Amazing what a difference one little pill makes.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Note: None of the below is meant as medical advice. It's just my story, and I wanted a place to share it.
As you may have guessed from my user name, I have fibromyalgia. I've had acute symptoms since I was 11 years old, I was diagnosed at 17, and since then the medical profession hasn't had much to offer me. When I was willing to try medications it was mostly antidepressants, which all had horrible side effects. I always felt like there was something else wrong, something they weren't finding. I have had so many tests from just about every kind of specialist, physically I'm completely unremarkable.
In the August of 2008 I hit a decline. Suddenly I was not just tired all the time, but utterly exhausted. I'd fall asleep any time I sat still, so I had to start chewing gum just to get through class. I had a bunch of tests done, nothing remarkable. I worked with a naturapath. I did an elimination diet, went through several useless "therapies" that were supposed to detox and stimulate my nervous system into working properly. Nothing helped. Every year or two I would go into my doctor, complain of exhaustion. He'd run some more tests (mostly more of the same), everything would come back normal, he would tell me I needed to consider that it is depression and to take care of that.
I went to 3 therapists over those 10 years, but none for very long. Nothing helped. They would tell me to break out of my shell, go for hikes, commit to running a 5k. If I exercised then I would feel better. But my fatigue was so acute I actually fell asleep on an elliptical once. Something was wrong, and I was certain it wasn't depression. I kept exercising as best I could, but I just COULDN'T do much. I gained 60 lbs 8 years. Which of course reinforced the medical profession loop of "you're depressed" and added "Lose weight, you will feel better".
I felt alone and resigned to my life. When I turned 29 almost 2 years ago I decided to lose the weight, because even if my body was failing me I needed to prevent it from failing in new and worse ways (diabetes, heart disease, etc). It took a year and I lost 50 lbs. People would come up to me and say how amazing I looked, almost always followed by "so do you feel so much better?" Nope. I didn't. I felt worse. I was still managing to get thorough my days as a part-time nanny, but I couldn't dedicate energy to anything else. I went back to the doctor again. More tests again. It took me months to finally agree to try the one last medication he was able to prescribe: Cymbalta. The first couple weeks weren't bad, but then the side effects were terrible. I wasn't sleeping. My nerves were buzzing. I couldn't function any more. I had to go off. And that was my brick wall. My doctor had no more options for me. His one last recommendation was to go see a psychiatrist, get my depression under control.. He asked how I knew that I felt any different than anyone else. Said maybe I just have too high expectations, that I feel just like everyone else and they just deal with it better. Yeah, no.
So that was last October. Since then I have been struggling. I started boosting my energy for short periods of time with sugar. But it only lasts for about 20 minutes, then I'd desperately need more. Next thing I know it's January 6 and I've gained 9 lbs. So I decided to buckle down, get off the sugar, be healthful minded again. But without the sugar, I could barely make it to 9am, let alone through my 10 hour days at work.
So I took the plunge. I made the psychiatrist appointment. I was sure nothing would come from it, but I wanted to be able to go back to my doctor and say "see, I'm NOT DEPRESSED, so figure out who else can find out what's wrong!"
10 days ago I had my appointment. I filled out several questionnaires. She asked why I was there. I said that my doctor is sick of dealing with me and keeps telling me I'm depressed, but I don't think I am. She looked at my paperwork. She asked me questions for about 10 minutes. And then she told me that I check every single symptom of Attention Deficit Disorder. She told me that basically the frontal lobe doesn't process things correctly so the rest of the brain tries to compensate but since its working so inefficiently it's easy to get burnt out. She recommended I try an extended release stimulant.
10 days later, my life is AMAZING! I wake up on my own in the morning and feel awake. I still get tired, but I lay down for a little while and then feel rested. I process what other people say in conversation, and don't feel like I'm lagging behind. I'm motivated to do things like clean and organize. I actually feel like I'm good at my job, not just faking it. This morning I have the day off so I got up and went to the pool to do water aerobics, and I had FUN. I really enjoyed it, and it made me feel good. I have never gotten that endorphin rush from exercising like people say they do, but I think today I did. Then I went grocery shopping and remembered things that weren't even on the list. It's like I have been living under mud for 10+ years and pretending like I wasn't, and now I get to run around on dry land.
Part of me is sad. I have struggled so much just to live the bare minimum of life. If someone, anyone, had mentioned the possibility of ADD when I was a teenager, or in college, my life could potentially be so different. I could have been successful in computer sciences like I had wanted to, or I could have been successful in the business I tried to run when I graduated. But now what? Where do I go from here? I'm not fully trusting yet, I'm going to give the medication some more time to make sure it doesn't give out on me before making any big changes. But it is amazing how wide open the world seems with a fully functioning brain.