Yesterday I alluded to the fact that my quest for mental health is looking up, just as my quest for getting a great photograph has. It hasn’t been easy.
Over the past two years I have been battling some health issues along with my depression. This all came to a head over the summer. Out of disability time at work and out of room for appeals, I was let go. Luckily my wife has a good job and good insurance, because in June my back, which I had problems with on and off for years, threw an all out hissy fit. I couldn’t stand, sit, or lie down without pain. When I saw the doctor and had an MRI done, it turns out that I had a ruptured disc. It was so bad, in fact, that he didn’t even give me a choice. Surgery was necessary, and as soon as possible. Afterwards, he told me that the rupture was so big (about the size of a thumb) that they named it.
Recovering from two surgeries in six months (I had two hernias fixed in December) and depression really took its toll on me. I was lethargic, irritable, but most of all apathetic. I just didn’t want to do much of anything. I would drop the kids off at daycare (I was in no shape to care for them on my own), come home, and go back to sleep. It was a pretty miserable existence. On top of everything, I was only hurting my relationship with my wife, and possibly my kids, but I didn’t feel that I had any power to change.
Life didn’t follow my lead, but instead continued to change with me along for the ride. Not all changes were bad. I told my parents and my sister about my contact with my birth mother and my siblings. It was a huge burden off of my back, and I think generally well received. However now I think they are having a little trouble working through their feelings about it. At least now I am in a place where I am more comfortable to talk about it and work through their fears.
Life wasn’t completely bleak either. I attended my brother Adam’s wedding and had a great time. Watching my kids growing and learning made me feel good. Most of all, knowing that my wife was sticking by me in the most difficult part of our marriage got me through a lot of bad feelings.
Although I hadn’t hit rock bottom, I could see it from where I was standing. My wife and I went to see my counselor. He could tell that my mood had gone completely off the rails. Rather than trying to work through it himself at that time, he referred me to the local behavioral health hospital.
My wife and I went there immediately. I did a short assessment. Rather than admitting me as an inpatient (I was neither suicidal nor homicidal) I was admitted to the “partial hospital program”–in effect I would be considered an inpatient, attending group sessions most of the day, but I was able to go home and spend the evenings with my family. Since that time I have transitioned to the intensive outpatient program. Basically the same, but I am limited to a certain number of hours per week that I am able to attend.
Perhaps one of the most valuable things that I got right away the first week of treatment was a diagnosis: Major Depressive Disorder. Although it sounds worse than just “depression”, it has actually helped me. It is not part of me anymore than a bad back was. It is just an obstacle that I have to overcome. Giving it a name rather than a nebulous concept gave me something to combat.
It’s a work in progress, but it is already bearing fruit. I feel better. My wife is happier. I am happier. There will be bumps in the road. I know that I will be able to overcome them.
Next time–medications and stigmas.