Category Archives: depression

Good-Bye 2011

2011 is almost over, so time for me to assess the good and the bad of the year.

Bad:

1: continued depression

2: back and hernia surgery

3: worrying about things that I cannot control

Good:

1: surgeries have and mental treatment have helped my well being

2: Growth of my family relationships: working through “for worse” and “in sickness” with my wife; watching my children grow; new honesty and openness with my parents and sister; meeting my brother and continued growth and reconnection with my biological family

3: blogging as a tool to help organize my thoughts and feelings.

Thank you all for reading and commenting.  Tomorrow: looking forward to 2012

 

 

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Filed under adoption, blogging, depression, family, life, personal, siblings, surgery, writing

The Heart Attack Cyclones

I grew up in a football household.  To be clear, however, it was never a Sunday ritual.  Real football in my family has always been watched on Saturday.  Cheerleaders, traditions, marching bands, mascots, student *snicker* athletes.  College football.

I was born and raised a Nebraska Cornhuskers fan.  For years dad and I would make the pilgrimage to Lincoln, finding some tickets and cheering on the team, two tiny specs in the Great Sea of Red.  I used to lament the fact that a lot of times they wouldn’t win the big one, or their bowl game.  Somehow I didn’t know how good I had it, cheering for a team that won 9 or 10 or 11 games every year.

Logo for the Iowa State Cyclones.

Image via Wikipedia

My team would eventually become something completely different.  Sometimes hapless.  Often mediocre.  Occasionally decent.  I had adopted the team of my alma mater, the Iowa State Cyclones.  Being a fan of the Cyclones in great.  Incredible tailgating.  A great student section.
Our beloved mascot, Cy.  A heated rivalry with the Iowa Hawkeyes that has picked up steam in recent years.  But then you have to watch the football games.

It hasn’t been easy over the years.  In the years that I attended the University, my team would compile a record of 10-34.  Eventually they would clean up their act a little and go to a couple of lower tier bowl games.  But watching games was like anticipating a heart attack.  Sometimes I kid my wife that she should get on the phone and dial 91 and wait.  Seemingly no lead is safe.  A heck of a team to pick for someone who suffers from depression, no?

But then three years ago, Paul Rhoads was hired as heard coach.  Now, there haven’t been any National Championships.  But the culture is changing.  The Cyclones beat the Cornhuskers in Lincoln for the first time in over thirty years.  They beat the Texas Longhorns for the first time ever.  And who wouldn’t want to play for this guy:

I mean, seriously.  I am 35, out of shape, and not athletic to begin with, and I want to crash through a wall like the Kool-Aidguy.

Paul Rhoads

Image via Wikipedia

 

This year was sort of a break through.  Sure, their record currently stands at 6-6.  But there was a lot of fun in between.  There were come from behind wins, like the game against Iowa.  Beatdowns like the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.  But to cap it off was the incredible, come from behind, best win in program history against the then number 2 Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Cyclone fans are a little disappointed that OSU didn’t get a chance to play LSU for the National Championship.  If the outside chance that the Cowboys won, we could have said that our team beat the National Champions.  No matter.  This seems to be a team that is turning a corner.    Maybe I am, too.

 

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I may have over-promised

I have learned that a crucial element of my depression is my energy level.  The less energy that I have, the more down I get and the more anxiety that I have.  Sometimes I try to combat this with coffee or SodaStream Energy, but ingesting large amounts of caffeine is not so good with somebody with high blood pressure.

Which brought me to Sunday night.  With two little ones and Christmas coming up, our house looks like it has been hit with several tornadoes.  Having a lot of energy, but wanting to just have fun on the weekend, I told Lovely Wife that I would clean the entire house in the next few days.  My exact words, in fact, were “If I’m not done by Wednesday night, you can literally flog me with a wooden spoon.”  She seemed pretty accepting and excited about this.  Whether that was due to a clean house or the anticipation of a flogging, I do not know.

Unfortunately, Sunday night into Monday morning I just could not get to sleep.  It was like my body was playing a cruel trick on me.   I told Lovely Wife as much yesterday morning.  She didn’t seem all that concerned, as I still had two days to make good on my pledge.  I laid low yesterday, my mood wasn’t too shabby.  I went to bed early.

Then I woke up today.  Let me just say that housework is high on my list of Things I Do Not Like To Do.  I honestly don’t mind the cleaning part.  I can spray, scrub, vacuum, whatever.  Even toilets.  But clutter just turns my anxiety knob to 11.  I hate picking things up, because I don’t know what to do with them!  If I didn’t have this problem, there wouldn’t be toys and clothes and papers and all manner of other things strewn about.  And dishes!  Argh!  When I said that I don’t mind cleaning things, I meant I don’t mind cleaning things other than dishes! And this is even despite the fact we have a dishwasher!  ARGH!

Mello, mellow, mellow.

Wooden Spoon 1909, University of Cambridge

Image via Wikipedia

Even with an early bed time last night, I woke up this morning with not a lot of energy.  Mood: down.  Anxiety: up.  So here I am on the Tuesday downhill, and I am still just looking at things and fretting.  I was hoping that blogging my conundrum would help me get motivated.

Please pray for my posterior.  It may have an appointment with a wooden spoon tomorrow.

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Filed under anxiety, blogging, coffee, depression

An Early Christmas Gift

Surgery
Image by Army Medicine via Flickr

Let me set the scene for you:  Last December I had surgery to repair two hernias.  In June, I had surgery to repair a ruptured disc in my back (according to the surgeon, one of the worst he has ever seen).  This December came, another hernia repair.  Apparently things just come squirting out of all the wrong places all too often on me.  On top of these surgeries, I had visits my general practitioner, gastroenterologist, neurologist, nephrologist, orthopedic doctor, and psychiatrist.  Let’s also not forget the chiropractor, counselor, and group therapy.  Oh yeah–and drugs.  All of this on top of time off of work.  The long and short of it is that even with insurance, we were tapped out.  Bills were getting paid, but we didn’t know where the money was going to come from to pay the next ones.

A few weeks earlier I had applied to have the bill from my back surgery reduced.  It looked like either we would have to set up a payment plan with the hospital or with a collector, either one with a hefty interest rate to be sure.  Then, last week I got an envelope from the hospital.  I opened it, expecting a bill.  Instead there was a letter notifying me that the charity committee had met, and reduced the remaining portion of our bill 100%.  There was a detailed statement attached that confirmed this.  Total remaining owed: $0.

Here was proof in black and white that you don’t get anything if you don’t ask.  But more importantly, after such a stressful year, this was probably the best Christmas present that I could get.

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A Slight Diversion.

I had to share this quick thought.  Tonight before the kiddos went to bed, we all laid on our bed: Lovely Wife, Baby Girl, Little Guy, and me all cuddled up together, with Wonder Pup at our feet, reading stories.  Have you ever had one of those moments that you wish would never end?  Those few minutes were the happiest I have been in quite awhile.  I now have a new “Happy Place” when I am stressing.  What is your extra-special-go-to moment?

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Medications and Stigmas

I attribute part of the comeback in my mood to a change in my medication.  First a disclaimer: I am only writing about my experiences, and everybody reacts differently to medications.  This is not meant to be advice, support for, non-support for any particular drug treatment program.  I am only following my Doctor’s recommendations.  See a mental health professional to discuss your personal situation.  OK, off soapbox.

When I originally went to my family doctor, he prescribed Wellbutrin.  I noticed a few of things from the Wellbutrin.  Besides helping with my depression, I felt a surge of creativity and strange, often entertaining dreams (both of which I have written about previously).  The problem was that it also seemed to be amping up my anxiety, which would eventually short circuit any gains I was feeling in getting rid of the depression.

When I first went to the psychiatrist to address my issues, he switched me to Celexa for depression and Klonepin for anxiety.  Again this seemed to work, but eventually the gains ceased.  Now I had become unmotivated and apathetic.  Depression back.

So when I went to my group sessions, the therapists and doctors were able to better assess my situation.  I have now added Wellbutrin back into the mix, and am taking all three.  The side effects (namely the anxiety and apathy) so far are cancelling each other out.  In addition, my creativity (and weird dreams) seems to be returning.

It’s hard to talk about medication and depression to people.  I don’t think most people think about depression as a big deal.  Everybody gets the blues, the conventional wisdom goes, and you just need to get over it.  What the don’t realize is that it becomes hard after two years of trying to “deal with it”.  It hasn’t been a bad day or bad month.   The pervasiveness, the physical reactions, and the filter that depression puts in your head (in effect making your emotions lie to you) just make it harder and harder.

I feel like people with depression get off easy with the stigma attached to it.  People only see us as weak.  Other people with mental illness have more serious accusations leveled at them.  People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bi-Polar Disorder, and Schizophrenia are labeled as crazy and potentially dangerous.  Autistic people are “weird”.  Those that suffer from Tourette’s are treated as an endless source of comedy.  Well let me say that people with mental illness aren’t weird, crazy, dangerous, or funny.  In fact, there are many people living with these disorders who do not come forward because of these stigmas.  People aren’t really different, they just need help.

A good place to start is The National Alliance on Mental Illness.   NAMI is a nationwide advocate for those with mental illness.  They have support groups in many cities and towns across the country, and offer information and support to both those suffering from mental illness, and for the people who support them.  For more information, visit their website: http://www.nami.org.

Next time: Mindfulness, Meditation, Prayer, and Faith

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Where I have been.

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.

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So, it’s been awhile…

Just wanted to share this, if you read my post The Elusive Quest.  Well, I was able to make headway on one of the two quests that I mentioned:

Now, it’s not quite the resolution that I wanted, but it is a start.  I had almost given up.  Truth be told, the previous two sentences describe my other quest as well.  That is a story for another day.  Welcome back readers, if you are still there.

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Now is the winter of my disoncontent

OK, I’ll be honest.  I don’t truly know if the end of my bad feelings is near, however it does seem like I have been having a few more good days recently.  I still haven’t been able to string a bunch of good days together (with the exception of our weekend trip to visit my bio family), but the brighter days do seem to signal that things are on the right track.

Perhaps incongruously for someone with depression, I have always been–and perhaps remain–an optimist.  Which is partly why depression can be so frustrating.  It seems like despite my sunny outlook, reality has a way of rising up and smacking me in the face.

Coincidentally or not, last night and into this morning we had a bit of a snowstorm here.  A few days ago it was a beautiful day, a balmy 70 degrees or so.  But nature has a way of reminding me that I do live in South Dakota after all.  Usually we are done with the snow by the middle to the end of March.  At least we didn’t have it as bad as northern parts of the state that had 9 inches of the white stuff.  I should take a cue from others, however.  Rather than complain, there were pictures on the news of kids that had made snow Easter Bunnies. 

But in my metaphor filled consciousness, what I equate this last blast of snow to is the last bit of depression hanging on to my mind.  While I know that depression will likely stick around long after kids are out of school and we are playing in the back yard in our shirt sleeves, it gives this optimist something of a visualization.  So, as the snow melts today, I am heading out with Lovely Wife, Little Guy and Baby Girl to let spring feelings creep back into my psyche.  

And while I am optimistic that this is the final blast of winter, the realist part of my brain reminds me that it snowed on April 30 a few years ago.

SATURDAY FUN: Music favorites

Although my music tastes usually favor Country, Blues, and Folk, it is quite eclectic.  So on a day where I need a little pick me up, here is a classic by They Might Be Giants:

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Cultivating a Garden

The summer after lovely wife and I moved into our house, I decided that it would be fun to plant a vegetable garden.  We already had a pretty nice spot where the previous owners had their garden.  We borrowed a tiller from the neighbor.  We went to the store and bought an ambitious assortment of vegetables for our first go: tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, cucumbers, cantaloupe, and probably others that I am forgetting.  Since our dog was still very young, active, and curious, we got little pickets to put around the perimeter.  He could still take a running jump and get in, but it would have to be something that he wanted to do.

What a debacle that first garden was.  The garlic and the bell peppers never grew.  Our one cayenne plant gave us a total of two peppers.  The rabbits were somehow still able to get at the tomatoes and the cantaloupe.  We were too impatient for the onions.  The most frustrating thing, however, was the enormous number of weeds that infiltrated the plot.  I could spend most of a Saturday afternoon picking weeds, and it would seem like I would wake up Sunday morning and they had all replenished themselves.  It felt as if I would have to retire and make weeding my full-time profession if I wanted to make this garden a go.

Looking back, it wasn’t all bad news.  The cucumbers grew like crazy, although we did have to remember to pick them before that got too big and bitter.  Since the rabbits decimated most of the cantaloupe crop, I did rescue one that was about fist sized at the time.  It was honestly the sweetest, most delicious cantaloupe I have ever had.  After that summer, we gave up on the garden.  We did have one summer where it mysteriously became a little field of daisies, but that was OK by me.  Since then the grass has taken over, and a small indentation in our yard is the only evidence that something was once there.

My counselor said something interesting to me a few weeks ago: “Having depression is like trying to make Jell-O without a mold.”  An interesting concept.  Without support, without guidance, the Jell-O would just go everywhere as it cooled in your fridge.  Earlier I had made a goal that this summer I was going to have another garden.  This time it would be a little different, however.  I was going to try a potted garden.  It would also be on a much smaller scale, probably tomatoes, onions, and peppers. 

As I thought about it, the pots and the vegetables were good stand-ins for the Jell-O metaphor.  Keeping them off the ground would be a good way to keep them from the rabbits.  I still expect that some weeds will somehow make their way in, however there won’t be nearly as many and they will be easier to control.  I need to build some kind of defenses, some kind of pot, to keep the negative influences in my life on the outside, and to be able to better manage the ones that are able to sneak into the party.

Depression.  Tomatoes.  Onions.  Peppers.  When I get it all figured out, you are all invited to try some of my salsa.

FRIDAY FUN: WDOTW (Weird Dream of the Week)

A little back story on this one: we had a toilet in our house that needed to be replaced.  It leaked from the tank to the bowl, which is a little frustrating to think of how much water we wasted.  On top of that, somehow the bowl also leaked, even after I went through the trouble of replacing the wax ring.  Skip forward to this week, when I installed our new throne.  I got it all in, turned the valve back on and…  nothing happened.  I thought maybe the valve broke in the off position sometime in the process, but I saved it for the next day.

Enter my dream.  I am working on the john.  In my dream, there are several lines going into the tank, and I am getting confused and frustrated.  Who shows up in crazy dream world to help out?  Why, Charlie Sheen, of course.   Mr. Sheen starts tinkering with everything and sends me down to the basement to check out the situation (because in dreamland putting in a loo takes multiple floors, apparently).  I get to the basement and see an incredible mess of disconnected water lines and wires (bet you didn’t know about electric toilets).  I start furiously trying to hook everything back up, when that joker Mr. Sheen turns the valve back on which of course sprays me from every conceivable angle.  Another time when I woke up thinking OK, now what the hell did that mean?

As I side note, when I took another look at it, the reason it wasn’t filling wasn’t the valve, but that the float was stuck in the up position.  An easy, Sheen-less fix.

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