Monthly Archives: May 2019

Phoenix Series: Shake what your doctor gave you

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There are over 30 different antidepressants on the market. I take three different medications daily to control and alleviate my symptoms. It is very tedious finding the right combination of medications when you have anxiety and depression. It took 4 months before we found the right combination for me. I started off with Zoloft which worked amazingly; however, it killed my libido. The other medications we tried were Remeron, Lexapro, and Trazadone. Weight gain, low libido and not being able to achieve orgasm are common side effects of antidepressants; which is why a lot of people stop taking their medication. I was also prescribed a mood stabilizer to try to counteract this side effect as well as improve my mood and alertness. I failed 3 antidepressants before we tried the one that I am currently on. Most insurance companies have guidelines on the medications that need to be tried first in order to try other ones or they will not cover the cost of them. To fail a medication, it basically means it did not work for you or you experienced too many side effects to the point that it was deemed more harmful than helpful. During this process some of the weight I worked hard to lose came back. I gained 15 pounds back taking medications.

Currently, I take Wellbutrin and Trintellix in the morning and before bedtime I take Seroquel for my insomnia. Trintellix is fairly new, but it does not cause sexual side effects or significant weight gain like the others. The weight is starting to come off since I have been on this combination for a while now. Most antidepressants do not start working overnight. You usually don’t notice a difference until it has been about 2-4 weeks. Lexapro made me very aggressive and worsened my depression so I was quickly taken off of it. If you do not feel your meds are working for you let your doctor know. If you are experiencing a lot of side effects tell your doctor. A lot of people are embarrassed to mention the sexual side effects to their doctors, but don’t be. They need to know so they can fix the issues to keep you on your treatment plan.

Here are different types of anti-depressants. These medications are also used to treat other disorders such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These are the most common medications prescribed to treat anxiety and depression. Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft. Symbyax is approved for treating depression that is treatment resistant. Yes, treatment-resistant depression is real. Abilify, Seroquel (one of the meds I take), and Rexulti are considered add-on drugs. Viibryd and Trintellix (what I currently take) are used for treating MDD and anxiety. Trintellix is also sometimes used for people who have low libido not related to depression as it has been clinically proven to increase sex drive.
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): These drugs are pretty new and they include Cymbalta, Effexor (one of the ones I failed), Fetzima, and Pristiq.
  • Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs): This is basically a mood stabilizer. Wellbutrin (what I currently take)
  • Tetracyclics are another form of antidepressants that doctors prescribe such as Asendin, Ludiomil, and Remeron (I was on this one for insomnia and it worked but made me feel groggy and irritable in the mornings). Remeron doesn’t stop the reuptake the same way as the other medications do. It stops neurotransmitters from sticking together with certain receptors on your nerves.
  • Serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARIs): These can help stabilize mood swings etc. Serzone and Trazodone (I was prescribed this one for insomnia but didn’t like it). jar-2338584_960_720

Just because a certain drug(s) didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else. We are all different. It is funny how these medications work. For example, some of my friends who were on Lexapro loved it. For me, I hated it and it didn’t work at all. It is best to familiarize yourself with any potential side effects that the medications may have and you and your doctor can weigh the pros and cons and see if certain risks outweigh the effectiveness of the treatment. I also like to encourage people to look into holistic remedies as well to use in conjunction with the medication.

Keep up with your prescriptions and pay attention to when you need refills. It is best to get your refills as early as you can to avoid running out of medication. However, if the person has a history of abusing medications, they will not be able to fill their prescriptions in large quantities, etc. I set reminders on my phone to take my medication. There were a few times I forgot to take them because I was not used to taking meds every day since it had been years without them. Now my husband asks if I have taken them, my oldest two know that I take medication and they know what my condition is. I explained it to them in an age-appropriate way and they have been very supportive and looking out for me and such. My bad days affected everyone. I would stay in bed, cry randomly, get angry or hostile, shut myself in, procrastinate a lot, and I lost interest in a lot of things I once enjoyed. When things got to the point where I could not function day to day and it started to impact my quality of life, it was time to seek help. I expressed my feelings to my beau and my friends and everyone encouraged me to go ahead and find a dr. I wasn’t embarrassed at all. Everyone knew something wasn’t right but didn’t know how to approach the situation. This is why stigma needs to be done with when it comes to mental health.

It is normal to feel embarrassed or defeated if you have to be put on medication. Just know that you are not alone. You will be surprised at how many people you may know who have at one point been on or currently take medication for anxiety and depression or other mental disorders. I refused to suffer in silence any longer. Do what is BEST for you. Take care of yourself and be well as a whole. I feel like I am a stronger person because I took the steps to get my shxt together instead of sulking in whatever misery my brain created. IMG_20190129_231440_080

 

Being depressed and anxious can be very lonely. It is important to have support if it’s having people around or people checking in on you. Pick someone you trust to open up to. I frequently discuss my condition with my friends and my beau. Everyone asks questions and I explain things the best I can and sometimes we try to think of solutions together. For me, having high functioning MDD and anxiety made it harder for people to acknowledge the severity of things. People like me who are high functioning can still get things done and such, be successful and interact with others by masking the symptoms. It becomes so mundane over time. Depression and anxiety doesn’t just impact the person who has it, it impacts everyone around them as well. Depression and anxiety will drain your energy, motivation, and outlook on things. If you know someone who has the condition be the support they may not know they need.

Call 1-800-273-8255
Available 24 hours everyday

Until next time,Breyona

Phoenix Series: Snap Out Of It

“I never believed in mental illness until it happened to me.”

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This is something I have heard a few times from different people when they speak about their condition. This doesn’t apply to me, however. I always knew it was a real thing. I always knew there was something going on with me, but I was never really clear on what it was. Diagnosing mental illnesses is very tricky. It is not like diagnosing someone with the flu etc. It takes time and lots of documentation. Before I decided it was time to go back to the doctor last year, everyone had their advice on what I should do. Don’t tell people they need to exercise, use herbal remedies etc. Encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional. Being told it could be worse is very discouraging because you feel like you are being compared to someone else or that you are a weak individual. I am not ashamed of my story because it may inspire others to get the help they truly need and deserve. I used to find myself telling people I was sick when I was having a bad day because it was easier for my friends and associates to understand me having a cold versus me trying to explain depression & anxiety.

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The deepest pain I remember feeling before I started to open up about my condition was denying that I even had something wrong with me to make everyone else feel better and more comfortable around me. I didn’t want to be looked at as a charity case or as a Debbie Downer. I also learned that anxiety really sucks and happens sometimes for no reason. I can’t recover by staying calm or breathing. I actually need the assistance of medication to limit and avoid having panic attacks. I have social and general anxiety according to my doctor. Personally, I think it is more social. Recovering from depression is more than having positive vibes. If it was that simple then no one would suffer from it. People who have mental illnesses are not weak individuals. They are very strong people even if they handle emotions differently than you do. I fight to work, take care of my family, be there for my friends, act normal, etc when I am having an episode. It is dealing with invisible pain. It’s more exhausting acting like you don’t have a mental illness, than dealing with it and treating it. Don’t do that to yourself. Stop hiding.

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Having anxiety and depression comes as a package deal. Some people would consider this as baggage. It takes a very caring and patient person to care for a person who has a mental illness. I learned that when your body is sick you get all types of sympathy…except for when your brain isn’t working properly and you have depression. It was a very frustrating time in our marriage with me trying to explain how I felt and what was going on in my head to my beau. He thought he could fix me. Hell, we both thought we could fix me. I would be okay for a while but then I would get triggered and have a mental meltdown. This happened once a month and then it started to happen more frequently. The panic attacks became my normal whenever I needed to leave the house. I shopped at Target multiple times per week to avoid the busy times and crowds. Whenever lines are long I get anxious and want to bail out. I am impatient.

Whenever we go to a restaurant I must sit where I can clearly see the door. I don’t like my food to touch, I can’t stand hearing people smack and chew their food, I have a bad habit of cutting people off when they talk (I have gotten better about this), if I can’t get ahold of you or it’s been a while since I talked to you I start thinking the worst. I can’t help it. Even if I trust you with my soul I will still get anxious. The meds help with all of that including the little bit of OCD that I have. The meds help me chill out and not be in flight or fight mode 24-7. The meds help me not look at everything and everyone as a threat. I don’t worry so much to the point where it makes my tummy hurt anymore. I don’t get nervous when I have to go to crowded places to the point that I want to puke anymore. I avoided parties and other social gatherings for a while because mentally I just couldn’t handle it during my meltdown periods.

Once my beau educated himself on my condition, he was able to understand things better and how to approach the situation. I love him for wanting to understand and help me. I know my beau loves me very much and wants me to be happy. I am very lucky to have him by my side and have him fighting for me and with me. I am not in this alone. Support goes a long way. My close friends always check on me and ask about my appointments. They ask how am I feeling. They all know the cues of when something is wrong. For a while, everyone suspected something but didn’t want to ask. Once I put it out there I think we all felt more comfortable about it. When you have a mental illness you have to have people rooting for you. You need that village. When I have a panic attack, my heart races, I tremble, I feel like I am going to puke and I feel scared. I want to leave wherever I am at. People saying they were going to have a panic attack as a joke about inconveniences of life makes it harder for those of us who do truly experience them to be taken seriously.

Unfortunately, anxiety and depression are very misunderstood. Sadly, getting help for mental health issues is so inconvenient and hard in America. I have been through several doctors etc before finding a decent one. I am also my own worst enemy because I am very knowledgeable about psychology and medical stuff. When we were looking for me a new doctor so that I could get back on meds, it took a week of calling around to pinpoint the right doctors that fit our insurance coverage. Then the majority of those doctors were not accepting new patients…..hello!? I am being proactive trying to fix me and you won’t even see me!? Sure if it’s an emergency they will just check you into a mental institution. Anyway, after finding two doctors, my first choice staff was very rude and nobody would answer or call back. Finally a week later they called me back and said that I could be seen as a new patient in 3 weeks… 3 fxcking weeks. My second choice called me back within a week and I was able to be seen that following week. I am still under the care of my second choice. With this doctor, I have the option under my insurance coverage to do telehealth. Telehealth is when your doctor can see you remotely. You don’t go in person to your appointments. You are able to call or video chat. You must be deemed stable. This practice requires you to have 3 or 4 in-person visits or be deemed stable to qualify for telehealth.

I have been going in person since November of 2018. I am very close to being deemed stable so that I can do telehealth. The only reason I have not been able to sooner is that we had to figure out the right combination of medications (I will talk about that in another post).

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Here are some stats and faqs about mental illnesses in the United States

  • 1 in every 5 adults will be diagnosed with a mental disorder at some point in their life.
  • 1 in every 24 adults will be diagnosed with a serious mental disorder.
  • 1 in every 12 adults has a substance abuse problem.
  • Most chronic mental disorders appear by the time a person turns 14.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all ages and is more common than murders.
  • People who have a mental disorder are not more likely to become violent than those who do not have a mental disorder. People with mental disorders are more likely to be victims of crimes and not the perpetrator.
  • Every 12.8 minutes someone dies by committing suicide in America.
  • 90 percent of those who commit suicide had a mental health issue that could be diagnosed.

Suicidal ideation is usually a common symptom that a lot of people with mental health issues encounter at some point. I have been there personally. I found myself joking about it in a way to lessen the dark times I was experiencing. It was a valid expression of my emotions and felt right and the only option. Making jokes about it created the thoughts about it and the cycle continued. I scared the shxt out of myself at one point in time. I wrote a note and everything. Thought about how I was going to do it etc. I broke down in tears. I am not going into details about that but I was saved…hearing someone’s voice saved me…and I will forever be thankful for that split second that made me snap out of it because it saved my life. I found better ways to express myself. Part of the mental health stigma problem is words. Being more mindful of our language is a small step in erasing the stigma. Words hold a lot of power. Words can create stigma or save a life.

Call 1-800-273-8255
Available 24 hours everyday

Until next time,Breyona

Phoenix Series: Depression is not a choice

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear mental illness? craziness? violence? low intelligence? Choose your words carefully. The words we use to describe mental health can actually do more harm than good. Stigma is a big issue when it comes to mental illness. When I first started to disclose my condition, I had people who took it completely the wrong way. Everyone automatically assumed because I have depression & anxiety that I just wanted to die. That is not the case (we will get to that later). When you interact with someone who has a mental illness, focus on the person and not their condition. This is not a defining characteristic of a person. For example, if you were to describe me to someone and said, she is mentally ill; this is pretty derogatory.  Instead say, she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.  It is also derogatory to say someone is psycho, crazy, and/or “suffering”. I am not suffering from anxiety and depression. I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression and I am living my best life.

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Don’t Worry Be Happy…right?

Ah, my biggest pet peeve is when people say, “why are you depressed? You have everything and every reason to be happy”.  A loving husband, a nice home, nice car, nice belongings, beautiful and smart kids, degrees, etc, etc, etc….News flash! depression is not a choice. I don’t know any person who has depression & anxiety that wakes up one day and says to themselves, “you know what, today I am going to be a sad piece of shxt and not do shxt with myself”. The idea of choosing to be happy undermines the whole concept of mental illness. I used to have an avatar pic on my blog that said: “Choose happy”….I later realized how dumb that shxt was. When you have depression, choosing to be happy is not up to you. Sure telling someone to cheer up may have good intentions, but for people like me, when we hear this phrase, it is fxcking frustrating.

As much as I would love to choose to be happy, I cannot make my brain create more serotonin ( the neurotransmitter that we all rely on to balance our moods and mental stability) by simply saying, ” Hey brain stop being a piece of shxt and make me happy because I did a little bit of self-care today by taking a bath with scented bath salts and candles”. That is what antidepressants are for. That is why I take three different medications every day (we will discuss this later). People like me, rely on medication or as I call them “my sunshine in a bottle” to help my brain produce the chemicals that it is failing to make by itself. Instead of telling someone they have every reason to be happy and that mental illness is a choice, be quiet and listen when someone is telling you what is going on in their life, stop being so quick to judge and label someone as crazy. You don’t always have to or need to suggest a solution to be helpful to someone.

Grieving, having a broken heart or feeling sad is not the same thing as MDD or depression. Depression is actually a mental health issue that requires a diagnosis made by a professional. When we mention grief, heartbreaks etc it is automatically associated with depression. It makes it harder for people to decipher their experiences that may be something temporary, as something that is bigger than feeling sad about something. Because of these associations, a lot of people do not take their mental health issues seriously until they get out of control (this person was me). Since I was a teenager, I remember feeling really anxious, annoyed, irritable, and angry. At one point it was suggested by a healthcare professional that I get on medication. Since my family had a very religious background, my parents did not feel that was necessary. It is common in the minority community for mental illness to be disregarded and assume it can be fixed with religion. Not saying that religion is wrong, you believe what you want and I will believe what I want, but the truth is you need medication(s) on top of faith when you have a mental disorder.

I was not able to get the help that I truly needed until I became an adult. I was arrested when I was 18 for domestic violence. I used to get into fights a lot. I was always angry and worried about being alone and felt very helpless. I would always feel anxious in social settings. I never considered myself a very friendly person, even though I had good friends. I was teased from elementary school through high school about my appearance, taste in music, clothes, etc so I never considered myself very pretty and had low self-esteem. My solution to making myself feel better was to be mean as hell to everyone and keep my guard up until I knew I could trust them. This coping mechanism was very damaging and unhealthy. It spilled over into me having extreme trust and abandonment issues in relationships until ultimately it clicked that something was wrong.

I ended up being put on Zoloft and it worked very well for me. Eventually, I was weaned off of it because I seemed to be fine. I learned healthy coping mechanisms and for several years I was not on any type of medication. I ended up meeting my husband and things happened so fast between us. Fast forward and we were married, expecting our first child and was awaiting his departure with the Army. I was going to be on my own with the baby for 8 months. Things were going good until I started having support issues with certain family members and I was missing my beau like crazy while he was away. I felt like I lost my best friend. Being a mom wasn’t too bad but it was a lot to deal with alone. We maintained open communication throughout the entire time he was away but for some reason, I started to feel this familiar feeling. It was my depression and anxiety coming back. Having a spouse in the military is very honorable, rewarding, and scary at the same time.  My anxiety was through the roof. It got worse when we found out he would be deploying for 18 months to Afghanistan. I ended up being referred to a doctor and had to tell them my history and what was currently going on with me and was prescribed Paxil. Paxil was okay but was not a good fit for me. I also had a doctor who really didn’t listen to me. Months passed and everything was going good. I decided hey I feel great, I don’t need these meds. I stopped taking them cold turkey…BIG ASS NO NO. I ended up in the emergency room. Never Never Never stop taking your meds abruptly without a doctor’s help.

Ultimately I was able to recover and weaned off Paxil and stayed medication free for 7 years. Until I was triggered and that familiar feeling came back only this time much much worse. Was it my choice to be depressed and anxious again? Not at all.

Call 1-800-273-8255
Available 24 hours everyday

Until next time,Breyona

 

 

 

The Phoenix Series

May is mental health awareness month. I plan to use this month to primarily focus on my personal journey. I have openly talked about my diagnosis for a while now, but I am going to go a little more in depth. As mentioned in my previous blog post (Where have I been lately? ), I am planning to talk about things other than mama stuff because that is not my whole identity. Before babies I was Breyona and after babies I still am Breyona. So let’s get started with this month’s series! I am calling this series in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month: The Phoenix Series. If you aren’t familiar with the Phoenix, it symbolizes renewal and strength. The renewal aspect of this series is the acceptance of the condition(s) and the treatment journey. The Strength aspect of this series is being able to openly share my story, move forward, as well as share other mama’s stories with other moms and women who may feel alone or unsure of their mental state… judgment free. If you are going to be judgemental by all means you should click the X in the corner of the page. You may need a tissue or two just a heads up.

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There will be frequent posting on my blog and social media. I am excited about this series and I look forward to sharing with yall.

Call 1-800-273-8255
Available 24 hours everyday

Until next time,Breyona