I have prayed almost every day for the last 14-plus years – when I have had the strength – that my clinical depression would finally fade into the sunset. I never lost faith in my God that He could cure me, could lift the cloud of sadness that greeted me each morning, could prevent the next major depressive episode lurking without notice right around the bend.
I have maintained faith God could do that. But I have to confess, I didn’t expect it. I have faith in God, but not in any of the 30-plus different antidepressants or the counseling sessions or electro-convulsive therapy or group therapy sessions or any of the other countless suggestions I have received.
I didn’t place much hope in transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), either. Not in a complete cure or even temporary remission.
As I wrote recently, my regular TMS treatments have ended, and I consider myself blessed to have received 46 sessions; most people get 30 treatments, with six additional maintenance sessions at best. I’m still waiting to see if my insurance provider will approve some monthly maintenance, but I’m grateful for what I received.
If you don’t know what TMS actually is, here’s a link to a piece I wrote about it. TMS: Cautious Hope For Battling Depression
If you would like to read about my progress because of the treatment, here’s a link to the piece I wrote about that. Good News On My Mental Health
When I began, about the middle of November, my anxiety had been extremely high for more than two months – probably about a “7” or “8” on a scale of 1 to 10. I didn’t have paralyzing panic attacks, but my mind and body seemed on high alert at all times. I didn’t want to get out of bed for fear that something horrible would happen during the day and that it would be caused by me. I didn’t want to see or talk with people, especially in person. That made two work trips and the holidays particularly stressful. And I didn’t want to answer any phone, especially if I recognized the phone number; I feared bad news. Now – thanks to the TMS, I believe – my anxiety has dropped below “5,” which I can manage.
When I began receiving the treatments at Center Pointe Hospital in St. Peters, Mo., my depression had been particularly oppressive since late August as well – also around an “8.” Although I never formulated a plan, suicide did cross my mind; though never to the point that I had concerns for my safety, I did wonder if I should check myself into a hospital. I talked myself out of that several times. The depression remains, though perhaps about three notches lower.
Anxiety and depression both are at manageable levels for me. I’ve gotten by with worse for long stretches; I can live with it – literally.
So what’s next? What will life after TMS look like for me? And the possible lesson for anyone else who deals with depression and anxiety daily, not at dangerous levels but at annoying, persistent levels?
I go back to trying. Before, I was trying to push a car up a hill while the emergency brake was on. Hopeless, with my own seriously depleted strength. Now, the car still needs to go uphill and I can’t even make out the top of that hill, so there’s no way to know how far and long I have to push. But with the emergency brake released, I can get it to budge a little on my own – and get it going even further if I have some friends help me push and even easier if I allow some of them to fill my gas tank so I can drive it.
It’s not that I wasn’t trying before TMS. I always have tried my hardest. It’s just that I don’t feel the futility now.
I have tools and ideas. I will make sure I pray often, regularly, a lot. I will try to eat properly, food that leans toward the healthy side and in proper proportions. I will try to exercise. I will take my medication, meet with my counselor, stay in touch with friends who encourage me, stay in touch with friends who value my advice, write regularly, reduce stress at work as much as conceivably possible … I will try.
And I will hope Annie Farley, the nurse who manages the TMS program at Center Pointe, will convince my insurance provider to grant me maintenance treatments. I know nothing is certain or permanent in the realm of mental illness.
I can use all the help I can get.