Throwing something back…

I haven’t written a blog entry in several weeks. The recent depression has taken me in, blurring the borders of days, and blurring my thoughts even more. But, light is beginning to seep in… and my thoughts are beginning to form.

In the midst of this last depressive episode, my grandfather passed away. I somehow felt this loss harder than I was willing to allow myself. It was as if I had allotted myself a given depth of sadness to feel and I surpassed it. Having gone farther than I anticipated into my grief, I felt alone and closed- no true way to communicate the sadness and grief. I can say that my relationship with him was a complicated one. Once very attached to this man, then he disappeared in my youth, and his actions, though he was gone, followed me like a scarlet letter denying me family rights. Add into the mix that my son is his little twin, the grief gets deep and his death makes it final. But, each day is a step of moving forward.

And I am now left with the question of do I write or do I go. I have so much more to explore and share about my motherhood journey at diagnostic code 295.7. But, I let myself disappear. Nonetheless, for now, I think I will write.

Pressing me right now is the cognitive disorder that has developed as a result of the schizoaffective disorder. I continue to take Namenda (an Alzheimer’s medication) and I see progress, but I also witness decline in other areas. I recently visited my psychiatrist and a resident sat in on the appointment. My case was of note of interest. As I am someone who once taught at the collegiate level, it is of interest to explore the decline in function that this disease can bring about before age forty.

I realize something, though, and that is perspective. Many before me did not have the option of drugs like Namenda… I do. And while the disease battles on, so will I… even if I have to take a break from writing now or then. The disease will give me everything its got, its my choice to throw something back.

I am okay, today.

Today, I am okay.

Today, I am better than I have been in several weeks. I am not 100%. However, for the past several weeks, each day I have wondered if I needed my husband to take me to the hospital. Everything has been in slow motion wrapped in paranoia with distorted thinking accompanying my constant overwhelming feelings.

But, today, I know the hospital is not necessary. Today, I am okay. This morning’s dawn came a little easier as I rested a little easier through the night. Today, I have been able to enjoy my toddler a little more as I have been able to relax and step back from the cloud that has been following me. So far, I have been able to tackle a few items on my to-do list without crippling under the overwhelming thoughts. My son and I went shopping and I was able to drive, pick out my items, and check out without paranoia, taxing rumination, or finding myself overthinking to the point of not being able to buy anything on my list.

I also know that today is okay and not perfect. I need to let it be. No grand life changes or big decisions today. I need to let my cycle happen as I come up for air as I have been drowning. It is as if the brain is opening back up to the light and you don’t want to push too hard and scare it back shut.

Nonetheless, today I am okay and it is good to be okay. I don’t need the hospital today. I can function today.

And tomorrow? I am hopefull will be okay, too.

Facing the Cycle

I have fought acknowledging this reality for a while now. I had been able to surface for a few moments, take a few gulps of air. But, it is here. I have accepted it. I am in the downswing of the cycle. I am in depression with the increased psychosis.

This is the trademark of schizoaffective disorder. You have the extremes of mood and the schizophrenic disorder weaving its way through the roller coaster.

Over the past several weeks, when I would stop for a moment, the depression would grab me. I would cry, weep, and then push forward. Gradually, these moments became more severe, containing in them intensely dark thoughts about myself. Thoughts that weighed down on my chest and created despair. But, as I mentioned earlier, I could seem to surface here and there… find that gulp of air.

Then this past week arrived in slow motion. I would walk, but I was walking though water. My mind was full of dark cotton with everything dulled and no true sensory experiences. Everything around me ran together. I have made sure my son was safe and cared for… myself? not so much.

And then there was the volume of the noise The noise that I only I hear that accompanies me and that I can never free myself from was elevated. As I would try to lie down, the noise would rage in my ears. The quieter I tried to make my home, the louder my noise would roar. And the paranoia was growing and touching on sensitive areas. It was fostering intense insecurity and creating more reasons for tears. Just a hint of the insecurity, and tears were there.

But this evening, as I slowly walked down the hall, a small glimpse of clarity appeared. This is the cycle. I have cycled again. One would think after so many years with this disease that I would understood this progression. But, I couldn’t. Several weeks down this path before I understood. The fatigue, loss of functionality, increased psychosis, dark obsessive thoughts, and sadness were telling me something.

So, what so I do now? First, keep taking my medications. Next, tell my husband. Of course, call my doctor. And, I have to care for myself.

Cycles are a part of this illness. This will happen again. But, I have to face it and work through it.

The State of Being Shocking

I woke up from what seemed to be a vivid dream in a room that was foreign to me. I looked around and the only thing familiar were a few items of clothing on the nightstand. I slowly crawled out of bed and walked to the hallway to be greeted by a red haired man with a stethoscope. He knew my name and I assumed he must know what was going on. So, I asked him where I was. He explained that I was in Denver, Colorado (not the state I lived in), that I had entered a fugue state after my last treatment of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and driven my car to Denver, and now had frontal lobe brain damage from the ECT treatments. And the thing was, I could not remember any of this. In fact, the previous three years were pretty much gone.

From what I have been told, at the end of the Summer of 2005 I entered into a severe depressive episode. This episode escalated into a quasi-catatonic state. My husband had to help me dress, eat, and engage in basic daily life tasks. My treatment team found me to be medication resistant and ECT was suggested. After a consult with a psychiatrist that performs this procedure, he also agreed to this course of action. Next, I received eleven bilateral ECT treatments before my unplanned Denver trip.

But, there is one other issue with this treatment. The psychiatrist performing the ECT was concerned early on that my electrical shock induced seizures were not strong enough to be beneficial for my illness (Schizoaffective Disorder). He augmented my treatments by going beyond the recommended voltage for the bilateral shocks. Whether this contributed to my fugue state or my frontal lobe damage, I will never know. I do know we signed a waiver before the treatments started, so the issue is rather mute.

Furthermore, the ECT didn’t seem to help alleviate the depressive episode. When I was finally released from the Denver hospital and returned to my New Mexico home, I was re-hospitalized within two weeks for suicidal ideation and depression. Eventually, the episode cycled and medication began to assist me. But, I also have to state I have hospitalized since then, as well.

What the ECT did impact was my memory and also changed some aspects of my personality. The three years I mentioned earlier are still pretty much gone. I really only have a few moments recovered. And now that my Schizoaffective Disorder has led to a Cognitive Disorder, my memory is even shakier- including long term, short term, and working memory. Everything from spelling to daily tasks to conversations are impacted. I describe my long term memory as the “Nixon Tapes”… it goes along, then nothing. As far as my personality, some of my preferences in music were completely and abruptly altered. Also, certain behaviors developed, such as gum chewing. In addition, my “mental filter” is sometimes non-existent. Want to know my opinion? I may give it to you with some profanity for good measure.

Some have asked me if I regret agreeing to receive ECT. And I do not. I have no regrets. Schizoaffective Disorder is very difficult to treat. You have a blending of Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder. Sometimes, there are risks to take. And unfortunately, not all risks pay off. But, you do at the time what you think is going to help in your desperate situation.

I also have to look at the positive side. Yes, I have frontal lobe damage. Yes, my memory function is impaired. But, my frontal lobe damage is not so severe that I cannot be a wonderful mommy to my beautiful boy. It is not so severe that I cannot be a life partner to my dear husband. I’m still here… home with my family.