Tag Archives: Depression

The wold will go on whether you move with it or stay put

The last few years have been a roller-coaster. Things have settled quite a bit in some aspects of my life, whereas in other areas things have happened that I never, ever anticipated. At this moment though, I feel like I’ve run out of gas. I’ve been tired and short-tempered lately. This last weekend it finally hit me hard. Aside from feeling tired,  I couldn’t get much sleep between nasty headaches and really painful heartburn that I’ve had for a few weeks. I’m getting an endoscopy next week, or sooner if need be. Right now I’m on a diet of water, saltine crackers and Zofran as that’s about all I can tolerate. I managed to get through my flight this morning for work without vomiting, so that’s something.

Some things I didn’t expect over the last 3 years:

  • Getting a job that pays well
  • Getting a house (first house)
  • Deciding that I want children
  • Getting my vasectomy reversed
  • Getting another dog
  • Making it to 40 in spite of depression (almost; less than a month away)
  • Liver and kidney problems getting better, then worse, then better, then worse, rinse and repeat

Those are all but one, good things. On the flip side there’s the depression part. Sadly, that would fall on the list of things I did expect. Monday of next week I see the psychiatrist and I need to decide if this will be the usual three month check-in for refills, or if I tell her that in spite of being chocked full of psychoactive medications that I’m still having days where I seriously weigh the pros and cons of pushing forward. Pushing forward.. That’s about as watered down of a euphemism as I can come up with. I still manage to get out of bed each day, am present and functioning relatively well at work, and hopefully, being a good husband.

So, do I dare say anything, or not? If I were giving advice to a friend, I’d say without hesitation to tell their psychiatrist/doctor that they are still feeling pretty awful. On one hand I don’t want to feel like this more often than not, and on the other I just don’t want to go through the trial and error process of medications. Again. That leads me back to where I weigh pros and cons. I go through these mental gymnastics, but the only option is to push forward. I can either let it crush me or live my life in spite of it.

(I honestly wonder how long I can keep this duality thing up)

A long overdue update

This will contain what may be considered NSFW as it relates to my vasectomy reversal procedure performed not two months ago.

Continue reading A long overdue update

Duality

I am and have been living two lives for a long time. They are seemingly incompatible.

Life number one is that of a middle-aged successful professional who’s happily married, has a house, two cars, two dogs and a cat. I have friends, albeit at a distance. I’m becoming closer to one that’s local – someone I didn’t expect to become a close friend with, but she’s a good influence on my life and is a good objective third party. I don’t have to put on the act for her. I can be myself. I don’t have any interest in her other than a platonic friendship, and the same goes for her. I don’t consider myself to be close to anyone at work, but given the amount of travel, that’s not entirely surprising. Most of my interaction with colleagues is via email and brief telephone calls. I’m outwardly friendly, happy, and have an honest can-do attitude. I’m customer focused and work internally to ensure that clients are taken care of while still maintaining the financial goals of the company that employs me. I’m well-known within the company, well-respected and well-trusted as a problem solver an innovator. My wife and I have decided to have a child or adopt, depending on what’s medically possible 18 years past vasectomy. There’s a good chance we’ll be able to have a biological child where I’m the father via sperm extraction. I’m excited at this prospect, though I’m getting about a 15-20 year late start to the process.

Life number two is that of a married man who struggles to get through each day because of severe and unrelenting depression. Not a waking minute goes by that I don’t think of finding the nearest sharp object and going for my carotid arteries. I’m heavily medicated with psychotropic medications and go between insomnia and hypersomnia. Most days I get through the workday and am exhausted by the end of it. I go to my hotel room, or go home and go to bed shortly thereafter. Most of my existence is in my own head as I don’t trouble others with my internal struggles. Logically, ending my life has passed from being an illogical idea to a  logical conclusion to a life spent fighting and losing that fight.This life is one of exhaustion. This life is one wanting a way out with causing as little damage to those closest to me.

So.. Where does that leave me? I’m living both lives. As I write this, I hope for some terminal illness – that’d be easiest for all involved. But, I’m also planning on having a child. I know I can endure the depression and all that goes with it for at least the next 20 years. Well indefinitely, really. I’ve been on the other side of suicide. I loved her so much; the one that committed suicide, I mean. I know what that pain is. I know what that aftermath is. I know the endless days and nights of asking why. I can’t possibly do that to someone else, so this is a life sentence.. A life sentence of suffering. That’s not fair to me. Exiting early, that’s a life sentence for my wife, our future child and the few that care about me. So, regardless, I stay. I live that second life in the shadows. In silence aside from here. What am I to do? I don’t know.. Endure, I guess. That’s my only real choice, isn’t it?

 

The harsh realities of having a job with a lot of travel

This isn’t a long whining post. This is just a description of what it’s really like for a lot of people like myself in a similar position of traveling at 50% of their job and being regional support within their home area, which really means anything within about 200 miles each way is “local.”

My work week (this is two extra days than I’d normally travel):

Sunday – 5 hour commute to hotel from home.
Monday – 13 hour day.
Tuesday – ~13 hour day, depending on traffic.
Wednesday – ~16 hour day, longer if there’s traffic and/or road construction.
Thursday – 8 hour day.
Friday – ~14 hour day.
Saturday – ? (play catchup)

For those that don’t want to do the math, that’s a 69 hour week. That averages out to be a little over $25/hour. I’m salary, so anything over 40 hours is forfeit. I’ll let someone do the math on that if they really want to know what I make a year.

This is indicative of a ravel week where I’m gone 5 days and cover two cities, in this case, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. I travel at minimum every other week with 3-5 overnight stays. In the summer, I drive. The airlines are too unreliable. The week before last my flight kept getting further and further delayed that I’d have to stay over in the connecting city and not get to my destination until noon the next day. I had to be there at a client site at 8:30am. I can’t miss an appointment, and I can’t be that late. I had them bank the tickets (good up to three years, but it’s a $200 change fee per ticket), then drove my own damn car because getting a rental would have been even more time, wouldn’t have been pre-arranged so I’d not get the corporate rate (1/3 the cost of renting a car regularly) and arrived at 1:30am. Great start to the week, right?

This is the reality of business travel for a job. In my position, I’m booked out several weeks in advance. There’s no flexibility in that. A customer can’t wait until I’m free again in 6 weeks. I work when I’m sick. I load up on decongestants, mucinex and afrin and get through the day. That’s just the schedule and logistics.

The other part of having a traveling job? Loneliness. Crushing, horrible loneliness. I used to think that a job like this would be cool with the travel. I get to see different cities, can go sight-seeing, try local restaurants, etc. The reality of it is that the travel alone takes a lot out of you. My job is very mentally challenging, and therefor very draining each day. When I finish, I don’t even want to sit at a decent restaurant for dinner. I just want to get back to my room and lay down. So, I’ll grab some Wendy’s or Chipotle, go to the room, reply to the ~20 emails that actually need my response from throughout the day, figure out how the hell I’m going to mix in time for conference calls at customer sites. The secret to that? Buy the client lunch, usually a few large pizzas or Jimmy Johns. Whatever – I may or may not get to eat. Usually not – while they eat, I sit on a conference call. I’ll make the notes and recommendations that night. Who wants to be social after that?

My traveling socialization is with the hotel bartenders at the hotels I frequent. We’re all on a first name basis. I know the names of their spouses, kids, who’s having health problems in their family, their life events, etc. I don’t always have to pay for drinks, so that’s a plus. I have to be careful to not drown my loneliness in alcohol, though. I’ve been doing that at home when I’m actually home. I go through about 1 – 1 1/2 bottles of liquor a week. Mostly vodka mixed with kahlua and bailey’s; heavy on the vodka. You know the normal short drinking glasses? A drink for me of late is one of those filled to the top with no ice. I’m guessing that’s not mixing well with the whole liver and kidney disease thing.

Weeks that I’m home? Usually 8-12 hour days, depending on how far the clients are from me. That’s just so I can sleep in my own bed at night. I don’t mind weeks at home. The time in the car is made bearable with Pandora and audiobooks. I get to see my wife a little, too. She works every other weekend, so I get to see her for about 1/2 hour when she gets home before she goes to sleep to be somewhat rested for her next shift.

The loneliness isn’t helping with the depression. My depression is almost entirely chemical and fairly well-controlled with a heavy cocktail of psychotropic medications. I’ve read about studies though that confirm that people that travel as much as I do for work do feel isolated and depressed. They don’t offer many good suggestions on how to cope with it, either. One of the top suggestions is to go to the hotel bar and talk with other business travelers. Good one, Harvard researcher – mix loneliness and depression with alcohol. Anyway.. That’s my reality of traveling for a job. My experience is far from unique. It’s not just within my company, either. Others that I’ve sucked up my introversion and spoken to that I’ve seen at the hotels at nearly the same frequency as myself express the same thing. If I were single I’d likely have questionable encounters with people just to have a warm body next to me. It’d not a sex thing, it’d just to have some human contact.

So, before you take that high-paying travel job, consider what it’s really like and ask yourself if it’s worth the money. On the plus side, you get to live all that travel time on someone else’s dime. Nice hotels, good dinner per diems if you choose to actually eat somewhere, nice locations (usually), and you don’t put miles on your own car. I tallied up last year’s travel to see what could possibly be considered extra income for living expenses for half the month. It was a staggering $26,000. That’s how much cycled through my credit cards that I use for travel.

Is it worth it? I don’t know. The economy is still too weak for me to consider anything else. If I took a support role for a 40 hour week that would require relocating to either Chicago, New Jersey or Long Island. We bought a house. We don’t want to move. We’re planning on having a child, which because of my vasectomy 18 years ago will require rather invasive surgery to get sperm. Since it’s elective surgery, insurance won’t cover it. That with the IFV it will be about $12-15k. My wife will stop working after the child is born for at least 4-5 years. That’s a $67k/year loss in income. And I’ll get to see my child in passing. I wonder how she’ll deal with the isolation of being a stay at home mom that so many female friends in similar positions describe.

Is it worth it? I’m writing this at midnight because I can’t sleep. I have to get up at 5 this morning to be to a client on time.  I guess I should attempt to sleep again.

Tonight.. I’m just not feeling it. Doctor’s appointments today went well and I got a referral to a surgeon for my jaw. I’ve lost 10lb in the last 3 weeks. I’ve just not been hungry. I’ve also been incredibly tired of late. Here it is approaching 6:00 and I’m already in bed getting ready to call it a night. I’m down tonight. I’m feeling sad and lonely, though I’ve no reason to feel either. I’ll give this overall tired malaise thing another week or two, then call my doctor. The depression.. I don’t know what to do about that. I need some human touch, but am not sure how to explain that, much less have the nerve to ask. Ugh. Blah. May tomorrow be a better day.

5:30 A.M.

Long post ahead – feel free to skip.

So, here it is, 5:30 A.M. in a random hotel room in Pittsburgh. In spite of me taking enough Klonopin to knock over a small horse to get to sleep last night, I’ve been laying awake for about 45 minutes now. I’d ask my doctor for Ambien, but I used to do strange things on Ambien. For example, I’d get up and write really dark stuff, then leave it up on the computer to be found. I’d have full conversations with my ex girlfriend, and later my wife after we married. I was totally honest while on it. If there is such a thing as truth serum, that’s it. I was also completely uninhibited. I finally stopped taking it after I got up in the middle of the night, drive 5 miles to the nearby 24 hour grocery store and purchased 10 frozen pizzas, drove home, placed them on the counter and went back to sleep. The fun part about Ambien for me? I’d not remember anything from about two hours before going to sleep or anything that I’d do while on it. So.. No Ambien for me. Lunesta kind of works, but I get dry mouth from hell. It leaves me with insatiable thirst throughout the day. Trazadone kind of helps, but I feel like my heavy drinking days the next morning that I’d experience in my 20’s.

What’s on my mind at this hour? Aside from planning out my work day and all of the stuff I need to somehow get done, I’m thinking about my wife and I having a child or children. I had a vasectomy at 22, so a reversal at this point is unlikely to be successful. Surgically though, they can extract sperm, I can take a few days off from work afterward and sit with frozen bags of peas on my nether regions to keep swelling down and to dull the pain. A vasectomy is a pretty simple procedure. Extraction of sperm is far more involved.

Here’s the thing.. I have health problems. Some of which are definitely genetic. My wife also has some genetic health problems. It stands to reason that if we were to have a child that some of that would be passed down. I also have the carrier gene for hemochromatosis, which isn’t something I’d want to pass on. My main concern would be though, that my wife and I both suffer from horrible depression. On one hand, we get it, so there’s no fights about it. On the other hand, it’d be terribly selfish to risk having a child that might get whatever chemical imbalance we have, mainly mine. Since bipolar is chemical in nature, it’s kind of unavoidable if it’s passed on. We’ve gone round and round about all this and still do at times.

I’d be totally fine with adoption. I have no preference of race or gender. The child wouldn’t necessarily have to be a newborn, either. I’m not one of those guys who wants a kid to be his own genetic lineage. If we were to have a child, regardless of natural birth or adoption my wife would likely stop working to take care of the child until they reach school age, then likely return to work part time. We can afford to live off from my income, so it’s a viable option. My fear is that I’d be the father that’s not there with all of the work travel. Also, both of us grew up in abusive or neglectful homes, so we don’t know how parenting should work. We’d be winging it.

Decisions, decisions..I think I’ll bring up the topic this weekend. She made a passing comment that having a child is on her mind constantly of late last week. It’s something we should talk about. If we decide to go the route of trying to have our own, I’ll have to make an appointment with a surgeon and a fertility doctor as it’d be in vitro.

Living versus Existing -being on psychotropic medications long term

Since I was a young child, I had always suffered from depression. At the time, it was likely situational. I’ll spare the details, but there was a lot of alcohol involved, a lot of violence and a lot of terrorizing pretty much everyone in the household. My parents split when I was 5 and I stayed with my mother. She dated a few men here and there, but overall they were decent or indifferent toward me. She met and married my step father when I was 9. He was a horribly abusive person, mostly along emotional lines. Again, I chocked up the depression and suicidal ideation to it being situational in hindsight.

I moved out when I was 17 and did whatever I could to make ends meet. I was lucky to start in the industry that I still work in when I was 19. I had pretty bad PTSD at that time; it seems I didn’t know how to exist without constant conflict. I married the girl I had seen all through high school at 20 and we divorced when I was 22. Shortly thereafter my best friend lost her battle with depression and took her own life which sent me into a downward spiral that would last most of my 20’s. I’m still affected by that to this day on some levels.

So, the question for me always was if the deep depressions I felt were merely a product of experiences, or if they were more chemical in nature. I never did quite feel like myself, though I didn’t really know who that was. I just felt like I was wearing someone else’s skin for the most part. Sometime around 30 I figured out who I was, shed the past and started living my life on my own terms. I then started to see glimpses of the real me from time to time.

Throughout the years though, I had been on such a mix of medications and in and out of therapy with all sorts of approaches. At some point with therapy, there are no more secrets to tell, no more hidden truths to discover and no more techniques to learn in order to cope. As for pharmacology, that’s a tedious process of starting a medication, upping the dose until it’s maxed out, giving it time to work if it’s going to, then tapering off before starting the next one. When single medications don’t work, then the combinations start.

Combinations.. That’s where I’m at right now. I have a high dose of Lamictal, Wellbutrin and a moderate dose of Lexapro. Limictal saved my life. Hands down, that’s the only medication that ever gave me a sense of levity to get through each day without being on the edge of using whatever was near me to take my own life. The thing is though, it dulls my nerves. It takes away that creative spark that’s set me apart professionally. I don’t feel things with nearly the intensity that I used to, good or bad. In essence, I’ve been numbed. The other meds are to help with the depression, but I’m a bit dubious of how effective they are. So as to not rock the boat or start another cycle of trial and error, I’ll just keep taking them as prescribed and see how things go.

So, on to the meat of what the title of the post is about. I’ve been on psychotropics for so long, each altering my mood in one way or another, I feel like I’ve lost whomever it is that I would be otherwise. Maybe that person is gone forever. Maybe this is me and I’m just underwhelmed. I’ve always thought I had pretty good potential to do something important in my life. Not grandiosity or anything, but I’m fairly intelligent, can see patterns in things that most overlook and I’m able to stick with something longer than most if I believe there’s more to be found or gained. Do I like the current me? Sort of.. There’s an emptiness there that I can’t ignore. It’s not that I believe that it can be filled by having a child or some other profound change, but rather it’s just a hole left from life experiences. Would I be willing to take some medication that would make me not feel, or at least not feel sadness or emptiness? Absolutely. Would I be willing to give up whatever must be given up in the way of side effects for such a drug? Yes. I think that would be worth a hefty price. The thing is.. I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t even know who I’d be if I were to try to become someone else or a better version of myself for that matter. I’m not alone in this world. I have a wonderful marriage. I have friends and some family. Even with those people that love and care for me, I feel like I’m a million miles away and have no real way of reaching them, or them reaching me.

Where do the meds drop off and I begin? How much of who I am is a product of medication versus whatever part of me is left?