Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Depressions

I have had quite a bit of experience with depression, having had a mother, brother, daughter......in short, four very dear ones close to me, who all at one time or another suffered from deep, deep depression. It is hell. It is hell to watch helplessly while a loved one goes through it. It is hell for the person experiencing it. It is hell for all who are affected by it. It is not a place one goes by choice, it is not a place that one can climb out of by one's self. It can not be cured by bludgeoning, or by appealing to reason, or lecturing, or abandonment, or wishing.

Some depressions are caused by situations and mitigate themselves with time and with love and support. Those experiencing this type are the lucky ones, and I have been down that road a time or two. My first personal encounter with the dark days was at the age of 25 when I lost a 5 year old daughter to encephalitis. Even with another child at home, it took me a year to find a reason to want to get out of bed in the mornings. Obviously I did it, I got up. I went through the motions of living each day and got through it somehow, until finally the pain was lessened enough that I could take pleasure in life's daily events.

The second time, I was just 40 and was struck down with a hereditary neuromuscular disease. I went through about 3 months of getting weaker and weaker and being able to work shorter and shorter days, until finally I was in hospital for 6 weeks. I was never able to return to my flourishing career. My professional life and the income it brought in was OVER at 40. Again, it took me a year to adjust. Each night I would write in my journal the things I had done that day and what I needed to accomplish the next. Not only was my professional life over, but I knew that an uncle had died from the disease 5 years after it showing up, and my mother in less than 10 years. I was a ticking time bomb. With my husband's help, we changed our life style, moved to the country and decided that we would fight it with every fiber of our beings. That was in 1984! We made a conscious effort to make the best of whatever time was left for us to be together and we have done so. I have no regrets on that score.

The third episode is just now easing up. As you all know, on April 6th of this year I died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. They were successful in resuscitating me but nicked a lung in the process which left me with tubes coming out of every orifice of my body, plus one extra under my arm that led into the lung they had collapsed by accident. For one week they kept me comatose with a drug that made life in my head worse than any hell one can conjure up. I was crawling over burning hot, broken sharp, stones in the blazing sun with no way out, and only the occasional hallucination of a room somewhere with kind people in it, but I could not find that room except for a couple of times by accident. After a week of this, my husband demanded that the doctors wake me up so that he and my daughter could communicate with me for a short time. Under duress, they did! That saved my life because they were both able to tell me that if I needed to go, it would be alright, but that if I wanted to fight, I could win. Seeing their faces, I chose to fight. The dose of the medication that kept me comatose was reduced immediately and within 2 days, was replaced with morphine which did not have the same effect on me. After another week, there was real concern that the respirator tube would cause permanent damage and/or infection and they wanted to do a trach to replace it. I was reluctant, but they convinced me and it did hasten my healing immensely. The doctors and nurses expected me to be in intensive care for months at least, if I recovered at all. When I told them I would be going home on a day pass, the third weekend and home permanently on the fourth, they laughed but humored me. I went home on pass the third weekend and home for good on the fourth. Since then, I found that the trach would be permanent, to be changed every 4 to 6 weeks in hospital, I have been in and out of emergency every few weeks and had to go back on prednisone and antibiotics frequently. Every cold and every germ that passes by stops in for a visit. I have had to have more scopes, tests and whatever than you can shake a stick at. The emergency department is always interesting as I have one of the only two trachs walking around outside the hospital in this area. I am a rarity here. It has been 6 months and I can not regain any of the strength I lost that month and there are days that I am not sure I made the right decisions. But with the help of my loving family, by birth, marriage and choice, I am learning to live and enjoy what I have been left with. That is what I know personally about depression.

Now let's visit the other kind of depression caused by chemical imbalances and exacerbated by life's events. What I know about it is all from the outside looking in, right from the time I was a child. My mother was given to depression all her life, and in my very early teens, I repeatedly had to go to the neighbour's house and phone the family doctor to come and get her through the newest attempt at suicide. He finally told me that I must leave home at the earliest opportunity and pursue my own life or I would never get away. Over the next number of years, she was in and out of hospital, on and off various drugs and had a number of series of shock treatments. I really never understood it and resented her very much.

It was only after I had also dealt with others in my life who suffered a chemically induced depression that I began to understand and to empathize. My daughter inherited the same chemical imbalance and has also battled her whole life with both depression and ADHD. She does well with the new generation of antidepressants, therapy and the love and support that we all try to give her. There are bad times, sometimes brought on by life's events and sometimes by the medications no longer working. It is a life sentence, but she is making the best of it and finding her happiness where she can.

My husband, whom I love with all of my being also suffers from chronic depression and during the diagnostic phase, life was hell for both of us. He would go to sleep in the middle of conversations, could not motivate himself to do anything, became capable of causing himself harm and ended up in hospital for both diagnosis and treatment. From that point, life began to improve but when it got bad again, he self-medicated as they say. He could not leave a gathering if there was a drop of alcohol around. No matter how hard he tried to escape, the alcohol simply made it worse. We even separated for a year because I could not cope with the whole situation. He quit drinking and we got back together. The whole vicious circle started up again and one night it was finally all I could stand and told him that he had better like wherever he got drunk because he would not be coming home again. That was his last drink and he has been sober now for over 15 years now. We have both learned. He takes antidepressants and increases them when necessary, backing down the dose again when the crisis is over. If I notice he is falling into apathy, I mention it, he denies it, thinks about it and then increases his meds again. One of the good things is that the new generation of antidepressants does not stifle the personality or flat line the emotions, it simply allows the person to cope with life and enjoy the things that others enjoy. I would not be alive without him and I have learned so very much from this wonderful man with one little flaw that could have destroyed his life and mine.

I could go on, but the other stories do not vary enough to add anything material here.

5 comments:

jim said...

Zareba, this is an amazing story, very strong and powerfully moving, very certainly all true and from the heart of God.

There is no question that this is a serious and extremely widespread problem, depression, in all its' varieties, today, and getting worse from what I hear.

You have been thru a tremendous amount, I can't even begin to come close, personally. You make me realize what I already knew to a small extent, that many of the people whom we blog with, are suffering tremendously with this sort of thing, all to various degrees. Some are in and out of hospital for drug adjustments, due to episodic malfunctioning in spite of their current medications. Many are in various states of permanent pain, unending conditions of terrible physical abnormalities, and all this, no ones' fault.

It is not a lack of faith, not a lack of Spirit, not caused by wrong or no religion, there is just no explanation for it, except that the current world state is temporary and inefficient at best, and we have to pass thru it. God help us, God help them and you who suffer these terrors of this phase of existence in these physical bodies.

My heart is yours Zareba, my love and my prayers and my Spirit and my hope and all my desire is standing before God in petition for you and the others, for your easement, your ability to relax and rest often, in Peace and Love, and ultimately for your, and theirs, living relief from all pain and symptoms and causes, may it all be corrected, restored and replenished. My deepest and most profound Love to you Zareba and your family.

jim said...

Also Zareba, I meant from the beginning to add, that you certainly haven't lost a thing when it comes to writing, this is super well written, simply excellent work. Your talent shines bright and sheds the greatest light Zareba.

Anonymous said...

I second the idea that the new meds will lend comfort. I couldn't stand "the feeling" and I wish it upon no-one! I feel the oneness now and do not need the meds so far.
Peace

Zareba said...

Thank you both for your comments and words of encouragement.

It has been my experience when life throws me a curve ball, I take out my pity pot, jump in and flounder around in it until the tears are all shed, the emotion defused and the mourning for the newest loss has been completed. I can then jump out, rip off the mourning rags and get on with life. At worst, this process has taken me a year, but with practice, I find I can get through it in about 6 months now. ...That is not saying that it becomes easier to do, only that experience allows me to go through the stages more rapidly.

Having seen what clinical depression has done to people I love, I can not even imagine what hell they go through before finding the right combination of therapy, support and drugs that counteracts the brain chemical imbalance and lets them live again.

Anonymous said...

It is normal to feel sad due to grief for a lost relative
or loved one, or due to disappointments and failure like losing a job.
They create stress, emptiness, avoidance of being in touch with your own authenticity, and narrow ways of dealing with life's challenges. If we see the case-studies of patients suffering from depression, the factors that trigger a severe episode of depression vary from person to person.
My page - depression definition