Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Transplant and Depression: Life on the Dark Side

There is a television commercial that starts something like this, "What does depression look like...?"; it continues with sad pictures and images of people lying around with dark circles under their eyes, all the while promoting the merits of a particular antidepressant.

For more than two years now, I would argue that depression looks like me... me living life on "the Dark Side." I'd taken antidepressants on and off for years prior to receiving the news that I needed a transplant; the on-and-off nature of my medicine consumption occurred because when the antidepressants worked, I'd decide that I no longer needed them until a few months (or sometimes years) would pass, I would become depressed again and resume taking them. The transplant diagnosis made me pretty upset (absolutely freaked out, to be honest) and as I became sicker and more worried about the surgery, I became more depressed. So my internist increased my antidepressant, telling me that many or most transplant patients take antidepressants because of the emotional impact of the surgery and recovery.

Six or seven months after my difficult and complicated transplant, I was again depressed, due to seemingly endless health issues, financial problems, inability to be Super Mom (or even Average Mom). The load was taking its toll and I couldn't seem to snap out of the blues. Both my local internist and my hepatologist at the transplant center urged action, so my antidepressant dosage was increased again.

And so for the next 15 to 18 months I dragged along. Whenever my energy level improved I'd feel better, more positive - but then one of the seemingly never-ending "hiccups" would occur, I wouldn't feel so well and then I would become frustrated and depressed once again. It sucked. I stayed home, rarely wore makeup, napped often, grumped "Why don't I feel better?" and fruitlessly tried to exert control over an uncontrollable situation. Yes, depression looked like me.

My internist was concerned. I was taking about as much of my antidepressant as was reasonable, so she recommended cutting back on it and adding a second one to balance out my moods and hopefully help boost my energy and sense of well-being. At that time, however, I was experiencing increases in some of my liver function lab tests - not a good sign. I thought it would be best to delay adjusting any meds until the labs/liver function matters were sorted out, so I bided time by wringing my hands and worrying about my new liver. Finally, after six weeks or so, the labs stabilized and I could consider starting the new antidepressant.

And then came the intervention.

I'll tell you about that on my next post.


Nancy said...

hmmmmmmmmmm, well, you have me waiting for your next post!

I am sorry to hear about your experiencing such depression. A lot of my friends with cirrhosis in my support group have had to deal with that.

Cirrhosis is such a tough disease to deal with, add transplant and it's a wonder we all aren't crazy!

Don't leave us hanging!

Your friend on the other side,


Thanx for stopping by and I look forward to reading your posts. I am getting ready to leave the house for the day.
My youngest daughter recites this commercial verbatim when it comes on T.V. I have really been fortunate in this area. I get overwhelmed from time to time, but so far I haven't had any serious bouts with the big "D". I am afraid of going there so I think I really try not to think about things too much. I go through awful crying episodes when I get sick. And I sob and sob that I don't want this to happen. But when the bouts of being sick leave I go back to being normal.
I am glad that you have a new liver. I am real sick today and have been since Friday night. I hate these days because they always last for 3 days.
I agree with you on learning everything there is to learn. It's nice to add all these things to my page and have the resources right there at a click of the button. Transplant Headquarters offers a lot information.
Well Jay, thanks so much again and I will stop by later.

Anonymous said...

I am post liver transplant now over 3 years. I am very greatful to be alive and to the donor family who wanted to share their love ones organs. I did reply to the family, however I never got a response. I have been in this stay at home, care about nothing, not caring what I look like or my home ever since. I cry several days a week, sleep much of my days away. I have been to therapy (2) different places and their answer is more drugs. I take enough medications. I really have no support from my husband and we have done NO outside activities from the house since my surgery. I feel as though another person would have made more from their new life if they had gotten this liver. Yesterday, I slept at least 18-20 hours. Today its so far been the crying, is there any way to get out of this? At times I think this surgery ruined my life, but without it, I would not be here writing to you. I feel my transplant nurse and team just feel I am crazy. Maybe they are right? Wishing so bad to celebrate my new extentionon life and I do not know how. Stuck in Ohio.

Jay said...

An update from blog author, July 14, 2011:

My frustration with depression continues today, but to a far less intense degree than before. I wish I had access to a support/discussion group, because I'd like to be able to talk about my worries and fears with others who are walking in ny shoes.

There has been yet another "wrinkle" in my liver/transplant experience - please watch for posts that describe where I am and how I'm hoping to cope.