I have a hard time being a patient or thinking of myself in that role. In one sense, to be a patient means to be sick, to be under treatment by a medical professional, to be undergoing all sorts of tests and therapies. See the trend there – the intolerable passive voice says it all. I am having things done to me – I am leaving it to others to cure me. Of course, they ask for my cooperation (be a good patient), which means I should do what they tell me to do. “Patient” comes from a Latin word that means “to suffer.” And suffering comes in two varieties: you suffer when you feel pain and you suffer when you allow something to be done. Both fit the classic role of the patient – you’re in pain and you allow doctors to treat you. So, what’s wrong with that, especially if you seek out the best treatment you can find?
The problem is that none of the treatments I’ve encountered can get the job done. I can’t wait around for treatments to work on their own. If I don’t take an active role in treatment, then nothing will help for long. That’s because the human factor, the will to heal, makes such an enormous difference. As I found in dealing with cancer, I have to function as a partner with each new tool I use and see it as one element of an overall strategy for getting better. As is true of every depressed person, though, there are those times when I am so severely ill that my active contribution to healing fails. Standing up can be hard enough, let alone trying to wage a campaign against the illness. The hope then is that whatever external treatments are applied will soften the impact of depression so that I can get back enough energy and presence of mind to activate myself once again. That’s the partnership.
The only way I can deal with treatments is to maintain the skeptical mode of the activist. Try what has been proven to be effective for some people but don’t imagine for a moment that any single treatment is going to restore all the functioning I have lost to the disease.
I have learned to be skeptical of the claims of new treatment approaches because I have tried so many and have found that nothing lasts. A few have restored me in some ways, usually exacting a price in side-effects, but made no difference at all to other symptoms. I have to keep exploring each new claim, each insight offered by clinical experience, the latest research, the various therapies and my own experience and observations about what I’m going through.
At the moment, I’m working with a drug called Emsam. It is restoring a good level of energy and mental focus that enable me to make effective use of other tactics – including therapy and my own daily process – especially writing for this blog and other outlets.
From time to time, I’ll write about my testing and exploration of treatment strategies. This will be, of course, a strictly personal interpretation in the (so far) endless search for a partner/tool that keeps its effectiveness over time. I invite your ideas about what has been helpful to you either as a form of treatment or as an explanation that has empowered you in any degree to deal more hopefully with depression and its many related disorders.