I am still rumbling along. If anyone has been reading my entries (and has a good memory), they might remember that a little over a year ago, I realized that I had apparently developed a resistance to my primary anti-depressant, which in 2006 had been Lexapro, but at that time was Cymbalta (for no other reason than that my Doctor was giving me free samples of the latter). Until this past December, I still could not really even afford enough to buy decent food. I wasn't exactly starving, but am sure I was definitely malnourished-- the last 10 days or so of the month, I would be down to basically eating toast and tea as my primary staples. But, because I have saved a little bit here and there-- $10/mo. by finally cancelling my old dial-up ISP that I hadn't used to connect to the Internet for years-- I was only maintaining to get E-mails; paying $8/mo. less for a cheaper storage unit, etc. Because of these little savings here and there, I am finally at least able to go to the grocery store & buy basic food for myself-- still nothing fancy, but I can buy non-essentials like cookies, pistachios, etc. I still eat very frugally. Tonight, my 'dinner' was 6 fried breaded butterfly shrimp I got at the 'hot bar' at the Walmart for $1.50 and a can of Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup-- I used milk to 'uncondense' it, rather than water, which makes it taste richer-- what a luxury!
But back to the depression stuff. Starting around October of last year, I realized I was sliding back into depression again. The usual contributing factors (for me, at least): no prospects for work, constant back pain and/or migraines, my Mom moving away, etc. The end of summer & the prospect of winter looming. Even tho I spend most of my time in bed, I still consider myself to be an outdoor-sy person, & the prospect of having to stay indoors for a few months is not very appealing; not 'me'. Then, at the end of December-- Christmas Day, I think, I found another lump on Cindy (my beloved 18 1/2 year old cat) (I had found a lump on her last July & it was diagnosed as cancer, but an operation had removed it). I really got depressed then. Also, I had gone down to visit my Mom in October-- she now lives with my sister about 1 1/2 hrs. away from me-- quite a trip for me with my back the way it is & quite a trip for my nearly 20 year old car. I was only intending to stay for the weekend, but then my Mom had a mild stroke-- very mild, really-- she completely recovered. In fact, they called it a 'mild stroke' more because they couldn't really identify what was wrong with her. Actually, the tests that they did turned out to be good news, because they showed that she is in rather good health for an 81 year old woman. So, because my Mom was in the hospital a few days, & then was released to go home-- I wanted to stay while she was in the hospital those few days, & then to stay & keep an eye on her her 1st couple of days home-- my sister works. But, some friction started to develop with my sister. Because of my manic-depression (mostly depression, but a little mania), the manic side causes me to have insomnia; then taking my pain medication makes me sleepy-- this is actually a good combo, cuz one tends to cancel out the other. But the pain medication often makes me sleep late, then I in turn go to bed later & later until I am up all night & end up sleeping into the morning. I always say I have a '26 hour day'-- going to bed progressively later & waking up progressively later each morning until I am in 'vampire' mode, staying up all night & going to bed at dawn. But then it shifts around again & I am up during the day. And because I was around my Mom, my hours somewhat affected her & she would sometimes stay up an hour or two past her usual bed time-- we might sit & talk a bit over decaf coffees, for instance. But, my sister is a teacher, &, having dated a teacher myself, I am certainly aware of-- and am sympathetic to-- teachers' need to have a smooth routine & esp. that everyone goes to bed early. Also, I was relegated to the couch, which was a leather couch & the bed clothes kept sliding all over the place-- it was also quite uncomfortable for me because of my back. That also caused me to have poor sleep at night, which made me sleep into the morning, also causing me to go to bed later each night. And, esp., the heat in the house was poorly distributed & it was very cold on the 1st floor level where the living room was. Anyway, one night, around 10:30 P, I tiptoed up to my Mom's room, which is next to my sister's bedroom upstairs. My sister had gone to bed already. My Mom & I were both up-- me downstairs reading, I think, & my Mom puttering around in her bedroom. So, I went up there-- literally tiptoeing, so as not to disturb my sister-- & I was whispering to my Mom, asking if I should do my sister's laundry for her as a favor-- to help her out. Well, my sister came out of her bedroom, exasperated, saying, 'What's going on???' But we had been very quiet. But she said she had heard my Mother walking around the room 'back and forth, back and forth'. I think my sister is an extremely light sleeper. Earlier in the week, she had come down to complain that the living room TV was too loud-- but I had it so low that I couldn't even follow the dialog. After that, I no longer watched TV after my sister went to bed. Anyway, somehow, I was the one who got blamed for my Mom making the noise. I had been doing quite a bit of work around the house & yard-- which was quite overgrown. My Mom had bought some bulbs which needed to be planted before the ground froze. But prepping the spots where the bulbs were going in took a long time cuz everything was so overgrown. Plus, I am disabled! I was doing around 4 hours/day work around the yard and house, which was quite a lot for me, considering I am in bed most of the time. I also started feeling like I was coming down with a cold-- not unexpectedly-- a few days into trying to sleep on the couch on the cold 1st floor. So, I ended up needing to stay an additional day beyond what I wanted to to finish up. But my sister was pissed off-- she actually told me that I had 'worn out my welcome'. I was shocked-- how many house guests scrub the kitchen floor, saw off huge limbs of trees, rake leaves, prune bushes, do laundry, do food shopping, etc. I was doing that to help my Mom, primarily, but also for my sister. I had to saw off the tree limbs because there were a couple of overgrown pine trees which blocked the light to some planned flower beds and also the light level coming into the house. Because the ceiling was low, it left the house very dim and rather depressing. My sister has 'Seasonal Depressive Disorder' (or whatever it's called). I have been sympathetic towards my sister because, as I said, she is a teacher & I know how tough a job that is. Plus, she had been very kind to lend me money last year when my cat had her cancer operation. Also, she is still getting over the death of her husband, which happened about 3 1/2 years ago. And, of course, I always like helping my Mother. Nearly lastly, I enjoyed feeling useful & that I was helping somebody. One of the hardest things for me to deal with, having come up in an altruistic generation, is not being able to contribute towards society anymore. And, lastly, I love and really miss gardening. But I was shocked at the things my sister said to me. It was the first argument we have had as adults-- in other words, our first argument since we were children, like 40 years ago. We have always been really close. At least I thought we were. But the things she accused me of-- of being a 'know it all' (Not true: I'm a scientist-- the whole point of being a scientist is the *quest* for knowledge: so, obviously, we don't know everything. Anyway, what does 'know it all' even mean, anyway?). Of thinking I was the only person who is disabled-- again, not true-- obviously, I'm not. She accused me of being condesending. Not true again: I am a punk person. We see everyone as equal. I don't look down on anyone, so how could I be condescending? I'm an anthropologist, for gawd's sake! Anthropologists see all cultures-- and all individuals-- as having equal merit. So, like my brother & younger sister, though not as utterly out of the ballpark as they have been-- her assumptions were just frigging wrong! We hadn't lived together for nearly 40 years! My brother was only 15 when I left home; my younger sister was only 8. I have changed some basic philosophies even in the past 10 years. How could any of them know me well enough to have an opinion about me at all? I had been 'out West' for 10 years in the 1990s, also, only coming home at Christmas. So, these family squabbles that have been going on for the past several years: it sure has shown me that grown up siblings simply DO NOT KNOW one another anymore, & so shouldn't be making judgments about one another. So, the long & short of it is that I don't feel like I can easily visit my Mother anymore. It has to be at least an overnight stay, cuz I can't do a 3 hour round trip + visit in one 'sitting'. But my sister doesn't really want me there any more. I only really have 2 'tethers', as I call them, to ol' Planet Earth-- my Mom & my Cat. My Mom is 81 & basically inaccessible to me now. And my dear Cindy, my 18 1/2 year old cat, has cancer. So, around mid-December, I started getting really depressed again, frequently suicidal. Not at the point of actually 'doing it', just thinking about it all the time. So, I realized I needed to get back onto anti-depressant medication again.
So, I managed to get an appointment at a relatively new local Mental Health clinic and am in the process-- it takes around 2 months-- of getting established there so that I can have a therapist again. I am about halfway through the process-- the senior clinician who gave me my evaluation is apparently speeding up the process a bit because she considers me "high risk" (for suicide). Meanwhile, I have asked my regular Doctor to prescribe what had helped me a lot around 2002-- Celexa. After that, I was put on-- something, I forget, then Lexapro, then Cymbalta. I had gotten up to the max level on Lexapro & had become suicidal again. That was in 2006. I realized that taking these SSRI medications-- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors-- acted by artificially increasing the serotonin levels that are genetically deficient in depressives. But, like a street drug, like cocaine, your body gets acclimated to it & needs more to maintain the same level of-- I won't say happiness, or even contentment, really-- I'll say 'neutrality'-- being at a point where one is more or less just existing, floating along in a limbo state, but at least not being suicidal. But, since I was at the max dosage, the level of medication I was taking was not enough to maintain that 'neutrality', & I started to get depressed, then very depressed, then suicidal again. So, now, starting up this stuff again-- it is certainly no 'magic pill', but I do feel better. I am just playing a game with a timebomb-- trying to up my emotional strength so that I may be able to survive the death of my cat-- which is probably going to be this year-- and my Mother-- which may not be for several years, hopefully. But if something unforeseen happens-- like I run out of medication & can't get a prescription refilled right away-- this happens with folks on Medicare plans. Medicare won't let us refill our prescriptions until we are nearly out of them. (Fear that we will try to sell our pills, maybe?-- it's idiotic!) This has happened to me at least twice & has cause me to crash so badly-- it's called 'serotonin withdrawal'-- none of my medical caregivers informed me of the dangers of this-- & I nearly killed myself those times. Genetically-based depression is bad enough-- adding artificial serotonin withdrawal to that adds more 'low' to an already low 'low'. If these three things-- the death of my cat, the death of my Mother, and a serotonin crash or developed resistance to my anti-depressant happen at the same time, it will surely be the end of me. I am doing my best to try to put myself in the best means of surviving any or all of these-- I feel it's my duty.
It is quite good of me, really, considering that my family apparently doesn't care whether I live or die. I was very upset about 3 weeks ago cuz I was planning on bringing my cat in for another cancer operation-- as I mentioned, I had felt a new lump in the same area around her ribcage where she had the 1st lump removed last July. But I didn't have quite enough money for the operation. I was only about $50 short-- that was assuming I limited my diet to toast and tea again for the rest of the month. So, I asked my Mother-- I was sobbing on the phone-- to let everyone know about my cat & my situation. I have a PayPal button on my various websites-- which I know they check out-- so they have a convenient means of donating-- or lending-- me money. But, nothing. I didn't even hear from my Mother for about 2 weeks. As it turned out, the Vet decided not to operate-- the new lump was fairly small & seemed attached to the bone, which would have required removing part of her rib, which he was reluctant to do. But, I felt like-- isn't my life worth a measly $50 to my frigging family? To help keep my cat alive is to help keep me alive. My youngest sister is upper middle class-- her husband makes enough money that she doesn't even have to work. (Ironically, her dog has cancer & I wrote her to say how sorry I was about it. How would she feel if she couldn't afford to have it's cancer treated?) My brother is a typical middle class person-- buying a house, paying for cable TV, new cars, etc. My other sister is what I would call middle middle class-- teachers don't make that much, but she can afford the usual middle class things-- cable TV, high speed Internet, a new car, etc. And my Mom has quite a bit of savings-- I saw a bank slip in her car last year. Meanwhile, they have had a sister who has been nearly starving, who was homeless twice in the past 10 years. When I am not well, I start to run out of food cuz I can't get to the store. No one calls me to offer me help-- like driving me to the hospital or doctor's, or to the store. Or even to check up on me and just say, 'Hi, how are you doin'?' Some families go way out of their way to help their daughter or sibling-- or even strangers. I just don't get it. I've always been a kind, giving person and have worked hard all my life, worked to put myself through college & grad school. Why I am having to struggle like this all on my own just to survive?
Oh, yes, and a new, rather bad additional wrinkle: in the past 10 days, I have developed excruciating pain in my upper back-- it feels as though I have a pencil stuck in my back between my R shoulder blade close to my spine. I think it's a pinched nerve. It's been horrible. I thought it might be a bursitis-type thing-- and/or an inflammation of the muscle attachment to the bone. So I rested in bed, but it didn't get better. And shifting into different positions sometimes made it much worse or somewhat better. If it was a muscular thing, I would think that the pain would be constant. So, that's what I'm theorizing: a pinched nerve. Basically, I just stayed in bed and took more pain pills-- just enough to get by, as I don't like taking pills. But it didn't get better. So, Monday night, I felt slightly better & managed to get to the ER in the next town. They gave me a couple of shots-- including, apparently, Valium. At least I could get to sleep that night reasonably well, w/o too much pain. They recommended I get an MRI-- I should have had follow-up MRIs years ago, but that's the thing when you have multiple disabilities (and no one to help you), it takes you a long time to pursue each step: seeing a primary care Doc to get a referral to a specialist, finding a specialist, hassling w/ your insurance co. to see if they'll pay for it, making an appointment, getting to the hospital to have the MRIs done. For normal people these steps might only take a few days. But for a person w/ depression & chronic pain, they take-- years! I had 2 referrals in 2007-- for upper & lower back MRIs-- but when I tried to get them re-issued the other day by my primary Doc, he said I'd have to come back in (I was just there about 3 weeks ago), get a referral to a specialist, who would then, hopefully, give me the new prescription to get the MRIs. But my Doc also said my insurance wouldn't pay for them. So: is it any wonder I feel hopeless? A person who didn't have clinical depression would feel depressed & hopeless if they had to endure chronic pain for years with no prospect of a solution-- and the pain pills only take away maybe 20% of the pain level. When I took more a few years ago when the pain was worse, I ended up sleeping 16 hours/day. What kind of a life is that?
Well, to end on a positive note, I am trying to count my couple of 'blessings'-- while I am waiting out the Winter for Spring, at least I can be glad that I finally have enough money to eat. And, we are past what I usually consider to be the 'dead' of Winter-- mid-January. It won't be long before we start getting an unseasonably warm day here & there, giving us a little taste of Spring! And my favorite moment in late Winter/early Spring: when I see the first pointy green spikes of the bulbs coming up!