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Jay Lake
Date: 2009-12-15 05:58
Subject: [cancer] Depression
Security: Public
Tags:calendula, cancer, child, health, personal
Yesterday was a very tough day. I was coming off the Dilaudid, almost cold turkey, because I'd grown so sick of being vague and sleepy. My pain levels were up slightly, my discomfort was up considerably (oddly, physical therapy helped rather than deepened that problem), but mostly I was feeling very bleak.

I have a long history of depression. I was hospitalized in my mid-teens following a suicide attempt, and was under mandatory psychiatric care until I was 18. I continued in therapy voluntarily all the way through college. Somewhere in my mid 20s, depression stopped mattering. The grim ghost had lost its fangs. I've continued in and out of therapy situationally since, including right now to help me cope with cancer, but I've never been back in the grip of the beast.

Yesterday was one of the worst days I've had since those teen years. I was obsessing about my nausea, my bowel distress, the state of my body while kicking the opiates. I was obsessing about money — the Genre car may need repairs sufficiently spendy to warrant getting rid of it and buying a different vehicle, the house has a plumbing problem, and my medical stuff causes me to bleed money in supplies, co-pays and such like. I was obsessing about cancer and mortality, for the obvious reasons. I was obsessing about pain. I was obsessing about emotional stuff, life issues and the like. All in all, I was a total, messy bitch to both shelly_rae, who's here taking care of me, and calendula_witch, who's down in California right now.

Luckily for me, everyone who loves me loves me just as much when I'm a mess.

But I hate this. I know that a decent part of yesterday's issues was Dilaudid withdrawal, compounded by pain and stress. Depression is a side effect of withdrawal. More to the point, it's a symptom of cancer. The grim ghost has come back to visit, and plans to settle in and stay a while.

As an adult, I've developed the habits of relentless optimism, boundless energy, reflexive positivity. Those are the tools that built my writing career during the decade+ when I wrote and submitted without success, in the nearly a decade since as I've experienced my career through its ups and downs, in the twelve years I've been parent to the_child. Those are tools which are being challenged badly now — as shelly_rae points out, in depression you focus on the small things because the large things are too horrible.

This morning we go to chemo class at the hospital. That will probably not improve my disposition, except in the sense that more information is always better. Still, I go on. What else can I do?

Depression might be the worst of cancer's gifts, but by God I'll find a way to make it into a gift.
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Wendy S. Delmater
User: safewrite
Date: 2009-12-15 14:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
in depression you focus on the small things because the large things are too horrible.

That makes a horrible sort of sense. I've done battle with the grim ghost myself. You're not staying isolated, and that should help. Here's a big hug back to you.
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User: cypherindigo
Date: 2009-12-15 14:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Shelly_rae is a very wise lady, in my 20+ years of living with reoccurring depression I never thought of what she said. "In depression you focus on the the small things because the large things are too horrible." The more that I think about it the more "right" that feels.

Thank both of you for that insight.

Take it one day at a time. That is the only way you/we will get through the bad stuff...one day at a time.
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Jim C. Hines
User: jimhines
Date: 2009-12-15 14:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"Luckily for me, everyone who loves me loves me just as much when I'm a mess."


And for what it's worth, you have every right to feel depressed. Between the cancer, the drugs, and everything else, I don't see how you could be human and *not* be fighting depression.

If the finances get too bad, I've no doubt there's a huge group who would be happy to help out. You've got a bunch of people who care about you (even when you go through a messy bitch period).
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User: cathshaffer
Date: 2009-12-15 14:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Pain also causes depression. In fact, there's a good argument to be made that that's what depression is *for*. It will pass, the immediate episode, at least. I hope you feel back to your old self soon, but I know it's not realistic to expect to feel emotionally normal through an ordeal like cancer. Just know that you'll be back to your old self eventually. *hugs*
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User: martyn44
Date: 2009-12-15 14:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Depression is a disease just like cancer, and it seems to me like you're keeping the damned black dog on a short leash (you call it the grim ghost, I go with Mr Churchill's black dog) And of course it comes howling round the door when you're down. Stay strong. Keep sharing. Exorcise it.
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User: ozarque
Date: 2009-12-15 14:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There aren't any magic words that I can write here to make depression go away. But it seems to me that you have the right kind of depression -- the kind that's in response to having been dealt a really bad hand in the real world. Pain. Cancer. Withdrawal. Those are entirely legitimate and logical reasons to be depressed. That means that as the real world burdens get better over time, the depression will also get better, and that's the good news.

I am wishing you strength and patience, and keeping you in my prayers...
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Twilight: Smile
User: twilight2000
Date: 2009-12-15 14:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Sharing it is good - the one BIG mistake I made in college was not *telling* anyone - and of course, no one suspected I could *possibly* be depressed or overwhelmed because I'm so relentlessly *up* and *doing* all the time. Remind you of anyone?

Man it would have been easier if I'd just said something to someone instead of figuring whatever it was ("malaise") would just pass.

Hang in there - good friends, talking about it, walks in the sunshine - these are things that will help.
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User: jess_ka
Date: 2009-12-15 15:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hugs hugs hugs, Jay. Luckily for me, everyone who loves me loves me just as much when I'm a mess.

Yup, family. Consider me very extended family, because I do, too. Hang in there.
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shelly_rae: Shelly Duvall
User: shelly_rae
Date: 2009-12-15 15:37 (UTC)
Subject: Acedia is my nemesis
Keyword:Shelly Duvall
Acedia is my nemesis

There's a good reason why the above is the message on my lj. Yet another path we share. Just to let you know you were not "a total messy bitch" to me yesterday. You'll have to try harder next time. And hey, look at you. I can hear you working in the next room and you're doing so much on your own. Jay do it. Speaking of, I left a mess in the kitchen....

Edited at 2009-12-15 09:36 pm (UTC)
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User: torreybird
Date: 2009-12-15 16:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The only way I've turned depression (AKA post-op recovery, weaning off opiates, exhaustion from too much badness) into a gift is this: While I'm moving slowly (grimly crawling toward 'better,' restarting the momentum of persistent cheerfulness), I study the faces of my loved ones. Without multi-tasking, I listen to longer pieces of music, and understand them better. I read works that otherwise sit on my "really should read" pile. I focus on paying better attention. Most of the time, sans depression, I'm moving too damn fast to fully taste and know *each* moment.
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User: ext_218760
Date: 2009-12-15 16:16 (UTC)
Subject: Thank You
Small comfort, I'm sure, this, but still: Thank you so much for sharing what you're going through. My mother died from breast cancer, and by the time it was diagnosed, it was so far advanced that she lived only another four months. She went through radiation and chemo for a short time, though in the end it was too little, too late. It all happened so fast that we never got a chance to sit down, to discuss what she was going through, to analyze on any level how the whole thing affected her, affected my siblings and me. So, now, all these years later, I read your blog, primarily because I'm a new writer racking up those rejection letters and I enjoy keeping up with your career, but also very much to read these posts, the ones where you lay your innermost soul bare, and share what is happening to you: the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's been cathartic to me, in some weird, disjointed way, and I want you to know that it's important, you're important, and you are thought of by people you don't know who can appreciate how your life has been turned upside down. Keep your spirits up as best you can, and remember that YOU MATTER.
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The Green Knight: Determination
User: green_knight
Date: 2009-12-15 16:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Your gift is that you are not ashamed to talk about this, that you are strong enough to show your vulnerable side - the fear, the guilt, the depression, all those moments that make you human and that we all experience. And I'd like to thank you for that.
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calendula_witch: arms
User: calendula_witch
Date: 2009-12-15 16:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I will echo what Shelly Rae said: you were not a total messy bitch to me either. You were depressed and down, and kind and loving.

I love you. I'll be there Friday.
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Kari Sperring
User: la_marquise_de_
Date: 2009-12-15 17:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thinking of you here.
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User: jkoke
Date: 2009-12-15 17:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
you've beaten depression before and are familiar with its suffocating embrace. recognizing it and exposing it and getting help for it -- these things are HARD and it takes a great deal of bravery for you to face this. I, for one, applaud you.

Take friends and sweethearts and therapy as needed... it's okay to be bitchy and needy from time to time, because you give back other times... and because this shall pass.

looking forward to seeing you this weekend.
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