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MidAge Mom is for women who are parenting in midlife rather than celebrating the empty nest on a beach in Bali . . .

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Recovery

Recovery.

It feels so close and yet so far away.

For three years I’ve battled anxiety and depression, so sick at times that I had to be hospitalized. I am better than I was but still far from well. I don’t suffer much depression. But every day I deal with overwhelming anxiety and fear.

And yet sometimes the normal world seems so close at hand. I can see, smell and touch it but I can’t quite have it. It’s so frustrating not to be able to get there when I feel so close to making it. Recovery is so tangible and yet so illusive.

I feel recovery most when I am in the pool, which is why I swim in our freezing cold, unheated Florida pool every day. Something about being in the water makes everything seem possible; little things that otherwise feel intimidating, like taking the dog to the vet or getting my hair done, suddenly doable. Then I get on land and feel scared again.

I also feel recovery on the days I do electroshock, or ECT, treatments. Those days, I feel like my old self again. However, the frustrating thing is that in my case ECT’s effects only last one day. The next morning the old fears resurface. I think most people get more relief from ECT.

I’ve come a long way from where I was this summer, though, when I spent most of my time in bed, didn’t eat much and at times couldn’t even talk. Probably the biggest sign of progress is that I’ve started writing again. Writing gives me a sense of purpose and connects me to people. My husband sees my blog posts as one of the biggest reasons for hope. When I’m writing I almost feel like myself. My daughter just walked by me while I was working on this piece and noted, “It makes me so happy to see you writing. It’s such a big part of who you are.”

I think there is a natural healing process that I can help promote. Writing feels like a key part of this process, and luckily it’s something I can do anytime. It feels a lot more effective than the pills I’ve been taking.

I was telling a friend how much I want to recover and how frustrated I am when she reminded me how long I’ve been sick: three years. Anyone would take time to get their footing again after such a long illness. She also said I had to have faith and believe. It’s hard when my fears are so overwhelming and the road has been so difficult.

I am not a religious person – maybe vaguely spiritual whatever that means – but part of me believes that I can recover because I’ve made progress. Three years ago I had all sorts of physical pains that have since disappeared. Three months ago I wasn’t swimming at all and didn’t even remember how to work this blog. I am going in the right direction, even if progress is slow. I hold on to these signs of hope and wish there were more. Recovery still feels frustratingly illusive most of the time.

But if I’m going to get there, I have to believe in it.

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Are you dealing with recovery? Share by commenting below!

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                                                                                      Photo © Pinosky/Dreamstime.com

Disclosure: I use some affiliate links. If you click and buy a product, I make a small commission. Thanks for your support!

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Why Am I Embarrassed?

These blog posts about my experience with depression and anxiety have been hard to share for one simple reason: I’m embarrassed.

Every time I punch the publish button I want to run and hide in the closet. But writing about this is therapeutic so I keep going, hoping my experience will benefit others.

Anyway, I’ve always written about my experiences. I wrote about parenting in my book, Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Lifeand shared my experience reporting in Nicaragua in “Central American Dreams,” an essay published in the anthology, Go Your Own Way: Women Travel the World Solo. I’ve kept a diary since I was seven.

But this feels so much different.

On the way to the hospital this morning, the cab driver asked if I were going for my hips, remembering earlier appointments related to two hip replacements  I had. “No, my hips are fine,” I corrected him. “I’m going for electroshock therapy (ECT) for treatment of depression and anxiety.” Speechless at first, the cabbie finally responded, “Well, I’m glad your hips are okay,” and changed the subject.

Turns out it was easier to talk about my hips than it has been to talk about my brain.

Depression and anxiety seem to come with a certain amount of shame and embarrassment. It is probably hard for some people to relate; I am keenly aware that I’m posting the blog essays on Facebook amidst announcements of babies born and awards won.

However it is probably more important to write about these subjects than it has been to write about many of my other past experiences. Because the fact is that despite the conspiracy of silence, I’m not alone. Many people are facing the same challenges. Major depression disorder is the leading cause of disability for ages 15-44.3. It affects more than 15 million adults or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in any given year.

Generalized anxiety disorder affects 6.8 million adults or 3.1 percent of the U.S. population. And this doesn’t include the statistics for a variety of related illnesses like panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

So I keep trying to share honestly, reminding myself that I am far from alone. If I give the taxi driver something to think about, so much the better.

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Is there something you’re embarrassed talking about? Share by commenting below!

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                                                                                      Photo © Antonio Guillem/Dreamstime.com

Disclosure: I use some affiliate links. If you click and buy a product, I make a small commission. Thanks for your support!

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Dealing With Uncertainty 2

uncertainty_connielarsen_dreamstime

I want certainty. And I can’t have it.

Those of you facing a medical challenge – or just dealing with life in these uncertain times – will relate.

I want to know for certain that the protocol I’m on to address my anxiety and depression works. My psychiatrist has me taking some medications and doing frequent electroshock (ECT) therapy. The ECT doctor just switched me from weekly to bimonthly ECT treatments. My neurologist has recently prescribed a new medication.

But there is no way to know for sure what is the best amount of any of this, or if I’m on the right path at all. I’ve had my ups and downs in the last few weeks. Are they due to the ECT schedule? The new medication from the neurologist? The combination? I’m not much of a pill popper so I feel ambivalent about the medications. (In the past some have had major side effects, and others’ benefits have been short-lived.) What, if any, impact are they having?

ECT seems to have played a part in my overall general improvement in the last few months, but it has a huge downside in terms of memory loss. Every time I get electroshock therapy, I feel nervous and ambivalent. How many treatments should I be getting? No one knows for sure.

Sometimes I feel like there is something larger at work than any of the pills or medical protocols that explains my ups and downs. Early on, I had a variety of physical pains which all mysteriously disappeared without any treatment. Could I be suffering from an illness with its own agenda and in some natural healing process that takes its own course?

One thing is for sure: recovering from an illness involves a lot of uncertainty.

One way to cope is to appreciate the things in your life that are firm and predictable while accepting what is uncertain and realizing that uncertainty is part of life. This afternoon my younger daughter pointed out that her love for me is certain, and I can say that of all my family members. My husband has been there every day for me of the difficult past three years. I look forward to dining with him every night.

Swimming every day in our pool has helped keep me sane. My sister-in-law’s frequent calls have become a regular source of support. A pint of ice cream after dinner helps get me through the day (I won’t cut back though my husband tells me to.) In these uncertain times, my little rituals  sustain me.

I guess what’s really behind the uncertainty is fear, and I’ll just have to accept it. The fear of being on the wrong track; the concern that I’ll damage my brain with too much ECT; the worry that I’ll never really get better – it’s all part of the price of trying to recover. You get the best medical advice you can and go from there.

But every day I wish the path felt more predictable and safer and that there were some wise wizard who could guide me back to myself.

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Are you dealing with uncertainty? Share by commenting below!

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Photo © Connie Larsen/Dreamstime.com

Disclosure: I use some affiliate links. If you click and buy a product, I make a small commission. Thanks for your support!

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