Thursday, October 16, 2014

Taking the hard road.

A few months ago I decided I needed to go back on Zoloft. My mood had become increasingly inconsistent, often low, and I constantly had anger and irritability lurking just beneath the surface. Things would be going along hunky dory when something small - a kid forgetting his shoes, someone not listening - would set me off. I would get unreasonable angry (at them, at myself, at everything) and would sometimes not be able to recover for days.

After one particularly bad day I knew enough was enough. Allowing my children to suffer because I couldn't get a hold of myself was unacceptable. So I called my doctor and waved the white flag.

This is never an easy phone call to make. Admitting that you are unable to control yourself without pharmaceuticals is hard. I don't know why but it is. Admitting you need glasses is no big deal. It's a pleasure to wear them, to see as clearly as you possibly can. It should be the same with any medically necessary intervention. But for me it has never felt so black and white. Even though I know how much the right medication can help, there's a part of me that still feels I should be able to do it myself.

That part of me was sort of relieved with my doctor's response.

He basically said, I'm sorry you feel like crap but that's totally to be expected. That whatever it was I was pushing down and not feeling with the Zoloft had resurfaced and would continue to resurface until I figured out what it was and processed it. He said he could rewrite my prescription but he strongly recommended that I first try to break the cycle with therapy.

I would have been more pissed off but I think that's secretly what I wanted to hear. Plus, he had a phychologist on staff who I could easily schedule time with. Not having to go out of my way to find a therapist on my own made it easy to say, "Why not?"

This was a first for me. I had never ever, not one time, gone to therapy. And to be honest, I didn't think I needed it. Everything was great, remember? There wasn't a single thing I could point to and say, "Yep, that's it. That's what's making me feel so bad." And when there was? I'd fix it! So if there wasn't an issue, what could we possibly have to work on?

Plus, I had always told myself in the past that a therapist was unnecessary because I had friends I could unload on. Even some friends who are therapists! Weren't our dinner dates practically the same thing as (free!) therapy?

Turns out, I didn't know the first thing about therapy. For starters, it's not at all like talking to a freind. Unless you happen to monopolize conversations and cry at inappropriate times with your friends. It's honestly not like anything else I have ever done. And I read ALL the books and am constantly trying to make myself better. (My bedside table looks like the self-help section.) It has been fascinating and hard and immensely helpful.

I have stopped wanting to go back on Zoloft. I have cried more tears than I knew I had in me. I've had really hard conversations and journaled and read books that have challenged what I thought I knew. I am no longer having the problems I had when I first called my doctor. Now I have new problems (ha!). It's like as soon as I slog through one issue, it's onto the next. And it turns out there is a lot more for me to work through than I thought.

It feels a lot like changing my diet instead of taking cholesterol medication. I was so happy when I got my results and saw how all my hard work had paid off. But a few months later, probably over a fat slice of pepperoni pizza, I realized that my cholesterol would only stay in check as long as my diet stayed in check. The test results aren't good for a year or anything - they can be skewed as quickly as I can finish a bowl of ice cream.

This is a little disheartening. It's HARD to do the work. Really hard to do it all the time. Popping a pill is the easiest thing in the world. And when the results are more-or-less the same? It's hard to say which approach I would recommend. On the one hand, it's nice to feel powerful and in charge of my mental and physical health. On the other hand, it seems kind of silly to take the hard road if the easy road gets you to the same place.

But for now, I guess, I'm enjoying the journey.

PS - I know it's kind of awkward to share stuff like this - TMI and all that - but I think it was making me feel really stuck NOT writing about it. Like the elephant in the room was sitting on my laptop or something. Hopefully this will free me up a bit so I can get back in the writing groove. : )


ae said...

I've done therapy, I've taken the pills and I've done the combo. They work. All of them. At different times for different reasons.

Taking pills is not the easy way out, any more than using a crutch when you have a broken ankle is "cheating".

I loved my time in therapy, but after three years of hard work trying to overcome anxiety and depression, my therapist gently suggested a low dose of Prozac. I tried it and it was like somebody turned on the lights.

Now I use anti-depressants for daily maintenance, and therapy for life events requiring tune-ups.

Thankfully, there a spectrum of options for everyone.

No Mommy Brain said...

That's such a great point. Thank you. I know I will read this again if I need to go back on something in the future. Don't know why medication always felt like cheating