Tag Archives: Depression

The First Step

I finally made an appointment to see someone about my mind-numbing exhaustion and what seems to be my endless weight-gain (but I really don’t know about that last part since I refuse to step on our scale for fear the sight of the resulting combination of numbers will send me back to my bed clutching a handful of tissues).

Random note: scheduling an appointment with a PA is so much easier and quicker than trying to get in to see an M.D. I called at 12:30 and had the appointment scheduled for 2:30 – the same afternoon.

When one of the reasons to schedule an appointment to see a professional includes “unexplained weight gain”, the last thing I wanted to do was step on the scale. Unfortunately it was the first thing the nurse had me do. I almost asked if I could turn around so I wouldn’t see the final results, but I sucked it up. I was in the middle of telling her that she’ll need to move the big scale over one more notch as she slid the little one quickly to the far right…and stopped just shy of the end.

Good thing I hadn’t yet eaten lunch.

My PA came in and I told him that I wanted to have my thyroid checked as well as general blood work-up (cholesterol, lipids, iron, etc., etc.,) since I was already there. In addition to asking about symptoms, he asked if I still had my menses. For a split second I wasn’t sure what he even had said but was able to respond without preceding it with, “Uh, wha….? OH! You mean my period!”

Before he left the exam room to get the order for the lab, he informed me that fatigue is usually caused by one of two things, thyroid disease or depression.

I responded deadpan, “I know. I’m here to rule out the thyroid.”

Imbalanced

My mom was in and out of the hospital¬† this winter and with me the second closest in distance to her and my dad, I’ve been heavily involved in updating the rest of the family as to her current health. I am lucky that my brother, the only son, married a wonderful lady who has also been very hands-on throughout the ordeal. She and my brother live the closest to my parents, only a couple miles up the highway on their own farm so they check on my parents to make sure they have groceries and are eating and especially that my mother is taking her medications.

I went with my mom to see her family doctor who runs the tiny clinic in the town near the farm. He’s run the clinic for a few years now and they are very lucky to have him. The rubberbanding my mom was doing, the repeated hospital admissions, was most like due to her unchecked depression. The problem was cyclical:

  • Depressed
  • Not eating or keeping hydrated
  • Sepsis set in
  • Admission
  • Sepsis treated (but not the depression)
  • Discharged
  • Depressed about the admission
  • Not eating/hydrating
  • Readmission
  • Treated
  • Discharged
  • Depressed…

This last time she was taken to the emergency department at the hospital in the city I live instead of the very tiny critical access hospital in the above admissions. When I caught up with the ER doc, her analysis, which was backed up by lab work, indicated that all physically was fine with my mom. The infection from the sepsis was gone; blood pressure and thyroid levels good; but psychologically? She was “dead”. She wouldn’t look at the doctor and she wouldn’t answer any questions. It was following this appointment that we met up with the family doctor I mentioned previously.

If we didn’t get the symptoms of depression under control, she would continue the cyclical pattern already well established. He had a wonderful way of describing the depression to my mother, who I recall telling me many years to “get over it” when I was diagnosed with mild depression.

Diabetes is a chemical imbalance in the pancreas. Renal failure is a chemical imbalance in the kidneys. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s a disease of a major organ and shouldn’t be stigmatized, even though he knows it is, especially when one lives in a community made up of mostly farmers and their wives who never saw a need for a secondary education, at least in the peer group of my parents.

We reviewed her meds, one by one, discontinuing a couple and adding a couple in the hope that once her depression becomes manageable, her health (and memory, which has been declining in a frightfully rapid manner) would level out. In fact, he told us that one of the first signs of depression is memory loss or the appearance of senility especially in a geriatric patient. I have to believe this as my mom’s memory and recollection has improved, but I definitely see the early symptoms of dementia. I have to admit that I’m so glad Aitch is old enough to self-entertain herself on the days my mom comes up to spend time with her. In other words, she will tell grandma that her diaper needs to be changed instead of me coming home and finding her diaper heavy with several hours of urine.

I see a little back-sliding in the improvements that had been made after her hospital admissions due to her rapidly deteriorating dental health and related mounting expenses. A couple weeks ago, one of her front teeth broke. According to the dentist, it had failed due to fatigue. An odd, but fitting description. My mom was faced with making the decision to get a partial bridge or a permanent one (a cost difference of a couple thousand dollars) when even more problems were found. Unfortunately, antidepressants can accelerate dental decay.

The decline of my mother’s health has been gradual but steady.¬† I have a couple of siblings who see her very rarely as they live overseas and while I think it’s hard for me to see my mom like that, I can’t imagine what it’s like for them to see her age so drastically and radically between the time they saw her last and now.