Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 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!

Monday, May 1, 2017

A look back

As a result of ECT, or perhaps just due to the severity of this depression relapse, I recently discovered I had little recollection of what happened over the past few months. I couldn't answer the frequently posed question, "How did it start?" Fortunately, I have a blog. So I took a look back the other day. Don't worry, this is not going to be a post summarizing in gory detail my recent misery and despair. But it was interesting for me to rediscover how this relapse began and progressed.

It was interesting and strange, actually. I discovered I felt really good, even grateful, just a few days prior to my first post indicating something was wrong. This relapse seemingly began overnight. And the decent into hell was complete within just a few days. Those two things in and of themselves were strange. How does that happen?? But what was more strange was my reaction, or shall I say my lack of reaction, to my own words. It was odd.

I had 10 weeks of posts filled with increasingly desperate hopelessness and despair. The words were sometimes horrifyingly descriptive of an agonizing trek through depression, yet as I read them I felt very oddly detached. The words were just words. I wasn't feeling them at all. That seemed really weird and abnormal. Usually, when I read something with feeling, even something I wrote years ago, I sort of re-experience what my words were attempting to convey. But this time, nothing. And I mean nothing. I may as well have been reading The Declaration of Independence.

Now I'm not necessarily complaining. Perhaps my brain was protecting me. Perhaps it was saving me from re-living any of this hellish episode. But that possibility doesn't make it any less strange. I felt, and still feel, so detached (already) from what just happened. So detached I'm getting frustrated trying to put it into words. I was reading the words in my posts as an outsider looking into a life of which I could not relate. Isn't that weird?

Ironically, the only post that struck me just a bit was the poem I wrote entitled, "Just words." Like every other post I reviewed, I had forgotten I wrote that poem. And if I do say so myself, when I reread it I liked it. (I may even re-post it.) Now is there some meaning behind that irony? Perhaps, but I don't know what it is. Anyway, I don't know where I'm going with all of this, so I'll stop now. I was just really intrigued by feeling so detached from my own words detailing my own very recent past. And I don't really understand why.


Anonymous said...

I write a great deal. In my blog. In my journal. In my stories and articles. Most of the time I can remember that I've written it (when I re-read it months or years later) and even remember why/how I'd written it (what its genesis was, how it developed). But there are occasions when I come across a piece of my writing that I have no memory of at all. Sometimes it's whole pages of some matter I was musing on. Other times it's just a clever turn of phrase that seems unlike me, yet how could I have forgotten such a "memorable" thing? I've found that I'm a context thinker (which is my phrase for the "pathology"). When I am at work, I think to myself that when I get home I must do such and such. And often, when I get home I know I am supposed to do something, but I can't remember what it is. Then, the next day at work, in my familiar cubicle, I remember what it was.

In my depressed states I tend to be obsessive about my thoughts. My therapist says I live inside my mind too much. I don't tend to lose those thoughts or written ideas. I forget the good stuff, which is sad since I wallow in the bad and forget the good.

But there is something good to be said about rediscovering bits of your self that you've forgotten. You're wise to keep a blog. I wonder, sometimes, what non-writers have lost without being aware of it because they don't have something in writing to nudge their memory.

Truth Needed 9 said...

I would suggest that it is highly likely that this is the result of ECT treatments. Did you lose any months or years of memories with previous ECT treatments, particularly bilaterals? How is your ability to keep new memories after the ECT?

etta said...

@ Truth Needed 9: Yes. My memory deficits are the result of my ECT. I always have cognitive side effects from ECT. But since it works, usually, it's always been a necessary evil. I go in knowing full well the unfortunate and frustrating consequences. I also have memory issues when my illness is worse, too. The further out I get from ECT and this depression relapse the more my memory recovers.

Eva said...

I have had the same feelings and thought. Especially after my last ECT's. When I was 34 I had 17 treatments for the first time. I had considerable memory loss from the period prior to the treatments and overall. I again had 17 treatments in 2014 when I was 44. The effects on my memory felt worse. In fact we stopped the treatments because of that. When I went home for a weekend during the treatments I had to look around in my house to see what I had in my cupboards and closets. I had clothes I didn't recognize and books and even had totally forgotten some of the things I used to do like knitting. I also didn't remember important things from my life. And especially a period of about 3 years prior to the treatments. Since then I regained a lot. When I see something or someone tells me something it usually triggers my memory and I remember. But those three years stay foggy. I Remember most of what happened but it feels distant. Like you described it it feels like it happened to someone else.
Since then I have been depressed several times more. And I have noticed that even without ECT's my memory suffers. Being depressed seems to also change the way I remember things. Especially feelings. I am doing very well right now but I can't seem to connect to the feelings I had during my last depression. I know what happened but I can't connect to the thoughts and feelings I had.

To answer paullambs question: I don't keep a journal or write. And I have wished a lot that I had. I need other people to remind me of things. Sometimes I remember and sometimes things stay very foggy or I don't remember at all. All I have are my calendars that I wrote my appointments on and I have kept. They are helping some because when I look through them names and appointments can trigger things.
I still don't keep a journal. I have tried and I find it hard to keep it up. Especially when I am depressed. I do now write down more in my calendar. And I have begun to keep a journal for the volunteer work I do. I am a lot worse in remembering names and other things that happen. I don't know if it's just age or an effect of the ECT's.
So for others who suffer from depression I would really recommend keeping a journal. Even if it is just some comments about your day. And especially when you are in a depression.

I am so happy you are feeling better Etta!

Wendy Love said...

I understand that loss of memory and believe it is common for any kind of mental illness. My psychiatrist calls it 'bipolar memory' if I tell her that when I feel good I can't remember how bad I felt the day before and when I feel bad I can't recall ever feeling good.

You don't label your depression bipolar but maybe there is a connection.

I do experience 'disconnect' quite often from my words and even my life. I used to earn my living as a self-employed artist. Sometimes at look at my art and think 'who did that?'

So, I get what you are experiencing. This too is 'normal' for mental illness.

Truth Needed 9 said...

It might be the case for others, but I had zero cognitive problems or memory problems previous to having ECT. After 21 ECT I lost 15 years of memory and now cannot form new memories. Was not informed about that possible outcome. Nothing triggers any memories and I feel constant disconnect. Needless to say, I would not recommend ECT to anyone.

Nathalie said...

I have not received ECT treatment. I have thought about it as a treatment option when medication does not seem to be helping my severe episodes of depression. I have been afraid to request it because of the possibility of memory loss and cognitive effects. These can be noticeable simply as symptoms of my depression. As I am approaching 70 years of age I tend to fear that I may be experiencing signs of some form of permanent dementia. I am reassured that this is unlikely to be the case. These symptoms disappear when I recover. My mother had many ECT treatments in the 1970s when it seemed to be routine treatment in psychiatric hostpitals. She did lose quite large chunks of memory which gradually came back like fitting together a jigsaw puzzle; though not completely. However she was able to live four decades of the rest of her life with no medication ( for depression) and no further hospital admissions.