So today was my last day of TMS treatment. 40+ hours in the chair. And I think? I think maybe I’m in remission from my depression? I’m afraid to say it out loud in case I jinx it all but I feel good and I’ve felt good for a few weeks, which is a long time for me to go without a depressive funk. It’s probably not forever, but it’s something…and I’ll take it.
In the last month I’ve worked on my book. I’ve left the house. I’ve answered emails and phone calls. Victor and Hailey usually travel without me because I’m not a traveler. They’re going to Japan in a few weeks and Hailey asked if I’d come with them this time. And I said yes. I’ve already warned them that I’ll probably stay in the hotel and just read while they explore but even that is a big step and one I’m happy about it. And scared about.
I’m feeling a lot of stuff right now…lucky, afraid, hopeful. But it’s good to feel. It’s a nice change from the exhaustive numbness of depression. And I’m writing this down so that I remember that it’s worth fighting for the good days even if you know the bad days will probably come again. You’re worth fighting for too. I promise.
So this week has been particularly hard for me mentally and I think there must be something in the air because it feels like lots of people are struggling right now. My doctor was concerned enough though to move the TMS coil to another area of my brain and hopefully that will help. The depressing part about treating depression is that so much of it is a bit of a science experiment. Is the TMS working and would I have been much worse without treatment? Is it not working as much as last time? Is this my brain lying to me? Is it working for my motivation and anxiety but my depression is so strong that I can’t appreciate the improvement? I don’t know. But I’ll keep moving forward if you will. Nothing is perfect…treatment, life, me…but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.
Today during treatment I pulled out an embroidery project to distract me from the woodpecker-like pounding in my head and congratulated myself for being able to concentrate enough to work on a project.
…Until I realized that I had somehow sewn myself to the fabric and literally had to cut myself out of my own mess.
This feels very metaphorical but I’m too unfocused to pull it all together so instead I’ll just say that if you’re struggling this week you are not alone and I love you and you will get through this. I promise.
For those of you following along at home I just finished my 17th TMS treatment this week and I’m feeling some improvement especially in anxiety and motivation but I’m still dealing with some depression so today they moved the magnetic coil around to a different location to see if that will help.
I actually would have said that I wasn’t feeling much of a difference in motivation but then I realized that this week three things happened that were a big deal.
1.I finished a new chapter in my book and it actually made me laugh out loud when I wrote it.
2. I easily drove downtown to look at a bookstore location and I have NEVER driven downtown on my own because driving in busy places terrifies me. And when I got back home I was still okay and not a giant puddle of exhaustion and I didn’t need to recuperate for a day. That seems ridiculous to normal people but trust me, it’s rather shocking for me.
3. When I went to TMS I had my phone in my pocket and somehow my leg unpaused the podcast I was listening to in the car and it blasted a sexy improvised musical theater number across the crowded waiting room of the psychiatric center and everyone was staring at me as I frantically searched for my phone which was screaming, “BECAUSE THE ARROW IS A DICK AND THE TARGET IS A VAGIIIIINNNNNAAAAAA” (thanks, Off Book). Then in my actual session I was wearing headphones because the TMS machine is crazy loud but I heard this weird noise and then I realized it was farting and I thought maybe it was the counselor who has to watch me and make sure I don’t have a seizure but it was going on way to long to be healthy and I was actually starting to be a little impressed/concerned and then I realized that the farting was coming from me.
Not from my butt though. When I’m nervous I rub my feet together and apparently the fake leather of my shoes rubbing against the chair was making these incredible farts. I have no idea how long I’ve been loudly farting-but-not-farting during my hour-long sessions but I suspect the answer is “Forever, you idiot” because the counselor was just taking phone calls like everything was normal even though probably the people on the other line were like, “Is she farting?” And the me of last month would have been like, “Well, clearly I can never come back here and also maybe I should burn the building down” but me of now was like, “Honestly, if you’re going to be horribly awkward and do mortifying things it should be in a psych unit because it’s probably encouraging for everyone else around who is feeling like shit and needs a good laugh.”
So this past week I’ve been dealing with mental illness bullshit and I don’t think I’m alone based on what I’m seeing on the internet so if you’re struggling please know that you are not alone and that it will get better.
Today was my 5th TMS treatment and honestly I was getting sort of depressed about being depressed because it sucks to feel like shit and also have to drag yourself to the doctor to get punched in the head for an hour a day but then a few hours ago I suddenly got a burst of energy and my vision cleared and HOLY SHIT I ALMOST FEEL NOT DEPRESSED. It possibly will only last for another hour or so but I’ll take it and I’m writing this down to remind myself that not-depressed-me says the dread and self-hatred that depressed-me is feeling is totally a lie.
I took this picture today during treatment because Victor and Hailey keep saying that they can see my depression in my face lately and I wanted to see if it was any better and I still looked depressed but all of a sudden a rainbow showed up and I’m pretty sure it’s just a light artifact but I’m choosing to believe it’s some sort of leprechaun magic and I am here for it. You should be too.
Also, there’s been a weed growing out of my gutter for the last few weeks but I’m too tired to clean the gutters so it just keeps growing and I feel like shit when I see it because it seems very analogous to how my life is feeling right now but today when I saw it I noticed that the weed has flowered and it made me smile because technically I think this is the longest I’ve ever kept a plant alive.
So last year I did rTMS to try to whack my brain out of chronic treatment resistant depression and it was pretty helpful. Not perfect, but it pulled me out of a deep hole I was stuck in. I also treated the other side of my brain for anxiety and that was really helpful. I’ve taken one xanax in the last 6 months and anyone with severe anxiety disorder knows how big of a deal that is.
Unfortunately I’ve been in a bit of a hole lately and my doctor said another round of TMS treatments might really help to stop me before I’m too far gone so I started again this week.
I’m doing the same treatments as before but in slightly different spots (the science on TMS changes so quickly and doctors are always using the latest studies to try to perfect the treatment) and I’m also doing deep treatment on my right ocular something-or-another and I don’t entirely understand it but they think it may help break up the intrusive negative thoughts that get stuck in my head.
It is as painful as I remembered but less painful than living with mental illness so I’m down with it. They play nature videos with relaxing melodies so you can distract yourself but that’s not really my thing so instead they’re letting me watch Shrill on their TV and it’s lovely except that my headphones ran out of juice so the counselor who monitors me just turned up the volume in the room right as a particularly awkward sex scene came on, which was made even more awkward by the fact that I was forcing other people to watch it.
Embarrassing, but honestly, very on brand.
PS. Last treatment they had to find my hand through my brain (making my thumb move by punching me in the head with magnets) but this time they had to go deeper, which meant that I had to take off my shoes and get magnet punched until I involuntarily kicked myself. I was still wearing tattered remnants of months-old nail polish and I apologized for the state of my feet but no one seemed to care and honestly I suspect that if your feet look like shit it’s maybe just another sign that you need to be medicinally magnet thumped for a few months.
Last week I got hit with a major bout of depression. I did all the things I’m supposed to do. Nothing helped. Usually when this happens I wait it out. I’m stronger than my mental illness even though it feels like an inescapable monster when it’s here. Then Sunday I took a darker turn. And Monday I was worse. There are a few things that come when my depression gets really bad. Exhaustion, almost flu-like. My peripheral vision goes away. My body goes numb and my face feels heavy and weighted down. When it’s really bad I stare out at a fixed point and can’t move my eyes from that spot, like I’m paralyzed for several seconds at a time. In some ways it’s a relief to have physical signs of what’s happening…to remind myself that it’s real and not just in my mind…but it’s also terrifying to have your brain take over your body when your brain is the most dangerous place to be.
I called my doctor. I got an appointment for next week to see the doctor who did my Transcranial Magnetic Therapy so we can see if booster sessions might help shake me out of this.
And then…almost as suddenly as it appeared…it vanished.
This happens sometimes. Usually it’s a slow process of several days recovery but this time it just went away. I was left feeling exactly how you feel after you stop throwing up from food poisoning…shaky, vulnerable, empty, exhausted, terrified that it’s not over, but so incredibly grateful that my body belonged to me again.
I want to cancel my appointment with my doctor. I want to pretend this week didn’t happen. But it did and it may be a fluke or it may be a sign that I need more help. I will continue to work the program. I will continue to fight battles in my head.
I always feel bad writing about mental health stuff because I know I’m tired of feeling it so I’m sure you are tired of hearing about it but it’s a relief to be able to lay it all out here and to read back and see how far I’ve come…to see that I may struggle with these seemingly invisible enemies but that I have a perfect record (so far) of beating them. And you do too if you are reading this. I’m proud of you. I hope you are proud of yourself.