I just can’t seem to leave this blogging thing alone, so… dipping into the Found archives again. Frustrated that I haven’t made any significant progress in the two years since a version of this first appeared, and that I’m still barely surviving autumn…
The days grew shorter. And colder. It felt as though my life was slipping away with summer. The coming of winter felt like death. Every year was worse. Before I could articulate the feeling, the awareness I could not survive the winter roiled beneath the surface.
Every autumn I felt I was dying.
The hopelessness deepened each year.
Then came the yearly full-on crises.
2014 was the easiest autumn I’d had in years.
So, back on my medication soapbox again. If you need help, do what you can to get it. I realize this is easier said than done for too many Americans. According to a 2013 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) report, many psychiatrists do not accept private health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. Paying out of pocket is not an option for most people in need of regular psychiatric treatment. I don’t have an answer. All I can say is Keep trying!
Where to Start Getting Help
If you need treatment but aren’t receiving it, you need to start somewhere. This is likely your primary care provider.
Be aware that while well-meaning as general practitioners can be in trying to treat symptoms of mental health disorders, they often err on one side or the other.
Helpers. They lack the experience and knowledge of various disorders and current medication options to effectively treat patients. Prescribing familiar antidepressants is insufficient for major depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, or PTSD and other anxiety disorders. Mental illness isn’t a one-dimensional issue that can be solved with medication alone. There are GPs who genuinely do their best to help patients who have no other option.
Enablers. On the other end of the spectrum are those who take the easy way for themselves and their patients. Feeling blue? Stressed? Not enjoying the consequences of your own actions? Refusing to take responsibility for your health? It’s okay; let’s give you antidepressants. Heaven forbid we take responsibility for ourselves, when big pharmaceuticals can profit from our cop-out. Enablers anesthetize.
If you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, start with your primary care provider. Ask for help, and a referral.
My Safety Net
I am blessed to be able to be seen and treated through the VA. My psychiatrist is helpful, and she listens. Although I’m not sure I agree with her in tentative diagnosis, the fact remains that she did find a medication that works for me.
Medicating mental health disorders is as much as an art as it is a science. The workings of the mind are still largely mysterious. And how medications used to treat mood disorders work isn’t fully understood. There is no one-size-fits-all chemical to help balance minds that can’t always balance themselves.
Various types of antidepressants can be helpful. They are not for me. They make me anxious. They don’t do much for my depression, and create a different type of untenable imbalance.
Lithium did level me a little. I didn’t drop so far so fast so often. But I rarely rose above depression.
The answer for me is lamotrigine. Sold by the brand name Lamictal, it’s an anticonvulsant also commonly used as a mood stabilizer. So far, it has short-circuited whatever misfires and locks into place in my broken brain, trapping me in swirling, killing darkness. Although I’m still dogged by depression, I’m doing better than on lithium.
I realize that when lamotrigine works as it is supposed to in the treatment of bipolar disorder, it extends the functional times between crashes. It’s not a “cure.” While it has prevented a complete fall into the abyss, I realize it’s still possible to fall.
My brain is still flawed. It’s a defect of which I have no reason to believe I have been miraculously healed. Can God heal? Absolutely. Has He chosen to do so for me? No. Will He? Maybe. But for now, He has a purpose for not healing. Anything He sends or allows will ultimately be for His glory, and is meant for our good. His strength is made perfect in my weakness… when I surrender…
Do you want to find the good in your situation? Stop trying to escape, and find God there. It sounds harsh. But the outcome is worth it. I have a way to go to be completely submitted to God’s will in every area, to surrender each moment for His glory and others’ good, which also brings my best good.
Lamotrigine can also cause some nasty side effects. One of the most serious is a rash. Which sounds relatively innocuous. But it can develop into quite the rash. Like land-you-in-the-hospital and even kill-you rash. I fear developing a lamotrigine rash, but not because of the possibility of death. My psychiatrist would make me stop taking it if she suspected. I’m afraid of the fallout if I have to go off it.
Surviving Autumn and Depression
No matter how good or nonexistent the care you are receiving, it’s important to remember medication is only one part of feeling healthy.
Lamotrigine has been a blessing, but to rely on it alone would be a mistake. To live in fear of losing it and its benefits is no way to live. As a Christian, I have no excuse to live in fear. Nothing surprises God.
As well as trusting God, I need to take responsibility for my health.
You know the drill.
Eat. Balanced meals. At regular times. Not too much, not too little.
Drink. Stay hydrated. WATER IS YOUR FRIEND. Alcohol is not; don’t self-medicate.
Exercise. Regular physical activity helps maintain balance, and makes us healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally. Gotta’ love endorphins.
Talk. Don’t isolate. Don’t whine, but be honest with people you trust. Find people you trust.
Play. Have a hobby? If not, why not? Creativity is part of being made in God’s image. Try to do things you enjoy even when you don’t feel like. Sooner or later, you’ll reclaim pleasure.
Sleep. Like exercise, sleep is more important than most of us think. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, and staying up through the day.
Check out these tips for better sleep.
Believe. We’re wired for worship. It’s impossible to separate our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual parts. Ignoring one aspect causes us to suffer in the others. There’s no better place to start than accepting God’s authority and our identity in Christ?
God really does know us best and what is best for us. Check out what He has to say about us and how we should live in the Bible.
How about you?
Is this a hard time of year for you, too? How are you coping? Are you seeking and accepting the help you need? How about maintaining healthy habits? If you’d like prayer, feel free to comment below, contact me through my FB page, or email me… firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, our brains may be broken but in Christ we can be whole.