All The Masks I Wear

If you’re one of my twitter followers, you probably noticed either my recent missives on my dark and dangerous moods, or my lack of presence over the last few days. I also tweeted that I thought I might write a blog post about this depression – hoping it would be cathartic. Well, this is the result of that statement.

I’m in a bad place right now. I confess, I don’t know why. When I say I don’t know why, I mean that in several different ways. There’s no reason for me to be upset at this particular time, and the cause is also a mystery. I can only take wild guesses. We’ve already gotten an appointment with my neurologist to talk about whether it’s caused by some of my medicine, but that’s only one of the options.

I take several medications which can cause depression, or deepen it. If you click on the links, you can see their adverse effects. All of them can cause depression or thoughts of suicide. However, if I discontinue any of them, I feel worse immediately, or I have breakthrough migraines or seizures.

  • Keppra – Prescribed in 2010.
  • Lamictal – Also in 2010.
  • Topamax – Given in 2015 to stop my migraines & seizures completely. (they are now controlled)
  • Cymbalta – Used off-brand for pain, it’s mainly an anti-depressant.
  • Gabapentin – This helps with my chronic pain and stops RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome)

On top of all that, I also take medicine for my MS (Multiple Sclerosis). It’s called Tecfidera. (two side-effects links)

I have several of the Tecfidera side effects on and off even after a year of taking the drug. They’re mostly harmless and irritating, so I let them slide. My doctor knows about them. At random times I will just turn red like I have a sunburn, and it will feel just like a burn as well. I take an NSAID or Benedryl, and it goes away. I also get itchy patches with redness, and treat it the same way.

That’s not depression, but it’s a reminder that I’m on a serious medicine. One that I have to take no matter what the side effects are – as long as they’re not too debilitating. I have a disease for which there is no cure, and every time I take Tecfidera or have a side effect, it rears it’s hideously ugly head.

I know we all share mortality as our end-games, but there’s a subset of society that realize they have an expiration date. I feel like one of those people. I’ve passed along my anecdote about telling my mother that I had MS. I said, “It’s not like it’s gonna kill me… well, not yet anyway.” and we chuckled. Yeah, that’s true, but there’s a darkness behind that humor. There’s a sad truth there.

Let’s move on to the present day issue – my current depression. I’ve had several bouts in the last few months, and they seem to get worse and longer each time. Over the course of my life, I’ve worn many masks. The bulletproof mask when people make fun of me, the happy mask when I’m in a pissy mood, the normal mask after I’ve had some health issues and don’t want to talk about them – but at times like this, I don’t have a mask to wear.

My face is naked, and I can’t show myself to anyone. I even hide from my husband as much as I can. I bark at him to stop coming in when I’m working or reading, I banish him to the futon when I sleep, I even give him endless things to do just so he’ll stay away from me. He understands, thank goodness. I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t.

I’ve cancelled anything that would cause me to be anywhere – voice or in person. No podcasts, no social media (for the most part), no going out, etc. I can see that I’m having classic depression symptoms too. I don’t feel like showering, extreme fatigue, hopelessness, mood swings, and a few others. I’m forcing myself to write this post, because I’m hoping this will help – but I have little motivation other than that.

Enough about that – now I want to tell you how I experience these feelings. I mention this every so often in order to illustrate a point, but I have synesthesia. I felt gratified the last time I talked about it on a podcast because I helped a listener self-diagnose herself. Just knowing the condition has a name and there are others that share the experience helps to understand the how and why of synesthesia. It can definitely be confusing.

When I’m depressed or feeling pain, synesthesia steps in to make it worse and/or more intense. I want to take a minute to try and explain how I experience migraines and what it does when I have dark thoughts.

I used to have incredibly severe migraines. I still have them, just not as severe, and they’re much shorter in duration. Since synesthesia causes someone to mix up one sense with another, my feelings are mashed up with images in my head. During a migraine, I close my eyes and I see shards of glass and metal flying towards my head.

I can’t stop the images, and they make the pain worse. I know this because it doesn’t happen every time I have a headache. I can bank on it occurring every severe migraine, but when I get a smaller one, it’s not a surety.

I have things that I can do at home to curtail the pain. Benadryl sometimes helps, as does caffeine in large doses. Before they were controlled with prescription medications, I would sometimes go to the ER during a long bout. I was accused of being a drug seeker more than once – which made things worse. It got to the point where I would break down and say, “you can just give me a large dose of benadryl and anti-nausea meds if you’re that concerned,” but that rarely helped.

The glass shards image has gone away for the most part, but now during these bouts of severe depression, I’m getting disturbing images. My husband keeps asking me to describe them, and it’s virtually impossible. Most of them are flashes that seem suicidal, and yet, they’re not clear at all. Some of them are just the kind of jumbles I normally see behind my eyelids when I close my eyes.

I’ve already posted about my vision loss, so there’s an occlusion that I deal with all the time. On top of that, I’ve had what seems like blood and some gold flecks in my “static” swirls when I close my eyes. I’ve never talked about what I see when I close my eyes with anyone, so I don’t know how normal this is.

On top of this “visual snow,” I’m getting a gold/yellow overlay, and some splotches that look like blood. It moves constantly, and the blood-like splotches come and go. I sometimes feel like my body is there, although that’s just a feeling. I have no idea what to think of this issue.

I vacillate between feeling like I’m crazy, to just being plunged into complete darkness. It’s daunting, and dealing with it seems unsurmountable. The last time I had these emotions and visions, it lasted about a week. This time it seems to be hanging on without abatement.

If I had to choose words that represent the moods I’ve gone through over the last few days, I’d say – flat, dark, sad, mad, painful, sharp, exposed, and hurt.

I have no idea if this has helped me or anyone else, but at least people will know why I’ve taken a little time away from my public life. I am taking steps to solve things, even if that means I find a therapist. That thought is terrifying to me. I don’t mind talking, but talking about my deep, dark thoughts – I don’t know if I can do that.

So there it is. I’m maskless, and until I can put on a happy face – whether it be real or fake – I’ll probably be behind my keyboard.





2 thoughts on “All The Masks I Wear

  1. Karen,
    Thank-you so much for sharing. I have friend from college who is bi-polar and his blogging has helped him and others. I know some people will read this and may have answers for you. Some will read and be encouraged because someone else is dealing with the same thing as they are. To those of us who know you and have the pleasure of working with you, it gives us insight to you and enables us to ask how you are REALLY doing. We are here for you and want to support you. Sometimes that means sharing the load of work and some times it means pushing you to work. I’ll do both for you! You know I’m a man of faith in Christ. So know that I do pray for you daily and this gives me specifics to pray for. I know God does answer prayers but He is not a heavenly ATM. We suffer and go through challenges and He uses them to strengthen us and help us to help others who are suffering. I know He will do this in your life. Thanks for taking the bold step to share and letting us know. Praying for you!

    1. Thank you so much Geoff. That’s the bright part in my life. I know there are people that care about me – no matter what. Even if I shut myself away. I’m grateful for that every day.

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