This was a question I asked my primary care provider over five years ago. The question came about after she asked me if I was depressed, and I told her no. Why did she ask? Because one of the meds in my history was for depression. When I explained that no, it was for headaches, she just nodded. Then, when I asked if that meant I was secretly depressed, she said no; the medication was contraindicated for headaches.
Whew, this past week has been a bear. I’ve had a headache of varying intensity for the past week. Both (last) Monday and (this past) Saturday’s headaches migraines were so bad that I basically stayed in bed all day. I had stopped tracking my headaches (I tend to get them in clusters twice a month) so I wasn’t surprised I had headaches this week. I was just put out by the intensity of them.
Anyway, Saturday was pretty bad and then it rained, and it’s supposed to keep raining so I think at least part of it was due to the pressure change. At any rate, I’ve had a mild headache on and off today, so I hope/think I’m at the end.
As previously mentioned, I went to see a headache specialist who prescribed Topomax for my headaches.
The Topomax turned out to be no good for me. At all.
In fact, the Topomax caused symptoms of depression. What that means is I have been depressed for the past few weeks. I don’t have to tell anyone who suffers from depression that it has been awful, but, still, it has been awful.
I realized I was depressed because my do not want and lack of engagement with almost everything has been so high. Like, I literally did not want to do anything. I was late to my office hours the past week because the thought of sitting in my office for no reason felt so pointless. And we have meetings, which I largely feel are inane but that I usually am fine with going to because I get to catch up with people, and I just could not force myself to go to them. Everything has felt stupid and dumb, and I come home and sit on my couch and the thought of doing anything else fills me with dread.
This weekend, I was invited to a Halloween party, and I stood in the door to my closet trying to figure out which of my costumes I was going to recycle and the thought just exhausted me and I knew if I stood there any longer I wouldn’t go to the party, so I just made myself leave the house and go because I knew once I got to the party I would be fine, but the idea of the costume was exhausting. The thought of even going to the party was exhausting, and I could and would have used the costume as an excuse not to go. AND I LOVE PARTIES. This behavior is so uncharacteristic of me that I knew something had to be wrong.
Last week, I had to text several people to see if anyone was available to get together to grade/work because I knew that if I did not have anyone to hold me accountable, I would just sit in my house and not do anything. And, y’all, I know I complain about grading and there are a million things I would rather do, but when it’s time to get it done, I will power through, but I was like, “If I don’t get help with this, I’m just going to be staring at my students like ‘Sorry, I don’t know what you want from me because I’m barely showing up for this’.”
So yeah, I knew something wasn’t right. I mean, teaching was basically the only thing keeping me going because I know from just when I’m in a generally pissy mood that engaging with my students makes me feel better, so showing up for work helped. Showing up for other commitments and being around people helped. And then just as I was thinking I should probably get to the doctor, I reread the insert on the medicine and saw the bit about contacting the doctor immediately if I started experiencing symptoms of depression.
When I told my therapist I would rather go back to having headaches than dealing with this, she was all, “Are you sure?” and I was like, “Yeah, the headaches sucked but I was able to show up for my life and my students and my friends and now I’m barely going through the motions. So, yeah, headaches >>>> Topomax-induced depression, for sure.”
I also have actually hated coming home because when I’m with people, the depression is there, but it’s at bay. I’m able to laugh and cut up and have fun. But on the drive home, the emptiness that’s awaiting me has been daunting. I actually just left a friend’s before coming home to write this (it’s Sunday), and I was for a moment gripped by terror that I would cross my threshold and the desire would completely leave me as soon as I sat on the couch–that all my plans for myself would collapse in that black hole of nothingness that’s been swallowing me up lately. And this is different from procrastinating and goofing off because even those things have held no appeal. It’s just been nothing, and that’s been terrifying.
But there is good news. I have started decreasing my dosage and feel better already. In two weeks, I’ll no longer be taking the medicine and in three, it will be completely out of my system. (I wish I could just quit but apparently that leads to seizures and possibly death, and I’ll be damned if I let that happen after all of this. So. Slow as it goes.) I’m writing this blog post. I have been honest with my friends about what’s going on with me. I’ve reached out for company when I’ve needed it. I went back to the gym Friday, and I went to church Sunday. I’m actively thinking of the things I know that I enjoy or that make me feel better and doing them so I can not feel terrible all the time. And it’s working. And for that, I am grateful.
Since my last post, I have been to seven doctors’ appointments, and that’s not counting the ones I took my daughter to before she left for Japan. I am exhausted, and it turns out that I’m not just exhausted because it’s a thing I like to say but probably because of medical reasons.
Here’s what I’ve learned from all my doctor’s appointments:
As part of the IBS Audio 100 program that I’m doing, the author asks that you rate your symptoms before starting, at the 27-day mark, and then again at the 100-day mark. After I completed the first 27 days, I decided that I should probably actually track my symptoms every day since I was mostly going by how I felt that week (which was fine), but I didn’t really have an overall sense of what I was feeling. There are a couple of apps specifically for IBS, but the one I chose is Cara because it’s pretty comprehensive.
Right, so, I have been tracking my symptoms and food for 38 days now, and here’s what I have discovered:
I am always stressed out
I always have a headache
My stomach always hurts/is bloated
The last one wasn’t that big of a surprise since that’s why I’m using the app in the first place. No, the big surprises for me were the first two. First of all, how am I stressed out EVERY DAY even right now when I’m on vacation? Second, I thought my headaches were under better control than that.