Being Not Lost

Today we went into Boston for another visit with the doctor who helps me with meds for depression. My appointment was at 9:00 am, and so we were in the midst of the early morning commuter traffic. It took just under 90 minutes to drive the 33 miles from home. Once again, I was grateful that Rick calmly drives through all of that traffic, and as grateful that we have turn by turn navigation to direct us door to door. I never realized how much we would use this option in a vehicle, but it seems we have so many appointments in the city that I can’t imagine not having it.

It’s really too early to tell whether the adjustment we made in the meds a week ago has had a positive effect. I was able to tell the doctor that I haven’t noticed an increase in my hand tremors, which was a side effect I’d experienced when last I was on this dose, before we decreased it. Whether the new dosage will be enough to lift my mood out of the current morass will take at least a month or so to determine. I’ll see the doctor again in a few weeks, to try to stay on top of the depression.

It’s hard for me to explain why I sought a med change. I want to think that I can just ‘get tough when the going gets rough,’ but sometimes it is just too difficult. Let me try to figure out here what it is that depresses me:

  • The six o’clock news is very hard to follow at times. The anchors jump from subject to subject, and intersperse their stories with headlines that will be covered in a later broadcast, and then jump back to the story they were covering in a previous broadcast to give updates on ‘breaking’ situations. It is all negative … our soldiers being killed by those we armed and trained to protect their own … teenagers being shot by relatives who had no intent to shoot them … people being stabbed, mugged, raped … cars going into bodies of water and spectators jumping in to save the driver …  and each of these stories ends quickly to be followed by sports broadcasts that tell why the referees were on strike, or why the coaches are being fined, or why the players just didn’t measure up to the pundits expectations … and then the weathermen come on to give what could only be described as a remedial, redundant forecast, repeating over and over, with visual aids that change far to rapidly and repeat, repeat, repeat…
  • Finances have been trying this summer, with increased gas and food prices competing with increased frequency of doctors appointments, lab work, and therapy for both of us. The decision to apply for social security now rather than to wait four more years for the higher amount will ease our present difficulties. But a fixed income is a fixed income, and choosing to work with a little more now rather than more later was a difficult choice. I feel guilty for having left my career early, and the sadness that accompanies that guilt is heavy … I failed to meet a goal that I had set thirty-five years ago … a goal that required my prioritizing educational expenses … time and money taken away from my husband and children to build my credibility and skills in the classrooms. Rick and I thought very carefully in the mid-seventies … we together decided to  invest in my education, and once I had that career underway, I continued to work and climb the salary scale, and made it to the very top for classroom teachers. We replaced our vehicle with an eye toward paying off the loan while I was working full time. We intended to pay down the mortgage with extra principal payments while I was working full time. Even when I was diagnosed with MS, we decided together that we would handle the ugly nightly injection routine because it would allow me to reach my goal of a thirty two year career and maximum pension. But I failed to believe in the medication, and the anxiety it evoked built the depression, which eventually took me out of the classroom two years too early. And here we are.
  • After thirty years in the classrooms of public schools, being surrounded every day by adults and students who were active, bright, engaging and challenging, who had a schedule in place and followed it consistently, who responsibly met the requirements of parents and the public, I suddenly have nowhere I have to be, and no one who needs something from me. We brought up our children to be independent, and they are. We had to prioritize our parents’ elder care during their crises, and could not have made other decisions. We don’t look back with regret. But we do look back, and wonder how it could have been done differently. We wonder what we might have done differently, without doing less.
  • I guess those are the three big ones that contribute to my depression. My health isn’t on that scoresheet. I have shoved the diagnosis of MS right off the table, and consider it only a bad part of my life now behind me, irrelevant and surreal. And now the malignant melanoma that I am ‘lucky to have caught early with surgery’ sits front and center on our calendar. The next round of dermatology visits starts later this week. The first round consumed the entire summer. I fear what this round will entail. The scars are not just physical. I fear what it will cost us, financially and emotionally. I fear what it will take physically as well.

I haven’t given in to the depression … that’s not what I’m doing by asking for help with medication adjustments. I am trying to be pro-active, to defeat the defeatism before it again defeats me.

If  you’re reading this, and you know me, then you might realize how much I need to know that you understand what I am dealing with. I’m a writer. I tend to ‘think in ink’ because by organizing things into written paragraphs, I can find some structure, and some weaknesses, and once finding those, I can use the structure to combat the weaknesses. That’s really what I’m doing here in this blog.

And if you’re reading this and don’t know me, but have arrived at this page via a search engine finding posts on MS, Depression or Melanoma, please use whatever information you’ve gained here to find compassion for those you do know. If you’re dealing with these issues, find compassion for yourself. Be gentle … be patient … be kind … but most important … be aware.

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  1. Rita

    Who would have thought this summer when we were sitting across the table from each other. You came across so strong and I would have never guessed that you were dealing with depression along with the other things you so strongly carry on your shoulders. I will e-mail you directly if you give me an e-mail address. I find that talking about where we are and where we need to go is theraputic for us all. I can express myself so much more easily in written form and maybe something you say to me or something I say to you will be the catalyst toward healing.
    Love Rita

    • Thanks, Rita. You know that Rick is the substantial foundation of my strength. Thanks for reading here and for commenting. I will be in touch soon.

  2. Faye

    Hi Terry! Just found this today.

    It’s sad to read your struggles. This is the first I have seen you show show you inner self! I realize that is not your point in this blog, but i ache to see you in a familiar predicament. I find it comforting also because I feel in my soul that only an MS’er can truly understand the space we are sitting in. I sit in your seat, only much more fortunate that it is not cancerous. Your description of depression is on the mark. My meds have also been changed. In two weeks my journey to Cleveland Clinic returns for a stay and I will be thinking of you in Boston. Smooches dear Terry😗! You are always in my evening prayers!!

  3. Faye, I will be thinking of you in Cleveland Clinic, and wishes the best possible outcomes. Your humor and your faith offer so much to others. Bless you!

  4. Terry, Thank you for writing this. I stumbled upon your blog via a blog, via a blog, via some feed on my facebook… my memory is horrible, but you get the idea. The long and the short of it – I am very thankful that I did.
    I do not have MS, nor do I have cancer. But I do know what it means to be very, very sick. I was on a path similar to yours…career, seven daughters (all gone but two), marathon runner, artist…life planned, and very full. In 2009, after running the Twin Cities Marathon I got sick and never got well. I spent almost all of the rest of 2009 and 2010 in the hospital fighting for my life and after two years finally received the diagnosis of Lupus, Sjogrens, Ankylosing Spondylitis and RA. I have major organ involvement along with both peripheral and central nervous system involvement. My life changed in an instant. Completely disabled at 44 – now 46. I take 33 pills a day, one injection a week and IV infusions. Three different chemo’s to fight an immune system that is fighting me.
    This wasn’t at all in the plans.
    I’ve come a long way in the past almost four years now. From crazy fear to maybe just crazy, I guess. I have found a new peace with where I am at – no longer struggling for why or how to fix me – more…hello me, I guess.
    I work very hard every day not to fall into depression. It’s funny how that works against you though. Being successful at not “looking sick” puts one in a very empty room at times. Yet, my family has been through so much with this illness – do I really want them in the room with me? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
    I don’t really know what people think of me anymore. Partly because of how isolated I have become due to being sick and partly because I don’t care to listen. My immediate family – husband, kids and their families, my parents – they all get it. I could not ask for better caretakers and loved ones. The rest…well, they may be talking out there…somewhere…but I’m not around to listen. My world is much smaller these days – but I’m not really up to much else so for the time being, that’s just fine with me.
    I think out of all that you said – what most resonated with me was your opening point about the news. So much to say in that regard, so much to say. I have found that I can only manage the news about once or twice a week. Physically – it’s absolutely overwhelming to my senses. It’s chaotic, it’s loud, it’s sensationalized drama at the expense of real living human beings. The nonchalant manner in which absolutely heartbreaking stories are flitted around like the latest deal at a used car lot leaves me painfully aching. I can’t let it go.
    This is what this life does. It makes everything real. A perspective I am both thankful for and saddened by. It is a perspective I would not give away for the world.
    And today – I am thankful for finding you. Even if for just this one post, I am thankful. Not by any means that you are sick, but for the knowing that there are others out there on the journey that “get it”. That I “get it” That we “get it” together – and that feels good. Across the World Wide Web – somewhere – there is someone who knows.

    Peace to you Terry. Peace as you struggle and live to keep your head about good water. Thank you for happening into my day.

    Theresa Johnson

    • Hello Theresa,
      Welcome welcome into my world … yes, we are clearly kindred spirits and yes, it is important to find others who, like ourselves, ‘get it.’ I’ll be visiting your site as well. Thank you for sharing your story here, where others like yourself, and like me, may find it and take comfort in finding us here, in Not Lost. Hmm … maybe a new book setting.
      Be well, and be blessed, Theresa.

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