(“Devil’s Punchbowl” – Central Oregon Coast)
Sometimes, horrible experiences cause haunting memories which can become fuel for the uncontrollable fire of clinical depression. My depression escalated when the anti-depressant medications I was trying was making me constipated. This topic is a “butt” of many jokes, but it was a extremely concerning and very frightening matter to me. I will admit that because of my depression I did blow things up out of proportion. But, all I could see was my mom and how agonizingly painful it was for her to have a bowel movement. I remembered my mom hanging from a Hoyer lift, with a commode bucket underneath her and my sister by her side, trying to help her. I thought I was going to become like my mother in that way and that scared me to death. One morning, my sister came down to see me and I pleaded for her to help me. I said I couldn’t go on like this. She took me to the Crisis Intervention Center, in Florence. It was a Saturday, so they couldn’t really help me other than make an appointment for me to see a psychiatric nurse on Wednesday.. I wanted help NOW. I needed help NOW. Waiting four days seemed like an eternity to me.
I saw the psychiatric nurse several times and she had me try new anti-depressant medications, but nothing was working. My sister tried to help me by taking me on walks, in my wheelchair, with her dog, on the bike path. I would see happy people riding their bikes and enjoying the sunny warm weather, smiling and saying “hello” as they passed by. I looked at them and I wondered if I would ever be that happy again. I was thinking the same thing Jeremiah asked in Lamentations 3:17b: “I have forgotten what happiness is.” I felt as though I was in a tunnel, with the sound muffled, looking out from the deep darkness within. It’s hard to explain what severe depression is like to someone who has never been to that very dark place. In Carol Kivler’s book, “Will I Ever Be the Same?” [pp. 92-93] she speaks from experience and describes her clinical depression this way:
“I don’t want to feel like this, I am powerless.”
“I feel like I’m living in some parallel universe where I can see everything, but feel nothing.”
“I want to get excited to be with everyone, but there is a ‘disconnect’ I can’t explain.”
“I don’t even know who I am anymore.”
“I want you to hold me, and I want you to go away.”
“I know I’m not easy to be around but, you have no idea how much I need you.”
These statements are exactly how I felt when I was clinically depressed. It came to the point where I didn’t know what to do anymore. I went to the church elders and they anointed me with oil and prayed for me. My friends the Dowlings and the Andersons and the Winnicks prayed for me, as well as other friends from church. But, I felt no relief. I wanted the pain to go away and I felt my family and friends would be better off without me. I became suicidal and my sister was afraid of what I might do and had no other choice but to have me check into the hospital.
I was hospitalized three times. During those times, I met some amazing people. All the nurses sincerely cared about me and were encouraging to me. They went out of their way to help me with my personal needs. The nurses and other staff saw glimpses of the “real Lydia” and told me that I was a wonderful person and admired my independent spirit and how I did things for myself. How did these people see me in such a positive way when it seemed like all I was doing was having anxiety attacks? I think it was a “God-thing.” God enabled them to see the person hidden deep inside me; the person God made me to be. During the first hospital stay, a staff member led trivia games in the evening, which brought out my competitive juices and helped me use my intellect. The staff member called me “the professor” and would say to my team, “You better go with the PhD’s answer if you want to win.” Even though it was difficult to stay focused and read, I did have my Bible with me. I was reading the Book of Ephesians for days and could not get passed chapter two. One day, I had a very interesting conversation with a male nurse, who was a Jehovah Witness. He asked me what I was reading. I told him I was reading about God’s grace and pointed to Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by GRACE you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” He said this concept of “GRACE” was very fascinating and he never heard about it before. God showed me that there was a reason why I was reading Ephesians chapter two for about the fifth time. During my second hospitalization, the medication nurse came into my room to check on me and saw my Bible. She asked me what I thought the meaning of life was: “Why are we here on earth?” I said, “We are here to love God and help each other” and I thanked her for helping me. She said, “I think you’re right” and “You’re very welcome.”
During my two stays at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, two doctors were instrumental in my recovery from clinical depression. Dr. Beth Warner [daughter of Mark and Janine Domina, people I knew from church] is a gerontologist who helped me regulate my bowels with medication and diet. Dr. Warner took my concerns and fears seriously and would come to see me almost everyday. She validated my concerns about being in a wheelchair and my fear that I might not make it to the restroom in time when I was at church or anywhere outside of my home. The second doctor was Dr. Zamir Nestilbaum who prescribed the sleeping and anti-depressant medications and told me about Electroconvulsive Therapy [ECT], commonly known as “shock therapy,” which is nothing like what is seen in horror movies.
When I had to return to Cooley Dickinson Hospital a second time, I felt like a failure more than ever before and utterly hopeless. I kept saying over and over again, “I can’t believe I’m back here again! I can’t believe I’m back here again!” During a meeting with Dr, Nestilbaum, the social worker, my oldest nephew Luke and me, Dr. Nestilbaum explained that ECT was done for people who did not respond to anti-depressant medications. He told me to think of myself as a computer that “crashed” and I needed to be “re-booted.” He also told me that he used to perform ECT at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, but doesn’t anymore. He said he had a high success rate. He told me this procedure is done in hospitals in Holyoke, Worchester and Boston, and that he could call them to see if any of them had an opening for me. After being encouraged by my nephew Luke, I agreed to check out ECT.
(“Selfie” of Luke and me at Sylvester’s for 32nd Birthday! Notice the uncanny resemblance!)
The reason why my sister Jane asked her eldest son Luke [29-years-old at the time] to be my advocate was she was overwhelmed with what I was happening to me, her oldest sister who was always there for her. She had just finished an emotionally and physically draining ten years, only two years prior, taking care of our parents. I understood that she was afraid of losing me and didn’t know what to do or how to help me. It was very important for her being a caretakers to take needed time away and take care of herself and rest and regroup. Every caregiver needs to take care of themselves, in order to be able to care for others. My nephew Luke and I have a special bond. Luke has fought “demons” of his own. He was struck by a drunk driver, at the age of fourteen, and almost lost his life. Luke deals with pain everyday. He knows what it’s like to struggle with physical and emotional pain. That is why Luke was an excellent advocate for me. We grew even closer during this time. Some say we are “two peas in a pod.”
After the meeting, Dr Nestilbaum made phone calls to the hospitals in the three cities which offered ECT. I now had to wait for an opening.
To be continued…
In His Grip and For His Glory,