Winter has begun a bit early this year at my house – we had a substantial snowfall just days before Thanksgiving, and as per family tradition,I ran outside, mouth open to catch the first flakes of the year..
And I have spent a few days ‘ice bound’ in my own private world. A virtual moat of ice has coated all the roads surrounding where I live; ice so deep that sand trucks (yes that is what they use out here (and I know that it will make my New England and Utah buddies laugh) , often instead of plows) and temps below 20 are making no dent in the 2-3 inches of solid ice coating all the roads and sidewalks. I cancel clients and stay at home.
This ice moat has afforded me some time to ponder deeper things, and I have come to the place where I would like to share a few thoughts with my blog friends.
Many of you know that I am a counselor in my profession.
Any of you who have been reading this blog for the last year know that I fought a bizarre illness which caused damage to many of my tendons and ligaments, and has continued to haunt my digestive system to this day…
yet, I am fighting back (still). And although I cannot jog as I used to, I am now riding my bicycle. (come rain or shine, yet not ice ;-) – and one day I will regain my complete physical health. I am sure.
Yet what most of you are not aware of is that I too have fought depression.
The heavy blanket of ‘who cares’ has lain on my shoulders off and on throughout my adult life.
And anyone who has dealt with this very physical illness knows of what I speak. It is as though someone has stolen your laughter, erased your desire to speak and held you mute yet you do not care.
Very little looks shiny, and flowers lose their smell.
It is a silent illness. And you go within… and ramble there in silence.
It is an illness of isolation and withdrawal.
An illness which no one mentions in polite company, lest they might ‘catch it’ (like a downer day) yet it is there behind our doors in most homes.
It is one of the most pervasive monsters of our time.
And I know it like an old friend.
It is rhythmic in its arrival and departure – a cycle that can almost be timed – In truth, a physical illness: a failure of the body to digest proteins and carbs into neurotransmitters for the brain – and the brain starves for fuel - all very logical and scientific……….
Yet, there is also the loss of perspective. One who truly has this genetic illness slowly loses the ability to be themselves. This is not the same as grief, or just a downer day –
It is a haze that separates us from all others, and mostly what one does is cry, or sit in silence, not moving.
And when it arrives, it is like the fog… creeping slowly at first, one almost does not notice it. First a day when you just don’t feel like answering the phone, so you might screen a few calls… then on to a day when you go to bed early, and sleep to the very last second, hitting the snooze button until it is almost too late – followed by a day when you stop going to meet up with friends, and stop commenting on blogs – and stop knitting, and stop dreaming.. and stop….. yes, you just stop………. All systems grind slowly to a halt.
Yet life continues, and there is laundry to be done, and work to go to, and obligations to meet, and so you drag yourself to them – pasting on the surface smile, and having conversations where you do your best to focus it all on the other person, and pray that they do not ask about you – and oh yes, you can fool quite a few.
Most will not notice the change, yet might say to you ‘I’ve missed you!” - while you say ‘oh thanks – I’ve been busy’ and you leave as quickly as etiquette will allow. You practically run away from those you love, and shun any helping hands, all the while praying that they do not all abandon you…
Yes – that is depression.
You’re not crazy – you are depressed.
And once you finally get home for the day, you peel off the layers of your public face, and you lie down on the floor, with virtually no desire to eat, nor talk, nor reach out.
A slippery road which is treacherous to walk
And one day, when you realize that this old familiar ‘friend’ has moved back into your world, you call your MD, and say… ‘hmmm, it seems the daily vitamins aren’t working any more’… and you ask to try yet another medicine.
Antidepressants are not "happy pills" nor are they "addictive"... they only work if you truly have "depression" - and they take awhile to work...
This time,when you start a new dose, you are acutely aware of what insurance covers and what it doesn’t, and the fact that you have no insurance coverage any more, and so you opt for something new. (the old kind would have cost $360 per month and this new 'generic' one costs $13.95)
Some work, some do not. There is no “pre medicine test” to say which one will jump start your particular frozen metabolism… and so you are required to work with the MD, playing guinea pig, and seeing what happens.
……….. and so you try first one medicine, then perhaps another…... And it takes about 4-6 weeks for a sincere trial of each one. Meanwhile, you carry on, as best you can, and you fall deeper into the abyss of aloneness, answering the phone even less, caring less about makeup, making up excuses to be not out in public… wondering if any of your friends will still speak to you at the end of this swan dive into darkness.
And then finally comes the day….
One of the medicines finally begins to work. Thank goodness.
It is subtle… barely perceptible….. this one that ‘works’.
It creeps in softly… one day you notice that your morning cuppa coffee tastes wonderful again… or you observe yourself singing in the shower……….. or you actually answer the phone when a friend calls…….. yes. (thank goodness they called just one more time).
It is small things like that. And in the beginning, it is not “stable”, it is fleeting. And try as you might, you cannot quite make it “last” for more than a few short hours…
It is frightening to have yourself return, only to flee away once more (or so it seems).. in absolute truth, “you” have not gone anywhere – rather the You that makes you unique has lost the ability to communicate with the rest of the body…. (I know, it’s confusing..)
Yet, after two or three weeks of faithfully taking the medicine, you find yourself sharing a laugh with a friend- or singing along to the muzak as you shop in the grocery store – or actually enjoying your dinner and the cleanup is easy once again.
It takes about 6 weeks, (once you find the right combo of medicines) and/or vitamins to treat this genetic physical illness called Major Depression….
No one speaks of it, but many of us have it….
And when finally, there comes a day when the heavy, wet, cold blanket of darkness is lifted from your shoulders, and you are able to be yourself once again… you look outside your window and wonder if anyone is still there…. And you pray that they understand, and that they don’t label you as crazy. You don’t want to “tell them” yet you wish they would understand.. and some do.. (bless them)
The ice moat has now melted - and the gentle rains have returned to Olympia.... I am certain there will be snow again this year...
I teach my patients about this illness.
I fight this illness myself.
Please feel free to ask me questions.