Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thanks for Visiting

In an earlier post I wrote about the near compulsive frequency with which I was checking my stats to see who, if anyone, was viewing my page. I wrote of feeling disappointed and depressed that seemingly no one was visiting or leaving comments. I have since limited the checking of my stats to two a day. Now I feel less depressed about the lack of traffic understanding that the point of the blog is not to attract attention. I would like to say thank you to the eight people that have visited the blog. While it's not important that anyone read the blog it does feel great when someone does visit. So to you few, I say a heartfelt thank you.

Bad Sign?

I just received a phone call from one of my assistant principals asking that I attend a meeting in the morning. Without hesitation, I lied. I told her that I was out of town. I panicked, I was filled with anxiety, my mind screamed, "No way! Forget it!" I unflinchingly lied and felt a wave of relief. This I take to be a bad sign. If I can't stomach a meeting how will I react to a classroom of students? The only positive from the call was that I now know what I'll be teaching. Lying, dear reader, too is an aspect of depression.  

A Return to the Guitar Show and a Lesson Learned

So I went back to the guitar show hoping to swap the Silvertone for the wide body acoustic. I felt that the Silvertone was a nicer guitar then the Kay that the guy originally wanted to swap. Turns out the guy has lots of Silvertones at home and wanted nothing to do with mine. I have learned that if you want something and getting it is reasonable you should do it and not wait or second guess yourself. My waiting and vacillation cost me today. Still, the Silvertone is pretty awesome.  I didn't have the balls to ask the guy if I could swap back for my Kay knowing that I was going to walk a few booths down a swap it for the wide body. Live and learn dear readers, live and learn. Still, I had almost as much fun this time. A few people did check out the Silvertone and one guy wanted to swap it for a Honer parlor guitar. I wasn't interested. I did see some really, really nice high end custom acoustic guitars. These were 30 and 33 thousand dollar guitars that were for sale! The guy was really cool going over all of the intricate details, showing me the inlays and simply plucking the strings so that I could hear the amazing tones. The only downside was the lack of people selling nylon strings. I really wanted to have the sSlvertone restrung. Still, a good day...better than most in fact. Not finding strings just means that I'll have something to do tomorrow.

Thank You Guitar Show

In keeping with my new stay busy strategy, I went to our town's yearly vintage guitar show. I brought along a 1950's Kay acoustic guitar that I've always regretted buying. While the guitar had a great look to it, the action was way to high and would have been expensive to repair. I had no plans for the guitar I just knew that if I brought a vintage guitar to the show my admission would be reduced. I had a couple of guys show interest in the guitar. One guy offered me sixty bucks while another guy offered me one hundred. Still, a third cat said he would swap with me and offered up a sweet jumbo acoustic guitar. However, the acoustic was made in China and it just didn't feel right. Then I met a really cool old guy who was able to tell me a lot about the guitar and how I might even repair the action myself. I told him I was thinking about swapping it. He said that he had a guitar I might be interested in and produced a 1957 Silvertone classical guitar. He was willing to swap guitars and said he felt it would be an even trade. I walked around to think it over. I even played the jumbo acoustic which turned out to have a really great sound. Still, I was drawn to the history of the Silvertone. I mean somebody was flipping through their Sears catalog a long time ago and decided that they just had to have that guitar. The guitar sold for 59.50 in 1957 which is the equivalent 0f 460.00 today. Not cheap at all. The guitar was so light and yet it had remained in tact all of these years. Someone took really good care of that little guitar. I don't play classical guitar and the jumbo guitar is really sweet even if it's not made in America. In the end I just had to have the Silvertone. I've had a smile on my face since I made the swap. This is the happiest that something, other than my wife and child, has made me in a very long time. I only wish that I would have gotten the man's name.  Now that I see it in writing I'm kind of wishing that I would have gotten the Jumbo guitar!

And So It Begins

This is the first full day without my wife and child. They're on vacation. I've been up since six and have had three pots of coffee and countless cigarettes. I've watched two documentaries and finished a book. As I stated yesterday, it is my goal to stay as active as possible in an effort to stave off any worsening of my depression. Here it is all of 10:00 and I'm out of ideas. It's too hot to work in the yard and I surely have no plans to leave the house. Perhaps leaving the house should be my new goal. Maybe make a trip to a bookstore or music store or hell, get a haircut. I most certainly must take my teaching clothes to the dry cleaner's as school is a week away. My wife thinks I should try them on the ensure that they still fit. I don't think it matters much. I've not worked in a year and I have no intentions of spending any money on myself even if it is in preparation to return to work. Ho Hum...what to do, dear reader, what to do.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

This Bird Has Flown

My wife and son left for the beach today. They'll be gone a week. Most years I would view this as an exciting opportunity to sleep as much as I want, eat what I want, etc: However, this most certainly isn't most years. This has been the longest of years. My wife and child have kept me as grounded as they possibly could. Now I find myself alone with my thoughts. If I'm not careful I will quickly drown in a pool of my own misery. Over the next week it will be of vital importance that I stay as active as possible, stay on the move both physically and mentally. It doesn't help that I am now officially just one short week away from my return to work. I truly have no idea how I'm going to pull off teaching. I fear it will be a year of simply reading stories and making worksheets. Such is not the stuff of real teaching. Worksheets are meant for substitutes, not legitimate teachers. Who knows, perhaps I'm no longer a legitimate teacher. We will see, dear reader, we will see.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ho Hum

Depression = Boredom and Boredom = Depression
To wit - when you're in the throws of a depressive episode the desire or will to leave the house is extremely low. Very soon thereafter, when you're not being consumed by your depression, you become extremely bored. Still, this does not mean you have any desire to leave the house. Your boredom fuels your depression as it reminds you of how much you've lost. Such as the will to engage the world. Simple things like trips to a store or a haircut or a nice dinner at a favorite restaurant are long, long removed from you. So your boredom fuels your depression and your depression, because it leaves you all but home bound, fuels your boredom. It is a vicious, vicious circle. Such, dear reader, is yet another aspect of this delightful illness.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Who Knew?

Not having the greatest of days. I feel asleep at 10:00 and slept through an appointment. Who knew that something like sleeping could be so depressing? I try to stay awake during the day but sometimes I simply drift away. Without exception I always awake to find that I'm more depressed then I was before I feel asleep. The doctors have described this as slugish brain. Charming isn't it? A slugish brain, a brain that will not fully recover, fully awaken after sleep. Couple this with a lack of night time sleep and a mouthful of depressants and I am truly slug-like. Dearest Depression...I hate you. Sincerely me.

The Ups and Downs

On the back of six of hours of sleep yesterday was a fairly decent one. I had the energy to do some cleaning. I didn't nap. I even picked up the guitar and finished a book. I was hoping that the increases in my meds were working. It was an up day.

Last night I didn't fall asleep till one and was up at two and again at three. I fell asleep again at four and here I am at six awake and writing. It is hard to stay positive. It's hard to convince myself that yesterday was the beginning of the new normal and today is a fluke. It's far easier, based on past experiences, to believe that the reverse is true. Still, I shall try to remain positive and active today. What else can I do. Depression, dear reader, has more ups and downs than the wickedest of roller coasters.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Really...You Want Me To Teach? Really?

Just over one week before I return to the classroom. Can I do it? Can I stand in front of all of those students and keep my composure? Can I keep my composure while simultaneously teaching? Can I learn all of their names, keep a grade book, grade all of things a teacher is paid to do? Will I shatter again? Can I do any of this when merely thinking about it fills me with dread and causes my head to pound? Do I even have a choice in the matter? Self doubt, dear reader, is another aspect of depression.

To Be Like Grass

It hasn't rained in Columbia, SC in quite some time. The grass, seemingly burnt beyond repair, crunched under foot. We've had two good days of rain. The grass, believed to be dead, is now green and lush again. How good it would be If I were like grass, able to change from brown to green so very quickly.

The Simplest of Things

Doc increased my dosage of Trazadone Monday. Last night I slept for six hours! Six hours of sleep! More sleep then I've had in ages. It's amazing how much something like three extra hours of sleep means. I awake to find that the sun is up and waiting for me for a change. My head doesn't have that dull ache that has been so persistent. These little victories, dear reader, the overwhelming impact of the otherwise mundane, trivial, and automatic are also a part of depression. Dare I say that such is even a positive aspect of the disease? For those of us suffering with depression there is joy, even elation, in the very smallest of things. A smile from my wife or son. A bird I have never seen before. Falling rain following weeks without. A good game of baseball. In some strange, inexplicable way life may possibly be more amazing for the depressed. It is such a tremendous shame that the wonders and joys of life come in such brief, thin flashes. What a world it wold be to have these feelings, this view of life constantly.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wow Therapist, I Had No Idea!

I spent another Tuesday afternoon with my therapist. Today she provided a great deal of information/ideas/ suggestions...all of which I've heard countless times. What I tried to explain to her and what no one seems to understand is that while the suggestions and comments are all very sage and well meaning, I can't for the life of me, buy into them. I know that these suggestions could be very helpful, I can not put them into practice. I try and try and try all to no avail. What the world needs is a giant brain vacuum capable of cleaning the brain, of sucking up the dirt and crap that cause these ruinous glitches. "I'm sorry sir our best cognitive behavioral theorists can't seem to help. It looks like we'll be using the brain vacuum. Between you and me... while the vacuum is wickedly painful, it's a fail-proof fix for what ails you!" "Well Madam, what are you standing there for! On with the vacuuming! Tally Ho!" Unfortunately no such device exists. What am I to do? Await new advances? Add more and more medications? Hope god will fix me? Perhaps I should just have a good leeching.

What Have I Become/ My Only Friend

Up again this morning at 4:00...just me and Jim the Head Cold. While staring out of the window I began to think about my father and my great uncle. Like me, they are home bodies. My great uncle is at the extreme end of the spectrum however. Things my mother played with during the 1950's remain where she left them. The only dust free surface is the television screen. He's in his 80's and refuses all attempts to visit and most phone calls go unanswered. I'm sure at some point we will find Uncle Boo dead and very dusty. I don't recall a single friend ever coming to visit my father. Nor do I recall him referring to anyone as a friend.

Like them, I prefer to stay at home. However I fear that I'm becoming more like Uncle Boo in that I've developed a touch of agoraphobia during this latest episode. In the past, while reluctant, I would engage the world. I would accompany my wife to dinners or parties with her friends. I most certainly attended Holiday gatherings, (I've missed all Holiday gatherings since September 2010) and more often than not I enjoyed myself. Now I sit here in this misery watching as the world, my world, spins further and further away. I don't wish to see, nor do I care to be seen.  I've missed out on so much with my wife (who loves to be on the go) and son. Just last night he went bowling for the first time and I only experienced it through a few grainy pictures taken on a cell phone. This morning he'll have a play date at the zoo and I'll miss that as well. I fear he will grow up and think mostly of his father as that guy on the couch was never really there for him, the guy who missed every important milestone, the guy he was ashamed to introduce to his friends.

If I were not married, if I were not a father, I would simply be a younger version of my Uncle Boo. Content to spend my days and nights and years alone with my books. This too, dear reader, is depression. Good times...good times.

Monday, July 25, 2011

New Doctor New Recomendation

New Doc this afternoon does the following:
                Maxes out Welbutrin
                Maxes out Cymbalta
                Increases Abilify
                Increases Trazadone
                Refers me for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*, a fairly new treatment for resistant depression.
We will see.
*Having just completed my research on TMS there is no reason to think that it will be at all effective. The FDA denied initial approval citing a lack of substantial clinical trials proving the treatment's efficacy. The makers of the device then reapplied for recommendation under a different precedent which allowed it to be approved under a cosmetic device heading. As such large scale trials where unnecessary. Patients improvement rates are slightly better than were those of patients taking a placebo. Wow...thanks for recommending a fairly useless treatment Doc. 

Is Anybody Out There

Another problem connected to or perhaps caused by my depression is a lack of self-worth and confidence. Since I've started this blog I find that I continually return to check my stats. I check to see who if anyone has viewed my page. I check, with baited breath, for comments that are never found. I do this and my confidence and self-worth drop in degrees. How foolish, how sick, is it to seek validation in a space as vast, cold, and impersonal as the internet? Still it is, like so many things in this depressed life, another attempt to grasp at something, anything that might be a positive. Funny how the mind turns this attempt into such a negative.

I should have never become a teacher. I should have studied Neurology. Perhaps then I would have a better understanding of exactly what is so wrong with my brain. Alas, dear reader, alas.

We Begin Yet Again

Today I'll see yet another Psychiatrist. I visit a local University's  school of Medicine's specialty clinic. It's super cheap. However, it is staffed by interns. This means a new doc every six months. It's good in that a fresh pair of eyes reviews my case every six months. The downside is that a fresh pair of eyes reviews my case every six months. This means that I essentially start over. I provide all of the background information, family history, med lists, blah, blah, blah. I go over the goings-on of the past year or so. I answer the same series of questions yet again. They are: Are you suicidal? Are you hearing voices? Do you have a desire to harm others? Are you seeing things that aren't there? Are you taking illegal drugs? etc:. I sit and listen while the doc decides if the past diagnosis was correct or not. I listen to a possible new diagnosis. I discuss possible med changes. I prepare to take a step back in the hope that this doc will somehow have the ever illusive answer to my depression. Needless to say rapport building is low on the list. I'm less patient and more medical case. I won't really get to know the docs and I won't really be known by them. This too is simply part of my depression.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Like Opening a Valve

I don't know if I want to continue doing this. It is one thing to live with this sickness, it is quite another to write about it, to read about a life that is seemingly doomed. Having made a few posts today and yesterday I find myself extremely depressed. More so than usual. Is it really beneficial to do this? To write words that no one will ever read? To force myself to read about my doldrums?

Really Jim the Head Cold, Really?

I have had this head cold for so long I've named him Jim. Normally Jim isn't too annoying. Just some stuffiness, and the occasional runny nose. However, last night it seems as though Jim found some steroids or perhaps simple motivation. Jim kicked it into high gear and decided to stuff my nose with thick yellow snot which refuses to vacate. Jim's phlegm has reached squatter status. Jim also took it upon himself to invite his annoying friend, Tina the immovable headache. Tina, being annoying, laughs at all attempts to medicate her away. She too has been deemed a squatter. If that wasn't enough Tina the headache invited Jerry the nagging cough. Jerry, being a jackass, placed a call to Misty the cold chill. She didn't hesitate to hurry over and move in with the other squatters.

Dear reader, depression never moves in alone. It brings sickness, poor appetite, rotten hygiene, and so many other hanger-ons that listing them would be futile, boring and depressing.

Waiting for the Sun

Down at 2:00 am up at 4:45 am...again. Ah, nothing like a good, restful night's sleep. Oh dear reader, (How stupid do I feel writing that as no one is reading this?) the sun will rise in roughly one hour and I will begin staring out of the window which will only be interrupted by brief sojourns into the dawn to have a smoke or three. My increased smoking, a solid pack and a half a day, is another habit directly connected to my depression. I find that the process of breathing in and exhaling smoke is rather meditative if not all together calming. A more troubling incarnation of this most recent episode and also all together calming is the simple act of siting with my eyes shut. I can do this for hours at a time. It seems to serve as an off button of sorts that I can't fully explain. Perhaps the world behind my eyelids is one of my own creation and therefore not so damn depressing as is the one I inhabit. Who knows. Nor do I really care. It works so I do it.

My constant head cold, which I've taken the time to name Jim, is more pronounced then it has been in many days. The delightful yellow snot and crushing pressure has returned. Another treat of long term depression is the weakened immune system. If a bug is flitting about I will most surely catch it. Yes, yes I know my heavy smoking and poor diet are of no help to my poor immune system but these too are symptoms of my depression. My appetite is poor and when I do eat junk is far easier than cooking which takes time and a willingness to actually do.

I have bored you too much my dear reader. Also and more honestly, writing of smoking has called up the urge to puff and who am I to turn my back on something that I enjoy.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

And the Long Night Creeps

Dear reader the night is upon us once more. For me this will mean several hours of staring at nothing followed by a fitful few hours of sleep. I'm sure I will revisit and revisit and revisit the same inane questions that have plagued me these many months. One such query will be one of major depression or ECT. Have I seemingly lost my sense of humor because of this most recent onslaught of depression or have I been somehow permanently altered by the 20 rounds of ECT that I underwent in January and February? How many tosses and turns will I devote tonight to the loss of my desire, my passion, my drive? Depressive symptoms or forever lost to ECT? Will I awake in the wee hours of the morning having only slept for perhaps two hours lamenting the fact that my life is fairly empty or will I awake to the silence and be grateful that I enjoy my isolation or at least have convinced myself of as much. Will I wake up again drenched in sweat because I've had another unpleasant dream? What, dear reader, will wake me tonight? There are so many choices yet they all feel so rote and trite. There is but one certainty, I will spend this night, like all nights, on the couch. For my depression has me convinced that I am unworthy of my bed. Sleep well reader, sleep well.

A Rare Visit

My mother has come for the day to visit my son. I have neither seen nor spoke with my mother in two months. Don't get me wrong, I love my mother. Before this recent onset I spoke with her daily. There is something about this depression that makes interaction with anyone all but impossible. I simply have no desire to speak to anyone, engage the world around me, no desire to live beyond the confines of my home. I wonder how I will return to work as a teacher in a mere three weeks. I'll go now and attempt some level of normalcy with my family.

The Longest Year

This current major episode began September 7, 2010 and has yet to relent. This has been the longest running major episode of my life. This beast has nearly destroyed me over these past months more than once. This beast has brought me closer to the brink of suicide then I have ever been before.

The Doctors,and they are legion, have described this as a non responsive depressive episode. As the name implies, the depression has failed to respond to normal avenues of treatment. New medicines, therapy, etc: have all failed to produce any appreciable changes. I've been hospitalized three times since July of 2010. I've had several rounds of acupuncture, a myriad of med. changes, weekly visits to a therapist, six weeks of intensive out patient treatment and over twenty rounds of electro convulsive therapy. I have not worked since September 7th. I'm a High School English teacher which means I worked one month of the 2010/2011 school year. This depressive episode has cost my family well over $60,000 including all of our savings.

I've stopped the futile hoping that the person I was 10 months ago will ever return. This saddens me deeply. I was beginning to accept and like that incarnation of myself. The sheer destructive power of this episode would be rather impressive if I were an outsider looking in. It has been like a terrible blight that descends on lush farm land and leaves it as barren and lifeless as is the surface of Mars. Forgive, dear reader, the melodrama. I have no other way to properly describe this relentless beast.

I've all but completely withdrawn from the world as it exists beyond my home. I no longer speak to my family. Their calls go to die in my inbox. I no longer acknowledge holidays. I can't recall, much to my therapist's chagrin, those things which I was once so passionate about. I no longer read the news as it is too depressing. I only watch baseball now because I find I can lose myself in the subtle nuances of the game. My hygiene, while slightly improved, is deplorable. I now shower everyday. However, I only manage to shave once a week. Most troubling has been my dental care. Over the course of these ten months I can count on one hand the number of times I've brushed my teeth. My teeth are now sensitive to both heat and cold which I'm sure is a sign of decay. For reasons still unknown to me, this depression has convinced me that I don"t deserve so many things. I don't deserve clean, healthy teeth. I don't deserve to eat well. I don't deserve the love of family. I no longer sleep in a bed because I don't deserve that either.

Reading these things for the first time is terribly sad. I'm going to stop writing now.

The New Normal is Anything But

The last time I looked at the clock this morning it was 1:15 am. When I awoke it was 4:45 am. 2 hrs 30 mins of sleep and that after having taken 150 mgs. of the sedative Trazadone. This is the new norm. This is what accounts for sleep with me. A great night's sleep is 4 hrs.

I now move through the world in a state of constant exhaustion. Couple this with the dulling effects of my meds. and you can understand why my 2 year old son heart breakingly asks me on an all too regular basis if I'm OK. My eyes are darkened by heavy bruise like bags. I'm graced with the presence of a near constant head cold. I ache deep down. I wonder if this is not totally unlike being elderly. I have sought the positive in this new schedule. Think of how much one could accomplish with so much time during the day! How many people begin working in their yards at such an early hour!  How many people have had their fill of coffee before the sun rises!

There are days when I do indeed make the most of the long hours. However, those days are far too rare. Mostly I sit here staring at the window, watching the clock while cursing my twisted circadian rhythm. I am growing as  accustomed as one can I suppose. My wife and child suffer more from this new development in my life as a depressive far more than I. When they rise I've often been awake for several hours. The last thing I am is cheery. My beast is of a kind that when fully active somehow makes me the center of the universe. My family must act and react to me. In the morning they must pull me into a world that for the past several hours I have been receding from. My son is not met by hugs upon his waking. Rather he wakes to find his father laying motionless on the couch. He must all but beg to be acknowledged. How troubling this must be to the the two year old mind. My wife wakes and talks only to hear herself talk as my answers are mostly head nods in the positive or negative.  I am becoming a shell of a shell, my former self is all but lost to me now.

This loss of self is for me the most despicable element of my disease. I am constantly being deconstructed by my depression and never is the new self in any way better than the former.

A Brief Review

At the age of 12 I was diagnosed with Chronic Major Depression. That was 24 years ago. While the depression is constant, I have managed to adjust to such a degree that I have lived a not too bad life. However, one to two times a year I suffer from a major depressive episode which is debilitating and can last anywhere from two weeks to ten months. I have lost friends, and my self more times than I care to recall.

It is not my intention to rehash my past experiences save for when doing so is necessary to understand any current post. It is my hope that this all too public forum will serve as a means of communication as aside from my wife I have no friendships and as little contact with the world as possible. Furthermore, my doctor and therapist argue that I might glean some new take on my illness if I keep a running account of my existence.

I do not want your pity. I only wish to provide a honest and thorough accounting of my illness and its impact on my life. Now that I think about it, in many ways my illness is my life.