Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Missing Past, the Unrememberable Present

Melissa is increasingly frustrated with me around my memory problems and my inattention to detail and inability to complete tasks and remember to follow-up with things. You have to understand…I’ve always been (until the last 9 months) a perfectionist, detailed, organized and in control. Example: Melissa makes me a list of things to do. I do them, but one of the items can’t be done completely right away for some reason. I often forget to go back and finish that item once it can be finished. Her frustration with me causes frustration for me. I write things down and I do the best I can do. I’ve tried different ways of staying organized, all with some degree of success. The “best I can do”, however, doesn’t meet my standards, just like it doesn’t meet hers. I feel embarrassed of my shortcomings and useless and upset with myself for failing to be reliably able to get things done. My frustration leads to mood changes, which further frustrate Melissa. When she reminds me of things, I’m often short with her because I’m embarrassed that I’ve forgotten or because I feel insulted that she thinks that I might have forgotten (if I haven’t.) Then, she feels like she can’t talk to me about things without upsetting me. On top of that, my talking to her about my mood and the problems I am having on some days overwhelms her, with everything else that's going on in life. So, the end result is a communication break-down wich we have to find a way to avoid.

This continued and increasing realization that I can no longer do things I used to be able to do gnaws at me constantly. My mental capacity isn’t getting better. My memory isn’t improving. Its as though when I elected to undergo ECT to relieve depression, I unknowingly (I know, Sally T, some of you told me) elected to change who I am, what I am capable of doing, and what contribution I can make to my family, my community and the world. I knew about the possibility of lasting memory loss. I didn’t understand that ECT would create a new “me.” ECT did improve my mental illness. At the point in my life at which I chose ECT, my options for a future were limited. And in my case, I had a family pleading with me to undergo ECT before I elected to leave them via suicide.

What if I had just, on my own, decided to undergo ECT, side effects be damned, without my family’s support and encouragement? A novel by Keith Ablow, “Murder Suicide”, poses an interesting philosophical question. In the story, there is a brilliant scientist who suffers from a seizure disorder manifesting itself at times when he pushes his brilliant mind the hardest (or maybe too hard). While he is a brilliant man, his own brain limits the usefulness of his mental capabilities, leaving him unable to fully tap into his intellect. He is contemplating undergoing elective and experimental surgery which would remove the part of his brain responsible for the seizures, leaving him to live a life free of this ailment and free to use his brilliance to its fullest. The surgery would, however, almost certainly leave him with a nearly complete amnesia, removing any memory of his former life or his family and friends (while, presumably, leaving his learned knowledge intact.) In the man’s journal, he asks the following question: (Those that I know personally, please understand that the book poses an interesting question, but I do not seek to abandon my life or my loved ones. The scenario is just so closely relatable to that of a person undergoing ECT, assuming the worst case side effects, that the philosophy is interesting. The facts specified in the passage below do not match my own situation.)

Does a [person] have the right to begin life anew? Is he the full owner of his existence, or is he merely a limited partner? Example: A woman is married 20 years with teenage children and a husband. A home. Pets. Photo albums and scrapbooks brimming with memories. What happens when this woman no longer feels any passion for a shared future with her husband and children? What if she feels non-existent?

Is she depressed? Does she need Zoloft? A higher dose? Or is it possible her life has carried her so far from her internal truth that she is, for all intents and purposes, a zombie – one of the living dead?

Is that woman within her rights – morally and ethically – to leave her home and friends, leave them so completely that she has no memory of them? Having brought her children into the world, does she owe them the rest of her life or is she free to celebrate the past and move on to create a new future without them [but congruent with her true destiny] ?

A person can be spiritually deceased, the carcass of his soul adrift inside a cage of skin and bone that has outlived him. What sort of mother or father, sister or brother, husband or wife would put his or her attachment to a shared past [with a loved one] above [the loved one’s] future, [forcing him or her to continue this soulless life of the living dead]?

True love would never exact such suffering.

If ECT could ease the suffering of depression and remove a patient from the verge of certain suicide, but with side effects of total memory loss: Ethically/morally/philosophically, where does a person’s (the “Patient”) right to begin life anew, free of the constant pain of depression, end? With respect to those sharing the Patient’s life, where do their rights to continuity begin? Consider the comparison between the “beginning life anew” scenario and one in which the Patient elects suicide instead. Does the Patient violate the rights of those sharing his life when he abandons all hope and commits suicide? Would suicide be easier for “those in one’s life” to handle, knowing that the Patient left life, as a whole, rather than abandoning the people in his life for a new life without suffering (and without them?) How does choosing amnesia for the sake of obtaining a life worth living (without depression) differ from just deciding to leave your old life behind and start another (for example, just moving to a different city and leaving your family and “life” behind)?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Finding one's self

Tomas makes an interesting point in his comment to my last post. He comments that he didn't realize that there would be a new "self" to discover following ECT. I guess I thought that, once I had some control over depression, I would see the "old" me coming back. In reality, however, there is a third me that now exists. There was the pre-depression me, the depressed me, and the post-ECT me. All are very different. Maybe just aging and gaining life experience is part of that evolution, but ECT certainly has changed some things about me that I wasn't expecting to be changed.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


As you can see, my postings are getting further apart. Not because things are necessarily going amazingly well, but simply because I seem to not have the time or the desire to write. There are lots of things going on. Let’s catch up.

First, I THINK we have our HOUSE SOLD. If the deal goes through (everybody cross your fingers) “I” actually sold it. My realtor had nothing to do with it. When I switched from my first realtor to my second, I got this letter in the mail. It was from an investor group telling me that they could buy my house and get me all of my equity. I think they target people who are coming out of listings, which I was (in the switch.) I threw away the letter. Daddy always told me “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” A month or so ago, they sent me another letter. This time, having nothing to lose and no leads ion selling my house through “conventional” methods, I called them. Their transaction structure actually makes sense, gets me the same equity from my home that I would get selling through a realtor, and we will close next week. I checked them out, they are legitimate, so don’t worry. Anyway…a bright spot on the horizon. Could it be the sun rising after the long night?

I got rid of my Jeep Wrangler. After much debate and changing my mind about what I wanted, I decided that I needed something 4 door so I could get kids in and out of it, something that gave a nice quiet comfortable ride, something that got a little better gas mileage, that cost me no more than my Jeep (hopefully less), that had some warranty left, and that could carry a small amount of cargo, if necessary. I settled on an ’03 Hyundai Santa Fe. So far…love it.

I settled with my Long-Term Disability insurer. It wasn’t a huge settlement, but it was significant given where we are financially, and really, more than they would owe me under the policy, given SSDI, had we gone to trial.

My mood: Well, my mood has been stable relative to where it was a year ago, certainly. My mood is really pretty good. My acceptance of my “new life”, my new roles in our family, and the increasing realization of the changes in my capabilities following ECT are my real problem and a constant drag on my mood. Sometimes they win the day and bring me down. I really don’t like being a “stay at home dad.” Its just not what I was cut-out for. I would much rather be working full-time if, for no other reason, than to feel productive and useful. I realize, about daily now, that I couldn't work a real, full time job right now if I needed to (good thing that SSDI was approved.) My memory and concentration are horrible, and my mood wouldn’t remain stable if I had someplace to be and something the least bit stressful to do five days a week. So, I’m doing what I can to be happy (or at least survive without being miserable) in my new roles. It still feels a lot like ”getting through today so I can buck up and do it all again tomorrow.” But I guess it could be much worse. I could be convinced, pretty easily, that my hold on “normal” mood is slipping slowly and that I’m getting sick again. Melissa says that I’m just having normal up and down days and that I’m so afraid of getting sick again that I focus on it too much. Maybe. I hope she’s right. Time will tell.

Enough for now.