Medication changes are rough on me. I won’t lie. It took a long time to find a medication combination that worked for me – over 15 years, to be exact. All that time, my doctors and I were going through the formulary, trying medications, seeing if they worked, finding out the hard way what side effects and drug interactions I had, testing the response and the effectiveness of each one, over and over and over again. And it all took time. It was a process that could only be carried out that way. There was no other way to know what was going to work for me and what wasn’t. It was complicated. And it was hell. Some of the medications would make me physically ill, but help me mentally. Others would work initially, but then their effects would fade away and they would do nothing for me any longer. The medication changes always threw my body’s immunity off, causing me to be more susceptible to whatever local cold or flu was going around at the time. I got sick a lot, both from the meds and from bacterial and viral infections. We kept trying, though, and finally got the right meds for me nailed down.
My doctor and I are changing my meds now. Not changing medications so much as changing the dosages, perhaps. We’ll see. We might not have to actually change the type of medication I’m on as much as just the dose of what I’m currently on. This weekend is the first dosage change. We’re lowering the dose of my antidepressant to see if it helps with the depression. I know – sounds counterintuitive, right? Here’s the deal, though. There’s something called Apathy Syndrome. With Apathy Syndrome, the dosage of the antidepressant is too high, and causes a lack of interest and motivation because it has put a steel plate over the emotions and limited them to the point that the person just doesn’t care about anything anymore. We’re going to see if lowering the dosage of my antidepressant helps what I’m interpreting as “depression”, which might be a case of this Apathy Syndrome, instead. I’m pretty darn sure that I’m experiencing depression, but I’m open to trying anything that helps and doesn’t land me in the hospital psych ward. So far, I feel like I’ve missed my meds and I’m feeling pretty bad. My doctor warned me that I’d “feel things more”. When I asked him what that meant, he said, “Well, you might feel things…more. Like more…intense – more of them. I can see the fear in your eyes right now. But remember, you have non-pharmacologic tools to help deal with your feelings, now. If it gets too bad, we’ll just go back to [the original dose], but you do have non-pharmacologic tools. Use them. Use them a lot. Don’t do anything stupid. No going to Shipton’s or Cabela’s or any other place that sells, you know… You can’t do that. Call. Use the non-pharmacologic tools you have…” I have a great doctor. He’s very aware of how things could go south in a hurry. And by “stupid”, he means harmful or lethal to myself, as in suicide. I would never intentionally hurt anyone else, unless it was in the defense of myself or others. Through my psychotherapy with my doctor and climbing, I’ve realized that I couldn’t commit suicide without hurting a lot of people. He’s convinced me that I’m valuable and that I’m worthy of having a good life. I have friends through climbing, now, not to mention my family and my doctor. I don’t want to hurt anybody. I never wanted to hurt anybody, even in the military, which is why my PTSD is so chronic and severe. There’s no way to skip the pain, no “easy way out”. It would hurt too many people – people I love. The last thing I want is for anyone else to have PTSD because of me! There’s no way out of this except through it. Knowing all of that doesn’t make the medication change feel any better, but it is helping me get through it so far. I have a support system and climbing, now. I didn’t have that before, when the medication changes were broad, sweeping, and total in nature. Mine is an illness to be managed, not cured, and I know that. I know that there’s a certain degree of pain and symptomology that will always go with it and be with me. I accept that. I had to accept that a long time ago, but without the framework of “managing” the illness. My doctor introduced the “management” framework, which has helped me to cope with the harsh fact that I will never be over the illness, and that I will always have setbacks. Climbing has helped me immensely with that concept, too. Progress and setbacks. Progress and setbacks. The ebb and flow of the tides of life. Everybody has their challenges in life. I’m no different. I’ve even come to understand that mine could be much, much worse. There are things and people to be thankful for, and that leads to hope.
I didn’t climb yesterday, but I did go to the climbing gym to give my friend McKenzie a gift. I got her a pet that she doesn’t have to feed or clean up after – a water-activated toy shark that swims in the plastic bowl that came with it. She’s naming him “Harold”. She gave me a big hug as I told her I thought she needed a friend. She loved it. I was glad. I felt very depressed yesterday, even in giving McKenzie her new pet, but I still had the intellectual sense that it was a good thing. I just couldn’t feel the joy of it emotionally. Emily, another of my friends, took me to DQ and we had blizzards together as a treat. I could only intellectually sense that, too, although I did get a little bit of relief out of it. Or maybe that was just my stomach thanking me… Oh, well.
I definitely need to climb today. I need to find out if climbing can pull me out of this. I think it can offer the relief I need if I can just get myself over to the climbing gym with my gear and onto the wall, which focuses my entire body and my entire mind on the present moment, hold-by-hold. Climbing right now is my only hope. I don’t want to have to call my doctor on his weekend and bother him, even though he told me to if I needed to. The med change is as much psychological as it is physical, and I know that. That’s why I don’t like to bother people with it. My mind is as involved as my brain is in this whole affair, if that makes sense. I need something for my brain and my mind – for the physical and the mental – and climbing should fit the bill. I’m going to do my best to get over to the climbing gym this morning when it opens and get on the wall, where I belong. Climbing has never been more important!!! Climbing is my saving grace!!!