Depression Marathon Blog

My photo
Diagnosed with depression 18 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Fuming and insulted

I ran a long way yesterday, 18 miles to be exact, and at least the first 10 miles were spent fuming about the latest insulting difference between treatment for my illness, depression, versus treatment for just about any other "physical" illness. Too bad I can't type while I'm running, because I composed a whopper of a post during those first ten miles!

Here's what happened. A few days ago it was suggested, since I'm still not well, that perhaps I should attend an intensive outpatient program for people with mental illness. ECT, hospitalizations, med changes, therapy, mom visit...none of those interventions worked to alleviate my symptoms, so this was now the best idea we had. I quickly, and with contained irritation, declined. You see, I completed this very program several years ago. In fact, I've completed several similar outpatient programs over the past 15 years. And while I've learned a couple of things here and there, the majority of these remedial education groups have been more frustrating than productive.

These groups are intended to teach life skills, coping mechanisms, socialization, etc... There are lectures about how to organize our day, how to manage our time, with included blank time management schedules to fill out, and lists of pleasant activities we could tap into when feeling really low. Interestingly, I've never met anyone in any of these groups who was there to deal with their despair over their diagnosis of MS or cancer.

Perhaps it's a fact that people with MS or cancer know how to manage their time. Perhaps they realize eating a piece of chocolate (one of the items on the pleasant activities list) when feeling low would cure all that ails them. But me, a person with depression, a person who managed time well enough to excel through two post-graduate degrees, who holds down a professional job despite feeling like shit, who owns and maintains a home, and who has trained for and run 28 marathons; clearly my time management skills suck. If I could just fill in that blank time schedule and learn to take a bath or eat some chocolate, all would be well. So simple. How could we have missed it all this time. Why did we even bother with the hospital, or ECT, or medication??

But let me tell you the real problem I had with the most recent intensive outpatient program I attended. Instead of a room full of patients with depression, I was surrounded by all sorts of interesting characters, which is not to say I didn't learn from them. For example, I learned more than I cared to know about the best times and places to "score" after each group. I was usually the only sober person in the room. I was puzzled and saddened by the woman who seemed to have a different, fresh, self-inflicted flesh wound everyday, which she made no attempt at hiding. And worst of all, at every opportunity they had, I was forced to listen to snickering "patients" bragging about how they escaped jail or work release simply by attending this group. Yup, I learned a lot, none of it therapeutic.

When I couldn't stand it any longer, I pulled the instructors aside and explained what I was seeing and hearing every time they left the room. I told them I was very uncomfortable with the snickering and bragging. That discussion ended with me being dismissed from the group, as the instructors decided I was inappropriately focused on others rather then on myself. I was the problem. Fine. See you later.

I am a professional, functional, athletic, sober woman with a major mental illness. I have treatment resistant, severe depression. Why, when we run out of ideas we hoped would work, is the next step to send me to a remedial education group? I'm not saying there is no place for groups like this, but at the risk of sounding like a snob, groups like this are not appropriate for everyone. And they are certainly not appropriate just because nothing else has worked.

When the tumor doesn't shrink, or the MS doesn't abate, the next step is never to send the patient to time management training! It's not the cancer patient's fault the tumor didn't shrink. It's not the patient's fault the MS continues to progress. And it's not my fault I still feel like shit! I have depression. Even if I go take a bath with a box full of chocolates, I bet I'll still have depression. It's an illness. Let's deal with it like the illness it is. Please!


Truth Needed 9 said...

This is ridiculous and insulting. Obviously you know this illness better than anyone else and you know what misguided "interventions" do not work.
As I mentioned before, are ketamine, or rTMS possible physical treatment options. Has your team consulted with another teaching university or looked at innovative trials of new medications. Perhaps you are being to passive and nice. Who else is advocating for you? Have you done any research on laser light therapy?
Wishing you something better than what they are offering.

etta said...

@ Truth Needed 9: I have no complaints about my psychiatrist/team. They've been wonderful and supportive and skilled and helpful. Unfortunately, my illness is just not responding at this time. I do have an appointment tomorrow to look into TMS. It's still rather experimental, so not offered in a lot of facilities around here nor to a lot of patients. I'm hopeful I will be a candidate and more hopeful my insurance will cover it if the doctors think it's worth a shot. Say a prayer!

etta said...

@ Truth Needed 9: Also, my psychiatrist and I are constantly tinkering with the newest meds or combinations of meds when I'm feeling so low. And the groups I referred to in this post actually did take place at one of the preeminent teaching hospitals in the US.

Anonymous said...

These kinds of treatments aren't simple. They're simplistic! Unfortunately, many people are looking for easy answers to hard problems (both the sufferers and those who care about them), so these kinds of almost-trivializing approaches thrive. And your speaking truth to power moment exposed that to the organizer.

I stopped going to a support group for similar reasons. I learned some things I didn't know. Like effective ways to end my life. Didn't need to know that!

I don't suppose you could channel your anger/reaction to your benefit. Possible?

Anonymous said...

All I can say is I'm impressed with your deep spirit and spunk

Julie Gathman said...

I echo all the well-thought-out and well-written comments above. Go, Etta! Keep speaking your mind and let your voice be heard.

This morning with my coffee I went to a site that linked to 101 blogs about depression (I think I got it from your Nursing Schools link). I browsed some of them. I want to say that your format and content here is top-knotch. Even small details, such as the white writing on a black background, make it easy and pleasant to read.

Sarah Pitt said...

This is so true and these groups truly are an insult to people like you who battle against their illness so bravely and intelligently.