I had my regular psychiatrist appointment yesterday. It’s not much more than a “med check” to ensure all is well. All is not well with one of my two meds, which I’ve been on for most of the 4-1/2 years we’ve been in Spain. I’ve noticed I’m experiencing some side-effects in recent months. Really very minor, but enough for us to make a change. So, I’m phasing off this one and will probably try something new soon.
(Click any image to make the trails — all bird prints — more clear.)
My visit was a revelation (I’d say Epiphany, but that was Wednesday). I can now easily speak with my psychiatrist, in Spanish, on any subject.
A WALK ON THE BEACH.
During our brief conversation, as I answered a question, it dawned on me that despite all the bumps in the road it turns out my life is the kind of life I fantasized about as a child. My sister Dale had the same kinds of childhood fantasies and, although her life was filled with bumps and only lasted 29 years, I think a lot of her fantasies came true, as well.
We both imagined lives different from most of our friends and family (not better, just different). We both imagined foreign lands, foreign loves. Dale traveled the world, married young, and lived in England with her foreign prince.
I met San Geraldo from South Dakota (even more foreign to a New Yorker than someone from England). We moved often, constantly re-imagining our lives. And now we’ve made a foreign land our home — and no longer foreign. And we’re still constantly re-imagining our lives.
The psychiatrist asked me if I felt that Dale was traveling with me through life. Without hesitation, I said, “Absolutely.”
I was never a fan of author Louis L’Amour, but I like this:
“No memory is ever alone;
it’s at the end of a trail of memories,
a dozen trails that each have their own associations.”
Shortly after I was diagnosed with, and began treatment for, clinical depression (see previous blog post), San Geraldo and I were on the move again. It was our third move in our five years together. From Boston, Massachusetts; to Los Angeles, California; to Washington D.C.; to New Haven, Connecticut.
I was doing well and didn’t seem to need any talk therapy. The antidepressant medication had done the trick. After about a year on the medication, I independently decided I was ready to go drug-free. I phased off the meds and continued to do well. However, over the course of the next year, without really realising it, I had begun to give myself those pep talks again to help me face the days. Finally, more than a year later, I had another major crash. I found a psychiatrist in New Haven and started back on Sinequan. He was a Freudian psychiatrist (so, let’s call him Sigmund) and hardly spoke. But that didn’t really matter to me. At first, I just wanted to talk and cry. But, after a few weeks, the medication levelled off my brain chemistry again and I was back to this new life I had been learning to live. I was no longer crying and only went to Sigmund for weekly med checks.
Since Sigmund didn’t talk, he didn’t help me to understand my condition any more clearly. I still thought I could get to a point where I wouldn’t need to take medication. So, I went through another cycle of about a year and half without medication before another crash. And I still wasn’t learning.
By the next crash (yet another), we were living in California (having moved from New Haven after 1-1/2 years to Guilford, Connecticut, and then to San Diego five years later where we celebrated our 12th anniversary). I found a psychiatrist who truly changed my life permanently (although I still had my stubborn moments).
When I insisted I didn’t need to be on medication forever, he asked, “Would you say that if you were diabetic?”
“That’s different,” I argued.
And thus began my real education on the “illness” called clinical depression. I’ve read that clinical depression is one-third each biological, brain chemistry, and inherited traits (if broken into quarters, the fourth would be hormones). Maybe an oversimplification, but my depression I’m sure has been partly a result of my childhood and later-life experiences. But many children have suffered much more troubled childhoods. And many adults have suffered much more painful lives. This is simply the way my brain responds. There’s nobody and no thing to blame. Besides, I’ve looked hard into my life experiences and, finally, there’s only me to face the result and survive it.
SORRY. I’M EVEN BORING MYSELF.
I know that physical activity is important for me. And healthy mental activity, too. But those alone are not enough. Unless there is some new revelation in the treatment of clinical depression, I now accept that I will likely always be on medication to treat it. And that’s fine with me. Sometimes, the medication may need to be changed or adjusted. That’s also fine with me. Yes, I do have some challenging times, but they’re nothing like those crashes I used to have. And, as I think about it, I probably wouldn’t give up my experience of this depression. Now that I’ve survived it, at least. It has played a large part in forming the person I am. I’m sure it’s where my humour was born. It taught me to be more honest with myself and with others. And it has certainly taught me to appreciate this life.
I’m still learning to forgive (myself and others) and to forget what doesn’t do me any good to remember. But, as long as I’m being honest, I haven’t forgiven everyone. And I haven’t forgotten everything. OK, and I can still be bitter, sarcastic, and acerbic. But not all the time. So, what the hell.
Many of you were very moved by my recent revelations and I’m so grateful for your support and understanding. But please don’t cry for me. I’m here to entertain you, enlighten you, charm and inform you. (Ain’t I grand?) I’m not here to depress you!
A few months before my 32nd birthday, San Geraldo and I were heading home from a walk through our neighbourhood in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. We were talking about nothing in particular when I broke down and sputtered, “I can’t do this anymore.”
As I think back to this moment, I realise San Geraldo must have thought I was leaving him or had some terrible confession that would make him want to leave me. “What can’t you do?” he asked in concern.
Through sobs, I explained, “For months now, every night I go to bed and my last thought is, ‘I hope I don’t wake up in the morning. I hope I die in my sleep.’ “
Every morning when I wake up, my first thought is, ‘Oh fuck.’ “
I don’t remember the rest but I distinctly remember that opening.
After some discussion and lots of moral support, San Geraldo said I needed to “talk to someone.” When he saw I didn’t know where or how to begin, he said he would get me an appointment with “someone.”
He asked colleagues and got the name of a psychotherapist and I saw him the next afternoon. The therapist first had me fill out a long questionnaire, which I found kind of fun. I like questionnaires. We then talked. Well, I mostly cried. But the result was that he felt certain I suffered from clinical depression. Through a psychiatrist, I was prescribed an antidepressant called Sinequan.
This is now an old-style antidepressant with loads of side-effects, one of which was to make me really drowsy. I could only take the meds just before bedtime. That side-effect soon became a major bonus. I immediately began to sleep more soundly than I had ever slept.
Other side effects were more problematic for me — like cotton-mouth and reduced sex … um … “follow-through.” (How’s that for a euphemism?)
AT HOME IN GEORGETOWN; A LIFE FILLED WITH SO MANY GIFTS. STILL, I KNOW I WENT TO BED THAT NIGHT HOPING I WOULDN’T SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY.
After a couple of weeks I began to notice a fairly dramatic change in my mood. In fact, I felt as if I were meeting a person I had never known before. I woke up one morning happy. I didn’t have to talk myself into facing the day. I couldn’t remember a time in my adult life when I had actually experienced that.
It wasn’t a complete turnaround but I no longer hoped to die in my sleep. So, I went to the drugstore and bought some Biotene toothpaste for the cotton mouth. I figured the sex issues were survivable. Besides, I had had an overactive sex drive to begin with.
And since My Mother the Dowager Duchess will read this, I’ll not say another word about sex.
I thought I’d be telling you today the entire story of my battles with clinical depression. But, as I began to write, I realised there’s a lot more to tell if the story is going to be of any use to anyone. I didn’t take pills for two weeks and solve all my problems. But I did discover that I wouldn’t mind sticking around for a good long while.
You know what’s really depressing? I have some great photos to share of that year (1986) in Georgetown but I can’t get my f$%&ing scanner to work. I’ve shared two shots from our home in Georgetown and will share more another time. So just listen to the music; smile if you’re able; and, well, hold on.
These last few days have been emotionally challenging — for no apparent reason except that sometimes the world just becomes too much for me. I can be very unkind to myself. This morning, as I was taking in some laundry — five pairs of socks and some underwear — from the clothesline outside the kitchen window, I tried to grab too much in my hands at once and one sock slipped through my fingers down to the courtyard below. The only access to the courtyard is through the apartment on the first floor and I hate to bother them since I know the other two neighbors are constantly losing clothing and clothespins that way (I’ve lost two clothespins). It must get really annoying. So, upon losing the sock, I lost “it” — fiercely gritting my teeth, biting my lower lip hard, and cursing myself out loud for my carelessness and stupidity. I didn’t lose one of Jerry’s socks (as if he would even care). I lost one of my own.
What I’m saying is I had a melt-down this morning. Over a sock. What I lost was an individual, casual, black GoldToe sock. I have perhaps two dozen (well now perhaps 23) casual, black, GoldToe socks remaining. Surely, it’s the end of the world.