What’s wrong

I’m so frightened. I can’t keep crying like this.

What’s wrong with me? I don’t feel depressed, but I cry all the time. Am I going to revert to those horrible years in my 20s when depression left me immobilized?

I had told a close friend about this fear, and she shared my email with her husband, who is a psychiatrist. He had worked with brain trauma patients in the past, and he’s also just a smart and sensible doc.

Paul wrote,
Your prognosis is really excellent – but long term prognosis and short/intermediate recovery are two way different things.  It can be terribly discouraging for folks who are in recovery to find simple things that used to be easy, and they’d take for granted, suddenly are hard.
Sometimes we even see folks develop some depressive symptoms and put them on meds for a bit to help with that – yes, there is the psychological component but there also is a part of it that seems to relate to the brain responding to being manhandled with a resulting set of symptoms that look like depression but that also respond to antidepressants.
The brain is complicated.  I mean, really complicated and works at the molecular level.  When you shake it around or mess with it in any fashion, it takes time to reestablish baseline.
As frustrating and difficult as this is, the good news is that in months (be patient young grasshopper, MONTHS not days) this is going to be a LOT better.  Neurons reconnect, regenerate, recover but do so slowly.  Brain cells are obstinate that way.  You are going to be in a much better place by next Christmas.  In the meantime, try to find a pace that is doable, be kind to yourself when it’s harder than it should be, and know this too shall pass.
When I read this email, I had a tremendous sense of relief.

“Hey!” I told Ann, and read it to her.

She was relieved, too. Anyone who knew me in those dark times of depression doesn’t want to see me go back there, ever.

It makes so much sense, when I think about it. My brain got attacked, twice – once with the aneurysm and once by the surgeons – and they were mixing it up in there. Then came drugs, constant stimulation with no more than three hours of sleep at a time, pain … It’s like I was tortured.

I’m not crazy about the idea of anti-depressants. I took Prozac once, 24 years ago and it made me really anxious and gave me heart palpitations.

I’ve been afraid ever since that any antidepressant would just make me crazier – or that if it fixed me, the side effects would be too horrible.

The good thing is that this reaction is part of why I then took the path of finding other, lifestyle ways to cope with depression – less drinking, more exercise, anger management, and consciously working on changing my thought pathways.

Another major coping skill has been to keep myself busy, probably typical overcompensation of being too busy. Sometimes that makes me feel overwhelmed, but at least maybe I’ve done some good in the world in the meantime.

Having been depressed, I knew that this crying and anxiety was different. But after hearing from Paul, knowing that I’m NOT actually factually depressed – that it’s just my chemicals being in a soup – makes me feel better.