football shirt your partner is wearing is suddenly as sexy as anything worn by Colin Firth in Pride & Prejudice and you are the sexiest woman alive. Bow-chica-wow-wow! Forget the FHM 100 list cos they ain’t got nothin’ on you right now. You strip off your “round-the-house” leggings and hell, you might even leave a light on tonight (dimmed of course…let’s not get too carried away). For a moment in time you’re the star of your very own porno (a classy one, well scripted) and with a twirl of your nipple tassels you turn expectantly to the door as a stranger enters. The third participant in your sexy party has arrived. He saunters into the scene with a sly grin on his face and a swagger in his step. You take a moment to regroup, to register his presence, to assess the situation. And faster than you can say “lube me up” you’re launched slap bang into the middle of your very own farce. The score changes from “I wanna sex you up” to “Ice Ice Baby” and as the rose-tinted glasses are ripped from your eyes you see your surroundings for what they are. No porno movie. No fancy lighting. No FHM Top 100 model. Just you, hairy legs and stained t-shirt, straddling your partner in your untidy room with the cobweb on the ceiling. Mr D. Pression has arrived.

Yes, I want to talk about sex, but more specifically I want us to talk about that all-too-common and not-so-understood side effect of being a tiny bit crazy: sexual dysfunction.

Antidepressants are not known for their sexy qualities. SSRI, SNRI, MAOI….whatever you’re taking, none of them add up to S.E.X. They murder your libido and if abstinence could reverse virginity, well we’d be the purest damn people on the planet. For men getting or maintaining an erection can be impossible and for women, well lets just say the Sahara should remain a desert in Africa. And probably most insultingly of all, should you miraculously make your way over all of the hurdles, with your end goal in sight, so close you can almost touch it….almost….almost….almost….ooooooohhhhh bloody hell…..nothing! Anorgasmia is the final insult in our tale of woe. And the evil doesn’t stop there, it can continue even after you no longer take them. The wisdoms at Wikipedia tell us:

Post-SSRI sexual dysfunction (PSSD) is a name given to a reported iatrogenic sexual dysfunction caused by the previous use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. While apparently uncommon, it can last for months, years, or sometimes indefinitely after the discontinuation of SSRIs. It may represent a specific subtype of SSRI discontinuation syndrome. This condition has not been well-established or studied in the field of medicine.

Indefinitely?! Are you frickin’ kidding me?! Any why is it that the condition has not been well established or studied? I am often struck by how sparse any real, helpful medical information on sexual side effects is while at the same time being bowled over by the sheer volume of anecdotal evidence on the topic (i.e. patient forums, questions on google, etc.). Not to mention how unhelpful medical advice is. Don’t get me started on the article that advised me to “schedule your sexual activity to occur before you take your medication”. I question why this imbalance exists. Are we ashamed to admit that we are having sexual difficulties? Are we suffering through the very worst type of “keeping up with the Joneses” phenomenon? In this day and age it’s hard to believe that so many of us feel that we shouldn’t prioritise our sexual selves. That if we are mentally well and our medication is working we somehow don’t have the right to complain because we don’t feel sufficiently lustful. Would we be more likely to express ourselves about side effects such as heart palpitations, fainting or low blood pressure?

I am a (physically) healthy 30 year old woman in a relationship with a kick-ass bloke. I fancy him. I am confident that he finds me at least a bit attractive (he assures me that he does in fact want to have sex with me). I know that I want to have sex with him. I just can’t seem to get my mind to play along. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me complaining about that.

Lets Talk About Sex…!

Back to Square 75

I’ve been playing Russian roulette with SSRI side-effects for many years now. If you’ve read my About page (what do you mean you haven’t?!) you’ll know that I’ve already been through 3:

one I can’t remember (a fun memory side-effect), Lexapro (Escitalopram) and now Sertraline

The first one I had to stop taking because I moved and it wasn’t prescribed by my GP. Lexapro bit the dust because of the brain fog that eventually became worse than the illness it was meant to help. Sertraline I have kicked to the curb as it kept me awake every night, regardless of what time I took it. I would also wake up in a cold sweat – very lovely for my partner!

Well, as of yesterday, I get to add Venlafaxine (Effexor) to the list. I’m just wondering what side-effects I’m going to hit on this time. As always, I’ll hope that this one will be the one that suits me. The side-effects (I know they are inevitable) of this one might just be the ones I can live with. Although, if my hair colour changes, which is one alarming side effect rarely reported, I just hope it doesn’t go blue-rinse!

Armed with my new prescription I headed to the pharmacy ready to start the 2 weeks of weaning off Sertraline & starting Venlafaxine and typically they were out of stock until tomorrow. I hate when that happens. I was all ready to start this new chapter and boom, press pause for 24 hours. It’s a minor irritation, hardly life or death, but when you’re depressed and you have a chance to make things better, every hour’s delay is potentially an hour of improvement lost. And that is a big deal! I am reminded of a line from “When Harry Met Sally”:

When you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

To console myself that I must wait another day, I am prescribing myself one look at this per hour 🙂 (If you’re not a cat person, look away now!)

Back to Square 75

What’s in a name?

Crazy NameTag
Mr Shakespeare very eloquently said:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

Well, I say:

What’s in a name? that which we call an SSRI
By any other name would still interrupt my sleep

Over the years I have been on three different SSRIs – one I can’t remember (a fun memory side-effect), Lexapro (Escitalopram) and now Sertraline. I have become quite the expert on warning leaflets included with SSRIs (my all time favourite has to be “may cause depression”) and so I decided on “May Cause Irritation” as my blog title as it’s the one side effect that I’ve consistently held onto over the years.

To be fair it's more of a personality trait than a side-effect, but on my "dark days" my tolerance for other human beings (even those I usually like) definitely decreases significantly. On those days I find normal societal behaviour – such as not punching queue skippers or resisting the urge to hang kids running around a café on the coat rack – to be quite challenging.

I'm not very eloquent these days. In my youth I got good grades in English and I quite enjoyed creative writing. For the first half of my life I would read at least 2 books per week. Sadly, one of the major effects of my illness has been the almost complete destruction of my ability to concentrate and think clearly. So forgive any poor sentence structures or odd grammar you spot. Hopefully the content will make up for my shortcomings in delivery.

What’s in a name?