I struggle with depression. It’s not something I am proud of, but it’s nothing I hide, either. I come from a long line of worriers, ruminators, obsessors and other equally intense folks.In the last four years, I hit a low spot in the depression scale. Yeah, a lot happened during that time but the events aren’t important to this story. What is important is that I tried a lot of stuff to pull out of the “blues,” as my grandfather described his dark moods.
I took walks with my dogs in the morning sun.
I went out with friends (at least once).
I adjusted my nutrition (e.g. gave up Krispy Kreme donuts).
I made stabs at exercise (not great success on that one)
I made (and kept) regular appointments with my psychiatrist.
And that is where the story gets interesting.
I have never had much faith in pharmaceutical solutions. I depend on my daily dose of Wellbutrin to keep me on an even keel, but nothing else has really made an impact on my mental health. With Dr. W’s reminder that depression shuts down the brain, however, we thought it wise to try again. (Even after I argued that studies show that antidepressants don’t really work, she said they did. So I went along…)
First we increased the dose of my faithful friend, Wellbutrin. The effect was: nil. Nothing. Nada.
Then we tried one of the SSRIs (I can’t remember which one, but serotonin has never been my biggest deficit – it’s all about the dopamine for me). The effect was: bad. It made me worse. And that’s no good.
I limped along for months like this. without hope and full of resignation to my fate.
Until one day, Dr. W. said “There are some new antidepressants out there. Maybe you should try one.”
I blinked and agreed outwardly. Inwardly, I cringed. Not another misfire of medication. Just one more opportunity to prove that meds don’t work for me. Blah. Blah. Blah. Whine. Whine. Whine.
She mentioned the name; it sounded middle eastern. When I picked up the trial bottle from my pharmacist, it said “Fetzima” – pronounced fet-ZEE-mah. Of course, I went straight to the internet to find out the real scoop on this new pharmaceutical invader.
The press was pretty bad. People were sick to their stomachs, they felt insane, they had bad nightmares, they went from sad to mad to rage to shame, they were sweating too much, they got killer headaches.
OMG. Do I really want to take this horrible drug?
Oh, one little pill probably wouldn’t hurt. So I took a tiny 20 mg capsule on Day One. And another on Day Two. And another on Day Three.
By Day Four, I felt the Real Linda returning to my body and mind. Amazing! I actually felt better! I couldn’t believe it!
I went back to the reviews and found some positive comments (which I missed entirely the first time). “I love Fetzima. It has seriously changed my life for the better!” “It has given me increased energy and focus without sleep disturbance.” “It feels like someone turned on the lights and I can finally see some kind of future.”
OMG. These people actually liked Fetzima. It made them feel better, just as it was doing for me.
When I returned to Dr. W, she was happy that the little yellow and white pill was working. “Do you want to go off your Wellbutrin?” she asked. Nope. With my faithful friend and a little boost from my new good friend, Fetzima, I am golden!
Now comes the disclaimer: my experience is just that – my experience. This is not an endorsement for any drug for YOU. That. my friend, is between you and your doctor.
All I am saying is that perhaps a single antidepressant isn’t enough for serious depression. I have heard that a tiny bit of a different medication can spice up the results from an original med. Maybe the Fetzima pushed my Wellbutrin into high gear or maybe it was the other way around. Honestly I don’t care.
Late last year, I found an amazing therapist, which also made a huge difference in my life. Without the Fetzima on board, though, I doubt that I would have been able to get out of that deep deep hole, regardless of my therapist.
So…if you, like me, are looking up and see nothing but rain clouds, ask your doctor about one of the new antidepressants. It can’t hurt. and it could help. A lot.
PS – A caveat- One of my friends tells me that her doc also prescribed Fetzima but it was so expensive even with insurance that she couldn’t afford to take it. Just something to consider if you think Fetzima might help you. There are other options out there, ASK your doctor.
I am doing so well on Fetzima that I asked my doctor if I could increase the dose and gradually come off Wellbutrin. She said YES but I have been afraid to upset the apple cart….yet. Stay tuned
Linda, you’re story is exactly like mine. Except, I’ve yet to start the Fetzima. My doctor and I want to see if coming off Wellbutrin is on the table and going drug free. If not we’re going to try Wellbutrin with Fetzima. Anyway, I’m basically wondering about an update. I’m also aware that I seem to be low dopamine so I was hesitant about Fetzima. Thanks in advance!
I just started Fetzima last week. I was a little jittery, some extra sweating, anxiety and vivid dreams for the first week but it’s leveling out. I feel clear, calm, I can focus, I have level energy. So far so good! And yes, my dr made sure I had insurance before prescribing because it’s very expensive. I suffer from depression, anxiety, and adhd as well. It’s really helping. Thanks for the confirmation that it’s working for you too!
“Amphetamines can cause withering of neural endings which can lead to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease (and Dementia with Lewy Bodies is already linked to ADHD and is a subset of Parkinson’s)” aaak! Neural endings where? in the brain? why isn’t that information talked or written about and/or more available? thanks!
No, I don’t take stimulants – the only one that worked well for me was Adderall short acting but I stopped taking it after my psychiatrist did a lot of research and found that amphetamines can cause withering of neural endings which can lead to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease (and Dementia with Lewy Bodies is already linked to ADHD and is a subset of Parkinson’s). She refuses to prescribe ANY amphetamines and I know she is in a minority here, but I trust her.
And actually I probably didn’t go out with friends all that often except when I visited my hometown and saw my high school BFF! I just stay at home and WORK! BORING!
You went out with friends once in four years? Lol, I’m sure that’s not what you meant! My question though, is as you recognize dopamine to be the neurotransmitter you’re lacking in, do you take any medication for ADHD? I’m assuming you may, but many of those medications can work in different ways (e.g. methylphenidate vs. amphetamine), so maybe switching that up would have helped.
I too suffer from adult ADHD, as well as depression and anxiety – both of which I believe are exacerbated by the ADHD. It makes sense that SSRIs wouldn’t work for you, as they lower dopamine release. I’m currently taking a stab at actually treating my ADHD. Currently taking Wellbutrin and Zoloft for depression/anxiety.
Wonderful subject, Linda! Thanks so much for sharing your personal experience. As you state, it is SO IMPORTANT to understand that no two people will necessarily react equally to the same medication. But I have not heard of this Antidepressant, so I’m glad to learn more about it.
So glad you’re back to your old, chipper, wonderful self!