Let’s just say there should be a trigger warning on this post, and leave it at that.
On March 1st or so, work ramped up. New partnership, new technologies, surge of customers, and the fact that our COVID business had been going full bore since last spring. These things all led up to a record breaking case of anxiety, and in the quiet moments, depression. Back to square one, apparently.
My memory issues from the ECT and major depressive episode (referred to as “the event” from here on out) meant that while I was living in the moment, there was really a lot of forgetting about the moments before and after. 2019 is pretty much gone. I can recognize pictures of things I did back then, and remember some things, but so much of it is simply gone. People tell me stories about myself that I find interested or know that I would have enjoyed, but the memories just aren’t there anymore, even when jogged. As 2021 unfolds, I’m finding parts of 2020 have some holes in them, also.
I also feel like I can’t learn as well, and like so much just goes over my head. Forget programming, that skill is just gone. I played with Arduino this past year and it was a grueling, copy and paste heavy exercise. So it feels like the self taught skills I had that allowed me to be successful in the world aren’t able to help anymore.
And sometimes I get confused. I’ll be sitting in the living room and suddenly get a sense of not knowing where I am, and then in a handful of moments I’m back in the room and understanding. That’s a little distressing. I’ve been having “lost words” since the ECT where I’ll be talking and just not able to remember/access the word I need. Sometimes it’ll pop in, but most of the time I have to use the internal thesaurus, and do the best I can with the words I can find. I’ll also lose my train of thought or intended task. Right in the middle of a sentence everything resets and I have no idea what the original question was, or what I’ve been saying so far. As you can imagine, that’s tough in a business conversation with a customer.
So that all sucks. It’s required me to double my therapist appointments, we’re changing up my meds, I’m back on some of the more evil (but helpful) meds from 2019 that I really didn’t want to go back on.
I have a great care team, and I’m seeing my Psychiatrist, Therapist, and support group on the regular. The support group even has a text chain for instant access as needed.
But for the last month, the anxiety has ranged from low grade always-there in the pit of your stomach, all the way up to rolling panic attacks. When things are quiet, the depression rears it’s lazy head. I’ve dropped all hobbies except practicing concertina (mostly because I have weekly lessons and feel the need to practice) and I’ll play a little bit of simple video games. But I find myself just wandering around in them.
And the suicidal ideation. It’s tough to talk about because it’s been with me since before high school. Just a constant thought about it, sometimes just a tiny echo in the back of my brain, and others it’s at the forefront of my attention. For most of 2020 I didn’t even think about it. I could walk across a street and not think about the timing it would take to get in front of that bus, or I would refill my pill containers and not even consider which ones would get me a good overdose.
I think of it like this: The depression and anxiety are always there. Always have been.
Sometimes, it’s like this:
Those are good times. Yes, there’s a bit of the brown and red in there but the vast majority of the time I’m happy go-lucky.
Other times, it’s like this:
This can go on for days or even weeks. Which usually leads to this:
When the work anxiety started to grow, I got in touch with my care team and worked aggressively to stop the process. Worked with my employer to remove the afterhours / on-call stuff that was causing me the most anxiety, and focused really hard on my tools.
Unfortunately, that just wasn’t enough. I’m not back to square one, but I’ve been set back a huge amount. Just the everything: mood, motivation, exhaustion, increased memory and cognitive issues from stress of it, and also the suicidal ideation.
I tell people I’m safe, and generally I am. I understand that if I killed myself, it would be directly hurting my children and family. It would be like taking my problems, chopping them up, and then sharing them out to everyone who cares about me. I get that. And that’s my failsafe. But I still think about the bus, or the train, or which meds aren’t dangerous. If I feel like that’s not in place, I will do whatever I need to remain safe, beginning with communicating with my wife and therapist. (Still holding out for COVID, or a quick cancer, or a satellite falling out of the sky on me.)
The thing that makes this feel worse than “the event” is that I was doing so well for so long. I knew I hadn’t kicked it, but it felt like I had it under control. The ratio of good years vs. bad is not an impressive one, and that just reminds me of how chronic mental health issues can be. I feel like someone is going to suggest more ECT, or another run at partial (or even actual) hospitalization, and that scares the crap out of me given the repercussions on my job, my relationships with my family, my memory issues, and everything else. So I feel like I have more challenges, fewer options, and a pretty bad record of success.
But summer is coming and I can hear the birds out the window. Gotta stick to that moment when I can.