08 April, 2007

How Depression Can Affect The Mind

I've been off my meds for three months now. I have an intake appointment tomorrow morning with Rockland Psychiatric Center's Mount Vernon Clinic, where I hopefully will get back into treatment and back on my meds (Paxil, Buspar, and Remeron). In the meantime, as I'm not currently in treatment, my depression, and the symptoms I'm exhibiting, are getting progressively worse as time marches forward.

The depression has started to affect my thinking processes and comprehension abilities. I just finished reading The Last Precinct by Patricia Cornwell. It took me over a week to finish the hardcover book, which is about 445 pages. Normally (that is, when the depression isn't this bad), it would have taken me a mere two or three days, tops, to read the book at a leisurely reading pace. This is just one indication that, currently, my ability to focus and concentrate isn't so great.

If I continue to go without treatment, it could get to the point of my not being able to read anything at all. This has happened to me once before but, at the time, I blamed my inability to read based on the narcotic pain killers (various opiates) I was taking. Now, however, I realise that it was my depression that was interfering with my inability to read. I came to this conclusion because after I stopped taking the narcotics/opiates for pain control, I still had difficulties reading: I would look at the words on a page, see them, and just not be able to put the words together into anything that would have held any kind of meaning for me. Thus, my ability to concentrate was nill.

I can only imagine what people with Alzheimer's go through. The loss of mental functioning is frightening, to say the least. This is especially true for me, as mental ability was the one thing I thought that I could always count on. It was the cornerstone and foundation of my self-confidence. Whatever my insecurities, I almost never had to question, or be insecure about my mental capacity (which by most accounts usually is quite above normal). And, we don't even have to mention writing -- fuggeddaboudit.

This may seem like an intelligent, lucid post to most; however, I can tell the difference, compared to what I've done in the past, and especially in how I'm writing. For starters, I've been writing this for a little over two hours now. When I was in law school, I could write legal memoranda and briefs off the top of my head. I edited my writing very little, mostly due to the fact that, in essence, my writing, the process of which always has been stream of consciousness, needed little editing.

My "stream of consciousness" came out as well formed, grammatically correct thoughts, phrases, sentences, and even paragraphs. Now, however, I not only have to think about what it is that I want to write and organise it but I also must do more editing than I've ever before had to perform, and I'm not used to doing that.

Adding to these intellectual deficiencies is the fact that the ability for me to maintain my composure is getting much more difficult: Tears form in my eyes at the slightest provocation. For instance, I was watching law order on the tele and began crying when the verdict was announced. Another example is that I would be reading something in a book or magazine (while I still have the ability to do so) and I would break down, crying.

When I'm reading and find it difficult to concentrate, it's not that I'm thinking of other things. In fact, it's quite the opposite: my mind just goes blank. I just can't think, period.

Additionally, memory is affected by depression, too. I went to work the other night and spent a good ten minutes trying to remember how to do something that, normally, I wouldn't even have had to think about (resetting the base style back to defaults). If I don't write things down or, more realistically since I'm such a tech geek, enter it into one of my online accounts (address book, calendar, etc -- I still haven't been able to get a replacement for my computer and PDA that were stolen from me when I was beaten & robbed last fall ), more often than not I not only will forget the event but events surrounding the event, and if prompted with reminders after the fact, it still will be difficult for me to remember anything about it....

For me, it's the loss of memory of things that usually are second nature to me that really perturb me. I doubt abilities I presumed I possessed that I once thought were concrete and infallible. Self-doubt leads to isolation, as I don't want to be around people in such a fragile state.

If I didn't know that depression could cause all of these things, I very well could picture myself thinking that I was losing my mind. It's amazing that the number of people who have severe depression and survive are able to do so without losing whatever sanity they have left.