Anxiety & Depression: The monsters within.

There is a journey to taking psychotropic medications. And it’s seldom as cut and dry as we would like it to be. Over time, we develop a relationship with the chemicals – and for those of us who find chemicals that improve our lives, that relationship is a long-time one. Like any long-term relationship, it has ups and downs…but if it’s a good match, just like a marriage, these will be the exception, and a certain range of comfortable motion will be reached.

I have been in that space for a while now, with my medications. Let’s have a medications roll call, just to give you a context for this post:

I take 25mg/day of nortriptyline. It’s a tricyclic antidepressant. Prescribed to prevent my migraines, it also, happily, seems to take the edge off of my anxiety.

I take 20mg/day of buspar, split into two even 10mg doses, one in the morning and one at night. I don’t know what type of drug it is, but I like to call it “anxiety windex”. It takes just a tiny bit more of the edge off of my anxiety. Cleans the last little nasty cloud of obfuscation away so that I can clearly view my world.

And I take 10-15mg/day of methylphenidate, spread out throughout the day. For ADHD. It soothes my nerves, frankly. Emotional dysregulation is, in my opinion, my most frustrating ADHD symptom. The methylphenidate. It allows me to stop taking the little things hostage. Keeps me from being pulled suddenly into the next room. Slows my reactivity just a tad. It also relieves a large portion of my anxiety.

None of these chemicals has dulled my normally vibrant, opinionated, and creative self. Wait, correction, I do think the nortriptyline dulls me by about 2%. I wont get into a huge explanation of that percentage right now…and I do miss that 2%. But overall…I feel that the drugs have allowed me to be more “me”. Not a different me, just me. Me without anxiety ruling my life. Me with a better understanding of how to steer my ADHD mind.

I am so used to feeling better, more of the time…that this has become my normal. And the anxiety and depression…when they peek around my shoulder…now look positively evil to me. I fear them, just a little bit – but at the same time I know that I have lived with them forever. I can handle them. I can wait them out. But that doesn’t mean I like them.

Lately, as the season changes, I feel them peeking over my shoulder. And that is exactly what it feels like. Like a thing, peering. An assertive and confident thing. A dark thing. A thing familiar with my territory. A thing that knows all the backroads, all of the shortcuts that any local would know. It knows where I live, it knows where I sleep. It knows who I love (and it tells me that terrible things may happen to them). At the moment…they peer silently. Quietly. They’re not sure if they feel like staying, at the moment. Sometimes I have to just sit with them. I don’t know what they want and I don’t care. I know them. They know me. We sit. It’s not combative. It’s more like acknowledgment. Followed by a big, long exhale.

But there’s one last little switch that hasn’t flipped. When it flips, they speak, and their assertive voices do not apologize. They speak in statements. Statements like “your family may all die on their way home” or “the dog hates you” or “it’s cancer” or “you’re a terrible parent” or just an unadorned “you blew it”. Or a “you’re a fake and you’re about to be found out”. That’s a good one too. Randomly thinking I’ve disappointed people or that they are angry at me. Timelessly delusional. Classically neurotic.

I have learned that Fall leaves the window open just enough that they can slip in. When it’s still warm enough to wear no coat, but too cold for sandals.

The switch may not flip at all this time. And THAT. Would be great. The uncertainty is a bit much…but whatever happens, Spring, I suppose, is just around the corner.

It’s a major improvement, having this standoff seasonally, instead of all year long. But that doesn’t mean I love it when it happens. Maybe someday…I can learn to love winter again.


4 thoughts on “Anxiety & Depression: The monsters within.

  1. You know, once my doctor told me that in the winter she would have loads of parents bringing their kids, then in spring they would suddenly all say it can’t be ADHD because so-and-so is doing so much better… Then I noticed that as soon as the first crap weather came in September, there I was, suddenly freaking out at my desk about not being able to get stuff done, instead of just getting stuff done. Despite the methylphenidate. You know that there has been some apparent success trialing light therapy for ADHD? Now I’m combining the methylphenidate with light therapy as suggested by said doctor. I think on balance it’s helping – feeling good and maybe catching up on sleep, though I have a baby in the house and a new job so it’s just impossible to tell right now. But I just thought I’d mention it.

    • I’m sure in twenty years we will all know more than we do now 😉 In the meantime…I do seem to have what we now call ADHD all year round, regardless of season, every day of the year. It’s the anxiety and depression that still seem to want to drag me down when things get darker. I would love to get one of those “happy” lights, however.

      • I woundn’t say I have “seasonal ADHD” either. Who does? But there also seems to be a motivational component to my normal ADHDness – I mean, it’s when I just cannot manage to be bothered to do what I need to do that I have a complusive need to do something else, or to just think of something else. And I’m wondering if there’s something in the idea that ADHD symptoms look a lot like sleep deprivation symptoms – sleep cycle being the other thing that light therapy is supposed to be good for. But if you have seasonally-linked anxiety and depression, I would say that’s reason enough for a happy light! I have this Finnish invention (the Finns know about darkness) which shines light into the brain through the ears (No kidding! Apparently the eyes have nothing to do with it). It looks like you’re listening to an Ipod and doesn’t stop you doing anything else. Which is great because frankly sitting for 30 mins with my face 12 cm from a light box ain’t gonna make me or anyone else in the family very happy.

      • Yes. Well…perhaps consider that depression and anxiety (as we currently define them) can also have a paralyzing impact on motivation.

        On my current budget, there won’t be any new gadgets in my future anyway 😉 I’ll have to make do with medication and exercise.

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