VNS and Me

June 25, 2008

VNS and Me

The first, and most obvious question, is — What is VNS?

VNS stands for Vagal Nerve Stimulation. The Vagus nerve runs down from the brain stem and affects all those important internal organs — heart, lungs, etc. According to Wikipedia, “Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is an adjunctive treatment for certain types of intractable epilepsy and clinical depression. VNS uses a stimulator that sends electric impulses to the left vagus nerve in the neck via a lead implanted under the skin.”

So that brings us to this blog.

I’m getting the VNS implant in two days for chronic and recurrent depression, and I intend to chronicle my experience with it here.

But let me bring you up to speed with a little info on me. I’ve had problems with depression since I was 11. It was kind of like being the unwitting victim of a landslide. One minute I was struggling through adolescence like any other kid, the next I was buried under a few tons of sharp and painful rocks, wondering what the hell hit me.

In the 25 years since, I’ve taken every psychological test, done all kinds of therapy, and taken damn near every medication on the market.

The problem is, a med will work for a little while and then stop, leaving me back where I started. I seem to have that problem every year to two years. Right now I’m taking a cocktail of meds that makes even the pharmacists raise their eyebrows (and you know they see everything). We had to just keep adding things until I was functional again. I was in bad shape this time around…bad enough that I was ready to try anything. (It only occurs to me after I wrote that that “I was suicidal” might have more impact on the reader. I don’t even see “I was suicidal” as shocking anymore. Suicidal is a given when I get bad. I can’t stand to be conscious when I get bad, so I “self-medicate” with sleep, sleeping 16-20 hours a day, easily. Not so good for the career.)

How VNS worksAnyhow, here’s my cocktail.

Effexor — 225 mg
Abilify — 4 mg
Lexapro — 20 mg
Trazodone — 100 mg
Synthroid — 100 mcg
Cytomel — 25 mcg
Lamictal — 100 mg
Deplin — 7.5 mg

Those are just the drugs for the depression. And I’m still having trouble.

I’ve also taken

Prozac
Zoloft
Celexa
Wellbutrin
Cymbalta

and a handful of old-standby antidepressants called tricyclics and MAOIs.

I’m kind of nervous about having this thing implanted. I mean, in some ways it feels really counterintuitive to me. I want my depression taken out, so we’re putting something in? But I guess that’s how medication works, too. You put it in the body.

On the other hand, if it could mean never having to sleep just to stay alive again, freaking wire me up!

Oh, one more thing I should add in this first entry. Insurance has refused to pay for it. They don’t care that I’ve wrestled most of my life with this disease, this monster, this demon; their refusal letter is practically a rebuke. And they are cheerfully sure to add that they don’t care if you have a life-threatening illness for which this is the only treatment — they’re not paying, dammit. But hey, have a nice day.

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