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Emails to my Therapist

Depression Hurts Like A Burn

Dear Nicholas, I just made a startling discovery after a couple of rather hard months. I somehow received the wrong medication a while back. (I’m writing you about this though you aren’t a prescriber these days. Just want to talk about it.)

I thought maybe I was simply sad because several difficult things are going on, including one of my dear ones, far too young to get sick, having some scary symptoms.

I find it tricky at times to distinguish between grief and depression.

Finally decided, after intermittent bouts of trouble: something’s wrong with the mental health medication. Then discovered: I wasn’t taking an antidepressant, which my mental health seems to require.

An All-Over Pain

Depression sure does seem to affect people differently. I’ve seen folks quite paralyzed by it. And made manic. Neither of those is what happens to me.


I do feel a sort of slow-down. And one Saturday I slept late, ate breakfast at 9:30, lunch at 10:30, then slept on the sofa until dinner. But mainly the effect is not so much sinking as it’s an all-over layer of sharp pain that’s not quite physical but almost is– like a serious sunburn over my whole consciousness, with the feeling that if I move quickly or switch activities I’m going to jar it into hurting worse. It feels like a burn, which makes no sense to me, but there it is…

I’ve continued in these weeks to work, have finished new chapters of the book-in-progress. Sinking into my writing helps. But change the sheets? Why bother? View anything positively? Not a chance. And neither Netflix nor reading have been the comfort that stories have always been. (I hate to think what I’d have been feeling without Husband Bob at my side.)

Here’s What I’ve Learned …

I should have checked the bottle of pills myself.  I merely glanced at the bottle and assumed  they were the same generic made in a different color by a different manufacturer. (I also should have checked the wills Bob and I got written years ago, because last night, in preparing to make some additions, I discovered a very bad error.)

I probably avoid doing a lot of checking because my OCD peculiarities include a tendency to check too many times. So I’ve resorted to a pattern of under-checking. Not such a good idea either.

Bold New Strategy

I’m going to check everything that needs it at least once, and no more than twice. I won’t go back the third time even if I doubt what I saw earlier.

One, Two, and That’ll Do!

Don’t know how the drug mix-up happened. Don’t much care. But I’m so relieved to have gotten it straight. Suddenly it’s a glorious spring and some problems can be solved and daily life is worth my full effort and I have hope for peace in Ukraine.



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  • Brent Bill
    March 9, 2022 at 3:11 pm Reply

    Glad you got the meds straight. Life-savers (he said from experience) when they’re the right ones. Terrible, horrible, and angsty when they’re not. Be well!

    • Peggy Payne
      March 9, 2022 at 3:30 pm Reply

      Thanks, Brent. Thinking of you and yours…

  • Robert Braxton
    March 9, 2022 at 4:55 pm Reply

    checking WILLS jarred me. “We” retired 2011 and around that time had our wills drawn by a Virginia state private lawyer Elizabeth. I just sent her a Linked In message this morning that we should update ours, having donated our Chatham County, NC, real estate (building double lot, Crestview) to Chatham county Habitat, Pittsboro. Also finished purchasing Alamance ancestral home place land that Mama in 2015 willed to my youngest brother.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 9, 2022 at 6:48 pm Reply

      Well, I’m happy to spur you into action, Bob, if that’s what happened. Very good of you to donate your Chatham property to Habitat.

  • March 12, 2022 at 8:35 pm Reply

    Dealing with deep grief and loss is as hard an emotional task that I know. In my experience, grief is usually resolvable by accepting the loss and Really letting go the lost loved person, place, animal or thing by saying out loud a complete goodbye to the external, physical being – all the appreciations, resentments and regrets. Dead or alive, seeing your loved one in your imagination while saying goodbye can help, and supportive guidance from a skilled therapist often makes this possible.
    Sometimes major goodbyes need to be said more than once to cover everything and complete the process. Folks don’t simply “get over” a major loss, however we can usually get through such painful losses, like every other adult has to and can do – permanent deep grief doesn’t really honor what that being would want. Rebuilding an external life worth living without the lost one, is possible, while staying internally in touch with all the good memories and feelings.

    Depression is of a different order, emotional and/or chemical. I usually suggest skills over pills, however some folk’s biology requires pills in addition to skills. If the most intense pain lingers more than a year or two, it’s more likely depression. That might be called complex grief, and may need group or individual therapy &/or antidepressants.
    You were wise and fortunate to pay attention to your intuition and investigate the pills, Brava !

    • Peggy Payne
      March 13, 2022 at 12:06 am Reply

      Thanks for this very thoughtful comment, Bob, distinguishing between grief and depression. I’d just like to be able to do it faster.

  • Martha Robinson Thomas
    March 26, 2022 at 8:11 pm Reply

    Never be too quick to blame yourself. When a medication arrives that has a different appearance, you need to question the pharmacist. If you’re using a mail order pharmacy, call and endure the painful process of reaching a pharmacist. The pharmacy should inform you when the supplier changes. The days of the reliable drugstore pharmacist are gone; therefore , we are all responsible for our own health. I do have a local reliable pharmacist that I will ask for help when I question a medication that is different. They can look all pills up on their computer. I know I put too many chemicals in my body to blindly trust someone I can’t meet. I think the PDR (Physician’s Desk Reference) is on line if you have the time and energy to look for a medication. Best wishes!

    • Peggy Payne
      March 28, 2022 at 10:04 pm Reply

      Good advice, Martha. Especially your first line. I tend to forget that. Thanks.

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