Thursday, February 25, 2010


I'm stepping outside the PR zone for a few minutes to talk about something else.
In the last month, I've developed new understanding for what clinically depressed people experience. I've always sympathized, but now I believe I can empathize.
The drug I am on for the gastroparesis is helping, but it also has some pretty big side effects for me, even at the low dosage I was taking.
I am usually a person who finds pleasure in small things, who enjoys fun solo trips all over the place, or mini-adventures of my own. A trip to the movies, to the zoo, to the mall, or even just an uninterrupted day to sew or hang out--Usually I am able to anticipate these enjoyable activities and while experiencing them feel happy and contented. I want to do them.
Shortly after I was medicated, I realized that the drug was making me simultaneously restless and tired, which was somewhat expected given my previous experience ten years ago. Unexpected, though, was the severe level of apathy. Nothing sounded fun. Nothing felt fun. I didn't look forward to anything, and things that were normally fun felt like chores. I knew I was in trouble when it came time for hockey and I went out of habit and couldn't wait to go home and get back in my pajamas again. (And then, of course, when I got home, my restlessness made it difficult for me to be contented sitting down and watching TV or whatever). Intellectually, I knew I was doing something I enjoy, but I wasn't feeling it, literally. I didn't want to do anything, and didn't feel anything. About the only thing I could do was read, which I have been doing a lot, because it sort of takes me out of myself.
I wasn't sad, most of the time, just completely apathetic to anything, which is somehow worse. I had to make myself do things. For instance, when I went to my last doctor's appointment, right next to the Franklin Park Mall, I had a whole afternoon free; ordinarily, I'd jump all over that and be excited about the field trip. But it took my mother saying, Just go and walk around and think of it as exercise, that made me go. And wander I did, and I suppose in some way I enjoyed it, in the sense that it was something to do that kept my mind busy. And I bought a few cute things...either the apathy or the styles out right now prevented me from spending too much.
Depression is a terrible feeling. You start to wonder what you're doing here, if this is going to last forever, and what the point of anything is. And somehow it was all the more frustrating because I knew it was coming out of a medication I needed. Frustrating because normally I'm a person who has very deep emotions, and here they were completely wasted. Frustrating because it isn't normal to feel absolutely no pleasure or satisfaction about anything, and to have only the worries and stresses to provide any feelings at all, and even those are blunted by the same force. I could really understand how it is that some people just can't get out of bed.
I am now on half the dosage I was taking. It still seems to be working on my stomach somewhat, and I think, though it is early days yet, that the apathy has lessened. It's still there, and is certainly exacerbated by the tough days of this time of year, doing the job I do (which is always frustrating in spring). But today, for instance, I look forward to going home and maybe finishing a big knitting project, or just reading one of the Elizabeth Peters novels my sister sent me, whereas before I would be indifferent. The other day I treated myself to dinner in bed, with a book, which felt nice and decadent. I'm not as happy as I should be about the Michigan State vs. Bowling Green hockey game this weekend, but it doesn't seem like such a big chore. I still miss laughing--nothing has seemed funny for a long time. I also have to be careful about getting excited (positively or negatively) about things because it bothers my stomach. But I have hopes that somehow I will be able to have feelings again, and to experience pleasure like a healthy person.
In a way I'm writing this today to explain an experience. Since my lack of feelings is almost all linked to the medication, I can sort of study it from the outside, whereas if I were clinically depressed I would probably be too far inside to talk about it. In another way, though, this is an apology. I'm struggling, and I have not been very attentive to friends and family, for entirely different reasons than before I started the drug. It is really hard some days just to get dressed and come to work, let alone hang out with people and pretend that I'm having a good time when I can't actually. Sometimes it's just easier to be alone, especially with the way I eat right now. Things are getting better, and I just wanted you to know that I love you and I'm thinking about you, no matter where the rest of me is.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the peek inside. and I'm so sorry you're going through this right now -- a psychological kick when you're already down from physiological issues. Sometimes I can understand why patients refuse to take their psychological drugs, when the effects can seem worse and more insidious than the original illness.

I hope the upcoming spring weather and more sunshine will help, at least on the mental side. Natural light makes a difference for a lot of people. You probably get tired of advice, but I'll just say get out, breathe fresh air, read in the sunshine, go to gardens and the zoo, soak in sunlight and pure real beauties of the world.


Abs said...

Thanks, my sister.
I am looking forward to sunshine. I do feel better when I have a sunbeam in my office to sit in, so I imagine I will feel the same when I can be outside. I'm really looking forward to being able to take long walks again, which gets me out and about, entertains me, and quiets my brain. Just got to hang in for a few more months.