I have some exciting news to share – after two long years, the depression has finally lifted!
At first I hesitated to say anything, I thought perhaps I was just having a good hour, day, weekend, week, month… I didn’t want to jinx it by celebrating it. But heck, it’s been a long couple of years and I am going to enjoy this break from depression, no matter how short or long it ends up being.
For about a month now I have felt much more like myself. I have felt motivated, energetic and have enjoyed things again. Perhaps most excitingly, I have LAUGHED. Like real belly-busting, think-you’re-going-to-pee-yourself laughter. I have seen friends because I wanted to, I have smiled authentically. It has been such a relief after a very dark two years.
The best thing about my depression lifting is that it makes my anxiety easier to tolerate. If I am entering an anxiety provoking situation when I am depressed I am unlikely to be motivated to work through the anxiety, social phobia and agoraphobia because I won’t feel a benefit from it because I am mostly unable to enjoy things. When I’m not depressed, I feel compelled to stick out the anxiety provoking situation because I might enjoy myself. Likewise, not being depressed makes me more hopeful that I can make progress with my anxiety. Also, I have a much more optimistic view of the progress I have accomplished so far. The scale has tipped towards being more proud of how hard I have worked instead of feeling ashamed of how much ground I still have to cover.
Because of this newfound happiness, motivation and energy I have been able to tackle a few major milestones. I went on a weekend trip with my husband Tom and we went out to several stores and restaurants within just a few days. Most excitingly, this past week I went to a gathering at a friend’s house, stayed the entire time and had a lot of fun (real honest to goodness fun!) in spite of how anxious I was for being outside of the house and in a group of people. My increased energy has also been great because I can do my fair share of households tasks and am able to do more than just sit on the couch all day.
I have lived with recurring episodes of major depression for many years, but usually it comes in waves of a month to a few months at a time. I think prior to this depressive period which spanned from about April 2016 to March 2018, my longest episode of depression was probably about 6 months long. I have become accustomed to the ebb and flow of my depression, and never before had I been so certain it wouldn’t eventually lift. I have been seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist, participating in group therapy, completing workbooks at home, doing more intensive work during hospitalizations, practicing mindfulness and self care, etc. I felt that I was doing everything I could to no avail, which led to worse depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation. And yet, all of the sudden that all slid away.
So, what has brought on this change? It is hard to say anything for sure. But all roads lead to it being tied in to reducing the dose of my anti-depressant. I have already come off of several medications in the last few months to check whether or not they were effective but none of those medication changes had the slightest effect on my mood. So far I have done two phases of reducing my dose of Pristiq (desvenlafaxine), first from 150mg to 100mg per day, then to 100mg to 50mg per day. While I have been dealing with some dreadful symptoms of medication changes, my mood has been a lot better. I’ll just clarify quickly here though that the efficacy medications, particularly psychiatric medications, varies greatly from person to person – I’m just sharing my own personal experience.
There is no guarantee that this sudden change in mood will last but I have decided to embrace it while it is here rather than worry about loosing what I have gained. I am not under any illusions, I don’t think that I am cured of depression. I think that the medication I have been taking for about a year now was contributing to my depression and lack of energy. While I’m not looking forward to my next low, when I do feel it coming I am going to be a lot more certain that it won’t last for years on end. And that will make it infinitely easier to bear.