From the depths of Hell, I am coming back to life.

Wow, time flies by when you aren’t blogging! I was doing good for a while and then I hit a real low with my pain and depression and life just seemed to stop. Of course there’s not much one can do when feeling like shit… except of course, obsess about how you are feeling like shit.

Meds can be the best thing ever OR they can just fuck with you, excuse my language. I was on the same med cocktail for years. I knew and know that it’s the integrative approach to managing Fibromyalgia that makes life… well, manageable. BUT, I gotta tell you, my meds were seriously making my life Hell. I didn’t realize how truly fucked up my crisis was until I started really contemplating suicide on a daily, almost hourly basis. I lived through about six weeks of the darkest time I have ever experienced. It has taken me a couple weeks just to really realize how close to the edge I was.

Thank God, and I do mean the big guy above, I had the sense of mind to call for help. I talked to my psychiatrist, I talked to my primary care doctor, I talked to the Pain doctor and nurses and I talked to my OB-GYN. Kaiser was awesome, they helped to save my life. Everyone was persistent in making sure I did something. It was frustrating trying to convey what I was going through, but I spent hours, literally four and five hours scouring the internet for information every day. I was obsessed about the latest news and information on Fibromyalgia, depression and the approaches to manage. I finally concluded I needed to change my meds and thankfully, working with my doctors I pushed hard until I got everyone on the same page with the approach I wanted to take.

You know, I am not sure if it was the pain that aggravated the depression or the depression that aggravated the pain during this crisis. I do know I have been under a ton of stress; the weather was constantly changing, it was raining and then sunny every other day; and Lord knows (as all of you do), that sleep was non-existent. All of this added up to not seeing any light at the end of the tunnel. I felt like I was a huge burden on my husband, family and friends and just couldn’t see how I could live out the rest of my life in that hell.

How could I communicate to anyone that I was feeling like I just needed to get out of my misery? It’s weak, it’s unfair, it’s hurtful… but most of all it’s SELFISH. I know all of this and I didn’t want to hurt anyone, most importantly my kids. This was the only thing that kept me going. I didn’t know how to talk to anyone, I am a very private person – and the thought of showing, what I felt was weakness, was unfathomable. I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud. After days turned into weeks and the weeks just kept passing and things weren’t getting better – I finally talked to my husband. To be honest, it made me feel even worse. He was so devastated (and rightfully so), I just felt like an even bigger loser with a capital “L”. What the fuck was wrong with me? I know it’s not a weakness to commit suicide, you must have commitment and the strength to follow through with the act – but it is quitting, quitting on life, which is a weakness to me.

Well, I am happy to say, now that I am on the other side of that nightmare. This was not a case of suicidal depression. This was, in my mind, for the most part due to the meds (like 99.99%). I read a lot of reviews from people taking Topamax that they experienced the same thing I did. I felt so thankful to know I wasn’t the only one. Topamax was my savior drug when I first started taking it, and it worked for a long time. I was very confused as to why it betrayed me so suddenly without any indication. This drug has been used a lot for fibromites to help with the nerve pain. If you read up on it, it has all the side effects that are symptomatic of Fibromyalgia. I asked all my doctors how I would know if my issues were due to the medication or my FMS. Each doctor said, it was a great question, and that they didn’t know. What the hell? I wanted answers, instead I got confirmation that my concern and confusion was a “great question”. In the end, the mystery of whether or not the drug was making me worse, the many reviews and the way I was feeling were the basis for my decision to get off that drug.

I decided to take a different approach and manage my depression and my pain separately from a drug perspective. I was on Cymbalta for both and I chose to stop. Again, not sure whether or not that drug was an issue for me as well. Oh my Lord, have you seen all the issues people have with getting themselves off that drug? There is a website just dedicated to all the issues with going off Cymbalta. Thousands of people have provided their nightmares out there on the internet, I was extremely nervous about stopping the drug. But I know that after literally spending hundreds of hours researching options, the one that I have chosen is what I want for myself. The options I reviewed: going all natural and off prescription drugs, I looked at diets, I looked at medical marijuana, I read everything I could possibly find. At the end of the day I decided to go with new meds and a gluten-free diet.

I am now on my last few days of Cymbalta and I am feeling markedly better than at my lowest point. I am off Topamax and I went through one cycle of PMS without feeling like I was in the pit of Hell (for the first time in at least a year). I have taken five weeks to cycle off Cymbalta, I decided to take it much slower than the doctor advised based on everything I read. I went down 20mg a week and I don’t think I felt any major side affects. At the same time I slowly started and increased my new anti-depressant. I am also on my third week of being almost 100% gluten-free. (I am still learning what it means to live a gluten-free life.)

Due to the interactions, I have had to wait to start taking my new pain medication until I am off the Cymbalta. It hasn’t been easy but, trust me, I would much rather have pain than the depression I was experiencing. It’s been a worthwhile process. I am starting to see friends again, which is a sign for me that life is becoming bearable. After months of living in greys and black, I am starting to see shades of color.

The lesson I learned is that I should never feel suicidal. No matter how bad things feel or seem in my mind – suicide is not an option. I need to review my meds on a regular basis and make sure that they are working. I know that I have clinical depression and that I need to manage it. I am responsible for my own health, I need to take it seriously and continue to make it a priority.

I’ve been reading FibroWHYalgia, (an excellent book, if you haven’t picked it up I highly recommend it), the author Sue Ingebretson says that making “I am” statements is not good for your psyche. I have really thought about that lately and I notice that I say “I am in pain” almost every day. If I am going to manage my thoughts, understanding that what you think is what you are, saying “I am in pain” dooms me to be in pain. It’s a great point! Changing the mindset is another new challenge for me.

This is a long blog, but it’s so important for me to share with you that you need to monitor and manage your health as diligently as your highest priority. You need to watch for signs that something is wrong and not assume it’s “you”, that it may, in fact be due to your medication. I urge you to journal your daily pain and mood levels, in addition to your exercise and what you are eating as well as the medications and supplements you are putting in your body. Keep in touch with your doctors (don’t let them forget who you are!), make them listen to you or get a new one. YOU are responsible for your health and no one but you can determine if what you are experiencing is “normal” to you.

I am a very private person, but I feel strongly that if this can help someone, it’s important to share. Thank you for reading. Take some time to relax, meditate and breathe.

Stay cool!

Tamiko