Monday, May 6, 2013


As indicated by the title of this post.... I have some confessions to make, specifically regarding my health.

Last summer, I was battling a sudden onset of severe exhaustion.  Exhaustion so bad that I was regularly going to bed around 8pm and waking up at 6am feeling like I still needed more sleep.  At first I thought it came on due to a string of overnight releases I worked in a row, in about a 2-3 week span of time, but by July and August, it became apparent that I was no longer just catching up on sleep.

So I went and saw my doctor.  One of my problems is that I cry really easily - whenever I reach an extreme level of anything (happiness, stress, frustration, anger, etc), I tend to tear up when I talk about it.  As I was describing my exhaustion to my doctor, he stopped me repeatedly asking me why I was crying.  I told him that's just how I get, and he said it's not normal.  So he jumped to the conclusion that I was depressed.  And while I conceded to him that work was weighing me down, and school was sucking up all of my time, and mommy guilt from schoolwork was getting to me, I didn't feel that I was depressed.  I've been treated for clinical depression before, and this didn't really feel like that.  I rebuffed his diagnosis, and to placate me, he wrote up a lab sheet for a standard round of bloodwork.  He specifically said, "I would bet my license that everything will come back normal, and that you're just depressed."  I went for the bloodwork, and lo and behold, something WAS wrong with me -- my thyroid was all out of whack.  So he started me on a round of synthroid and told me to come back in a month to check on my progress.

I went back a month later, and didn't have much change in my symptoms.  My exhaustion was improving, a little, but now I was exhausted for a different reason -- I was getting up frequently at night, around 4am I'd wake up and couldn't get back to sleep.  He stopped me as soon as I said that time and said, "4am seems to be the witching hour for those suffering from depression.  It really sounds like this is where you are right now."  But I again resisted his diagnosis, and his attempts to put me on a pill.  I was staring down the barrel of a 3-month break from school and a much-needed family vacation at the beach, and I begged him to just let me take that time to see if I could let my body heal before I made any decisions about going on an anti-depressant.  He reluctantly agreed, but I left thankful that I was not yet being put on a pill.

Fast forward three months to late October / early November, and I was finally starting to feel like maybe there was something more to it than my thyroid.  I noticed I angered quickly, I was highly stressed, irritable, sleeping terribly, just generally miserable.  Now it was starting to feel familiar.  There were things going on at work that I was having a hard time leaving at work, and I was back in school with a severe case of senioritis.  I went back to my doctor, told him what was going on, and let him have his way.  He put me on a new anti-depressant called Viibryd.  He started me on a titrated dose pack - which I know can be common, but alarmed me.  Anything you have to titrate up to the full dosage for, seems to be an intense drug on your system.  Having to titrate up usually means having to taper off when you want to stop taking it.  But regardless, I was a little desperate for help at this point and took the sample pack.

Within two weeks, I was actually noticing a change in my demeanor.  In everything.  I thought okay, maybe he was on to something.  I got a prescription for the full amount, though I wasn't taking a full 40mg per day dose - the 40mg made me pretty sick, 5 days in a row, so I leveled off at 20mg per day.  I've been taking this medication consistently for over four months now.  When I miss a dose, I feel it - I get headaches, or when I take my next dose, I'll feel sick again.  I didn't like any of that.  But what was I gonna do.

Everything has been relatively hunky dory though, until the past month when I was really starting to examine my health habits and wondering why it felt like I was gaining weight.  My friends thought I was pregnant - I took 3 negative tests.  (Sorry BEFF.)  I started to blame it on sugar - and yeah, my sugar consumption was bad, but I'd cut it down drastically.  I was rowing pretty regularly.  I wasn't eating terribly every single day.  I was really being pretty vigilant about my food intake and exercise and couldn't figure out where the extra weight was coming from.

In the last two weeks, I started to feel that exhaustion come back again.  My skin was also itchy like it used to be before I went on my thyroid medication.  So I thought maybe it was time to increase my dosage.  I went for another round of bloodwork.  Came out with bruises all over my arm as if I'd been manhandled.  And found that my thyroid was functioning normally.  Oh, really?  Then what the heck is wrong with me now??  I'm exhausted, I'm gaining weight....

With the help of my brother and a friend though, I'm starting to think that maybe it's this anti-depressant that's the problem.  Aaron echoed the sentiment this weekend.  He said, "You were as skinny as a rail when I met you.  You never had problems with your weight until your doctors started sticking you on SSRIs and they messed with your appetite."  He's right.  Yes, we all gain weight as we age, but my first round of SSRI treatment 14 years ago sent me on a pretty good spiral.  My brother and friend are big proponents of amino acid supplements, and through a lot of my own research, and research they've done and have shared with me, I'm really starting to see that this anti-depressant is doing me more harm than good.  For one thing, guess what it causes (and I had no idea)?  Extreme carb and sugar cravings.  Hm, any wonder why I went through that extreme candy phase in January, just a few weeks after starting the medication?  It also causes easy bruising (check out my bloodwork pictures on Facebook or Instagram).  Know what else it causes?  Weight gain due to an INABILITY TO PROCESS FOOD CORRECTLY.  Even though my doctor assured me that "this drug won't make you gain weight", ahem, apparently, in as many as 12% of patients, weight gain was a side effect.  Well 12% is enough to convince me.  Really though, I didn't need to see anymore than that, because I read those and knew it was me.  I have NEVER craved sugar the way I insatiably craved it in January of this year.  I have NEVER bruised like that from bloodwork, or from anything else, for that matter.  Because I have had MORE success with exercise without watching my diet, without caring what I ate, than I have these past four months.

So the plan is to safely detox from Viibryd.  I'm tapering off my dose starting this week, and replacing with amino acid supplements.  Honestly though - I think I would be fine without the amino acid supplements, because from the beginning I felt that if this really was depression, that it was situational (as it was last time I was treated 14 years ago).  And look, all the things in the "situation" that got me down are now taken care of - I got a new job.  School is over.  Really though, what is left other than to enjoy my life?  I feel like I have an open road in front of me and I can take it as fast or as slow as I want.  I can go where I want when I want.  I'm no longer bound to a weekend warrior schoolwork schedule, or a job that made me more miserable than I was at a retail pharmacy.

I'm excited about detoxing my body.  And I'm also excited about my May plans - this is Couch To 5K May!  The plan is to start as soon as I can get into the (FREE) company gym that I have access to.  The plan was to check it out today, and start this week, but Maraea got sick on the way in so we had to come home and have a sick day.  I will check it out this week and start the regimen soon.


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