From black holes to pits

Black Clouds GatherI haven’t written about depression in a while. I’ve been acting as if I’d kicked it. Two years ago, deciding I was good to go, I ditched the meds. Drug free head, and all that. But depression isn’t a mind-over-matter sort of thing. And with the stress of life piling up, so were the covers over my head.

It hadn’t occurred to me over the past six months (or more) that bathing only intermittently, “working” from home more often than not, and rarely stepping foot outside my home on weekends, was not exactly normal behavior. I had to be hit over the head with a sledgehammer for me to register the fact that I was back down in the pit. The sledgehammer? Being unable to get my shit together to go work on the Monday after I’d gotten the axe from BigLawAholic from the team (as predicted, here), despite my best efforts. It took me until 9:00 a.m. to talk myself into getting out of bed. Having not bathed in nearly a week (and having spent the weekend working on clearing out my mother’s house), I had to bathe before going to work, even though it was already late. So I got into the bathtub and filled it with water. Once in the tub, I couldn’t get out. I sat there in the tepid water, crying. It was then I knew mind-over-matter wasn’t going to cut it.

Eventually I managed to drag myself out of the tub and back into my bed. I sent an email to the office: “Not coming in today. I’m not feeling well.” And then I called Dr. McEnroe, the psychiatrist I hadn’t seen since I canceled an appointment over two years ago and stopped taking the meds cold turkey.

This is your long-lost patient, Ella. I’m back in the pit and need to come in.

At this point, my voice broke and I began crying. I sobbed out my phone number and hung up. He got me in the following afternoon. As I sat in his office staring at the familiar pictures hung behind his desk, he thumbed through my file. He told me the last time I saw him was a week after my brother died. Yeah, because I was fine. I didn’t need the medication. I was grieving, is all. People need to grieve. I realize now my timing may have been off.

I left Dr. McEnroe’s office with two months worth of samples of a new drug called Brintellix. I spent the rest of the week “working” from home. The official word: I had shingles. I’d had them once before just before my dad died, so I knew how to work this excuse. You don’t sound sick, but the pain is severe enough that Vicodin is prescribed. Yes, I lied. After all, I couldn’t call in depressed.

I had no side effects from the first 5 mg dose of Brintellix, so I called Dr. McEnroe the next day and asked if I could up it to 10 mg. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time screwing around before I got up to a therapeutic dose, and he gave me the go-ahead. I spent the rest of the week sleeping, and crying, and trying to get some work done. I felt a little better on Friday. Saturday, Paris happened. I spent the entire day in bed, sleeping mostly, interspersed with crying bouts.

Finally, by Monday, I felt good enough to venture out into the world and get a long-overdue haircut. On Tuesday, I went to work for the first time in nearly two weeks. Today is Day 12 of the medication. So far, I’ve had no noticeable side effects. It seems to be helping, but I know it will be several more weeks before it reaches peak efficacy. Once I get there, I’ll take a crack at writing about the triggers: being booted off the BigLawBlackHole team (welcome, yet stressful), and sorting through and discarding forty years of family memories and detritus at my mother’s house. (At some point, I made the mental shift from it being “my parent’s house” to just “my mother’s house.”)

And now, I must bathe before meeting a friend for a movie. Although I’m forcing myself to go, it counts as progress.



  • Hola Ella!
    I’ve been thinking of you, and meaning to drop you an email, as I noticed it was a long time since your last post. I was thinking that you had been dragged into the BigLawBlackHoleOfEndlessWork, but I guess that wasn’t exactly correct. I’m sorry to read the above, but I think you did the right thing in seeing Dr. McEnroe.

    Historically, I’ve been something of a depressive person myself, have taken zoloft and buspar on and off. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less depressive. Though everyone’s experience is different, here are a couple of things that have helped me. One, when depressed, just accept that you’re depressed. Don’t go all “second-order” and get depressed about being depressed. Simply being depressed is enough. Accept it, and be “OK” with it. (For me, this is the most powerful of the suggestions. I used to magnify my depression by feeling like I shouldn’t be depressed. That just made things worse.) Second, just try to remind yourself that it won’t last forever. Sure, it could be there longer than you want. But it won’t be forever. Everything changes, including your depression. So try to remind yourself of that. Even consider putting up a post-it somewhere. Three, there’s nothing like physical exertion to help banish the blues. Do some exercise, if you can muster the energy. You’ll feel much better after huffing and puffing and sweating for a half-hour. I realize being depressed makes it quite difficult to drag yourself out of the house to do this. But you’re a smart, willful woman who has battled and won much bigger challenges. I think you can do it. At least, try. Four, there are a lot of us out there who are rooting for you. You are not alone. Though Big Law is a total drag, it’s not your life; it’s just your career. Big Law, too, will eventually end. Those of us rooting for you are going to be here regardless of what happens with Big Law. And believe me, once you’re out of there, the world will look totally different. Trust me on this one.

    So, that’s my two cents. Obviously it’s not some kind of miracle cure-all. I know what you’re going through is tough. Hang in there, and remember, alcohol will only make things worse.

    Saludos y un fuerte abrazo,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where I am totally rooting for you.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Kim, you made me laugh about going “all second-order.” Of course that’s what we do. Faulting myself, first, for not seeing it sneaking up on me, second, for not being able to muscle through it, and third, for being weak of constitution to begin with. In fact, this is a very good topic for an entire post. As for acknowledging it won’t last forever, this is good advice. Sort of a mindfulness exercise. Watching the depression from above. As for getting outside, I’m leaning in that direction. I filled the bird feeders and am watching the blue jays and sparrows as I type. Thank you for letting me know you’re rooting for me, Kim. And for making me laugh.

      Liked by 2 people

  • Hug.
    I continue to tell myself that I need medication for depression just like a diabetic needs insulin.
    So even when I feel really good, and my life is good, the medication stays.

    Give the meds time. Slowly encourage yourself back into the world.
    It is a scary thing. I have been there. Everything just feels so heavy.

    You have lots of us holding your hand.

    Liked by 4 people

    • That is what I keep telling people who do not understand depression and medication against that: Your medication is as life-saving as insulin. Ella felt better not taking it two years ago – like a diabetic’s need of insulin is not always the same (hence the measuring) so will a patient suffering from depression need different doses at different times.

      Liked by 1 person

    • This is important. I need to shift my thinking about the medication. I keep seeing the fact that I need it as a character defect. And so the minute I feel better, I profess victory, and ditch the drugs. The fact that I ditched them six months after the death trifecta, and in the middle of moving my mother from intensive care, to in-patient rehab, to assisted living, in hindsight, is just silly. Particularly when Dr. McEnroe told me he’d like to see me have a full year depression-free and stress-free before considering getting off them. I told Dr. McEnroe last week: “I canceled the appointment and stopped taking them, because, you know, I know better than you, seeing as I have a medical degree, and all.” He responded with a wry smile and a bag of samples.

      Thank you, Anne. We’re all in this together.


  • I do not know if I can help you with my words from across this deep ocean, but I would like to support you with my thoughts: do not give up, it is a distinct period in a process of life change, but remember that the sun is always up there, even with the clouds, even with the storm, it’s up there.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Ah, good to hear from you, even if things haven’t been going so well. I understand going off the meds, and you’re brave to call your doctor and try something new.

    I look forward to reading more. As ainsobriety said, we’re here for you.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I, too, have been thinking about you, hoping you’re ok. That one-year mark is a huge milestone, and despite being a reason for celebration, it can cause *a lot* of stress, all on its lonesome, without all the additional stresses you’ve been under. For me, it lurked around, caused me to double-check choices, evaluate how far I’d come, question whether I’d make it that far. For me, and for friends in recovery, once that milestone passed, one major source of stress disappeared. I do so hope that, with the medication and the passing of that milestone, you’ll see improvement quickly.

        Liked by 2 people

        • It is odd how the one-year mark feels like it’s lurking. That’s a perfect way to describe it. Thoughts of whether it’s really making a difference, should I really bother to continue with abstention, blah blah blah. I know the answer i yes, particularly with the depression and the antidepressants. The depression is one of the reasons I stopped to begin with. So, one year shall come and go, and I will continue onward through the sober fog. Which is lighter than a drunken fog. A sober fog is the kind of fog Carl Sandburg wrote about: It comes on little cat feet.


  • I too had been worrying about you somewhat, as it had been so long since your last post. I suffer from low-level and somewhat seasonal depression – nothing like yours -I’m not trying to minimize what you’re going through – I saw my mother deal with severe depression (actually PTSD, but that’s another story) and I have nothing but sympathy. Kudos for realizing you needed to go back on meds. Just as I can’t make my body function without its daily arthritis meds, something it has taken me a long time and a fair bit of pain to acknowledge, yours needs different meds to be at its best. To me they’re equivalent – no shame or stigma for either. One day at a time, plan small chunks, focus on what you need to be well.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I’m hoping that writing about it. blogging to all of us out here in the ‘other’ world, sharing what you’re experiencing and knowing that others who have experienced the same are nodding their heads in understanding – I’m hoping that all that helps in your recovery. Depression takes so long to ‘heal.’ I have several friends who are going through/have gone through what you describe. The meds can take 3-4 weeks to kick in. Isn’t it sad that a person can’t call in sick for their depression, but has to make up another ‘excuse’? Breathe, meditate, and know that the light will arrive.

    Liked by 2 people

    • RW, you’re right: the act of getting this post up was a breakthrough. I’ve been trying for weeks to get myself to write, and I couldn’t get my brain to settle into the task. I’m beginning to come around, and am hopeful once I’ve been on the meds a few more weeks, I’ll notice even more of an improvement. You know, maybe there is actual “healing” going on. There’s nothing that can strictly be measured currently, but some day, maybe it will happen. Thanks, RW.

      Liked by 2 people

  • Hang in there. Depression and alcoholism runs in my family (sometimes I suspect one or the other runs in every family) and there but for the Grace of God go all of us. Hope you feel better soon.


  • I can really sympathise with you – it’s awful walking around with a black cloud of doom hanging over you. Glad you could acknowledge its existence and seek help. Gently does it, you’ll emerge from your cocoon soon enough. x


      • I tend to be impatient with myself too but in this case, what’s the rush? the world won’t fall apart while you’re healing . Emerge like a metaphorical butterfly when you’re good and ready.

        Liked by 1 person

  • You are brave and strong — to share, to get treatment, to drag yourself out of bed, to abstain from alcohol. I seem to be falling into a funk myself. I have needed meds for anxiety in the past but not depression. However, if I don’t come up soon I will consider it. I seem to have an ok day every other day, then fall again. Have not been able to blog either; haven’t wanted to reach out. My blog is read by some friends and some acquaintances, and it’s hard to reach out/expose myself to them about this.

    I hate to see you beat yourself up about having gone off meds. You did what you thought was best, and you managed for a while. I am totally in the “it’s like diabetes meds” camp — no shame no stigma! I know some 12-steppers seem to stigmatize it, but I cannot support that point of view.

    If you’re able to see through the fog and send me an encouraging word, it would mean a lot to me. If not, that is totally ok — I have no doubt I will get better soon, and will seek professional help if not.

    Liked by 1 person

      • This will be my first time on an antidepressant whilst totally abstaining from alcohol. I expect I’ll have a better result this way. It’s great to hear you found it helpful, Anne. Wishing for us all to feel better. To feel good, even.


    • Thank you for the support, Josie. I think I tend to stigmatize myself, which is why I got off the meds. It’s the whole idea that I am a strong powerful woman: I don’t need no stinkin’ meds. That, and I was tired of being constipated. 😉 Like you, I was having off and on periods of funk. And then it got more on than off. The medication does help. I only wish it would hurry up. Patience, Grasshopper. I know what you mean about anonymity. I’d do a lot of self-censoring if I wasn’t. I hope your dark days fall away. This time of year is always hard. The days are shorter, and the holidays bring challenges. I’m going to focus on the good parts: hot chocolate and cats. Feel better, Josie. xox


  • I’ve been reading through some of your posts I’d missed while drinking/running/escaping my own life. Ella, it seems like you’ve been through a lot lately. I think it’s difficult to see those factors ourselves; we’re just too myopic about our own lives. I also now believe it’s impossible to overestimate the psychological impact of being thrust back into the family dynamic. I’ve seen it with so many of us here, and I know it all too well with myself. Family is an enormous, enormous trigger for me, no matter how remote or brief the contact. To be honest I already know that <> is something I simply could. not. do. Especially on top of mounting pressure and dysfunction at work.

    I’m so relieved and encouraged that you sought the help you needed. I’m still trying to gather enough courage to see a mental health professional and possibly start medication. Something needs to change for me…I need to start doing some deeper work on myself. So, thank you for your honesty and openness and your strength. I’ve made a few pits of my own and I’ve had a lot of moments lately when I didn’t know how I was going to crawl out. So you’re giving me hope.

    Bravo for never seeing self-medication as an option…I believe you’re going to see the sunshine soon. Sending lots of love and light your way… ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s weird…the words between the were supposed to be your own: sorting through and discarding forty years of family memories and detritus at my mother’s house… ❤


      • You’re right, Dinah. Looking back, it’s been a challenging year. And it just keeps piling up. The house isn’t cleaned out, but we made a smallish dent. It’s not too surprising the crash happened the day after I got home from that. Spending the day with my sister and her husband is always stressful. Everyone is nice, and kind, and helpful. But there’s always the thought in the back of my head about what he did. . . . Yes, a post on the triggers is brewing. I’m glad I’m providing hope. I do feel a bit better. But I’ve got a ways to go. Medication is helpful. And it works better without alcohol. You never know, it might smooth your path a little. Remember: no stigma! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  • Ella, stay strong…
    those black holes are rough, we fall down, we get up and out, we fall again, but over time getting out is easier for we find strength and wisdom from the last fall. Thinking of you.


  • My Heart Needs A Home

    Doesn’t yours? Roaming Merrie Woods and Toxaway Falls
    where kayaks glide, cattails distend into cottony seed puffs,
    we discover the essence of each other. Photos snapped as wind
    comes to sailing level entertain beneath Jackson’s half dome.
    Gems, but mostly agates, sit underground, along river beds,
    few found. Lips feel the feathery touch of willow, tangled
    hair straightens at fingers command, knees bent, prone to the
    correct angle to capture sunbathing elder who reads as he sits
    in an Adirondack chair on the eastern continental divide, three
    thousand four hundred eighty six feet, make it eighty five,
    above sea level. Black bear images at first fool newcomers,
    into serenity, but the live scroungers will be around in person.
    This is where it all begins. Doe emerges below newly stained
    deck, wobbles, shakes off mom’s sticky womb extras. Walking
    the lake trail, finding the right overlook, slipping on mossy rocks,
    launching tomorrow today. Misunderstandings disappear when
    genuine care initiates a navigational victory on the Blue Ridge
    looking south to the Smokeys, in the servants’ staircase, among
    well-planted gardens, over festive lunch, a metaphor of chicken,
    enjoyed with the self esteem of roast beef on gluten-free bread.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Oh, Ella! I missed this post earlier. Please imagine an extra special hug! Your post hit home on so many counts, I can’t even begin to list them. Hope the medicines do their thing quickly. Please know that you shall survive this. And there is a beautiful world, just for you, waiting out there.

    Liked by 1 person

  • It’s most definitely progress. And I’m a little behind on my blog reading.) I hope the progress continues, Ella. But remember this, it’s not all about taking a step forward. It’s about taking a step forward AND taking a set back. That is the Universal Law of life. The ebb and flow of the tides. Nothing is always good and nothing is always bad. It may come in waves but they will always eventually recede. So do not hate on yourself, you are doing something about it now, which is the only thing that matters.


  • Your family stories are hitting so close to home for me. I’ve managed to have sufficient self-control to avoid the alcoholism that runs on one side of the family, but I can’t use self-control to sufficiently control the depression and anxiety that runs on the other side of my family. I have had such a hard time dating with how normal it is to drink in our society, when a loved one drinking makes me assume that they’re not here for me the same as them being sober, that they will miss things. My wonderful, loving boyfriend, as soon as he has had more than a few drinks, I have a hard time being around him. It’s not even his fault – he’s perfectly fine. It’s just that past experience. He’s so good about my reactions – I don’t understand how sometimes!

    I had a counselor I saw off and on for years, but they eventually left their practice. So now I’m trying to find a new one because I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. This one I’m trying right now is not a good fit for me. Between grad school, being in a romantic relationship, while working full-time with a long commute and other stressors and something has to drop, especially with my uncertainty towards my current career trajectory with how grad school is going. So far, it’s been exercise and my work creativity dropping, while continuing to maintain my relationship and chugging through grad school. We hired a house cleaner and I’ve pushed the food acquisition and creation off to my boyfriend at the very least… Not too much longer to chug through this point and then I get a break from school for several months.

    I hope you are feeling better, Ella!


    • If only we could avoid depression with self-control! It sounds like you and I were dealt the lucky hand when it comes to the gene pool, Leigh. Ah well, it builds character, right? I totally understand your reaction to the drinking. It sounds perfectly sane to me, given our backgrounds. You’ve got a lot going on in your life! That’s how things were with me when the wheels fell off. Dropping regular exercise never bodes well for my mental health. It’s good you could take cleaning and food acquisition and creation off your list. Having a cleaner is one “luxury” I’m unwilling to give up while I’m still working. A several-month break is bound to do you good. Best wishes, Leigh!


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