Five weeks later, after a week in the psychiatric unit and several ECT treatments and new medication, I have begun to feel better. What exactly does that mean? Well, for one thing, I am thinking more clearly than I have in about 6 months. Thoughts are clear and follow a pattern and for the most part are not negative toward myself. I can also be and feel more involved in conversations and feel present in social situations as well as at work. Time will go by and instead of me feeling misery with each passing second, I surprise myself when hours have gone by without my tracking them. My mood is definitely better which was sparked by the clearer thoughts. My mood is more reality based and not as negative toward myself. I can be “with” my husband and daughter and really be there. I know they both feel the difference, just as I do.
With this renewed sense of clarity though comes with it a review of the past 6 months and realizing and recognizing how ill I was. Thoughts occur to me that are deeply painful and there are moments I need to write them down as part of processing them. My therapist says I will need to let them go but since it’s only been a couple of weeks of beginning to feel better, I need more time. I am not ready to let go yet as it is important that I process certain thoughts and occurrences in order to be able to let go and move on. Because I was so ill, it was difficult to understand or even acknowledge my thoughts when I was in it. I knew I was quite ill but at the same time it became my “normal.” As I come out of it, the realization of how confused and painful my thoughts were is overwhelming at times and I need to let myself process, cry and mourn. I do feel I am in a period of mourning–the time that was lost and the reality of what this horrid illness did to me, physically and mentally, represents a huge loss.
It is a lot to absorb and I think it is vital to those around me to understand that just because I have had an upward swing these past 2 weeks, and I do believe that will continue due to this wonderful new medication, I am currently enduring something very deep and existential the likes of which I have not experienced before and if I did, I simply do not remember. There is no magic act where I have been cured and all is wonderful now. I have to find my new normal, just as I have after each of my other episodes of severe depression. This is a true process and I know I am on the right track, I just think it is important for those around me to understand that this process is ongoing. I may not have those ongoing feelings and thoughts of harming myself but I am not cured. They sometimes lurk in the background and luckily I now have more strength and understanding and can talk to my therapist and psychiatrist about them. I am very well aware that I am at risk and luckily I have a husband who is on guard and a therapist and psychiatrist who also are taking stock of what I have been through and where I am at now.
It is a good place to be, certainly a better place than the past 6 months. I have endured treatments that were invasive and, at times, terrifying. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), Ketamine Infusions and Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) held their own stress and hope and represents how I have and will continue to jump through those hoops that my therapist, psychiatrist and other doctors at Yale present to me. I am a good patient and I always have been. I listen and I advocate, even at my sickest. It is a true collaboration and I consider myself extremely lucky to be part of this amazing collaborative team; not only that but I am considered an important part of this team. I know many people who do not have this experience and feel on the periphery of their treatment team which, in my mind, is a sin. I know how lucky I am and would not be where I am now if I did not have a respected place within my own team.
I will give myself the time needed to process the many thoughts and memories of the past 6 months that come up. I will talk things through with my therapist in order to understand and course through these memories and thoughts so I can let them go. I know I will need time to get there and I know I have the support of my family and friends as well as my therapist to get me through to the other side. I will always have memories: certain smells and sounds may bring me back to those moments immediately before I was given anesthesia for an ECT treatment. I just need to allow them and talk about it in order to process it if I need to and/or let it go. This is easier said than done right now which is why I will repeat the importance of doing this on my own time. The past 6 months have been pure hell and has affected my family and friends but as my therapist has said to me numerous times, it affected me the most and the worst: I was the one with the severe depression. There is much to process, feel and mourn and I know I will get to that next stage of letting go within my own time frame and with the support of those around me.