A couple of months ago, I wrote about my aversion to antidepressants and how I’ve felt like testosterone has been acting well, in that way for me. A reader had asked if I have experiences with being on antidepressants while starting T, and since I hadn’t, I asked for thoughts from others. That post is here:
I’m going to elaborate on some of those thoughts now because I am currently depressed. I’ve been feeling this way for close to two weeks now, and I acknowledge that it might be a little while before I really pull out of it. It’s not all that surprising or hard to swallow. I suffered from a break from reality and a manic episode 6 weeks ago, and then I spent some time (weeks) in a hypomanic and slightly agitated state. Usually what follows naturally is a rebound depressive episode. My brain is still sorting itself out.
I’ve been spending a lot of my free time sitting and thinking. Or laying down and thinking. Or sleeping. The thinking isn’t doing me any good / getting me anywhere. It’s a lot of dead ends and connecting things to fear responses. But it feels like all I can do at times. Reading has been challenging. Socializing has been challenging. Feeling like doing anything extra has been challenging. Writing (surprisingly) is doable, and always has been when I’m depressed (as long as it’s personal writing as opposed to fiction or academic writing). I’ve been feeling forgetful, and like it’s tough to grasp the details of what is going on around me.
I’m trying to go easy on myself – not berate myself for sleeping 10-12 hours a night. Accepting help from my partner and telling her how much it’s appreciated. Letting myself off the hook for not conversing with others the way I’d like to be, or not doing the things I should really get around to doing…
Things that are sad are even sadder than they’d normally feel. I haven’t been crying; instead I feel a sinking numbness. Things that should be joyful and exciting are just things that happened. Hopefully I’ll feel the joy and excitement later on, like a delayed response once I’m past this? Like I’m storing up the joy for later? Because some good things have been happening; I’m just not feeling it.
There is a bright side though, and that’s what I wanna focus on. I still do think that testosterone is acting as an effective antidepressant. Not so much on my mind / thinking, but definitely on my body / energy. Although I’ve been oversleeping, when I’m awake, I feel good. I don’t feel drained of energy or crushing physical pain, which is so common with depression. It’s not hard to go through the motions of living, even though I really am just dragging my brain along for the ride right now. That feels like a win.
My psychiatrist keeps asking, “How is your depression,” and saying, “If you’re depressed, we’ll add an antidepressant.” And I keep saying (so far) that my depression is fine. I don’t want to add more pills.* I know this is stubborn thinking, and if it goes on too long, I hope I’ll have the wits to just gracefully change my tune. But I really feel like this is a blip, and within a month, I’ll be feeling more like my usual self.
And that’s another win – a lot of times, that depressed feeling is accompanied by a conviction that it will never lift. I don’t feel that. I feel like I’ll be out from under this in no time.
And my brain and I might be friends again before I know it.
*I had been on Geodon, an atypical antipsychotic that was causing some strange hormonal side effects for me. I’m currently switching to Latuda, another atypical antispychotic that has been approved in the US for about a year now. I’m hoping this will go better.
Last week, I wrote about some highy unpleasant sensations I was experiencing, that I’d deduced were from testosterone for me right now. Then I thought some more about it. I thought about how testosterone has never been anything but a good thing for me. I also got some insightful comments and talked things through with my partner and my therapist. The testosterone bit may be playing a part, but most likely it’s this new medication I’m on, being all wonky with my hormones.
Another big factor it took me a moment to think through is: my menstrual cycle. Although I’ve been on T for close to 2 years, the dose is low enough that I still get my period. Do I like that? No. But I haven’t been wanting to increase the T enough so that it will cease. Maybe one day I will get a hysto. That’s way down the line though. For now, my menstrual cycle is mild enough that I can deal with it. Until the addition of this atypical antipsychotic (Geodon), that is. While premenstrual, I was experiencing hot flashes and cold sweats. I stunk all around (feet, underarms, breath). I could not be around too much light or too much noise or too many people. (My partner and I call it TMS for Too Much Stimulation.) I was making it through the work day but had no energy for anything else. Or, conversely, I had too much pent up energy I needed to expend by dancing wildly or pacing.
Another piece of the puzzle, that my therapist filled in, was the idea that I’m still coming down from a manic jag. It was acute and short-lived, but the brain takes time to rebound from something so extreme. She told me that, essentially, agitation and “feelings of flying/fun” are two sides of the same coin, neurologically speaking. That made a ton of sense. I was still having fun when I was kicking back at home, on a leave from work. As soon as I returned to work, the stress shot through the roof. Makes sense.
Now that I have the pieces to make sense of all that, and now that my menstrual flow is dwindling, I’m finally feeling like myself again. Even better, actually, I’m feeling like I did when I first got on testosterone. All warm & fuzzy, all cozy and peaceful and grounded in my body. I know my brain <–> body connection still has some sorting out to do, and I know I’m going to get off this drug as soon as it is safe to / I feel like it. Right now though, I am so glad I’m out of the woods on this one.
(It makes sense too, because 12 years ago, I was on Risperdal, a different atypical antipsychotic. I was having really wonky hormonal side effects on that too. Some things don’t change much.)
This week has thrown me for a loop, big time. Between Saturday AM and Wednesday AM, I was in the hospital for mental health reasons, on a psychiatric unit. I don’t believe I ever thought I’d be back there; in fact, it was my biggest fear. Scarier than heights, the tallest roller-coasters, the dark, spiders, sharks, germs, etc. etc. (I’m actually not afraid of any of those things.)
Just to summarize my history briefly, when I was a senior in high school, I suffered a psychotic break and subsequent major depressive episode (lasting 4 months, and then on and off throughout college). I was on a mixture of different drugs for about 6 years, and I weened myself off all of them after a certain point. I’d been med-free for roughly 10 years, and pretty proud of that fact.
I’ve written about mental health before…
Here: Depression and taking testosterone
Here: That specific trauma is still there
And here: Continuing to work through a specific trauma
…and also scattered throughout many blog entries.
Although this blog is mainly about taking a low dose of T and working as a janitor, it is undeniably also about mental health and self-care. I slipped up pretty big in the self-care department, slowly and gradually at first, and then fast and unstoppably. I went through a full blown manic episode / psychotic break. A lot of it was so fun it’s kinda indescribable. In fact, I can definitely tell I still haven’t come down completely yet – I’m registering a heightened sensitivity to bodily sensations, both pleasant and annoying, I feel keyed up / antsy, I need to be in control of the stimulation levels or else I feel overwhelmed within seconds, smells and tastes are waaaaay off (not constantly, but sporadically), colors and patterns are popping out, my thinking is still relatively disorganized…
But I’m sleeping well and eating well and engaging in a lot of different things and spending 24/7 with my partner for a few days, and that’s what’s important right now. I was prescribed ziprasidone, which is an atypical antipsychotic approved by the FDA in 2001. Am I happy about it? No. Do I think I’ll be on it indefinitely? A strong NO! But I can accept it for right now.
I’m sure I’ll return to some of what I went through, in an attempt to process things and just share where I’m at (it does feel like it’ll be an arduous rehabilitation process, and I’ll be out of work for roughly 2 weeks). For now though, I want to just write about a strange parallel. It might not mean anything if you haven’t seen Breaking Bad, but I’ll give it a whirl anyway (and there are no real spoilers in what is to follow):
Leading up to what I went through, my partner and I were watching a lot of Breaking Bad. Not really binge watching it, but watching an episode almost every night. Now we are not. Haha. We only have 4 or 5 episodes left, but we’re putting the show on pause. I suggested we start watching Malcolm in the Middle instead, largely because Bryan Cranston plays the dad in both shows (and I used to watch it as a teenager and thought it would be fun. It is fun). But – we just watched the 5th episode, and the family is getting their house tented and fumigated. They are in a camper trailer on their front lawn in the meantime. And the parents, at the tail end of the episode, put on gas masks in order to enter the house and get some alone time. I was flipping out. (I mean, my partner was too, but I was shouting and swearing and pacing and called it a night, basically). Haha. I’ll probably be in bed by 9pm.