Jay Lake: Writer

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[Cancer]

[cancer] Depression

Yesterday was a very tough day. I was coming off the Dilaudid, almost cold turkey, because I’d grown so sick of being vague and sleepy. My pain levels were up slightly, my discomfort was up considerably (oddly, physical therapy helped rather than deepened that problem), but mostly I was feeling very bleak.

I have a long history of depression. I was hospitalized in my mid-teens following a suicide attempt, and was under mandatory psychiatric care until I was 18. I continued in therapy voluntarily all the way through college. Somewhere in my mid 20s, depression stopped mattering. The grim ghost had lost its fangs. I’ve continued in and out of therapy situationally since, including right now to help me cope with cancer, but I’ve never been back in the grip of the beast.

Yesterday was one of the worst days I’ve had since those teen years. I was obsessing about my nausea, my bowel distress, the state of my body while kicking the opiates. I was obsessing about money — the Genre car may need repairs sufficiently spendy to warrant getting rid of it and buying a different vehicle, the house has a plumbing problem, and my medical stuff causes me to bleed money in supplies, co-pays and such like. I was obsessing about cancer and mortality, for the obvious reasons. I was obsessing about pain. I was obsessing about emotional stuff, life issues and the like. All in all, I was a total, messy bitch to both , who’s here taking care of me, and , who’s down in California right now.

Luckily for me, everyone who loves me loves me just as much when I’m a mess.

But I hate this. I know that a decent part of yesterday’s issues was Dilaudid withdrawal, compounded by pain and stress. Depression is a side effect of withdrawal. More to the point, it’s a symptom of cancer. The grim ghost has come back to visit, and plans to settle in and stay a while.

As an adult, I’ve developed the habits of relentless optimism, boundless energy, reflexive positivity. Those are the tools that built my writing career during the decade+ when I wrote and submitted without success, in the nearly a decade since as I’ve experienced my career through its ups and downs, in the twelve years I’ve been parent to . Those are tools which are being challenged badly now — as points out, in depression you focus on the small things because the large things are too horrible.

This morning we go to chemo class at the hospital. That will probably not improve my disposition, except in the sense that more information is always better. Still, I go on. What else can I do?

Depression might be the worst of cancer’s gifts, but by God I’ll find a way to make it into a gift.

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