This is extracted from an email I wrote to my sister about what is happening in my life as a result of the new medication I have started. I always face a conundrum when writing about my experience. I want passionately to write about my experience with this condition because it is 1) highly therapeutic for me and 2) I hope it might benefit others struggling with the problem. But to do so, I have to write about very personal things in a very public way when I, partly because of the nature of the condition, I don’t have a very thick skin. Call it fear of the insensitivity of the public. Whatever. I lean toward doing what is important to me, come what may.
Last Wednesday, I had a particularly good day. It was a new high-water mark. I felt a kind of ‘normal’ that I don’t remember feeling before. This probably won’t make sense but I felt ‘whole’ and ‘solid’. I felt a kind of confidence that things were going to work out and that I could solve whatever problems we have. I literally felt physically like I could stand up to my full height and say, ‘I have done well’, without needing validation. Otherwise, I feel kind of scrunched up. I want to pull into myself like I want to just be invisible. And I feel the need for constant reassurance. I felt I could see what I’ve been through in a healthy perspective and that I have done remarkably well with what I’ve had to deal with. I was also able to see what living with the depression has done to me psychologically. I’ve been intending to write a blog post called ‘Depression as a Lifestyle’. It would be along the lines that when you have a debilitating condition it can breed a kind of dependence – despite your best efforts – that it unhealthy and, for someone like me in particular who is ambitious and wants to be productive, very painful and full of conflict, shame, guilt and lots of other stuff. This high-water mark period happened to overlap with my session with my therapist and I talked to him about it. I always record my sessions and I have that as reference if I need it.
These positive periods only last for a couple of hours at a time right now and a really positive period like that one hasn’t happened again since. But I know it did, so that is a new reference point. It’s the memory of reference points like that, however rare they’ve been, that has helped keep me alive.
Prior to starting the medication I would wake up early but I was in deep, deep suicidal depression. If I got up, that would persist for the rest of the day. If I went back to sleep for a couple of hours, I would have intense, technicolor dreams that were very topical to what was going on in my life and actually kind of positive and therapeutic. Then I would wake up and be relatively stable and able to function somewhat, although it was very difficult. I try to maintain a work-like routine. I do a lot of reading and ‘studying’ as much as I am able and I choose projects that require work-like activities. But, my concentration and comprehension was so bad that, for example, I would start reading and article and just have to give up after a half a page or so because I just wasn’t getting it. I’d file it in the ‘read later’ folder and hope to come back to it. But that folder just kept getting bigger. The frustration, anger, pain and discouragement at this was enormous.
Now, with the medication, I’ve set an alarm for the first time in forever. So, that goes off at 8:30 and I take the medication and then I just lay there and think about the day and witness the miracle while my mood improves and my thinking clears up over the next 15 to 30 minutes. I actually want to get up and I have a sort of normal energy level. Then I can go about doing things and getting them done in a kind of normal way.
It seems like I’ve needed more rest in the last week though. But, I have to expect that it’s going to be up and down. That’s what it’s like for everyone, right. My range is just skewed way into the negative.I’m getting more confident that the medication is going to continue to work. But it is very scary. As my mind clears up, I can see more and more clearly what the ‘other’ state of mind is like and I just don’t know how I’ve been able to endure it. And I don’t see how I could go back to that. I really was at the point of running out of reserves again prior to starting the medication. Had, I not started the medication prior to Mom’s death and then David’s suicide, I don’t know if I could have handled it.You might think that I’d be jumping up and down and saying, ‘Yay! Fantastic! This is wonderful!’ Sometimes I do feel a little bit of that. But, the thing is that because my mind and emotions are working more normally, it enables a lot of stuff to come up that was otherwise buried. My memory improves, for example, so I get bombarded by a lot of very painful memories out of the 30 year backlog I have that I haven’t been able to process and I have to deal with that. I can think more clearly so I can see more clearly how fragile our life situation is and how uncertain our future is. So, there’s that to deal with. Lots of things like that. I get easily overwhelmed by all of it because my mind doesn’t have the structure yet to break it down into manageable, step by step pieces. But, with help, that’s coming along.
I am cautiously optimistic, at least during those periods when the medication is working.