A few thoughts on having Mental Health

My life has been something of a struggle the past couple of months. Online friends may have noticed a silently decreased presence. I’ve been struggling with my health. The problems have been mainly emotional, however, there have been physical issues as well. I won’t go too deep into the reeds with this one; suffice it to say, I’ve been suffering deeply.

It started with a few nights in a row getting poor sleep. If it wasn’t one thing it was another: I was too hot, I ate too much, I mismanaged my intake of substances, something upset me before bed, something excited me before bed, I was too cold, ect. I have posted about this issue in the past.

At any rate, a few nights in a row of disturbed sleep was all it really took. Eventually I reached a point where my circadian rhythm was completely disrupted and my life spun out of control. At that point it didn’t even take a sleep-disruption anymore to result in a poor night’s sleep. I was going weeks on end with maybe 2-4 hours of sleep a night. Completely insufficient for maintaining health, and my body and mind were deteriorating.

I wish I could say I’ve made a complete recovery, but unfortunately I’m not there yet. In order to kick-start my circadian rhythm I needed to resort to daily sleeping pill use. At first, that didn’t cut it, and I had to add antidepressant use as well. I’m currently taking an antidepressant called mirtazipine, which in addition to being an antidepressant, also causes sedation (which helps falling asleep). Right now I’m off the sleeping pills but I am still taking the antidepressants and melatonin supplement nightly.

I don’t like being on antidepressants, but they are helping. The thing is, I don’t feel clinically depressed right now. I actually went through a short period of hypomania on them that I needed to suppress. I suffered from clinical depression previously, in my teenage; I guess you could say I’m in remission. I’m reluctant to stop using the antidepressants, because I was suffering deeply from lack of sleep. But now, everything feels kind of fake. The medication has given my waking life a vaguely-unpleasant dream-like quality, whilst also being… not happy, but anti-depressed. It sucks, it feels unwholesome.

Worst is, the antidepressants blunt my feelings of metta, or loving-kindness. I’m still able to practice, but the feeling is distinctly less pronounced. It requires more effort to produce a feeling with half the intensity. Which, in of it self, makes me feel… not depressed, but wistful.

At least its way better than the anti-psychotics I tried for off-label use as a sleep aid. Those made me feel like I was drowning in a stupor of mental dullness. And they also didn’t work to get me to sleep. One night was all I needed to know that I never want to take that mind-poison ever again.

At any rate, my aunt, who is a psychiatrist, encouraged me to take the somewhat-helpful antidepressants and the thoroughly unhelpful anti-psychotics. She termed what she observed me having as a kind of “lucid depression” wherein I had the physical symptoms of depression without the affective (emotional) symptoms. This seems to be a word she made up on the spot, because a web search returned nothing. If this is the case, I chalk up the maintenance of my lucidity within the depths of chronic suffering to my dharma/meditation practice. So even though I’m not doing great, this experience has been confidence boosting for me. Dharma practice really has fortified me with indispensable mental tools.

I really hope to re-invigorate my practice after this episode of poor health has blown over.