Friday, 16 November 2018

How I Kicked Anti-Depressants By Accident

I've written in the past about how important a role anti-depressants have played in my life.  They had become a necessity to my functioning after Maddie's death. I've written blog posts about the merits of anti-depressants. There comes a time when change is needed and time to explore alternatives.  Anti-depressants are not without side-effects.  Anti-depressants are not a magic pill that makes everything bad in your life go away.  I don't believe life for any of us is written that way.  Finding an anti-depressant that had less side-effects than others was my original goal. I finally found an anti-depressant that benefitted me more than it limited me.

For those of you who don't know my story, I have situational depression.  This was brought on by the loss of my business, a failed marriage and ultimately the loss of my fourteen year old daughter, Maddie, to depression.

I always resisted going on anti-depressants.  Partially because of the stigma, mostly because of my ego telling me I could lick this on my own.  In the end, I relented after deciding that this was too big for me to tackle on my own.

The world of anti-depressants can be overwhelming. There is no one-pill-suits-all solution. Some anti-depressants I'd need to take in the morning because they "jacked me up" and I found they left me edgy, irritable and agitated.  They also made it difficult to sleep.  There were others that I took at night that completely knocked me out and left me foggy and indifferent which made it difficult get out of bed and slowed your metabolism to a point which led to weight gain.  Others didn't make me feel right in the head.  They were almost personality altering.  The first one I tried gave me suicidal ideation.  Needless to say, if I didn't like the result or the way these anti-depressants made me feel, I'd stop taking them.  Unfortunately, I'd go back to my psychiatrist and we'd go back to the drawing board and try to find another without these debilitating side-effects.  It was a trial and error approach.  I finally found Trintellix which had fewer negative consequences and more positive ones.  Trintellix had side-effects but one's that I could live with and function as closely as I could prior to my daughter's death.

Dr G called my anti-depressants my insulin, citing if I was a diabetic this was my life-line for the rest of my life.  She had said that this was something that I would require indefinitely and that there was no finish line in sight and that popping a pill for my depression likely would become a part of my daily routine for the rest of my life.

Anti-depressants are peculiar.  How does one drug affect an individual so differently than another?  Prozac, which gave me suicidal ideations, works with 80% of the population without many of the harmful side-effects that I had experienced.  The brain and how chemicals respond to an individual's physiology is highly unpredictable.  If one drug worked for everyone, depression wouldn't be so challenging to address.

I've had friends who don't understand depression.  It's not that they are unsympathetic but they have never experienced an episode of sustained unhappiness in their lifetime.  For others, it's a battle everyday.  They've adopted various coping mechanisms in order to deal with the highs and lows they feel on a daily basis.  Medication only addresses one part of the problem.  Daily exercise, regular counselling, diet and other factors help to keep things in check.  Finding sustained happiness is a constant battle and requires constant fine-tuning. Even the perfect patient experiences periods of sadness on occasion.  Sometimes acknowledging they will creep into your life on occasion better prepares us for when they occur.

Not to intentionally spite my psychiatrist's warning to prepare to deal with my depression for the rest of my life but I've always been one to challenge the accepted norm.  I still didn't love being on anti-depressants but had tried giving them up in the past only to discover that they did promote a happier version of me.  Then I discovered that I required hip replacement surgery.

Requiring hip replacement surgery was the only option for me.  The intense sustained pain, lack of mobility and limitations it placed upon my day to day life meant this was going to need to be addressed sooner than later.  Also, I found my mood was heading into a downward spiral as the pain increased and the impact it had upon my life became more evident.  I went to a very dark place.  Darker than I had been for some time.   I did my due diligence with researching different hip replacement procedures, booked my consultation with the hospital and met with my surgeon.  We booked my surgery for September 17th.  This was in April.

The surgeon suggested a nerve block to essentially block the pain.  This was a temporary remedy.  The nerve block was likely to last anywhere from two weeks to two months.  The nerve block lasted two weeks to the day.  The pain was ever-increasing and couldn't see lasting until September with this.

Someone I talked to suggested trying Cannabidiol (CBD).  CBD is a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel “stoned”. The fact that CBD-rich cannabis is non-psychoactive makes it an appealing option for patients looking for relief from inflammationpainanxietypsychosisseizures, spasms, and other conditions without disconcerting feelings of lethargy.  

I started taking CBD every morning.  My pain was less intensive and my outlook upon life improved significantly.  I remained taking my antidepressants in addition to the CBD.  I did this for about a month until I decided to forgo the anti-depressants altogether. I woke up every morning thinking that the dark clouds would start to close in, but the darkness never came.  The side-effects I had from taking the anti-depressants also disappeared.  I became more focused at work and my productivity increased exponentially.  CBD became a new coping strategy for me.

Surgery is now behind me (although I've not been without my share of setbacks).  I still take my CBD every morning and given what I've been through the last seven weeks post-surgery, my outlook on life still hasn't changed.  My attitude has been relatively positive (my physio setback after surgery means I'll likely be on crutches for another two months).  I remain focused on my boys and on work. I'm set on resuming my normal life as soon as my body permits.

This is not intended to be a promotional advertisement for CBD.  I was skeptical at first.  I did my research and had talked to others that had benefited from the merits of CBD.  My getting off anti-depressants came as a complete accident but the longer I've been off them, the better I feel about having made the switch.  I'm not advocating for everyone to do as I have done but it may make sense for some.  This shouldn't be done without the advice of your medical practitioner and should be transitioned over time.

CBD has become my new anti-depressant.  One for me that affords a more natural, organic approach to my mental well-being and a number of other benefits that come as a consequence.  I often think if CBD could have had a positive effect upon Maddie and how she dealt with her depression.  Personally, to not share my experiences with CBD may stand in the way of another individual not benefiting from its healing powers.