Monday, January 07, 2008

Another Chemical Miracle? Reversing the Garuda.

A Pacific storm (note the oxymoron) has caused a power outage at our place for five days, typical for the Mendocino coast in winter. Thus I have not had an opportunity to blog since I last saw my doctor. And lo and behold! From the depths of darkness a medication adjustment has raised me back to the world of normality for five days now. I quit drinking any alcohol and insisted going off of my long-acting oral morphine for my chronic disk pain, as either of these could possibly be contributing factors to my unresponsiveness. And in tears, telling my doctor what method of suicide I'd prefer while promising no intent, I said, "Can't we try a stimulant?" So, the doctor put me back on Abilify, which had stopped working, and added Adderall, a mixture of amphetamine salts. I took them the same day and felt better immediately. But what do I mean by better?

My depressive thoughts quit circling like sharks in the aquarium of my mind; my body felt normal, with normal energy; I had hope, I began to think of future plans; my crying spells stopped--just like that! Amazing. My fear is, of course, that this new cocktail, like the two others that worked then ceased working, will cease working as well, or that I'll develop tolerance. Or something. But maybe, just maybe, the third time is a charm.

It's a strange sensation, however, for one's body and brain to feel normal while the memory of the last nineteen months of horror remains in the center of my chest like a rubble-lined pit from a nuclear blast, my heart being ground zero.

My last post was signed with seven kilorats. That's the highest I've recorded in this blog, though I've been lower than that in previous depressions. I feel almost plastic in a way, the mood switch being so sudden and my heart still dragging behind me like an anchor. I am aware of the former emptiness in my chest but do not acutely experience it; my unutterable sadness suddenly feels like a phantom limb.

Suddenly the idea of a God of love seems imaginable to me. My religious torment has lifted. And in thinking of my correspondence with my Christian friend, I have to confess before God and man: My disease is more important to me than my religion. I can't help it. If my disease is not controlled I can't do faith except in a hollow intellectual sense. I can't pretend to be more virtuous than this.

As a man dying of thirst thinks only of water, so the severely depressed thinks only of annihilation, of an end; he is beyond hope of getting better but determined, at least in my case, not to kill himself because he remembers, as through a fog, recovering from previous depressions.

One thing I did to mark this miracle was to reverse my garuda. A garuda is an Indonesian mask carved in the form of an eagle-faced gargoyle, said to be the eagle who is the mount of the god, Vishnu, in the Hindu pantheon. It is meant to keep evil spirits out of a household. But I had hung it above my front door facing inwards when we moved into our new place on April 1, 2006, the day my depression began. As a visible sign of improvement, as an incarnation of hope, I have now hung the garuda on the wall facing the door. Now he looks out at the world and protects me and mine.

What was best about this change is that my daughter, Sarah, was visiting from LA and near the end of her stay she got her Papa back! And Kathleen got her Craig back. And I have myself back, though it will take time for me to trust the sensation of being me.

For those interested in a longer meditation on brain chemistry and personality, I recommend Listening to Prozac. We are all much more chemical than otherwise. If you were spared the gene for this devastating illness, you could never give proper thanks for not having it--and I am glad for you. If you suffer, all I can say is: hold on and keep seeking help. That's all I've done.

I'm tempted to sign this "kiloneutral" but am afraid to make such a claim for so short a period of recovery. Let us hold today's labeling in abeyance.




  1. you write so well about this experience. i want to personally thank you for putting yourself out there for your readers.

    i was wondering if you might be able to visit my blog and read my latest post about depression. i received a very "interesting" comment about depressives being whiners and lacking in respect. i was hoping that you could help educate this fine fellow.

  2. Hello ce,
    i was beginning to worry, so much so that I came to your blog for clues to your absence.
    I'm glad for the turn and look forward to being debased and insulted. Since the usual salutation was missing in your last message (which I did not listen to but queried my wife as to it's content), I knew things were grim. But now that things are better I feel I can publicly clamor for your attention and shower you with the adulation that you have EARNED! i just want to comment on the entry "...strange...feel...horror remains...rubble lined pit...". Well written. Your friend,
    fshmstr aka LE PIG!!

  3. Meryleme, I visited your blog once already and posted a comment, but I did not see the negative post. If I have time I'll stop by.

    Ralph, isn't this the first comment you've made on this blog? In friendship I address you: You are a PIG!

  4. Masale.wallah3:19 PM PST

    CE, Any idea why antidepressants stop working after a while, in so many cases? And what are your thoughts on the theory that the placebo effect is responsible for the alleviation of symptoms through meds.

  5. Thank God! I mean Medicine! (per your wholly (holy?) understandable (pardonable?) reckoning (confession?)

    You had me scared. Not that you might end your life, just that you wouldn't give me your guitars first.


    D. (epressive youngest sib)

  6. I, too, am glad to hear the meds are working again, that you are feeling less depressed.

    Let's both hope for a better 2008.

    It's good to have plumbing again...that's a good start, I figure. : )


  7. Thanks all,

    I should get around to blogging today to add some new twists, but I remain essentially free of my melancholic seizures.


    Placebo effect is worth about 30%; antidepressant responses approach 70%. Some antidepressants are notorious for an early response followed by a failure; one such I took was called Asendin. Why they stop working once they work, nobody knows; but if one works for you you should stay on it for the rest of your life--as long as it keeps working.

    Given the complexity of the brain's chemistry, all of us doctors are really pissing in the dark. As it is, it's amazing how often we hit the can.


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