Walking Out Of The Darkness

I’ve been blogging a bit lately about my battles with depression and the impact it has had on my life. Now, leaving the wretched first decade of this millennium behind, I’m determined to turn this around and stop letting the monster control things.

Last year, I reached a point of near hopelessness. Therapy hadn’t helped much. Meds hadn’t helped much. And I was just getting worse. I decided extreme measures might be called for, and started looking into electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), the modern version of ye olde electro-shock.

ECT is intense, and it has side effects (most notably memory loss, sometimes dire and permanent memory loss). But it also has the highest success rate of any depression treatment, and many people who’ve undergone it have had their lives not only significantly improved, but pretty much saved.

Still, it’s a big scary thing to do. And while reading up on it,  I found out about a newer treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a more controlled and allegedly highly effective therapy without ECT’s scary side effects. I decided to try it, even though it’s so new it’s not covered by insurance in this country, even though it cost me $9,000 for the course of treatment.

I’m going to blog in detail about my TMS adventure, but here’s the short version: it didn’t do shit for me. In fact, it cost me a huge amount of savings while not doing shit for me, so if anything it contributed deeply to my overall sense of hopelessness and despair. [UPDATE: the detailed post about TMS can be found here.]

Looking ahead to the beginning of this year, I’d pretty much decided that, if I didn’t manage to at least finish up Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull and deliver it to my editor by now, I’d go ahead with the ECT. The book’s not done yet. But ECT’s still pretty scary, and I figure I owe myself at least one final attempt at a Hail Mary pass before going with the electrodes.

In the past, I’ve made big plans to overcome the depression and to get back on track, and clearly that has never worked to any consistent degree. So this time, I’m taking my cue from Bill Murray’s character in What About Bob?

Baby steps. “Baby steps through the office…baby steps out the door…all I have to do is take one little step at a time and I can do anything…baby steps out of the office…baby steps to the hall…baby steps to the elevator…”

The two most important things I need to do every day are:

  1. Write
  2. Exercise

So my new plan begins there. Whatever else I have on my to-do list, whatever else I may or may not accomplish in a day, I need to at minimum get at least some of both those things done. Every damn day.

So my daily to-do list from now on forms around this:

  • Write 500 words
  • Do 20-30 minutes of cardio of some sort

That’s my minimum daily requirement now. I will often write more, and exercise more, but when the will is weak, I can at least force myself to do that much.

My plan will evolve, and I’ll blog as I go. Hopefully I’ll be able to wrangle the dark beast enough that I won’t have to ride the lightning.

I start officially on Monday. Stay tuned.

8 comments on “Walking Out Of The Darkness

  1. Good for you, Tim.

    Don’t give up on the meds, though — as one with a family rife with clinical depression, I’ve seen that it’s often one drug that you respond to, when other doesn’t seem to grab hold. If the meds didn’t work for you, try changing your perscription before signing off on that route entirely — especially if you’re considering ECT.

    • Tim Byrd says:

      Gareth, I’ve been through various courses of meds over the years, and the effects have never been greatly productive. I don’t think I can survive spending the rest of my life continuing a trial and error attempt to find that magical blend; the process is as soul-draining as the problem I’m trying to solve.

      That said, Wellbutrin does give me a bit of a lift, and has the added benefit of boosting sexual enjoyment (unlike so many meds which tend to denigrate desire and ability), so I’m gonna keep with that. But its effects, while positive, don’t approach what I’ve needed to keep my life on track.

  2. Ben Hoffman says:

    Have you tried the practice of mindfulness?

    • Tim Byrd says:

      Ben, I’ve had quite a few years of both spiritual exploration and martial arts training, so yes, I’ve tried mindfulness. And yes, it improves the experience of life.

      But mindfulness is still an act of will, and like many acts I could undertake that would bolster my moods and improve my well-being, I need the energy and volition to practice it, then to keep practicing it.

  3. susan temairik says:

    I wish you success.

  4. Liz says:

    Tim, I wish you the very best. I wish you didn’t need the consider the radical step you did, and what you are looking further into, but I still will hope for the best of outcomes. I wish I could offer more than that.

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