Thursday, November 12, 2015

Be Mindful.

And all change… So, I was suffering from panic attacks, anxiety and depression and started taking an SSRI called Escitalopram. I did notice a rapid change and I did lose the panic attacks and much of the anxiety. However, then there were the side-effects. I’m not going to to detail them here - you can go look them up yourselves - suffice to say they were unacceptable. I read up on the full gamut of these, how long it can take one to get off the drug and the possible withdrawal symptoms. I didn’t like what I was reading at all.

So I quit.

I was taking 10mg a day for 13 days. The next day I took 5mg saving the next quarter pill for the next day, but in the end I threw it down the plug hole. To then counter what I expected to happen to me I started on mindfulness, meditation and relaxation recordings. I didn’t have much hope for these and expected to just have to grit my teeth and get through. However, I was very surprised. My first 10 minutes of ‘Headspace’ removed the feeling of stress from my guts. A free Paul McKenna relaxation recording put me into something near to a trance. And I felt good afterwards.

There are other things I’ve been doing which have probably helped too. I’ve been drinking an awful lot of tea and the caffeine doesn’t help with anxiety etc. I reduced this intake to zero on the first day. I instead drank camomile and peppermint tea - both of which have positive effects on the whole depression fuck up scenario. And I’ve continued, considerably reducing my caffeine intake.

In retrospect I see that the SSRI probably brought me up enough so I could use these techniques. Withdrawal has consisted of night sweats - the opposite of one of the side-effects which was feeling incredibly cold sometimes - and maybe other symptoms I can’t really distinguish from my previous problems. I wake in the morning with panic attacks and anxiety but these have been reducing over the last three days. They go once I get up and get moving. A session with headspace of some other form of meditation usually clears the last of it. 

I’ve also been thinking of the reasons behind my recent fall. Sure, the death of my wife Caroline pushed me right down, but I didn’t realise how far down until I came under pressure to do more than just get through each day, and be more than just a survivor. I realise I’ve been on the edge of a precipice for the best part of two years. 

But also there’s something else that has occurred to me. For a good portion of my life I have been a heavy drinker who sneered at unit limits (I still do really) and would often binge. However, age has given me the two-day hangover, and drinking doesn’t go well with being depressed. I had to stop for months after Caroline’s death because drinking took me down and then I dropped lower still with the hangover. The hangovers and depressive effects have been building in me an aversion to alcohol. I am pretty close now to giving it up completely. But here’s the rub. I’ve lost the crutch that was alcohol and this in itself can be a cause of depression, anxiety and panic attacks. And what about smoking? This was another crutch I used. In the last two years I’ve become a vaper. Sure I get the nicotine but you get more than that from cigarettes…

Anyway. I will continue with the mindfulness/meditation. I’ve realised I do not want to get on the drugs bandwagon. I will control my mind and I will not let it control me.

Go steady out there. It’s dangerous.


Mason said...

Someone close to me has issues with depression, and they are also non-communicative about what they are feeling and how they are doing.

Thank you for sharing your experience. Reading them has given me a better understanding of what they are going through. I'm able to ask questions, get them thinking, and hopefully be supportive in their troubled time.

I'm often angry that this person is depressed and won't even share what they are feeling, then I will read one of your posts and get an idea of what they are going through, which makes it easy to be supportive.

Thanks Mr. Asher.

Unknown said...

Whats the expression, cleanse the body, clear your mind?

Something like that... good luck with it anyway.

Btw no dissecting insects this year?

Max Kaehn said...

If you get curious about meditation, you might want to read Brad Warner's HARDCORE ZEN, which is a very no-bullshit perspective from a guy who wound up teaching Zen via punk rock and Japanese monster movies.

Mark Tatum said...

Thank you for sharing. Your writing often lifts me a bit. i hope it lifts you too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Neil ...I recently took up TM which I find is great for managing stress ... As an aside I have been reading Sci fi all my life and I discovered you by picking up a copy of Jupiter War at the local airport here in NZ . I read it in a day and then read the first two in the series and re read the third again. That was in January this year and I have since read all your books and re read again the owner series ..... I'm hooked and can't wait for the next instalment in the Transformation series ..... Love your work, the detail and realism is second to none !
Cheers Greg

Neal Asher said...

Mason, dealing with someone who has depression is very difficult. Where did I read it? They want to be alone, but not lonely. Stuff like that. It is difficult for the depressed person when asked how they are feeling. They don't want to say, 'Well, I feel like shit again,' because it is something too often repeated. And what can you say in return?

Ian, nice idea but not true. Cleansing the body often reveals the damage to the mind. I'll dissect insects next year.

Max, yes, I'm curious about meditation, but I doubt Zen via those will interest me!

Mark, it lifts me when I do it. Sometimes I can't.

Thanks Greg - glad you're enjoying the books. Reading is another activity I must get back to as well.

Max Kaehn said...

If you get really curious about underlying science of meditation, there’s a neurologist named James H. Austin who tried out Zen when he was doing research in Japan and started looking into the associated brain changes. Zen and the Brain is a great big tome, even in paperback; I had to get it in ebook form before I finally finished it, just because my habit of carrying books around and reading them wherever didn’t fit with the thing being so heavy. Meditating Selflessly: Practical Neural Zen is more approachable (and much lighter in print), but doesn’t go into the depth of his first book.

Neal Asher said...

I've just got myself a book on mindfulness which I'll hit first. I'll see how it goes.