Once one receives a diagnoses of clinical depression and the initial trial of anti-depressant medication has begun, anxiety may build around the follow-up visit.
That’s my takeaway from the past month.
The post-first visit relief of knowing and naming, of getting the thing out in the open and beginning a course of therapy and moving forward towards wellness gives way to the desire to assess oneself. Daily. Was today better than yesterday? In what ways “yes” and in what ways “no?” Did things annoy me today? Leave me sad? Should they have? Did I get teary over something and should I have?
Note to self: Will I ever cry again and not think: Oh My God is my depression coming back?
Footnote to self: Well, it has to leave first, doesn’t it?
Questions, circumstances, relationships, work, small talk and big important talk and I ask myself: Were my responses normal?
You see I am still trying to eject “normal” from my vocabulary since it isn’t helpful according to my doctor.
Days pass as the medication, at least in theory, is building up to an efficacious dose over the first month. That was the first checkpoint: the end of month one. And as the month drew to a close I found myself anxious (dammit I am not supposed to be anxious) anticipating one question that would be asked of me by my therapist. It would find its way into the conversation – I was guessing pretty much right off the bat. It would go something like this, I imagined:
“So, how are you feeling?”
I spent an entire week pondering how I would answer that question. I thought about other important things, too. I may be sad and anxious, but not obsessive. Especially since our kids took over filling the dishwasher. Of course there is really only one right way to do that task, but I just smile and walk away, thankful. Hmmm. Maybe I am getting better. And the kids now empty the dishwasher, so I no longer sort them by size and type. And it doesn’t make me anxious at all, just frustrated when it takes me three days to find my favorite tea mug. I keep chugging on along with my work even as I ponder how I feel. I pour myself into planning for the upcoming council retreat, and think about better ways to minister to our sick and shut-ins, and write down and share steps to take to assist our leadership through the current and typical tight summer finances. I write sermons that I think do not suck (noted in a humble Lutheran way.) Hospital visits and dates with my wife and catching up on some TV shows. Days are filled and busy.
With a crazy month of summer under my belt and the initial dose of medication ramped up from say “introductory” to “minimum,” I knew, as the calendar kept reminding me, that the appointment at which I would have to give testimony to how things were going would be here soon.
How was I feeling?
The thing was I had no idea.
Which when you think about it, kinda sucks.
How was I supposed to feel? What quantity of feelings or quality of feelings moves me away from “the same” to better (or godforbid, worse)?
The good doctor invited me into his office and I chose the usual spot near his cat and I related some high points, like no anxiety flare ups unless he was willing to count worrying about that question. I related some low points which opened up an hour’s worth of conversation.
I walked away feeling better about some things about which I had been pretty hard on myself. I was told to stay the course.
How do I feel?
It is not a minor question since the amount and type of anti-depressant medication hinges somewhat on my response.
And when you share your journey with depression there is the fear that a whole bunch of other people might start asking THE VERY SAME QUESTION.
I will save you some time. Right now I just don’t know.