Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My other therapist

My other therapist:

Sometime towards the end of the second week I ask Mehmet to get an appointment from my psychiatrist Wendy Hookman. I want to consult with her about my medications, now that I take many of them, I want to ask whether there are any drug interactions I should worry about, whether the current dosage is right.
Why do I see a psychiatrist? Because when I gave birth at the age of 36 I have developed post partum depression. I never thought that I would fall victim to mental illness; having lived a very stable, robust, straight forward life… But when I gave birth I fell into a deep deep hole. It started with 2 miscarriages followed by a high risk pregnancy. At the 7th month of my pregnancy we moved to Washington DC, a strange city, no friends, no family… I was diagnosed two weeks after giving birth. I didn’t want to take any medication because I was breast feeding until the baby was 6 months old. After that I couldn’t take it anymore and started medication. Thank goodness the first medicine worked and I started to recover after two months. Unfortunately after that incidence my brain wasn’t able to produce serotonin at the old levels again. To this day I take my medication religiously albeit at a much lower dose. It is much like with any other deficiency. For example, a significant number of women develop diabetes while pregnant, after birth usually this goes away, but for some, their pancreas seizes to produce sufficient insulin. Mine was like this, my brain seized to produce sufficient serotonin.
Now, we know that for some people SSRIs (depression drugs) may have a blood pressure raising effect. In my case this was the fact, of course we found this out after the fact.
Mehmet and I sit at the waiting room, well… waiting. He is going to do the talking for me this time. In any case I bring my magna doodle with me. Wendy finally invites us in, asking me how I am doing, I cannot answer of course. She laughingly asks me whether the “The cat got your tongue?” When she finds out what happened, she is utterly shocked.
She questions me and establishes that I am happy, that I should continue at the same level of drugs, that there are no adverse affects with the new drugs which include a blood pressure drug. Well, in fact, in many ways I feel better than I ever felt in the last 4 or 5 years. Why is that? I feel almost euphoric. She explains that when someone experiences a stroke, most of the time, this acts like a electrical shock to the brain, increasing the serotonin levels. But she says that the good feeling usually lasts for about six months or so, then it returns to normal, whatever they were before. I am so lucky to be given this opportunity by my injured brain, so that I can deal with its aftermath. I explain to her that when I compare the periods when I was experiencing depression v.s. now, now is much better, depression was much worse. What is the difference? Depression is a lonely experience, very lonely. Nobody understands the deep hole you are in, you feel there is no escape, things will only get worse. Whereas everybody around you thinks that only if you would get your act together! Slip out of it! But of course you cannot. Your brain cannot suddenly begin to produce serotonin any more than a diabetic person’s pancreas can begin to produce insulin.
Whereas with the stroke, it is obvious what happened to you, you are making progress, it can be only better from now on. It is a shared experience. People understand and help you.

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