Posted by: Kate | December 16, 2010

Hope Aches

I hope…

…that, within the next few weeks, the antidepressant medication I was prescribed during my recent hospitalization will work as intended.  I don’t expect it to suddenly ease the weight of recovery, the disgust when I see the extent of damage this year has wrought on my body, the imagined pressure to get better faster.  I just want to be able to let go a little easier; to recognize the irrationality of my insistence on handling everything just the way I did before I got sick; to find genuine enjoyment in the things I used to love to do.  I want to figure out how to be gentler and more accepting of my own efforts: everyone else insists that I’m recovering faster than anyone expected, that I’m doing a fine job taking care of the kids and the house.  I want to believe that, desperately.

…that the side effects of this same medication – Cymbalta – ease off to a tolerable level so that I can take the drug long enough to benefit from it.  Antidepressants have a very long half-life, meaning that it takes a very long time – four to six weeks, generally – before they build up a sufficient blood level to actually have an impact on the depression.  That wait is a hard thing, all by itself, when you’re already feeling bad enough to admit that you can’t solve your misery on your own.  It’s worse when the side effects appear long before the intended effects.  Usually those side effects appear, hang around for a bit, and then fade away within that four-to-six-week period, which makes the wait just that much harder.  For me, the first ADR (Adverse Drug Reaction, because Gawd forbid the medical community just calls them side effects like the rest of the world) was dry mouth… and I don’t mean like, “Oh, gee, I could have an extra glass of water today.”  I mean, “If offered a thousand dollars to do so, I could not spit.”  My tongue felt swollen, and painful – as though I had burned it badly – and I couldn’t taste most foods at all.  Good times.  That faded after about a week and a half, and I celebrated with a second helping of shrimp scampi, created from scratch by Willem.  Then I realized that, instead of two or three migraines per week, I was suddenly having five or six, some lasting more than 24 hours, and not responding to my typical migraine medication (Fioricet) as well as usual.  I also realized that I was suddenly anxious, all the time, about everything and nothing.  Ativan helps, but do I really want to increase my Fioricet and Ativan consumption just to make this not-yet-effective antidepressant work?

…that I am able to come up with appropriate and happymaking Christmas memories for my loved ones this year.  I have so much difficulty dredging up enthusiasm for, well, anything.  And  my loved ones ask so little of me: just show up and smile, really.  I’m trying.  Hard.

…that the little glimpses of my old, productive, competent self continue to reveal themselves, with increasing regularity.  I miss me.  I was kind of a neat person, before my whole world shattered and was sewn back together in March.  Certain of my in-laws might beg to differ, but simple numbers are on my side: lots more people found me to be an interesting, worthwhile, honest, compelling sort of person than a compulsive liar with a fundamental inability to behave like a human being.  I’m trying hard to rely on the majority view instead of buying into the hatred expressed by two individuals, especially since those two have opted to remove themselves from my life altogether.

…that this new pain clinic will be able to bring new results, or at least allow me to maintain the acceptably lower level of pain achieved prior to March.  I have spondylitis – spinal arthritis – plus three bulging discs and significant degenerative disc disease, sciatica, and bone spurs along my facet joints.  But at this point I do not have ankylosing spondylitis, in which your spine grows a thin, brittle, extra sheath of bone up the outside of the spine, creating an inflexibility and heightened likelihood of breakage.  I’m open to damn near any treatment they want to throw at me, because the idea of remaining on high levels of opiates, just to be able to push the average pain down to a three or so one the 1-to-1o pain scale, is not an appealing one. I’m all for drugs that work, but I’m not thrilled at the idea of needing them, of having no other viable alternatives.  I had my first appointment there today, and am feeling encouraged that there are several new things they want me to try, but not in that, “OK, so, stop everything you have been doing that works, and start from the ground up,” sort of way.

…that I can continue this slow, sometimes stagnant, process of returning to someone that feels like me.

And the thing is, while hope is the most fundamental, special, precious thing in life… it also aches, in a deep, grinding, terrifying way.  There are absolutely times when I wish I could stop hoping, and just accept this new situation as the long-term status quo… but then when those moments of hopelessness do come, when I suddenly realize that not only do I not have hope of improving, but I can’t even imagine what improvement would feel like or look like… then I end up locked in a psych ward for my own safety.

So I hope.  And I ache.  And I lean on the people around me, to hope for me when I can’t do it myself.  And I look at my children, I listen to their voices and look into their eyes, and I know that I have created the very embodiment of hope, living right here in my house, available for a hug and reassurance at a moment’s notice.  I look at my husband, with so much strength and stability and such a deep, strong, abiding love for me and for what we have created in our family, and know that I can trust him to carry me when I can’t carry myself.

I rev up my imagination and think about what better would feel like.  I remind myself that my hair has already doubled in length since I cut it so very short in August (one unintended benefit of a somewhat-bizarre hair dyeing experiment is that I can see my roots now: proof of new growth since the dye was applied).  I knit a little every day, even if I don’t really feel the urge, because I know that it does bring me joy.  I prepare foods that I enjoy, even on the days when I can’t taste the results.  I plan for projects, to help in my children’s classrooms, to spend time with my friends, to design unique gifts.

I hope.


  1. Hang in there. Things will improve. I didn’t have a long wait for the cymbalta to kick in when I started it as I changed directly from effexor. I hope the side-effects go away for you.

    My pain has shot up to a solid 8 the past 11 days. Not good and a struggle just to focus on anything but the pain. I am determined to win this battle though without that damned Cymbalta. ☺

  2. I hope so, too. For you. ((hugs))

  3. I’m not one for quoting scripture to people all willy-nilly, but reading this, I kept thinking “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

    Hope is important. It shows that you are still in there somewhere. Even if you are forever changed, the core of you, the very “Kate-ness” of you will always be there.

    Faith – yes, in whatever spiritual or moral forces you hold to – but mostly, in yourself and those around you. Faith means you KNOW that although the world has thrown you a curve, you will handle it with grace and with the support of those who love you.

    Which brings us to Love. Truly the greatest of the three, because without love, none of it would be possible. You love yourself, and your dear ones, too much to let yourself curl up and surrender. And we love you too much to let you, either.

    Sending you many hugs today, and every day.

  4. Well, I was going to comment, and then I read the comment above this one, and I really don’t think I could say anything to top that. So, uh, ditto to Allimonster!

  5. Ha, I am with Louise. I say a big amen to allimonster’s comment… and send you much love Kate!

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