Assessing the effects of a weekend without my antidepressant

Questions about my microdose, meant to help me cope with ALS grief

Kristin Neva avatar

by Kristin Neva |

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Last Friday night, I pulled a prescription bottle out of the cupboard, preparing to take my daily antidepressant — just one half-pill of the smallest dose, but that’s been enough to take the edge off and help me cope with the ongoing grief of living with my husband’s ALS.

The bottle was empty! Ugh.

I scoured my cupboards in vain for any bottles with a leftover pill. I called the pharmacy and went through the prompts to refill the script. “Your prescription will be ready Monday morning at 10 a.m.,” the automated voice informed me. “To accept this time, press 1. For an earlier time, press 2.”

I pressed 2.

“An earlier time is not available,” a recorded message played.

My heart sank. Ugh.

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Expressions of grief and gratitude can be equally important

For the first time in years, I’d be without my antidepressant. I’d tried another medication before finding this one, which I could tolerate as long as I took only a very small dose. The doctor who’d prescribed it told me I was taking such a small dose that I could stop at any time without needing to taper off it, but the thought of losing one of my coping mechanisms filled me with anxiety. I have other health issues too — including digestion problems that I’ve attributed to living with chronic stress from the ALS.

Would I be able to handle withdrawal symptoms on top of everything else?

“Who do we know who’s depressed?” I asked Todd, my husband. “It’s the most commonly prescribed antidepressant.”

I thought for a moment that I might ask if I could borrow one pill from a friend, but quickly dismissed that course of action because I wouldn’t want to intrude on people’s privacy. Maybe it’d come to that if I had a mental breakdown before the weekend was over.

Assessing my state of mind

Throughout the weekend, I found myself questioning my emotions.

“Do I seem crankier than usual?” I asked Todd after I yelled for our dog, Comet, to come back into the house.

We’ve been letting Comet outside for only brief periods, because with our unusually warm winter, he’s twice gotten into something in the woods near our house that made him sick. I have enough to deal with without getting up multiple times at night to let a dog out or cleaning up messes in our mudroom.

So I was crabby when he didn’t come in when I called the first time, but Comet trotted happily into the house when I screeched at him. Go figure.

Todd wasn’t too concerned about the tone I used with Comet, but he pointed out that I was overly worked up when I realized we were getting charged a monthly rental for a suction machine we weren’t even using. We have one that someone donated to us, and it works well — but the battery quit holding a charge, so Todd’s doctor prescribed one. The medical supply company delivered a new machine, but it didn’t even have a battery.

If I need to suction Todd in an emergency, I don’t want to have to take the time to plug in a cord. I’m frequently frustrated trying to navigate our medical system and by the lack of support for those with ALS.

My days are usually filled with emotional up and downs.

When I’m watching an engrossing show with Todd or hearing about our kids’ days, I’m able to compartmentalize and not think about the ALS aspects of our lives. When we have visitors, I might seem as though I’m doing perfectly fine, because in those moments I am. I’m an extrovert, so I perk up when we have company or on those rare occasions when I have tea with a friend.

But when my mind isn’t engaged in a focused activity, ALS is often in the forefront of my thoughts. A disease with no cure and ongoing progression is depressing.

A new insight

By Sunday evening, I noticed that my digestion felt better than usual, prompting me to search the side effects of the medication online. Sure enough, the antidepressant that I’d been on for years is linked to digestive problems, and thinking back, my digestion issues may have begun shortly after I went on it.

Maybe I’m better off without it. I’ll need to see how it goes and lean into my other coping mechanisms, such as journaling and skiing while soaking in the beauty of falling snow on the ski trail.

A wide, snow-covered path with trees, some bare and some pine, on either side.

On the ski trail. (Photo by Kristin Neva)

Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


Brian Stanfield avatar

Brian Stanfield

Glad you survived the weekend!


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