Here we are. It has been seven months since I began my recovery from my fourth back to back severe and treatment resistant depression. It is the longest span of time of relative health I have had in 4 ½ years. I never intended to count the time like this but it is so significant after what I have been through these past years. When you have been to hell and back and tried medication after medication, endured 4 psychiatric hospitalizations, intensive medical treatments which included ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) and ketamine infusions, you do need to take a step back and recognize where you were and how far you have come. Time is important in this process. Seven months is significant. I have learned quite a bit in these past seven months and it doesn’t include thinking that all is better.
The process of recovery from major depression differs from person to person. During my briefer periods of recovery in between these past episodes, I was thankful and always felt that each one was the last. I felt too well to imagine anything obstructing that feeling. With this last episode, which was long, painful and haunting, I was cautiously optimistic. I tried a new medication from a class of drugs that I had never tried before. I had to stop my previous anti-depressant and wait two weeks before starting this new medication and began this process while hospitalized in July.
Once I began to feel better, think more clearly and feel more connected to people, I was hopeful but, again, cautious. With each month I have been able to really be “with” people, work and enjoy my life. At the same time, I do have struggles. If I do not sleep well for a couple of nights I become irritable and it can play out in a way that is certainly not fair to my husband and daughter. If I do not eat regularly I will not only get headaches but I will start to feel sad. I still have memory issues as a side effect of the ECT and sometimes I can laugh it off and others it is extremely frustrating and makes me feel angry. I am slightly traumatized by the experiences I had with ECT, TMS and the ketamine infusions. The ECT and TMS certainly helped and unfortunately the ketamine didn’t but the act of going through it all still frightens me when I think of it. It was terrifying and it was upsetting to be with and see so many other people struggling urgently with mental illness as these treatments are seen as the “last ditch” effort to ease someone’s symptoms and pain.
I have bad days as everyone else does and I have days that are “bad” but in a different way where my symptoms make themselves known. There is no cure for depression or anxiety. It is always there inside of me. I am working hard in therapy with a new therapist and this process brings up a lot of topics I have worked on in the past. It aggravates my anxiety and provokes in me anger, sadness and a bit of humility. It is hard. It is difficult. It is humbling. The positive of this experience has reminded me that I can feel better, even much better than when I was in a severe depression but there is always work to be done on myself. I’m not out of the woods and I have realized in the past seven months that I never will be. It is simply who I am and I am learning to accept it. I suffer from depression and anxiety and I own that. They will always be there in some form. I am not cured and I pray I do not have to endure another severe episode but I am doing everything in my power to care for myself. These past 7 months have provided me not only with better mental health but with more knowledge and understanding about myself. I will take this opportunity to stand up, raise my arms above my head and take that stretch. Time is meaningful.