Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Black Dog

Let’s talk about depression.

Depression as defined by ‘Psychology Today’ is ‘an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her.
A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Depression is a common but serious illness, and most people who experience it need treatment to get better. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression.
Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Such a disabling episode of depression may occur only once but more commonly occurs several times in a lifetime.
Symptoms can include
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Insomnia, early morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain’
The black dog and I are not new to each other. I lived with depression through my teenage years and then in my 20’s developed an anxiety disorder to go with that as well as agorophobia. At one point during my 20’s I was suicidal and had a complete nervous breakdown. Largely All I know of that particular event is what I have been told. I had a suicide attempt which obviously failed, I was grey and they couldn’t find my blood pressure and were having a hard time finding a pulse. I should not have been conscious but I was talking to the emergency staff quite coherently. I became a guest of the local psych ward until they could sort out what was going on.

By the time I was diagnosed with my brain tumour I had been on antidepressants for 5 years. I was weaned off them in the 12 months after my brain mate made itself known.  

Fast forward to 2011

I have not been on antidepressants for 10 years. When I came home from brain surgery I had been told I would be put on antidepressants if I showed the appropriate signs of ABI. That concept terrified me so I hid the terror I was experiencing as much as I could.

Fast forward to July 2014

On Monday I came home from Uni and I was ok. All of a sudden I broke down. Everything was too hard to comprehend, cope with, make sense of, understand, and feel.  I was sobbing uncontrollably. I couldn’t find and upside to anything. I have been trying to be positive about things in my life that bring me joy but I just don’t have it in me anymore. I have withdrawn from all forms of social media.

This isn’t just about grieving.  I have been allowing myself the space to do that.
I don’t know what I want to do.
  • Do I defer Uni until next year? But then I may/will fall into that sea of depression and not WANT to go back.
  • Do I want to continue with Science and head for that brain tumour research?
  • Do I go with neuro counselling/psychology?
  • Do I try something else like business or finance?
  • Do I go and get a job and give it all away?
  • I don’t know what I do and don’t want to do.
  • If I just get a job will I ever want to go back to uni?
  • If I ditch science will I regret it?
  • If I stick with science and find out I just don’t get it enough to do research it is so much more wasted time.
  •  It is the same going in any other direction.
  • If I am doing something I am not passionate about will I just wither and die inside?

What AM I passionate about?
I feel like everything is impossible. Life will continue to go downhill. Kim won’t find a new job. We will have no car. If Kim’s neck injury prevents him from working how will we cope? I know we wouldn’t make it in any income I could manage to drag in. Let’s face it, I have the current skills but my experience is out of date (Brain tumours kind of suck like that). May be I could get a job at Coles, woollies or Maccas. That isn’t going to help much. Is there really any point at all?

Why did the universe decide to throw us back on to struggle/the world is shitty place to be street? Is this just how things will be forever? Why try?

I don’t have the mental, emotional or physical energy to keep anyone else afloat. I can’t find the words anymore. I can’t find that piece of me that can do that. I have a ‘care’ nerve a million times longer than the circumference of the world and I wish I didn’t and I am glad I do and nothing makes any sense.

Fear not! I am not going to go and try to knock myself off. This brain is a mighty expensive. Today is the first time I have really ‘listened’ to music while awake. I have heard it but not listened to it... there is a difference. ‘Usually’ I have music playing all day. I sing with it, I feel it, breathe it. It is a part of me. I have music playing while I sleep as it soothes me.

Photography leaves me cold. Picking up my camera doesn’t really cross my mind even though it sits next to me on my desk. When I have taken photos (last weekend) I couldn’t get into it. I didn’t have the passion to do it... consequently they pretty much sucked.  Photos that suck do not inspire me to try again for now.

I want crawl into a hole and not come out. I don’t want to crawl into a hole and not come out. I want to be able to share all of this with my friends to help ease the pain. I don’t want to burden them with the pain and brokenness. For now, I cry at/with Kim and I blog when I feel I can.

The only things I have read have been Uni notes and mostly they don’t sink in. I’m flat. I’m a bit (lot) broken. For now that is just how things are.

I have made appointments with my disability officer, my student success advisor, physio, psychologist and GP. 

Yesterday I went to Uni again, different course. I was fine through the lecture. I got out and headed to the assistive technology lab (individual computer room for impaired students) to do some study, I’d booked it for a couple of hours. I went in, the screen said it was loading... and kept saying it was loading…. I rebooted it, go to the same point. If froze again. I went and asked for help at the computer assist desk. Someone came in with me, did the same thing I had done and guess what. It did the same thing again. I was told they would put in a report for repairs. I said that I had booked for another session tomorrow (today) and was told they didn’t know if it would be fixed by then. So, I went outside and burst into tears.

This morning I had to go and have a fasting blood test done. With the right timing I could make it to my 9 am lecture. My lecturer told us yesterday that he did not know if he would be in. I knew I had booked the lab for after the lab as well. So I had a couple of options. #1 Go to uni, have the lecturer be there and the computer running. #2 Go to Uni have the lecturer turn up and the computer still down. #3 Go to Uni have no lecturer and the computer running. #4 Go to Uni have no lecturer and no computer.  #5 Stay home and have a ‘mental health’ day. I’ve opted for #5.  Uncertainty, changes in plans and general disruption are things I can’t seem to manage right now.

I know this is a lot to take in. I know it is a wall of text and most people if not all will just give up trying to read it. If you have made it this far, I thank you for your endurance.

I wish I had something else to tell you. All I have right now is this.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

3 years 5 months

I forgot to write this one

Obviously this isn't a "looking back to see how far I have come" post. This is just going to be raw and honest and real. My other posts are raw honest and real, but this one will be emotionally ragged
My father. He had a fall. He was pretty messy when he arrived at the emergency room and it would be 'just a stitch or two, some scans and then back home.
  • Then it was 'Stitch, no brain bleed or oedema, but a fractured cheekbone no surgery required'.
  • Then ‘No stitch, no brain bleed or oedema, but a fractured cheekbone no surgery required, and a fracture at C4 but they went sure if it was old or new so had to send it off to another hospital to double check'
  • Then ‘Fractured cheekbone (no surgery required) NEW fracture at C4 and transfer to another hospital'.
  • New hospital 'Fractured cheekbone (no surgery required) fracture at C4 and C6/7 disc pressing on spinal cord'
  • Then 'Fractured cheekbone (no surgery required) fracture at C4 and C6/7 disc pressing on spinal cord, two codes, get him off the blood thinners (approx. 10 days) and try to clear up chest infection to perform spinal surgery'.
  • Then Fractured cheekbone (no surgery required) fracture at C4 and C6/7 disc pressing on spinal cord, two codes, get him off the blood thinners (approx. 10 days) and try to clear up chest infection to perform spinal surgery OR a chest neck brace until it healed'
  • Risk of death during surgery extremely high
  • Risk of death after surgery high as he wouldn't be able to cough.

As the days passed he became more confused and couldn't understand what everyone was trying to tell him. Too many people. Too much information.  I explained it to him and explained new information as it came in. I made sure the nurses had on file that I needed to see the doctors who were seeing him so that I could explain to him what was happening.

Saturday night after getting home from a friend's father's funeral, the phone rang. Dad had coded again and they were struggling to get his oxygen levels up. Call Henry and Brendan and get them up there a.s.a.p. We had to make any decisions unanimously so we all had to be there. Dad's oxygen levels had dropped to 72. Even if they could get his oxygen levels up to the high 80's he would have pretty severe brain damage. Do we continue the battle to get those levels up and preserve him for a possible death during surgery? Or do we make him comfortable and let him pass with some amount of peace and dignity with his family around him. We chose to let him go comfortably and peacefully. We all said our goodbyes and told him it was okay to let go.

He got a bit confused, asked for his grandchildren, and then for me, the thing that broke me, He thought I was Mum. I am glad it gave him comfort that He thought she was there with him. It tore my heart out and I broke. I have never collapsed so completely before. I had to walk away from his bed to Kim and then fell apart. I was doubled over and couldn't breathe. Kind of like being winded. Then I had to leave the room. I crying, wept, and hurt so very much.

After I had gotten myself together and hugged everyone. We went and sat with him. I held both of his hands and the boys were there with him too. I don't remember much of the detail there. I felt his heart and breathing slow and stop and watched his face relax as he drifted off. He passed away at 4 am July 6 th 2014.

After that, there were funeral arrangements and all things that go with the passing of a loved one. The passing of time has been for me, and I suspect for other family members, odd at best. I feel like it was yesterday he passed. It wasn't. Yesterday was the funeral. It wasn't.

I am 40, married to the most amazing man, my best friend in the world. We have four children; they each have their quirks and life lessons. I have two brothers who I love dearly. My husband, the man I only have two photos of with my father. Two, in the 19 years we have been together. Just two.

I am carrying a lot of anger for a lot of things. Things past, things to come. Things I had and have no control over.

I had considered quitting University so I could look after my father better. I don't need to now, he is gone. There is no tie to keep us in this house now. I don't need to be so close to my father to care for him. He is gone. Everything has changed.

I am now flung into the great unknown. I guess I knew this was inevitable, I wasn't expecting it now. How to I hold this family together now? How do I stop my brothers and me drifting apart? How do I preserve that family connection, the events that have kept us together? The traditions.

The thing that most brings me to tears is when people say that my mum and dad would be proud of me. I had always hoped they would be. I never felt that I would accomplish anything they would be proud of me for. Not because their standards were too high, mine were.

So, as I sit here writing this, I am weeping. This is my heart. These are the events of the last few weeks. This is the beginning of a new future without my parents in it. At 15 I was terrified they would die and we would be orphaned. At 40, it hurts just as much if not more.

They are together now. That in itself is a comfort.