Thursday, November 11, 2004

Here is a screenshot of my Linux desktop in action. As you can see, I have Mac Envy issues

(Sheri says I escape into the computer. This is just a little diversion from the trials of real life..)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

My cousin Denise died last week. I haven't had much to say lately. She was fighting multiple illnesses coupled with a severe bout of depression. I wrote the following article back in 2001, but it seems appropriate to repost it today:

Finding Elise

Six months ago a good friend of my wife and I called up. “My boyfriend left”, she said, “I really love this guy. I don’t know how I’m going to get over this.” My first reaction was to reassure her that in a few days everything would feel better, to go shopping, have a warm bath and a glass of wine. I assumed that she would get over it in a few days, would forget about him and everything would be normal soon.

I didn’t realize just how wrong I was. A few days later we had plans with her to go to a meeting at the coop we live in. We were supposed to pick her up at seven. She had told my wife to come in and make sure she was awake because she was going to go to sleep and wasn’t sure she’d be up. When we got there there was no answer at the door. We tried the door and it was locked, but luckily we had a spare key. I went in to wake her up and found her on the couch. “You weren’t supposed to find me yet Matt, go away.” I noticed a few pieces of paper and picked them up. They were suicide notes. One addressed to me, one to her children. Then I noticed the empty pill bottles. I made a quick call for an ambulance.

The ambulance came and took her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with depression. We spent a lot of time wondering why she would let a breakup get her down like this. Wondering what was so bad in her life. She seems to have everything; a nice house and great kids. But like many things in life, it isn’t as simple as that. She was seriously ill. My friend has clinical depression.

Depression is a disease. A horrible disease that leaves you feeling so low that it doesn’t matter how good your life looks, you feel horrible. Everything is bad to you and you feel like it will never get better. You can’t just snap out of it and start trying to look at things through rose-colored glasses. You just can’t quit feeling sorry for yourself. It is an illness. A life shattering illness that affects you, your family, and everyone who knows you. It has nothing to do with anything you did wrong or didn’t do right. It has to do with a chemical imbalance in your brain.
Over the next few months we answered a lot of phone calls with her crying on the other end of the line, made late night visits to try and bring her spirits up, watched her spiral down and down and down, further than we ever imagined at the start. She lost job after job. Missed seeing her kids because she was in hospital. Dated a few real losers that only made things worse. Really ran up her credit cards by using shopping as a coping mechanism. Worried her neighbors, and terrified her family.

The doctors prescribed her medication. But after several different varieties and strange reactions from the medication, she realized that she was still unhappy. There are a variety of medications out there that are used for depression and it took a few attempts to find the right ones for her. But that still didn’t fix everything. What the makers of depression drugs don’t tell you is that when you’re on these drugs you level out. In other words, you’re not sad anymore, but you’re never happy either. You’re just there. Kind of floating around in your own personal purgatory. It doesn’t really make things good, just not as bad.
On top of drugs, it’s important to learn new coping techniques. You can’t just go on the medication and expect everything will just be rosy. Your problems will still be there. If your previous way of dealing with them was to drink two bottles of baby duck and go to bed, well that won’t work anymore because you’re not supposed to drink on the medication.

Counseling is very important too. As far as I can tell it’s not so much for dealing with things you haven’t resolved but just having someone to help you deal with things and learn new coping strategies.

I went to see her the other day. “I’m doing better now,” she said. “But it’s not easy. There isn’t a day I wake up that I don’t feel sad. But it’s getting better.” She pauses for a moment and looks down at her glass of iced tea. “I’m getting better.”

- originally published August 29, 2001, St. Catharines Standard