01 June 2007

Confused by the chemistry

Dr. Hottie upped the dosage on my anti-depressants, Wellbutrin XL, from 150 milligrams a day to 300 milligrams a day. A doubling of the dose. That seems like a lot to me, but I know that there are folks out there who take lots more and varied medications every day.

When I started taking the medication back in April, it didn't help right away. As the doctor had told me, it took a while for it to start making a difference. Better? Yes, I felt better. But as the weeks passed and I didn't feel any more human, and even felt as if things were on a dimmer switch, getting darker and darker, a few days ago I made the decision to contact the doctor to ask for help. Unfortunately, I can't be more precise than 'a few days ago' because I can't remember if it was Thursday or Friday, May 24th or 25th. Either way, as of the writing of this post, about 7 days with the new dosage, and unbelievably, amazingly, I feel fantastic.

I felt fantastic yesterday. I slept last night. Yes, with Ambien's assistance, but, I slept for a total of ALMOST eight hours, do you know how long it has been for me since that happened? More than a year. Got off the computer around 11 pm, read a book for about 10 minutes, fell asleep while reading, slept solidly until 3, back asleep by 3.30, didn't roll out of bed until 7.15. Not an uninterrupted night's sleep, but honestly that's asking too much at this stage.

I wish that I was able to read the research available out there on anti-depressants and depression and understand the scientific ins and outs. I can speak 4 languages, but can't add, subtract, divide and multiply. I only passed my high school chemistry class because the teacher was kind enough to tutor me in the subject for an hour every day in addition to lab time and class time. I really LOVE chemistry, but I don't understand it. At this particular point in my life, I don't think that there's much chance that I ever will. I've mostly made my peace with that, but it would be nice to have more than a basic grasp of chemistry.

I've read fascinating research on Seasonal Affected Disorder, (SAD) which while like depression isn't the same thing. Many, many, many people in Scandinavia suffer from it (yes, speaking from experience) actually, many people in all extreme northern or extreme southern climates, near the poles of the earth, are plagued with problems from SAD. Sweden did some groundbreaking light therapy back in the late 80s/early 90s that seemed to work; expose sufferers to more light than what they were getting. I think it was called White Room Therapy. When I lived in Sweden, the village that I lived in was not that far north, being on the latitude of 59.4167. The northernmost city in Ohio has a latitude of 41 by comparison. The arctic circle is at 66. (Remember that the equator is zero, so the lower the number, the warmer the climate, which works in both the Northern and Southern hemisphere.) But in the worst part of the winter, the sun went up at about 9.30 in the morning and set at 2.30 in the afternoon, meaning that we got about 5 hours of daylight. It ends up being very draining.

I understood the research on SAD because I read it in places like Newsweek and Time magazines, in places where it is explained for the lay person. All of the research I've been able to locate on depression that interests me is in places like the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) or other publications aimed at the scientific community. I've yet to find something that explains in plain language why this happens to people with no prior history of depression.

I don't know if my feeling better is because of the better weather, it has been sunny and warm all week here in Oh-hi-ia, and that's remarkable enough to note. While my idea of hell on earth is 90 degrees and 100% humidity, which is what we've had this week, it has been nice to see the sun and realize that the world does go on. Summer is coming! Heck, it is kinda here! I am hoping that I can take a few steps out of those dark rooms my brain has been in.

Major depressive disorder runs in my family, and considering the way my life's been going lately, it is no surprise that it happened to me. But there is no explanation for why your brain chemistry changes. Honestly, I don't think the scientists know either. Thank goodness that Tom Cruise doesn't rule the world and there are meds and treatment for this kind of thing, because if I shudder to think how I'd be doing if I just took some vitamins, as he suggested that Brooke Shields should have done!

Thank heavens it seems to be getting better.


Dawna said...

Yeah, I'm on my first day... taking effexor. Joy!

Seasonal Depression is a way of life in the northern parts. A lot of people suffer from it, so it is really no inconvenience or surprise when it happens.

What I know of it, is the lack of vitamin D that we aren't getting from the sun. That's what the scientific folk say, anyway.

Every person is different, every year is different. This winter, I didn't have it that bad, but a couple of winters ago... no one could even talk to me without a flurry of tears. My friend was so crippled by seasonal depression that his high school career was seven years long instead of four years.

Trust me, seasonal depression is as expected as the common cold once the days shorten. Next year (I say this every year), I want to buy some of those solar UV whatchamacall'em lamps, too bad they're stupid expensive.

Dawna said...

Just wanted to note that I live at the 46 line ^_^, and am REALLY glad I don't live any further north. My dad lives at the 51 and couldn't pay me to live up there.

Erin said...

YAY. I'm so glad you're feeling better today! *hug*

Lucy Arin said...

When I lived in Sweden we had a tanning bed thingy in the house that we used for light therapy, but I wasn't crazy about using it b/c of the skin cancer risks...

That's the difference between SAD and regular depression, with SAD it kind of goes away when the weather improves. Depression not so much.

Good luck with the meds, I'll try to catch you on MSN soon.

Thanks!!! I'm hopeful that it lasts, but if it doesn't, I'm certainly going to enjoy it while it does!