[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.

10 thoughts on “[cancer] Depression

  1. John Ginsberg-Stevens says:

    Yep, that’s how you make cancer sad: by living your life to spite it, by going on regardless of what IT wants. The power of positive spite. If only that was the cure!

  2. Hugs Jay. Wish I could be there to help from time to time, glad you have Shelley and the Witch. I always think of you as awesome. I also think of you as there ten years down the road when we’re both still writers…. šŸ™‚ I picture you and me and our mutual friends like Ken and John and David all still there, older, the experienced writers in the bar the newbies are a little nervous about meeting.
    I can’t pretend to understand depression since it’s not been a very big fight for me, but you seem to have beaten in in your normal life. I suspect that gives you the tools to beat it now pretty easily. Go, you!

  3. Don’t let it win, Jay. That’s easier said than done. Having battled with my own depression I feel some of your pain. It sucks. It’s just one more pile on top of the rest of the stack you have to deal with. It’s even worse when a part of you realizes that you’re in depression, that you’re not having rational thoughts, or it’s causing you to act out in ways you don’t want to, but that you don’t have the power/energy to stop it. Being a voyeur into your own life and bad behavior isn’t a fun way to exist.

    But you’ve beaten it before. You are its master, it isn’t the master of you. The hero always gets his butt kicked in the beginning of the fight before pulling it out in the end (or at least that’s the way it is in the movies). You have the tool kit to turn it around and I have no doubt you will. Where you’re currently at would sap the strength and test the will of anybody. Little d depression is a legit response to that. I have a feeling you won’t let it get to big D depression.

    And (as I’m sure you know) help and understanding are always there when you ask for it.

  4. *hugs*

    Would it help if I started posting nude pictures on my Twitter feed?

    They wouldn’t be mine of course, but.

    In all seriousness, Jay, do what makes you happy, even when it doesn’t seem to be working. Cheering you on, Bellrauthien.

  5. I think you called it: when depressed, focus on small things, because the big stuff tends to be overwhelming. Treat every day that you’re still here, like it’s a victory. Because it is.

    If you were a church man — of any sort — I’d advise doing a little conversing with The Lord. That’s usually what I do, especially when things seem so much beyond my control.

    But that’s a personal choice, and I realize that for some people it’s just not an option they can take seriously.

    Anyway, sounds like you have a good social support group to try and help you through. One thing about being depressed: we tend to want to be left alone, but alone is usually the last thing we need to be.

    Good luck, Jay. From one WOTF winner to another.

  6. Meran says:

    (positive spite, I like that)
    ah, Depression, my most constant friend šŸ™‚
    I’m reading Trial of Flowers, Jay, and can see that. It surprised me. I didn’t realize you’d had such a personal relationship with Capn D!
    The thing about the dips (or downs) is that then there’s an up … Hard to trust that, but they come. Ride it well; I’m sure it feeds the Author within. I’m sure being back to the stupid stuff of work doesn’t help much either …
    If you want cookies, give me a day to make them; Shannon has my phone number. Maybe meeting someone new might help lift the cloud. (I’m short and very UNimposing šŸ™‚ )
    what’s your fave cookie? Mine’s snickerdoodles.

    1. Jay says:

      Have to say chocolate chip, though I’ll go for anything that doesn’t involve raisins. (I love oatmeal cookies, but hard to find without raisins…)

      Dips and downs, yep. Might be fun to meet next week. šŸ™‚

  7. Gay Haldeman says:

    Been thinking about you, Jay. So sorry about the depression, but it comes with the territory. Do tell your doctor. A friend who had heart surgery suddenly became horribly depressed. One or two pills and he snapped out of it and didn’t have it again. Wish I knew what the pills were.

    Wishing you all the best. Gay

  8. “Luckily for me, everyone who loves me loves me just as much when Iā€™m a mess.”

    Isn’t it the damnedest thing? Awes me every time! And I don’t even have serious depression. I’m Moooody, though – it can be blood sugar, or hormones, or lack of sleep . . . even knowing the physical cause, oddly, doesn’t make the emotion less 3D. Our Animal selves meet our Godlike selves and – write, I guess! Thanks for your blog, and your work.

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