Monday, 2 June 2014

When the going get's rough: for anyone who knows anyone with a mood fluctuation

A few weeks ago I posted about weening off an SSRI, Effexor. To be clear, I don't see myself as "sick", however my moods do fluctuate from time to time. And to varying degrees. Sometimes slight. Sometimes extreme. Sometimes I am anxious. Other times I am radiant. I just feel everything (everything) very deeply. Pleasant emotions and unpleasant ones too, and there was a time where it was (quite) necessary for me to accept a little help and support from our friends at Pfizer.

For peeps who don't know about the process (of weening on or off meds) it can be a gruelling one. Your body can do weird things, and your brain can do weird things. Pfizer calls the effects of weening off "discontinuance syndrome". The effects of weening on or off can often be quite intense.

Okay so what's the point of this post? To share my knowledge, from the perspective of a person going through the process of a chemical change in the brain - for those of you who may not understand how to support someone going through it. It's not uncommon to feel helpless in these sorts of situations. But there are things that you can do that will be helpful, I promise. Things that may seem counter-intuitive, but from my perspective these things are gold.

And this isn't just relevant for the weening off process, it could be helpful insight to assist anyone whose mood is fluctuating in any way. Up or down.

So with my doc's sign off, around 4 weeks ago, I began the weening off process. My body is doing some interesting things. I've been through this process before, so most of it was expected. However this time I'm weening off a bit faster than I did before. This time my body is doing some new things I didn't anticipate. You know, just for a bit of fun.

Part of this has been pleasant, part of this has been unpleasant. But even the pleasant parts have been a little scary - because it's new and I've not been this way before. I've not felt these feelings or physical effects before.

And the fear around that (for me) comes from "what is happening to my body"? And that's natural.

An encouraging thing for me this time around is that I have a strong sense that I'll be okay - even though I'm sometimes afraid.

So how do I know I'll be okay?

And this is where you come in (if you're a support person, that is).

It's a complex answer, but a very large part of it is that I have a bunch of people whom I trust in my corner, championing me through this. Championing me through life. Championing me through my mood fluctuations (whatever form they take).

These people wave their pom-poms in the air for me in lots of little ways. They don't judge me because of my ups or downs. They don't try to pathologise my ups or downs, or me either. Quite the opposite in fact. They remind me that I'm valuable. As a person. And that my mood fluctuations make me who I am. They celebrate my ups and my downs. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know, and I'm not talking about clinking champagne glasses to anxiety - I'm talking about celebrating everything that comes with it. They show me they love all of me, and that my ups and downs are just one part of me. Not a "big deal", if you like.

They don't minimise the discomfort. Instead, they remind me the discomfort is just part of the process. And often they help me through that too. All the while, not looking at me like I'm a "sick" person. These people also are quite creative with their methods of support. Some of them may not even realise they're being particularly supportive. But it's all helpful.

And I suspect that is possibly the most helpful thing you could ever do for someone who has a mood fluctuation of any kind, and no matter the intensity. The not making 'em into a "crazy person", or telling them "they're sick". Just by being there if that's what you want to do. Reminding them - if they forget (I often do) - that sure, it can suck, but there are often good things in there too. And that it's all just part of it. That it's all just part of them.

Yes, we all need a bit of extra support from time to time and there ain't nothing wrong with that.

But ups and downs are just that. And more often than not they are a natural part of living.

For me, seeing myself as "sick" was terribly unhelpful. It made me feel powerless against it. Helpless. Over time, I've come to understand I'm not "sick". I am me. I am sometimes up and down, and sometimes all over the shop, and that's part of me and that's okay. That is incredibly empowering.

And you can empower someone who has mood fluctuations in the same way I've felt empowered by the peeps who love me - by simply seeing their ups or downs in a way no different to if they had a broken leg. That a broken leg does not make the person sick. Their leg is broken. And it'll mend in time, with the right type of cast. The right support.

I'm lucky I've got such incredibly supportive, compassionate, and loving people in my corner. I can't imagine how I'd get through all this if I didn't.