Posted on March 19, 2022
TW: Mentions of self harm and suicidal thoughts.
It’s been a while since I did one of these updates and the last few months have been A LOT. An update is somewhat necessary, if only for blog cohesion. It’s all been pretty awful, hence all of my posts about medication: we’ve been desperately trying to get a handle on things. I’m not sure we have but there’s a natural point here, around medication and my upcoming trip to the US, so I figured now was probably the best time to do it…
The end of last year and beginning of this year was bad. Really, really bad. I was the most depressed I’ve ever been, self harming and suicidal. I’ve been suicidal in the past but never like this, never to this extent. It was awful but it was also kind of cozy and cotton wool-y, especially compared to what came next. I had a kind of anxiety-induced breakdown, something beyond and different to a meltdown, that just wrecked me. Like, it was so bad that I missed being suicidal. The anxiety was paralysing and the whole thing completely wrung me out. It was unbearable but it was probably the only thing that would’ve forced me onto the new medication – something I’d been resisting out of sheer exhaustion and hopelessness. But I couldn’t go on feeling like that. I was scared the medication would bury the stuff that needs dealing with and I still am but I couldn’t go on like that.
So I started taking Moclobemide but I was also taking Diazepam pretty consistently, given how bad my anxiety was. Things are better than they were – and I’m writing again, which is a good sign – but they’re still not great. I’m still struggling with a lot of stuff. I haven’t been able to go to therapy for a while now and I’m not sure when I’m going to be able to go back – that unexpected twist in the road certainly hasn’t helped. So I’m feeling kind of stuck in terms of how to move forward.
Physically, things haven’t been awesome either. My appetite hasn’t recovered much from the battering it took from the ADHD meds; I’m still not really eating but I am doing better than before so that’s something (the whole thing definitely hasn’t helped my already complicated relationship with food). And after a short break, my chronic pain is back with vengeance. It’s throughout my whole body but my arms, wrists, hands, and fingers in particular have been especially painful. I’m still waiting to hear back from the Pain Clinic. I haven’t written much about my experience with them; I guess I’ve kind of been waiting to have something to write about but so far, I haven’t received any proper support. They said they’d get back to me after their next team meeting but that was early November at the latest so I’m not exactly holding my breath. The Chronic Fatigue Service gave up on me – they literally told me my case was too complicated – and I don’t have high hopes about this experience either. I’ve been waiting for some sort of support for this pain since May 2020 and I know that the NHS have been overwhelmed but that is a really, really, really long time when you’re in pain.
My sleeping is better but still not great. The melatonin helped somewhat and I managed to wrestle my sleep cycle into something a bit more reasonable: rather than lying awake all night and then sleeping through the day, I am now at least sleeping mostly at night. But I’m incredibly tired all the time and I’m drowsy in the day again, just like I was when I was taking Phenelzine. I’ve picked up my Red Bull habit again – although not to quite the same degree (yet) – which I really never wanted to do again.
Between the sleepiness and the not feeling that much better, I’m not convinced by the Moclobemide. It’s pretty reasonable to assume – at this point – that MAOIs are the only antidepressants that help at all but as I said in my Moclobemide review, this level of better doesn’t feel like enough. I still don’t feel great; I don’t even really feel good. And I’m so sleepy, all the time. I don’t feel like it’s that much to ask for: to feel functional, to write songs, to have the capacity to feel good, to even be happy sometimes. Is that really more than I should hope for?
It’s been a long few months and it’s all left me feeling very raw. And, as excited as I am to get back to Nashville, I’m also terrified. The COVID risk aside, the whole world has been through this huge thing so how could going back not be different, feel different? It also just feels very soon to be out in the world for so much of every day when I still feel so… fragile, I guess. It’s like I’ve just started putting myself back together and I’m not ready for the Jenga tower to get toppled again, to start over. I don’t know if I have it in me. I just really hope – really, really hope – that everything goes as well as it can while I’m still getting my feet under me.
Category: about me, anxiety, covid-19 pandemic, depression, emotions, food, heds, medication, mental health, self harm, sleep, suicide Tagged: antidepressants, anxiety, anxiety disorder, asd, autism, autism spectrum disorder, autistic, autistic adult, breakdown, covid-19, depression, diazepam, disordered eating, maois, medication, mental health, mental illness, moclobemide, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, nashville, pandemic, pandemic 2020, pandemic anxiety, self harm, self injury, sleep, suicidal, suicidal thoughts, therapy, trd, treatment resistant depression, trigger, trigger warning, trip, tw
Posted on March 12, 2022
TW: Mentions of self harm and suicidal thoughts.
In the last week of January, my psychiatrist told me to stop taking the Bupropion since it was so obviously having such a detrimental effect. In theory, after the wash out period was complete, I’d start taking a new antidepressant, Moclobemide. It’s an MAOI, like Phenelzine (the antidepressant that I’ve ever had the best response to – the only one I’ve had a halfway decent response to), so my psychiatrist thought it was the best option. But I was so depressed that I just couldn’t take it: knowing how these medications affect me, I just didn’t feel emotionally capable to handle the change.
But then, after a hellish few days and some kind of breakdown, I started taking Moclobemide. At that point, it was self preservation: I didn’t want to but I knew that I couldn’t keep feeling that awful – or worse – because something terrible was going to happen if something didn’t change.
This change was somewhat complicated by the fact that I was taking other medications at the same time. I was taking a lot of Diazepam with my anxiety so bad and I was also taking 20mg of Propranolol (recommended for anxiety and POTS – which was diagnosed by a cardiologist after a first round of tests – although I’m not sure it’s doing anything for either).
As is always the case with posts about medication, this is just my experience. Please don’t start, change, or stop taking any medications without the advice and support of a medical professional.
WEEK 1 (150mg twice daily)
The first week was bad. I was completely overwhelmed by my anxiety and needed constant Diazepam to be even vaguely functional, just to get out of bed. I was very depressed, feeling exhausted and hopeless and worn down. I was still having thoughts about self harm and suicide although not as much as I had been but I just felt utterly overwhelmed, by everything the world wants from me. Life just felt like too much.
I was still struggling to fall asleep (there was one night when I was still awake at seven thirty am). My sleep schedule was completely fucked up; I was almost nocturnal. And even then, I was falling asleep in the day, regardless of how hard I tried not to. As I said, it was a whole mess. I was exhausted all of the time.
My struggles with food continued too. I could barely eat and on the rare occasion where I did feel able to eat, nothing appealed – at all – or satisfied the feeling. But between my mental health and my sleep issues, food felt like the least of my problems.
I also spent more than half the week with at least a low level migraine, which wasn’t exactly pleasant.
The second week was also pretty tough, although in a few different ways.
I was still feeling very anxious – the Diazepam was only doing so much – and my depression was still very present. I just couldn’t engage. I was miserable. I felt very overwhelmed; life just felt like it was too much.
At the beginning of the second week, I started taking Temazepam – prescribed by my GP – to help with my sleep. It gave me a couple of good nights but after that it didn’t seem to do much. Most nights, I was still awake for hours and struggling up in the afternoons; waking up was miserable. I was exhausted and sleepy and kept falling asleep in the day, despite drinking Red Bull, something I haven’t felt I needed in ages.
I did have one pretty intense day: despite only getting about three hours sleep, I was up early and writing a song from start to finish – something I haven’t been able to do in months. It’s usually a sign of how good or bad my mental health is: things are getting bad if I can’t write. I’m not jumping for joy just yet but I am cautiously optimistic that if this is possible, things are improving. I felt really good for a couple of hours but then all of the bad stuff crept in again: I went to bed feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by my anxiety and depression.
At the end of the week, I spent two days in and out of a hospital in London, having tests done (I wasn’t taking the Propranolol for a few days as advised so that it wouldn’t affect the results). Just being in the hospital and the staff’s general lack of understanding around Autism was stressful and frustrating and exhausting. The first day was quiet but it was hard to relax with the blood pressure monitor going off every twenty minutes. The second day was more involved with more than three hours of tests. It was exhausting – I could barely stay awake for the rest of the day – and my whole body hurt afterwards, so badly that even getting upstairs when we got home was a struggle. I don’t have a whole lot of faith that these tests will show anything different than the first round (which resulted in the POTS diagnosis) or in medical tests in general anymore but I guess we’ll find out what they say in a few weeks.
At the beginning of the week, I officially gave up on Temazepam since it didn’t really seem to be doing anything. My GP had prescribed melatonin for when the Temazepam ran out so, with her blessing, I started taking that instead. It definitely improved my ability to sleep: after months of being awake for hours on end, I was falling asleep within half an hour every night. But I was still sleeping late – into the afternoon – and feeling sleepy in the day. I had several RedBulls in a week for the first time in months, which is a step backwards that I’m not happy about. I don’t know whether it was the melatonin or a side effect of the Moclobemide (not unlikely since I had the same side effect with Phenelzine) but, regardless, I hate it. This was one of the reasons I was so excited to try the ADHD meds; I thought I might finally feel something other than exhausted or sleepy or tired.
My chronic pain kicked up again, which was deeply unpleasant. My whole body hurt all week: every joint felt ache-y and crunchy and grind-y. I took painkillers throughout the day but the pain woke me up at night almost every night. But the only painkillers that help are ones that I can only take for a few days at a time and when those three days ran out, I was back to Ibuprofen and Paracetamol – neither of them do much – which was miserable and so frustrating: this has been going on – on and off – for almost two years and all I have are sporadic three day periods where I’m somewhat pain-free. The lack of progress is enough to reduce me to tears.
Mental health wise, things were up and down. Some days were okay and I actually got things done for the first time in ages, but some days were really hard. My anxiety was still bad and I was restless and uneasy; I didn’t know what to do with myself. I just felt like I was making everything I worked on worse. I was depressed, feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.
WEEK 4 (450mg daily)
I was sleeping but sleeping restlessly and waking up a lot. And come morning, it was such a struggle to wake up. I would fall asleep again and again; staying awake felt impossible. I don’t know if that’s the melatonin or something else but it’s pretty miserable. I feel like I cannot open my eyes, cannot make my hands work. It’s not fun. At the other end of the day, things are generally better. It can take a while to get to sleep but it’s nothing like it used to be. It can take a while to get comfortable, wind down, relax but I’m still getting to sleep easier than I was without the melatonin.
In the daytime, I was getting sleepy within an hour of getting up and drinking Red Bull almost daily again. It’s not something I want to make a habit of but I was just too tired to figure out what the right thing to do was so I just focussed on getting through the day. But even with the Red Bull, I was tired and sleepy and all I wanted to do was close my eyes. Again, I don’t know if this is the melatonin or the Moclobemide but either way, I don’t know what to do. If it’s the melatonin, I can stop taking that and hope my sleep stays okay but if it’s the Moclobemide, then I’m pretty stuck. I really don’t want to spend my whole life feeling tired and sleepy because this is the only medication that works.
I’ve started working again – a bit, given how unpredictable everything’s been recently – after being completely unable to since the end of last year. That’s been good and hard (and completely exhausting) in equal measure, socialising too. It’s nice to be in contact with people again but so often, at the moment at least, it also makes me feel defective and broken. My friends are telling me about their jobs and their relationships and so on and all I have to talk about are the new meds I’m trying and the new therapy I’ve been thinking of trying. When you’ve been depressed and suicidal for the past four months, there aren’t a lot of light and fun conversation topics to reach for. So I just felt very lonely. I’m not putting that on my friends – I want to hear about their lives – but the disconnect is hard.
My chronic pain was bad too. My whole body was hurting, my joints aching, even my fingers. I still haven’t heard anything from the Pain Clinic so all I’ve got are over the counter painkillers that I can only take for a few days at a time. What I’m supposed to do on the other days, I don’t know; nothing else helps at all.
I’ve realised that I’ve been feeling cold a lot, pretty much all of the time. I’m not sure when it started but it’s been going on for a while. Even with a thick jumper, a scarf, wooly socks, and a blanket, I’m freezing.
Mentally, it was a tough week. I felt very anxious and overwhelmed. My depression was pretty bad too, although not as crippling as it has been, and I was just miserable really. I cried a lot. So, yeah, a tough week.
WEEK 5 (600mg)
My energy and sleep continues to be troublesome. It’s so hard to wake up in the morning: I keep going back to sleep, I can’t keep my eyes open, and my hands won’t work. I’ve found that eating right away helps but I hate it as a strategy; food is the last thing I want right after I wake up. Despite the difficulty, I have been managing to wake up earlier than I have been over the last few months and getting to sleep has been a bit easier (with the help of the melatonin – although it does sometimes feel like I have to focus really hard on falling asleep sleep, which seems to be somewhat counterproductive). But I was still very sleepy during the day, falling asleep accidentally a couple of times, and so tired, although it was a busier week. I was doing more, socialising more, and feeling everything more intensely. There were some really good moments but it was hard too.
And, of course, more activity has resulted in more pain. I’ve been in pain constantly but it’s gotten worse. Multiple long car journeys and more time on my feet has caused problems with my back; I’m sure that with time, sensible exercise, and slowly building up my stamina, things will get better but it’s really hard to be patient. The pain has also been really bad in my hands (from my elbows down to my finger joints), which instantly instills a cabin fever-like feeling inside my own skin. I’m still waiting to hear from the Pain Clinic but experience doesn’t exactly encourage high hopes for what they’ll come back with, if they ever do.
My mental health has been all over the place. Five weeks of this medication and I still don’t feel like I’ve got my head on straight. As I said, I’ve had some good moments this week but I’m still struggling, more than I feel like I should at five weeks of a medication. I’ve had a lot of anxiety and my depression is still very present. My suicidal thoughts aren’t as constant as they were but they are still there. I guess, I just would’ve hoped that, at this point, I’d be feeling better mentally. It’s hard to not lose hope.
So, I’ve been taking Moclobemide for five weeks and while things are very different from day one, I’m still not feeling great. My depression is still a constant, day-to-day battle, which is one thing if I’m waiting for medication to kick in and for it to get better but if this is it, it’s not enough. I’m grateful that things are better – that I can write songs again – but living like this is really, really hard. I just want to feel better. I don’t want every day to feel like a mountain that I have to climb. I guess, I just want to feel normal. Although, having said that, I don’t know if I even know what normal feels like.
Category: adhd, anxiety, autism, chronic fatigue, depression, emotions, food, heds, medication, mental health, music, self harm, sleep, suicide, treatment Tagged: adhd medication, antidepressants, anxiety, bupropion, caffeine, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, creative block, depression, diazepam, drowsiness, eds, heds, hypermobile ehlers danlos syndrome, hypermobility, insomnia, loss of appetite, maoi, maois, medication, mental health, mental illness, migraine, migraines, moclobemide, pain, pain clinic, pain management, pain medication, phenelzine, pots, propranolol, red bull, self harm, self injury, sleep, sleep schedule, sleep wake cycle, sleepiness, songwriting, suicidal, suicidal ideation, suicidal thoughts, suicide, temazepam, trigger, trigger warning, tw, writers block, writing
Posted on September 21, 2020
Trigger Warning: This post contains mentions of self harm, but it’s simply a statement that it happened and there are no descriptions, graphic or otherwise. If this could upset or trigger you, please don’t read any further. Please always put your mental health and emotional state first.
I feel like it’s been a while since I posted a mental health update. And while most of my recent posts have mentioned mental health, I haven’t really felt able to write anything mental health centred. I’ve tried but it’s been really hard. Since the pandemic hit the UK and we went into lockdown, my mental health has basically been a black hole of anxiety and depression that I can only occasionally distract myself from. So it’s been hard to write about it, to write anything beyond “my depression is overwhelming and my anxiety is off the charts.” And there’s only so many times you can say that before it just makes things worse. So I’ve been focussing on things that might be helpful in lockdown, music things, and the day to day approach that I’ve been taking to things. The blog itself has been a method of managing my mental health. But now I’m going back to my Masters (my first classes – all online – are tomorrow) and I wanted to try and describe where my mental health is before I take on that new challenge. I guess it’s something to measure myself against, to see whether I’m coping or whether I’m struggling even more, because I really don’t know how these next few months are gonna go. So here we are, this is the state of my mental health at the beginning of my third semester of my Masters in September 2020…
My anxiety has been – and still can be – paralysing. Early in lockdown, it was a constant, debilitating state but it has evolved since then. It’s easy to get sucked in but day to day, I seem to be able to manage it with a combination of flexible tasks to distract but not restrict me and large amounts of Diazepam. I’m not sure how I’m going to manage going back to university classes with deadlines and uncertainties but as I’ve previously said, I need to try. I will reevaluate if my anxiety starts to become unmanageable again.
My depression has almost become background noise at this point, just a deep, dragging feeling at the back of my mind. I’ve had days where everything just felt so overwhelming and insurmountable that all I could do was stare at the TV and breathe but most of the time, my anxiety has just taken up too much of my attention to really feel it. This still seems to be the case: my anxiety is just too demanding to allow it much space in my brain.
My OCD, which manifests as a compulsion to write down everything that happens to me, has been easier to manage in lockdown with not much going on. I was majorly behind when lockdown began and, because this period of time is so unknown, I wanted to document it in real time so I started a new notebook with the plan to catch up with the old one as time passed. Unfortunately I still haven’t managed that and with multiple stressful things happening in the last few weeks, I’m behind in my current one so I’m going into a new academic year already trying to juggle that. My attempts to balance my OCD and my anxieties around Masters work was a really challenge last year and it looks like it’s going to be just as bad, if not worse, this year. So that’s really not fun and causing me a lot of anxiety already.
My Trichotillomania really spiked in the first few months of lockdown when I was so anxious that I could barely do anything. I’m currently writing a post about the triggers of hair pulling (not to be confused with the causes) and three big ones were really present here: stress, not having something to occupy my hands, and feeling out of control. So I was pulling a lot – to a painful level – back in March, April, May. But as I’ve slowly been able to distract myself and get things done, I’ve been pulling less – significantly less. It never completely goes away but I’ll take whatever I can get.
I’ve had multiple autistic meltdowns since lockdown began. Living with such a high level of anxiety, it doesn’t take much for something to trigger a meltdown. I’ve had about twenty (which I’m pretty sure is more than the whole of last year but I don’t have last year’s tracker in front of me); most of them have been ‘normal’ for the meltdowns I have but a couple of them have been significantly worse, taking days to recover from. They’re really, really horrible and I feel awful afterwards, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
While there have been periods of time where I’ve self harmed consistently, it’s more often than not a one off occurrence with big gaps of time in between. I’ve always considered it a coping mechanism for very specific emotional scenarios rather than a habit or addiction. Given how much I’ve struggled emotionally during lockdown, I’m kind of shocked that I’ve only done it once but then, with my Mum around all the time, maybe it’s not all that surprising: I know that it upsets her and that only makes me feel worse so I have suppressed it in the past. But there was one occasion where I just couldn’t. So it could’ve been a lot worse.
I’ve missed a lot of therapy sessions over the last few months. If I’m honest, I’m finding it really hard to know how to approach them. Obviously, the biggest thing is the pandemic and my pandemic anxiety but we can only talk about that so many times before running out of things to say and yet, I feel so mentally fragile at the moment that tackling any of my other issues feels like just too much, like the process of digging into something difficult might disrupt my delicate, carefully maintained ability to function. So I’m not really sure what to do. I’ve just started having regular sessions again so I guess we’ll see how it goes.
Am I ready for this next semester? I have absolutely no idea. I really don’t know how I’m going to manage it with my mental health as it is but as I’ve said, I need to try. The only thing worse than trying and failing would be not trying at all. Maybe that’s a naive approach to things, considering my mental health problems, but that’s how I feel. I can only hope that, if there are any warning signs that things are getting worse, I can see them and make the appropriate response.
Category: anxiety, autism, covid-19 pandemic, depression, emotions, medication, meltdowns, mental health, ocd, self harm, therapy, trichotillomania, university, writing Tagged: anxiety, anxiety disorder, asd, autism, autism spectrum disorder, autistic, autistic adult, autistic meltdown, autistic meltdowns, dbt, depression, dialectical behaviour therapy, diary, diary writing, diazepam, hair pulling, lockdown, lockdown 2020, masters degree, masters degree year two, masters part time, medication, meltdown, meltdowns, mental health, mental health in lockdown, mental health update, obsessive compulsive disorder, ocd, online therapy, pandemic, pandemic 2020, pandemic anxiety, part time masters student, part time student, remote therapy, self harm, self injury, therapy, trichotillomania, trigger, trigger warning, university
Hi! I’m Lauren Alex Hooper. Welcome to my little blog! I write about living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD (Inattentive Type), and Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), as well as several mental health issues.
I’m a singer-songwriter (it’s my biggest special interest and I have both a BA and MA in songwriting) so I’ll probably write a bit about that too.
My first single, ‘Invisible,’ is on all platforms, with all proceeds going to Young Minds.
My debut EP, Honest, is available on all platforms, with a limited physical run at Resident Music in Brighton.
I’m currently working on an album about my experiences as an autistic woman.