Lady Gaga’s interview with Oprah on mental health is a must-watch. For me, it just hits home that even though it’s a disorder happening in the brain there are very, real, physical manifestations of that psychic pain.
This is a long one, so I will put my most important message first: Everyone go get a brain spa. If you can afford it, you should go. It should be like having a gym pass.
I’ve been on medication for anxiety and depression since summer of 2015ish. So, that’s like four years. My last post about my experience with meds was written July 2017.
So what’s the same? Basically everything. Which is kinda the problem. I used to be monitored by my psychiatrist through the university, but when I graduated and moved back to the GTA… well, I don’t have that psychiatrist anymore. I used to go to both a psychiatrist and psychologist (brain spa) on alternating weeks. I don’t think that level of frequency is necessary, but that was my level of crisis.
So my family doctor started refilling my ‘scrips. Red flag one: She kept pressing me with, “So what’s the root cause of your anxiety? Why are you anxious?” Like, excuse me lady, this is just how I am. I am anxious. I am anxiety. It’s just THERE. Why don’t you ask me why my eyes are brown? Why are you so atrociously uninformed about mental health? And then she wrote me a prescription for the wrong drugs. That was it. I left for a new doctor.
(Escitalopram and Citalopram are NOT the same thing. And the side effects with psychiatric drugs, in my experience, is not a fun ride. It is the worst adjusting to new meds. Like, a teeny tiny pill can throw you off SO much. I am not fucking around with the fragile chemical balance of my brain thank you very much.)
So, I got a new better family doctor. Who just kept refilling my ‘scrips. When I ran out, I would get the pharmacy to call the doctor’s office and get a refill. It was so easy. I just had to go to the counter and pay. It’s also disturbingly easy to just keep going along this road. I only just found out that my doctor didn’t even realize she had been refilling my prescriptions this whole time. W!T!F!
Through both doctor #1 and doctor #2, I asked them to hook me up with a psychiatrist.
When I went through the referral system with doctor #1 it took forever to hear back and this was my experience. For background my city and like the 4 surrounding cities share a centralized referral system. So your primary care doctor sends in this form, and then this organization does a phone assessment and gives a recommendation. The system for referral is so broken and opaque. They literally called me, asked if I was suicidal, told me they’re only working with in-patients at the moment. AKA, if you’re not a risk to yourself, you can’t get help. Like, sorry, what?? If you’d like to see for yourself how unhelpful this system is here’s the link. Like, I just need a goddamn brain doctor. Why is this SO EFFING HARD.
I went to Doctor #2 and was like, “there’s something wrong with me I think my meds aren’t working”. And she’s all, “okay before we do anything we’re gonna do some bloodwork to make sure there’s nothing physically wrong with you.” Then she was like, “well nothing is physically wrong with you. Are you in therapy? You need medication plus therapy as part of a treatment plan.” At the moment, I was not seeing a therapist. Finding a good therapist is a mission. However, at this point, I know there’s something not working upstairs in the noggin and I just need a motherfluffin’ brain doctor.
I have seen various brain spas/therapists/psychologists/social workers, but haven’t had one that has really stuck. Also, it’s just no fun switching from office to office. It’s like dating. When you find a good one you know. I can’t have a long term relationship with someone I don’t feel I click with. Or sometimes there’s nothing really wrong, but our relationship just isn’t growing in the way I’d like, so I end it.
For about a year I gave up therapist dating and found that improv had the same uplifting brain spa effect. I completed the improv training program at the Second City Training Centre in Toronto after about a year and went back to therapy. I had a therapist from the end of 2018-mid 2019 that was good, but she takes at least 2 hours to get to, and it’s just too cumbersome of a commute for the long haul. I did end up going to a really cool equine-therapy workshop through her.
But in terms of my mental health, the last two years, I was doing just fine. Cruising along. Until I wasn’t.
I didn’t like, wake up one day and realize something was wrong. It creeps up on you. Your baseline slowly shifts and you get used to your slightly more anxious state as your new normal.
I think since the summer I’ve been struggling. Just a little bit more over time. In different ways. In general I’ve just been exhausted and unmotivated. At times I’ve felt hopeless. Some weeks I can’t stay awake and am horizontal 90% of the time.
The vivid dreams still suck and I hate them. Waking up exhausted is normal. Then napping after breakfast is normal. Being cognitively functional before 1pm is improbable (I imagine it being akin to someone trying to go about their day without a morning coffee.)
Self medication is a reliable sign that something is really wrong. Having to have a drink before you feel like you can do something is a problem. The whole culture about “drinking your woes away” to deal with how much you hate work or whatever aspect of your life is deeply problematic. It is not okay. This is how addiction and substance abuse starts.
I’ve been there. At one point, I looked forward to just numbing everything away at the end of the week. Then I started pouring a drink to settle the chatter of my mind a little to get some work done. No one knew at the time. I didn’t even realize I was doing it.
I have found self medicating on a regular basis again.
My brain has been all over the place lately. It hasn’t been this unpredictable since 2015 (it was definitely worse then). I had been having a depressive episode for a few weeks, which hit a low three or so weeks ago. I was basically horizontal the whole time I was at home, drifting in and out of sleep. I definitely didn’t want to leave my bed. I was able to go to work (retail doesn’t require much thinking and involves just enough to get out of my head), but that was about it.
Then the following week, it’s like a switch flipped from depression to anxiety.
Instead of the usual exhaustion, I feel like I can’t ever do enough, my mind is going going going going and doesn’t stop when I need to sleep. It’s not so bad that I can’t focus. At least I can get work done (the kind that requires thinking). In the past I have been reluctant to be rid of my anxiety because I got so used to having it as “motivation” and associating it with “productivity”. I am not wired for healthy balance. It’s either all or nothing. I can’t really maintain this functional level of anxiety in the long term.
I can’t turn off my brain at night. Instead of being always off, I’m always on.
So I have been self-medicating to accomplish basic things. This time it’s sleep. I have been prescribed pills to help me achieve some rest when my anxiety keeps me up (not just up, but like going at 100mph level wired). I loved them. I have never felt such peace. I couldn’t hold a thought together. My brain was truly shut off and I could rest in bliss. And that’s why I have not touched them since. As someone with such obsessive tendencies, it’s a steep, slippery, slope when I like something that much.
I’ve been relying too consistently on my “sleepy bears” in combination with a large dose of CBD oil to get to sleep. I used to just use CBD oil, but the sleepy bears help me rest without the INSANE dreams I have. People who regularly smoke weed don’t dream. It messes with your REM sleep. But like, my REM sleep is also messed up because I remember ALL of my dreams and you’re really not supposed to if you exit your REM cycle properly.
I take 10mg THC (hybrid) bears and they take around 30 minutes to hit my system. I also take around 30mg of CBD oil. It’s 2 dropper fulls of a bottle containing 500mg. I used to take 1 dropper full of a bottle containing 1000mg.
The CBD oil takes away the fear and anxiety so my brain can chill out. And my sleepy bears help me stay asleep for the night (edibles stay in your system longer than smoking). The good thing about these two is that I don’t find myself craving them or looking forward to them. However, I am still experimenting with unprescribed substances to deal with my mental unhealth.
I usually use either the tincture or sleep bears on occasion, but in the last couple weeks it’s been every single night.
My meds are not working. Which I knew would very likely happen eventually. I just never knew when that point would be. My lil cocktail needs to be tweaked, which is kind of scary because my experience with tweaking this stuff is NOT fun. Then you have to wait to see IF it even works because it takes a couple months for you system to adjust.
My current, new brain spa agrees with me that this whole unmonitored medication situation is NOT good. It’s like really, really bad. So we’re working on finding a psychiatrist who will work alongside us in our sessions (online because IRL is apparently not gonna happen).
It took me this long to find a therapist who can hook me up with the right peeps. Just in time too.