Posted on December 31, 2021
I’m not really sure how to sum up this year. It has been one of extremes, to say the least: anxiety, joy, stress, excitement, depression… And, at this point, I feel a bit like I’ve run out of capacity. For anything. So this was a hard post to write and it wasn’t helped by the dichotomy between most of the year and the last few months; I’ve found it very hard to look at each part without the other colouring it in some way.
The biggest part of my year was most definitely the final two modules of my Masters, which turned out to be my two favourite modules of the course, The Writer’s Voice and Major Repertoire Project. Having written about these already, I don’t want to repeat myself but I do want to look at them in the context of the year. From January to September, I wrote furiously and with such joy. There was anxiety and depression and stress – they were all in there – but it felt like all of that writing balanced the scales. I wrote so many songs that I love, that I’m so proud of, and that I can’t wait to release. While I did release new music this year – The Honest EP (Sunburst Sessions) – they weren’t new songs and I’m so excited to share new songs. I have lots of plans that I’m really excited about and despite the chaos of the last few months, I have been working on my next project. I’m very excited to share it in the new year.
I’m very proud of myself for completing the Masters, especially given that I did most of it during the pandemic, and I’m so proud of my final project; it is the best thing I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to get it out into the world. I poured everything I had into that project so getting such a high grade and then the Outstanding Student Award at Graduation felt really good. I feel weird talking about it but I am really proud of that achievement and the recognition of how hard I worked means a lot to me. Because of an administrative screw up, I’m not sure when my graduation will be official, when I’ll get my certificate – something that caused a lot of distress – but practically, it’s done.
My health, both physical and mental, hasn’t been in great shape this year. The chronic pain was really bad, the fatigue not much better, and the ongoing migraines are pretty miserable. My mental health was fairly stable and actually not too bad for the most part, until the last few months of the year. Then it got really bad. In order to try medication for my ADHD, I had to come off Phenelzine – the only medication that’s ever helped me – and then start Xaggitin. That went extremely badly. My depression all but overwhelmed me; it was the worst my mental health has ever been. I’ve stopped taking the Xaggitin and I’m taking Bupropion now and it’s different but I’m not sure if it’s any better though.
I’ve felt very alone this year, in regards to tackling and managing all of this. I came out of every appointment feeling angry, distressed, dismissed, or invalidated (and often multiple of these in various combinations). I haven’t felt safe with any of them; I didn’t feel like my existence even registered with them. So I’m finding all of that very hard and each new appointment is preceded by extreme anxiety, a kind of anxiety I’ve rarely experienced. It’s a bit like a fight or flight response. I’ve never had a great relationship with the medical profession but I’ve felt particularly let down this year. I have finally managed to get back to therapy (although this was before the newest variant threw a wrench in all of our plans) but it’s been a long time and a lot of stuff has happened; I feel like I’m having to learn how to do it all over again.
It’s also been a hard year, family wise. I haven’t been able to see one of my parents – in real life – since before the pandemic (for medical reasons) and that has been so hard. We talk on FaceTime and stuff and that’s good but I still miss her so much. And then, of course, my Granny died in September, just as I was finishing my Masters. At that point, I think, my brain just couldn’t take anymore; I don’t think I’ve processed any of it, to be honest. To a certain extent, I feel frozen, like I stopped while everything around me kept going. It’s not the first time I’ve felt like this but that doesn’t make it any easier. I’m sure all of those feelings will make their presence felt in the new year. But as hard as all of that is, I’m so grateful for the friends and family around me; I’m not sure where I’d be without them.
“What a surreal year. I don’t even know how to sum it up really. Everything I felt, I felt in extremes: stress, anxiety, depression, joy, excitement. I wrote songs that I’m so proud of, I hugged friends I hadn’t seen in months, I completed a Masters degree that I loved. I struggled with even more health issues, I was almost overwhelmed by the worst depression I’ve ever experienced, and I’m learning to live in a world that doesn’t have my Granny in it. The high points were so high and the low points were so low and I’m honestly exhausted right now. This year has been more than I know how to handle and I’m still kind of drowning but I’m also still here.” (x)
This end of year post isn’t quite the same as what I’ve done in previous years but it’s been a weird year and I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m experiencing some form of burnout. I have a few plans but honestly, I have no idea what the next period of my life looks like and that’s scary. I hate how my life goes on hold whenever I change medications and I feel more than a bit lost right now. All I can do is wait and see and after all these years, there’s very little I hate more.
Category: adhd, anxiety, autism, covid-19 pandemic, death, depression, emotions, family, heds, medication, mental health, music, treatment, university, writing Tagged: 2021, 2021 in review, adhd, adhd medication, antidepressants, anxiety, asd, autism, autism spectrum disorder, autistic, autistic adult, bupropion, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, coronavirus, covid-19, depression, eds, ehlers danlos syndrome, emotions, family, graduation, grief, health, heds, hypermobile ehlers danlos syndrome, masters, masters degree, masters degree in songwriting, masters degree year two, medication, mental health, mental illness, migraines, pandemic, pandemic 2020, reflecting, reflection, songwriter, songwriting, stress, xaggitin, xaggitin xl
Posted on December 18, 2021
TW: Mentions of self harm and suicidal thoughts.
And ten months after being diagnosed, I finally started taking medication for my ADHD. If you’ve been following this blog, you may remember that I was diagnosed back in January and, due to the disruption it would’ve caused at a crucial point in my Masters, I had to wait to come off my antidepressant (Phenelzine is contraindicated with stimulant medication for ADHD) and then start the ADHD meds. But, as of mid November, I could start taking Xaggitin XL (definitely my most strangely named medication so far); I’d researched it and read multiple accounts that it hadn’t affected creativity and my ADHD specialist didn’t have a problem with trying it when I suggested it. And as I always do, I kept notes; it helps me to remember what each medication was like and hopefully it can be helpful to anyone who might be taking or about to take the same medication. But, as always, it’s important to state that this is a medication I was prescribed by my doctor, according to a plan that we decided on together. This is just my experience; please speak to your doctor if you have any questions about your medication.
WEEK 1 (18mg)
I started to feel the side effects straight away. From the second day, I was experiencing overwhelming, almost constant nausea. It got worse if I rushed around or even stood up for too long and I’d end up curled up on the floor, focussing on just breathing until it passed (by the end of the week, I had figured out and was getting better at avoiding the things that made it worse). That combined with a massive loss of appetite meant I really wasn’t eating much, although most days I managed to force at least one meal down. I also started having trouble with my sleep. It would take me hours to get to sleep – usually between two and four am – which meant that my sleep schedule started to shift. It was so hard to wake up in the morning and that just meant I ended up going to sleep later and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t keep my routine from moving several hours around the clock.
My mental health also took a hit, which wasn’t entirely surprising since I no longer had the Phenelzine in my system. I started to feel overwhelmed and fragile. My anxiety increased and I even had a panic attack, not something I usually struggle with. My depression started to creep back in too; it wasn’t too bad but it was there.
The cough was still hanging around and I had multiple migraines (some that I managed to cut short with medication and some that took me out of commission completely) but both of those could’ve been left over from coming off the Phenelzine, having been big problems throughout that process. I’m not sure.
The nausea, the lack of appetite, and the trouble sleeping persisted. As did the cough (I’ve taken several COVID tests since it started and they’ve all come back negative). I also felt even more scattered than usual: I couldn’t focus on whatever I tried to do and I started losing my train of thought mid-thought, which was very stressful. I felt completely unable to do anything.
By the end of the week, it felt like everything was starting to fall apart. I was really struggling to write. What I’d thought was just a few bad days (unpleasant but not unheard of) turned into an awful week; the internal flow that makes writing so easy and so calming was suddenly absent and even the forms of writing that have always felt easy (regardless of whatever’s going on with my mental health) felt awkward and forced. My mental health had started to get really bad – my anxiety and depression had gotten a lot worse – and that just made it worse. And on top of that, I had started to have suicidal thoughts again, which I haven’t had – consistently, at least – for years.
WEEK 3 (36mg)
The nausea and lack of appetite were still really bad so I wasn’t eating much. I tried but it was really hard. Sleeping was also difficult. I was wide awake all of the time – like I was highly caffeinated – even late into the night, which didn’t help in my attempts to get my sleep schedule back to normal. Most of my nights were disturbed one way or another and I had one night where I never went to sleep at all; I didn’t even start to feel sleepy until I’d been awake for over thirty six hours. It feels very strange considering that even three months ago I could barely stay awake, even with two Red Bulls in my system; talk about from one extreme to another…
I was still struggling with concentration and my mental state was only declining. I was consistently depressed – feeling hopeless and alone – and there were days where I struggled to get up, not just because of the nausea but because everything felt so overwhelming and difficult. The suicidal thoughts continued and I did self harm once. My anxiety also got worse and I had another panic attack.
The nausea got even worse, lasting all day and making it even more difficult to eat (or do anything at all, to be honest). And having no appetite didn’t help with that. My sleeping was still awful too, despite how physically exhausted I was starting to feel after so many nights of poor sleep. The cough and difficulty concentrating continued and I had a couple of days that were monopolised by migraines (or maybe one migraine that never quite went away).
My mental health deteriorated further. I was incredibly anxious and my depression just got worse. I’m pretty sure it’s the worst my depression has ever been, based on what’s been going on in my head. The suicidal thoughts continued but they are different to what I’ve experienced in the past. It’s been a lot. I can’t know for sure whether this is down to the lack of antidepressant in my system, a reaction to the ADHD meds, or both.
That last week was a big week, which was unfortunate considering how awful I was feeling; it made it hard to enjoy or get the most out of those events – going back to therapy after several months away, my Mum’s birthday, and a visit from a friend for both work and fun – and then I felt physically worse afterwards, physical exhaustion and pain in addition to the ongoing side effects of the medication.
So it’s been a rough month. The nausea and trouble sleeping has been awful but the anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts have been worse by far. And losing the ability to write has been unbearable. After speaking with both my psychiatrist and ADHD specialist, it’s been decided that I’m going to stop taking the Xaggitin and try Bupropion, which should – hopefully – help my depression as well as my ADHD. So that’s another month gone and the waiting game begins again.
Category: adhd, anxiety, depression, emotions, food, medication, mental health, self harm, suicide, treatment Tagged: adhd, adhd inattentive type, adhd medication, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, concentration, cough, depression, focus, inattentive adhd, inattentive type, insomnia, loss of appetite, medication, mental health, migraine, nausea, panic attack, side effects, sleep, suicidal, suicidal thoughts, trigger warning, tw, xaggitin, xaggitin xl
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.