Saturday, August 27, 2011

Notes from the Inside

A quick update for those who have been following my attempts at finding cohesive treatment as my computer time is limited (for reasons which will be revealed):

After failed attempts to gain admission to the New York ECT program (I must say, I wouldn't have minded some in situ Hurricane Irene action), I have been interred (oops, wrong word), I mean, I have chosen to place myself once again in the research hospital in Pittsburgh where I spent several weeks a few years ago. I apologize in advance for my irony; a defense mechanism, surely, as I am merely exhausted and frayed by the three week process of trying to find some comparable therapeutic program to that I was receiving under my now vanished psychiatrist Dr. B.

Initially, I was told the Pittsburgh program had a waiting list weeks long; as a result of circumstances, I waited weeks. Breathable depression skidded into its black chokehold. My therapist up at the Partial Program wrung her hands, at a loss as what else she could do except to suggest that maybe the time had come for me to try to circumvent the waiting list and simply "present" at the Pittsburgh hospital's ER.

"After all," she said, in genuine concern, "I'm worried you really are at that crisis point now."

Once again, I had to climb into my big bed with my kids and explain to them that Momma had to go to a hospital in Pittsburgh for a few weeks because the doctor who had been doing her procedures up in Erie was no longer working at that hospital. I pulled Sophia and Alexander close to me, holding them as tight as possible because I could see their eyes widening, realizing that their hold on me at home was tentative once again.

"I'm so sorry," I whispered. "You know I would stay here at home with you if I could. But you also know how bad Momma has been feeling these past few weeks?"

Sophia stroked my hand. "Yeah," she said. "Like when you and Daddy are on the couch talking serious and then you start yelling and crying."

"Mommy's just having a hard time feeling like her inside feelings are okay these days. I'm tired of being sad and mad for no reason," I said, "because you are the two best reasons I have to always be happy."

Alexander, solemn and thoughtful, sighed. "Who will take me to my first day of Kindergarten?"

His first day of real school with the Harry Potter lunchbox we picked out together. "A BIG BOY lunchbox," he'd demanded.

And then Sophia, in tandem, realized, too: "That means you'll miss my first day of Fourth grade?" Sadness, but more--fear and loss. All summer long, she'd been hyping up the transition to Fourth grade--worries over friends, water bottles, hair styles, eyebrow thickness, wanting to get "perfect" grades in "every" class because she intended to study hard "every" night. And she wanted me with her, still holding her hand--not too grown up yet for that.

But then Sophia hugged me harder, and said, "Don't worry, Momma. We love you always, even when you're sad and mad. You're the best Momma ever."

Whew. How's that for suicidal antidote?

So, last Sunday, Christopher and the kids dropped me off at the pearly gates of the Pittsburgh Hospital--they couldn't come in. I didn't want them to come in--the kids didn't need to hang around a psych hospital admission intake waiting room for hours upon hours, watching me pace, wring my hands, grind my teeth, prevaricate, minimize, and attempt to be honest about where I am, body and mind.

To make a long afternoon's story short, no beds in the general psych floor, BUT, according to the staffs' evaluation (and based upon my previous admission history there), I was well-qualified for the Eating Disorders Unit again. I was assured that my ECT treatment would still be considered top priority, though. After all, the ECT team there already had all my records waiting, as those self-same records had been waiting on the official Outpatient Waiting List for the past three weeks.

Seven days under my belt. This past Friday was my first ECT treatment in the grand corridors of this ECT research facility. Very different from my experience with Dr. B.. He was not there to offer any words of comfort, anything to soothe anxiety; he was not there to reach out and, literally, hold my hand as anesthesia began to take its effects. A different ER psychiatrist for each day of the week; assembly line process: a line of patients packed, sardine-like, on gurneys, wheeled, one after another, into the ER, then wheeled back out, one after another, into recovery.

I woke up with complete and utter memory loss. Bewildering and frightening at first. Of course, I've had some minimal, occasional memory loss associated with previous ECT sessions, but nothing so pervasive, nothing that lasted for hours upon hours. I truly had no recollection of where I was or why I was there. Indeed, in retrospect, while that aspect was frightening, what I also felt was a complete absence of an inscribed self.

What do I mean by this? A blank self. A self that has not yet been written on by decades of depression, no shameful, guilt-fueled suicidal impulses or attempts, by the ravages of an eating disorder, by the grapevine of scars on her arms (or at least, no memory of how they got there), no traumatic abuse history at the hands of a former boyfriend. Nothing. Nada. Relief.

Now, two days later, as you might probably guess, I'm racing a bit from the immediate and temporary manic uptick ECT can bestow. But I also realize, that with that complete absence of the inscribed self, I lose the hieroglyphs that matter, too: the past that gives substance and meaning. And I miss the story that I am writing now with my husband and my children.

As the ECT treatments progress over the next few weeks, the memory loss should wax and wane, always, for the most part, temporary, as Friday's was: I woke from my very deep, post-ECT sleep, and my Life came rushing back. What ECT promises in the long run, is not erasure or negation of the DEPRESSED SELF. I'm not seeking do-over, just a do-better. Though, as Sophia reminded me as she kissed me goodbye before leaving me at the hospital, "You are always the best Momma, no matter what."

--typed, hastily from "the inside"