I write this post after disposing of every last one of my Mental Health Medications. I no longer have a secret stockpile just in case, I no longer live in fear of having a relapse, I no longer have the same internal struggle whether I wished to live or die. I firmly believe that this is All Behind Me.
So after a month of being off my medication, looking for a new Job since graduation, and hitting 2020 like an out of shape boxer I thought it prudent to perform a little check in. This serves both to satisfy my own sanity and to let my readers know I'm not completely falling apart. I will use the DASS score to assess where I am at mentally, along with a set reflection as the DASS has its own limitations. I will also share about some of my struggles since coming off my medication and the strategies I have put in place.
During my time off I had a lot of time to reflect on where I was, how I was feeling, life in general, and what I wanted out of 2020. One of the thing that I knew I wanted to change was weight, the other was to regain control over my emotions and the ongoing effects of my medication. I noted that my medication could be contributing to both my weight and my numbness I was experiencing. Most of the medication that I was on, namely Seroquel, Lithium, and Venlafaxine all act to reduce the swings in mood and control depressive episodes, but also have the nasty side effect of weight gain. These two factors led to the choice, without consultation with my medical team, to cease my medications. For better or Worse.
I have had the unfortunate issue of being at home away from work. I have an acute case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and can barely butter toast. It was therefore agreed that I stay home until it is remedied. So far we have done the conservative, today I am having a Cortisone injection, and we will see how everything unfolds from there. Anyway, as a result of all of this I am at home. While everyone is at work, school, or daycare. I have been completing small tasks as much as my wrist will allow. Unfortunately, most of the tasks I want to achieve require way more physical capacity than I currently have. This has left me with waaaaay to much time for my brain to go into overdrive, schemes and plans come out of said overactive brain some of which are probably best left as ideas, and too many hours to be wracked up on my favourite game Dragon Age: Inquisition.
A Doctor and friend of mine once told me that "You are unlikely to change until you reach a particular point in your life, and point is Rock Bottom, then and only then will you make real change". Though I agreed with his sentiment at the time, I had achieved so much without having to hit Rock Bottom that I didn't completely take on what he said. This week I think I have hit that point. I knew that between my medication, my depression, and my bone idol laziness I had gained most of the weight I had lost. I didn't realise that I had actually found more. To date I am 140kg. Last time I was even close to this was 2007/2008 when I decided that I was going to join the Navy, and had to lose 50kg to do it.
Last week I wrote about where my headspace was at, the immediate actions that were taken, and the decisions that still had to be made. This week I have been reaping the benefits of the changed medications, Thiamine, and the ever recharging event of Camping. All of these have been attributing to a greatly improved mood, improved motivation, and reduction of both negative self talk and suicidal thoughts.
Last week I posted about where my headspace was at. This week I met with my Psychiatrist. The meeting went as well as I could expect. Discussions were had about things I didn't think I would have to live through again. Discussions were made based on my headspace now and the similarities to where we were almost this time last year. I am not going to lie, it scared me a bit.
This week I have been feeling the weight pushing down on me harder and harder. Every day seems like I have found a new way to disappoint myself and those around me. Little Luke seems to be becoming more and more negative, and that voice is getting louder and louder. The scary thing is I think I am starting to believe what he says. I think I am seeing myself as he sees me. I feel myself collapsing under the weight of it all.
For those who have been following my journey through Depression and Anxiety, you will know that the trip has had many twists and turns, ups and downs. Well unfortunately I appear to be at one of the downs. The past couple of weeks has seen my motivation decline, mood slip, and overall my headspace to take a sharp turn towards the negative. So much so that my Psychologist left our routine session and made a time with my Psychiatrist for the end of our session. Made me feel awesome, huh?
Well I thought the First Year went by quickly, it seems as if I blinked and the second has disappeared. I thank everyone for coming on this journey through depression, weight loss, nursing, parenting, and life as a whole. It has meant so much to me that you have decided to come along for the ride.
The word Duplicity conjures up imagery of being deceitful, untrustworthy, or as the literal translation goes actually two faced. However, there is another meaning to Duplicity which is the state of being whereby you feel two normally conflicting emotions at the same time, both are equally as rational as the other, and both are valid emotions at the time. The later form of Duplicity is where I am at. I feel torn inside myself, like there is two me's occupying the same space. I cannot help but think of the movies Split and Glass, both of which have a character who suffers from Disassociate Identity Disorder and has 24 known and identifiable identities occupying the same body. I am not saying that I am developing DID, but it helps draw the parallel.
Through our day to day lives we reflect, review, argue, weigh up, decide, and posit over a myriad of different things. Sometimes this internalisation can be heard inside your head as an echo of your own voice. Some see this as the classic Devil vs Angel on the shoulder, or others as a respected figure they hold dear. Myself, I hear me echoed around in my head, this is sometimes drowned out by the noise around me, other thoughts, or otherwise. When I am reading it is the voice that reads the word, and even when I am writing, like right now, he is the one dictating what is to be written. This is Little Luke.
Self care comes in many forms; for some its a walk or run to clear the mind, others it's writing or creating something, whatever the self care is it's important to engage with in it as often as required. We often don't take the time for self care, thinking it is a selfish endeavour, or that we are coping fine with our daily struggles. The reality is that more and more people are suffering from depression, anxiety, and are committing suicide because they cannot see the way out of their situation. Last year I was in that very situation. I was not self caring as I should have been, and it nearly cost me my life.
There are many different things that people use to gauge their self worth. For some people if followers, for some it money, others it might be accolades. For me, it's simply acknowledgment, whether it's being quietly thanked for a job well done, or reads on a blog post, a lot of my self worth is tied up in the opinions and actions of others. This is leaving me downtrodden and despondent as I am not feeling any level of acknowledgment for almost anything I do.
Despite being as supported as I am, you know who you are, bring well medicated, having professional help, and generally doing infinitely better than 6 - 12 months ago, I still find that I am dragging the chain a little. Now, most people would say the I am just being too harsh on myself and I need to cut myself some slack, but I still feel that I am sometimes actively avoiding chores, activities, social events, and family moments. This cannot continue.
I sit here at my computer getting ready to write this weeks blog and my mind is a complete blank. I read back through my recent posts to see if there is something that needs a conclusion, read back through the end of last years for inspiration, and I think about the week that has been and realise that I have covered all that has needed coverage. It dawns on be, whoever, that I have not written about how life is post treatment, with a stable medication regime, and all things considered a reasonably stable and improved mood with no suicidal ideation. So now I am.
Today I conducted a little experiment to see who was paying attention, if there were any folks out there who have been paying attention to my posts, tweets, and articles. The result I have is unfortunately not surprising, and is the reason behind my post today. As a community, whether Maintain the Rage, Church, School, Friends, Family, Work, Clubs, Hobbies or otherwise we need to ensure we keep a closer eye on one another, and Check In once in a while.
For the past 10 weeks I have been taking part in a local life group, a small group of people from church who meet on days other than Sunday, that focusses on being able to deal with life hurts, hangups, habits and hard times called Anchor.
My journey through mental health has taught me a great many things about what it is to have a mental illness and how it feels, the daily struggles of even the simplest tasks, and how the world views you because of your mental illness. So I thought I would share my insight in the way of a Fast 5, in an effort to increase awareness, decrease stigma, and generally try to build a better future surrounding mental health.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my desire to "get my old brain back" and how I was despondent because it felt like everything I did was laborious or these things didn't happen at all. I was also concerned that my drive to achieve things, my edge, the 'A' factor if you will was some what lost. Well it seems I was running an old version of OS and it just took a little while to reboot, as this week saw a return to a slightly less manic, and more controlled version of my previous self.
Over the past couple of weeks since ECT I have been blessed by the almost complete removal of Suicidal Ideations, reduction in the feeling of depression, and the decrease in general negativity. With this all been said, as I have been back at work, endeavouring to be more proactive around the house with both chores and children, and participating in Bible study with my wife every evening. All in all things have bee going pretty well, but there are a few things that have made me want my old brain back.
Anyone who has been following my social media on Facebook or Twitter, and those who have been reading my blog for longer than a week will know I have Depression and Anxiety disorder. This has meant that I have had a course of ECT, been on a myriad different medications, and see a psychiatrist and psychologist on a regular basis. All of this is done with the hope that I can continue to exist with some sort of sense of "normality". As part of that I endeavour to continue to live my life as though my mental illness didn't exist, I study, I parent, I work, and I try to be there for my friends. Sometimes things don't always go to plan.
I have been wracking my brain trying to think about what this post was going to be about. I kept bouncing between my mental state, my placement, my family, my study, and everything else in between. I couldn't sensibly decide on one topic to share with you all. So I have decided to share all of them. This weeks post will be The Week That Was.
With three treatments left this week, I am finally on the downhill run. I am not going to lie, I will be glad to have the treatments all done and dusted, be back at work, and resume some sort of normality. The memory loss has been quite significant this past week, with some of those memories being shared with you this post. I don't regret choosing ECT as a route, I firmly believe that without the decision to undergo ECT I wouldn't be here to whinge about it, or its side effects.
The past week has been a little tumultuous with the dizzying heights of the Queensland Training Awards, the crushing depths of my depression, which comes with all the treatment side effects following ECT. I would love to claim that my week was smooth sailing. I would love to save that the Awards where the boost to my confidence and self worth that I needed. I would love to say that my treatment has been amazing, I feel better and that I have suffered no ill effects, but alas I cannot. Instead I will share with you the very raw details of the week that was in the hope of raising awareness of mental health, rescuing stigma surrounding ECT, and to encourage others to push themselves and study further.
For those of you just tuning in I have been receiving ElectroConvulsive Therapy (ECT) for a little over a week now, and the experience has been eye opening if nothing else. Firstly, I will say that any treatment should be weighed up with its pros and cons, and should be considered by the individual. I considered ECT to be my solution to a problem that was all too likely to be fatal. Secondly, the person undergoing ECT will need all the love and support those around them can muster, for reasons I will go into in a moment. Finally, I am profoundly thankful for those around me, friends, family, or otherwise, without you I wouldn't be able to go on this journey.
I feel compelled to write about my most recent ElectroConvulsive Therapy (ECT) experience. For those who aren't aware I am undergoing a course of ECT for my Depression, after attempting many different anti-depressants and mood stabilisers, along with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), despite this my Suicidal Ideation continued, and actually resulted in a plan.
This past week hasn't improved on the last, if anything it has continued into steady decline. I had an appointment with both my Psychologist and Psychiatrist, both of which where planned, and we discussed where I was at mentally and what to do next. The unfortunate side of things was that due to my mental state, thought patterns and suicidal ideation and planning, a serious discussion was had regarding treatment, and how that looked moving forward.
This week has seen a dramatic shift towards the negative, motivation has been low, and I have felt like I have been wearing a lead apron and dragging around and anchor. I would love to attribute my feeling to an event of change in circumstance but unfortunately I cannot. Instead I am left damning my own brain and its inability to remain stable for longer than 20 minutes.
As you all painfully aware, mainly because I don't hide anything, I have an exceptionally full plate. I work full time shift work as a Nurse, study for my Bachelor Full Time, be a Father to my three children, Husband to my Wife, Chair of the Diploma of Nursing Society, Assistant Group Leader of one of the local Scout Groups, and somewhere find time to stop and recharge. This has meant that I am very time poor most of the time and I cut corners to make things work. Unfortunately you can only run like this for so long before you start Running on Empty.
One coping mechanism I have adopted to deal with my Depression and Anxiety is to keep busy. Sometimes I boarder on being too busy and burning myself out, but generally I am at a steady pace of flat out. One of my projects that I have been working on has taken its next step.
In everyday life we all wear masks. Sometimes we put one on so we can work our retail job with a smile, sometimes it's so we can visit our mother in law and keep things civil, other times it's simply so others don't ask us how we really are. That's the mask I have been wearing, and it's starting to get heavy.
I would love to say that I was coasting along, achieving things and kicking goals, staying motivated, keeping everything under control. But I would be lying. Though I have achieved a lot this week, mainly around the house, I have been riding some wave of energy that I know is slowing down and beginning to break. I know that my Psychiatrist can only adjust medications so much before he has to wean me on one, and start me on another. Which just creates weeks of pain. I may not be doing well, but I am surviving, and thats a start.
Most weeks have their ups and downs, most have lessons to be learnt and things to take away, most have happy memories and troubling memories. This week was no different. I have found a new well of motivation, and I have been drawing upon it to achieve things around the house, work my shifts, spend time with the family and try and squeeze in some self care. But not everything goes as planned.
In recent weeks I have been endeavouring to be more motivated, I have endeavoured to achieve more, I have endeavoured to complete tasks that have been on my mind for a while. I have tried to accomplish a lot of these and failed at most.
When reflecting over the week that has been it has certainly had its ups and down. I crammed for my final A&P exam, I was a nervous wreck for weeks leading up to said exam, I featured in my local paper, I started journalling again, I still have this headache I can't seem to shake, I started looking into investment properties with my wife, and I got away with a check up with the Psychiatrist without a medication change. This week has been hectic, in both the amount going on and the severity of the emotional drain. My week can be summed up with Shake (mainly caused by anxiety), Rattle (from the medication), and Roll (because I just have to Roll with it).
Never have I starred into my computer screen, mulled over for so long, pained at the thought of a post as much as I have today. Not because I am unable to write, or because of time constraints, or lethargy. My issue has been how to express what is going on in my Brain, I was reminded of the opening verse of a very well known epic poem by Edgar Allan Poe.
Nursing is a tough gig by anyones standard, the demands put upon us to know medications, procedures, illnesses, conditions, symptoms, cultural traits and behaviours, be able to assess pain, nutrition, hydration, mental state, and to be able to perform our ever increasing mound of responsibilities while maintaining our smile, our professionalism and conducting our duties with aplomb. Then on top of all that add in a large dose of self doubt, insecurity, second guessing, negative self talk, fear, paranoia, anxiety, reluctance, demotivation, and malaise. That's Nursing with Depression.
Firstly, I apologise for the delay in this post, and the absence of last weeks. I was suffering terribly with my depression, motivation was at an all time low, and i had zero energy. Since then, I have seen my psychiatrist, had a medicine change, had a drastic change in diet, and felt better about myself.
I received you letter and thought it pertinent to issues a reply. I would like to start by saying thank you for continuing to provide the medication that is both prescribed and needed. I am aware of the events of the past several months and wish to convey my viewpoint and hope that I am able to provide you with some sort of understanding as to my actions and subsequently the feelings you have been experiencing.
There have been several events over the past months that has me concerned. As co-resident of this body we share, I felt it pertinent to contact you in the interest of working through these misadventures. I would like to discuss the sense of absolute dread for no apparent reason, the overall sense of apathy and laissez faire attitude towards almost everything, and what can only be described as the unwillingness to retain the simplest of information or focus on the task at hand.
I am finding it difficult to be motivated to achieve anything. Betting our of bed is difficult, going to work is difficult, enjoying the time with my family is difficult. Everything feels cumbersome and laborious. I have spoken to my Psychiatrist and he is even a little unsure of a clear direction of where to go.
I am feeling at the lowest point for my my motivation that I have felt since taking my medication. Everything is a struggle, or effort, the things I love doing are chores, and even playing with my daughter or spending time with my very pregnant wife is emotionally draining.
So as my medications begin to take a better effect and I can see improvement on the anxiety front, I am faced with returning to work and the beginning of University in a couple of day. The reality of how much work I have ahead of me is starting to hit home, and I would be lying if is said I wasn't a little nervous.
This week has been an improvement, when compared to those recently. I have had fewer anxiety attacks, not to say none, more days with a positive outlook, and fewer ideations. When all things are considered, a reasonably good week. Then to top it all off, my Nursing Registration came through finally, so I can now start work in the coming weeks.
After seeing my Psychiatrist, and following a dismal week of terrible anxiety and low mood, we have decided to make some medication changes. We have also decided to continue with weekly visits, and I have no doubt after talking with my Psychologist today, Monday, that will change to a more frequent visit as well. It's going to be a long road to recovery I feel.
I write this post following a rough week of anxiety and frustration. I write this knowing that I am going mohave a rough couple of weeks ahead. I write this knowing that despite complications my Psychiatrist is doing everything he can. I write this so people know and understand what I am going through. I write this to normalise the conversation. I write this as I am sitting here scared that I will loose myself.
So over the past couple of weeks I have been writing about my journey through a poor state of Mental Health; New Year Just Me, Breaking Point, and First Steps. Since then I have seen a Psychologist, and a Psychiatrist and been on differing medications for a fortnight. This post will be a reflection on the week that was. Please note I will not hold back on what I have experienced.
In any journey to recovery there are the first steps that need to be taken. For a broken limb its weeks in a cast, for and infection its antibiotics, but for depression, anxiety and other effectors of Mental Health, the first step is asking for help. I have now taken my first step.
I write this post as my Mental Health is at one of its lowest points I can remember. I share this with you all for two main reasons, so you don't fall into the same pitfalls, and to keep me accountable. For some of the readers this will come as a shock, for others and inevitability. Let it be known, I may not be OK today, but I will preserver.
I like to think that things are going pretty well. I completed my Diploma of Nursing at the end of last year, I have secured a full-time job as an Enrolled Nurse at the Facility I wanted, I have a new baby girl due in the early days of April 2018, and my other two children are doing swimmingly. Yet, I feel drained, I feel apathetic, lethargic, I feel that everything is an effort and one more often not worth beginning. I am struggling.