Friday, April 08, 2011

The Joy of Living

I cannot remember the exact year it happened.  Was it eight years ago?  It was at least six or seven.   Maybe even ten years ago.  I guess I am hazy about the exact dates because this brief period of my life I planted so deep I would not have to remember the dark depths I found inside.  I almost died.  No fooling.  Regardless, I now know this experience has changed my life forever.  And not for the better.   I already had a list of other negatives I lived with.  What is one more, more or less?

I seem to recollect it all started in the Fall when I attended a group meeting of Hepatitis patients over to the Southern Maine Medical Center.  We would be the first group in Maine to partake in a drug regimen of Interferon and some other drug that would rid us finally of the Hepatitis that coursed through our bodies day in, day out.  Over a hundred people sat crowded in a room at the hospital and listened to a fellow wearing a nice suit explain the process and how beautiful our lives would be once we had successfully finished the year of injecting poison into our bodies.  I assume it was just shy of chemotherapy.  Just shy enough that they trusted us to self medicate.

We filled out questionnaires.  We were handed release forms to read and sign.  We listened as the potential negative side effects were explained.  The injections would be painful.  We would probably lose energy and not be as active as we were used to being.  Lethargy and exhaustion would be daily experiences.  Our appetites would be affected.  We might become depressed.  But on the up side, all these negative side effects would begin to ease up the further into the regimen we journeyed.  Our bodies would adapt.  And after a year of it, 60% of us would be Hepatitis free.  The other 40%, oh well, at least we gave it a good shot.

Even though the "medical experts" already knew from the trials, what they did not explain was that 11% of us would most likely fall into such deep depression that we would consider suicide as our only way out.  I found out for myself, but only after I had fallen into such deep depression that I did in fact try to take my own life.  The only thing that saved me was my own stupidity about how to carry off a successful suicide.  Did you know that all the new anti pollution junk the government has insisted be installed in the newer cars create such a low amount of carbon dioxide that filling a van with it and hoping it will be enough is hard to pull off?  I didn't and for once my own stupidity saved my life.

But let's back up some.  Back down from the climax and fill in some gaps.

The first week of the therapy was indeed painful.  Very painful.  I assumed my reaction to it was normal and sucked it up.  The depression came as expected.  The second week , the same pain and what I thought was just more of the same depression.  I had been told I would eventually rise above it, so I continued to poison myself with their drugs for another 6 weeks or so, each week sliding a little further down the hill into the pit I did not see coming.

My memories of exactly what happened in that eighth week or so are fuzzy.  I remember being in so much pain, physically and mentally, I saw no way out but to kill myself.  I cannot explain why I kept this to myself and did not complain.  I was drug addled and apparently out of my mind.  My only focus was how worthless I was and that I knew the World would be better off with me not in it.  I grabbed a hose from the garage, stuffed it up the exhaust pipe of the red Dodge Caravan,  took the other end of the hose and climbed into the van.  I started the engine, laid down on the back seat that could be made into a bed and waited to die.

For some reason and again I cannot explain why, I had taken a small travel clock with me when I climbed into the van.  I am thinking I wanted to watch the last minutes of my life tick off like some countdown in reverse.  I laid there for twenty minutes.  I could smell the exhaust in the van, but it was nowhere close to being fatal and I knew it.  Hell, I was still alive ferchrisakes.  Still determined to see this through, I closed my eyed and gritted my teeth.  This was damn well going to be my last day on the planet.  If I ever knew something was a sure thing, my self inflicted death was it.

I may have dozed off.  I do not know.  I do know that at about 1 hour into it, my eyes popped open and all I could think of was, "I don't wanna die!"  I opened the sliding door of the van and rolled out of it.  I must have laid on the ground for many minutes hacking, coughing and thinking how close I had been to death and how stupid I was for thinking death was something to look forward to.  I climbed to my feet, stumbled back into the house and called my wife.   When she answered, the previous eight weeks of Hell on Earth came out as I sobbed and cried my way through my narrative.  My wife came home immediately and a couple of hours later, I was safely set up in a group suicide watch house in Saco.  For three days I was monitored, questioned, and talked to.  I walked out of there knowing two things.  The aftermath of an unsuccessful suicide is almost worse than what led up to it and that if I ever again made an attempt, it would be successful.  If for no other reason than to avoid the embarrassment and deep shame I felt for trying to take my own life in the first place.

This tale might have ended here with our hero successfully confronting his demons and making it out alive.  But there are always residual effects to something like this.  An incident of this nature in one's life leaves scars, deposits doubts, and as I am realizing now, damage to my brain chemistry I can only assume is what that Interferon poison did to me physically.  Because ever since my up close and personal interaction with Interferon I have become what I assume would be considered "clinically depressed".  Ever since then, I fall into periods of such deep depression, I become dysfunctional.  And thus, you now have an explanation of my last ten days of Hell.  An excuse offered up to explain my recent absence. 


I had hoped to return to this blog on an up note.  Write something that exuded joy and well being or maybe humorous as I tried to put up a cheery front.  But I guess what I needed to do overwhelmed what I wanted to do.  I have had this bullshit bottled up for more than a few years now and this recent dip into my dark currents pushed me over the edge.  I had to purge myself.  Speak the truth and see it in writing.  I wrote this more for myself than anyone else.  Hopefully though, my tale strikes a chord somewhere.  But more importantly, strikes a chord with me.

And please note that I have thus far resisted seeking help from the "greatest health care system in the World".  The regular failures they charged me money for when dealing with my own medical needs over the years has instilled an almost phobic fear of returning to them for any help.  I hold them responsible in a large part for what I deal with today.  If I want drugs, I will find my own.  I will either find the solution for myself, or I won't.  Doctors can take their pills and shove em deep up where the Sun don't shine.


Image poached from "Depression Cell" .


muddleglum said...

Glad to see you back. I was just thinking this morning that I there was a hole in the Bozone.

For the record, I've probably been clinically depressed for decades with moderate to severe thoughts of suicide. So I know the feeling.

OTOH, Over the decades I've gone from frantic to bored about it. My depression has this perfect place and method to mangle my body with extreme pain and get rid of it so people won't be bothered with a corpse. Fine. Great. Yawn. I've been on the verge of severe depression for the last few weeks. Annoying.

As I said, glad to see you back. Ever get that Hepatitis cleaned out?

okjimm said...

ok..... I suffer from chronic depression as well. Treated a couple of times.... what I have learned is that it is an incredibly 'singular' experience that 'they' have tried to collectively treat, often in a general manner. Nope. My train wreck is like nobody elses's!!! My pain is my own, and I got really tired of them telling me others felt like me.
You all hang in there. Besides, the biking season is upon us.

BBC said...

I moved to where I now live in 1989 after a powerful dream, and started on a strange journey I didn't see coming.

Can't say that I suffer from chronic depression but there are a lot of things that damn sure bother me because I can't fix them.

I solve some of those problems by saying, "Fuck it, not dealing with that." And walk away from them.

For the last couple of months I've been spending about half of my time out in the country, that helps a lot. But I can do that, not everyone can.

One thing I've learned is that I don't have to be responsible for others and their problems, especially if they didn't take my advice in the first place.

And I damn sure don't try to keep women happy anymore.

Kulkuri said...

Hope you can continue to keep your demons at bay.

Randal Graves said...

Next time, don't try so hard to come up with an excuse for your absence, you went fishing & got swallowed by a whale or worse, Washington DC. You don't wanna miss the apocalypse! Hang in there, old bean.

jadedj said...

Wow, a powerful story. I've never had that kind of depression, but I can say, I would be one pissed off fellow had it been brought on because of someone else's stupidity.

Glad you came back and wrote about this.

The Blog Fodder said...

Glad to see you back. And glad you are still on the planet. I suffer from depression, too, and often fantasize about putting a gun to my head and pulling the trigger. Fortunately I don't own one and being a Canadian haven't the faintest clue how to get one that doesn't involve more paperwork than I could handle. I guess it isn't a serious fantasy. I stay alive just to see how the world will F--K itself up next.

ain't for city gals said...

What an interesting story....I read an article once in Outside mag or something like that....the depths this person went through because of the medication he was put on was absolutely unbelievable. I have always wondered what comes first ...the slight blues or full blown depression after they start you on the "cure"...I don't have depression so I can't speak for the problem but ...I wonder how anyone can function with all the prescribed meds after the fact...and once you start it seems to me all downhill from there.

PipeTobacco said...


Thank you for talking about what you experienced. I think it is valuable for us, your readers, and I *hope* that it was valuable for you to be able to talk about it openly here.

Depression is indeed a horrid, wretched, damnable condition. I have a sibling who has been diagnosed, and as you know from my own writings, it may be that I occasionally fall into that pit myself.

While I cannot and would not tell you what to do, I *can* tell you that some of the SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft, for instance) have strong potential to help. My sister found Zoloft a beautiful help in allowing her to "wake-up" to who she was before the depression... and for the three or so years she was on the medication, she was able to work more at trying to "fix" some of the issues related to her depression. And when she felt ready, she weaned off the Zoloft and feels content.

So, what I am saying.... is to *consider* reading up on the more common SSRIs *if* you feel your depression is so hard that you need to search for relief. It may be a true help like it was for my sister.

But, regardless... keep in mind no matter what... that you are a valuable, respected, and insightful person. You have a purpose and meaning.


lou said...

Just discovered your blog recently and I am so sorry you continue to deal with this pain but I thank you for sharing your story. My brother in law is getting ready to embark on this program for his hepatitis and, as depression runs in his family, I'm sending it on and hoping he might chose an alternative.

peace on

Ol'Buzzard said...

I have had three near death experiences - though not self inflicted: VietNam, a car accident and an artery blockage while deep in the remote Alaskan bush. Each of these left me (for a short while) elated to be alive - it helped me put into prespective the important sensual experiences against the bull shit of every day tensions.

I am now in my seventies and know my time is short. I have found the Buddhist prespctives of linving in the now (without concerns for past or future) helps me keep things (and depressions) in prespective. If you are interested, the book Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen has helped me as a guide.

There are a lot of people out here in blog land that care about you. Vent on us when you need to, but stay with us.

God I love the smell of rain - it sure beats napalm in the morning.

The Ol'Buzzard

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

Peace be with you, Mike. I will keep you in my prayers.

I have been feeling pretty low myself lately, and have had episodes of clinical-level depression here and there since adolescence. Mine are usually induced by stress, but sometimes just creep into my life for no apparent reason.

You certainly did strike a chord with your post, especially early on: "...I now know this experience has changed my life forever. And not for the better." I am sure you don't need any amateur advice or analysis from me, but here goes anyway.

If you could find a way for this event to bear good fruit, for yourself or for others, I think you'd learn not to see this as a negative. Let me say that your sharing this has borne good fruit already. Just check out the many comments.

The other thing I would say, based on reading between the lines, is that you may not have fully forgiven yourself for doing this. A suicide attempt rather clashes with what one might intuitively consider the laws of nature, and when we cross these laws, we sometimes end up carrying around obvious or unconscious guilt. I think you may want to consider what you went through prior to the suicide attempt, and be assured that you did the very best you could under the circumstances, and that you are entitled to be forgiven for wanting to check out early.

On the other hand, you could have already passed through this stage and forgiven yourself, and I could be full of shit. I'm just looking at this based on the tone of your post and my general experience with human nature.

Bottom line though is we're all very happy you're still here, and we're grateful to you for telling your story.

susan said...

I believe that in the northern hemisphere March is the time when our energy levels are at their lowest ebb. With our immune systems worn down by cold and damp and lack of sunshine, we're much more inclined to depression and just being generally fed up. It's generally understood that at least 10% of the population suffers from depression and I'm most definitely one of them.

If medical treatment was as good as advertised then people would be screened before and more closely monitored while taking such dangerous drugs. Better still, is not taking them at all. That doesn't mean I'd eschew antibiotics or analgesics as required.

Thanks for writing such a great post. It seems when it's really time for us to go the means is naturally provided.

robin andrea said...

I wish I had words of wisdom to share. I don't. I too have suffered with depression on and off for years. I don't think doctors or pharmaceutical companies know the first thing about treating depression. I think you are right to avoid them. We have a saying in our house, "doctors only know how to cut, burn, and poison." If you want any of that stuff done to your psyche, you know where to go. The thing about depression, is that at the darkest and lowest moment, you have to absolutely make yourself remember that it really does get better. And, then, it actually does.

PENolan said...

Love and Light, old man, in the spirit of It Takes One to Know One.