I picked up my first supply of SSRI antidepressants yesterday and was surprised that the pharmacist actually talked to me about what I was picking up. I’m use to showing up and grabbing a bag of mild pain pills (like the 600 mg ibuprofens) or antibiotics and giving a firm “no” to the question of if I had any questions. No, no questions from me, thanks though. They’re antibiotics: take them until they’re all gone, diarrhea is a possible side effect, and whatever else. The same is true for those pointless 600 mg ibuprofens. Sure, I need a subscription to get them, but at the same time I could easily buy some of the 200 mg over-the-counter ibuprofens and take three instead of the recommended two. Oh what a dangerous rebel I am.
Yesterday I picked up some serious shit: meds that alter your brain chemistry and can fuck with all sorts of things. Apparently serotonin is in charge of numerous bodily and brain functions, so toying with its level can have some serious consequences. I don’t even recall all the possible side effects, they’re frightening though. Let me try. Sleeplessness, sleepiness, restlessness, nausea, dizziness, depression, possible suicidal thoughts (yikes!), among others. It doesn’t sound like a fun drug and I’m having a ton of anxiety about it.
Stupid thing that I’ve alluded to before: they take “at least a week” to have an effect. This is what I read somewhere on the internet at least and noted this to the pharmacist in an attempt to show him I wasn’t some ignorant fucker picking up pills. The pharmacist told me it would most likely take two weeks for me to notice anything, and four to six weeks for my body to really stabilize on the drug to where I would notice improvements. Even scarier is around the two week mark I should, might, possibly, go into a funk where “things might seem worse and you might think the drug isn’t working for you; this is normal so try to get through it.” What the fuck? You take an antidepressant and in two weeks your mood takes a total nose dive? Damn.
It feels like I have a ticking time bomb in my mind, and more so than usual. I’m always terrified about the next random crisis that will cause my mood to spiral downward, but this time I get a timeframe to expect it in! I don’t know how I feel about that — it’s nice to know I guess — but now I’m anxious about it. Maybe I’ll put it on my Google Calendar: “Crisis Starts? March 18, 2020”. The day after St. Patrick’s Day. Well, I’ve always hated that “holiday” anyways…
Let me digress for a bit. I’m a guy who loves his data, check this out:
I track our vehicles’ fuel mileage on a monthly basis. I also track a bunch of other random data that I think will be interesting/useful. Weekly bank/credit card balances, my weight, bike riding times/running times, and for some reason The Walking Dead viewers. Hell, I’ll post that below because it’s an interesting chart! Not that all of this data is inherently useful. It’s nice (and useful) to know our Dodge Caravan costs about 15 cents per mile to operate while our electric car costs a paltry 4 cents per mile, but besides the vehicle data it doesn’t really provide much insight. It’s still nice to have though.
That’s was quite the tangent, but it did have a purpose. A few years ago I thought it would be fun to attempt to quantify my mood. As multifaceted and complex as your mood is, I thought it would be interesting and perhaps insightful if I could plop a number to it twice a day. You know, a 1-10 scale of how I felt in general with 1 being borderline suicidal and 10 being like the happiest I had ever been.
One thing I learned from this not-very-good experiment was that actually writing your mood down twice a day and assigning it a number made me much more mindful of how I felt. After a week I think my mood even improved because I was aware of how I was feeling, and hence could change it. I guess I’m saying if you know your mood is a 2/10 you’re aware of it and not just feeling shitty in a passive manner. After a few weeks I was on a consistent streak of 7s and 8s.
On these drugs and struggling with the fact that my mood might crater in the next two week, I think I’ll start this process again so I can see how these things actually affect me. It’s such a pain in the ass trying to be objective about your mood over a few days, let alone months, and it seems a disservice to the doctor if I stroll on in there in a month and give vague answers about how the drug is affecting me. By keeping a spreadsheet with daily “mood values” I can look back as objectively as possible and give accurate answers. I also think I can objectively identify this impending two-week crisis and maybe stay mindful that it’s an expected thing and I shouldn’t let my mood drag my mood down. Or something like that.
Give it a shot if you want, I highly recommend tracking your mood and think even once daily would help you see your trends. Maybe you can pull yourself out of a funk if you notice it happening.