Month: December 2011

We made it

The winter solstice has occurred, without requiring blood sacrifice! As far as I know, we’ve all survived. Days will get longer, which means less hiding under gunnysacks to escape gloom. Whew!

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A lapful of dogly. . . cheer

Some of you know that my old dog, Blue, is not a cuddly creature. She is far too dedicated to her job, which is keeping wolves and suspected wolves (which may be wearing squirrel costumes) from tearing out my throat, to go in for that time-wastin’ stuff wot dulls the edge of a hard-workin’ dog’s attention.

The last couple of days, however, she’s been encroaching down the couch from her rug-covered end, such that she’s been knocking my knitting stuff—yarn, tools, books, all the essential stuff—all over the floor and between the couch cushions and making huge tangly messes, thanks to her (large, rough-padded) feet and relative clumsiness (read: lack of opposable thumbs).

Since she is also presently in the Cone of Shame yet again, for yet another ulcery spot licked on a hind foot this time, I took pity on her this morning and moved the knitting stuff, thinking she’d probably curl up fairly close to me. “Close” is about as snuggly as she ever gets, even when I’m reading in bed. Next to me; several inches away; or stationed between me and the door, so she gets The Intruder first.

This, however, is what I got.



Galumphed entirely across my lap, with the Cone of Shame covering my face. Made it just a tish hard to see the screen or type, but hey, she made me laugh. More than once. That’s worth a lot, these days!

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Navigating by hindsight

Over the last couple of months, the color has imperceptibly leached out of my life the way light sneaks away during a slow summer sunset, when colors dull and fade until suddenly and with surprise you realize it’s dark and you’re cold.

In the meantime, I’ve drawn deeply into my wee little cave, conserving energy. The things I enjoy have become burdensome; even knitting and reading—reading!—take too much effort, as does picking up the phone to call my kids. Doing laundry feels like climbing a mountain; buying groceries, a monumental chore; seeing my demented mother, an exhausting, herculean endeavor.

As dearly as I love Snaotheus, KrisDi and Chilkat, getting my act together to pack things and drive down there is arduous (although being with them is therapeutic). Even exercise, the usually reliable endorphin producer, doesn’t do its job. I exercise through sheer, dogged, tooth-gritting determination, but 20 gyms at top production for 30 days would not create enough endorphins to overcome my ennui.

This is a hazard of chronic depression: Things change by such slow degrees that you cannot perceive the day-by-day differences. I’m told I’m unusual in my ability to subconsciously monitor my world and recognize, earlier than most, that Something Has Gone Awry. Sometimes, but not often, it reaches what they call the suicide ideation stage before I notice it. While I’m fortunate that my inner overseer generally alerts me, suicide is for me, as for many of us, if not a friend then certainly a familiar acquaintance. We’re never surprised when it drops in to say hi.

Once we notice something is amiss, a lengthy elimination process follows to try to isolate a possible cause (operative words: “try” and “possible”): Added work stress? Family issues? Money problems? Lack of sleep? General underlying anxiety? What’s the day length? Is your response to shorter days different from the same time last year? How about nutrition? Are you eating properly? Even cooking can require more energy than you may have. Getting enough Vitamin D? Exercise?

The usual chemical treatments, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are notorious for suddenly just Not Working Anymore. They’re pretty strange anyway, because nobody has a clue why they work. Some people try many different formulations before they find one that works for them; some never do. I’ve been taking my stuff for 25 years, an astoundingly long time without Sudden Inexplicable Failure.

The medication factor has its own subset of problems. My pharmacist and doc tell me that generics—mandated by insurance companies—are allowed to have 33% less active ingredient than the stated label amount. Thirty-three percent! That means instead of 30 mg., I may be getting only 20—a dose barely in the therapeutic range. My doc says her aunt, a retired PhD-level chemist, refuses to take generics because of this. Most generics are manufactured overseas these days, and I know enough people who’ve worked at overseas pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities where no quality-control procedures were in place that I have no faith in that process.

Even if we can pinpoint that the pills aren’t delivering, the “why” question has several branches. Maybe there’s not enough actual chemical in them; maybe there’s something in them that prevents the chemical from working in my brain; or maybe the chemical has just Stopped Working.

At this point and because the particular stuff I take is a high-speed hell to get off of, my doc and I are going with the theory that the pills are deficient. If a slightly higher dose doesn’t help—in three or four weeks—we’ll try Plan B, which involves the aforementioned hell. And then Plan C, ditto. By that time, it’ll be almost spring again. Did you know that more suicides occur in spring than any other time?

Depression is classified as “a mood disorder.” Both that and its name are unfortunate, given that they imply that those in its bottomless, bitter abyss can climb out if they just try, if they’ll just cheer up. As if we would choose to live in a world of unrelieved, undefined, interminable colorless grey. A life not looking forward, but requiring habitual use of hindsight to try to navigate the road ahead.

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