Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lingering ECT Side Effects

I've written before about some of the side effects that I've encountered after my 10 ECT treatments this winter.  I've had problems with finding the right word when writing, I've been overly tired, had slight memory loss, aches and pains, and other stuff.  But lately I've noticed two really odd things that I'm chalking up to ECT as well.

The first problem is hard to describe.  The best phrase I've come up with is "brain quake."  I'll just be sitting or standing somewhere, and it's almost like something in my brain snaps or slides and I feel really dizzy, just for a second.  It's so bizarre.  The best comparison I can draw is when you're trying to go to sleep, and all of a sudden you feel like you're falling and you jerk awake -- but it's more cerebral and less physical.  And the "snap" or "slide" feeling I get is always on the right side of my head, which is the side I had my treatments. 

The first time it happened I just chalked it up to some one-off weirdness, but then it kept happening.  I especially get it when I'm reading or concentrating on something.  It's more than a little unpleasant, and I wish it would stop.  I find it strange that it didn't start until I was actually done with my treatments, but maybe it's my brain's way of trying to get back in shape, or something.

The second odd side effect is a strange tic in my hands and legs.  I'll be laying in bed reading a book, or typing on my computer, and suddenly my hand or leg will just spasm.  It's a pretty noticeable spasm, too, not just a little jerk.  It'll happen in both hands, but more often in my right, and in both legs, but more often the left.  It's annoying.

I have to say, that it is possible that the hand tic thing is linked to increased lithium, as my doctor is trying to up my dosage. I don't want to unfairly blame ECT, so I'll throw the possibility in there that it's the lithium rather than the ECT.  But I'm still leaning towards the ECT, as I've been on lithium before but have not had ECT before.

Anyway, I'm not writing this just to bitch (though that's not all bad, either).  I'm also trying to document my personal experiences with ECT, as much for myself as anyone else.  But thanks for putting up with it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Depressed Parenting

This week I've been a little grumpy.  I've been working on changing my medication so I am not so tired all the time (400 mg of Seroquel will make anyone a little sleepy), and I think it's having a somewhat negative effect on my mood at the moment.  I think it's one of those things that when I get over the hump, I'll be better for it, but it kind of sucks right now.

So as a result of being in a bad mood, I've been a little short with my kids.  Nothing horrible, but I'm just a little quicker to snap or yell at them than usual, and have been engaging a little less.  It's nothing that's going to scar them for their whole lives (at least I don't think), but it's still not good.

The worst part, though, is that all three of my kids (the 10-month-old included) have all been grumpier and more difficult all week.  I find that so odd.  There's a respiratory thing that keeps bouncing around between all of us, which isn't helping matters, and the weather has been typical Ohio in February -- cold, gray, depressing.  So there are a lot of reasons why they may be in bad moods that don't necessarily tie back to my mood.  Or maybe we're all grumpy for some of the same reasons, I don't know.

I just know that more often than not, it seems like my kids' moods reflect or match my own.  A while ago I wrote a post wondering if babies can read their mothers' moods; I think kids have to be included in this question as well.  In theory, they should be happy -- I usually let them watch more TV than usual and cook them stuff that I know they eat (like hot dogs) rather than cooking something that they may or may not eat (nothing kills my mood more than getting up the energy to cook, and then having everybody turn up their nose at it).  But it doesn't seem to work that way.

This article at HealthyPlace.com talks about how children of depressed parents are more likely to not only be depressed, but act out and have other behavioral problems.  So I guess there are studies that show that parents' depression can affect kids.  Another reason to feel bad, right?  My depression is making them depressed -- how depressing. 

For now, we'll just keep muddling through and hope my med changes do what they're supposed to do.  Until then, let's watch Mulan for the fiftieth time and just feel good that at least she's a strong female role model.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Owning Our Antidepressants

On Saturday, I happened to read this guest blog post at OwningPink.com, about how the author believes that, contrary to what most modern medicine tells us, depression and anxiety are not physical ailments.  Instead, they really are "in the head," and, unlike a physical ailment like diabetes, medication is not the answer.  In her words, "attributing anxiety and depression to a chemical imbalance is horribly disempowering," and by prescribing antidepressants we're "throwing in the towel" and abdicating responsibility for our mental health.

The author, who is a Ph.D. in Psychology, cites some interesting statistics from a few "anti-antidepressant" books.  She says one doctor believes that as many as 75% of the people taking antidepressants could "significantly reduce" or eliminate their meds with the help of a doctor and lifestyle changes.  She also mentions one doctor who believes the whole "serotonin deficiency" approach to depression is a sham, and is based on some questionable, at best, science.

When I first read the article, I was irritated and a little mad.  I though her attitude was a little too simple, and a little too self-serving.  I also took some issue with her "research," as all her information seemed to come from the same two sources, and she goes on to contradict some of the research she presents.

Okay, so let's talk about the author (it's all about ethos, people).  Her name is Bethany Butzer and she has written a book called The Antidepressant Antidote, is a speaker on the topic, and is also a yoga instructor.  On her website, she classifies herself as a "Mental Health and Wellness Advisor."  The topic of getting off of antidepressants is obviously her passion and her platform.  She does say that she thinks antidepressants are good in some circumstances, and if they've helped someone get through a bad patch then fine, so she's not exactly "anti-antidepressants," she's more "uncomfortable" with antidepressants.

The more I thought about the post, the less irritated I got and the more reflective.  There were a few things she said that kind of made sense, that I think I agree with.

One point she made that I do, more or less, agree with:  she says, "I think our acceptance of this [idea that depression/anxiety are a result of a physical problem] reflects our longing and desire for a simple solution." I think most people who are depressed enough to consider going on antidepressants would love a "quick fix" -- who wouldn't?  And I think that in our society we tend to demand fast, easy solutions.  The irony here, I think, is that antidepressants usually take 3-6 weeks to work, and that's if they do work.  They really aren't that quick-acting.  

I think my biggest issue is with her general hypothesis, the idea that antidepressants are "disempowering."  I can see where the idea comes from; that if we have a medical problem, there's nothing we can do about it other than take medicine and wait for it to work.  But that's not entirely true.  If we think about diabetes, the go-to comparison illness for depression, there are lots of lifestyle changes a person can make that can improve their medical condition; the same goes for illnesses like heart disease and arthritis.  You may never be able to cure these problems, and these lifestyle changes usually have to work in tandem with medication.  But a person who manages their diet and exercise and takes insulin is going to be a much healthier diabetic than someone who takes insulin alone (something I'm trying to make my diabetic cat understand, but he's not buying).

My other thought is, what if we view antidepressants as empowering, instead of disempowering?  Rather than looking at medication as something that strips us of responsibility, it is something that enables us to be responsible. When someone is at the point where depression or anxiety has gotten so bad that they are visiting their doctor or a psychiatrist, the last thing they want to hear is, "It's all in your head.  It's up to you to fix yourself.  Start going to yoga and get on the treadmill."  Hell, I'd wager that 9 times out of 10, that's going to make someone more depressed.  But if the doctor says, "Okay.  I can give you this medication, but it's going to take a while for it to work.   It'll help you, but it will help more -- and quicker -- if you start going to yoga and get on the treadmill."  If you feel like you have a little bit of help, that you're throwing fixes at the problem from more than one direction, you are going to feel better faster -- regardless of if the antidepressant is really working on a serotonin deficiency or not.

In general, I kind of waffle about antidepressants.  I do think they are over prescribed, but I think they also help a lot of people.  I also think you'd have to be living under a rock to not know that exercise, a healthy diet, and other lifestyle choices help fight depression (that doesn't mean that people always make those healthy choices, but hey -- free will's a bitch, right?). 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Phrase You've Never Heard: Antenatal Depression

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm working on a book proposal about depression in pregnancy.  For the entire time I've been working on this project, I've struggled with what to call "depression in pregnancy."  Is that the best phrase?  Is "depression during pregnancy" better?  Is "perinatal depression" right?  Is "prenatal depression" better?  As you can probably see, the phrase "depression during pregnancy" is kind of clunky and gets unwieldy when you're using it a lot, so I was getting kind of desperate to find an alternative.

I happened to have an appointment with my psychiatrist this week, and I thought maybe she'd know, so I'd ask her.  She told me the appropriate phrase is "antenatal depression," while "perinatal depression" means any kind of depression during or after pregnancy (i.e., it includes postpartum depression as well).  I was quite excited to actually find a phrase for what I've been talking about.

The only problem is that I didn't ask how to spell it.  I wasn't sure if it was "antinatal" or "antenatal."  So, like most people, I decided to turn to the most authoritative reference around:  Wikipedia.

And, wouldn't you know it -- Wikipedia didn't have a page on either "antenatal" or "antinatal" depression.  Can you believe it?  It wasn't on Wikipedia.   I still figured out how to spell it (it's "antenatal," fyi) because there were a few other pages that had links to information about antenatal depression, so I still accomplished my goal, but I was kind of stunned.  I was thinking that maybe all this time I just couldn't find the right resources because I didn't have the right phrase, but I was wrong.  I did find a page on postpartum depression, of course, and just about everything else I looked up while testing the theory that Wikipedia has a page on everything (random crap I looked up:  Dr. Zoidberg - a character from Futurama; Susan Stafford -- the original letter-turner on Wheel of Fortune; and a page listing all the Salute Your Shorts episodes).

So that's all I really wanted to say today.  That there is a clinical phrase for depression in pregnancy:  antenatal depression.  And that it's such an obscure topic-- despite estimates that as high as 25% of women suffer from it -- that it's not even listed on Wikipedia.   But now you know the phrase, and you can pass it on.  Don't you feel educated?