malnpudl: (Default)
- Major depressive downturn over the winter. As usual, I was well into it before I realized it was happening. So that sucked. In good news, my medical support team (primary care + psych meds shrink) is very good, so I wasn't adrift alone and had the resources to deal with it appropriately.

♥ My deeply beloved goddog Indy Anna Jane came to the end of her long and happy life, and is no longer with us. There's a vast empty place in the world and I'll be grieving for her for a long time, but I have the comfort of knowing that she had a wonderful and ridiculously long (for her breed) life and the best sort of peaceful death. Like my friend D says, you want them to have all the good days and none of the bad ones, and that's the great grace of having animal family members. You can spare them the bad days.

+ Came out (still coming out?) of the depressive downturn largely thanks to a HUGE revelation. I have lived with major depressive disorder pretty much as long as I can remember. First major episode at age 12, and I can recall less severe ones as far back as six or seven. The symptoms -- the problems it causes me, the ways it disables me -- have always existed as multiple aspects of a single disease, always occurring simultaneously, peaking and ebbing in synch, as if they were inseparable. For the first time ever, this has changed.

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of depression for me has always been what I've called "paralysis of will." Maybe there's an official name for this, but I've never come across it. The phenomenon reminds me of my uncle who had Parkinson's. He'd talk about the difficulty he had initiating physical action -- taking a first step, for instance -- and how the message "pick up foot and move leg forward" somehow got interrupted between his brain and his body.

This is so very much like what I've experienced with depression, how I've found it extremely difficult and often very nearly impossible to initiate action of any kind, especially changing from doing one thing to doing another.

One of you lovely people (not crediting since I can't remember if it was in a locked post) once linked to this Shakesville blog entry -- There's Good News and Bad News. And Fat News. -- that does a brilliant job of describing this phenomenon. (Also contains discussions of mental illness, doctors, and how they relate to overweight patients. The whole thing is very good.)

This paralysis of will has caused me more grief and done more damage to my personal and professional life than pretty much anything else I can think of. So many times it has been either impossible or so overwhelmingly difficult to take action -- any action, even the simplest, and the more important and meaningful, the harder it got -- and that has caused me to have extremely high rates of absence from work in most of my jobs as well as being incredibly unreliable with everyone close to me.

The HUGE breakthrough: I discovered during this winter's depressive downturn that, apparently thanks to my current medication regime (Pristiq for depression + low dose amitriptyline for pain/depression + Adderall for ADHD and somnolence), I am now much more able to break through the paralysis of will and take action even when the mood aspects of a depressive episode are very bad. (Dr. Shrink says Adderall probably gets the credit for this.)

To put it more succinctly: I can take action even when I don't feel like it. Even when I feel miserable or apathetic or simply utterly shut down. My ability to take action is no longer tied inextricably to mood.

It's life-changing.

So far my focus has been on physical activity -- getting up and getting moving, doing pretty much anything at all (as opposed to my previous almost complete inertia and inactivity).

I'm still wrestling with severe chronic pain problems in knees/hips/too many other body parts to list, and at first all I could do was walk to the mailbox and back every day -- the equivalent of about half a block each way --and even that was very hard and very painful. After five days of that, I was able to walk a full circuit of the little 20-unit mobile home park where I live. After a few days, I increased to twice around. Then up the street to the first telephone pole and back, with increases every few days, telephone pole by telephone pole.

It's been about 2-1/2 months since I started doing this, and I'm up to walking 30 to 40 minutes a day. My pace has gone from 30+ minute miles to just over 20 minutes per mile. Now I get antsy to get out there and walk, and I hate days when the weather is too crappy to do it -- but even on those days I do a couple of sessions on the stationary bike. I'm getting out in the yard occasionally and slowly, gradually, starting to get it into shape after winter and winds wrought their usual havoc, and getting ready to start my veggie container garden soon.

The physical improvements -- many of them, in many aspects -- are great, but the best thing of all is the mood elevation I get from it. This is what as has brought me up out of that ugly depressive downturn. No med changes, just this.

Everything still hurts a lot. I still spend my life dog-paddling in an ocean of pain. But most things hurt a little less than they used to. The worrisome exception is my hips, which hate me a lot, and the pain there is getting worse rather than better. I just got a referral for physical therapy, so we'll see if that can help improve that situation. I've done really well in the past with PT for my knees (fairly severe patellar arthritis), but my hip x-rays show only mild arthritis so I don't really have a definitive diagnosis for what's causing the hip pain.

One obvious cause is weight. I was at ~270 lbs before starting this physical activity thing, and in the 2-1/2 months since then I'm down to 249 (as of this morning) -- which is very nice, since I haven't been trying to lose weight. Food is my active addiction -- I'm great at sobriety, really solid at it, but you can't stop eating and I fail utterly at moderation. If I even think about "dieting" or changing my eating to lose weight, it pushes all the addict buttons; there's no better way to trigger an eating binge. So I don't think about it; it just backfires. However... eating to keep my blood sugar where it belongs (I'm type 2 diabetic) does not push the addict-brain buttons -- thank all things merciful -- so I have been paying good attention to that (without obsessing over it) and enjoying the somewhat reduced cravings for junk and increased appetite for veggies and protein that are apparently one of the side benefits of physical activity. (Really? Bodily wisdom? Me? How unexpected. But welcome.)

So while I'm not trying to lose weight or even thinking about it aside from stepping on the scale once a month or so, I am grateful that there's even a little bit less stress on my hip joints, and if that trend should happen to continue, so much the better.

+ In support of all the above, I have joined the FitBit brigade, and am now wearing a FitBit Surge pretty much 'round the clock and benefiting from the surprisingly potent motivational boost of hitting daily goals and racking up the stats. And the pretty graphs! I'm a sucker for the pretty graphs. Any of y'all doing it? Want to do the FitBit Friends thing, or whatever they call it? You can connect to me through my gmail which is LCBergstrom (at). Or comment or send me an e-mail or a PM with your info an we'll hook up.

Goals going forward: Re-engage fannishly. Comment more. Converse. And I think I'm ready to re-commence podficcing. I need to finish the Sid Project, which is about half done. And I have some dS/C6D things I really want to do, a couple of which are WIPs. I very much want to do the dS/C6D Big Bang this year -- given the above, I think this could finally be the year that I actually complete it -- but I'm leery of signing up. I've failed so many times and I feel like I've let everyone down once (or twice, or three times) too often. I love the community aspect of participating in the BB, but these are all the people I've repeatedly let down. Maybe I'll just record whatever I record, whenever I get to things, and post as they get completed without trying to tie them to any formal event. *waffling*


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