Depression 101

I should be well versed in the many faces of Depression. But I am not.

Each time depression sneaks up on Rich, it takes me by surprise. It is so gradual but then… suddenly it feels like you are in so deep that you can’t get out. Myself? I just want to get away from that big dark cloud that hangs over him.

In past years when major depression showed its ugly face, Rich was angry. Sometimes I was afraid of him. His moods would swing wildly.  Once he quit taking his meds all together. That was quite the wild ride. It seemed that every 5 to 8 years the antidepressants quit working. It is slow but when he hits rock bottom it is deep.

Not this time though. The care after stroke seemed pretty good. Progress seemed to be moving forward. And suddenly somewhere after his mother’s hospitalization for her fall, he took a fast downward spiral that I couldn’t see because of everything else that was going on.

When he was tested by neuro-psychology they recognized that he was severely depressed and alerted his providers. His physical body was also battling him. His COPD was worse, his thinking was worse, his speech…I think you get the point.

I figured it was all biological. It is half and half. Imagine being so exhausted that you cannot get out of bed for more than an hour. Imagine not being able to think clearly. Imagine being ‘lost’ and not able to grasp thoughts.

Yesterday his new doctor a psychologist laid it out for him.

“You do have COPD, high blood pressure, Cognitive Disorder, … but you also have depression. It is severe enough to keep you from doing things right?”

He squints. “I guess so. You don’t get it, I hit this wall and I can’t go on anymore. I have to lay down.”

She looks at her notes. She knows that his naps are long and he only gets up for a few hours a day.

“But if you don’t move your body, you will only get sicker and you won’t feel better.” She explains to him how moving and doing things will help his body feel better and eventually his mind feel better.

I understand her. When I feel down, I get out and move. I hike. I used to run and bicycle and that kept me grounded. For me it was easy. However for him it will be a very hard road. He has de-conditioned himself by sleeping his days and nights away. His body is responding by getting weaker, his lungs are weaker, his strength is weaker, his blood pressure is not going down and because he feels he is in a fog, his thoughts and speech are worse.

So he goes to bed.

I actually told him that he had to get back to doing one chore daily today. It sparked an argument. I stood my ground. He grimaced at me …

“What if I can only walk so far and then can’t any more?”

“You walked all over the VA hospital yesterday.”

He makes a face.

“But what if I can’t feed Bob and I get stuck there? What if I just can’t?”

It sounds odd coming from him. Such an unreasonable thought line. But I remind myself that I am dealing with depression, anxiety, and cognitive issues.

“Then I will sit with you on the ground until you can. If you are out of breath, I’ll get your portable oxygen. You will make it. If you don’t try you will just get weaker and weaker.”

He gets angry. “What if I can’t?”

“You can.”

I know he can. And if he stops and says he can’t, I will sit with him.

“What if I can’t! You don’t get it, I hit that wall and I can’t!”

I feel like I am talking with a child. I put my hand on his shoulder.

“Can we at least try it?”

“I guess so.”

He goes back to staring at some awful “B” movie on Netflix. He gets lost somewhere. Depression and Dementia are slowly trying to claim him for their own.

I’ve decided to fight it.


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