Death at The Dance: Depression
“For we depressives are suspended throughout the vast, shadowy circles of hell; beneath, below and out of sight of even the ‘Purgatorio,’ let alone the ‘Paradiso’ and the stars beyond. Unless rescued, guided onward and upward and out, yanked off the wrong path and into the light (Dante’s ‘shining world’) by pharmaceuticals or the inscrutable natural cycles of ebbing and flowing neurotransmitters or, most finally, released, by our own hands, into oblivion (whether light or yet more dark, we cannot know from this plane), we remain lost, caught in medias res, helpless.” Elizabeth Boleman-Herring
Ruminant With A View
By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring
“Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita/Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,/Ché la diritta via era smaritta.” / “In the middle of the journey of our life/I found myself in a dark wood,/For I had lost the right path.” . . . “E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stele.” / “And so we came forth, and once again beheld the stars.”—Dante
TEANECK New Jersey—(Weekly Hubris)—6/3/2013—Between Dante’s “Nel mezzo . . .” and “E quindi . . .” lies one of the greatest journeys, and extended metaphors, in Western literature.
That the Florentine poet’s Commedia is titled just that—“The Comedy”—and, later, amended by Boccacio to read “The Divine Comedy”—has to do with the stars the protagonist views at the end of his spiritual odyssey.
However, what we remember best about the Commedia is its “dark wood,” its “Inferno,” which is why those who live out their lives, lost again and again and again in that dark wood, in depression, turn so naturally to Dante for words with which to describe their state.
For we depressives are suspended throughout the vast, shadowy circles of hell; beneath, below and out of sight of even the “Purgatorio,” let alone the “Paradiso” and the stars beyond. Unless rescued, guided onward and upward and out, yanked off the wrong path and into the light (Dante’s “shining world”) by pharmaceuticals or the inscrutable natural cycles of ebbing and flowing neurotransmitters or, most finally, released, by our own hands, into oblivion (whether light or yet more dark, we cannot know from this plane), we remain lost, caught in medias res, helpless.
Depression is A State of Utter Stasis
Depression is, foremost, about being stuck.
In that, it resembles Parkinson’s. And, for many unipolar depressives, there is no true awakening. The malady is entropic. Its victims—and, many of us, victims from birth—simply run down and stop. We cease leaving our beds, bathing, washing our faces or hair, speaking, responding, working, creating. We cease being, let alone being ourselves. Our selves evaporate, leaving behind chilly shells. And some of us, many of us, certainly I and several people I love, who have been depressed all our lives, try again and again to end it all.
But we do not want to suffer yet further pain in departing, so we usually make a hash of suicide: most of the methods available to us hurt like hell, or entail even greater suffering if botched (brain and liver damage, encounters with hurtling vehicles that we only half-win, heads blown only half-off, these mishaps leaving us attended only by aghast family and bystanders scarred for life).
One of the “how to” manuals for would-be suicides helpfully suggests death-by-exposure, in the far north, in the depths of winter. (I did, finally, throw out that little primer, just this past winter, but not before reading and highlighting it. I’m a depressive with a side of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.)
Woe is me.
“Depression,” as a descriptor, so, so, so does not encompass the state we in the unipolar community embody, either. To call our recurring vivisection “depression” is akin to describing napalm as an “irritant.”
Would I switch places with someone afflicted with schizophrenia, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Stage 4 pancreatic cancer? No. But depression’s right up there and is, much of the time, if not treated, as surely fatal.
As my last shrink phrased it, the first week I met him, some 14 years ago, “There is no pain, physical or psychic, comparable to that of depression. Suicidal, clinical depression is a hair-on-fire medical emergency.”
Were I still as depressed as I have been, critically, for the past two months, I would not be writing this essay (and you wouldn’t feel compelled to skim it). Were I still as depressed, I’d be down the hall in a darkened room; curled up in bed in the fetal position; snarling and whimpering.
Depression is also like an early Ingmar Bergman film on an endless loop: cries and whispers; snarling and whimpering. Not a musical comedy.
And the Available Meds Really Don’t Cut It
In Having It Out With Melancholy [http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15920], Jane Kenyon [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Kenyon] writes in “Credo”: “Pharmaceutical wonders are at work/but I believe only in this moment/of well-being./Unholy ghost,/you are certain to come again./Coarse, mean, you’ll put your feet/on the coffee table, lean back,/and turn me into someone who can’t/take the trouble to speak; someone/who can’t sleep, or who does nothing/but sleep; can’t read, or call/for an appointment for help./There is nothing I can do/against your coming./When I am awake, I am still with thee.”
In my wallet, I carry a print-out (other unipolar depressives actually wear thumb drives round their necks) with the list of psycho-pharmaceuticals I have tried, and which have failed; and the meds to which, in the lifelong search for a “cure,” I have exhibited allergic responses of one sort or another. The page of information—for the edification of paramedics, emergency room physicians, and even my trusted attending physicians (as I cannot, for the life of me, actually remember the names of all these drugs by now)—is dense and detailed, in 10-point type.
What my mini-unipolar-bio does not state, though, is that none of the meds I currently take actually “suffices;” none actually works.
If, as many now posit, depression is some sort of inherited Ur-Disorder, a pan-inflammatory process affecting very specific neurotransmitters (serotonin NOT first and foremost), a disorder of sleep and mood and, and, and, and, expressed particularly in the anterior cingulate region of the brain, and in the glutamate system, then we have been barking up the wrong trees for about two decades, and downing Prozac and its clones for an illness much better wrangled by such medications as nasally-administered ketamine and low-dose naltrexone [http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2013/05/23/johnson-johnson-is-reinventing-the-party-drug-ketamine-to-treat-depression/; http://painsandiego.com/2012/10/05/ketamine-rapidly-relieves-depression-by-restoring-brain-connections/; http://www.solasclinic.com/wordpress/the-beauty-of-low-dose-naltrexone-ldn/].
During this last, ninth-circle-of-hell bout with what I have long called (after Winston Churchill) “My Black Dog,” I threw myself into a study of my own brain chemistry, and believe I have finally figured out the course of treatment I (and others) need to follow. Unfortunately, because Big Pharma cannot make a bundle off out-of-patent substances such as ketamine, naltrexone and N-Acytl-Cysteine, I can today be treated, successfully, in Germany, Australia or Mexico (and, for a price, not covered by my insurance, in La Jolla or Princeton NJ), but not in Englewood at my GP’s office, though it would be an easy lift for my very bright New Jersey internist/geriatrician.
Currently, too, I am awaiting word from Dr. Helen Mayberg, at Emory University Hospital, whose Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery has for many proven another sure way out of refractory depression [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/takeonestep/depression/video-ch_10.html]. Even if I qualify for the anterior cingulate implant, I may not have the courage to undergo such a radical procedure, but I also know that, day by day, with my depression left untreated, and taking the drugs I do, my grey matter is degenerating, bit by precious bit.
So, at present, for chronic, almost total insomnia, pavor noctis R.E.M. nightmares, and crippling depression, I am taking two very dirty drugs and a third fairly dirty drug, at some expense, and my depression does not, will not, remit.
My faithful and beloved spouse, My Black Dog, and I stumble along, a lonely trio, scouring Google and curb-siding neurologists, trying to gain more knowledge; more light.
Welcome to American health care.
“How Could I Ever Trust You Again?”
My current Siege-by-Dog began with Hurricane Sandy, and it has been all downhill for eight months.
There were “triggers,” as though a hurricane destroying the state in which I live weren’t harbinger enough. But, there were other grievous losses and fallings-away.
My closest friend and confidante of some 30 years, having received joint emails from Black-Dog-et-Moi, severed our longstanding friendship. She said, “How could I ever trust you again after this?”
At about that time, I shut down communications with the world at large, to protect my small circle of friends, and to spare myself the solicitous abuse by others.
Donald Hall, poet Jane Kenyon’s husband, writes of Jane in the depths: “One of the hardest things, if you are depressed, is to try to hold yourself up in the presence of others, especially others whom you love. I remember a birthday for granddaughters at my daughter’s house. Jane stood looking on, wretched, hardly able to speak. She was quiet, there were many people, and she practiced invisibility. My daughter looked at her and said, “You’re miserable, aren’t you? When Jane nodded, Philippa spoke with sympathy and left her alone. You do not try to cheer up depressives; the worst thing you can do is to count their blessings for them.”
Or take them shopping, I might add.
When I was in my teens and 20s, and beginning to come to grips, intellectually, with the condition I had experienced from infancy, my mother would try to get me out of the house. We would go, say, to a mall in Atlanta—Buckhead’s most upscale emporium, where, in happier times, she and I would lunch together at Niemann-Marcus, always ordering the chicken-pecan salad, apricot mousse and pop-overs.
When accompanied by my ravenous Chien Noir, however, I would begin sobbing as we walked—crying so hard I would throw up; unable to care who saw me or how they might see me—and my mother would have to usher me, blinded by tears and humiliation, back to the car, home, and a darkened room.
To attempt to explain this condition to civilians—and my own depression comes seasoned with PTSD, ADD and Stage Four Sleep Disorders—is to make a stab at explaining a fourth dimension to those blessed to inhabit only three.
It cannot be done. I no longer try.
One friend phones me every day, still, though, for months, I have not picked up the phone and our land-line answering-machine message clearly states that I am no longer talking (let alone writing, sleeping, moving, smiling, laughing, focusing on anything resembling work, practicing Yoga, etc., etc.).
But . . . I cannot make anyone understand where I go when I go. I can assure them, however, that when I go, I am gone. And I have no idea if or when or how I will return.
Writer Meri Nana-Ama Danquah [http://www.danquah.com/] states: “There are times when I feel like I’ve known depression longer than I’ve known myself. It has been with me since the beginning, I think. Long before I learned to spell my name. No, even longer than that. I’m sure that before I could even speak my own name or learn to love the color of my skin, this hollow heartache was following me, patiently awaiting the inevitable crossing of our paths, planning my future unhappiness. I’ve always been aware that something in my life was not quite right, if not totally wrong. My scales were never balanced. For every twelve joys, I had 25 sorrows. And each sorrow was like a song. A melodious seduction bringing me closer and closer to this terrible sickness which has cost me lovers and friendships, money and opportunities, time and more time. So much wasted time.”
When I went down to Washington DC’s hallowed NIMH to enter a clinical trial offering minute quantities of ketamine to a group of genius-level unipolars (and, to give us, this rarefied group of lab rats, just one dose of intravenous ketamine was the moral equivalent of finding people dying of dehydration in the Gobi and offering them each a thimble of water), I was asked by Dr. Carlos Zarate, who was running the study, how my life had been blighted by depression [https://weeklyhubris.com/one-flew-out-of-the-cuckoo%E2%80%99s-nest-or-a-human-lab-rat-takes-on-the-n-i-h-%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cclinical-trial-culture%E2%80%9D/].
Dr. Zarate is not a nice man, and he is accustomed to running his little ketamine fiefdom like a Persian despot his silent harem.
I responded that I would have written more books. With dripping sarcasm, he asked if I’d ever written a book. I answered, “Twelve.”
He really had no clue who he was dealing with: the group I met, caught in the web down at Zarate’s NIMH trial, included at least three people fully capable of having earned multiple PhDs; written many more books than I. All of us, however, have been compelled to limp through life, packs of wild dogs taking us off at the ankles again and again. It’s a miracle we’re still standing. After a fashion, standing.
So, generally, I try to lay low when my canine companion is in attendance. It’s the best I can do for all concerned.
When—as now—the words begin, again, mirabile dictu, to flow from my fingers, I know I’ve been granted a breather. But, until I can write more than simply sputtering first-person non-fiction, I’m still in the woods.
Writer and mental-health scholar Joshua Wolf Shenk [http://www.shenk.net/biography.htm], author of Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness, writes about the failure of language to express, to describe, to encompass the reality of depression.
“The failure begins when the words intended to codify or categorize, what Maurice Merleau-Ponty calls ‘empirical speech,’ actually disrupts or preempts ‘creative speech,’ or ‘that which frees the meaning captive in a thing.’ Every breath and word is an effort in translation and, at times, that effort can seem impossible. But poems, lyrics, and stories can do an end run around the stubborn distance that separates us, helping us feel what it is to be alive. Words can create meaning, teach us our own thoughts, and perhaps even describe a life.”
For now, I am sequestered, watching Seasons 1 through 5 of “True Blood,” the HBO series which is such an apt objective correlative for my life as a “Supe”(r-natural): half human, half raging black hound.
I speak only to other “Supes,” just now, or I go out on brief errands, incognito, wearing a brittle almost-me-but-not-really mask.
I trust only my husband to enter the darkened room where I await deliverance. Via email, I trust “in” only my bi-polar friend, who knows this territory well; and my friend the angst-ridden hoarder, who is pleased if I manage to type in monosyllables.
Very recently, a new psychologist informed me that I am a genius or a near-genius. Such information never mattered to me much before but, as I’ve felt my grip on sanity and sentience slide in toto over the past all-but-year, now, it is a comfort to know that, though grey cells are dying by the daily bread-basket, perhaps I can afford to lose them.
And, if what I’ve been reading about ketamine and naltrexone and N-A-C is true, and I am able to find a neurologist willing to have a go at treating my glutamate system, then my neurons will regenerate; even proliferate.
Much stranger things have happened.
I would not say I’m optimistic. Oh no, that’s not how I roll. But I do know there may be some doors opening in and out of my darkened room. Meanwhile, though, the kennel is still pretty much off-limits to civilians; those with only two paws.
Clinical psychologist, author, and unipolar depressive Martha Manning writes: “Anyone who has ever been seriously depressed knows that [asking us to articulate what is wrong] is as daunting as asking a lame man to tap-dance. In addition, it leads to mutual frustration, anger, and ultimately helplessness . . . . In depression, the lights are off, but somebody’s definitely home. She just can’t make it to the door to let you in.”
And, if you try to come in before she can open the door, herself, you risk being mauled by a huge, snarling canine over which she has no control at all
Note: For more of Pierre Cambon’s spectacular photography, go to: http://www.photodigest.be/photo-exhibitions/pierre-cambon-engraved-photographs-paris/#.UZ-5Bdg8CSp; and http://lejournaldelaphotographie.com/entries/10919/pierre-cambon-jeter-l-encre. The four images that illustrate this essay comprised part of Cambon’s series, “Couples.”
Also: For an introduction to Dante Alighieri and his Commedia, begin with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante_Alighieri.
To: For information about one California clinician doing pioneering work with ketamine for PTSD and depression, got to http://painsandiego.com/2012/10/05/ketamine-rapidly-relieves-depression-by-restoring-brain-connections/.
Most: of the quotes used throughout this essay derive from Editor Nell Cassidy’s spectacular compilation, Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression [http://books.google.com/books/about/Unholy_Ghost.html?id=7VFPzaAWy38C].
Danny M Reed
“Unholy ghost; you are certain to come again.” Words are inadequate failures in the attempt to articulate the experience over the passage of time. I attempt to learn the other languages in search of words and word pictures without translations. Greeks created several words for “love” and Eskimos created a litany of terms for “snow” while dynamic Sign Languages for the deaf continue to generate sign variations. Fundamentally, girls simply learn languages earlier, better, and faster than myself. The DSM 5 psyche Bible tries again to accomplish what previous volumes have not. We now speak of Spectrums. A million people have at least one million words for it.
Not long ago I would have been exorcised, lobotomized, purged, bled and finally sequestered for the good of Society; to protect them from my words and speech. I am the conduit of that “unholy ghost” and it is certain to return. Lock me up now.
I have walked with the “Black Dog” for many moons. I have seen the relationship change, actually improve. But, ever cautious, I don’t speak much of it.
I love and work at being a bit more simple. I hope I can continue tht path. Time will tell. But I know for me there are some things I need to let go of – and most are me.
I do music and this helps hugely. Ironic that the “music industry” is a …. well… you know what it is.
But again, I look at my little dog Liam and admire that he does a better job of being Liam than I do of being Paul. I am hoping he’ll teach me more
I wish the best to you
Danny and Paul: I know one of you well, the other not, but I thank both of you for writing, and your lovely “indirection” tells me, immediately, that you are both members of my tribe. Danny, as I await being given that magical ketamine inhaler–to inhale at will–and the other anti-inflammatories in Dr. Sajben’s tool kit, I have no doubt that, once depression “goes,” “I” will still be here. I think this is the miracle we in the tribe all await: the cessation of the distortion that is depression, and the abiding of the bright intelligence we afflicted possess. I am not saying one cannot be dumb as a Ritz cracker and have Major Depressive Disorder, but it really takes some grit, and intelligence, to survive it past one’s teens. Danny, hold on for me, Boy-o. I KNOW it’s too much to ask, but I’m asking. And Paul, you are quite correct about your four-legged owner–I NEVER think of people as HAVING pets but, rather, as BEING them. Ouzo, my late dalmatian, was perhaps my greatest teacher in this incarnation. If I were not so horribly now allergic to dander, I would surround myself with animals. Please keep writing me, those within the sound of my voice. I believe we–and Johnson & Johnson will be helping bring it–on the cusp of a cure. And then, we shall arise, Danny, and DO stuff, and do it better.
Excellent essay, my dear Elizabeth. Sad, heart-rending, but excellent nonetheless.
Although I cannot claim to be a full-fledged member of your tribe, I have been granted what we might call a “peek” into the darkened room; a butt sniff of the mangy “Black Dog” that serves as your constant companion. For I, too, have suffered from depression most of my life (also with a side of OCD), though the majority of mine would probably not be considered “clinical,” and my suicidal tendencies have (so far) been mostly thwarted by the fact that, due to a monumental and painful failure at age 13, I became what, back in the ‘50s, we school kids referred to as a “chicken shit.”
It appears that most “serious” writers share this affliction in one form or another. By serious writers, I refer to those whose writings come from the psyche, or whose episodic and character portrayals originate in memory, however “literarily” reconstituted. Whether or not such writing is a result of depression, or the other way around, I leave to the shrinks to debate. Whatever the source origin, I might speculate that much of the depression among writers results from the extreme isolation and contemplative nature of the profession. Isolation, not in the sense of being physically separated from other persons or the society at large (although many choose to be), but the internal isolation required for deep, philosophical thought and creativity. Writers tend to write at all times, whether on paper, on the screen, or on the neural canvas of the brain. As a consequence, it is nearly impossible for them to avoid all manner of creative contemplation, which often leads to the mental composition of more tragedies than comedies.
The odd thing about all this is that my preferred “treatment” for periodic bouts of depression—the therapy that most often works to alleviate the urge to hide, rock, moan, practice fetal curling, and/or lash out—is to write. Oh, I’ve tried many other coping methods: alcohol, street drugs, prescription pharmaceuticals, meditation, music therapy, psychological counseling, etc. And, although each of these has in some small way been either informative or of benefit, the only thing that repeatedly works is to sit down and write something, preferably something emotionally involving, such as a novel, a long letter to a friend, or a complex essay that originates in philosophical, right-brain meanderings. Of course, employing this “remedy” is much like facing a limb amputation in order to save one’s life. That is, crawling out of that black hole to begin writing can be as difficult as remaining paralyzed by the malady it is intended to treat.
The only solace a literary depressive might take lies in history, which tells us that most “great” persons, regardless of their fields, have been, to some degree or another, depressed, or have suffered from other forms of mental illness. In fact, it may be that we “geniuses” of midnight’s mental cellar hold more value for the world at large than our non-depressed counter parts, although, for the most part, such value may never be recognized, except perhaps in an epitaph.
In any case, I, as a semi-insider, can (and do) sympathize with your plight, though, to paraphrase your analogy, comparing my affliction to yours would be like comparing an “irritant” to a “napalm” bath. As for ketamine, that oft-abused hallucinogen does show great promise in the treatment of depression, not only in anecdotal reports, but now in clinical studies. And, when administered in low doses, naltrexone (used for treatment of alcohol dependence and once considered a cause of depression) also appears to be effective in treating intractable depression. It remains to be seen what the long-term effects of such a drug combination will turn out to be. However, for now, it looks like the only bridge left to cross in realizing their full therapeutic potential is one of determining proper dosage and delivery. That, and making them readily available to all who need them and having them covered by private insurance / Medicare / Medicaid. In the meantime, it seems to me that they could be prescribed “off label” by any MD or psychiatrist, though there would probably be some legal risk in doing so.
You will note that I have not broken the “cheer up” rule here by counting your blessings for you. My only purpose in writing this is to commiserate and offer the support that might come in knowing that even the mildly depressed share some of your pain and struggles, and to encourage you to, in the words of John Irving, “Keep passing the open windows.”
Rick Boling, you are among my handful of great readers (and most beloved fellow writers). I found your graph–“The only solace a literary depressive might take lies in history, which tells us that most ‘great’ persons, regardless of their fields, have been, to some degree or another, depressed, or have suffered from other forms of mental illness. In fact, it may be that we ‘geniuses’ of midnight’s mental cellar hold more value for the world at large than our non-depressed counterparts, although, for the most part, such value may never be recognized, except perhaps in an epitaph”–delicious. Esp. “geniuses of midnight’s mental cellar. A possible pub name. And, you are quite correct: it was writing (I began this column in the basement of Our Pub, and wrote my way up to the ground floor) plus a side of not-very-well-targeted Viibryd brought me out of my very latest, 9-month-long siege by Chien Noir. The compilation of writings by depressed writers that I mention in my piece–“Unholy Ghost”–IS required reading, and will entertain you as well as provide you with another band of brothers (and sisters). It has been my own personal experience that great (and greatish) writers are depressives; great artists in other genres are bi-polar. I’ve had several bi-polar friends in the largely plastic/graphic arts, but have not, personally, known a great bi-polar writer. I, too, no longer speculate upon the cart and horse-ness of depression and genius/creativity. I was interviewed at length yesterday by a “ketamine clinician” at Mt. Sinai here in NYC, and I did my best to explain that my own nexus of interlocking continua (Major Depressive Disorder, ADD, sleep disorders out the wazzoo, muscle and joint inflammation, anhedonia, Circadian cycle disorders, and many other critters left unnamed by Adam) has existed from birth. My very first memory in life is a nightmare; a pavor noctis nightmare experienced again and again in my crib. What “came first” is unknowable. But, one thing is certain, I came into this world a twin of Chien Noir. He or she and I are one creature. Thank you, Love, for your many wise, beautifully crafted words in response to my bleat here. Thank you, Rick Boling.
I wish depression had a goal. That it could take us away from daily tedium to a different plain, several steps above any of Dante’s levels. In addition to your description, I see you as smart, educated, lovely, pleasant, happy, angry, bubbly, inquisitive and more. Perhaps because we see eye to eye on so many topics.
I’ve no antidote or treatment to pull you forward. If the remedy were “come play with me and have a good time”, here’s an open invitation. There may be more “good” versus “bad” life experiences to put on a balance scale, but it doesn’t hold water. Negatives are more dense and seem to have a much longer half life.
What might alleviate depression, hurt or pain (I tend to group all types of distress) is time. It serves to distance us from the point of origin and minimize the impact. Unless, you’re in fester mode and can’t let go.
Ending it all is not the “answer”, it’s the “final solution”. Not a good idea in the 1930’s and 40’s on a large scale, and a waste and a loss on an individual scale now. It’s platitude time: Things will get better. Hope springs eternal.
Thank you, Oh Beloved Scritto! You know, when I was 21, and first attempted suicide, my very clever then-shrink said, “IF you feel the same way in 30yrs, go ahead, but not now!” I called him back 30yrs later to say I still felt the same way; so now what? He denied ever having said what he said, but I, a writer, always take careful notes. It is now a decade after that “30yrs later,” and here I am, still. But, knowing, from experience, how easy it is to make a hash of doing oneself in . . . here I am, still. Mt. Sinai is considering me for their ketamine trial. Emory turned me down, this week, as “not depressed enough.” I’d love to see their calculus. :-) Scritto, as you know, too, only the consolation of philosophy, only reading and writing, is/are left me. And they have not left me. So. I abide. And write for those silenced by the barking. Love you.
I read every word of this article, I have suffered moderate to severe depression for the entirety of my life, such as it was ,largely no life whatsoever despite great blessings from time to time, always squandered in the wake of this black tide. Last couple years I’ve escaped for the most part, can only hope it endures. Luv,R
Rick, My Dear, nasal ketamine–self-administered–is going to end MDD, as far as I can tell. DO follow the bluelines in this piece for more information, and read up on ketamine/depression. We’re almost there, My Friend!
Frightening, yet beautiful writing, Elizabeth .
Thank you, Laura. I do not know why–if there is a why–this illness was my lot in life. It began at age 11 . . . and has wasted so, so much of my time on this planet.
It always amazes me when someone can communicate how we feel, it’s such an ‘off’ feeling, so, thank you. This is an older oat but I was wondering if you may be available to exchange a few emails on inpatient depression places. Most everything I see is for substance abuse or something else, not plain ole depression and anxiety. I was looking first for a treatment center so as not to scare the heck out of me, but $2000 a day for iffy doctors is not what I am seeking. The $ maybe, but I see these dr’s leave these places and the turnover is high. Is Princeton something I can look into? I seem to have hard to treat depression. I email Dr’s and they don’t write me back. Do they think I’m some org looking in on them?! I just need help…fast, it’s been so overdue. If you could lead mein any direction I would really appreciate it. Really. I am inspired by your lovely writing and incorporation of art. I was once upon a time, guess I would call myself an artist as well. It really keeps me going*
Darby: Digdarb at gmail.com
Darby, I wish there were any “advice I could trust myself to give you.” I CAN say that going down to the NIMH in Washington did zip for me–finally, I wasn’t one of the patients who was given even a smidge of ketamine (more on that in a moment–BUT meeting the group of fellow depressives cloistered on that drug trial ward DID help, and we’ve kept in touch, sharing information but, primarily, rooting for one another. I have come to believe, after many decades and four suicide attempts, that the drugs available DO help some people; that being hospitalized, for brief periods of time DOES help some people (primarily those with bipolar or borderline disease as opposed to depression, though); talk therapy DOES help some people (if they can afford it); and a combination of all three approaches DOES help some people as well. That said, I have not been able to find a psychiatrist in my neck of the woods (Greater NYC) who is not 1) a lunatic, himself; 2) in any way more qualified than I, myself, to manage my care; and 3) affordable. Brilliant psycho-pharmacologists are rarer than honest politicians. Also, two newish drugs, Brintellix and Abilify, proved absolute poison for me, and yet I had a devil of a time convincing my GPs that they were, in fact, killing me, as well as NOT putting a dent in the depression. So . . . I’ve come to believe that finding a “group”–a group of depressives, perhaps monitored, but lightly, by a shrink who keeps everyone up on the latest meds–might be the best thing for all of us in this boat. Heck, even getting a diagnosis is all but impossible thus far, for most of us. I DO believe that many depressives might well benefit from “hits” of MD-administered nasal ketamine–which sort of re-boots the brain–but, unless you’re in Princeton or out in CA, and can get to/afford one of the clinics doing this work, it’s impossible to acquire. Feel free to email me, BTW, and do Google the Scientific American blogs written by Jesse Bering, who has sociological insights which may ring true for you…. I’m always “here,” for what it’s worth. You have company.
I think any therapist worth their salt and being serious about the calling they responded to – in terms of actually meaning to help those who suffer endlessly – should be made to read your entire body of work about MDD as mandatory reading. You’re a phenomenal inspiration for anyone being forced to live with such a brutal ‘condition’ – for lack of a better word, since I’m nowhere near as excellent with words as you are.
I am infinitely impressed with the amount of perseverance you display(ed) as well as with the structured, pragmatic approach you take in scouting a cure (the latter for mere need to do so, I presume, as the experts don’t seem to have come up with too much help, let alone a cure so far).
I took the questionable liberty of chiming in here as much of what you so vividly and accurately put in words above strongly resonated with me for reasons of having found myself in these dark places as well (possibly still “living” in that dark room myself, however as a “side” to complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which is also something I seem to have either been born with or incurred right after birth). I also found myself left to doing my own research and sadly, once I thought I had found an avenue worth exploring never had access to it, still don’t (I did land a place on a waitlist for a clinical trial with MAPS.org, though, scheduled for some time late this year, beginning of next). From my own experiences in this arduous journey, I think you’re really on to something big by suggesting self-monitoring groups of similarly affected patients with an inclined, empathic psychiatrist/therapist/psychologist sitting in and handling the required “paperwork” in getting access to and providing the required substances as well as monitoring and possibly journalling their adminstration and outcomes. I so hope for you and anyone suffering from this brutal condition that the path you’re on will liberate you from this most questionable company of the chien noir.
Thanks for sharing. Thank you for your relentless, gargantuan effort of staying around with us in hopes of finding a solution. (and to me it really sounds and looks as if you had closely zeroed in on a path to recovery for yourself and the rest of us, if I may…)
Werner, thank you! What else can I say? I re-posted this piece because so many of my depressed friends have taken a turn for the worse as the planet’s climate changes and human culture experiences dark, dark interludes. The return to nativism in American politics has deeply shaken sensitive, sentient souls hereabouts, and I thought it might “help,” on some subliminal level, if I reiterated, “I, for one, am still here. For you and you and you.” You cannot know what your words of praise mean to someone with my temperament who writes, has always written, in almost total silence. Yes, I was a published columnist, beginning c. age 29, but so, so few readers ever, ever respond. At times, writers can feel they are writing, in the dead of night, in a darkened room, for no one. You broke my silence, and I thank you, and bless your hands, as we say in Greek. Love, e