Saturday, November 25, 2006

"Blogged" Down Syndrome

I am posting here in the hope that others suffering from a similar disease will comment.

I have started about 3 posts over the last several days. I get so "blogged" down in making sure it looks purty that I never get it posted!

I play with html codes, look for cool pics to post, edit, edit, and edit some more.

After spending a couple of hours tweaking my post, I finally walk away from it. It's approaching the ridiculous!

Do I have a defective blog gene? I've been trying to find scientific information on the possible cause, but after using several search engines and digging through hundreds of sites, I have yet to deterimine the cause of this affliction.

The "search for the truth" syndrome must be a symptom of this condition as well.

As yet I have been unable to find a cure for my affliction. If you have had success overcoming a similar condition, please leave your tips on your comment.

Thank you for your time.

(Notice how plain this post looks. I believe I may be making progress!)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Battle Of Troy

Sorry I haven't been around the last couple of days. It seems that my computer was invaded by Trojans (not the prophylactic kind).

Still working on getting things back to normal!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

My Ascent From The Black Hole

This is my story.

About 4 years ago I got my husband’s gun out of the bedside drawer, wrote a suicide note, and put the gun to my head. But I "chickened out" and couldn't go through with it. I cried at my failure to even go though with this act. I got the gun out many times and held in my hands and thought about killing myself.

For the previous years I had suffered (what a weak word), with severe depression. I could function...Go to work, come home, clean the house (sorta) and generally make it though each day. But it was exhausting. I always felt like I was swimming underwater against the current. The part that exhausted me was putting on a normal face and getting through the day. Trying to do the things I knew I had to do.

I thought, Okay this will pass. One day will have a better day and keep having good days until I don't feel this way anymore. Didn’t happen. I would have one of those “good days” where I felt like I had come up for air and that maybe this was when I would start to feel better. Didn’t happen. I would always get dragged under again.

Here are some of the thoughts that were my mantras for those many years:
“In the scheme of things, I don't matter.”
“My time on earth is so fleeting that I don't even understand why I was put here.”
“Within this big world and the infinite universe, I am just a small speck of an ant so what is my life worth? Nothing”
“If I could just kill myself, I would feel so much better.”
“I have friends and family in heaven who would welcome me, love me, and take care of me, and I miss them.”
“If I killed myself, it wouldn't really make a difference to those around me after all, after all I'm not a good wife, friend, daughter, sister, grandchild, etc.”
“I am so worthless. The things I can manage to do myself can easily be handled by someone else.”
“My friends and family would no longer have to deal with my depression.”

I had been “self-medicating” myself for many years. I drank anywhere from two to three beers every night. Sometimes more. I thought of it as my “wind down” time at the end of the day. After all, alcohol in moderation was supposed to be good for you. And a couple of beers a night seemed moderate to me. I was not an alcoholic. It felt good to sit in front of the TV and just vege out.

I cried…a lot. Feeling sorry for myself. No those are not the right words. I didn’t feel sorry for myself. I just felt like I could not face another day and deal with regular life. But I did feel sorry for my friends and family. I was such a burden to them. This is not how they felt. This is how I felt. I knew that I was loved. But that didn’t make the feelings go away. It seemed to intensify them. After all, how could anyone love me when I was putting them through such misery worrying about me all of the time. How could they love me and still put up with all of my self-absorbed crap.

After my “suicide attempt,” I finally decided that I might need some help. I went to my family doctor, crying of course. I told him that I had thoughts of suicide but didn’t tell him how far I had gone to make that happen. He prescribed some medication. Some of it made me feel like I was about to jump out of my skin, some gave me vivid weird dreams, but most just plain didn’t work. I kept going back to him… crying. This went on for 8 months or so.

One day he told me that I needed to see a professional in this field. I told him that I didn’t want to do that. He said something that made sense to me. “If you had to have brain surgery, I wouldn’t do it, I would refer you to a specialist.”

One of my friends at work was suffering from severe depression too. Her husband had left her. She was struggling to make it on her salary. Her health coverage did not cover much of the expense of seeing a therapist or the medications they prescribed. She was really in a bad way. But we all understood why.

But me? Why did I feel like this? I had a loving and supportive husband. I was blessed with two parents who loved me so much it hurt. I had good friends whom I had known for years and years. I had a beautiful house and a job that paid well and one that I actually enjoyed (to the extent I could enjoy anything). So why, why, why was I depressed? There was absolutely no good reason.

My friend at work had found a psychologist (therapist) whom she liked. I got her name and called and made an appointment.

I saw Dr. Janzen (my friend’s doctor) and on the first visit, I told her about my thoughts of suicide and how far I had gone with it. I was honest. She listened, made eye contact, asked me questions about my history and told me that my illness was serious. She wanted to help me. But I didn’t believe anyone could help me. I liked her though and made another appointment for the following week.

Dr. Janzen was my window into mental illness. I could wipe the glass from inside my dark room and see what was happening to me. The first several visits we talked about me (of course) but she also explained how depression works. It is very complex and circular. You can’t cope with everyday emotions and tasks so you don’t feel like doing anything. You don’t do anything and you feel worthless. And the downward spiral continues until you finally reach the bottom of the black hole. And I was at the bottom of the black hole. She tried to help provide me with some coping skills. “What do you enjoy.” Nothing. “When was the last time you did had fun.” I can’t remember. But we kept talking. (And she Never told me to do the Look In The Mirror therapy.)

After about a year or so, she told me that she could only do so much for me. She gave me some names of the psychiatrists that she had worked with before and trusted. I picked Dr. Stacy Siegle. I could not get an appointment with her right away.

I waited the few weeks until I could see Dr. Siegle, still visiting Dr. Janzen in the meantime.

I lucked out. Dr. Siegle was a woman that I liked right away. She was a “younger” woman and smiled a lot and I felt comfortable with her. We met for about an hour on the first visit. She took my history, asked pertinent and pointed questions. I answered them honestly. She confirmed what Dr. Janzen told me. I was sick. But between she and Dr. Janzen she made me believe that there may be hope.

She explained about depression and mania and how they physically work on the body. She told me that there are tons of anti-depressants available but they all work in different ways for different people. It usually takes months and months of “hit or miss” med therapy to find a combination that would work for me. I can’t even remember how many drugs and/or combinations we tried. But she stayed with me, did not give up, and kept giving me hope. She also told me to keep going to Dr. Janzen, which I did.

I called to make an appointment with Dr. Siegle one day and found out they she had joined another group which did not cover all of the cost of my visits with her. I was devastated. So I called another psychiatry group and made and appointment with another doctor. I hated him and the office. He barely listened to me. He handed me a prescription, told me to make another appointment and I was rushed out the door. I did not go back.

I finally came to the conclusion that no matter the monetary cost, Dr. Siegle was my doctor and I was worth the extra money it would cost to see her. (See how far I had come?) It turned out that, even though my health insurance didn’t would not allow the co-pay, they would pay for 80% of the cost of the visit. That was a rather pleasant surprise. We kept tweaking my meds. And after about 18 months finally stumbled upon a cocktail that seemed to be working for me. I am still on that cocktail and I fell better than I ever remember.

I am on anti-depressants (who isn’t these days), a mood-stabilizer (turns out I’m also hypomanic). Hypo-mania is not nearly as serious as manic/depressive. I don’t go out and spend tons of money, or quit my job to go explore the Amazon or make other huge life-decisions on a whim. I just have smaller mood swings. And I’m on an anti-anxiety drug that I take at night to help me sleep. It’s working.

But it took me years of help to get to this point. But don’t think for one moment that I didn’t have set backs and that during my ascent from the black hole I did not fall back. But since I had seen at least some progress, I kept trying. I stopped drinking beer (at least during the week) and I got better. Here is a “duh” moment. Alcohol is a depressant. And I was on anti-depressants. Stupid huh?

One of the most enlightening things I discovered during my recovery is that I can tell the difference between the blues and depression. I’ve learned what depression feels like and I don’t want to go back there. I also know my alcohol limits. I’m not sure yet if the hypomania triggers an increase in my alcohol consumption or if it’s the other way around. But I have learned how to recognize when it’s happening and I know when I need to cut back. Recognition is a huge step and one that signals significant improvement. Dr. Siegle and I are working on that.

It’s been an eye-opening journey. And one that has educated me on so many of the pitfalls and symptoms of depression.

I know that my story is not the same as others’ stories. We are all different right? But in the end, what I’ve learned is that there is hope. For everybody who has this crippling disease. But you have to get the right kind of help.

If you have to have brain surgery, don’t go to a podiatrist.

The those who want to comment, please do so. I am doing very well, even with the upheaval in my private life. In fact, the decisions I have made in that department have been some relief. I don’t require encouragement. I am already encouraged even though I am still doing some “tuning up.” If you want to leave a your own experiences or agreements or disagreements feel free.

This post is not for my benefit. I just wanted to share my story in an effort to provide hope to others who live in the black hole. Keeping your head down while you’re in the black hole is easy. Looking up to see the tiny pinpoint of light is hard. And the climb is even harder. But once you emerge, even though you may be standing on the precipice of the black hole, you get a glimpse of the outside world and will hopefully see that the long climb was worth it.