Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Was The Point?

A few weeks ago, I broke down.  A literal, crying uncontrollably, I don't know what's wrong with me break down.  To this day, I don't know what happened. All I knew was something was horribly wrong.   I had been in my cardiac rehab program a few weeks at that point.  I had grown pretty close to the nurses and counselor so I grabbed my cell phone, called the nurse, and stepped outside lest my coworkers call security.  The nurse put me through immediately to the counselor who knew I had been struggling with depression since this latest heart "event".  She basically gave me a telephone therapy session and recommended an intense outpatient mental health program that began the next day.  At that moment, with me standing on the loading dock in the rain, she made all the sense in the world to me.  I arranged the leave with HR and was ready to go.

The next day I reported to the mental health facility and immediately copped an attitude.  You see, I had some time to think, to cry it out, get a good night's sleep -- to come to my senses so to speak.  Plus, I wasn't about to admit to these people that I had gotten to a point that I couldn't cope.  Yep, Strong Black Woman came back with a vengeance.  An hour in and I was ready to go home and catch The View.  Until the nurse called me back to do an official intake.

It all came pouring out.  I described everything I had been feeling or not feeling since I had been in the hospital for this ICD implant.  For the first time in a long time, I admitted how socially withdrawn I had been.  It's very easy for an introvert to excuse the lack of social activities with "I'm an introvert".  Truth of the matter was, I was scared.  I was scared of getting overly excited and having the ICD shock me out of some strange rhythm my heart could possibly go into.  For the first time in a long time, I admitted to another human being how hopeless I felt.   There was not a day that went by that I didn't wonder why I wasn't enjoying myself to the max as I "only had a few months to live". What was the point of depriving myself of french fries, coconut chocolate chip cookies, potato chips and real cheese (not that 2% stuff)?  What was the point of going to this job I was less than happy with to pay for a house I no longer wanted in order to present an image that I no longer cared about to the world?   What was the point of all this exercising to improve a heart that was failing anyway and that would never be fixed?  What was the point?

I was going through the motions but that question lingered.  Right there at the edge of my consciousness ... where I didn't really acknowledge its existence but it was there aggravating me -- like a gnat I couldn't swat away no matter how many times I saw it out the corner of  my eye.  Long story short, I was diagnosed with a major depressive episode.  I was in the outpatient program for about 2 1/2 weeks - EVERY DANG DAY.  

I found out through my cardiac rehab educational series, depression is very, very common with cardiac patients (yeah we don't have enough to deal with - that's sarcasm).  From what I can gather, many in the medical profession refer to it as The Cardiac Blues -- that's how common it is.  It would have been nice if I had that class earlier in the program, but I came in mid-course and it just had not cycled around yet.  It was very hard to admit I had - gasp - "a mental disorder".   I don't care how progressive we think we are, you say the words mental illness, and people still pull away from you.  My mom, bless her heart, just asked me a couple of questions then started talking about the weather.  Denial be thy name but I love her anyway.   My daughter, told me she knew something was wrong but I always told her I was okay.  She was so relieved when I told her I was getting help.  I truly had no idea she had been that concerned about me.  Anyway, I feel a thousand percent better.  I'm still going to therapy and the doctors have added another pill to my arsenal.

As far as the answer to my question?  Thanks to the excellent medical care and education I've received, I have a much brighter outlook.  I'm still sick but my viewpoint is not clouded by the darkness of depression.  I'll share some of the symptoms I experienced and how they impacted my rehabilitation later.  For now, I'm content with knowing that the points are numerous:  my daughter, my granddaughter, my brothers, my mom, and the young woman who reached out to me because she's now battling heart failure.   

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