Stability Interrupted: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Depression Sneaks Up on Me
When I get depressed (and I think this is universal), time slows down radically. The hours and days drag out so long that I can hardly detect time passing. If I can get to sleep, there’s some relief. Sometimes, I lie awake all night obsessing about one thing or another.
Another symptom is the darkness. I will immediately know if an antidepressant works. It is as if someone has flipped a switch and turned on the light. Additionally, I lose my appetite. I can feel the calories burn off and lose weight much quicker than if on a diet.
My concentration becomes sketchy; I find it difficult to read (my favorite activity). I just sit and stare at the TV. In this mood, I am interested in nothing. One of the hardest things to deal with is the obsessing. Once an idea is in my head, it’s stuck there.
I am slow to react to the reappearance of these symptoms. My meds have worked for so long, I just cannot believe they would fail. Finally, it is the time slowdown that is so difficult to get through when a day seems to last a week.
Suddenly, I am suicidal, getting these overwhelming urges. Making plans to commit suicide. I have enough pills in the house that I don’t need to know what a fatal dosage is; I can simply take a handful of almost anything to end it all. I could be watching TV, trying to read or sleep, and the idea suddenly enters my mind to get up and do it. Do not pass “go” or collect $200. I tell myself I cannot leave my cats alone, or upset my family. But the urge is strong. I can’t find a reason to stay alive. And staying alive is too painful to contemplate.
My psychiatrist again raises the dosage of my antidepressant and encourages me to go to the hospital. When I demur, she agrees that I could stay home and fight this thing, but insists I sign a form promising to not kill myself. I sign the form, thinking how odd it is to do so. It means nothing to me. I decide it is simply a “cover-your-ass” kind of thing for the doctor, who did not insist I go to the hospital. She could always pull out the form and say, “Well, she signed this form saying she wouldn’t.”
I return home from my doctor appointment a little hopeful. But the symptoms continue. One evening, I delete all the emails I had received from a celebrity friend. I don’t want anyone to find them after my demise.
Sometimes, the thoughts about my cats and family don’t seem so important. Someone will take care of the cats, and my family won’t miss me that much. At the same time, I know how selfish this is and can’t believe I would do this to the people I love. Even though I have these strong urges, I tell myself that suicide is not an option; that people actually care about me, even if I can’t feel that they do.
One night I am watching the news and the newscaster reports that a certain antidepressant has been found to be the most effective. The next morning, I call my doctor and tell her what I have learned. I tell her I am desperate, and that I want to try this new medication.
After a few days on my new antidepressant, the light is brighter and time is moving a little faster. I email my sister, telling her how depressed I had been and that I was even suicidal. She responds that she was also depressed about her life, feared losing her job and worried about her financial situation. I realize that I cannot commit suicide and expect her to pick up the pieces. I start to feel better and continue to see my doctor weekly.
Depression is a black hole, and I am not sure that anyone who has not experienced it can fully understand the feelings that accompany it. One often feels they would be better off to die than to sit there, unable to concentrate, obsessing, and watching the hands of the clock move imperceptibly toward a dismal future.
I feel better as the weeks go by and am soon back to my “normal” stability, with depression just a memory. The only remnant I have is the twenty pounds I lost.
And that is a good thing.