The Other Dog Goes to the Vet or Better Living through Chemistry

Two days ago I announced the return of the new and improved blog.  Actually it’s the new and improved me.  Although I’ve been graciously maintained as a blogger in blogrolls here in ArmitageWorld, many of you probably have noticed long gaps between periods of writing.

In a post over two months ago, I blogged about my problem with my other dog I’ve since called Winston.  He’s named after Winston Churchill and is the metaphorical black dog of depression.  I mentioned he was quite the shapeshifter, changing from a big Great Dane to a small Chihuahua and back at any time.  I had hoped Winston would stay teacup sized but that wasn’t the case.

It turned out to be the lull before the storm. As shown by posts shortly after the beginning of June, I was incapable of writing anything substantive and before long, incapable of writing.  My memory and concentration left me.  I grasped for words, couldn’t retain thoughts, and failed to correct mistakes because I was unaware of having made them.   My paralysis extended to work where extended decompensation was not an option. I’m my sole breadwinner with no back-up support so I didn’t have the luxury of sliding into the stereotypical Victorian “nervous breakdown.” Winston had grown to the size of a Mastiff and was crushing me.  Clearly it was time for action and fast.

Fortunately my job in the federal government made getting help as easy as picking up the phone and going.  There’s nothing inconsequential about depression.  It’s a bitch.  There’s nothing easy about clawing of it either.  Clinically depressed people cannot “snap out of it.” Counseling will not immediately make us better and medication is not a cure.  It’s amazing to me that so many people don’t understand this, even while experts state depression is the most prevalent mental disorder in here in America. Having dealt with this most of my life, I knew things would get worse before they could get better; that’s the way it works.  And it seems every transition into new stages in life creates new kinks, requiring me again to address and cope with depression in new ways.

So Winston and I went to the doctor.  Returning to counseling and medication has been no picnic while learning to deal with Winston instead of resenting the hell out of him.  Medication doesn’t mean taking a pill and everything is alright; it takes 4-6 weeks to determine it’s effectiveness and that isn’t guaranteed.  Different dosages must be considered. Then there’s the side effects.  Some people have known; others don’t have it so good.  For me it was awful and might have put me off it except the physical illness distracted from the mental distress. So I persevered as my body struggled to adjust.

Then sometime in the 4th week, I noticed something different.  On previous medication, I functioned but still had breakthrough symptoms.  This is why you see commercials for drugs such as Abilify, a secondary medication for people taking anti-depressants who are still depressed.  Yes, I felt better but there was something more. I felt not only an absence of misery, but an absence of depression.  Except for a very short period caused by another physical issue, I’ve been depression free for over a month.  This is a completely new experience for me. Winston, now a cute black pug, stays out of my way. Memory and concentration have greatly improved, although they might never return to previous levels. But I can work and write again and solve problems like fixing this blog’s technical problems.  I’m not cured and never will be; this is a lifelong disorder.  Counseling will help me realize my potential as I move into later middle age.  I’m hopeful.

Interestingly, people have told me they’ve observed a slight shift in my personality.  I seem brighter and more engaged.  I’ve noticed a friendlier attitude in others which probably reflects my own.  When I returned to work after a long absence, no less than three people waylaid me on the way to my office, not to talk work, but just to chat. My close friends have reacted favorably too.  After accepting me and Winston for over 15 years, they seemed happy about the new change. When I asked them how they put up with me they said when I was Better Judi, it made the wait worthwhile.  Aww, I love you gals; you know who you are.

In case you wondered how the improved me would react in a crisis, let me assure that very thing happened during that 4th week on medication.  The drama involved thrills and spills, as it were, across international borders.  I kid you not.  But that’s another post.

Images from Living with a Black Dog by Matthew Johnston


34 thoughts on “The Other Dog Goes to the Vet or Better Living through Chemistry

  1. judiang, this is not a website that must daily updated. When we read something that is substantive (and challenging – with humour, too) we return. I so much have loved the “Black Dog” allusions. Between you and Winston the pug, and the other Winston, – well, tomorrow is another day. And throughout, you all accomplish. Even when you think you should be doing more.

    Keep on buggering on. (sorry if this old WWII offfends, it was the non-euphonistic, on-the-street slogan before pc – and no, I don’t quite go back that far in experinece.) 😀

    ps, how is the RL pug? Repair to RaNet for Karyn’s transcript of RA red carpet interview, when you’ve a moment.

    • Fitz, thanks for commenting. I know this is departure from the silliness, but it’s a subject I need to address at least as a reminder to myself. I always feel a bit of trepidation going here but hopefully the sense of stigma will lessen in my own mind.

      *salutes* I shall keep *buggering on* ma’am!

      Patty is doing good. She’s happier that mommy’s happy. 🙂

  2. Judiang, I have ‘known’ you for a very short while, but you are one of most intelligent and fun persons i know. I look forward to your tweets, posts and the chats with you and everyone. And you are loved very much in this little community of ours (as RA puts it). I am ill equipped to say more about the post, i went through a phase myself last year, effected my health too, but i know its not the same thing. One thing that got me thru was i listened to my mum for once, she told me to pray and i prayed, everyday! And i believe it got my through. I cant say i understand what it is like for you, but i am happy to know you are doing well! Thank you for your honest post.

    • pv, thank so much for your kind words. It’s hard to know how people will react to posts like these, but I see it’s really not as bad as anticipated. I’m having a great time with you and everybody else in our little community. You all are great. Seriously.

      I’ll move on to stuff not so deadly serious, but this post was also a preface for relating the London Trip. Oooer! 😀

      • London trip?? i am curious! btw did i tell you i was planning to go to London (unless you are talking in code and about a different London??)..its almost finalized and i might be there for RA’s bday 😀

        • Yes, THE London. That’s right, most of the dramatic bleats were on Facebook. I was just there the 3rd week in June.

          Oh, that’s awesome! Is it your first trip? We gotta talk, gurl!

          • yes! i need all the info i can get, i will have a bit of time, so i want to make the most of it. My bro lives in Cardiff but i tell you he is useless! :), tells me there is nothing to see in London, he asked to go to Italy or Spain 😀

      • Right, now I remember! (See, memory still isn’t up to snuff.) I’ll be more than happy to give a laundry list of things to see and do, since I’ve been there about 6 times. Email me with the logistics and timeframe so I’ll can make the best recommendations.

  3. I am happy to see you back with new posts, Judiang. I hope you are well and enjoy publishing something. Your posts are always thought provoking and I love to read them, no schedule or timeframe required. I am happy whenever you can write and post something.
    London sounds interesting. I hope there follows more ;o)

    • CDoart, thanks so much for your support, I really appreciate it. It feels great to be writing again. Not writing any *faster* but I’m writing. (How does Servetus do it???) I will get to the London trip shortly but first – oh heck there’s *another* beardy post brewing! 😉

  4. I’m a bit stunned from yesterday’s beard at the mo. Doesn’t help that I admitted the need for meds & this being the second day of it, I thought I’d feel different. My melancholia is only a few months old. I find it very courageous of you to write about it.

    • *hugs* Hang in there Fanny. It takes time to judge the effectiveness, plus this is most likely only the beginning dosage to see how your body reacts. But eventually things do get better. Email me if you need to chat.

      Writing about it is difficult but it’s getting easier. Thanks for you support.

      • Thanks, I should have known better to think a quick fix possible; particularly as I’m no friend of drugs. My metaphor would be more like ocean waves.

  5. Great post. More people need to write about depression and how it affects them since it affects everyone differently. It still has the stigma of “Oh just snap out of it!” or “just think of happy things!” and stuff like that, but it isn’t that way at all. It’s like telling someone obese like me “well, just eat right & exercise!” Yeah, like being told that is sufficient to take care of my problem…

    So the more people write about depression, the more other people may begin to realize that this is real, it is out there, it affects people in many ways, and it can be calmed (but not cured) with the right combination of drugs and therapy. Better living through chemistry! It takes alkynes to make a world!

    • Thanks Trina. You’ve been a great friend through all my Not Better Judi days. At first I wasn’t going to post about this again but realized 1) there’s no shame 2) it’s part and parcel of me 3) it leads into other posts I want to do. So I deal with it and hope it helps others do the same.

  6. Glad things are looking up and it’s nice to see you back and blogging again. Don’t be hard on yourself when it comes to writing here. It’s for your sake that you do it, not ours, so don’t worry about it. Write when you can and want to – your followers will be there to read it. 🙂

  7. I really respect this post and the courage it took to write it, to say, this is a thing that explains me, not something I need to hide away, but something I need to tell you about so I can say something other things I want to say and have them make sense. It’s a way of clearing space for your writing. I’m cheering you on, wherever you go.

    • Servetus, that’s exactly right. It’s something I need to tell in order for other things to make sense. For instance it figures greatly into the London tale and why the trip was such a big success. Very perceptive. As I’ve said before, I really prize your support and encouragement. 😀

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