I'm considering going on antidepressants, again

Originally posted on my tumblr: I’m considering going on antidepressants, again full text below

One of the principles in the Agile Manifesto is sustainable development: “Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.”`

I have been having trouble maintaining a constant pace. I don’t bring it up much, but in college i was diagnosed with atypical depression. I went on meds for a couple of years. I graduated, I tapered off them, I lived my twenties. I went to China for two seasons, lived in Chico, then Boise. I smoked a bit too much, drank a little too much. I lived my twenties. I quit smoking. I moved to Seattle and got a job, got promoted. I got laid off. I started smoking when I drank and then I started drinking too much. I threw myself into building up a maker space and got dissatisfied when others weren’t dedicated enough. I burned some bridges.

I met my partner, Wendy. We moved in together too fast. We went to visit my brother and his wife in Guangzhou. I got a job maintaining a Rails site. I ended up couch surfing for a couple of months when a roommate situation turned bad. I found a good apartment for Wendy and myself. I got frustrated with that Rails job, so I found a better job.

That was my twenties, that’s till January of this year. Despite having a good job, a nice apartment, a good life, I find myself prone to sadness, frustration, and anger. In early May I visited Portland and got to see some Rubyists at RailsConf. Got to explore the city with Wendy. But I was stressed out and frustrated and exhausted the whole trip. I had a small breakdown over a slow Friday brunch at Kenny and Zuke’s. I was miserable.

I’ve been doing counseling again for the last… Six, maybe nine months. I think it’s helping me communicate how I feel, but I’m not doing great.

Last weekend I went on a long walk and I hurt myself a little. I’ve been sore on my right side and on Monday night the pain hit me particularly badly. I was tired from uneven sleep and just not feeling great. I grumped at my roommate and yelled a bit at my partner. I asked her to sleep on the couch. I didn’t want to be around people, heck I was such a grump I didn’t want to be around me,

I don’t want to be like that, even when I’m in pain.

Last night I watched Greg Bagues’ “Devs and Depression.” I recognized a lot of it. In the last third of his talk he talks about creativity—the concern of those considering treating mental illness with pharmaceuticals that it will dull their creative edge. And he said that he doesn’t feel creative as often, but he’s able to create more, and more reliably.

And as a dev who struggles for consistency, who feels like somedays I’m brilliant, and some days I feel too distracted or full of self-doubt to code effectivey, there’s an appeal to that being able to create more reliably.

So I’m considering going on antidepressants, again.

Thanks for sharing this. I think for a lot of people meds are the right choice. They don’t have to be long term choices but they can help get you through the hard times. I personally am still on a journey trying to find the right combination of lifestyle changes and meds. It’s hard but again thanks for sharing this.

I had the same experience watching Greg’s talk. I saw myself in it. And, for what it’s worth, I also see myself in your story.

I’d previously been diagnosed as bipolar, but the stigma associated with it kept me from actually following the treatment plan. (If I’m not being treated for it, then I don’t have it, right?) After seeing Greg’s talk, I went back to the doctor (13 years after my original diagnosis), sat down, and dumped everything on his lap.

He has me taking Abilify and Lamictal at the moment. Once we find the right level for the Abilify, he’s planning to replace the Lamictal with Topamax. It’s going to take a couple of months to find the right doses. But, I’m already feeling better, after only a couple of weeks.

The irritability you’re experiencing - the grumping, the yelling - those things are symptoms of bipolar disorder, among many other illnesses (including sleep disorders). For me, the Abilify seems to have blocked most of whatever it was that was bothering me. I’m not yelling at my wife and kids like I was. I’m not there yet. But, I’m a little better. (My wife has already noticed the difference.)

I’m not advertising Ability. I’m just saying that medicine can and does work. Or, maybe it’s placebo. But, something different is happening. And, that something is better than the old something.

Things that no one ever said: “My psych meds are too effective!”

For me the problem is that the effect wears off too quickly. I got a couple of good months out of Prozac/Fluoxetin then it all went back to “normal” again.

For me I have figured out that other areas are far more effective if improved, than medication. But I couldn’t stick with it so far.

You’re welcome. I spoke with my counselor about it, and he doesn’t recommend meds for me. My anxiety has been high lately, and it’s had some uncomfortable professional ramifications, but I think I can do this without meds. I’m open and honest about what I’m going through, and I’m blessed with a good support network, but like the rest of life, it’s a struggle.

I’ve been talking with my counselor about this, and he thinks I’m not depressed, though I may have some anxiety issue. He doesn’t feel strongly that meds will help, and so I am looking at other options, but I’m keeping the option available.

I wish I had more data to work with. Right now I’ve got a FitBit and that tells me if I have been getting enough walking in. I wish there was something similar that could let me know if the anxiety is too much of an issue. (I don’t think I’ll write the app, but it would be good to have an iDevice ask me how my mood is 1-3 times a day.

I think that there’s a balance to be had, I’ve been on meds before that cut off the lows of depression, but also the highs. If/when I choose to go on meds again I will pursue this avenue cautiously.

It’s easy for people to see themselves in other people’s stories - especially if they’re looking for a connection. So feel free to disregard my story if it doesn’t fit atop yours.

If your counselor does not think you are depressed, who am I to say. But, if your counselor thinks you might have some anxiety issues, there are medications that can help. Of course, other courses of therapy might also be effective. I am not a medical professional. My only credential is my personal experience, which may not be relevant.

The one thing I would say add to my previous comments is this:

If I or my counselor suspected that I was suffering from a medically diagnosable and treatable condition like anxiety, I would seek the counsel of an MD. But, that’s me. I’m a poster child for the western, science-based medicine practiced in the U.S. There are most definitely alternatives, within that system and, especially, without.