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seeking insight with brain fog/depression/sleep...

Posted by SDA on December 15, 2003, at 0:49:40

Hi, this is going to be rather long, but PLEASE read:

I'm currently a college student majoring in physics. I don't mean to sound cocky, but I consider myself to be a very smart person. I'm typically very intellectually sharp, have a great sense of humor, am well motivated toward my studies, and have good overall self esteem. About 7 weeks ago, though, I was struck down by what I can only call the infamous "brain fog" with accompanying severe depression. I will try to describe (as chronologically as I can) the factors that I believe lead to where I stand today:

I have been diagnosed with OCD for most of my life. I have been on many different medications to treat this, but my longest stint was with Zoloft and Wellbutrin. I eventually stopped taking these medications after my senior year of high school since I felt that they were no longer helping me. Sure enough, I noticed no real increase in my OCD after stopping them.

I remained off medication throughout my entire first year of college, which may have been a poor choice in hind sight. Midway through the academic year, symptoms of my OCD started to intrude on my day-to-day life. I found it very difficult to get into bed at a decent hour. I soon found myself stuck in a rut of sever sleep deprivation (around 3 hours of sleep on week nights, and sometimes none). My school operates on a quarterly basis, and this cycle of sleep deprivation occurred in the second and fourth quarters of my first year.

I did my best to pay off my sleep debt over the summer, and started my second year with the goal of getting more sleep. Unfortunately, I failed miserably. While not as bad as my first year, as the first quarter was winding down, I started completely missing nights of sleep. What happened next is what I consider to be my "turning point".

After getting a few hours of sleep and then going for almost 24 hours wide awake, something very odd happened. I was standing in front of a sink in the bathroom, when I completely lost my sense of balance. It felt as if my foot was going through the floor. This feeling lasted a couple minutes, and then went away on its own. This is when I believe my "brain fog? started.

Ever since that day my world has been a living hell. My math skills have deteriorated, and I am no longer able to "visualize" concepts like I once could. I'd say that my abstract thinking in general has taken a dive. My mind feels foggy and my thinking is very clouded and slow. All of the courses I'm taking now should be very interesting and right up my ally, but for some reason I can barely pick up anything in the lectures and the course material is leaving me in the dust. In all of the group assignments that we do in physics, I feel absolutely brain dead and can't contribute anything at all. Off and on (but mostly "on" during the day), I also get a strange feeling inside my head that is difficult to describe. It?s a fuzzy feeling that's like having a giant cotton ball for a brain, and it persists for hours on end. I'm not sure if it is related, but I also sometimes get shooting pains near the top of my head.

Outside of class work I also feel notably different. My social skills have gone down the tubes. I have a feeling that I've already lost many a friend to this ailment. I almost feel like a completely different person, or as if I've lost a part of myself that will never be found again.

In a sort of effort to diagnose myself, I've been on the internet a lot lately looking at various online message boards and support groups (including this one) that have come up as the result of google searches for my symptoms. Some people on sleep disorder forums say that their long-term sleep deprivation has led to similar symptoms, and can indicated permanent brain damage. Before now, such consequences had never dawned on me and have sent me into a spiral of panic and depression.

There is no question that I am severely depressed right now. I don't think I've ever felt as bad about myself as I do now. Most of the time I feel like I'd rather be dead, and the thought of ending it all crosses my mind many times each day.

I tried starting back up on the Zoloft a couple weeks ago (at 100mg a day), but had agonizing side effects and had to stop. I have some Celexa now, and will start taking it soon. I've had blood tests for anemia, lymes disease, and thyroid levels done, but they've all come back normal.

I've been hearing good things about Strattera for treating "brain fog", and might give that a go after I talk with my psychiatrist. What interests me about Strattera is its uses in treating attention disorders. The more I think about it, the more I feel I can relate to the feeling of being "on" all the time that people with ADHD sometimes describe. Perhaps that incidence of loss of balance marked the intersection of all of my problems, and I simply "burnt out".

If anyone has been kind enough to read all of that, please offer any suggestions that you might have from person experience with such problems. I would be particularly interested in any responses from fellow scientists/students/engineers.

THANK YOU for you time




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