“In all affairs, it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”
– Bertrand Russell
If you’re my Facebook friend, you’ve probably seen my posts related to the fact that I was sick last week. If you’re a blog reader who is not a Facebook friend, then you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been somewhat AWOL for a while. Well, let me give you a run down on why that is. (And stick with me now…I’m not just whining about my ‘illness.’ There’s a point to this, I promise.)
[Although, feeling sorry for me about my illness is totally acceptable. Welcomed even. And, hey, if you want to swing by and cook me dinner one night or have some flowers sent to me or anything, I’m cool with that, too. *Ahhem.* Ok, continuing on…]
Early last week, a slight dizziness I had previously started to notice suddenly and unexpectedly went full force on me. It got to the point where I could barely stand up without needing to hold on to a wall. I went to the doctor on Wednesday (a new doctor, by the way, because of my new location – not my previous doctor…This info is important, so remember that…), and after a thorough exam and no findings of any inner ear infections (which I had suspected) or anything of that nature, I was diagnosed with BPPV. That stands for Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, which basically means unexplained vertigo. So, given this diagnosis, I proceeded to take the prescribed anti-nausea and motion sickness medicine, and work on some physical exercises that were supposed to help me regain my balance.
Well, nothing worked. In fact, I only got worse. And worse. And worse.
It got to the point where dizziness was the least of my concerns. My right arm started at first to just tingle (like it was asleep), but then to almost get to the point where it wasn’t functioning at all. I caught myself reaching over with my left hand to move my right arm where it needed to go. And then, it started affecting my legs.
I’m a runner, for goodness sakes. And suddenly, in a matter of a week, I went from being a runner to barely being able to walk. Nothing “hurt” really. They just wouldn’t work. It was a crazy feeling…it was like I couldn’t concentrate and think well enough to tell my legs to move like they were supposed to. I was terrified.
I went to the ER. Twice. They couldn’t find anything wrong with me. NOTHING. My heart was fine. My brain was fine. (Ha! The quacks…) But seriously, nothing was showing up on any tests. My body was falling apart, and there was no explanation whatsoever. One of my Facebook contacts referred to me as a “drama queen,” and while it thoroughly pissed me off (you go from being an avid runner to practically not even being able to move in a week and let me know how ‘dramatic’ it feels to you, pal!), I was starting to think he had a point. I felt like death was imminent (not much exaggeration there, trust me), and there was no discernible reason for it.
I was losing my mind.
So, there I was, huddled into a ball on the bed on Friday night when I got a message from my sweet friend Iman asking how I was doing. There are some people in your life who ask that question and you reply, “I’m fine.” Then there are the people in your life like Iman. The people who know better than to ask that question if they don’t really want the truth, because they’re about to get it. So, I told her. I told her how bad it had gotten and how desperate I was feeling. And how scared. She immediately tried helping by asking all the questions that the doctors had asked. What are my symptoms, how long have they been going on, have I tried this, have I tried that, am I on any particular medications….we went through the whole nine yards of questioning. And then…
She asked a question the doctors hadn’t asked. And one that I had never even thought to mention.
Have you recently stopped taking any medications?
*Ding ding ding*
Now, I’ve been told I have a wide reach with this blog. And that I have more of an influence on people with my words than I may even realize. So, I guess you could say this blog serves as my soapbox. Or, my platform, if you will. And with that being the case, I’m about to utilize that in a way that I think is very important. I’m about to talk about the thing that is supposed to be kept secret. The thing no one is supposed to talk about in polite company. The thing I should be ashamed of. The thing some people (including members of my own family) look down on and think less of you for because it admits ‘weakness.’
That thing? Depression meds. Yep, I was on them.
That’s right. Me. The girl who writes these uplifting blogs. Who always sees the bright side of things, the underlying lessons in the hard times, the silver lining…blah, blah, blah. Yep, that same girl has been on depression medication for the past few months. (And guess what? It wasn’t the first time, either.)
About 3 months ago, I went to my family doctor over a sore throat. While I was there, I described to her how ‘low’ I had been lately. I wasn’t interested in my usual things anymore (running, theatre, writing…) and I was very snippy. Not only at home with my poor kids and boyfriend, but also at work. I just seemed to be on edge all of the time and there was no apparent reason why. So, we discussed my taking a low-dose depression med, and I agreed.
And it helped. It really did. In no time, I felt my old self coming back. I just needed a little jump start.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I caught myself skipping a pill here and there, and at this point I realized I had already missed about 4 days in a row. So, I thought, I don’t need this stuff anymore. All is well. So, I stopped them altogether.
Well, guess what? You’re not supposed to do that.
I had heard that you’re not supposed to stop those meds cold turkey like that. That you’re supposed to wean off of them with a doctor’s advice. But psssh. In my usual Melissa way, I ignored that and just did it my way. And buddy, let me tell ya, I suffered the consequences.
Immediately after Iman’s suggestion, I googled the side effects of stopping these meds. Everything matched to a tee. Apparently I was having severe withdrawal symptoms. My new doctor didn’t catch that, because when asked if I was on any medications, I said no. I didn’t think to mention that I had stopped one a few weeks ago – didn’t think it mattered. (Lesson learned.) So…I immediately dug them back out, took one, and waited to see what happened. I woke up the next day feeling some better. Took another, and woke up the next day feeling 100% back to normal.
Just like that.
No dizziness, no nausea, my legs and arms worked. No more confusion, no more mood swings. Just like that – I was ‘healed.’
Now, why am I telling you this story? Two reasons.
For one thing, I wanted to let everyone know that I’m human. I mean, I know my superior awesomeness might have had you doubting that fact, but alas, ’tis true. No, seriously, I wanted to make this ‘confession’ of sorts. The primary reason for this blog is to talk about things that people can identify with. If you are someone who has had to take this medication, why be ashamed of it? Why is a chemical imbalance more embarrassing that a cold? It’s silly. It’s a sickness, and if you need medication, you need medication. That’s all there is to it. Just be careful to research the type that you’re on and make sure it’s the right one for you. Discuss the side effects with your doctor and especially pay attention to the procedure with coming off of them when the time is right. (Which, by the way, is for you AND your doctor to decide. Not just you. Even if you’re ‘superiorly awesome’ like me. I know, I’m shocked too….)
But the other reason? The other purpose for this blog?
I wanted to tell the ones who aren’t on this or other similar medications a few things. First – to the ones who think you may need to be but are too embarrassed to seek help. I have some deep, philosophical words of wisdom and advice for you.
Stop that crap.
Seriously, just stop it. Medication is there for a reason. If you need it, you need it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t have to go blog about it or anything (I mean, come on, that would be stupid), but you don’t have to keep it a secret either. You know? If you need help ask for it. Chemical imbalances and general overall sadness can wreak havoc on your life. You have a choice:
Continue in your misery, or seek help. It’s that simple. Really. I promise. It’s that simple.
And secondly, to the other set of people who aren’t on this medication and are certain that it’s unnecessary and that it’s a sign of weakness (you know who you are). My message to you is the same. Stop that crap. Stop it. YOU are not the smartest person on the planet, contrary to what you might believe. You don’t know everything about everything. Medication is there for a reason. It’s necessary. And it’s not your place or my place or anyone else’s place to judge whether or not someone chooses to accept that help that is available to them. Until you’ve been there, you don’t understand. Trust me on this. Got it?
Seriously. Just stop it.
Let’s just love each other. Okay? When we need help, let’s get it. When someone we love needs help, let’s support them. Be smart. Research. Do what the doctor says.
The mind and spirit needs just as much attention as the physical body does when it comes to keeping healthy. I’ve always heard that if you have your health, then you have everything. After my scary week last week, I get it. I soooo get it.
So, to summarize. If you’re on medication for depression – awesome. Nothing to be ashamed of. Take them like you’re supposed to and, please listen when I say this, don’t stop them cold turkey. Talk to your doctor about when the time is right for you to come off of them and do it the right way. Now, to those who are not on them but think you might need to be – go talk to someone about it. Seriously. Go. You’ll be amazed at how different you feel. Like the quote said above, making yourself miserable or putting forth effort to make yourself strong both take the same about of work. Choose the smart route. Get help. Ok? And, finally, to those who are not on them and think badly of the people who are? Stop it. That’s it. Just stop it. You’re being a big jerkface.
Ok. That’s all I have to say.
And now, I’m off to run. (And thank God for it….)
“To keep the body in good health is a duty….otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”