Support

My name is Deborah Brandon.

I'm seven years post brain injury.

I'm on anti-seizure meds to treat both seizures and depression.

And I'm afraid.

Over the last few weeks, I've noticed that my depression is worsening.

I've never been a pill popper. I'm leery of any kinds of meds, but especially neurology and psychiatric medications. Before the brain bleeds, I only took pain killers for headaches and antibiotics when needed. But now, I have no choice. In addition to blood pressure medication to prevent future bleeds, I take Lamictal, which in addition to treating seizure disorders, also acts as a mood stabilizer.

Seizures and suicidal thoughts versus anti-seizure meds and anti-depressants.

I take Lamictal, religiously, twice a day.

I've had to increase the dosage a few times already. The thought of making any changes fills me with anxiety, whether it's increasing the dose further, switching to new meds, or adding different meds to the current cocktail.

I read that meds can lose effectiveness, that your system can become immune to them. I hoped that my case would be different. I heard that depression can keep worsening over time. I wanted to believe that I'd finally plateaued.

Will I forever be adjusting and readjusting meds? Is there some chance that I will plateau some day? Is there a realistic possibility of beating this without meds?

I went to the experts. No, not to the doctors. I posted a query on sites of a couple of brain injury support groups. Answers came pouring in.

“Depression can worsen over time.” No news there.

“Seven years? It's probably time to switch to new meds.” I was afraid of that.

“I eat five cashews and two brazil nuts a day.” Should they be raw or roasted? What if I eat six cashews? Is there such a thing as cashew overdose?

“Exercise and nutrition.” I'd exercise more regularly if it weren't for the frequent headaches... In addition, I eat a fairly healthy diet, though perhaps I could cut back on sugar. Except for ice cream. Salty caramel ice cream... mmmm...

“Pet therapy can also help.” My landlord doesn't allow pets, but occasionally I get to dog-sit my grand-dog.

“You're not alone.” I knew that. That was why I posted my query.

“Hang in there. I'll pray for you.” Thanks. But...

In the past, when I posted a request for information, I felt that such comments were empty, unhelpful, and rather irritating. I had no need for prayers or good vibes. But this time, I appreciated them. People cared enough to comment, some at length. Strangers. To my surprise, they actually helped, easing my fear.

Until now, I thought that the need for a support groups was a matter of type—I wasn't the type of person who was comfortable with such support, or needed it.

Also, during my first couple of years after the surgeries, plagued by depression and fear, only able to handle one day at a time, I was afraid to befriend people who were probably also in bad shape. Finally, feeling stronger physically and emotionally, I joined the Angioma Alliance, not for the support, but because I saw it as an excellent source of information.

I was a bit disappointed to learn that much of the information available I'd already discovered on my own. In fact, over the years, I was a source of information for other members. Then lately, every so often, at the end of my responses, I'd add an encouraging remark such as “Be strong,” or “Thinking of you.” I wasn't sure why.

And now, not only was I not irritated by the feel good comments, but I was actually grateful for the expressions of support. Why? What had changed? Was it temporary, while I was in the depths of depression and needy? Or was another phase in the recovery process? Perhaps it was a sign of growth.