NaBloPoMo Prompt 9: If you could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be?
If there is one thing I could change about my life, it would be to obliterate 2003 - 2006, the years I suffered from treatment-resistant depression resulting in about 30 rounds of ECT and my being on SSDI. I would want to be able to continue working as an adjunct professor while looking for tenure-track positions, which I would hopefully have by now.
Despite the long hours spent lesson planning, grading papers, lecturing, and commuting -- all without benefits -- I would have wanted to continue using my degrees and have a career. Do I mourn this loss? Every day. Do I dread when people ask me what I do? Of course. My usual defense mechanism is to make a joke out of it and tell people that I'm a stay-at-home cat mom. To me it sounds better than telling them I'm on disability and usually stops anymore questions regarding work.
Since 1994 when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the condition was managed with medication. In 2003, meds stopped working for some reason, but I guess it happens. The doctors tried just about every single anti-depressant out there, except for the old tricyclics and MAOIs. They did, however, put me on a new (at the time) MAOI patch that only made my skin itch and didn't stay on particularly well.
I was in and out of psych wards due to suicidal ideation and self-mutilation (cutting). I was a part of numerous intensive outpatient therapy programs, none of which helped. And finally, my psychiatrist reluctantly suggested electroconvulsive therapy, more commonly known as shock treatment. This procedure is greatly exaggerated in the movies and on TV, and guess what? It helped.
ECT didn't transform me into a husk of a person; it allowed me to live the way I used to, with the exception of working. But at least I was able to get out of bed every day and even leave the house on my own (most days), and even play hockey again.
After the initial inpatient 6-round session, I went in once a month to have the procedure done as an outpatient. The trade-off? Severe memory loss. Even photographs of events seem like they happened to others. I can't remember the first date I had with my husband, but he patiently tells me the story whenever I ask. I couldn't remember words. So many words remained on the tip of my tongue. As a poet, my writing had to be pithy, so I really needed that vocabulary. Nope. Gone.
It wasn't just long-term memory that disappeared; my short-term memory was affected, too. My husband could tell me something, and 5 minutes later, I'd have no recollection of it. The long-term memory loss is permanent, but the short-term is improving, especially because it's been 5 years since I last had ECT. Still, if I don't write things down, I'll forget them.
Because I can't change my circumstances, can't make those years disappear, I do my best to live with my situation. I try not to dwell on what could have been, but it's hard! My accomplishments now have nothing to do with career or having kids or both. Getting out of bed every day, showering, doing chores, driving myself places, are my goals, ones that I don't always meet. These things are a normal part of most people's everyday lives, but to me, and I imagine, anyone who lives with this disease, accomplishing these goals is huge. But if I could change something....