Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Various Shades of Depression

Mel's introduction to the topic of depression...

"Various shades of depression are often par for the course with cancer, and can affect patients as well as close family members both directly and indirectly. There are various types and degrees of clinical depression, each requiring individual evaluation and appropriate treatment. Depression can also be an understandable and realistic reaction to cancer, and to other of life's more morbid events and developments. Such so-called "reactive depressions" with known triggering events, should be distinguished from major and recurrent mood disorders with organic, metabolic, or unknown causes.

Antidepressant medications, properly prescribed and monitored, can alleviate symptoms and prevent suicides. Like antibiotics, however, psychiatric medications can be overly-prescribed as a convenient and impersonal way to avoid delving into intimate emotional problems. In today's medical market place, the easiest and cheapest way to treat mood disorders, whether or not they have a manifest situational cause, is to prescribe a pill. For busy doctors, prescribing pills seems less intrusive than probing into personal matters. Quick prescriptions for common medications are white-coat polite, and seemingly more cost-efficient and "scientific" than psychotherapies and counseling. Unlike prolonged psychotherapy, a prescription pad implies that we are quite sure we know what we are doing.

Because depressive symptoms are so frequently encountered among GIST patients, many of whom already take other pills besides Gleevec, adding yet another long-term medication may simply increase untoward side effects while the patient waits in vain for a therapeutic response. The following "vent" by Tom Overley is both a rational and emotional objection by a serious and thoughtful GIST patient to contemporary and cumulative medical temptations toward pill-slinging, much abetted, may we add, by pharmaceutical marketing practices including widespread, direct advertising campaigns to the lay public. GISTmate Tom is no slouch... He is a song-writer, poet, guitarist, a man of faith, a helpful humorist on the List, and a practicing attorney. He writes compassionately in response to a fellow GIST patient.

Thomas Overley May 8, 2005
Tom Overley and depression

This is going to be a very controversial post...but I am no stranger to swimming with out a life jacket...Here's my two cents...and sometimes two cents is worth exactly that... I have never been a believer in antidepressants...oh, depression is real. We all know that. Scientists tell us that when a person is depressed, their body chemistry changes. Well, sure, I will go along with that. However, I think that when a person first gets depressed, they have a good reason...Five years ago I got in a terrible argument with a nurse at the hospital who started me on an antidepressant...She said, "You have cancer, you're gonna need these." I told her "BULL, I have cancer, I have every right to be depressed."

Cindy, if you have read any of my poetry or my posts over the years, you know that I too, sit on the pity pot once in a while. But I know that I can only stay there for so long because someone else needs to use it. None of us are strangers to life's disappointments. But then, that is life. I think that the secret to having your "ship come in" is to be the captain of it and take your life where you want to go. Are there things out there that we cannot control? Sure. Are there more things that we can control? You bet.

Cindy, are there things out there that you have always wanted to do but were too afraid of failure to try? People you wanted to meet, places to go? Crafts to try? Professions to conquer? People to help? Children to love? Games to play? Research to do? People to love?

Sometimes when we get depressed, we forget about the beauty of life...the people who love us, the excitement of love, learning, exploring ...and we withdraw into our little shell..and our body chemistry changes. We don't feel loved and we don't love. Sometimes we are so out of it and internalized the we don't even realize that the person who we think loves us doesn't. We become incapable of even feeling joy in a natural state.

I always feared that I would lose the wonder of life if I went down the antidepressant road. I remember telling that nurse that I would take the "lows" of life if I could continue to experience the "highs". I didn't want to take the middle road..."gimme the highs, the lows and everything in between." Like swimming without a lifejacket, I can swim faster, swim to the bottom and feel more in tune with Mother Nature...but the security blanket is gone and fear can creep in. It can also be dangerous. For me, well I have always enjoyed a little danger in my life (yet this darn GIST is much too much danger for my liking).

My point in all of this is to encourage you not to give up any of your dreams .... but feel the urgency of the need to go after those dreams. As cancer patients, we have a gift that few others realize and that gift is the present. Don't squander it on a life of regrets. We all have those. Forget it. Try not to make any more ... If your goal was to swim the English Channel, find a way to make it happen. People will think you're nuts, but wouldn't you rather have them think that and envy your "zest" for life than to say..."poor dear...she was devastated with cancer and just wasted away." No thanks. Life is just too precious to let a moment slip. (Perhaps you have noticed that I post less and less in the last year.) My excuse is that "Life gets in the way." What a beautiful thing to happen.

Cindy, take the antidepressants if you must, but let life get in the way again.
Swim the channel, hike the canyon, build a house, bake cookies, take a meal to a shut-in, weave a rug, spin a bowl or do whatever your heart tells you to do... for it is in that place where you follow your heart that you will change the chemistry of your body and lose the blues.

You may know that this lawyer has coached a basketball team, built a Harley Davidson from scratch and rode with a biker group (lol), toured the Harley Davidson factory in Milwaukee, water skied on a man made lake without a boat, snow skied the rocky mountains, written poetry and music and now built a guitar (something that I wanted to do since 8th grade) all since being diagnosed with cancer .... all things that I had never done. I work a full week .... although not as long as I did BC (before cancer) and raise three teenage girls on my own. Am I nuts??? sure...but happily nuts in Toledo, Ohio, USA.

We are cancer patients. People watch us in wonder and sometimes they wonder why we are so very happy when we have such a dreadful disease... Let them covet our fighting spirit. May you be blessed in your quest for peace.
Tom O.

PS. I know that I may take some bashing for this position. Recall that I am not a doctor and I don't play one of TV. The views that I express are mine only and not those of the LRG, its officers, board members or ACOR. They are not given to replace those of a medical doctor ... as with all therapies, one should consult with their doctor prior to taking a dose of Tom O. My friend, you have seen the dangers from the precipice of life and you know that peaks and valleys. Don't waste your life feeling sorry for the things you will not do in your life. Don't spend another minute mindlessly watching tv. Call a friend. Run a marathon. Hook a fish. Enjoy all that life has to offer. What do you have to lose? And if you should forget to take your anti-depressant pills along with you on this journey, you might just find that you don't need them. (Caveat: don't forget to take the little orange tabs or capsules...they are a necessary ingredient.)



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