Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Report of Sorts on Mood and Recovery(?)

This time is different. In comparison to past episodes everything is different. The depression was deeper, longer lasting, and overall more intense. My depressive episodes were never so obstructive to everyday life. There were people around me I could count on for support: family, friends, and a settled way of life. This last time I had no family, no friends, and no settled way of life. There was no one. I was alone. The depression was much more painful than in the past. The feeling of deadness in desire and feeling was more pronounced. The double stressors of my mother’s death and Zoya’s callous behavior in initiating and pursuing divorce in the same week were more than I could handle. I shut down emotionally, spiritually, and almost completely physically. The overwhelming stress triggered a hypomanic episode that lasted about a month, ending with a hospitalization that was technically voluntary: either sign myself in, or I would be involuntarily committed. The long slow slide to the bottom began as I watched bits and pieces of my life fall away and disappear.

One thing that was not different this time around was my lack of response to all SSRI’s and most other medication for treating depression. Eventually the nurse-prescriber I was seeing tried lamotrigine (generic Lamictal). It seemed to make a difference. I did start feeling some better. The timing was right to account for the improvement in my overall sense of wellbeing.

Then at the end of last year my health insurance was cancelled. Part of the alimony settlement was that I was to remain under Zoya’s policy from work. Her employer ended their contract with Fallon. She did not inform of this. I found out in my nurse-practitioner’s office when she was checking the coverage of a some medication. It took me six months to straighten it all out and regain coverage. I've recently reread the alimony judgment. Zoya breached both the spirit and the letter of the agreement. One of the consequences of her breach of the court order is that I ended up in the hospital for 3 days because of complications in a chronic foot injury. I responded well to treatment, the injury is healing nicely. I'm decidedly on the mend.

I mention this because there was a period of two months when I was off all medication, not just the Lamictal but also prescriptions for hypertension, cholesterol, blood thinners (because of a heart attack in 2013), hormones for hypothyroidism. Everything. Two months was long enough for all of the medications to be flushed from my body. This was right before the latest upswing. Maybe that had something to do with it, maybe it didn’t. My doctor started me on a thyroid hormone in November or December of last year. Maybe that is responsible. The symptoms of hypothyroidism include a lack of energy and depression. Who knows. There are too many variables and possible combinations of medications and environmental changes.

The fact remains that coming out of this last depression is also different. I’m more expressive. I’m more creative. More ambitious. More productive. With more energy. I’ve decided to learn the guitar and to compose music. There’s nearly constant presence of an intense feeling of well being. I feel good all the time. Sometimes I sleep three or four hours, wake up wiped, still feeling good even though tired and sleepy. There’s a star inside me carrying me along. If my internal life were made physical, I would be floating six inches off the ground. The strangest thing though is that I hear music differently. Listening is more intense. I hear and understand more. Music that made no sense to me in the past is now easy. Used to I could hardly bear Frank Zappa’s guitar work. Forget about Motorhead. Now it’s a feeling of “how could I ever had trouble with this music. It’s so obvious. My taste in music always tended to the eclectic, but now? There’s even some jazz that I like to listen to, even if there’s not very much. Even over the last several months, my ability to grasp music has increased. I write lyrics and hear the music that ought to go with it. This never happened to this degree before. My brain is different.

I realize this all is suggestive of a hypomanic episode. My nurse-practitioner, my therapist, and I are monitoring the situation. I’m not sure how I feel about a glorious summer followed by the dead of winter. I don’t think I can maintain this level of energy indefinitely. I would prefer no to revisit the artic in the wintertime. I damn sure do not want to spend any time in a never never land between extremes in a fog of well-intentioned safety. I can and have lived with oscillations in moods. I just don’t want the extremes to extend on into destructive and self-destructive behavior.

I remember my one past hypomanic episode as a month of living on kefir and clementines, sleeping 3-4 hours, constant intense expression of feeling, mood, thought, drinking vodka as first in an attempt to sleep. I was constantly assertive, not bullying but asserting agency. Because of the 3-4 hours a night I would sometimes suddenly have to fall asleep right then and there. I would lie down and sleep the sleep of the dead oblivious to everything. Once my niece cut herself badly enough to be taken to the emergency room. Everyone was shouting and screaming and generally making a loud ruckus while I was taking one of these “naps.” I heard nothing. Normally I am a light sleeper. And then there was the loud shouting and cursing Zoya every night. Everything spiraled out of control until I was taken to a mental hospital to detox and gain some perspective.

I very much do not want that to happen again. Hence the question mark after recovery in the title. This episode(?) is not like my one hypomanic episode. Like I said, my brain is different. My emotional life has always been something of an adventure.

* * *

From my perspective without speculations about hypothetical effects of various pharmaceuticals, this time of spiritual sunshine did not begin until I was able to formulate the goal of learning to play acoustic guitar and compose music. I fully realize it is a bit late to start something like this. I am in my mid-fifties. I will approach it the same way that I approached learning Polish: make it say what I want it to say. Use the rules. Manipulate grammar and syntax to exploit nuances to give expression to what was laying on my liver (to use a Polish expression). I remember when I was first learning Polish, as soon as I could string a sentence together, I was writing (very short) short stories, essays even if only half a page. I say this because it’s not about age (I was an adult when I started learning Polish and after three years of living there I was fluent). It’s all about smart practice, focus and dedication. Setting attainable goals in the short term and beyond. Right now I’m saving my nickels and dimes for the guitar.

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