Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Meds, part deux

Yesterday was six months since he's been gone.

It feels like six months. The time has gone by, I guess slowly. It certainly doesn't feel like yesterday.

The grief, thankfully, is less intense. But omnipresent.

We've gotten to the point that life feels back to normal, for all outward appearances anyway. School, work, vacations, soccer, gatherings...we're back in our family rhythm, which is nice.

But geez, it hurts.

Stupid to say, like I thought it wouldn't. Essentially, unless my mind is fully occupied, the grief sits on my chest so I feel it with every breath. I'm tiring of it.

I wrote, about a year ago, about starting an antidepressant, for my constant and worsening anxiety about his possible relapse. I took one for a few months. Strangely, after he relapsed I didn't need it anymore. The anxiety was gone.

I know what clinical depression is, and I don't have it. Anhedonia, poor concentration and energy, feelings of guilt or poor self-esteem, sleep or appetite disruption. I don't have any of it.

But geez, it hurts. I'm sad a lot.

But that's not depression. That's grief. I honestly don't know if antidepressants help with dulling the pain of grief. Or if that would be a good thing? But I am thinking about it again.

On a lighter note, I'm also tackling my bucket list. No, I don't have any foresight into my doom, but I'm not sure what the universe has planned for me, and there's no time like the present. There's a strawberry cream cheese coffee cake in the oven, I might start tackling the perfect pie crust soon. And Mr. Smak and I are about to take that grown-up vacation I promised myself, complete with a professional European soccer game. It's not EPL, but for me it counts.


rlbates said...

Not sure my grief is the same as yours, but it helps me understand yours. Glad to hear about your grownup vacation. Looking forward to the pictures.

Stacy said...

I struggled with taking antipressants as well. When my daughter was alive I might have benefited from them more because the constant care for her was so overwhelming at times. Around 6 months after K. died I gave in when internist wrote the rx and said I didn't have to fill it. Did it take away the pain? No way! But it did help me deal with the day-to-day life I had to deal with DESPITE my grief. I am not sure if that makes sense or not. I stayed on it for 6-7 months and then went off once I got through that 1st year mark.

Good for you for tackling that bucket list. You've inspired me to ... start a bucket list! ;-)

Take care of yourself.

Snickollet said...

Six months. I remain so, so sorry.

For what it's worth, I have not taken an antidepressant since John died (or ever, actually) for precisely the reasons you outline: yes, I often feel really, really crappy and yes, there is a deep pain in my life every day, but I'm grieving, not depressed. For some people, they coexist, for sure. For me, I think I need to feel it to work through it. Or maybe I'm just a masochist. Dunno.

My grief often manifests as anger, and I often vent that anger in inappropriate ways. I wonder sometimes if an antidepressant would help with that? But then I decide no.

Your vacation sounds lovely. What an excellent way to take care of yourself. Which soccer team will you see?

Dr. Smak said...


You hit the nail on the head, re masochism. Is there a point to feeling the pain? Often, I'll have a headache, and wait 6 hours to take two excedrin, and then think "What a dumbass I am." I guess I'm wondering if this is the same thing, or if there is value in the pain.

World Cup qualifier match between Switzerland and Greece. Should see the crazy European football fans in all their glory!


kg said...

You know you can try anti-depressants, and decide later if you want to continue them or not.
You have every right to feel your grief. It is real.
But you are also allowed relief---cheesecake, vacations, hugs.
Keep listening to yourself and your loved ones.
Thanks for sharing. You help others out here with that.

jaime said...

Hi Dr.Smak, I found your blog from my friend David's blog. I just got my MPH and focus on womens/childrens cancers....was considering being a peds onc, now thinking about becoming a peds onc nurse. I am so so so sorry to read about Henry. I read quite a bit of your blog today and he sounds like an amazing child, and you sound like a wonderful mother and doctor.
You write so eloquently about things that can be so hard to put into words....

...tom... said...


strawberry cream cheese coffee cake


... complete with a professional European soccer game.

What the $&#*..?!?


GradStudent said...

I'm so sorry for your grief. I will not say that I understand or know what it's like, because I really have NO idea.
As a physician, I'm certain that you have a good insight into when you yourself can benefit from medications (antibiotics and such), but have you considered making an appointment with a psychiatrist? I'm sure you know the types and classes of drugs out there as far as anti-depressants go, but why not consult an expert. Sometimes it's hard to recognize one's own symptoms and needs as acutely as those of others.

Best of Luck.

Kathy said...

I haven't taken antidepressants through my son's diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, even though I've got a collection of prescription forms socked away in a drawer.

I'd be hard-pressed to say all the reasons but the main thing is that I have this belief that certain things in life are supposed to hurt.

Losing a child is among the grandaddies of all hurts.

During my son's treatment I feared the meds might take the edge off, numb me.

My fears are probably baseless, I'm a mother, not a doctor, just a neurotic amateur pediatric neuro-oncologist.

But because my recent anxiety had interfered with my sleep, I've resorted to xanax. I take the smallest dose and break it in half. I don't take them more than 4 half-pills in a week.

It doesn't solve my problems, but for those times when my stomach is churning with anxiety over my son's upcoming MRI or our financial status or plans for my son's future, I can turn off the churning stomach enough to sleep.

I don't know what to say really, I've seen the drugs work magic for some folks, for others no particular improvement, and for some it's been an arduous trek to find the right drug or drugs that DO work.

I wish you well, Dr. Smak, and I pray for strength for you on your quest to find your way in a world without Henry.

And I really hope you enjoy your vacation.

radioactive girl said...

I so wish there was a pill you could take to make it all better. I know it is human to feel, but sometimes it would be nice to not have to.

As for the antidepressants, I am taking one. I started taking it about a year ago (?) because I was just so tired all the time. I got plenty of sleep, but still had this awful fatigue all day no matter what I did. I wanted to do things, had no other symptoms of depression other than the tiredness, but my doctor said we could give it a try and see. It seems to be helping and I sort of wonder if maybe I was anxious because one thing after another keeps happening with my health.

I love that you have a bucket list. I keep thinking I want to make one, but have no idea what I'd put on it!