Jones and Bennett

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uwu i'm a rebel just for kicks, now.

When it comes to mental health, I'm a hypocrite. I try desperately to communicate to my friends and loved ones slogging through their issues that it will get better, that the work you put in is worth it, when I know all too well that when I was at my lowest, I never would've listened.

I suppose that's where the desperation comes from. So here's a story about me.

I've been taking Paxil for roughly three years now. I started taking it when my anxiety issues manifested as uncontrolled IBS, and I was afraid to leave the house even to socialize for fear of having a diarrhea explosion. My lovely (now-retired) gastroenterologist started me at a low dose of 10mg, gradually increasing to 20mg. And life became livable again. It wasn't like flipping a switch, and it wasn't that all my problems went away. It was just that I was no longer a crying mess on the toilet at 4am. I was super lucky, in that the first thing I tried worked for me, and without any tremendous side effects. I had some sedation in the first month of taking it, and that was it!

Then came cancer, chemotherapy, radiation, and the adjuvant hormonal therapy that followed. It turns out that chemo + isn't so much something you do and then it's over. Chemo can change the makeup of your gut flora, and other cells, permanently. Radiation changes your skin beyond what's visible - two years later and I still don't grow any underarm hair in half the right pit. It's fucking scary! And I was so caught up in dealing with the physical changes that it took me awhile to catch onto the mental.

My oncologist told me I had 'the blues.' Very common post-treatment. When you're dealing with cancer, you have one job: healing. Once you're through treatment, you're suddenly back to the same obligations and life you once had. Only you're not the same.

I tried everything people tell you to do. More than my usual exercise of walking, we started basic yoga, twice a week. Our kitchen is full of herbal supplements promising energy and relaxation. Ginseng, ginkgo biloba, maca powder, ashwaghanda root, l-theanine. I drank more water, tried to get more sleep. And I'm sure all of that helped me. But it didn't come close to solving the problem.

I suspected depression for a long time before I was willing to talk about it. It was my wife and family around me who finally told me I hadn't been acting like myself. You know those commercials, where they're like "Depression is more than just feeling sad."? My depression manifested as a total lack of interest in everything around me, coupled with fun irritability toward everyONE around me. I was working so hard to maintain a baseline of competence that I didn't have anything left and it was making me a snarling, lethargic mess.

I finally went to a psychiatrist a couple weeks ago. It turns out, estrogen is a hormone that affects the way you think, and when your body's deprived of it... Well, 20mg of Paxil can't lift the load alone, I guess. I still don't feel completely myself, but we're working on it.

My depression made it so hard to handle everyday tasks that the extra work of making doctor's appointments and then taking a medication that might not even work/might make symptoms worse was unbearable. I've been lucky enough to have a support system that really made sure I got things done. If you think you need help but are overcome by the task of finding it, please reach out to someone. You don't have to do all the work yourself.

'It gets better' isn't always helpful. But it can be better. I don't feel like I have the right to dictate how anyone handles their mental health and the medication that can come with it, but do anything but nothing. Ignoring it takes more of your energy than you can possibly imagine. You deserve better than coping. 

-- DANIELLE