Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010: How Depressing

Did you read that last article? If not, please do before reading this post. I highlighted in red and made bold one specific line. Kristi sent this article to me one day while I was at work. Wow, talk about getting hit in the head with a 2x4. That one line "I'm not depressed, I just don't care" became my mantra for the past year or so. And I had myself convinced that was the truth. Just like that article indicates, my depression too came on gradually. As I look back at the past 2 years I can start connecting the dots. I didn't wake up one day and say "golly, I'm really depressed today". I have to give Kristi credit. She has been telling me for 2 years that I'm probably depressed. She convinced me 2 and a half years ago to go see a counselor. I have to admit...I wasn't a willing participant. My poor attitude coupled with someone I didn't 'click' with did not help the whole psychotherapy field. In fact, it reinforced my feelings for that profession. So after just a few visits I quit going and said I was "all better".

That was the summer of 2007. Not a good summer. Well, as most of you know, our cancer story didn't end there. Nope, it kept on going. We had signs here and there that things were looking better, but those glimpses of hope were often followed shortly thereafter by bad news of some sort. Over the next 2 years we had many highs and lows. We describe it as our emotional roller coaster that never ends.

Slowly, ever so slowly, little by little, over the course of that 2 years things started to gradually change for me:

* My sleeping became worse - mainly insomnia or waking up at 2 or 3 in the morning and not falling back to sleep. I related my sleep issues to stress and sleep apnea (I'll get in to the sleep apnea in a bit). This drove me to seeking different sleeping pills (prescribed by my doctor).

* I started losing interest in things I used to enjoy. I have always been a self proclaimed 'home improvement nut'. I loved doing home improvement projects of any kind. Sometimes I would change things 'just because'. I loved landscaping. I loved running and working out. I loved to tinker in the garage. I loved to empty out cupboards and reorganize them. I could never sit still. I was always doing something...and enjoying it! Well, slowly I started losing interest in these things. One by one, not all at once. Gradually over a couple years I stopped doing all of those. Kristi recognized this and although she enjoyed having me around more (OK, so sometimes I would go a little overboard on my projects and completely immerse myself in them), she knew something was wrong. She would drop little hints here and there, and eventually the little hints became less and less subtle. "Um, honey, you really need to get help - you're depressed!" And of course I would reply "I'm not depressed, I just don't care anymore, seriously". I had myself convinced.

* Then I started losing interest in hanging out with my friends. I preferred to be alone. I convinced myself I just needed quiet time. After all, I was too tired to go out. I would make excuses why I couldn't come over or go skiing. Before you know it, I wasn't doing anything. Again, none of this happened over night - it was a gradual pull-away.

* Low sex drive? Na, not going there - TMI. Ewe.

* Irritable/agitated?! Kristi said some days she felt like she had to walk around like on egg shells. I would blame my bad mood on a "messy" house. The house would be perfectly clean except for one bag of chips left out by the kids, for example. So what do I do? I pick up the bag of chips like a football and drop kick it across the room...chips exploding everywhere. That's a normal reaction, isn't it?! Yup, perfectly acceptable behavior. NOT. I was also grumpy all the time with the kids - just attributed that to their age and me being a man (cold hearted).

* Forgetfulness/difficulty concentrating? Yup. I used to say "if my head weren't attached to my shoulders I would leave the house without it".

* Menstrual problems? Well, they haven't been too bad.

* Fatigue - YA! This was my biggest issue. There were days where it was extremely difficult to get out of bed. Again, this got worse slowly as time went on. The last 3 or 4 months of 2009 pretty much every holiday or vacation day or weekend I would just stay in bed. I was getting increasingly frustrated with my doctor why he couldn't "fix" me. He did all the appropriate blood work, I had a stress test at the hospital, I tried different meds and nothing helped. He too tried telling me it could be depression. "Na, men don't get depressed." I convinced myself it was my sleep apnea. I was diagnosed with moderately severe sleep apnea in 2005. On and off I have been using a CPAP machine to sleep. If sleep apnea goes untreated it can lead to serious issues later in life. So I really need to use the CPAP machine (it keeps my throat open so I don't stop breathing in my sleep). The mask is very uncomfortable. Imagine trying to fall asleep with 2 thumbs stuck up your nose with a vacuum hose stuck to those that runs to a machine blowing air up your nostrils. That describes my mask, seriously! Sure enough, every night I would wake up (from my Ambien induced sleep) and rip off the CPAP mask. So I attributed my fatigue to my lack of using the CPAP machine.

* Suicidal thoughts? No. I never have considered hurting myself. But, if depression goes undiagnosed and gets serious enough it can eventually lead to those thoughts. I used to think 'how could someone ever kill themselves?!' Well, guess I understand. Although I never had those thoughts, look how all of these things happened gradually. I have no doubt that in time I could have gotten that bad if I didn't seek help. I understand completely now.

See how I made excuses for everything?! In my mind everything was justified. All the excuses were legitimate and the fact that all of these things were gradual made the idea of depression foreign to me. Depression comes on in an instant, doesn't it? That's what I thought. When Kristi sent me that article it was like "wow! Slap me on the face and call me Gumby."

So what changed? Sorry, tune in this weekend for part 2. I will tell you about how I came to realize I was depressed and what I'm doing about it. But now I need to get the kids ready for bed...Kristi is not feeling well so she went up to our room to read and rest.

An update on Kristi: well, she has been a bit down the past day and a half. I think this week is all catching up to her. She's been thinking a lot about dying yesterday and today. The kids have also been asking questions. The tumor in her neck is also getting's tripled in size in the past week and it's quite sore. So, just a lot on her mind. I'm trying to keep her distracted by talking about anything but cancer as much as possible. We usually talk about 'it' every night before bed. Until then I'm just trying to keep her distracted. You can help too! If you happen to see her at church or at school, don't mention the "c" word! If you take the vowels out, CaNCeR is a 4 letter word and it's not polite to say 4 letter words. Thanks for helping. So many emotions. So many tears. So many prayers around this house lately.

Thank you for praying for this family. We are very humbled and grateful by the outpouring of love everyone has shown us.