Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend: An Update

IMG_8425I don’t talk about myself much, especially what really goes on in the depths of my mind, except for what comes out in my writing. Kai and I are a lot alike in that way, although he sometimes is more open than I am as my way of expressing things I feel I can’t in real life for a lot of reasons. But I felt like I needed to update you all on what’s going on with me, so here I am, baring my soul a little. It’s scary, but life is scary, and I’ve already shared as much as I have already, so why not? It may also help you to understand more of where I’m coming from in the next section of In/Exhale.

I hate waking up. Of course, many people do. But I loathe returning to consciousness because sleep is the only reprieve I get from my constant pain. So the instant I wake up, my pain is there, boom, like an obnoxious relative who’s long ago overstayed my hospitality. “Welcome back!” he screeches into my ear.

Or at least that’s what it feels like. And then I’m faced with yet another day of pain to slog and muddle through.

I always knew that depression was correlated with chronic pain, but I could never fully appreciated that dynamic duo until now. It’s more complex than it might seem on the surface–for example, yes, it’s disheartening to see everything you love to do ripped away from you because of the pain, to see friendships fade away because you’re just not capable of doing the things you used to anymore. But it’s more than that. It’s even more than staring into the horizon in front of you and seeing nothing but that pain as far as you can see, of the never-endingness of it. It’s even more than the fact that constant pain drains you physically and emotionally. And yes, you adapt to it in a certain way because you have to, and you make as much use of your “good” moments as you can. But when you have your worse moments or your bad days or even weeks at a stretch where your pain is so blindingly bad it feels like that’s all there is, it’s almost impossible for depression not to add to that weight.

For me, on my really bad pain days, especially if I get a particularly bad week, it honestly feels like my pain and depression are linked, like they’re two creatures living in quiet symbiosis inside my head, feeding off each other, almost inextricable.

A few weeks ago, things got particularly bad for me. I was still waiting for news about my blood cancer diagnosis, my pain was high for a whole week without much relief, and I had been forced to abandon yet another treatment for it because of bad side effects. Doctors weren’t returning my calls about other potential options, and my depression grabbed hold of me in its dark arms and yanked me down, down, down, in some ways farther down than ever before.

. . . [I]t honestly feels like my pain and depression are linked, like they’re two creatures living in quiet symbiosis inside my head . . .

I’ve wrestled with depression and even suicidality before in my life, but this felt like the closest I ever got to going through with it. I started to plan and research how I would do it. I did the rationales in my head of how everyone would be fine or even better with me gone. It scared me on a certain level, but I couldn’t see any possible way out of the mire of darkness and pain. It felt like I’d never be able to do the things I loved again, like even my writing had been taken away from me in a huge way, and I was so desperate for relief and escape that it seemed like a legitimate option.

Fortunately, I wasn’t so lost I couldn’t reach out to a friend of mine who’s battled with his own mental illness. He recently lost a brother to suicide, and he was able to remind me that no matter what I felt like, my family would never recover, because he had sad personal experience himself. And it resonated, reached in through the mire and made me stop and think clearly. Honestly, it was my dogs that made me pause. What would happen to them if I were gone? Would my husband decide he couldn’t take care of them and put them to sleep?

And my friend also helped me get new perspective on my entire situation, which really helped me through it.

Perhaps that’s part of why the good news that I had been wrongly diagnosed and I don’t have cancer after all (yay!) was so disheartening in a lot of ways. I’d helped myself get through everything the past weeks by hoping that I’d find a “magic” answer to all my other health problems, including my headache, and hearing the doctor say, “you’re healthy,” nearly made me laugh. It felt a little like a balloon popping unexpectedly.

But I’m trying to focus on the positives: not having cancer is a good thing, and it means I can shelve at least some of my worries. I’ve started treatment for my headache with a transmagnetic stimulator device (TMS) that I’ll blog about more once I’ve used it longer that has the potential to help with my headache–though it could take four months to know if it will or not. And I try to live more in the present and not stare into that often disappointing and depressing future.

I’m very close to finishing the next section of In/Exhale and I hope to begin posting it again soon on the blog. I’m also going to try to get back into some of my commercial projects that have been on hold. It might be slow going, but even if it is, it’s still progress.

Just got to take it one day at a time.

If you are struggling with suicide, you’re not alone. Call 1-800-273-8255 if you’re in the US, or visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines for the crisis number in your country. If you’re Deaf or HOH, you can find an online chat or TTY suicide hotline information here: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/Accessibility


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