Friday, March 31, 2006

Back on track

Got up early today to work out. My near-daily 30 minute treadmill walk has become a run, followed by a quick weight workout. That is except for Thursday, which is racquetball, Sunday which is my day off, and treatment days.

I felt really good this morning. Read at Starbucks for about an hour, went to Home Depot to get more stuff for the baseboard project. An old colleague and friend of mine’s name and number are on a billboard for a retail development near my house. I haven’t talked to him in probably 4 years. I got his number. I find myself reaching out to more people I have lost touch with. I have to think that’s a good sign.

Spent all day working on baseboards in the family room. Lots of furniture, TV, stereo, and other stuff to work around. Wanted to get it moved, get the baseboards in and caulked and finished so I could move everything back before tonight. That need for order and organization just never goes away. Broke for lunch and took the kids out to eat. Melissa had dental surgery yesterday (tooth pulled, ick), and is pretty much laid-up. I’m trying to keep the kids out of her hair and let her rest. No question that she’s done more than her share of the same for me over the last 4 months.

Last couple of days have been good, not great. I played racquetball with only one of my usual two Thursday guys yesterday. We talked, between games, about putting together a small investment group and flipping some fixer-upper homes in our neighborhood. Housing market is on fire and there are several that would be easy to buy, put a few thousand dollars into and sell for a nice profit, all within 3-4 weeks. I think the fact that I’m looking at the future is another good sign. I wouldn’t have even entertained an idea like this 6 months ago. I don’t know where I would get the money to do anything right now, but at least I’m thinking about it.

Thursday was a little bit of an irritable day. Not major, just not great. I had planned to take Mic snowboarding today, and take Maggie along for a lesson (she’s never been on a board and Mic had lessons while in residential treatment last year.) Maggie didn’t want to do the lesson thing, and a whole day with just Mic right now, with each of us in our respective states, just didn’t seem like a good idea. I get more and more convinced that he is having some psychosis problems as time goes by. He is scared all the time, and absolutely will NOT be by himself.

Tuesday, I was glad to see the family when they got home. And honestly, I can’t remember what I did Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Let this be a lesson...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Watch out for those potholes!

The lesson for the week is that every day won’t smell like roses. While I might be on a new road, it still has peaks and valleys.

As high as my mood was last week, as “great” as a few of those days felt, I have to keep myself in check. I have a mood disorder. Even after ECT treatments, I still have a mood disorder. As a wise man told me today “You didn’t get a vaccination against depression. Its just unreasonable to think that you are going to elevate to a higher mood and just remain there forever.” Fact: Everyone has days that are better than others. It may just be, even after aggressively treating my depression, that the difference between my good day and my bad days is greater than for most other people.

Maybe (duh!) I should heed the warning of my ECT Doc, my wife, my shrink, and at least one other friend: “Slow down. Don’t go so fast. Take your time getting better. Treat this like a closed head injury, and heal at a reasonable speed.” I have, and have always had, the problem of being in a hurry, needing to get as much accomplished in a given time period as possible, being as efficient as possible. Maybe Sunday, that total melt-down, was my mind’s way of reinforcing the very sound advice I have been given.

I realize today that I have a choice that I get to make. Its an important choice, and one that I made poorly in the last few days. I can either (a) compare the way things are now to the way things were 6 or 7 years ago (the “good ol’ days) before depression, or (b) compare the way things are now to the way things were a year ago (in one of the worst parts of my depression.) While it might be true that I would give anything to have again some of the circumstances that I had 6 or 7 years ago, I have to remember that I was very discontent even then, and that regardless of what comes in the future, those days are gone. I had the world at my feet, making more money than even I thought I was worth, working a prestigious job, but I wasn’t happy. There’s a lesson, and one that everyone learns at one time or another I think: Money does not equal Happy. There is actually very little correlation between net worth and happiness.

If I choose to compare today to a year ago, however, I “have” much less (considering financial situation, employment, etc.), but I really “have” much more in another sense: My mental health is really a hell of a lot stronger. The only intelligent approach is to look at what I have today, and make the most of it today. What’s lost is lost forever, and is of no value going forward. What I have today has whatever value I afford it, but it can just as easily become valueless is unappreciated.

I struggle often with the question of what life is really about. What is all of this for? Why does that guy driving the FedEx truck, for example, get out of bed every day and crawl into that truck and deliver boxes? Is it for the fun of driving the truck? The joy of dropping off boxes? Is it so that he can lay on the couch and watch football on the weekends? In the long run, where does it lead? What difference does it all make? To a logical mind, doesn’t it necessarily have to lead to a logical destination?

One little piece of that answer, I think, is that everything, absolutely everything, is a learning experience. Education happens every waking minute. Everything action or inaction one experiences has consequences, realized or unrealized. If you aren’t learning from every minute of life, then your life can never have much meaning.

The bigger answer to the “What’s life all about?” question, I’ve decided, comes from so many different sources or angles which I think get condensed into the term “values.” Life is about what is important to “you”, which is an answer that can and does shift as we experience life and learn and grow. One lesson I’ve learned is that hard work, determination, work ethic and strong values only have meaning if you enjoy the fruit from those efforts. I’ve made this little promise to myself. When I get back on top of things, back to practicing the profession (law) for which I was educated and back to earning a good living (and notice I didn’t say “if”, I said “when”), I’m going to make a point of enjoying the rewards of my efforts. I am fortunate to have a second chance at life. I’m going to ENJOY what I have, what I make, and make the most of it on a day-to-day basis because, now I realize, that it could all easily be gone tomorrow.

I saw a t-shirt yesterday, and its message caught my attention. It read “Losers quit when they get tired. Winners quit when they’ve won.” I’ve never been a “loser.” Six years (maybe more) of depression tried hard to make me a loser, a quitter, but it failed. It just made it a bit harder to win.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Another day, recovering from yesterday...

I might have doubted it yesterday, given the way things went, but the sun DID come up today. It was another day. I had planned to go snowboarding today, while the family was away. I made myself go, despite the fact that after yesterday, I really didn't want to. But I knew that a day at home would be about the worst thing I could give myself.

I actually had a great day, although my mood, my head, weren't all that great. Its hard to not have a pretty good day standing on my snowboard with 4 or 5 inches of new snow on a sunny, warm day and at a ski area which was pretty close to empty. The longest lift line I stood in today was one person long, and that was only once or twice. I rode from 9:45 to 2:15, skipped lunch, and then called it quits. That was about 2 runs too many. I got in a lot of runs, and the last two were just down-right dangerous.

I did my best to keep my mind off of yesterday and the grand melt-down. It was a pretty successful attempt, overall. Strange, but I have found lately that I notice things in my environment that I think I would have missed before, and which have some weird connection to my current "condition" (whatever that may be at the time.) Today, one such thing was a license plate on a car that passed me. It read "NVR2L8." I hope that's true.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A very rude awakening

Sunday, March 26

Wow. Today was one to forget. Maybe one of the worst. I think it all started a couple of days ago. As I have mentioned, my family is out of town visiting family. I knew this might be a hard time for me, being home alone. I’ve been telling myself for weeks, preparing myself, that it was going to be fine, and I would get through it with no interruption in the progress I have made.

A couple of days ago, and at the time I thought nothing of it, I think was the genesis of today's disaster. A couple of days ago, I was thinking, generally, about suicide. I wasn't "suicidal", or thinking of killing myself, or planning or anything like that. I hadn't thought about suicide in any capacity for some time. It just hasn't been part of my being "better." But I was thinking about the fact that suicide is always an option available to me, but that I no longer “wanted” to die. For some sick reason, there is comfort in the idea that suicide is always an option. I think it’s a control thing. I think I like the idea that I am in control of how long I fight this fight. So, I was thinking that, despite feeling much better (remember, last week I reported some "great" days), the most likely cause of my death, whenever that may come, will probably be something in my control.

That was a couple of days ago. Friday, I think, the question of "purpose", which I wrote about yesterday, entered my head. It hasn't left my head since that time. Its presence has become more and more controlling, and the more the question resonates without an answer, the more controlling it becomes. What IS my purpose. I used to know that answer. I was the "bread-winner", the career person, the one bringing home the income that provided my family with the lifestyle to which they became accustomed. Then, I stopped playing that role. I became less and less of the bread-winner, working myself further and further from the prestigious career positions I have held and into less and less important roles in the mortgage business (and earning less and less money.) This continued, it seems, until I became just a guy hanging around, being a drag against what little income I was generating. My purpose, as I used to see it, is gone.

Philosophically, I see us all as little jigsaw puzzle pieces which, in some way or another, fit together to form a much larger picture: The World. Some of us have big parts in that big picture. Some are just supporting parts. Some, maybe, are only here to antagonize someone else in such a way that the antagonized takes an action (which he/she might not have otherwise taken) which enables the antagonized to serve his/her ultimate “important” destiny. Sorry, rambling. Anyway, I no longer know my part. I don’t know what piece I am. Maybe I'm just here to help my wife become the super-strong person that she has become (from dealing with my son and myself and our issues.) Maybe I'm just here to guide one or both of my children in some way. I just don't know anymore.

I experienced something today, which I now realize has been coming for some time now, which I imagine might be common to many or most ECT patients (or anyone that finds a way to climb out of that deep, dark, lonely, hopeless hole we call "depression"). I experienced this "awakening" which was stark, and ugly, and very disturbing. I realized, in this grand sense, just how far things have fallen during the time during which I have been ill. The order, the organization, the clean, well maintained beautiful home...all have fallen into this ragged state of disorder, disarray, disorganization, clutter, dirty mismanagement. My wife, back in those “good old days”, kept an immaculate house. Everything was well organized, our garage was used to keep “stuff”, but it was orderly. Same applies to the basement. There wasn’t a speck of dust on anything. All of the walls and doors and floors were well kept (painted and clean.) As I was searching for something in the garage today (which I never found), I realized just how much crap we have, and how cluttered and completely disorganized everything is. I found the same thing in the basement (didn’t find that missing item down there either.) And as I began to see these things, it began to dawn on me how beat up the walls and doors and floors are, how much most of the house is in need of paint and how much dust and grime there is everywhere. We had, many years ago, a beautiful yard which I mowed and kept in great shape. Now, it looks like hell. Melissa has done the mowing for the last 3, maybe 4, years. She had never mowed a yard before in her life until then. The dog has destroyed the back yard.

Where am I going with all of this babble? Its like I’ve been gone, and now I return and everything has gone to shit. But I wasn’t gone. I WAS RIGHT HERE, LETTING IT HAPPEN! “Guilt” has never been part of my depression. Self-loathing, unhappy, suicidal, isolation, obsession…those were my “depression features.” Guilt is only something I’ve heard other depressed people talk about. And now, now that I’m “Better”, and now that I see what I stood around and allowed to happen to the beautiful home that we worked so hard to afford and create, NOW I FEEL NOTHING BUT GUILTY!.

So, today was a day of realizing all of these things, and feeling guilty about what I have allowed to happen. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t blame anyone, certainly not my wife, for allowing this transformation to happen. Its MY fault, and mine alone. So, the generic self-loathing, self-isolating, unhappy depression has been well treated and has been put under some control is gone and I felt “better”, but now this NEW depression has arrived. While the “me” that I like has been away, that other “me” has been busy passively destroying everything I worked so hard for. And now that the “me” that I like has made a reappearance, he is having a hell of a hard time dealing with the circumstances that the other “me” left behind. Feeling better has allowed me to realize all of these things that just make me feel worse. And, I found in a hurry, that the guilt and the depression feed one another. As soon as one got started and began to feed the other (who knows which one started this cycle?), they quickly, very quickly, spiraled into this mental implosion which left me sitting in my house in an emotional disaster, asking a God I don’t believe in to just let me die, and wondering how in the hell I could have gone from the “great” days I had last week to where I found myself today. How? And if my well-being is this fragile, if the fight from sick to better is this tough, but the fall from better to this new hell is this easy, what’s the use? Why put everybody through this?

And if the guilt wasn’t bad enough already, it wasn’t until Melissa called me from out of town that the emotion that had been building overwhelmed me. And then I just totally fell apart on the phone. So, now, on top of everything else I had found to blame myself for, I could add stealing the “vacation” from my wife, and making her worry about me while she was supposed to be getting away from all of that. Oh, and exhibiting for her that the hours and hours that she’s spent at the hospital with me during treatments was just so I could be back “here” again. And, being the amazing person that she is, she stood her ground, talked me through things, and reminded me of the great progress that “we” have made, that some days were going to be better than others, and that it would just take time to get everything back on track and back to the way things used to be. I don’t know where she gets her strength, but everyone could use some of it. She’s more than I deserve, and she is certainly the reason I’m still here, and still fighting this fight. Tomorrow is another day, and I will find a way to make it better than this one.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


With my family gone, I have been very intent on keeping myself busy, working on projects around the house, running around town doing things, and getting together with friends for dinner and similar things. My mood, for the most part, has been very good and very stable. I've noticed no slippage or volatility, other than some frustration resulting from the shitty shitty racquetball I played this morning (I don't have a problem with losing...oh, wait, yes I do. I hate to lose. But I REALLY hate to lose to people that have no business beating me even on my bad days.)

All of this "staying busy" has brought back this nagging question. One that I have kicked around with both a stable mind, and when things weren't so stable (or down-right unstable.) Why am I here? What is my purpose? Am I surviving today just for the sake of being here tomorrow? I can't help thinking, after all that I've been through with this whole depression thing that there has to be a reason for my existence. There has to be a specific reason for which I am here in this life. And the conclusion that I come to is that either (1) I am here to influence the life (or lives) of someone else, or several others, or (2) I am here to leave some legacy or to have some greater effect on the world that I leave behind than that of which I am currently aware. Maybe my role is simply to mold or help mold the lives of my kids. Maybe my role is to help shape the path on which treatment for depression or ECT travels. Maybe its something much simpler and indirect, like I interfere inadvertently with a day in the life of someone who, because of the slight changes which my interference create, go on to do something great or meaningful or life altering for many others. Who knows? Do other people think about these things? If so, what conclusions do they come to? Am I the only one that is convinced that there must be some specific reason that I'm here? "Live for today" just doesn't seem to do it for me. Living for today just puts me into tomorrow, which is likely to be just like today, unless I do something to make it different.

End of ramble. I'll let you know if I come to any brilliant conclusions. Please don't hold your breath in anticipation.

Alone: So far so good

I was pretty worried about how I might fair, being alone for several days while my family was out of town. I don't know why the idea of being home alone seemed so troublesome, but it did. Maybe its related to memory and issues with that. Maybe its just the quiet. Anyway, they've been gone for a day, and things are going fine. My mood is actually better now, and I feel more like last week. Maybe it was just a longer recovery from that last treatment. I have also traded e-mails with someone important to me with whom I had lost touch. I'm sure that has had some positive effect.

Today, I have some racquetball lined up for this morning, then some work on the baseboard replacement project. Having dinner with a friend tonight, which will be good.

All-in-all, things are back to "good". Let's hope they stay there.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Not such great days.

Yesterday and today have been less good (not horrible, but not great either) than most of the days last week. Tuesday, I thought it was probably just from the treatment Monday. Today, however, it feels a little more like depression than I would like to be experiencing. Nothing serious, and I don't intend to let it get to me, but something to keep my eye on.

Melissa and the kids are going on a "Spring Break" trip to see family, leaving Friday. They will be gone until Tuesday. I think that being alone probably has something to do with the mood difference. I'm not looking forward to them being gone. I have plenty to do to keep me busy, but the house is too quiet at night with no one here.

So, I've been saving all of the "things to do" that I have for this weekend. I'[m in the middle of a "replacing the baseboards" project that could occupy all of the time in question. I also plan to go snowboarding on Monday, which will kill a day, and make me too tired Monday night to be too aware of the house being empty.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Neither rain, nor wind, nor snow, nor hail...

Wait, that's the US Post Office's credo. We were scheduled to get this huge snowstorm Sunday into Monday. I was worried that it would interfere with my treatment Monday morning. As usual, when the weather-people make a huge deal of a snow storm, it misses us or turns into nothing. This one, which was supposed to drop 12-14 inches on Denver dropped 1 inch, and blasted the eastern plains.

Nonetheless, my pdoc was the only one that made it in to the hospital Monday. I guess the other 2 live east of town. The OR was short on people. Usually, there are about 6 staff, counting the doc and the ADoc (sandman). Today, there were 3. All the same, when I woke up it was all over and I didn't realize I was in Recovery. I rarely do. Then I have a "Oh, is my treatment over?" moment.

I was at the hospital for a LONG time today. Much longer than usual. We got there at 9:00 and didn't leave until 1:15. My poor wife. I must have been asleep for a long time, because it didn't seem like any longer than usual.

I mentioned last treatment's wicked headache to my Pdoc and the Adoc too. I didn't wake up with any more headache than is typical (and which can be fixed with a little Fentenyl), but about 5:00, WOW did the Headache Man make an entrance. A few Percocet got it almost under control, but it was nasty.

Today, Tuesday, my memory is lousy. It seems worse than usual. I'm just sort of in a fog. My seizure wasn't all that long, 40 seconds. My Beck score yesterday was an all time low - 3!!! I'm surprised I hadn't gained weight. I seem to be hungry all the time. I think its simply that food taste better without the depression governing everything. Because I was still doing well, we decided to schedule the next treatment for 2.5 weeks, planning to go to 3 weeks for the one following if things are still on track.

I am really lucky to have such a great care-giver. My wife brought me home, put me to bed, and then went to Taco Bell for a half-dozen tacos. Starving and sleepy were the best descriptions for the afternoon (until "headache" joined the fun.)

Today, Tuesday, I had a meeting with a guy about a lawyer job. That went well. Good chance that I will be joining a little firm with my former General Counsel when I am ready to get back to work. Still working on some details.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Seizure #26, comin' up!

Its been two weeks since my last hospital visit. Two GOOD weeks. I'm glad I'm going in tomorrow. I would rather keep things on the "good" side than wait until they digress and then try to get back on track.

The weather people have been promising us a "winter storm" for two days now. 12-16 inches of spring snow is the forecast. It was supposed to blow into town about 3pm today. The ground is wet, and its 7:30pm. They are still saying its coming, but usually when they make this big a deal out of a storm, it turns out to be nothing. Its the ones they don't warn us about that turn out to be killers.

I wonder how much of a winter storm we would have to have in order for my treatment to be cancelled. I mean, its not unusual for the power to flicker on and off, or just go out altogether in the bigger storms. I sure as hell don't want the electricity to go off in the middle of my "electroconvulsive therapy"! Bad enough if it went off while we were in the OR before they put me to sleep. It would be pitch dark in there!

Last treatment, I had the worst headache of my life afterward. I don't know what was different, but I have to remember to tell my doc not to do it again. Otherwise, I don't really have any worries about this treatment. Been there, done that. I get e-mail from people who tell me that the first 12 or 24 can go just fine, and then all of a sudden, you get a "bad one" and the side effects are tremendous or you lose significantly more memory or something on that order. You know, I could worry about that. But the truth of the matter is, had I not started ECT when I did, it would have been a mere couple of days until I ended my own life. The plans were lain, and my only task remaining was to resolve my inner conflict "How do I end my life without leaving me kids thinking that daddy didn't love them enough to struggle through his depression?" So, worst case, my treatment goes terribly astray and my memory is forever mangled or some other such thing happens. Yes, that would be terrible, to have something bad happen and ruin the wonderful progress I have made with ECT. There is a long way I could fall from where I am now. I am worlds above where I started, and I owe all of that to ECT and the support from my friends and family. But worst case, I can't be any worse than the "dead" that I had planned for myself had I not began ECT. That's the way I see it.

Wish me a good one.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


For all of those loyal readers, those who have been following this blog since its start and commenting and stuff, I apologize, sincerely, for my lack of posts over the last week or two. All I can say is that things have been good, which means that things have been busy.

Today, I went snowboarding. This is the first day, all year, that I have been on my board. I got one day last year, and that was it. The year before that, 2 days. Disgraceful. There was a time, when I was in law school, when 30 days in a year was a minimum. One year (I think it was my 2nd year of law school), I logged 53 days! Anyway, I digress. I was driving the 80 minutes to the ski area, alone, listening to music and thinking. I realized, for the first time, how different things are now as compared to before ECT began. I got to this point in a strange line of thought, but I was thinking about when my car tags expire: June. I was thinking about when I bought my Jeep, June, and where things stood then. Its strange how, when things change gradually and slowly, you can miss the change altogether. Its like as you age, you don't notice the changes in your face or hair or body, until you look at a picture from 20 years earlier. Suddenly, you realize how much things have evolved.

I'm going to make a statement, despite some of the comments this blog has received recently. Its a bold comment. Its a comment that, today, is true. And its been true, for the most part, generally over the last couple of weeks, with some minor exceptions. I can only hope that I can continue to live up to this statement in the days to come, and that I am not premature or misguided. Here goes: I AM BACK! I don't mean that I'm just like I was way back long ago before my illness began. I will never be that person again. If for no other reason, I can never go there again simply because I have aged, matured, experienced life and grown. What I mean is that, there used to be a guy that inhabited this body, a guy that enjoyed living, that liked himself (for the most part), and that was fun to be around at least some of the time. That guy has been gone for 5 or 6 years, minimum. Another guy has been living here. He hated life, was pretending that life was going like it should be, he hated himself and almost everyone and everything around him, and would have been perfectly content not living another day. That guy's GONE.

I realized, today, just how far things have come. I had an absolute BALL today, from the time I left until I got home. I had FUN today and enjoyed living (and realized it) for the first time in as long as I can remember (granted, that my memory is a shambles at present.) Now, I was by myself, it was colder than Hades, snowing HARD, and the wind was blowing 15-25 MPH all day. I couldn't tell the ground from the sky most of the day. I'm out of snowboard shape, and generally out of practice in a big way. It could have been a really BAD day. But nothing, I mean nothing, was bad about today. My face will be sore tomorrow from smiling so much (actually, there won't be much of me that won't be sore tomorrow.)

The last couple of weeks have been filled with looking at employment opportunity. I practiced law for 9 years, then opened and ran my own coffee business for 2 years, then worked in the mortgage business for 4 years. It was somewhere at the end of being a lawyer and running my business when I first noticed the depression. From then through November '05, I have been in a depression tailspin. I haven't even been able to consider returning to practicing law for the last 5 years. I have slowly worked my way from the upper echelon of the mortgage business (making pretty good money) to the lowest level of the business, making less and less money and being less and less happy. It is from this lowest level of mortgage that I am currently on medical leave. It is this lowest level of mortgage that I absolutely will NOT be returning to when I return to work. I am certain, in my present condition, that the possibility of returning to a law practice is a reality. If not now, then in the near future. I may not operate at my previous capacity or with the same mental tools that I once had, but (excuse me for saying so), at a fraction of my previous capacity, I'm as good as most lawyers out there.

Are things perfect? No. Will they ever be? No. Am I as good as I once was, mentally, physically, or in any other respect? I don't know, and it doesn't really matter. I am what I am, and I'm damned happy with where I am. Every one of us gets out of bed every day and does the best we can with what we have. I can expect nothing more from myself than that. That's what I was doing while I was sick. Its simply that, now, when I get out of bed and do the best that I can, I have more to work with than I did a few months ago. What I had 5 or 6 years ago is nothing more than a memory. I can let it be an anchor. I can let it be painful if I dwell on now versus then. But the fact is that to get the most out of life, from here forward, all I can really do is maximize what I have, who I am, and what I can contribute NOW. I can only reasonably look at the past as part of what makes me who I am now. Tomorrow is another day. I hope its as good as today was.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Rollercoaster Day

Played racquetball this morning with the usual Thursday morning guys. One thing I notice, for sure, is that my hand-eye coordination was off. I usually hit some shots that are better or worse than others, but I never just miss the ball. I have to relate the change to the treatment on Monday.

Basically, today was an ok day. I got the kids bathroom taped and painted. Have I mentioned that I hate to paint? And I got a few other things around the house done, including some job search things. Melissa keeps reminding me that my pdoc has told me that she hasn’t released me to return to work, that I have to treat all of this like a “brain injury”, and that it could take up to a year, once I’m solidly in remission, before I’m back to full speed. In the meantime, I have a family to feed, my long-term disability insurance (The Hartford) is giving me shit about there being a “pre-existing condition”, and SSI is sure to deny me the first time around. So, I’m looking for work.

This afternoon late, I don’t know where it came from, but I really got down on myself. Just a general self-loathing, “you are just a loser” kind of mentality. Not that we are anywhere near this stage, but I decided that under no circumstances would I move my family out of our home because I could support the cost of living there anymore. AKA, I will support my family in our home, or die trying. Now, I know that might sound like suicidal ideation creeping back into the picture, but I’m looking at it more of a way to stop worrying about money and work and making ends meet. “A place to live” seems to be the pinnacle of the worries that plague my head. If I can remove that worry, it seems that things will seem a little less troubling. The rationale of a twisted mind…

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Did anyone get the license number of that bus...?

Today was a really bad “day after”, worse than most. I don’t know if I’m just becoming not used to the treatments now, or if this was just a rough one, but it was a tough one on the day of treatment (headache, nausea), and the day after sucked too. My jaw was still sore, and my neck hurt like I had whiplash. Then, all day, I was just sort of half-conscious. Not really bad “mood”, but just whipped out physically.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Treatment #25

Today was treatment #25. Yes, 25! And I have to say that it was the most miserable of them all. The seizure was 100 seconds. I woke in Recovery without a clue where I was, or that my treatment was done. Oh, and with the absolute worst headache I’ve ever had in my life. 4mg of Fentanyl later, I was little better. In Recovery II, I got an ice bag for each side of my head. That helped some. I spent the rest of the day at home in bed, popping Percocet and with ice bags tied onto my head. I must have gone at this one hard with my jaw, because it hurt to open my mouth or rest my teeth together. If they had all been like this, I might not have made it this far.

My Beck score today was 7, which is great. My blood pressure ranged from 132/72 to 120/74, both of which is good, for me. Next treatment scheduled for 2 weeks (March 20). I can hardly wait.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A day in the sun

Today started on the short side of "good". I woke up and just didn't have the "sparkle" that has been there most days lately. Maybe I'm getting spoiled, but I'm sort of getting used to that sparkle. Luckily, it arrived soon after the day started.

I had a busy day. I went for a cup of coffee and to read for about an hour. Its how I start most Sunday mornings. Then, with my list in hand, I went to Home Depot. I had a gate to rebuild/fix, landscape lights to make work, and a whole house baseboard replacement to get geared up for. The gate project alone, in the past, would have been hell on earth. I've worked on that damned gate at least 5 times in the last 3 years, all under the spell of a nasty depression or a wild mania, and all with nearly no success. It still was falling apart, it wouldn't patch, the wind would blow it open and let the dogs out, etc.

If you've ever tried to transport five 12 foot pieces of baseboard in a Jeep Wrangler, you've had the fun I had today. I had baseboard sticking out both ends of the soft top, with red flags on each end. It was awesome. But I got home without incident.

I spent 5 hours working on the gate. Much longer than I expected, but it was more work than I expected. I wound up having to rebuild part of the gate and the adjacent fence so that I could make the latch work, and the gate and fence are pretty old and weathered, so the wood is a bit tricky to work with. I might have been suspicious of my mood today. I might have been convinced that I was riding a mania. But I worked all day with my son, who is mentally ill as well and for whom I generally have little tolerance (and when I'm not well, either depressed or manic, I simply can't tolerate him.) He was with me for the whole five hours, helping, getting in the way, learning how to use tools, asking questions. There is no way that that would have worked if I wasn't having a good mental day. And the day went by without incident. The fence got fixed beautifully, no swearing or throwing things took place. It was all cool.

The baseboard job scares me. Its will be a new experience for me. Cutting mitered angles and detailed wood work will be a good test. My first surprise came today when I learned that the 12 foot baseboard strips that I thought were $.72 each were really $.72/foot! Ouch!

I decided today that the Xanax XR that my ECT doc has prescribed isn't doing the job. I take it in the evening, and it just doesn't slow me down enough. I used to use another drug, one that was not prescribed by a medical doctor and which will remain unnamed, every night to unwind so that I could face another day tomorrow. I stopped that quite a while ago in favor of alprazolam and Lunesta, which did the trick. The switch to XR form of Xanax just isn't cutting it, even with the advantages and benefits of ECT. It took me too long to recognize this, but I finally tuned in to the fact that on nights when I have this crushing headache from ECT (about one out of every three nights) and I take my prescribed Percocet, I relax and have a good evening and go to sleep like a normal person and sleep all night (thanks to Lunesta.) And on nights without the headache and without the Percocet, I don't relax and go to sleep. Tomorrow, I tell my doc that I need to do something different. A Percocet addiction just isn't in my best interest, and I'm too smart (and getting too well) to let that happen.

I'll end with a terrific quote I picked up today. Its a Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Whilst sitting on the cushions of advantages he goes to sleep, when he is pushed, tormented, and defeated, he has a chance to learn something." I ought to be pretty damned educated by this point.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Been a few days since I’ve written, sorry. I’ve been busy applying for government jobs. What a pain in the ass! Lots of paper. For those who comment to this blog and ask questions/would like a response, remember to give me an e-mail address, or just write to instead.

I had a great experience the other evening. A friend of mine, a friend who has been there for me several times over the depression days when I really needed someone to be physically with me to keep me “safe”, called me the other evening. He has been having his own problems with depression, and needed to talk. He was pretty down, and feeling like he might do something reckless. We talked for quite a while. He said he was feeling “like a failure”, and thinking that “he could fix everything and stop feeling like this by just checking out”, ending his life in favor of the $1 million insurance policy he has. His wife and son would be set, and he would be out of pain. Wow, was he ringing a familiar bell. Those are the things that haunt me as depression sets in for me, too. I think those are the hallmark ghosts of the disorder for most people.

We talked about those things for a while, and I let him know, unequivocally, “the only thing you’ve failed at is getting a handle on this mood problem. Otherwise, you need to take another look at all the accomplishments you have, and all that you have in your life.” But while we were having this discussion, I realized, for the first time, that those ghosts, those things that have haunted my mind for as long as I can remember, that I’m a failure and that everyone would be better off if I was just gone, they are all gone. I haven’t thought those things in weeks, and they just sort of disappeared without saying “goodbye.” For the first time in years, I’m NOT miserable and trying to find a way to avoid my life.

Now, that said, I DO have these feelings, that come and go, of being lost, of not knowing how or where to begin this “new life” that I’ve started. How do I start this new career? What if I can’t provide for my family? I know all of these things are just self-doubt, and all of them will work themselves out with just a little diligence on my part (and diligently is the only way I know how to proceed with anything.)

I’ve also noticed that there are certain places and activities which are bad for me. They, in and of themselves, bring back these really dark feelings. In example, I have volunteered for a short while at an animal shelter. When I was really ill, it was the highlight of my week. I only work on Saturday afternoons, but I would look forward to it all week. The time with the homeless dogs, just doing “something” worthwhile, was so fulfilling. After my “last” treatment (before my “relapse” and restart of treatment), I went for an afternoon at the shelter. It was there that I had the relapse. That day, before I went, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling good. I could feel this darkness creeping up on me. While I was at the shelter, I completely came apart. I really didn’t make the connection for a while. I restarted treatment and started feeling better again. Then, last weekend, I was going to go back, and Saturday morning, I noticed that I was feeling really down again. I struggled with it all morning. About noon, I decided that I wasn’t going to the shelter and, as soon as I made that decision, I started feeling better. And those dark feelings haven’t been back. But if I think of going to the shelter, I can feel it. The same thing happens if I think about going back to work in the mortgage business. I can think about going to work, just not at my “current” job (which I haven’t been to since November) or working with mortgages.

So, I find that I’m spending time about every day just keeping my mood in perspective. Its easy to get used to feeling better and forgetting how it felt to be really depressed and critically ill. Its easy to bury those old feelings and forget because its was so forgettable, so much something I just don’t want to remember. But I have to make myself remember how it felt, just for perspective or something to compare with how I feel now. I think that the comparison and keeping the mood difference in mind is imperative to continuing to feel better.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A day of revelation.

Got up early today to get my quick workout (30 minute treadmill walk and bicep weight workout) in before my therapist appointment. I went intending to talk to Mark about something specific, but we wound up talking about something entirely different. We talked, really, about starting to think about beginning my “new” career, and about “getting out of the box” and employing some creativity as I start thinking about returning to work. About being creative in employing my education and skill set, instead of just jumping back into the same muddy water I crawled out of.

5 years ago, I was Assistant General Counsel for a publicly held corporation. It was a big job which required the qualifications and education that I had/have. I worked hard to get to where I was, and I worked hard at my job, developing a great set of skills along the way. Since then, and since depression became part of my life, I have slowly abandoned that skill set and allowed my professional role, the prestige, compensation, and importance, to erode. Looking back, after the failure of my coffee business (2002), I have worked in the mortgage business in less and less lucrative and powerful roles. My last job, which I am still expected to return to once I am “better and able” could be done by anyone. It was a meaningless job with meaningless pay and meaningless security. Needless to say, I am not returning to that job under any circumstances. But the “what are you going to do when you grow up?” question has had several answers over the last several months. Answers that have varied based on where in my treatment I was at that time, what I thought I “wanted” to do, and what I thought I would be able to deal with psychologically.

Most recently, I have considered doing something with little or no stress, because I thought I needed that. I have considered, at least for the short term, working as a waiter in a high end restaurant or working in a grocery store (mostly for the union security.) Those job ideas were mostly just hold-overs until I decided what I really want to do, and what works for me psychologically.

My conversation with Mark today took a different path. Mark mentioned that he has a couple of other clients that are lawyers and that were, at one time, miserable in their jobs. All 3 of them used to work in private practice in both small and large firms. Places where the prestige, compensation, and ego factor are way up there. Also places where the pressure is high, the whip is cracking on a constant basis, demanding more production, and with a work environment typically thought of when one mentions “practicing law.” But all three now work for some faction of the government, and all three love their work. One works prosecuting corporations that harm the environment, one works helping the poor find housing, and the other works for the Attorney General. All of them feel that they are contributing something meaningful, they like the work environment, they have great benefits and security, the pay is modest but sufficient, and the hours and work expectations are well defined. In addition, I have a very close friend who used to practice trial law in Dallas. Due to medical issues, it became difficult for him to continue that practice and he now is a worker’s comp judge. He, also, (I think…) enjoys his work and is secure in his job.

These aren’t the “LA Law” kinds of jobs (if you’re too young to remember LA Law, good for you.) They aren’t glitzy. None of these people are going to get rich in these jobs, and they know that to be true going in. They also know that the demand for these positions, as compared to those glamour lawyer jobs, is minimal. 10 years ago, if you mentioned to me working in the government as a lawyer, I would have laughed at you, pointed out that you can’t make any money in that role, and not thought anything more about it. But today, I’m looking at things through different lenses. Making lots of money is great, and I’ve been there and done that. I recognize the benefits more money brings. I also see where my previous path has gotten me. But adding certainty to my life, defining what my future and retirement look like (to any degree), defining my work day, job expectations, hours, pay, and benefits all have significant value that I wouldn’t have recognized earlier in my life because those things are all contradictory (to some degree) to higher income.

Nonetheless, the job characteristics I mentioned above are the things that would provide a peace of mind that I might have never had, at at a minimum, a serenity that I left behind at my last lawyer job. Those things have such value that, if they require me to give up some income in exchange for that peace of mind and an income merely sufficient for survival, then the question of “what should I do? Becomes an easy one to answer. Stability, predictability, uniformity and a feeling that my work, whatever it is, has meaning are features that I will be seeking as I look for the beginning of my new career. Likewise, I will be looking to return to using my education and my skills, either in the typical sense, or in some other, more creative, sense.

This evening, there was much discourse in my house. My son was not doing well, obsessing over a couple of things, throwing some major fits and getting long with no one. That leads, usually, to my wife defending him, and her and I not getting along. In the past, that strain between my wife and I would have put me into a quick tailspin, my mood would have plummeted, and I would have withdrawn into the basement and spent the rest of the night there alone and away from the rest of my family. Tonight, I didn’t let it bother me. I saw things for what they were, a simple disagreement on how my son’s issues should have been handled, and I went on with my evening. I’m giving ECT credit for that improvement.