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October 26th, 2006


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12:28 pm - flagrantly violating copyright for the sake of the brain
moxiegirl pointed out this Glob article from a few days ago. This gentleman, in his 80s, is a regular Globe correspondent. His wife died a year or so ago after a long battle with Alzheimer's. He writes an amazingly articulate and contextual account of what it's like to live with depression and attempt to treat it. He explains it well enough, for those who've never really experienced or understood it, to hopefully give them a glimpse into what goes on in these chemically-imbalanced brains.
Depression's darkness comes and goes without warning
By Donald M. Murray, Globe Correspondent | October 24, 2006

And then on a sunny day, having lunch with new friends and old, just after saying I was happier than I have ever been, I step on an elephant trap and tumble down into the blackness of despair, my arms and legs wildly reaching out in the hope of finding something to slow my fall.

I play the faker game for the rest of the lunch, make myself appear to listen, force a laugh when the others laugh, nod as if I understand, gather the cloak of silence around me and smile.

Of course, I know my sudden melancholy is irrational. That's the definition of depression: irrational sadness. We all have good reason to be sad, but depression is far beyond sadness.

I will never forget the day 10 years ago when I was 72. I was reading on our porch that had windows on three sides. And then I was leaning over studying my shoe laces as if they contained eternal truth.

The sun darkened, the ceiling lowered, and I was in a land I had never visited.

I had always been optimistic, the glass brimming over. Even in the terrible months of mourning after we lost our 20-year-old daughter Lee, I had never felt anything like this.

I went immediately to a psychiatrist who made the wrong diagnosis but gave me the right pill. It was miraculous. I timed it. Ninety seconds and the darkness disappeared.

My three sessions with him were a Woody Allen movie. He was the patient, I was the doctor. Then I found Dr. Mary Wilson and when she no longer practiced here, Dr. Ken Cohen. I feel they literally have saved my life -- again and again -- as my brain responded differently to my changing health and my ever - changing medications.

Naturally I feel guilty. I should be able to snap out of it, pick myself up by the bootstraps (a pretty picture, that), and soldier on without my daily pills.

I look to Sally Cohen and Rick Robbins, who have found an unexpected happiness. It doesn't help today, but it will. I look to other neighbor mentors who have been here in this darkness and moved on to light. They will help. Tomorrow or the day after.

Those we live with often do not understand our unpredictable withdrawal. Minnie Mae never understood and felt I was a wimp to go to a psychiatrist.

Can I tell when depression is going to visit? No. I'm vulnerable when I wake up, which I'm told is unusual, and in late afternoon, which is typical.

Each night I plan the next day's activities so I can force myself into action the next morning even if it takes me an hour or more to dress.

Ever Mr. Pollyanna, I tell myself that depression reminds me of the good life I have constructed. Without dark there would be no light, without sadness no joy, without silence no conversation.

I doze and wake with a funny feeling. Perhaps it is -- can I trust it? -- happiness.

© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.

(14 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:surrealestate
Date:October 26th, 2006 04:49 pm (UTC)
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Okay, so the part of that article I don't understsand is the bit about *not* feeling that way. Maybe someday I'll know what that's like.
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From:derspatchel
Date:October 26th, 2006 05:21 pm (UTC)
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You mean the sudden switch from not feeling that way to feeling that way? I think the keyword there is "irrational."

Sometimes, people are set off by certain triggers, changes in climate or social mood or a sudden obstacle. But other times, there really is no rhyme or reason to it. It's just like this switch gets turned off and you are just suddenly overwhelmed by complete and utter and inexplicable sadness.

That's the worst part of it all, really, the lack of explanation. Not really being able to explain what just happened and why. And for people who like being able to explain everything and find a reason behind it all, it's maddening.
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From:derspatchel
Date:October 26th, 2006 05:23 pm (UTC)
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(Neither Mr. Murray nor I presume to speak for everybody with any kind of depression, of course, but a lot of what he describes hits home really hard over here.)
[User Picture]
From:surrealestate
Date:October 26th, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC)
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No, I meant the part about not feeling depressed.

I'm not a shrink, but what he describes doesn't quite sound like depression -- I think the sudden switches (and the ability feel better 90 seconds after popping a pill) are symptomatic of something else. Though clearly related. And I might just be clueless.
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From:derspatchel
Date:October 26th, 2006 05:46 pm (UTC)
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I have to admit the "instant relief" bit is one I don't identify with. xiphias mentions below the possibility of anti-seizure meds being used to treat bipolar depression. Perhaps their effects are more instantaneous than SSRIs, which can take weeks to gradually kick in.
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From:derspatchel
Date:October 26th, 2006 06:35 pm (UTC)
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Also, certain anti-anxiety medication might also create a quick feeling of well-being. I know that I swear I can feel a positive-change almost immediately after taking a Xanax, but I believe that's a placebo effect. The real changes take place in 20 minutes' time or so. Perhaps I just immediately feel better for having taken something, though I know it's not the case, and that the Vitamin X is to be taken as a preventative measure before embarking on a potentially anxiety-provoking mission, and not taken as needed when one gets slightly panicky.
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From:alphacygni
Date:October 27th, 2006 12:08 am (UTC)
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I definitely feel somewhat better immediately, just for having taken something, when it comes to anti-anxiety meds. Because suddenly you know that it isn't going to get worse, and will get better soon. The "oh my god this time it won't stop" fear is a very self-reinforcing fear. Breaking that cycle is very helpful.

Heck, I feel better just knowing I have the drugs nearby. Sometimes I don't even have to take them.
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From:phonemonkey
Date:October 26th, 2006 04:57 pm (UTC)
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That's it. That's it.

And this is going to be a long, hard winter for me. Yuppers, I get the seasonally-affected flavour. The point at which they turn the clocks back is the worst.
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From:redtheblue
Date:October 26th, 2006 05:07 pm (UTC)
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I thought morning episodes were pretty normal. It takes a ton of purpose the night before for me to act on any kind intention in the morning. Especially on cold, grey mornings like this one, which are what bedrooms were made for.
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From:neddiheht
Date:October 26th, 2006 06:28 pm (UTC)
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I so hear that. I too am one of those often hit in the morning. I can so clearly relate to the taking an hour to get dressed comment that it hurts.
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From:xiphias
Date:October 26th, 2006 05:12 pm (UTC)
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My current shrink says that the extremely sudden shock-onset can be a sign of "monopolar bipolar." "Normal" depression responds pretty well to seratonin-based treatments, while bipolar responds pretty well to anti-siezure medications. They are now discovering that there is a category of depression, without mania, which responds better to the bipolar treatments than the standard treatments.

And one of the signals of that is that you can go from perfectly fine to into a crashing depression in just a minute or two, instead of in an hour or two.

Incidentally, Donald M. Murray is my favorite Globe columnist for his column about gays in the military where he was saying that, when he was in combat in WWII, he knew a bunch of guys who were gay, and, you know, nobody fucking CARED, because they were good soldiers and good friends, and what kind of asshole shithead commanders care more about who you fuck than how you soldier? 'Cept he said it better and with less swearing.
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From:derspatchel
Date:October 26th, 2006 05:46 pm (UTC)
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I never saw that column, but I got a lot more respect for the man because of that.
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From:neddiheht
Date:October 26th, 2006 06:31 pm (UTC)
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Being solidly in the bi-polar camp myself, the sudden onset is something I experience sadly almost every day. My mom gets scared, because she can watch me go from fine to crashed in less than 30 seconds.
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From:muffyjo
Date:October 26th, 2006 10:34 pm (UTC)
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I completely get it. And it's just as hard to watch and feel helpless to change it. Makes you want to stand on your head, do tricks, ANYTHING to make it all better.

I respect the noxious brain chemistry that causes the irrational behaviour. I do hope that someday they find a way to manage that better. Today, I'm just glad to have you still here and still finding ways to come back to us. The world is brighter for having you in it.

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