115. Golden Brown, texture like sun…

In my personnel days, I went to visit a colleague who was about to have her second baby. She’d obviously got it taped this time; everything seemed to be in place, down to address labels written ready for the birth announcements.

“You seem to be pretty organised,” I said.

“I am,” agreed PregnantColleague. “I’m just going to write a letter to myself.” I sipped my tea and waited for the explanation. “I had dreadful post-natal depression after Rebecca,” she went on. “If it happens again, I want something to remind me what’s going on and why. And that it won’t last.”

Very sensible. In the spirit of which, this blog is being written partly to remind me what’s going on and why. Also, by way of explanation and apology if I drive you up the wall over the next few months. And no, put away those knitting needles, mother. Quite a different set-up.

In retrospect, I know that one of the early symptoms of my Parkinson’s was a low-level depression. A full year before my diagnosis, I sat in the surgery of a lovely locum GP, weeping (me, not her) because my blood tests for anaemia, low vitamin D, thyroid problems and all the rest had come back clear. “But why do I feel so exhausted and low?” I wailed.

“Perhaps you are depressed,” she suggested, gently.

“I can’t be,” I sobbed. “My life is perfect.” And it was. Still is, really. Happily married; amazing family; smashing friends. Doing a worthwhile job which I loved and was good at. Not a care in the world. And yet…

Eventually I put it down to the tiredness of teaching and just did my best to get on with things. Of course, I’d confused depression with sadness: something that needed a reason. Later, I learnt that a diagnosis of Parkinson’s can often be preceded by a period of depression. It’s purely a chemical thing: an effect of the low levels of dopamine.

Diagnosis came as a terrible shock, of course. I’ve written about this before, in my earliest blogs. Anxiety and shock exacerbated the effects of the Parkinson’s; and I still wasn’t on the correct meds. It was not my finest hour. This time I saw my own GP.

“Mmm,” said Dr Cameron. “I’ll refer you for counselling and in the meantime give you an anti-depressant. We need to find one that won’t clash with the Parkinson’s meds.” He flicked through his BNF. “This will do,” he said, and wrote a prescription for Venlafaxine.

It helped. Then I got my Parkinson’s meds sorted out, educated myself about the condition, started this blog. Back on an even keel, I decided to wean myself off the Venlafaxine, which is not without side-effects. I started to cut the dose in very small amounts. Getting to work in the mornings became harder and harder. After a couple of mornings when I drove in weeping, it became obvious that I couldn’t cope with the withdrawal symptoms whilst teaching.

But hey, I am no longer teaching. So I’m now going to give up the Venlafaxine. Yesterday, I trawled the internet for advice and it’s clear from those who have trodden the path before me that it’s going to be a bumpy night. The drug, it turns out, is much more addictive than heroin and should only be prescribed as a last resort. Hey – I’m a junkie! Who knew?

Among the menu of possible enticing withdrawal symptoms are irrational bursts of anger. Warn others, they advise. You are warned.

Now I’m going to add my bit about signing up for GiveAsYouLive. You mean you haven’t done it yet? Why not?!! You want for there not to be a cure, is that it? You think it’s funny seeing us spill our tea, huh?  The link to GiveAsYouLive is here.

You know, there are people in this world who don’t love other people, and I hate people like that!


I always enjoy the blog written by a retired teacher, Aquarius331, also recently diagnosed and living in the South of France.  The end of her most recent offering made me laugh out loud.  Do take a look: here.





2 responses

  1. Good luck! I had just the same problem with anxiety for about a year before my diagnosis too, but fortunately, by the sound of it, I didn’t take anything for it. I’m pleased my blog amused you. I love that little true story too. PS I have signed up for and now use GiveAsYouLive – I promise!!

  2. Young Lochinvar | Reply

    Depression is not purely a chemical thing, although it’s important first and foremost to remember that it’s a medical condition and not just “being sad”. I always remember that if you’re sad for no reason – you’re just sad because you’re sad – then that’s a sign of depression. It’s reducing it down to a basic form, I grant you, but then there it is.

    It’s much worse that that, though – there’s a lot going on during depression that the general public doesn’t see: something physical, mental, social or spiritual that only you feel and people don’t notice or (worse) don’t believe, advising you to keep a stiff upper lip or count their blessings or another piece of meandering nonsense they think will help. Depression is a undefeatable nemesis, a crushing little bundle of inescapable self-doubt and criticism sitting on your shoulders pushing you down.

    And more. You become trapped in the past relaying injustices and things which will never be resolved, even if they could be if people would listen. You become worried about the future, envisioning catastrophic tragedies that may happen, but probably won’t. Or, like you, you suddenly bear the cares of the world because you have been diagnosed with an incurable condition. Depression is unique, it is individual and it strikes right where it hurts the most.

    And it is tragic – the recent death of Robin Williams, himself a Parkinson’s sufferer, only serves to highlight that in an all-too-stark fashion.

    Yet some people have the temerity to assume it’s not an illness or a condition. Still more suggest that it can be combated by the administration of SSRIs or drugs which dispense endorphins. This sort of attitude doesn’t help, and neither do the drugs in my personal experience (having taken SSRIs for six months with no effect whatsoever apart from a lack of interest in sex, whether or not that matters).

    Give up Venlafaxine if you will (coming off a drug is easier than it seems – just stop taking it) and then see if you are depressed afterwards. If you’re not – and you will know if you aren’t, it’s very apparent – then that is how you defeat depression; you leave it all behind.

    It seems impossible, I know. But it isn’t.

    A few words from someone who hasn’t come out of the other side yet, but found hope in Pandora’s jar and still clings to it.

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