Sickness, Depression, and the New Year

I hate to start 2014 off with a bit of a downer post, but you all know that my commitment to transparency trumps everything else. 

Things have been tough for the past few weeks. (Okay, let's be honest - for the past few months). Moving to LA has been amazing, and I'm grateful for all of the opportunities I've had here. However, in addition to leaving the majority of my support system in Pennsylvania, I also left a job with health insurance.

I have depression. Diagnosed, clinical depression. Specifically, Major Depressive Disorder. I also have diagnosed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but that's been mostly under control lately. The depression has not. I take anti-depressants, which help a bit, but not quite enough. I've been on probably half a dozen different anti-depressants over the past 8 years, but the current regimen is a brand-name only (read: no generic) drug called Pristiq. Most people in the psych world will tell you it's a pretty blatant patent extender for Effexor, but with slightly fewer side effects and requiring a lower dosage.  Regardless, it's an expensive little drug that was costing me $35 per month with health insurance AND a drug-specific discount card. Without health insurance, a 30 day supply costs $209. Yes, you read that correctly. $209 PER MONTH. My psychiatrist, bless her heart, refilled my script right before I left for LA and sent me here with another month's worth of sample pills. That got me through until October. Money was tight and I couldn't afford to get the script filled. That meant I had to go off an anti-depressant cold turkey. If you've ever been on a psychotropic med, you know that is a terrible idea. Withdrawal symptoms from SSRI's and SNRI's can be brutal. Mine came in the form of brain zaps (feeling my whole body get pins and needles for a few seconds at a time about every other minute), dizziness, and of course, intense mood swings that were decidedly negative. I had multiple sobbing breakdowns, through which my boyfriend patiently supported me, but I was a mess. The slightest thing could send me spiraling into a pit of despair, I was sleeping whenever I wasn't working, and my creativity was completely gone. I could barely bring myself to write anything at all. I was off of my pills for almost a month before I had a lucky turn of events that allowed me to get another 60 day supply cheaply and restore the chemical balance in my brain.

Like all good things though, the supply ran out (a few weeks before Christmas) and I was once again going through withdrawal. Money was tight with the holidays approaching, so we could only afford to get a 15 day supply. I've been taking a pill every other day to try to stretch it out as long as possible. I have about 8 pills left. On top of that mess, I got sick right before Christmas.

The last time I had to make due without going to the doctor when I was sick was grad school. This particular illness, which has apparently been termed "The Crud" and is making its way up the West Coast, is a particularly nasty upper respiratory infection that features coughing, sore throat, fatigue, fever, and more mucous than I previously thought one human could produce. My energy for the past 10 days has been non existent. I haven't been able to do any phone sex work because my voice is raspy and I've been coughing uncontrollably throughout the day and night. I have yet to find a client who has a kink for listening to women cough. No phone sex means no income, so this only compounds the issue of cash flow. So I've been struggling with depression AND illness, which is a highly unpleasant combination. Every time I think I've finally reached the end of the tunnel and I'm feeling better, I get hit with another wave of coughing and the mucous production amplifies. I feel like my body is defective. 

I say all of this to say, things are tough for me right now. I've been trying to keep up with social media as much as possible and put on a good face because I love my sex positive community so very much, but I haven't had the energy to masturbate, much less test toys and put out reviews. I watched people posting 2013 recaps and felt guilty that I wasn't doing the same, but I realize that anything I put out right now would be a pale imitation of my usual writing. Even this post. I don't feel like I'm being as coherent as usual, but I believe I owe it to my readers and friends to explain what's been going on lately. 

Depression is hard. Being in business for oneself is hard. Not having health insurance is REALLY FUCKING HARD. Not only can I not get my pills refilled for a reasonable cost, I also can't go to the doctor when I'm sick or go see a therapist when I'm upset. I'm not asking for anything - I'm really just grateful that I have people that read my blog and enjoy my company. I just want you to know that I haven't disappeared or been "too busy" to stay up on my writing. I've been sick, in more ways than one. I'm hoping that this will be the low point of 2014 and that everything else will be an immense improvement from here. If nothing else, I'm starting the year off honestly and openly. That has been and will continue to be my commitment to all of you.

Once I have my voice back, I have plans to do some videos to accompany my reviews. I also have future blogs in mind (that I've thus far lacked the energy/motivation to write) about my first visit to a Korean Spa and the positive body image implications, a video blog about vulnerability to kick of my 2014 YouTube channel, an in-depth tell all about my experience as a victim advocate in the Philly District Attorney's Office, a discussion about sex and people with herpes, and of course, all of the reviews that I owe various companies that have so generously sent me toys and been patiently waiting for me to deliver my feedback. So at least we have something to look forward to. I'm also attending two sex toy expos this month, so I will definitely be reporting back on upcoming trends and all of that cool stuff. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I've always been baffled by my unwavering optimism, even in the midst of depression. I believe in this community, and I believe in all of you. Some days, I even believe in myself. I'm hoping to increase the frequency in 2014. That's my "resolution" for the year. 

Warm hugs and so much gratitude.


Showing 6 reactions

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  • JoEllen Notte
    commented 2014-01-02 16:52:11 -0800
    Hey love,
    Big hugs. I went through the drug horribleness when I moved from MA (state-funded insurance!!) to OR and my anti-depressants got super-expensive. I went into my pharmacy with this crazy prescription discount card I found online (I think it was called “Needy Meds”) and they tried to run it for me. It didn’t work but they said (I kid you not) “But if you need help paying for the drug there’s this program we can use” it’s something through the state and it took my cost down to $40 a month and I never would have known if I hadn’t brought the weird card in… I’m wondering if there may be some similar help available to you.

    I can’t wait to see you next week. Love you!
  • Ashley Manta
    commented 2014-01-02 15:55:35 -0800
    Hugs back Dee!

    Sandy – you’ve been such an inspiration to me. Thank you for reading and sharing. It’s really important that we share these experiences so that people feel less alone and can start breaking down the stigma of mental illness.

    Ima – I actually wasn’t familiar with those programs, thank you so much for letting me know! I’m applying for the relevant ones as we speak. I also signed up for Covered California a few days ago, so hopefully that will help.

    Dizzy – I’d love to switch to Effexor, it’s just a matter of getting a new doc to prescribe it to me. Since they’re not “technically” the same, the pharmacy won’t just swap them without a new prescription.
  • dizzy
    commented 2014-01-02 15:40:33 -0800
    Have you tried Effexor? It is very very close to Pristiq. They altered Effexor to make Pristiq. I was on Effexor for years. It was the only one that worked. I’m now on Pristiq and to me it’s essentially the same med. Maybe a little milder on side effects. Effexor comes in generic.
  • Ima Godiva
    commented 2014-01-02 09:13:26 -0800
    Hi Ashley, have you tried the patient assistance program for this medication:

    It’s really hard on your brain to go on & off the mediation and it can cause bigger problems. I hope you’re able to get it regularly soon.

    Thank you for the brave post! Feel better soon. :)
  • Toy With Me
    commented 2014-01-02 08:56:17 -0800
    Thanks for sharing and being so open Ashley. My heart goes out to you my friend. I can’t imagine how difficult it has been, especially withdrawing cold turkey from your meds, something no one should ever have to do.

    Keep up the positive attitude and please know it will get better.
    Love and hugs ~ Sandy xxxx
  • Dee Dennis
    commented 2014-01-02 08:41:26 -0800

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