My job involves a lot of driving. I can put on some serious miles in a day. I have a lot of time to spend by myself. I tend to listen to music or an occasional podcast. I also drive in all types of weather. A good sunny day is uplifting. The rain and snow bring about caution and a heightened sense of awareness. Some mornings are foggy.
These foggy days make me slow down. A heavy fog is tough to see through. It becomes difficult to see what lies ahead. But, I keep going. I have a job to do and I have to get there in order to do it. Of course there is the alternative. I could turn around and head home. I could stop and just wait for the fog lift. Could I do these things? Yes. Would it benefit me? No. People on the other end of my drive are depending on me to get there. Would they be fine without me? In some cases, yes. In some cases, no. I am needed for the support that I lend to help everything go smooth in what they are doing.
Typically, as I drive the fog begins to lift. The sun begins to shine through and it becomes easier to see in front of me. That is a good feeling when driving😊. I become more comfortable driving on. There is no need to turn around and head back to the safety of my home. I continue on. The road becomes clearer. My mood about the drive becomes better. Driving in the sunshine is so much easier!
Recently, I have started a new medication. I did not stop the previous medication, but added on the new one to assist what I was already on. One medication works better on some receptors and the new one hits on others. The goal, that my psychiatrist and I have, is that the rounding out of the two medications will help bring me out of my latest funk that I have been in and lead to long term effectiveness.
Before the change, I was feeling like my mind was in a fog. I was having trouble thinking clearly. I was tired. My eyes felt heavy. My mind just felt like it was operating at half speed. Like trudging through mud. Like driving through fog…
I was finding myself laying in bed more and more. Sleeping multiple hours of the day. I was still able to go do my job, when I needed to, but I wasn’t enjoying it. Wasn’t really feeling anything at all, to be honest. This feeling was creeping into all aspects of my life. I knew I didn’t like it, but I didn’t have the motivation to change it. So I laid in bed. The fog was settling in.
My bed is my safety net, so to speak. It is where I go when I’m not feeling well. It is a place to go where I know no one can get to me. It is my place to escape everything. I would sleep multiple hours of the day. Another form of escape. After a while, a very negative effect of this behavior sets in. One…it becomes habitual. Am I laying here because I’m depressed or am I laying here because it is easy? Two…all the negative and dark thoughts begin to come back. I would literally do nothing but think. The thoughts would not be uplifting. Not even close. So then I would sleep. Sometimes multiple hours a day. It became another escape. Another way of not dealing with what I was feeling. After a while, my dreams would become negative. Always something going on in them that would tear me down. Or, I was always trying to escape something. I could barely see my hand in front of me as the fog was getting thick.
Well, this behavior had been going on for some time. Months, if I had to venture a guess. How many months? I had no idea anymore. Everything was running together. As everything began to run together, I was doing nothing about it besides succumbing to my thoughts. My everyday behaviors began to change. I ate like garbage. I stopped exercising. I gained a bunch of weight. I began to tear myself down. My self-esteem was not high. I didn’t want to leave the house. I had to drag myself out of bed to go to work. When I got to work, I would feel like everybody could see right through me. I tried my best to hide it. I have no idea if my attempts to hide it were working. As far as I was concerned, they weren’t.
I felt thin. Not the body type of thin, but more like the see through transparent type of thin. A shadow of myself. I began to have thoughts of not wanting to be alive anymore. What was the point? I wasn’t enjoying life anymore. If you can’t enjoy life anymore, why do it? I was stuck in this rut. A deep rut. I didn’t like it. My wife didn’t like it. People I would talk to, family and friends, didn’t like it. I was getting too good at ignoring it all, though. It certainly was dark down here. I could turn around and go home or just wait out the fog. All I knew was that continuing on was beginning to sound like a bad idea or just too difficult to deal with.
During this time that I was dealing with all of this, I was in between psychiatrists. My medical insurance changed and I no longer could see my old doctor. I had made an appointment with a new one, she really is a Nurse Practitioner with a degree in psychiatry, but that is too long to type out each time😊. I had to wait a while to get in to see her. This added on a whole new element to what I was feeling. I was seeing my therapist still, but he was out due to a medical procedure. All that together compounded and was really making me feel lonely. I felt as though I had no one to reach out to for help. At least no one to reach out to professionally. I felt stuck. I was on the side of the road waiting for the fog to clear…waiting for something…anything.
Finally, the day arrived for my appointment. I was excited…not really. I was, but I wasn’t. Why change. I was basically done. This is where your support center gets even more important. My wife pushed me. She was very gentle about it, but she pushed me. I wanted to go to the appointment, but I didn’t want to go. I knew I needed to change something, but I just didn’t have the motivation to do it. My wife pushed me. Thank God she did! Keep a trusted core of people around you, as this was definitely a time that I could not do it on my own.
I went into my appointment fully expecting a change. In this culture we live in, I was fully expecting a medication change. My appointment lasted around an hour. She asked me all kinds of questions. Getting to know my situation. Extremely thorough. It got very personal, but it needed to. Impossible to make changes without my psychiatrist knowing the full story.
My wife was instrumental in this appointment. She was present for the first 10 minutes. She really laid it all out there. She laid it out there in a way that I wasn’t or maybe wouldn’t. She laid it out there about as real as it could get. Tears and all. It made me really uncomfortable, but what isn’t uncomfortable about depression. It needed to be done. I love her for what she did and what she continues to do. Where some people run, she gets up and fights!
I was and am really impressed with my new psychiatrist/Nurse Practitioner. She was thorough beyond my imagination. The weird thing was…I didn’t leave there with a new medication. What? This can’t be! We throw a pill at anything and everything in this culture.
What I left with was a plan. A plan that involved a long term goal. Medication changes can be for the long term, but at the time, you are really looking for a short term fix. Get me out of this rut and blow all this fog away…now! I went home. I had to come up with the top three things that I wanted to focus on with my depression. She mailed me some surveys. Everything that is needed to make the right changes and changes to help accomplish the long term goal…feeling better! One thing she recommended was a gene test. It would aid in either future selection of antidepressants or adjustments to what I am already taking. I was all for it. Especially since it wasn’t a blood draw, but a swab of the inside of my mouth.
The results came back by the time of my next appointment. We went over the results. I had no idea what to expect. The results said that my current medication was basically too high. Easy enough…she recommended we lower it. It also said that other medications might be better, but my current medication fell in the “it can work” category. The plan was…let’s start by lowering my existing medication first and see what happens. She also stated that she had an idea for what a next medication looks like for me.
So, I lowered my medication. As we all know, it takes a while to get the full effect of an antidepressant medication change. During the first few days, I felt no different. I was still stuck in the fog. My activities, or lack thereof, were the same. I was determined to go with this for a while and see. My wife had different ideas. Why not call and see what a new medication would do? You have been on this current one for a while and we see what it is doing to you.
I called later that day and the new medication was approved. I was to take the medication I was already on and start the new one to fill in the gaps, so to speak. I started it the next day. Again, these medications take some time to work. At least a couple of weeks. I did notice some effects within the first day or so, or at least I thought I did. My depression hadn’t necessarily lessened, but my energy level had changed. It was increasing. I still felt bad, but I also felt a bit of motivation building. My head began to clear. My brain didn’t feel as heavy as it did before.
The fog was finally lifting! It felt good. Now I must be real for a second… was this an immediate effect of the medication and the best is yet to come? Or is this some psychological phenomenon happening in my brain? You know what? I don’t care. Not in the “I have no motivation” type of I don’t care, but in the “fog is clearing and I am liking how I’m feeling right now” version.
I am just over a week into this regimen. I still notice the depression. I do believe it is not as bad. I am not laying in my bed as much as I was. Is it the antidepressant part of the medication or the “activation” part this particular medication possesses? I lean to the latter right now, as it is still early. Either way, I am feeling better and better. It feels great to feel something different than bad. The fog is clearing and I can see my path starting to be clear in front of me. I want to drive on and reach my destination. I still have a long way to go, but I am more OK with it than I was before. I still have my moments. Of course I do at this point, but I’m not giving in to the retreat like I was before. I like where this is headed.
The drive through all of this can be a long journey. The journey is really never over. The fog likes to set in thick around us. It is easy to feel like we want to either turn around and go back home or just wait for the fog to clear. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. The fog always clears. The fog will lift. The sun shines through and melts it away. We have to stay the course. We must. There are people at the end of the road, and along it, who are depending on us to reach them. We have a job to do. Life does need us and I believe in my heart that we need it. The path is not always clear, but it is always there none the less. Stay strong, but in those times of weakness lean on your support system. They will help get you through the fog and to your destination once the fog lifts! It is never a question of “if” the fog clears, but “when” the fog clears. It will. The sun is meant to shine!
Let’s keep walking!
Have a great day!
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Jason Kehl’s Basement of Jams Original uplifting rock instrumentals with a real world message attached to them. Furthering mental health awareness through music.