It’s not the holiday, it’s the disruption

While the Holidays can be tough for some people because it highlights family, or loneliness, for me it’s the disruption. Days off or working from home, events and dinners to be planned and executed, family expectations and time spent killing time. It’s the break from normal routines and schedules that can be trying.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays and my family, so it’s a special time of year for me. But there are times when it’s difficult to escape if you’ve overloaded on stimulus or just need a break. And when it’ all over it’s always a bit of a letdown, staring down the barrel of the rest of winter.

So here’s to hoping I can stay awake for midnight on New Years.

Gut Wrenching Cry For Help

I saw my psychiatrist in passing the other day and we had a nice exchange of smiles and waves and both went on our way. Pretty typical, especially since I’m at the hospital often enough that I’m seeing my care team in passing.

What was different about this one was that this was the first time in at least a year that I saw a member of my care team, either by appointment or coincidence and didn’t have an immediate gut wrenching feeling of desperation. I didn’t instinctively want to throw myself at them and plead for a solution. There were times where simply seeing my primary doc or my therapist made me want to burst into tears for no reason. There were times where I just wanted them to lead me to check into the hospital.

It’s nice to have something feel “normal” again. But I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Treating myself

Ok, time to start using this memory problem to my benefit. This weekend I’m going Christmas gift shopping, and in addition to the items on my list, I’m going to buy a few things I would never think to buy myself. I’ll wrap them, and place them under the tree. Since I have a maintenance ECT treatment Monday, this weekend is pretty much writing to temporary memory.

A sip of Lethe …

Lethe is the mythological Greek river of forgetfulness.

I have been having some issues with my memory. To be honest, this latest period has been about 5 months, but to my mind it feels more like one or two. Obviously I can’t know what I don’t know, but there are times that people mention an experience and I can’t remember it at all. A few examples..

I decided to watch the classic movie “Dumbo” the other day. It was interesting, but I felt like it was good to be finally seeing a true classic. And good preparation for watching the remake some time. My daughter came home from wherever she had been, and asked me why I was watching it again. Apparently the other day the two of us had watched it and really enjoyed it. It was a bit of a humorous situation, but really disturbed me because none of the movie was anywhere near recognizable. And there’s some messed up stuff in that movie! You would think I would have remembered that.

Last week at group one of the regular members was missing, but I could not for the life of me remember them. Finally, after more prompting than I’m happy to relay, I made the connection and remembered. But it was like they were describing someone I’d never met.

A wonderful Old Fashioned.

And sadly, the wife and I went out the night before Thanksgiving to a local restaurant, one of our favorites. It wasn’t until a few nights ago that she mentioned it and I had no recollection. I had even checked in and posted to Facebook. I couldn’t remember what I ate or drank, what we talked about, or even where we sat. And we had a lovely evening, from what I hear. In our younger days the night before Thanksgiving was reserved for going out clubbing, dancing and drinking with friends. These days we settle for something a bit more mundane but just as enjoyable. It was good to catch up, and to talk about how things seemed to be getting better. While (many of) my prescriptions warn away from alcohol, it was a special occasion so I had a cocktail. I hate that my depression doesn’t allow me to drink. Both because alcohol is a depressant, but that it can affect how my meds work. So yes, I had a drink that night and maybe that exacerbated the memory issue, but sometimes you have to live your life.

.. and a heartbreak

Last Friday we went out with two couples who are some of our dearest friends. We went to the traditional holiday show, and then came back to the neighborhood and tried out a new restaurant. The show, company, food, and evening were all great! I’ve been feeling a bit more like myself, and this felt like a celebration.

Until we started talking about it and I really got to hear my wife talk about how bad it’s been. And for how long. And the things like the memory. The Thanksgiving eve experience being just one of many important times that are just gone. I know it’s a byproduct of the depression, the ECT, the meds, the whole deal. But it’s been so hard on her and she’s been such a helpful saint. She was not telling the tale to hurt me. But that broke my heart, to know how much I’ve put her through, knowing that there are always possibilities of relapse, and we have no idea what ups and downs are to come. It’s been a few days now, and I’m feeling a bit better, but that sting is going to be with me for some time to come.

Back To Work

Today I went back to work for the first time in a Very Long Time. I’ll be doing halftime and continuing the day treatment program in the afternoons. But it sure was nice to be back in the office. I spent the whole time playing catch-up, and while the goal is for me to fill the same role that I’ve had in the past, for now I’ll be more of a player-coach.

Didn’t get lost in the ramp or skyways, and remembered all the security codes. Yay me! Our sub-office has been rearranged and it’s really nice. I’ve got a position by the window and enjoy a good view out the window and down the row of workers.

By the time I left (after ~4 hours) I was fried. Working my way back up to a full day is going to take some effort. But it was exciting being there and I didn’t glaze over even in the last hour catching up with the boss. It’s also handy that it’s December, and things are a bit slower than usual. By the first of the year (or so) I’m hoping to be back up to speed, back up to full time, and back up to running my team!


Once a week now, while in maintenance mode. And then we go two weeks, and finally we go once a month. I had my first in a week this Monday, which went well. Came home and had a nap to let the grogginess clear, but haven’t really gotten back to 100%.

And is it bad that I enjoy the IV? While it hurts getting poked, the sleep hitting is like being on a rollercoaster, feeling the whole world roll over your head and you’re asleep.

Back to work on Monday, dipping my toes in lightly at first,

Cognitive dismay

I’m going to have to stop trying to build models because they’re not turning out right. I can’t tell if it’s that I’m reading the instructions wrong or that I’m not able to do it just the right way but it seems like the thing’s I’m building aren’t working the way they’re supposed to or looking the way they’re supposed to. Which is a bummer because I was working on a Viking boat that was going to be really cool and I just don’t think I’m going to be able to finish it.

So for my next trick I’m going to try and do some Legos. Hopefully that’ll be simple enough and non-permanent enough that I can do it and not have to worry about screwing stuff up. It’s really frustrating though. I’m also feeling like my vision isn’t that great for smaller detail elements and so that’s having something to do with my frustrations.

Another maintenance ECT treatment on Monday and then who knows after that but I’ll be asking to find out when they expect me to be doing more treatments and how long I have to wait before I can go back to work cuz I’m really itching to go back to work. Today of course being the largest day in our work year and I’m missing it.

Last session

Today I had my last standard session. I’ll be coming back in a week for a follow-up session but that’s the end of the normal sessions.

I’d like to say I’m much improved but if anything I feel I’ve slid backwards a bit. My memory is not great, and I find myself having to stop and work to remember the simplest things. My outlook is still pretty down.

I’m tired, bored from not working, and really itching to get back to work. Apparently I need to wait a week after the main treatments end before going back to work. My family indicates I’m not all there these days and that should get better as I get further from the main series.

What it’s actually like

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a procedure, done under general anesthesia, in which small electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. ECT seems to cause changes in brain chemistry that can quickly reverse symptoms of certain mental health conditions.

Mayo Clinic

The night before, I need to refrain from taking a few key meds that can interfere with the seizure aspect. That includes one med to be stopped before 6pm the evening prior to the procedure, and another one to be stopped at 9am or earlier the day prior. Also, I need to fast from midnight onward. So it’s complicated enough that if I get confused, I need to keep track of everything on paper. I can take the rest of my meds right after I get back from the procedure, though.

Side effects can include headaches, jaw ache, muscle soreness and aching. Also, memory issues and concentration. So far it’s been temporary. Through the period in which I am having the procedures, I’m not allowed to drive , and working is not recommended. So arranging for rides to and from the hospital is a fairly large component.

When I get there, I check in with the staff. My blood pressure and oxygen levels are recorded. We go over my meds and indicate when each one was taken last. Finally, there is a discussion about how I’m doing, how my depression is doing, and a discussion about any suicidality I may have.

Once I’m checked in it’s down to waiting. They time it well enough that it’s not a long wait, but sometimes it draws on. And then I’m called into the procedure room.

Funny: I wear a hoodie and a t-shirt, usually a concert shirt. So now when I choose my outfit for the next appointment, a concert tee is usually involved.

When I enter the procedure room, there’s a quick chat with the doctor to talk about what we’re doing, how I’m doing, and other random things. Meanwhile, I’m hooked up to a blood pressure cuff, oxygen sensor, electrodes are stuck to my temples, and an IV is hooked up. I’m also offered a nice warm blanket.

When the IV is finally in, I get a metallic taste in my mouth (presumably from the saline) and they tell me I’m about to go under. A mask is offered over my mouth and they tell me to breathe deep. The room slides away and I’m out.

After it’s all over, I wake up and they get me into a wheelchair. I’m taken back out to the pre-lobby with a new warm blanket placed on me. I’m required to wait in this area for a certain amount of time before being released. I’m offered juice and a muffin (blueberry or bran – I always go blueberry) and it’s nice to finally get to eat something.

When my time is up and I’m allowed to leave, I get wheeled out to the elevator and then down to the hospital entrance. Just like in the movies/television. Happily, we live close enough to the hospital that I’m home within 15 minutes, and then it’s usually right off to bed to catch up on a previous night’s sleep if it was rough, but also to sleep off the whole experience. I’ll often get those daily meds and a bunch of water for myself at that time, too.

After my nap I usually have a pretty big lunch to make up for the fasting, and spend the rest of the afternoon lounging. Some days it’s hard to pay attention to things, other days it’s nice just to unwind.

I do this three times a week, Monday Wednesday and Friday.

Groundhog day, but for disappointments

Part of the fun of forgetting and not remembering is the occasional recollection. Like how I keep forgetting and then remembering that my psychologist, who I really connect with, is leaving her practice. So I need to find a new one. But I can’t remember what the plan for that would be, or if there even is one. I think it’s just looking up possibilities on the psychology today web site. But I’ll forget that again soon.

And then I’ll get to remember it all over again in a few hours or a day, and get to be disappointed all over again. It would be great if I was forgetting that I won the lottery or something, but as near as I can tell that’s not the case..