Taking Help Wherever I Can Find It
About four years ago, I began to be overwhelmed with sadness about my husband’s continuing decline from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Todd and I have often said that if the disease progression would just stop, we could adjust. But managing ALS only becomes more stressful as time goes on, and grief is heaped on grief.
A few years ago, I discussed our situation, and my sadness, with my doctor. She prescribed an antidepressant with a cautionary tale that she had taken the medication herself and coming off it had been difficult. I was wary of becoming drug dependent, but I was weary of being sad.
I picked up my prescription and took the first dose. That night I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t cry. I felt numb. With all that I was dealing with, I couldn’t push through the side effects to see if my body would adjust. Without sleep, I couldn’t function to take care of two kids and a disabled husband. I felt a sense of relief a day later when the medication was out of my body and I was back to my sad self. I could sleep again. I could cry again.
Rest and tears are therapeutic. I also exercise and journal to cope with my situational depression, but I’m always living under a cloud of ALS. Light occasionally breaks through and we’ve had many joyful moments, but life is increasingly difficult.
I had been gun-shy to try a different antidepressant. I told myself that my sadness was an appropriate response to a hard situation. I might be sad, but I was coping.
But this fall, heading into a long winter, feeling isolated because of the COVID-19 pandemic, overwhelmed by never-ending caregiving responsibilities, and still dealing with long-lasting side effects following my COVID-19 vaccination, I felt like something had to give. It’s been so hard for so long and I became weary. I decided I should try an antidepressant again.
My current doctor suggested two possibilities. One choice was a medication that was easier to quit because the body rids itself of it quickly. A second choice was one that had the fewest side effects.
“I can’t handle bad side effects, so let’s try the second,” I said.
“We’ll try the lowest therapeutic dose because you’re so sensitive to medications,” my doctor said.
I started the medication and I felt happier within days, but then I was hit with anxiety and exhaustion. Now with an even smaller dosage, I am still experiencing side effects, but they are manageable. I’m feeling more positive. I am sleeping better. It’s too soon to know if this is a long-term solution, but I’m hopeful.
When dealing with a disease with such a bleak future, I’ll take help wherever I can find it.
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