I know this is long, but I could use some advice.
I'm a 40 year old woman and I never thought that I suffered from the kind of depression/anxiety that would benefit from medication. I have ups and downs but have never felt debilitated by depression. I do have a family history of mental illness and have watched my mom, sister and brother go through their medication journeys over the years, and be highly supportive of them. Other than them, though, I don't know many people who admit to taking antidepressants, etc. It's not talked about
a whole lot in the black community.
To my friends and family, I am typically the one they rely on for advice/money/levity/humor, etc. I tend to be "the rock" and the one who's always got it together.
Over the years, I've dealt with a lot of highs and lows. My mom died in 2008. Three of her siblings died in 2011/12, along with a dear cousin. In 2010, I separated from my husband and later filed for divorce (after 12 years of marriage; it was extremely painful, but amicable in the end).
I also earned several graduate degrees, got my dream job (which I'm currently working and have been promoted 3x), was published, etc. So many, many good things.
I've been able to largely deal with the suffering and beauty of life pretty well for the past 40 years - and for that I am grateful.
a two and half years ago, my father got sick. I became his primary caregiver and he moved in with me. For 18 months, we battled a very debilitating and awful terminal disease that sent us to the ER twelve times. I had to be on constant alert
to take care of my dad as the disease he had required vigilance in that if he was left unattended during an episode it could quickly result in his becoming comatose with only a 20% chance of survival.
I did an excellent job caring for my dad and I continued to work full-time and excelled at my job, being promoted during his illness. I cared for my dad primarily alone because my siblings have mental health or substance abuse issues that stopped them from being able to help effectively. In the end, my brother who lives in another state stepped forward to care for my dad as things to a turn for the worse because none of us wanted him in a nursing home and it would have been impossible for me to care for him by myself when my brother has a large family.
My brother took good care of my dad until the end and a few months after the move, my dad passed away.
That was a year ago. I thought I was handling it ok. I did see a therapist in the early months after his death, but we worked through my immediate grief and I felt as if I was doing ok.
Then, my dad's sister who lives in another state and has for many decades, died unexpectedly in February. I did not know that she was sick and she didn't want me to know as she wanted us to have time to grieve my dad. After her death, I went to the funeral, had a few nights of rough sleep and then returned to normal.
In late March, about
three days before the anniversary of my dad's death, I began to have a lot of trouble staying asleep. I would go anywhere from 2-4 hours and then wake up unable to go back to sleep. I normally sleep 7-9 hours pretty easily. This went on for about
a week. I had always been able to take a benadryl if I had any sleep problems, but this didn't work.
I felt awful on such little sleep and went to the doctor to try to get some help. My PCP immediately prescribed Prozac, gave me a script
for .25 Xanax as needed and sent me on my way. I took the Xanax once, but it did not help me sleep. I did not want to take the Prozac, as I did not feel depressed and didn't really understand how it would help. Still, as my sleep problems persisted, I decided to go with what the doctor suggested and take the Prozac.
Whoa. I have since learned that side effects on these drugs are normal, but I was not prepared. I thought I might have some nausea or a headache, but instead I completely lost my appetite, losing 42 pounds (I am a big girl
, I could not eat a thing without a lot of effort. Even making my favorite meals, resulted in me taking a bite or two and calling it quits.
I also got pretty significant chills up and down my back, loose bowels, an odd sensation in my head, and, most significantly, lots of heightened anxiety. The anxiety scared me so much. I have never experienced it before in any way, shape or form. I sat in a meeting at work, unable to really focus on anyone and feeling as if I might jump out of my skin. Driving home that day, I could easily have crashed the car from the jumpiness and nerves I experienced. I made it home and my roommate (who has been on SSRIs before), had me take .50 Xanax and I calmed down within 10 minutes and felt so much better.
I called my PCP to let her know about
the anxiety and she took me off of Prozac as it had only been 6 days and she immediately prescribed me Lexapro to replace it. I filled the script
, but I have yet to take it. I am SO afraid of experiencing that kind of anxiety ever again.
I am still having trouble staying asleep, which I've tried several times to no avail, but an OTC unisom sleeptab gets me between 6-8 hours of broken sleep, which I am able to function on right now. I've tried just about
every OTC or herbal remedy that it suggested (all of the melatonin, l-tryptophan, l-thenine, 5HTP, supplements, etc. with no luck) I know, though, that it's not a permanent solution.
I have been doing some Dr. Googling, and I think I know a bit more about
why my doctor prescribed me an antidepressant. I very well could have been depressed this whole time and it is now manifesting itself in the insomnia. I am willing to accept that, but I am still not sure that an SSRI is the answer because of the side effects, which are much more intense than anything I have ever experienced on my own emotionally.
In any event, I am seeing a therapist and have started CBT (fourth week is this week) and I have an appointment scheduled with a psychiatrist for next week to talk about
meds and what may or may not be right for me.
Has anyone experienced anything like what I am now? Does anyone have any insight or advice for me about
what I should ask the psychiatrist? Can SSRIs help me? Or something else?