A tough year behind me, I turn to an antidepressant
About four years ago, I began to be overcome with sadness over my husband’s continued decline in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (SLA). Todd and I often said that if the progression of the disease stopped, we could adapt. But the management of ALS becomes more and more stressful over time, and the grief accumulates on the grief.
A few years ago, I discussed our situation and my sadness with my doctor. She prescribed an antidepressant with a warning saying that she took the drug herself and it was difficult to get rid of it. I was afraid of becoming a drug addict, but I was tired of being sad.
I picked up my prescription and took the first dose. That night I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t cry. I felt numb. With everything I was facing I couldn’t get through the Side effects to see if my body would adapt. Without sleep, I could not function to take care of two children and a disabled husband. I felt a sense of relief a day later when the medicine was withdrawn from my body and I returned to my sad state. I could sleep again. I could cry again.
Rest and tears are healing. I also exercise and journal to deal with my situational depression, but still live under a cloud of ALS. Sometimes the light comes through and we have had many joyful moments, but life is more and more difficult.
I had been hesitant to try another antidepressant. I told myself that my sadness was an appropriate response to a difficult situation. I might be sad, but I was managing.
But this fall, with the approach of a long winter, feeling isolated because of the Covid-19 pandemic, overwhelmed by the endless care responsibilities, and still struggling with long-term side effects from my COVID-19 vaccination, felt like something had to give way. It was so hard for so long and I got bored. I decided to try an antidepressant again.
My current doctor has suggested two possibilities. One choice was a drug that was easier to stop because the body gets rid of it quickly. A second choice was the one with the fewest side effects.
“I can’t handle the bad side effects, so let’s try the second one,” I said.
“We will try the lower therapeutic dose because you are very sensitive to the drugs,” my doctor said.
I started the medication and felt happier within a few days, but then was struck with anxiety and exhaustion. Now, with an even smaller dosage, I still experience side effects, but they are manageable. I feel more positive. I sleep better. It is too early to know if this is a long term solution, but I am hopeful.
Faced with a disease with such a bleak future, I will provide help where I can find it.
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