Health Update

It’s been a rough couple of months as my doctors lowered the dose of my pain meds. I’ve been done with the withdrawal process for a few weeks now, but as you may expect my baseline pain is higher now.

I’m trying to adjust to the higher pain levels, but it hasn’t been easy and I haven’t had much success so far. As a result I’m getting much less sleep and it is badly fractured, I have much less energy to do stuff, and I have to put a lot more energy into holding the line against my depression.

The silver lining is that I should be done with tinkering with my meds for the foreseeable future. (Potential exception: My Cluster headaches have been consistently more intense and frequent for a while now, so that may require some intervention if it does not let up.) We’ve been trying new meds, adjusting doses, and whatnot for the past year straight which has been brutal. (Pro: new anti-depressant is working out well; Con: less pain meds.)

My body is so glad that it is getting a chance to rest, and my mind is finally able to stop the constant intense monitoring that’s required with all of the adjustments. That’s particularly important as one of the main techniques I use to manage my pain is to ignore it, but the careful monitoring required me to pay consistent attention to it.

I would greatly appreciate any love, encouragement, gifts, pictures, stories, and empathy anyone has to spare.

On Mental Illness and Mass Shootings

So many thoughts about guns and mental illness.

1) There is no correlation between mass shootings and mental illness. Let me repeat: there is NO CORRELATION between mass shooting and mental illness. Are there some mass shooters who are mentally ill? Certainly. And that is because the population of violent (and evil) people is huge and naturally some portion of them will be mentally ill. However, the rate of mass shooters who are mentally ill is no higher than the rate of mass shooters in the general population. Stop throwing us under the bus. Stop deflecting from the real issues: the factually correct correlation is between mass shooting and the availability of guns (and also: history of domestic violence; and also white men).

2) Mental illness is a real problem. I am delighted that politicians want to provide us with additional resources and support. LOL! That never happens. Politicians insisting that treating mental illness will reduce mass shootings *never* results in actual material support–it results in increased stigma. And if it continues, I fear that the actual consequence of the false correlation will be that people with mental illness will start being arrested and/or criminalized for “the safety of the general population”, but really just for being ill.

3) There is an actual correlation between being mentally ill and being the *victim* of violence. Just like any other group that is underprivileged and/or less likely to be believed, mentally ill people are disproportionally the targets and victims of violence and abuse. Pretty much just because the perpetrators are that much more likely to get away with it.

4) There is a real correlation between mental illness and *self-harm*. We may not be particularly violent to others, but we are more violent to ourselves. We could use some real help here. Please help us!

5) For public safety I do think it should be really hard for someone who is mentally ill to acquire guns. And since we are no more likely to cause public violence, it should be *EXACTLY AS DIFFICULT* for the general public to acquire guns. Please regulate us–and do it by regulating everybody!!

What I wish people understood about depression

Depression can be, and often is, a fatal disease. Depression is (IMHO) the AIDS of mental illnesses. Although Depression is not as frequently fatal as AIDS, it works using a similar mechanism: AIDS doesn’t kill you directly–it disables your immune system, and then some other disease kills you while your defenses are down. Similarly, Depression disables your mental immune system. Your self-preservation instinct and your motivation disappear leaving you defenseless against other mental illnesses. Without your mental health immune system, you fall prey to addiction, your bad habits accelerate un-checked, your anxiety spirals out of control, your suicidal ideation becomes concrete.

If you don’t have depression, you have a chance to defend yourself aganst these antagonists (though it’s not easy even when you’re at full strength). But with Depression, these threats which are potentially lethal, become exponentially moreso.

People think that because Depression is all in your head, it can’t physically harm you. But it’s just not true.

Depression is Lethal. Treat it that way.

Beware the Ide(ation)s of March

Ides of March

I’ve suffered off and on with Depression for decades now, and while I can’t really anticipate it, I do have a sense of its rhythms and patterns. I learned early on that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) played a factor–my Depression and its attendant Suicidal Ideation would loom larger in the darker months of the year. It soon became automatic for me to be extra vigilant in February to keep my Depression from spiraling out of control in the coldest and shortest month.

But you can only be vigilant for so long. When March would arrive I’d unconsciously¬†exhale and congratulate myself for my good mental health hygene. Then I’d let down my guard, stop paying attention to where I was going, and inevitably trip and fall into a SAD-induced morass of desolate ideation.

I did this probably three years running before I caught on to the pattern and realized that March was actually the more dangerous month for me. So now I know: be cautious in February, but save the real vigilance for March.

Familiar Territory

Depression has pretty much swallowed me whole for the past month or so. I had been making lots of progress on the depression front through the past year, and even just two months ago I was in relatively good shape with my pain levels (relatively) low/stable and my depression concomitantly low to match.

However, depression is a stubborn beast and it managed to slip through some unknown crack in my defenses. The drop was swift and left my stomach in my throat and when I managed to get my feet back under me I found that a whole month had slipped by without me having any awareness of it.

The good news (to the degree that there is any good news in this) is that some of the progress I made over the past year stuck with me–a prominant feature of my depression in the past was suicidal ideation and that was noticably absent this past month.

The bad news (of course there is bad news) is that it did not last. Two days ago I had something like an anxiety attack and my defenses gave way and the suicidal ideation returned in full force. It has since faded a bit, but it is discouraging to have lost that last bit of progress. Three days ago I felt like I had been stranded with no wind while sailing in uncharted waters. Now at least I’m in familiar territory.

Crossed Signals

My body is doing this weird thing where it interprets hunger as nausea. So when I go a while without eating, my stomach will start feeling bad and the feeling will keep growing the longer I don’t eat. But since the underlying issue is actually hunger, once I eat something I invaryingly feel fine.

Of course, the problem with this is that the more nauseous you are, the less you want to eat.

It’s not totally consistent–some days I get hungry as normal, other days I’m all flipped around. It’s been going on for about two weeks now. I’m doing fine today, and yesterday was OK as well so maybe I’m pulling out of it? Hopefully? Luckily, years of battling chronic illness has made me accustomed to doing what’s right for my body despite the crossed signals it is giving to me.

The frustrating thing about this is that I use food as a kind of CBT pick-me-up to fight my depression: I consiously use pleasant tastes throughout the day to interrupt my misery. This is much less useful when the pleasure of eating is swamped by nausea.

Depression

[This post is part of my Medical Conditions Series.]

Most people who suffer from chronic pain also struggle with depression. I am no exception. Intense, continuous, chronic pain is objectively horrible, and knowing that I don’t have any effective way to treat it frequently plunges me into despair.

My depression is tightly linked to my pain. When my pain is (relatively) light, my depression (mostly) disappears. My testicular pain will remain relatively stable for months at a time, and during that time my depression will lift a bit as I settle into a routine to manage my pain. But then my pain will start getting worse. My pain management techniques will be inadequate and my routines will get disrupted as I try more and more things to less and less effect. Eventually, the pain gets bad enough that I can’t even attempt most of my pain management techniques and I go into freefall. The pain increases in a vicious cycle and I can’t see the end of it and serious depression engulfs me. Which, of course, makes the pain even worse. Which then makes the depression worse. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But eventually, the pain levels stabilize, I regain my footing and establish a new routine to manage the pain, and the depression recedes. But it never really goes away. Probably because the pain never goes away. [And the pain never improves, it only ratchets downward. The only times of improvement were when I’ve had surgeries, but those improvements were never permanent, and I’m reluctant to try more surgery.]

When the pain levels are stable, I’m inclined to think of my milder depression as a reasonable and rational response to absurd amounts of chronic pain and the disability which accompanies it. I feel like for depression to get into serious mental illness territory, it has to be more irrational than that. But when the pain levels intensify, when I’m getting worse, when the ground falls away from under my feet and I don’t know how bad it is going to get, that’s when my depression becomes full-fledged.

Medical Conditions Series

I have a whole host of medical issues–some are chronic and disabling, and others are episodic or merely disruptive. Over the next few blog posts, I’m going to give a brief description of each of my main conditions and how they affect me. Hopefully, these will help you to see what my disability looks like, how a typical day goes, and why I feel so miserable all the time.

  1. Depression
    I was going to start off this series with Cluster Headaches, but then Robin Williams died and everyone is currently talking about Depression and Suicide. So in an effort to be timely, I’m starting off with this one.
  2. Cluster Headaches
  3. Testicular Neuralgia
  4. Insomnia
  5. “Shockies”
  6. Keloids
  7. Overall