Depression is a Downer

I am going to tackle a subject that should not be hidden or dismissed. Depression. One of the many mental illnesses that affect more people than we know. It has affected me.

I have been struggling with depression for more than 35 years. Probably since my mid twenties. At the time, I didn’t realize what it was.

My ex-husband is a narcissist. His parents had him on a pedestal which he loved. He expected the same treatment from me. I was an introvert and had no self confidence. He used that. He tried to control and manipulate everything I did. Everything I touched, he would take and “make it better”. It got to the point where I didn’t try anymore. When it was for myself, I would hide it and not show him. There were times I cried myself to sleep.

As he  climbed the ladder of success, things at home got worse. I was never given any credit for anything I did. Nothing I did was ever good enough. He always changed whatever I touched. It was especially horrible with our children which I always tried to hide from them. He was a good father when the children were young but once they started gaining independence, he changed.

I was threatened so many times to behave or he would take me to court and “clean my clock” or leave me with nothing. I was so intimidated and felt so worthless. So many nights, I would feel myself being sucked into a deep, black hole. There were nights I wished I could die. But, not once, did I think of ending my life. That was not up to me. That was for God and I would not go there.

It was during my children’s teenage years where I went to my family doctor to ask for help. I was told I had depression. My family doctor prescribed an antidepressant. There was one psychiatrist for our city (population size 600,000) in Canada. I would not be able to get an appointment with the psychiatrist for at least one year. Did I want to wait or just start on the antidepressant the doctor could prescribed. I went with what my family doctor recommended.

I finally found the courage when we moved to the States to leave my ex. I truly struggled with the decision. Every time the ex went on a business trip, I could breathe. The day before his expected return, I would start to have the shakes and I would cry. The straw that broke the camel’s back was an order that I was given before our son’s wedding. I couldn’t live like this anymore. I was seeing a therapist who gave me coping skills. But it wasn’t enough.

With the diagnosis of cancer, I was able to see a psychiatrist who has prescribed the proper antidepressant for me. The antidepressant has helped. However, when my oncologist started me on the estrogen suppressing medications, I am not certain if it was both the Anastrazole and the Letrozole or just one of them that put me into such a deep depression that I could not stop crying. Every night I would be sobbing. Such a deep, black hole that I was being sucked into. I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t stop it. I felt helpless. This wasn’t me.

There was never a day I couldn’t get out of bed. I could still perform everything I needed to do for the day. Seeing my horse was the best thing I could do for myself. However, the relationship with my husband was unraveling for me. I felt stupid, ugly, fat and undeserving of such a handsome man. I was falling apart. I was praying every day to God for relief. I wondered why this was happening. Was I seeing things that just weren’t there? I prayed and prayed.

One day, I started an argument with my sweet, wonderful husband. It just erupted out of me. I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t know why I was doing it. I went upstairs to sob. I hurt and that black hole was sucking me in. I sobbed so hard and prayed. Slowly, I composed myself.

I sat up. It was like a switch had been flicked off. The black hole disappeared. I could breathe. Quite literally, the sun came out. If you have never gone through something like this, it is difficult to explain. It is a feeling of calm that comes over you. The tears are gone and I could breathe.

I know when I walked back downstairs and gave my husband a loving kiss, his eyes were pretty wide. He must have wondered, what the heck? I sat down beside him, took up my knitting and watched the television with him.

The next day was normal and I thought, I want to feel like this every day. How can I have this happen every day? I want to feel normal. God did hear my prayers. For over one month, I was being dragged by depression into the black hole. God pulled me out so I could see the sunlight.

Depression is a horrible illness. Trying to cope with it without medication or seeing a therapist is impossible. I believe in God but I know I need the medication as well. Just like a diabetic, they put their faith in God, but they need their medication to live. Hiding your depression is not healthy. Getting help for it and understanding that you need coping skills is vital.

Depression would not ever lead me to suicide. It has for others. I can understand it. But I would never do it. I have too much to live for. My husband. My children and grandchildren. My dear, sweet friends. My pets. And God. People with depression need understanding and compassion. That is all anyone could ask.

Surgery – Now What?

I had surgery this past week to have my remaining ovary removed. However, when the doctor went in, my left ovary was atrophied and it had attached itself to my intestine. The good doctor made the decision to not remove the ovary as it could potentially cause more harm than good. It was a decision we had both discussed prior to the surgery and we had agreed with the decision.

Now I have three nice holes in my belly (I wish I could have told him to suck out some of the belly fat while he had me there but I don’t think a gynecologist can do that). One hole in my belly button and then two on either side. It was done with a laprascope. I wish my gall bladder could have waited until gall bladders were removed with a laprascope. But, no, I have this nice long scar on the right side of my belly.

I told you in a previous blog how the Letrozole made me into a crazy woman. I cried pretty much every night and I was in this deep, deep black hole. I stopped taking the medicine on Monday. Three days after my surgery and I am still feeling the effects of all the drugs I was given. My oncologist told me to stop taking the Letrozole and see how I am feeling in two weeks. Does she really think I want to go back on it? My poor husband can’t take the Letrozole. I can’t either.

I am such a lightweight with drugs. My body rebels against drugs. It very quickly lets me know that it does not want this foreign crap in my body. I just have to agree with my body.

My next visit with my oncologist will be interesting. She wanted my ovary removed because she does not want anything in my body that could produce estrogen. Well, I think atrophied means that ovary is dead. The second estrogen suppressing medication punched me down and out. There are only two more medications to try. Anastrazole = bad flu like symptoms. Letrozole = totally crazy lady. I will let you know what happens with the next one.

Onwards to A New Medication

Anastrozole did not treat me very well. I was taking it for about three weeks when it knocked me a one-two punch that left me quite sick.

I got up one morning and it was a struggle. I definitely felt like I had had one bad drinking night. Getting up and walking was not easy. I felt like the room was spinning, I was nauseous. My head felt huge. I had bad diarrhea. It was like a bad stomach flu and a bad drinking night.

I emailed my oncologist and she said to stop taking it. Then after a couple of weeks, if I was feeling better, I should start taking it again. Well, in between all of this, I had the visit with the gynecologist and I was not going to take anything again until I could see my oncologist.

The first thing my oncologist told me was since I had diseased lymph nodes, I must take an estrogen suppressing medication. She told me the statistics are that the medication suppresses reoccurrence by 50 percent. There are four different medications that I can try. We now know Anastrozole is out. I am now on Letrozole. I was told the side effects were similar but she is hoping my body will be good with this one. She also told me that there are creams and gels that I can be given to alleviate the dryness in the vagina. However, she said not many of her patients experience this problem.

I then asked about doing tests to make sure that all the cancer is gone. I have many friends and my children who are asking this question. She said that they have done a battery of studies on people who underwent many tests after treatment compared to those who didn’t. They determined that there was nothing to indicate running tests after cancer treatment was beneficial.

My oncologist then went on to tell me how she loved my hair coming in. I told her it had a mind of its own. She has extremely curly hair and told me there are hair products for curly hair. She uses one that she puts on while her hair is wet and then lets it air dry. Not only does my oncologist give great medical information but really important information on hair products. Cool!

Anastrazole – My last Cancer Steps

I met with my oncologist who has now put me on Anastrazole which is an estrogen suppressing medication. I am supposed to take one pill a day for five years.

There are a number of side effects with this drug. So far, after two weeks of taking this drug, I am feeling fine. However, one of the side effects can be bone density loss. For someone who has osteoporosis, this is a concern for both my oncologist and myself. I could not remember the last time I have had a bone density scan done so my oncologist scheduled me for a scan. Currently, I am trying to set up an injection for Prolia for the osteoporosis.

Yesterday, I went for the scan. This was the easiest test I have had to go through. The technician scanned my back and then the pelvis area and then my left arm. She said that I have good, strong bones. Then she showed me where the points line up, that determines if I have osteopenia or osteoporosis. They have a green area for good, strong bones, a yellow area for osteopenia and a red area for osteoporosis.

My back, pelvis and arm bones all show up in the green area. I almost started to cry. The technician said the radiologist doctor had to examine the scans but I do not have osteopenia or osteoporosis. I tried to give the technician a hug and then bounced out of the examining room with the biggest smile on my face.

I felt free. Whatever I have been doing lately, changing my diet, exercising, the vitamins I am taking and  even through chemotherapy and radiation treatments or maybe just that I am so much in love with my new husband, has made my bones strong and healthy again. One more step towards being healthy.

Thank you God. Thank you Jesus. If you let yourself, Jesus will never let you walk alone, through whatever you are going through. The problem is, you have to have faith and trust and love. I can feel Jesus is just as happy with my news from yesterday.