Saturday, October 16, 2010

DEPRESSION HURTS (5) Five and a Half

Outside, the Elm trees are shedding their yellow and brown leaves in advance of winter’s icy blast. It is mid-October. After the soggy summer, we’ve had a dry, warm autumn. Farmers are making progress in harvesting throughout much of the province, though in some places the fields are too soggy, still. But in the places where waterlogged fields have dried, crop quality is poor. Very poor, indeed.

I sit at the upstairs window of my daughter’s house, for which I am caring, along with its lively contents — two small dogs. I look out on the re-built and repaved street — a major traffic artery — lined with ageing Elms. I am here while she is holidaying in Europe; she gets home tonight. The house is quiet, except for occasional barking of the dogs, and the furnace; its fan provides a gentle background ruffle of blowing air. Rather like a pervasive, almost calming, “white noise.”

Yesterday I received my annual flu shot, as well as an injection to combat pneumonia. This year they are free. It is a public health activity; preventive medicine. The goal is to slow or stop the spread of both the seasonal forms of influenza, and the dreaded H1N1. And the commonest forms of bacterial pneumonia.

This morning, my arm hurts. The one in which I received the pneumonia injection. Not a deep ache; more “nuisance value” than anything else. The other one, in which I received the flu shot, is just fine.

I am no stranger to pain. I carry scars from fairly minor surgery, and from a traffic accident of long ago.

Those are the visible scars. The invisible scars are more numerous. And more troubling.

It has been almost five and a half years since I began the extended disability phase of my life. That has changed somewhat. Instead of collecting disability allowance I am now retired and drawing several pensions — government and private. We are not going to be poor, but we will be careful with our money.

What has not changed is my overall health. The initial shock and devastation of betrayal and “crucifixion” have passed — they were largely gone in the first year. But the perpetual greyness continues, punctuated by occasional bursts of light, but far more often fading long to black (and staying there). It is something akin to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, though not quite as intense. I tend to drag myself through days, though I prefer to sleep.

I sleep a lot. Day and night. I wake up to eat; to walk the dog, play with her, or clean her up; to visit with my beloved; to have tea, occasionally, with a friend; to attend a meeting related to bioethics (though those are becoming more rare). Yet, sometimes, the pain keeps me awake at odd hours, especially the early hours of the day.

I spoke with my doctor earlier this week. I took four pages of notes with me; two for me, to for his file. The list of symptoms is long and detailed. And boring. Physical ailments. Emotional upsets. An overall lack of interest in living, but certainly not suicidal thinking or action. A gnawing malaise.

In simple terms, I’ve really not made much progress towards recovering real health. And I have come to realize there may not be much improvement at any point in the future. Indeed, when my condition was re-evaluated a bit over three years ago, my chances for improvement were described as "guarded."

So I remain a scarred soul. That I have survived is a testament to both faith and persistence (some might say “orneriness”). That further progress appears limited, was predicted. That I have two resident “black dogs” — Sadie and chronic depression — is a continuing fact of life.

And, that’s the way it is. Today.

19 comments:

Lee said...

I'd say all three: faith, persistence AND orneriness. Depression does hurt but your self-awareness is a good foil to it. But, no, not easy.

GutsyWriter said...

I enjoyed reading the descriptive part of your environment surrounding you while at your daughter's house. How is your wife coping while you are depressed? It must be extremely difficult for all of you. Perhaps this winter will be a better one than last year's due to a "soggy" summer. Take Care and keep visiting and writing. Hugs from southern California.

French Fancy... said...

You've put this so well Rob and I do not know what to say. Everything seems so trite - weekends somewhere new, voluntary work, exercise (which I guess your physical ailments mean it is out of the question)

So, my bloggy friend, just keep on talking about it and perhaps it will ooze out of you a little bit.

lakeviewer said...

You put it clearly and truthfully,depression hurts. You are aware of it, and are taking steps, as many as you can. Keep active, visiting others, learning, doing new things.

I say too, get out and travel as much as you can afford to. Traveling seems to open up so many windows.

Good to see you, btw, as each time you visit you add so much to the conversation.

potsoc said...

Keep writing, keep talking, keep doing things.
As for living on pension, it can be done, been doing it since 1994 and, besides now having only one car, life has not changed all that much.

Nancy said...

So sorry you are feeling the pain of depression. Wishing you well.

Gaston Studio said...

You're so right that depression hurts Rob, and I know all too well as I've had endogeneous depression three times.

So wish your psychiatrist could find the right cocktail of meds to get you back on track. Have you considered seeing another psychiatrist, get another opinion?

Amanda said...

you are a valued voice out here in blogland, bear, and as rosaria says, you add so much to the conversation whenever you visit. i am sending along prayers that you continue to transform the darkness of depression into a creative force in your life.

cheshire wife said...

Like French Fancy I don't know what to say. I hope that you are finding it therapeutic to blog about your problems. They certainly put my minor problems into perspective.

Anonymous said...

It is not possible really to know how you really feel,over the internet,But you do mention irratic sleeping patterns because of pain...I think I am right in saying that disturb sleep causes depression as surely as day follows night...Ask your Doc for some Zopyclone and take for three nights, then see if it has corrected this problem, sleepers are terrific painkillers.
You sound as though it is a hobby and company you need, as we all do.
Hope you don't think this is daft advice just because it is simple.
Take Care.X

Teacher's Pet said...

Rob...know that I'm thinking of you. I know that's not going to ease what you are feeling now...but perhaps in some way it helps to know....
Hugs to you from Jackie

Lydia @ On The Verge said...

Thank you so much for leaving me such kind words today. It really made my day. Your words are so meaningful. I too suffer from depression and I am struggling with it again at the moment. Just when meds seem to be working they stop and I go into a tail spin again. Depression hurts.

Rob-bear said...

Thank you, friends, for you support in a tough time. "We get by with a little help from our friends."

® Lee: Your patience with my "self-awareness" is appreciated.

® GW: Thanks for the note about the descriptive material. I've been a "just the facts, ma'am" journalist for a long time, and am trying to branch out in my writing.
I've been unwell for a long time; my wife and I keep working on our relationship through all of this. She is very patient and understanding.
I am, indeed, committed to keep writing.

® FF/K: You don't need to say much, Julie. The fact that you're here when I need encouragement is a real help.

® lakeviewer: My doctor tells me that, if I'm to get healthier, I need to be physically active and socially engaged. My counsellor says the same thing. Walking the dog is a start on physical activity. My ongoing work in ethics (which has started to pick up) keeps me socially engaged. As does my blogging.
Thanks for the kind words about adding to the conversation, Rosaria.

® potsoc: I refuse to go to a premature grave. (We Bears are like that.)
As I have actually worked part-time for any years, I have a part-time pension. We have learned to live with "enough." Long story, Paul.

® Nancy: Thanks for the support. It helps.

® Gaston Studio: Ironically, for the first time in five and a half years, my doctor has referred me to a psychiatrist. That is a very long story, and not (perhaps) what it appears to be on the surface, Jane.

® amanda: Glad to add some craziness, and thoughtfulness, to any conversation.
My blogging, I hope, will add some transformation of "the darkness of depression into a creative force" in my life, and the lives of others. I'm beginning to find that to be true.

Rob-bear said...

® cw: We all face different challenges, and bring different resources to them. And, as I keep saying, "we get by with a little help from our friends." Like you.

® anonymous: Normally I don't deal with anonymous comments. You, however, are an exception. I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

® Teacher's Pet: Knowing that you're supporting me through your thoughts really helps, Jackie.

® Lydia@OTV: Welcome, and thanks for dropping by and sharing a thought.
Yes, depression hurts. Knowing that we're not alone in this, helps. I hope to see you again.

The Blog Fodder said...

Hi, RB. Catching up on my blog reading. RE suicide, there is no sense going out any earlier than you have to, you are correct in that. I too am going to hang around for as long as they let me.
Bad choice of words.

Ropes and bridges don't appeal to me anyhow. I'm terrified of the idea of choking. Poison is a hard way to go. Read the symptoms sometime of various poisons and it is enough to scare you. I prefer the idea of a gunshot. But if I had a gun, there are so many others that need shooting worse than I so it is a good thing I could never qualify to buy one (too dumb to pass the paperwork).

Lori said...

I am not sure how I found my way to your blog but I sure am glad I did. I have struggled with depression associated to living with pain. I also suffer from PTSD so my heart goes out to you.

You are right, it's the invisable scars that are the most troubling or painful.

I am really really thankful that you have survived all the things you have. I am thankful that you have faith, persistance and orneriness to keep you going.

It might seem crazy since I just met your blog today and you don't know me, but I wish I could give you a hug right now. Since I can't I send one to you through the internet...((((Rob-bear))))))
I've already said a prayer for you.

Please know that you are not alone with how you feel. Thank you for sharing your story! XX Lori

Rob-bear said...

® Blog Fodder: An "interesting" choice of words in your first paragraph. Not to worry; don't get hung up about it.
Smart move not to have a gun. As an American blog friend explained for not having one, he's concerned some day his wife might shoot him. (Can't figure that out; he's such a great guy!)

Rob-bear said...

® Lori: Thanks for coming up from Minnesota for a visit.

I appreciate very much your comments and support.

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