June 21, 2005
Several years ago I was depressed enough that I sought medical help in the form of Paxil. I was only on the drug for maybe 35 or 40 days. At the time it was enough of a boost to bring me back to a normal sinus rhythm of ups and downs. Since then I haven't felt like I needed any assistance. The strength and depth of my relationship with Michele has given me a powerful tool to combat what I feel is my tendency towards melancholy. The past 15 months have beaten me down to the point were the joy and peace I find in my relationship with Michele is no longer strong enough to lift me out of depression.
In the past few weeks I have lost my appetite, and I am having increasing difficulty sleeping. My mood is foul all the time, and I am openly thinking about suicide again. I know that many people consider thought of suicide dangerous and an indication of mental instability. I believe that suppressing thoughts of ending your life ultimately cause more pain, perhaps even bringing on that finality. Open expression of all your feelings is the only way to remove their immediate hold over you. The trick is to express in a constructive, healthy way, and not in a manner that only adds to the pain.
Usually I turn to Michele and lean on her wisdom, love, and belief in me to get me past these moods. However, she is struggling with her own depression. With the recent death of her mother she is facing some incredibly difficult emotions herself. Coming at the end of a very long and difficult year that only gets us half way to daylight again, losing her sole remaining parent has had a huge impact on her. My fear is that together we may feed off each other's pain and depression rather than providing the safe place to fall we are used to sharing.
I do not appreciate or believe in medical (i.e., drug) solutions to my problems. The drug-based medical model we have today supports the idea that issues should be reduced to something you live with rather than actually solved. Managed health care has reduced doctors to seeing patients for bare minutes at a time. Personal understanding of the entire history of a situation never happens. If a drug can reduce my dependency on seeing the doctor, then that solution is enough. I think this is wrong and I do not support this approach to managing my physical, mental, or emotional health.
Having said that, I do think that medicine provides some valuable tools, which, when used properly, can and do improve a persons quality of life. The trick is being an active participant in the process of selecting a treatment and following through on its delivery. In the fall of 2000 when I had an umbilical hernia I sought out a surgeon only after I knew what the recommended treatment options were. I controlled the treatment as much as he did. This partnership resulted in a very successful procedure that eliminated my problem.
Throughout the 1990s I tried to deal with difficulty swallowing. In this case I was not an equal partner in selecting a treatment or in following through on its execution. Ultimately the treatments (six out-patient surgeries) failed to improve my quality of life. In fact the idea of facing out-patient surgery every 5 months for the rest of my life was intolerable. With the support and assistance of my wife I have learned how to alter my eating habits, and how to address the causes of emotional stress in my life, so as to reduce my throat incidents in severity and frequency. Yes I still have to live with this condition, but now that I am actively participating in a course of action to deal with it I feel better all the time.
Recognizing that depression is a default emotional position for me is hard. It feels dirty and bad. My fears of losing my mind in the folds of the depression are heightened. Not acknowledging this truth is worse as I can then turn a blind eye to my situation, which allows it to grow unabated and unchecked. Taking an active participation role is hard as the very depression I am trying to overcome saps my will to change and overcome. I feel that this is a case where I need medical assistance in the form of a mood elevator. A month or two of elevation to a "normal" emotional sinus rhythm will give me enough extra energy to begin to address the unexpressed emotions that are currently cluttering up my life. Without some kind of active intervention I fear that I will continue to spiral down from my current dysthymic level to true clinical depression. Having fought my way up from dysthymia once before I have no desire to discover how tough it is to defeat clinical depression.
So I am off to find a pill pusher who will provide the mood elevator I need with the least level of invasion into my life.
How ironically depressing.