Winston Goes MIA or One Way to Win the War

LOST: Crappy little black dog. You can keep him.

If you’ve been following my blog for the past year and a half, you’re aware that this blog has been interrupted by periods of silence.  That is because behind the scenes I’ve been engaged in colossal, knock down, drag out fights with Winston, my black dog of depression.  I’ve won skirmishes but each time, Winston kept returning to mess over everything.  He would morph from a little pug to a hulking monster and I needed all my mental resources for the next round.  Aside from a short reprieve last summer (remember London?) with a new medication (Cymbalta), we have been battling since February 2011.  Things really started going downhill last Fall but I was determined to blog through it.

By Spring, there was no improvement in sight.  The medication did not combat the most severe breakthrough symptoms, loss of concentration and extreme lethargy.  I’d ceased to function in any meaningful way.  I was absent from my job intermittently for about five months. They could not carry me indefinitely, and so they started making noises about either easing me onto to disability or out the door.  As a single woman two-thirds to retirement, neither of these was an option for me.  In addition, my brother uncharacteristically showered me with calls.  My sister-in-law did the same.  My close friends descended on me, cooking and cleaning.  Friends emailed, texted, and called in support.  I learned my family was discussing how to take care of me.

The point made it through my foggy brain that things were dire.  Winston was eating me alive.

Panicked, I told Dr. G. that we needed skip from Plan C over some of the less appealing options (meds with horrible side effects) and go straight to Plan G, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).  It works similar to the ECT treatment of old except without the shock or side effects. However, it would take time to get insurance approval.  Dr. G. wondered if I had treatment-resistant depression because all of the new SSRI medications all had the same limited affect on me.  These meds all increased serotonin and/or norepinephrine in the brain, two chemicals of the three chemicals responsible for mood.  But what if she treated the brain fog with a psycho-stimulant that increased the third chemical, dopamine?   So, she prescribed a small dose Ritalin.  Yes, Ritalin, a popular drug given to kids with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).   I don’t have ADHD, I said, but hey, I was desperate.

Long story short, it felt like the difference between night and day, in a matter of hours.  The breakthrough symptoms disappeared. Winston disappeared.  I could focus, think, and function.  I returned to work and have been fine for a month and counting.  I feel even keel and a little better than neutral.  In other words, I feel “normal.”   How can this be? According to Google, Ritalin/Adderall/ dopamine derivatives given to people with ADHD, help them focus and slow down.  Without ADHD, it increases focus and stimulates.  So, psycho-stimulants in small doses like Ritalin and Adderall are emerging to augment anti-depressants.  Could it be that after 20 years of experimenting with medication that we’ve finally discovered that my brain needs serotonin AND dopamine?  I’m better due to an offhand throwaway idea?  It’s almost too good to be true.

I haven’t seen Winston in a month.  This isn’t a cure; the symptoms slowly return if I’m not diligent with medication because Ritalin doesn’t have a long half-life.  I must accept that I’m like a diabetic with insulin, but that’s okay.  I’m back to the way I was last summer.  People have again remarked about the change in my personality.  It’s all good.

Right now, I’m marshaling my mental resources and slowly reconnecting with life.  Depression is truly a bitch.  It steals your life, but I’m determined to get mine back. This post has been a bit long-winded but  I’ve revealed all this in the hope that my story may help somebody out there.  Don’t give up.  The solution is out there.

I don’t know if I’ve won the war with Winston, but like another famous Winston, I shall never surrender.



31 thoughts on “Winston Goes MIA or One Way to Win the War

  1. Oh, Judi…I am so pleased for you.  Hope things keep on improving.  🙂

  2. Judi, right there cheering you on. Take time to relax. As we’ve all told Callie (Calexora) with her major health issues, we are always around and we’ll be here when you want us. Cheers and best wishes.

    • Thanks Prue. Yes, I’m taking my time, luxuriating in the good feeling and being careful not to overwhelm myself by doing too much, too soon. 🙂

  3. Judi, it’s lovely to hear that things have been so much better for you, and I’m with the others in cheering you on. Take care of yourself!

  4. That is such good news, I am very happy for you!  I hope that medication continues to work as well for you.   Thank goodness that worked instead of needing more drastic measures.  Welcome back!!

    • Thank you April. It’s good to know there’s a cheering section out there rooting for me. I don’t feel alone. 🙂

  5. This is the best news all day ( and that’s saying a lot because Peter Jackson’s new vlog is out!). I really adore this blog and have been rooting for you from the shadows, as many other have, I’m sure! I’m so happy for you!

    • Thanks so much IWantToBeAPinUp (is there a nickname for you?) LOL!!! I truly appreciate your support. Watch this space as I slowly return to regularly scheduled programming. 🙂

  6. Hooray for dopamine! Here’s hoping your body chemistry stays consistent enough that this batch of meds will work for some time to come. It’s been wonderful having my Judi back. 🙂

    • *Hugs* Thanks Trina for putting up with me for the past 16 years. I can’t begin to describe how much I treasure your friendship and support. 🙂

  7. Judiang, this is so good to have you back. I really missed you out here. Wish you all the very best and that this medication keeps on taking hold. Enjoy this brightend world and your freshly gained little freedom. I know how it feels, seeing light after a long dark period. In default of other possibilities, I send you loads of virtual flowers, as they (real ones) never fail to cheer me up. 🙂

  8. Hurrah Judi! May Winston never return!!! We’re routing for you and so pleased that this treatment is working so well! Glad to see you posting again.

  9. Glad to hear such good news. We shoo Winston away together. I am so glad you are back on your blog! All the best to you!

  10. What am I going to do with all the dog food I bought for Winston????? Oh well, I guess Patty can eat it. So glad you are feeling better. 🙂

  11. Woo hoo, Judiang!
    I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling better.   Let’s hope that your new meds kick Winston to the curb for good–or at least, muzzle him sufficiently so you can do what you want to do, when you want to do it.  
    Blessings on you dear friend.  It’s so nice to have you back.
    Cheers!  Grati  ;->
    P.S.  Any chance that I can convince you to like a beardy RA now, too?  Giggles!

  12. Glad you’re feeling better! 🙂

    Just had a thought … Have you ever considered your thyroid might not function the way it’s supposed to, and/or your body might have difficulties absorbing the hormones it produces? There’s a link to depression, and there was something I read recently regarding why antidepressant drugs don’t work on everyone, but I can’t remember where. He’s a place to get started anyhoo:

    • Thanks Traxy! Yes, my thyroid and hormones levels have been tested. Thyroid is fine, hormones are whacked. Unfortunately I’m teetering on the erratic cusp of menopause, so a strict hormone regimen isn’t feasible right now. But thanks for the link. 🙂

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