Scary Stuff

“In all affairs, it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”
Bertrand Russell

If you’re my Facebook friend, you’ve probably seen my posts related to the fact that I was sick last week.  If you’re a blog reader who is not a Facebook friend, then you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been somewhat AWOL for a while.  Well, let me give you a run down on why that is.  (And stick with me now…I’m not just whining about my ‘illness.’  There’s a point to this, I promise.)

[Although, feeling sorry for me about my illness is totally acceptable.  Welcomed even.  And, hey, if you want to swing by and cook me dinner one night or have some flowers sent to me or anything, I’m cool with that, too.  *Ahhem.*  Ok, continuing on…]

Early last week, a slight dizziness I had previously started to notice suddenly and unexpectedly went full force on me.  It got to the point where I could barely stand up without needing to hold on to a wall.  I went to the doctor on Wednesday (a new doctor, by the way, because of my new location – not my previous doctor…This info is important, so remember that…), and after a thorough exam and no findings of any inner ear infections (which I had suspected) or anything of that nature, I was diagnosed with BPPV.  That stands for Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, which basically means unexplained vertigo.  So, given this diagnosis, I proceeded to take the prescribed anti-nausea and motion sickness medicine, and work on some physical exercises that were supposed to help me regain my balance.

Well, nothing worked.  In fact, I only got worse.  And worse.  And worse.

It got to the point where dizziness was the least of my concerns.  My right arm started at first to just tingle (like it was asleep), but then to almost get to the point where it wasn’t functioning at all.  I caught myself reaching over with my left hand to move my right arm where it needed to go.  And then, it started affecting my legs.

My legs.

I’m a runner, for goodness sakes.  And suddenly, in a matter of a week, I went from being a runner to barely being able to walk.  Nothing “hurt” really.  They just wouldn’t work.  It was a crazy feeling…it was like I couldn’t concentrate and think well enough to tell my legs to move like they were supposed to.  I was terrified.

I went to the ER.  Twice.  They couldn’t find anything wrong with me.  NOTHING.  My heart was fine.  My brain was fine.  (Ha!  The quacks…) But seriously, nothing was showing up on any tests.  My body was falling apart, and there was no explanation whatsoever.  One of my Facebook contacts referred to me as a “drama queen,” and while it thoroughly pissed me off (you go from being an avid runner to practically not even being able to move in a week and let me know how ‘dramatic’ it feels to you, pal!), I was starting to think he had a point.  I felt like death was imminent (not much exaggeration there, trust me), and there was no discernible reason for it.

I was losing my mind.

So, there I was, huddled into a ball on the bed on Friday night when I got a message from my sweet friend Iman asking how I was doing.  There are some people in your life who ask that question and you reply, “I’m fine.”  Then there are the people in your life like Iman.  The people who know better than to ask that question if they don’t really want the truth, because they’re about to get it.  So, I told her.  I told her how bad it had gotten and how desperate I was feeling.  And how scared.  She immediately tried helping by asking all the questions that the doctors had asked.  What are my symptoms, how long have they been going on, have I tried this, have I tried that, am I on any particular medications….we went through the whole nine yards of questioning.  And then…

She asked a question the doctors hadn’t asked.  And one that I had never even thought to mention.

Have you recently stopped taking any medications?

*Ding ding ding*

Now, I’ve been told I have a wide reach with this blog.  And that I have more of an influence on people with my words than I may even realize.  So, I guess you could say this blog serves as my soapbox.  Or, my platform, if you will.  And with that being the case, I’m about to utilize that in a way that I think is very important.  I’m about to talk about the thing that is supposed to be kept secret.  The thing no one is supposed to talk about in polite company.  The thing I should be ashamed of.  The thing some people (including members of my own family) look down on and think less of you for because it admits ‘weakness.’

That thing?  Depression meds.  Yep, I was on them.

That’s right.  Me.  The girl who writes these uplifting blogs.  Who always sees the bright side of things, the underlying lessons in the hard times, the silver lining…blah, blah, blah.  Yep, that same girl has been on depression medication for the past few months.  (And guess what?  It wasn’t the first time, either.)

About 3 months ago, I went to my family doctor over a sore throat.  While I was there, I described to her how ‘low’ I had been lately.  I wasn’t interested in my usual things anymore (running, theatre, writing…) and I was very snippy.  Not only at home with my poor kids and boyfriend, but also at work.  I just seemed to be on edge all of the time and there was no apparent reason why.  So, we discussed my taking a low-dose depression med, and I agreed.

And it helped.  It really did.  In no time, I felt my old self coming back.  I just needed a little jump start.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  I caught myself skipping a pill here and there, and at this point I realized I had already missed about 4 days in a row.  So, I thought, I don’t need this stuff anymore.  All is well.  So, I stopped them altogether.

Well, guess what?  You’re not supposed to do that.

I had heard that you’re not supposed to stop those meds cold turkey like that.  That you’re supposed to wean off of them with a doctor’s advice.  But psssh.  In my usual Melissa way, I ignored that and just did it my way.  And buddy, let me tell ya, I suffered the consequences.

Immediately after Iman’s suggestion, I googled the side effects of stopping these meds.  Everything matched to a tee.  Apparently I was having severe withdrawal symptoms.  My new doctor didn’t catch that, because when asked if I was on any medications, I said no.  I didn’t think to mention that I had stopped one a few weeks ago – didn’t think it mattered.  (Lesson learned.)  So…I immediately dug them back out, took one, and waited to see what happened.  I woke up the next day feeling some better.  Took another, and woke up the next day feeling 100% back to normal.

Just like that.

No dizziness, no nausea, my legs and arms worked.  No more confusion, no more mood swings.  Just like that – I was ‘healed.’

Wow.

Now, why am I telling you this story?  Two reasons.

pillsFor one thing, I wanted to let everyone know that I’m human.  I mean, I know my superior awesomeness might have had you doubting that fact, but alas, ’tis true.  No, seriously, I wanted to make this ‘confession’ of sorts.  The primary reason for this blog is to talk about things that people can identify with.  If you are someone who has had to take this medication, why be ashamed of it?  Why is a chemical imbalance more embarrassing that a cold?  It’s silly.  It’s a sickness, and if you need medication, you need medication.  That’s all there is to it.  Just be careful to research the type that you’re on and make sure it’s the right one for you.  Discuss the side effects with your doctor and especially pay attention to the procedure with coming off of them when the time is right.  (Which, by the way, is for you AND your doctor to decide.  Not just you.  Even if you’re ‘superiorly awesome’ like me.  I know, I’m shocked too….)

But the other reason?  The other purpose for this blog?

I wanted to tell the ones who aren’t on this or other similar medications a few things.  First – to the ones who think you may need to be but are too embarrassed to seek help.  I have some deep, philosophical words of wisdom and advice for you.

Stop that crap.

Seriously, just stop it.  Medication is there for a reason.  If you need it, you need it.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  You don’t have to go blog about it or anything (I mean, come on, that would be stupid), but you don’t have to keep it a secret either.  You know?  If you need help ask for it.  Chemical imbalances and general overall sadness can wreak havoc on your life.  You have a choice:

strong

Continue in your misery, or seek help.  It’s that simple.  Really.  I promise.  It’s that simple.

And secondly, to the other set of people who aren’t on this medication and are certain that it’s unnecessary and that it’s a sign of weakness (you know who you are).  My message to you is the same.  Stop that crap.  Stop it.  YOU are not the smartest person on the planet, contrary to what you might believe.  You don’t know everything about everything.  Medication is there for a reason.  It’s necessary.  And it’s not your place or my place or anyone else’s place to judge whether or not someone chooses to accept that help that is available to them. Until you’ve been there, you don’t understand.  Trust me on this.  Got it?

Seriously.  Just stop it.

Let’s just love each other.  Okay?  When we need help, let’s get it.  When someone we love needs help, let’s support them.  Be smart.  Research.  Do what the doctor says.

The mind and spirit needs just as much attention as the physical body does when it comes to keeping healthy.  I’ve always heard that if you have your health, then you have everything.  After my scary week last week, I get it.  I soooo get it.

So, to summarize.  If you’re on medication for depression –  awesome.  Nothing to be ashamed of.  Take them like you’re supposed to and, please listen when I say this, don’t stop them cold turkey.  Talk to your doctor about when the time is right for you to come off of them and do it the right way.  Now, to those who are not on them but think you might need to be – go talk to someone about it.  Seriously.  Go.  You’ll be amazed at how different you feel.  Like the quote said above, making yourself miserable or putting forth effort to make yourself strong both take the same about of work.  Choose the smart route.  Get help. Ok?  And, finally, to those who are not on them and think badly of the people who are?  Stop it.  That’s it.  Just stop it.  You’re being a big jerkface.

We clear?

Ok.  That’s all I have to say.

And now, I’m off to run.  (And thank God for it….)

***

“To keep the body in good health is a duty….otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”
– Buddha

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14 responses »

  1. Truth! I take mine and it evens out my brain so that I CAN feel: good, bad, sad, happy, nervous, grumpy. Without, I am a shell of a person with no hope, no passion, no joy, and nothing but despair. There is no shame in this, I have a weird brain is all. Like folks who know me didn’t know that already. Love ya and thank you for writing this.

  2. Always authentic and true, that is why I so enjoy reading your posts Melissa. Thank you for that, really. It is very scary, yet very comforting in a strange sort of way to write about those things that sit just beneath the surface. Things that are personal, yet need to be said. I should know, I just did the same thing earlier today 😉

    On a totally separate (and somewhat ironic note), my wife was diagnosed with vertigo due to an inner ear infection last week. It was scary for me (and I am sure even scarier for her)! I empathize with the feeling of helplessness that goes along with this ugliness. And I am certainly happy that you are on the run once again 🙂

    Thanks for staying true to yourself and for being courageous enough to show that we are all human.

    • I feel for your wife regarding the vertigo! Please send her my best wishes. I assume she’s on medication for the inner ear infection? Make sure she takes them all! I’ve heard those nasty inner ear infections come right back if you don’t finish all the antibiotics. Hope she heals soon!

      And, as always, thank you for your comment. It helps to know that what I have to say is so well-received. And now…I’m off to read YOUR blog. 😉

  3. All you have said is true. I have been on anti-depressants in the past. I don’t feel bad or awkward for saying this. I would be on them now if I was in the same mental place I was when I started taking them. When I got pregnant, I had to stop taking my medication and I was terrified. What if I start hiding in my basement again? What if I stop caring about EVERYTHING that matters including my baby? But I had to stop because depression meds can be harmful to the fetus. So I stopped, and what happened was bizarre. If you didn’t know me, and you saw me, you would swear that I was on some heavy narcotics. I too went to the Dr. who had said please come back if anything weird happens when you stop the meds. I could barely stand, I was incoherent, just weird…. There were about 20 possible negative side effects that you could have, and I had 18 of them! Fortunately, they didn’t last long. After I had my daughter, my brain chemistry must have evened itself out, because I feel like myself without the help of my meds. My mom made me promise to “never take that stuff again!” and I flat out told her that I would do no such thing. If I ever get to that dark place or even headed down that path, I will take medicine to make me well. Simple as that. It is not a weakness of character or something that can be cured with will power. I consider my self blessed that my brain has healed itself for now, but I am very aware that my mental well-being can change for no reason. Thanks for sharing. No shame in healing yourself!

  4. I wish people would understand that depression or nerves on edge is a treatable illness, just like hbp, or diabetes. I’m glad you figured things out and got back on the med.

  5. Now I have the time to sit down and really read this, I knew it was going to be important, so I wanted to focus. I am glad I did. I am on an SSRI, antidepressant. Mine is for anxiety and agoraphobia, to the point where I couldn’t leave my house, and to be able to I had to have water and cookies in my purse because I was just sure I was either severely dehydrated or having some sort of sugar issues when I wasn’t sure I was having a heart attack when it was a panic attack. I was progressively turning into a bigger and bigger (hotter and hotter) mess, and getting fat! Well when you think your panic attack is a low blood sugar issue and you eat anything with sugar, this happens!

    I weaned myself off them twice, the first time I went back on I felt like a failure. The second time I went back on them I knew this was until death and nothing was going to keep me from my daily dose, nothing. I knew what it felt like off of them and on them and how I wished that someone would have seen the issues earlier, and gotten me help, but then I think I would not have turned into the person I am now without the years of anguish. I may rely a LOT less on self deprecating humor to get my point across, is the only upside some may see to this. What I know is I am human and I have a chemical imbalance that will impact my ability to function if it is not treated.

    When I talk with my doc he put me on cholesterol meds and high blood pressure meds for a while. Well when I was fat I needed them, as the weight came off and my fitness improved the HBP dosage went down and down every 6 months till I was off of it. We had a heart to heart over the cholesterol meds and I wanted to be off of them so he said fine, my cholesterol read high for my last test, he wanted me to go back on them I said, no. He asked if I needed any refills I asked for my SSRI and said I’d never be parted from that. He chuckled and said, you do have your own mind, don’t you. See you in 6 months see what you can do about that cholesterol and keep me posted on what are you training for.

    You are not alone and if you need the meds take them!!! Stigma sucks, I deal with it with my meds and my mother’s cancer, and people like you who educate and advocate are what is necessary to eliminate the stigmas.

    Kudos to you Melissa!!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and share your thoughts, Beth. People read the comments as much as they do the story, and I think you’ve probably helped a lot of people as well. Thank you again.

      And keep up the good work!

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