Those of you who have been with me on my journeys for the past few years will remember that I wasn't doing so well a couple of years ago. For those who may not know I was anxious, depressed, tired all the time (sometimes to the point where I could barely lift my feet off the floor to walk properly), achey, and prone to feeling faint, nauseated, feverish, etc. I'd break out into hives at the slightest provocation. Eventually it got so bad that I missed two months of work.
To make a long story short, a doctor finally figured out that all of my physical symptoms were by-products of stress. I started taking a small dose of SSRI medication and improved rapidly. In the past year and a half my health has continually improved including my mood, my weight, and pretty much everything else. I went from being, for all intents and purposes, disabled by mental illness, to being as healthy as can be. Fit as a fiddle. Quite capable of extensive goal-directed behaviour (thank you, dopamine).
So, am I "all better" now? Am I going to try coming off my medication? Am I ready to travel the world and throw all my previous fears into the wind?
Firstly, I plan to stay on that medication until the day I croak, or the day they invent something better, whichever comes first. I NEVER want to risk backsliding. A psychiatrist told me that coming off the medication means risking a relapse, and not only that, but if I did go off and then re-start the meds, the same medication or the same dose might not be as effective as it was before. Or not effective at all. Because the human brain is weird and we still don't understand it. I do not plan on taking any chances! Taking a tiny pill once a day is a minuscule price to pay for having my whole life together.
Secondly, although I totally qualify as a normal, mentally healthy person now (possibly above average, if I'm to accept the compliments that often come my way regarding my levels of patience and equanimity at work), I can still sometimes feel my old brain chemistry trying to assert itself. If I don't get enough sleep, or life gets very stressful, and especially if certain hormonal shifts are throwing their weight behind the balance, I start to see little signs of my old symptoms cropping up. I might sleep 12 hours straight through, and then wake up feeling anti-social and like there's nothing to look forward to. Or a couple of hives might bloom up on my arms, and the joints in my hands and feet might feel stiff and achey.
So far the symptoms have always passed in a few days, or at most (after I had a flu which really brought me down) for a couple of weeks. If I felt the need, I would not hesitate to go back to my head-shrinker for a re-evaluation. But basically I feel that I can maintain my balance by taking care of myself, and not pushing myself too far outside my comfort zone. I listen to my body. I eat well. I exercise. I walk outside in the fresh air. And I don't go chasing after challenges just for kicks.
So don't expect me to take off for an attempt on Mount Everest, or to find me planning to open a restaurant. As long as I take care of myself, I will do just fine. Like for example there was a cold making the rounds at work last week, and I didn't catch it. Like I said, I'm as healthy as a horse. Just a little skittish, is all.