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18 April 2014 @ 02:20 pm
spoiler alert: shit getting real / depression talk  

i wanted to try something a little forward.

for my own cathartic reasons, and also because i feel i am making up for lost time by letting people know where i've been for the past couple of years. there were so many people i love who tried to be there and willfully involved in my life when i was badly depressed, and i wasn't able to keep up. but the whole story isn't easy to summarize, so it would make me feel good to write it out.

there is virtually no way to make a post like this and avoid sounding sorry for myself and/or a total fucking bummer. i accept those risks. but be forewarned, ha.

i don't define myself by having been depressed. but it ~is~ a huge chunk of my life history, so i have no qualms about needing to share it with the people i love (or anyone, really. i am pretty much an open book with this one, the basics anyways) plus, i weathered something pretty unique. i don't think most of the average population has experienced an absolute loss of will to live, or been actively suicidal for months on end. so if nothing else it is a novel story. but yeah, feel free to read, but i won't be sad or mad if you don't :)

plus i will admit that by putting these things out there, i perhaps make-up for being maybe a little less than graceful, socially and mentally, these days, and maybe if people understood why, that would make me feel a lot better about it. that's horrible, i know, but its true.

before now only andrew, lou, my family, and the doctors involved know how bad it truly got. these are things i have shared with nathan, and shelle, and others, when they tried to be willfully involved in my illness and life over the past couple of years, but only to a point, for reasons that may become obvious but i still harbour guilt about.

basically for over two years the only people i saw outside of going out for food and doctors appointments and such, like in a social fashion, were andrew and my immediate family. i could count on two hands the amount of times i saw anyone else in all of 2013 and a good chunk of 2012 if you extend that to two hands, and maybe a foot. there are 25 photos in my '2013' computer folder whereas '2011' has 734, and '2010' almost 1200, a good illustration of where i was at.

pawliuk tried me on over 15 medications over the course of three and a bit calendar years, and labeled me as having treatment resistant major depression. hence trying the ECT.

i had 21 ECT treatments in all, and it will probably remain my biggest regret in life forever more. andrew maintains vociferously to this day that if i had not had the first round of ECT, i would be dead, but i don't agree. the worst of it came after i had ECT, mostly because of the fall-out of having had the procedure and what i feel it did to me cognitively.. with a hearty dose of PTSD from going through it and my world collapsing inwards added in. the summer post-ECT (last summer) was the worst i ever was, and if i survived that, well... before ECT was a walk in the figurative park.

i harbour a lot of anger about it. mostly because 20+ treatments was inordinately excessive, especially when the doctors involved knew how sensitive my nervous system is, as they'd observed with my intolerance for meds that were prescribed and my general temperament. in the end i signed off on it, it was my choice, so i harbour major guilt towards myself. i was absolutely desperate and would have tried most anything, i went in blindly and without heeding some of what i'd read online, clinging only to miracle stories. what is the most anger-making is that in the end, what did the most out of anything was a simple change in diet. that ECT should have been suggested before anything like a gluten allergy, the likes of which was not suggested even once in over ten years of treatment for anxiety/depression.. kind of baffles me to the max. but anyways.

in a treatment, you lay down on a gurney in hospital jammies, and the psychiatrist sticks electrodes to your temples. there is an anaesthesiologist and a nurse. they give you the gas mask, insert the IV, you count down from ten and are totally out by seven. they trigger a seizure in your frontal lobes (or temporal, depending on the day and whims of the dr.) and watch the seizure activity on a screen. the muscle relaxant does its job and you just look like you are asleep. you wake up about ten or twenty minutes later, get dressed, and walk out. so intense, but painless, at the time anyways. it destroys the ability to form new memories for a time, and there's some retrograde amnesia and the more you have the more pronounced it gets. so i lost the better part of a year by the end of it (which was not a terrible thing, truthfully, as the year leading up had been less than stellar, obvs.) but there are a handful of missing bits earlier than that which i would have preferred to keep for posterity's sake.

the first round of ECT i had apparently had some positive effect, as people relate it. i don't know because i have no memories of that time. but these effects only lasted a month and a bit and i got a lot worse again, so they prescribed more.

during the second round, around my 19th treatment overall, i woke up from the anaesthetic and did not feel right. at all. my dad was with me that time and as soon as i walked out into the waiting room, i told him this. he asked me to elaborate but all i could say is that i couldn't put it into words, something just was out of place. the doctor came out and heard me out, but said it would wear off by the end of the day. from that moment on, (late april) i couldn't form thoughts cogently. couldn't locate words. whereas being really depressed i felt like a zombie and had total flat-effect and was mentally foggy, this had a different make-up entirely and went deeper. i was utterly. empty. i felt my IQ fall, very evidently. i kept telling pawliuk and others that for lack of a better word, my 'soul' had disappeared. and that whatever little spark had remained, that indefinable something that made me 'me' was gone. also more quantifiable things like working memory and attention were 'fucked' (pawliuks word, not mine.) of course, these are ALL textbook symptoms of depression. but this felt diiiiiifferent. i started to argue that theoretically maybe so many seizures, basically, had actually done some structural damage neurophysiologically, like in someone who has epilepsy. and having general anaesthesia three times a week can't do a body good. but this all goes against the medical literature.

almost a year later and some of that stuff has come back, which i fully attribute to neuroplasticity. but i still feel big holes. but then again for some people it does wonders. i've since met a handful of kickass, super amazing peeps for whom it saved and redirected their life for the better. one of my linguistics profs had had it, i remember him once telling me candidly in his office the 2nd year of undergrad - and he credited it hugely. so to each their own personal choice, and i made mine.

anyways after the fact i just got worse. so much worse.

where before suicide and suicidal thoughts were an urge and a fantasy, last spring/summer i was actively suicidal for a good seven months straight. it was the first thing on my mind when i woke up and the last thing on my mind before i fell asleep, and every moment in between. sometimes i would wake up and cherish those fuzzy milliseconds when you are first getting your bearings, before the reality of my life and anguish of the day would settle in. and then i would just wish for escape from the torment. i could not feel pleasure. from ANYthing. i stopped listening to music for most of a year because i could not get any enjoyment from it, and that felt like a special kind of hell, to lose something that had once given me so much solace. it was total and global anhedonia.

basically the only thing you are capable of feeling is misery, and hopelessness. i liken it to the exact neuropsychological opposite to taking ecstacy. the only thing your brain will allow you is an inhuman level of despair that crowns at a point where coping becomes subjectively impossible. there was no escape and it was excruciating. plus i was dealing with a total loss of self which i just couldn't bear. as that went on, that became the primary underpinning of my pain. my personality felt like it had disappeared. i managed about ten words a day. i spent most of them lying in bed wishing the universe to end my life because i was terrified of doing it myself because i didn't want to hurt my parents. i couldn't get past the selfishness of the act. i never could.

andrew - a true angel on earth who i am so proud to call my best friend - would ferry over most weekends for many months, spending thousands to help me essentially, bless his selfless soul. he or my parents would often try to get me out of the house.. in the worst couple of months a five minute walk was considering a rousing success. one time we made it to uptown new west, about five minutes away, and i just collapsed on the sidewalk. i literally did not possess the will to live, so badly that i almost couldn't be incited to use my limbs. i could only lay there mewling. andy got me home.

it got to the point where he and my parents were actively preparing for my inevitable suicide.

my dad sat me down one sunny day at their house, and said that they saw my torment and it hurt them so much. and that while they wouldn't necessarily forgive me for killing myself, they would understand, because they saw how much pain i was in and how long i had endured it without reprieve. he said that the animals would be taken care of, and wouldn't go to a shelter, which sticks out in my mind. we talked about it very matter of factly. for months andrew held out, and then one day broke down in tears and said that he didn't want to see me in so much pain anymore and he understood if i did end my life. that his worst fear and heartbreak was me to be alone if i did. and as horrific, absolutely horrific, as all that is, that is love. at its highest magnitude. you guys know my family, and of course andrew. you know i have a level of support and love from them that any human would be blessed to have. but nobody wants to see someone they love suffer like that, for that long. i think near the end they lost some faith, after everything we'd tried. my dad used the word 'inhuman' a few times. it was.

it was a constant onslaught of despair and grief for what i felt i'd lost and it hurt physically too. like a dull constant ache in your chest. long story not-so-short, i had convinced myself that every day i went on living in my defective, gutted state took away from my previous years beforehand, most of which had been blessed and beautiful. and i was totally, 100% convinced that was permanent. i slept 16 hours a day, sometimes taking seroquel because sleep was the only escape.

all i wanted was to get into bed and just go to sleep forever, preferably with kizzy by my side.

i was admitted to the hospital, and stayed there for all of june and part of july. and i remained suicidal for a couple of months after that. i made a couple of lifelong friends there, and while actually being there did nothing to help my situation (just suggestions to try meds I had already tried) a month spent in the company of people who are living it too, helped.

in the end i started doing research into dietary and environmental reasons for depression and read so many stories over and over again about people alleviating their depression and anxiety woes through not eating gluten etc. i tried, and the results were not astounding but immediately helped, somewhat. and somewhat was everything. my parents have totally been won over, because they saw it all first hand, and see how bad i immediately get when i fall off the wagon and get glutened. an immediate return to brain-fog, dullness, 'a loss of katie' as my mom puts it. physically, i immediately look like shit. i bloat, feel like death and get huge dark circles around my eyes. gluten is basically neurotoxic for me. the medical community at large isn't totally won over, but to tell the truth i've stopped being miffed about that and just thank the universe that i did find something that helped.

now that i am on the other side of the worst, i am having to deal with the PTSD-like symptoms and the sometimes crippling social anxiety that is left behind in the rubble. i am getting better at not constantly comparing myself to who i used to be and what i used to be able to do. but if depression does one thing to a person, universally, it is destroy your self esteem. it is gone, kaput, in the negative bagillions on the scale of self-worth. i deal with a lot of residual negative self-talk that is an onslaught most days but i think it will just take time. those patterns got hardwired so deep into my synapses, it will take work to undo them. i am in such a rush to start living life again and things aren't progressing as fast as i'd hoped, so i have my moments of despair over that. also days where i have to take time to mourn, process the grief and lost potential. and my worldviews have changed a lot, and its hard to rectify who i am now with the person i used to be, because i never thought i'd be capable of feeling some of the acrimony towards certain things (like some of the medical system) that i do. but bloom where you are planted, and so forth, and for what its worth there are positives, if i force myself to look for them. i will never take a good day for granted, cornball as it sounds. most of the people i knew would be there and tried to keep in touch even when i went unresponsive for months at a time were, well, there. only 2 weren't, which hurts like fuck, because i always think its because they are disappointed in who i am now compared to old kate with her sparkle and shine. but rationally, everybody changes and the fault doesn't always lie with me. i still feel broken and like the best parts of me are gone a lot of the time. but i do think that if i read this again in one years time, i will have come a long way and maybe changed my own mind, and be a lot closer to recovery. personally, i try to break those barriers down and have had almost universal success, people are usually really thankful you are so upfront and find it refreshing, no one has been alienated or disappeared, its always met with empathy or understanding.

and i come out of it with touching memories from my friends, who kept in touch with kindnesses. like nathan who sent postcards of love, showing up unexpectedly and sporadically over the past two years, often arriving with uncanniness on the worst of days. or even years ago at the very beginning when i was still on mcclure and had my first really pronounced downtimes, when ryan and sara would send a text-message every day at 8pm for months, keeping me connected to the world. and nathan and michelle wanting to come visit me in the hospital last summer to the point where my mom basically had to turn nathan away, they were so determined. and Stretchy from whom flowers appeared at my door even 2 years into this. those and so many other gestures, and i love you guys so much for that. words could never say.

anyways my fingers hurt from typing and i'm going to give this the once over and then post my official return to livejournal, then reward myself with some game of thrones and a blueberry smoothie. because i want to be involved in my friends lives more and have to stop hermiting sometime! but still. baby steps ;) thank you for reading and i hope its not too aversive to post something so... well, heavy. but it feels good to just go all out and let the whole experience out into the open!

love, me.
littlepeach: Juicy Peachlittlepeach on April 18th, 2014 11:50 pm (UTC)
You are a beautiful soul kate, thank you for sharing this. Thanks be to everything that you have come back to us....
Shelle: Lipsseeshellebelle on April 22nd, 2014 06:11 pm (UTC)

Kate. It was so great to get to share Sarah's wedding with you. I'm glad I got to be the one to introduce you to Derek and the two of you hit it off :)

I'm so grateful that you wrote this. We love you too, more than words can say. splendiferously awesome Katiebelle!!
Talk nerdy to me...: 1janabella on April 23rd, 2014 04:11 am (UTC)
Wow. I am in awe of your survival, Kate. Thank you so much for sharing what it has been like for you. To be honest, when you went silent for quite a while, and Nathan confirmed that you weren't doing well, I worried you might not make it through. I am so, so, so glad you did. You are as beautiful and eloquent as always -- whatever you may have lost, those parts absolutely remain.

We love you.
lilest_duckie: closelilest_duckie on April 23rd, 2014 04:19 am (UTC)
Oh Kate,
You are such an incredible soul. You've been through so much that I just can't imagine.. I was sobbing at one point reading what you've gone through, and the support of your family.. oh man.. :(
You have so much sparkle in you still <3

Love you. Thank you for putting yourself out there and sharing your most difficult times with us.
mrstretchie: gabmrstretchie on April 23rd, 2014 09:57 am (UTC)
This was a beautiful post Kate. I had no idea how bad it was for you, and I'm so sorry. But it's heartwarming to hear how much better you're doing now, and that you're hopeful for the future. I'm looking forward to that follow-up post in a year! ;) (Although others before that too of course, now that you've returned to LJ!)
kitty_katya: boomtastickitty_katya on April 26th, 2014 08:38 pm (UTC)
i promised to print a copy of this post out for my psychiatrist (as I had mentioned it to her).. i will make sure to print it out ~with~ comments, to further show her how amazing the people in my life are!

thanks so much guys. i love you all.
la_lou: Miss Piggyla_lou on April 29th, 2014 06:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Kate. I hope that along your recovery you can see how beautiful and incredible and strong you are to have survived what you went through. Your post confirms my deepest fears about your past few years. I can't put into words how grateful I am to you for finding the strength to keep going and how happy I am that you have found some peace in life. I love you very much, Katiebelle.