Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It’s time to make a change

The monster is completely out of the box and causing a ruckus.

I’ve been trying to ignore the fact that my depression has been steadily worsening over the past six months or so. I’ll start to take my meds, sometimes for up to two weeks, and then start “forgetting” them when the situational stuff seems under control. The problem is that the chemical part is nowhere near under control. I have good days - days when I can actually function as a mom, wife and homemaker. Those are the days that I can bake, pay bills, do some cleaning, and socialize with my friends for a bit. More often than not, I’ve been having bad days recently. Everything is overwhelming. The only way I can cope is to pack Michael up, get out of the house, and hang out with my friends. Meanwhile, the mess at home grows (and becomes more overwhelming), and it all falls on John’s shoulders. I also get into this feedback loop - it’s my job to do X, I tell John repeatedly that I’ll do X, hours/days pass and X is left undone, finally either John does X or I do after some more procrastinating. This doesn’t only apply to the house, but everything. I haven’t checked my email in the past week for fear of seeing requests for my mothers’ group’s newsletter, or yet another note asking me how I am. I just now realized that our monthly meeting was last week, not tomorrow like I thought, and it sent me into a tizzy of failed obligations. Right now my perceptions are so out of whack, anything is likely to set me off and I hide even more.

I was first diagnosed with Major Depression when I was eighteen after my first suicide attempt. At that point, I had been living with at least clinical depression for years and major depression for about a year prior to that. I was hospitalized for two weeks and finally found out that the way I was feeling wasn’t just a pity party, that I wasn’t weak or selfish, that pulling myself up by my bootstraps wasn’t an option, and most of all that it wasn’t my fault. Then I got sent home.

That first hospitalization stripped all of the defenses that I had built up so I could function in my family. Yes, the people at the hospital told me I was sick, that I had a valid medical problem. My parents told me the exact opposite. I won’t go into the details because I have accepted what happened and rehashing it here isn’t going to do anyone any good. It took five years for my parents to accept and understand what had and continues to happen to me. Since then I have enjoyed their support. I’ve waded through the blame-game and come out on the other side. I’ve been able to function in my family without carefully constructed defenses for years now.

Those five years still haunt me. I am a huge proponent of seeking treatment for mental illness. I’m the first to suggest talk therapy, share my experiences with various meds and treatments, and tell of my journey through life dealing with this disease. The problem lies in taking this advice for myself. I still do talk therapy every other week and have been with the same therapist for the past five years, but that isn’t enough - I need medication. Even though I’ve grown so much, I know my illness and the signs of its ebb and flow, I still cannot do this thing for myself.

I am a classic non-compliant patient. I’ll go in, talk to the psychiatrist, tell him what I need and apologize for not keeping up with my meds, take the meds religiously for a few weeks, and then start to “forget”. No matter how much I know intellectually that I have a chemical imbalance in my brain, that the soul-crushing emotional pain is not normal or my lot in life, I am still that eighteen year-old hearing the daily message that all of this is somehow my own fault.

This cannot continue.

I have set very strict limits on my self-destructive behaviors. I have a small child who I stay at home with, certain things, not matter how much steam they’ll let off, just can’t happen. I also have way too many people who care about me who would notice and ask uncomfortable questions. The past few days (weeks, months), I’ve been fighting very strong urges to do some of these things, and my resolve is starting to get a bit shaky. A hospitalization has been looking very attractive, a time to fall back and regroup. The problem is that it’s never really that. Just like my first hospitalization, coming home is always harder and things feel/seem worse than they did before I went in.

I have to change for Michael. Not that John doesn’t deserve that change as well - we went through hell the first year of our marriage - he really does, but I have to be here for Michael and our future children. I’ve seen too many accounts of adult children who lived with a non-compliant mentally ill parent to not know the damage this causes. Sure, I just have depression, that’s not too bad, I can cope with it. Right now bad times for me result in him eating Veggie Booty and watching too much TV while I doze on the couch or compulsively knit in an effort not to think - that’s not that bad, right?

Realistically, I could probably keep this up for several years, I read about women who do it all the time - mending the cage that holds the monster until it’s more duct tape than steel. Women who manage to go through all the right motions, and a couple of days a month where their child is being raised by the TV and subsisting on junk food isn’t the end of the world - heck who wouldn’t want to watch TV all day, not get dressed, and eat potato chips for breakfast, lunch and dinner? That’s not the whole story though, just the surface. There’s the black cloud hanging over me, the short temper, the exhaustion, the hiding from people and tasks, the annoyance radiating from John when another day passes without my doing X even though I swore up and down that X would be done, the fear radiating from John as he waits for the shoe to drop, and the ever growing guilt. Sure, this is functioning, but it’s not living.

I started taking my meds again this morning. John, unfortunately, is being placed in the position of making sure that I “remember”, but he’s willing to do it and it really does need doing. I have an appointment with my psychiatrist next week so we can do the compliance song and dance. We have talked and made plans, once again. With some luck, it’ll stick this time. When Michael is in therapy as an adult (as I’m sure he will be), I’d like him to be telling a story about how my refusal to let him have five servings of ice cream when he was six damaged him for life, rather than expressing a wish that his mother would have taken her meds so she could be happy.

as always, my apologies to Strunk and White