April 28, 2013

A Long Awaited Update

I have deliberately held off posting anything due to my problems with anxiety and depression.  I wanted the medication and therapy I am going through to take more effect before I posted anything.

I am on my third medication since late January and it is working.  On April 7th I posted that I was feeling wonderful and I was feeling considerably better than I had for two months.  I am taking Lexapro and like many anti-depressants it takes almost 6 weeks for it fully to  be absorbed by your brain and take effect.  

I am making progress each day and have chosen to go to a behavioral sciences facility where I meet with a med specialist who constantly monitors the medications I am taking and making sure that I am receiving the correct dosage and that I am not having any problems with the medications.  I cannot express how secure it makes me feel to meet with someone every two weeks (and someone I can call in between) to make sure that I am not having any problems.  The person is an expert on these types of meds and I totally trust her.  I trust her because I see things getting better.

I have also taken another major step and that is to acknowledge that I need to see a therapist twice a month for two months and then probably once a month thereafter.  The sudden fright that I had in January has triggered so much that I recognize that just taking medication is not enough.  The two work together.  

My husband's health insurance covers all but 10% of the medications and the therapy.  I can honestly say that I would use a credit card and pay as much as it took to get better if it was necessary.

One thing that is coming up is the fact that I never had anxiety or depression when I was working full time.  So, is the answer to find a full time job or perhaps the answer is to find some volunteer job to fill my time.  I am in no hurry to make a decision and I am going to rely on my therapist to help me with what is best for me.  I can say this, I never, never, never want to go through what I went through in January, February and March.  

So what else has been going on?  Since my fright in January was triggered by our dog Molly barking loudly at someone at our front door (truly a dog thing), I decided that I had to take her through obedience training.  Molly had not been the same since we put our black lab to sleep in early January.  Poor old Griffey was like a mother to Molly so someone, meaning me, has to take the lead of being Molly's leader.  I am the person that has to be the pack leader to Molly.  Obedience training takes up a lot of my time.  I spend many afternoons on long walks with Molly with her sitting, heeling, watching me, staying, coming when called by name and so  on. She has a long way to go, but she is losing some of the timidness that she had displayed and will let strangers even pet her.  She used to hide behind me.

As for barking at people at the door, I had to go out and buy a second crate for her and it is kept in our living room.  Part of her obedience training is inviting people over to the house, putting Molly in the crate and then letting the people in the door.  You need to greet the people as if you hadn't seen them in 20 years - you know - over the top.   This communicates to the dog that this "stranger" is really a friendly person.  Of course all of this is told to the individuals before hand.  Then when Molly is relaxed in her kennel, she is allowed to come out and no one is to pay much attention to her or make eye contact with her and eventually she will lay down and feel secure and go to sleep.

The other benefit of the second kennel is that when I am watching my now 2 month old son in the mornings, I can quickly put Ryan in his crib which is located in the bedroom next to the living room, kennel Molly and then let the person in.  I can then pick up Ryan and if Molly feels comfortable I can let her out of her kennel or not.  

Now, some people will think that crating or kenneling a dog is inhumane, but it isn't.  Dogs are den animals.  In fact, Molly sleeps all night in a kennel near our bedroom and she also is kenneled when I am gone for home up to 4 hours at a time.  She sleeps and feels secure.  All I have to say to her in a happy voice is, "Molly, kennel up" and she runs into her kennel.  

Molly goes for a 1 1/4 mile run in the mornings with my husband, 2 mile walks with me in the afternoon and another 1 mile walk in the evening which is key to a balanced dog - basic needs of food, water and exercise; rules, boundaries and limitations - discipline and affection.  Too many people treat a dog as if it was their child - I have done this in the past to a dog we owned years ago and that was a big mistake.

I will probably take Molly through a second obedience class because it keeps me accountable and it also helps to socialize her more.  

Lastly, we have decided that the time has come to buy a vinyl privacy fence.  The picket fence that I painted a few years ago has several rotting boards and is also needing painted again.  Also, we want a privacy fence so people that walk down the sidewalk next to our property can't tease our dog and even more importantly to create a safe environment for our grandson as he grows older.  We will install it ourselves but it still costs a lot of money.  My husband has set aside money for home improvements, so this is one of those times I am very grateful for him doing this.  Add to the fact that our front porch floor needs to be replaced, that we have to install a sump pump in our basement (last week we had water in it again), we will be eating frugally and be glad for the money we set aside.  Now, if the furnace and air conditioner can just hold out for one more year.  Fingers are crossed!!!!

From this post I want you to know that if you are suffering from depression and/or anxiety don't feel ashamed.  If I had diabetes, I would be on insulin.  It doesn't matter if it is physical or mental, hurting is still hurting and you need to feel better so you can enjoy your life.  

Second.  Owning a dog is a big commitment and can cost money.  From purchasing a good quality dog food, to vet bills, toys, crates and obedience classes.  But that is my choice to do this and please note, that we only own the number of pets that we can afford.

Lastly, do whatever it takes to set aside a small sum of money each paycheck towards any home or car repairs.  Don't rely on credit cards but make the necessary cutbacks to save the money for that rainy day that we always know will come.

My camera is not working, but when I get a chance I will post a retro apron I made for myself.  I love it.

April 07, 2013

Another good reason for money in the bank

Since January I have been working my way through depression.  But, now I am diagnosed mostly with anxiety which left untreated could become depression.

I'm being treated successfully and have finally, after trial and error of different medications, been placed on the correct medication.  It is working and I feel wonderful.  Now, when I say wonderful, I am not saying over the top, uncharacteristically wonderful - I feel like myself.

I have the energy to go out walking and exercise and have been watching my food intake.  

Have you ever had the thought that having some extra money set aside in the bank for when you are unwell is a good idea?  Since January I have struggled with cooking meals as I just did not feel up to it.  So, I have purchased more frozen entrees, and we have eaten out a few times a week.  I'm so glad that we had the extra money to do this as it was a big help after we used up all the frozen casseroles that I had on hand.

But now I face a new, lesser problem, I am totally ADDICTED to sewing.  My husband has come home from work to find me sewing in my sewing room and he comes in and asks "What's for supper?"  Oops.  Well, the weather is warm, so you can thaw a pound of hamburger and make them into patties and get them on the grill in no time.  A tossed salad can be made up quickly along with cutting up some fresh fruit for a salad.  Now I set a timer so that I can get dinner in the oven and go back to sewing.  

I will be posting what I have been making - aprons and burp cloths for babies.  I need to make curtains for my house and I want to do some more sewing for others, such as mending.  Then when the weather gets a little warmer, I will be outside painting our house.

April 04, 2013

My journey towards mental health

Since January I have been going through depression, or at least I thought I had.  My General Practioner who is a friend and a person that I entrust took me as far as he could in helping me. Last Saturday when I was taking a shower I started to think that I was feeling no better after being on Celexa and a small dosage of Valium for 5 weeks.  I had been on Paxil prior to that for 10 days and had horrible side effects (anxiety and panic attacks) to the point that my husband took off work to be with me.  

Well I am a Christian and I only say that because sometimes you encounter people at church, exchange phone numbers during Sunday School and establish friendships and acquaintances.  I got out of the shower last Saturday morning and it is like God spoke to me and told me to text this lady from my church.  She works at the local hospital in their Behavioral Services department.  I texted her at 9:00 a.m. and within a few minutes she called me back.  She talked to me, got information from me and then within a couple of minutes I received a phone call from the physcian's assistant who was on call at that time to get some more information from me about the medication I was on.  The P.A. called the psychiatrist on call and she suggested I take 1/2 pill of valium a day to get me through the weekend.  That was Saturday and throughout the day the initial lady from my church that I had contacted, me kept texting me and telling me that there was hope and that I would get the right treatment and be well again.  

On Monday I went to the Behavioral Services office at 8:00 while they were having clinicals and reviewing cases including mine.  I took my Kindle with me as I knew that they had back to back appointments and would be fitting me in.   At 10:15 I met with an in-take person.  She is a kind individual who listened to what I was going through and asked me tons of questions.  I was then given a 2:30 appointment for that afternoon to speak with the individual who was their med specialist.  I was assured that she knew her job well.  She understands brain chemistry, dosages, and what drugs interact with other drugs.  

So back I went at 2:30 and met with the med specialist.  I told her that I now understand that depression was not my problem.  I had a problem with anxiety and anxiety attacks, but with the anxiety left untreated I become depressed.  She spent close to an hour with me going over all sorts of information and questioning me a lot about any medication I had taken in my entire life and side effects and so on.  In the end her diagnosis was that I have been on the wrong medication all along.  I am now being weaned on Lexipro and my Valium has been increased as the Valium dosage was actually so low that it really only worked for a few days.  When the Lexipro is entirely in my system, I will be slowly weaned off of the Valium.

I told the med specialist that I had never felt this way until being diagnosed with hypothyroidism 3 years ago.  Here is what she told me and my friend who is a therapist told me, I am a classic case.  I am now 54 years old, pre menopausal and have hypothyroidism.  Many women go through anxiety and/or depression at this time in their life.  I also shared that I am a “stuffer downer” the kind of person that deals with problems later and pushes them off. Well, now that I am home full time, those things that I have stuffed down are coming to the surface so part of my treatment plan involves therapy and meeting with the med specialist to monitor my medications.

In the meantime I have changed my schedule.  I used to love being home all the time, but now being home is a little hard for me.  As I am being weaned on the Lexipro and getting to the full amount and through therapy, that will change.  But I realize that while I had enjoyed being home, I also enjoy volunteering my time.

My new schedule is getting up and getting ready, walking the dog and then I am out the door at 9:00 to noon to volunteer at my church.  I then come back home at noon to have lunch with my husband and then at 3:30 I head back out the door to either work out or go back to my church and sit in a room that I am considering my office to research possible women’s ministries and outreach ministries for our ladies group.

I think it is so sad that I waited so long to call a mental health provider for help.  There is far too many “stigmas” out there that people get hung up on and they let get things to the point of perhaps becoming suicidal. I was never at that point.  I just knew I was feeling awful and not my normal self and that I had to get help. 

To hear that my age, being premenopausal and having hyprothyroidism was a classic case for anxiety which could lead to depression makes me wonder how many of my followers are in the same boat that I am in. 

Brain chemistry and getting on the right meds is a tricky thing.  Seeing specialists in which that is all they do is the best thing that you can do for your health and for your family.  Don’t suffer.  At the hospital where I go for “behavioral services” you go through an outside door that is labeled “2” in which anyone that drives by the hospital and sees you go in that door knows where you are going.  Well, that is their problem.  I could care less who knows that I am being treated and getting help. 

Please don’t suffer for the 3 months that I suffered.  I am not there yet, but I know that being on the right meds and seeing a therapist is going to bring me around. 

I have shared with a few ladies at my church what I am going through and guess what – they have been through the same thing.  Having a mental health issue does not make you a bad Christian.  It does not mean that you can’t turn all your worries over to God and move it and are a lesser person.  It simply means that just like a diabetic needs insulin, God gave Psychiatrists and mental health providers the gift to know what you need to help you lead a full productive life. 

Please, please, please don’t suffer like I did for 3 months.  Get help.