The mask is becoming transparent to me, the emotions are beginning to disappear, the darkness is once again creeping in. The cycle has begun.
I’m not telling you about the final season of Game Of Thrones, its the disease that my beautiful girl Shelley has to fight and deal with on a reoccurring basis. Most of her life, so far. Luckily now, thanks to CAMH, it’s an email to a caring doctor down there and her six weeks of treatments begin. And it’s just that easy. And after 30 treatments of rTMS, it’s all good.
It’s getting through the six weeks that is absolutely emotionally, mentally and physically draining for her – and also me.
It’s a six week roller coaster of giving your all, to receive nothing back, knowing there is a light and a brightness that will appear back in her eyes after about 4 weeks of treatment, giving us both a vision that the darkness is lifting.
The masks soon won’t have to be used. And they can be once again, put away in storage.
The journey is not just the six weeks. It’s the couple of months prior trying to convince her to reach out for help. She desperately wants to believe that ‘this time’ she is just stressed or being ‘normal’. Of course it’s only in the safety of our home that the true raw emotions show. I’m not even sure you can call ‘despair’ an emotion.
The sleepless nights that just run in to the daylight. The multiple cover up masks so others think everything is great. The laughter, the love, the endless selfless acts – all done behind the cover of her masks. I do struggle a lot with the fact she chooses to hide, rather than let people see, how she is really NOT WELL.
Shelley would rather everyone be happy and not have to ‘deal with her’. Endless tears and feelings of deep despair and hopelessness. She just wishes for sleep that never comes.
I have walked beside her for 8 wonderful years and still will continue to walk and help her fight this disease. This broken brain.
I have honestly never met a more caring person who gives herself selflessly to help others, when she can’t even help herself. She is both a wonderful mother and step-mother, comforting the kids when she cannot comfort herself.
I apparently am her ‘rock’. Not the Dwayne Johnson kind – just a solid, un-moving rock. I struggle while she battles giving her all my love and caring I can – getting nothing in return. Expecting nothing because she can’t handle the pressure of not living up to other’s expectations. Nothing but the raw emptiness this broken brain causes while all of the electrical wiring in her brain is being re-stimulated.
It’s not easy being her rock and trying to continue on with normal every day life. She constantly tells me that she hates being a ‘burden’ and would want me to go find someone else because ‘there is someone else out there who would make you happier – without issues’. I know she truly doesn’t mean or want this to happen. I met this girl while she was going through ECT treatment and just fell in love with the person she truly is, when not battling her illness.
She did not choose to have a broken brain, or should I use the medical term “Major Depressive Disorder”.
It’s very tough and heartbreaking watching this happen to your loved one. I feel so helpless and try to comfort her and do all I can for her. Watching such a loving and caring mother struggle to keep it together until her son goes off to school, so she doesn’t ruin his day with her tears. She just wants everyone else to be happy and does everything she can to make that happen. Because she knows what the other side feels like.
Not many people have seen her at her worst. It’s not pretty. Seeing a once very productive and successful graphic designer being reduced to debilitating tears, just staring at her computer screen, she even tries to hide her mental health from me. I reassure her that I am in this for the long haul and am going nowhere.
It is a horrible disease and I am grateful after years of advocating for her, we were able to join the rTMS study at CAMH. Bouts of ECT (although very effective) have stripped years of happy memories from her mind, however, the rTMS is less invasive, yet she struggles while going through treatments to remember simple things. Quick example, would be to find something that should be in the fridge – she has put in the cupboard, beside the plates. In the past, I have said things, but now I just return it to where it should be. I do admit, I have caught myself, once or twice putting things in the wrong place – and not thinking twice about it. None of us are perfect.
So imagine going from feeling nothing to (that awful term) ‘normal’ in a matter of weeks. In my eyes, it’s nothing short of a miracle giving Shelley back her life. Imagine riding an emotional rollercoaster for six weeks. Going from ‘just getting by’ to having every feeling reawakened. Physically, emotionally, and mental exhausting. She will give everyone all of her. Even in treatment. But all I get is the ‘shit’ stuff. The ‘real’ stuff. The tears, sleeplessness, restlessness and the overcoming of emotions. All of the stuff I don’t think anyone would think this awesome woman endures, over, and over again. I am her safe place to let it all go.
It’s hard on our relationship but we deal with it. Imagine looking in your love’s eyes and seeing nothing there. Just a blank emptiness. Then over the course of treatment, seeing that amazing sparkle start to ignite. Getting to sit for a quiet moment and getting to yell (quietly) “YES!” with a fist pump. It’s working, my girl is coming back. I miss her during these weeks of treatment, but look forward to celebrating the end of this round of treatment with a peanut butter and chocolate cupcake. Many other survival heroes are celebrated but survivors of mental health usually go un-noticed. No bell to ring. No cheers. No one celebrates when the darkness of depression and weeks of treatment are over for another while.
There is more good than bad in our relationship, but our love for each other is tested over and over again. I am glad it’s strong enough to get us through. All I can do in her days of darkness and hopelessness is be there and love her. As Shelley always says ‘there is not enough love in this world’. So I hug her, embrace her and love her as hard as I can, and always try to be her rock.
I will always do my best to make sure she gets the life she deserves.
So, try to be less judging of others. Embrace the world, love more, share often. Ask questions of people first, before reacting to their actions. Let’s get the treatments that work for lots of people in clinical trials and make them widely available to all who need it. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Be transparent. And don’t hide in silence. It’s only by speaking out can you get the help you need.
Shelley, you are loved more than I can ever show you. You are my world. I love you.
Derek, AKA The ROCK