Two days ago I announced the return of the new and improved blog. Actually it’s the new and improved me. Although I’ve been graciously maintained as a blogger in blogrolls here in ArmitageWorld, many of you probably have noticed long gaps between periods of writing.
In a post over two months ago, I blogged about my problem with my other dog I’ve since called Winston. He’s named after Winston Churchill and is the metaphorical black dog of depression. I mentioned he was quite the shapeshifter, changing from a big Great Dane to a small Chihuahua and back at any time. I had hoped Winston would stay teacup sized but that wasn’t the case.
It turned out to be the lull before the storm. As shown by posts shortly after the beginning of June, I was incapable of writing anything substantive and before long, incapable of writing. My memory and concentration left me. I grasped for words, couldn’t retain thoughts, and failed to correct mistakes because I was unaware of having made them. My paralysis extended to work where extended decompensation was not an option. I’m my sole breadwinner with no back-up support so I didn’t have the luxury of sliding into the stereotypical Victorian “nervous breakdown.” Winston had grown to the size of a Mastiff and was crushing me. Clearly it was time for action and fast.
Fortunately my job in the federal government made getting help as easy as picking up the phone and going. There’s nothing inconsequential about depression. It’s a bitch. There’s nothing easy about clawing of it either. Clinically depressed people cannot “snap out of it.” Counseling will not immediately make us better and medication is not a cure. It’s amazing to me that so many people don’t understand this, even while experts state depression is the most prevalent mental disorder in here in America. Having dealt with this most of my life, I knew things would get worse before they could get better; that’s the way it works. And it seems every transition into new stages in life creates new kinks, requiring me again to address and cope with depression in new ways.
So Winston and I went to the doctor. Returning to counseling and medication has been no picnic while learning to deal with Winston instead of resenting the hell out of him. Medication doesn’t mean taking a pill and everything is alright; it takes 4-6 weeks to determine it’s effectiveness and that isn’t guaranteed. Different dosages must be considered. Then there’s the side effects. Some people have known; others don’t have it so good. For me it was awful and might have put me off it except the physical illness distracted from the mental distress. So I persevered as my body struggled to adjust.
Then sometime in the 4th week, I noticed something different. On previous medication, I functioned but still had breakthrough symptoms. This is why you see commercials for drugs such as Abilify, a secondary medication for people taking anti-depressants who are still depressed. Yes, I felt better but there was something more. I felt not only an absence of misery, but an absence of depression. Except for a very short period caused by another physical issue, I’ve been depression free for over a month. This is a completely new experience for me. Winston, now a cute black pug, stays out of my way. Memory and concentration have greatly improved, although they might never return to previous levels. But I can work and write again and solve problems like fixing this blog’s technical problems. I’m not cured and never will be; this is a lifelong disorder. Counseling will help me realize my potential as I move into later middle age. I’m hopeful.
Interestingly, people have told me they’ve observed a slight shift in my personality. I seem brighter and more engaged. I’ve noticed a friendlier attitude in others which probably reflects my own. When I returned to work after a long absence, no less than three people waylaid me on the way to my office, not to talk work, but just to chat. My close friends have reacted favorably too. After accepting me and Winston for over 15 years, they seemed happy about the new change. When I asked them how they put up with me they said when I was Better Judi, it made the wait worthwhile. Aww, I love you gals; you know who you are.
In case you wondered how the improved me would react in a crisis, let me assure that very thing happened during that 4th week on medication. The drama involved thrills and spills, as it were, across international borders. I kid you not. But that’s another post.
Images from Living with a Black Dog by Matthew Johnston