Saturday, May 1, 2010

Depression

Will Owsley, longtime guitarist for Amy Grant and an incredible musician, died yesterday from an apparent suicide.  I cannot tell you how this saddens me. I saw Will Owsley perform with Amy and he was just amazing on that guitar. I witnessed the soundcheck for that concert and know that he was also an amazing and perceptive, all-round musician.  He leaves behind a wife and two young sons.

What drives a Christian to the point where they think God can no longer carry them?  I still don't understand  the thinking.

But I nearly went that way myself a few months ago, so I certainly understand the feelings.

The last three years have taken a toll. I've blogged about them, usually trying to be funny. But today I need to be serious about the whole thing, because I have finally reached a milestone in my recovery from the events of those three years.

Here is the chronology:

On February 1, 2007, my dad passed away unexpectedly from an undiagnosed perforated ulcer.   I spent the last week of his life with him, and, in the end, I'm the one who had to phone the doctor and request that my father -- my own father --  be taken off life support.

82 days later, Dad's brother (who had been perfectly fine at Dad's funeral) passed away unexpectedly from bone cancer.

In between those two events, my mother was diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct and faced a radical surgical procedure that would leave her fighting for her life the rest of the year.

Meanwhile, in May of that same year, my daughter graduated from university.  A scant three months later she left to take a job halfway around the world, in South Korea.

Right after that, I sold my Salt Lake City area condo and moved to Pocatello to live full time with my husband, putting an end to the "commuter" aspect of our marriage that we'd been putting up with six years.

In hindsight, I probably should have known, as this confluence of events was unfolding, that it would be more than I could take. But I was brought up to keep soldiering on, to persevere. And I'm a Christian, right? -- so I figured that, while it might be challenging, I would handle it with God's help.

2008 arrives -- continued worries about my mother's health, which did not fully recover after the surgery in 2007.  Plus, it looks like I'm finally in menopause, which is something of a relief, but still carries a whole lot of unpredictable and intense hot flashes and other uncomfortable physical manifestations of the change.

2009 arrives. Mom undergoes a grueling three months of chemo, only to find that it didn't have any effect on the cancer that had reoccurred on her pancreas and liver. She is given 6-12 months to live.

On November 1, 2009, after a valiant fight, Mom passes away with me at her side.

First I was in shock. Gradually, as the winter wore on, I began to feel completely overwhelmed by life. I was sad all the time and I found it increasingly difficult to function normally in the real world. The smallest things would upset me out of all proportion. I was exceptionally angry. And I sat paralyzed at my computer for more hours than I care to admit, unable to do anything. It was a dry season that lasted far too long.

Finally in the middle of one dark January night I seriously considered downing all the ibuprofen in my medicine cabinet, figuring that Costco's large economy size bottle would do the job.  I searched my heart as I thought about taking this step, reminding myself that there WOULD be people devastated by this action I was contemplating.

But I really didn't care who would be devastated. I didn't care how hurt they'd be or how bereft my absence would leave them.

And at that moment, I realized I could no longer handle by myself what life had been tossing at me for the last three years. I also knew in that same moment that I was NOT thinking correctly and that, no matter what I was feeling, I had to stay right where I was, sitting on the couch until morning arrived and Tim got out of bed. Because then I'd be safe from myself.

I called my doctor that morning and was in the office within two hours.

The upshot -- after resisting medication for many years, I began taking an anti-depressant. A mild one, but I'm sensitive to meds so the effect was stronger than the doctor thought it might be.

It's also a slow-acting anti-depressant, taking 8-12 weeks to come to full effect.

Three months in, I don't know why I waited so long to get help.

Within a week I felt more capable of handling everyday life. Within 4 weeks I was clearly regaining my confidence and feeling better about interacting with people. At the 8 week mark, I took up racquetball and resumed riding horses.  At the 12 week mark, I hopped on my motor scooter and zoomed around town without worrying about the traffic (yes, I was careful, of course -- but last year I was so paranoid about the other vehicles on the road that I didn't ride very much at all).

All that said, I'm not feeling like a new person. Not at all.

I feel like my old self again.

This is the Catherine whom Tim recognizes as the woman he married. This is the Catherine #4 recognizes as the mom who raised her. This is the Catherine #7 recognizes as his goofy stepmother.

I write this as an encouragement. If you are so low that you don't want to live and it's been a while that you've been in that place -- please see your doctor and consider the options.  The first medication they prescribed for me  didn't work - it immediately made me feel too detached from life -- but I called the doctor the very next day and they changed my medication without question.  I've committed to staying a year on the medication and then seeing if I can taper off and function normally.  That's a plan that my doctor approves.

In all this, did God fail me? I had certainly been praying all this time and I suppose there are those who would say that my faith wasn't strong enough. Well, I say this: God did not fail me, nor was it a question of my faith not being in the right place. I could see God's hand working in my life in many ways along the journey, as anyone who's read my blogs on grief will know. But I was so worn down that my brain chemistry had changed, which perpetuated and deepened the problem.

Truly, it was God who provided me with a great doctor who instantly understood the problem (she'd lost her husband unexpectedly a few years ago and she is just about the same age as I, with the same hormonal stuff going on). I feel incredibly blessed to be able to resume and enjoy the life God has given me.

If any of this sounds like you, don't wait to get help of some kind. You, too, can be your old self again.

And oh, how I wish Will Owsley had been able to get help before he hit rock bottom.

- Catherine

3 comments:

Christy said...

Catherine, I cannot believe the timeline you've lived in the last few years. Completely unbelievable. I'm so glad you hung in there with your faith and got the help you needed. Your candid words will, I know, bring hope and assurance to many.

Kim said...

Having gone through depression myself, I can verify the truth of everything you shared. It's a great post that I hope is read by those who could use the encouragement and sound advice. To all you've said, I say a resounding AMEN!

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

I'm so glad Christy brought up this great post again on her blog, because i think it's wonderful. I wanted to say so, but after such a personal and painful post, just a "Great post!" kind of response seemed cruddy...and then life got away from me!

I also wanted to point out, in case you didn't already know about it, a blog called "Beyond Blue" - on Beliefnet, by a Christian woman who battles depression and writes about it. It has really spoken to me in my own depression battle - sometimes i love what she says, sometimes i go "Nyeh." But this was one i especially loved, on the Lord's Prayer .