Depression, Motivation and the Drive to Keep Going

Hi all my sorely neglected readers…

What has S. been up to? Recovering.

Recovery has taken over my life and now it is not just the physical recovery from surgery, nor is it only my emotional recovery, rather ‘Recovery’ has become the guiding force in my life. I am recovering from surgery, recovering from  heavy narcotic use and recovering from a deep and overwhelming depression. Actually, I want to be able to say I am recovering from depression but I haven’t quite rounded that corner yet.

Physically, I am recovering, at a snails pace, but I am recovering. Unfortunately at my latest appointment with my surgeon in December I still had spaces between my vertebrae where, eventually, bone is supposed to grow. I have no bone growth to speak of. While the surgeon is okay with my (non)progress, I find it daunting to think about those spaces and what they will mean in nine months from now. It takes up to 18 months to fuse a spine, I am nine months in and still have nine months to go. It terrifies me to think that if the bone grafts don’t grow I will have to have an additional surgery. But those are thoughts for later. Right now I can’t think about that or I will spend hours and days wallowing in my own self-pity. And the physical part of the surgery is not really what I wanted to talk about here. It’s the psychological toll this experience has had on me that is the hardest to deal with.

There is something wrong with my head. I am cloaked in sadness. I have some experience with depression, it first reared it’s ugly head when I was in college and struggling to work close to full time while maintaining an 85% + average in my classes. As bad as it was at that time, it doesn’t and can’t compare to what I am experiencing now.

It feels like some unknown dark force has decided to reside in my head and heart. There is a part of me that I cannot identify or recognize, it is some soul-sucking-motivation-killing part that takes over and decimates any rational thought that crosses my mind. In these moments there is nothing that can make me smile, there is nothing I can convince myself I want to do. This lack of motivation goes so far that I am embarrassed to say taking a shower is a thing for me. Seriously, convincing myself to take a shower takes a couple of hours sometimes. (Earlier this month I slipped and fell in the shower. Maybe that accounts for some of my trepidation?) All the cliché (can depression be cliché??) symptoms that come along with depression are there as well… I can’t get up in the morning, I can’t sleep at night, I am tired all the time, I have no appetite and, more generally, it hurts to move.

I am trying to fight this, I am on anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety meds, I still go to physio and work out three times a week, I am trying to distract myself from my dark thoughts but nothing works for very long. I tend to end up right back where I was, curled up into a ball on my bed crying for no reason that I can find. I just feel bad. And crazy. Oh boy, do I ever feel crazy!

I am also in the process of trying to cut down on some of the pain meds I am on. I don’t know how many of you have experienced withdrawal, but I can sum it up in a word: Hell. I don’t think I am strong enough to stop all the meds on my own so my doctor and I are looking into various re-hab/mood disorder programs, but the wait lists are phenomenal. I have also been waiting for an appointment with a Pain Clinic… Eighteen months and counting. Both avenues seem inaccessible to me because I haven’t been at a ‘crisis’ point yet. While I often feel like I don’t want to live, or more precisely I don’t want to live like this, I am not suicidal. If I was I could get help now, but I am still rational enough to know that my death may help me, but it would irreversibly hurt all those I love. I can’t do it to them.

You know, the hardest part about all of this is that I have asked for help. Months ago. I have been waiting five months for a psychiatrist. It is so hard to admit that you can’t deal with things on your own, and it took me a lot of courage and a break down in my doc’s office to finally ask for help… But I still haven’t gotten it. It makes me feel weak to even need the help, it makes me feel hopeless that I have asked and nothing has come of it. I have referrals in all over the place… I just have to wait.

Waiting. Ugh. I have had to wait so much throughout this ordeal. Wait for surgery, wait for recovery, wait for help, wait for bone growth, wait for happiness, wait, wait, wait. Wait and keep going.

But how do I keep going in the right direction? I could easily keep going into my depression, but I know that is not the way to go, I just don’t know how to turn around. I don’t know where to find the strength to want to keep fighting. I am so sick of hearing “Just keep going, it will get better.” When? It was supposed to be better after surgery, it was supposed to be better when I started physio again, it was supposed to be better when I started seeing a psychologist, it was supposed to be better when I rehabed for six months, it was supposed to be better when I started anti-depressants that make me numb and crazy at the same time.  But it is not. When is it going to get better?  When am I going to wake up and want to start my day? When will I be able to think about my future without the overshadowing of darkness? When will it be better?

I know, I know. Another post lamenting my situation… I don’t even get angry about everything like I used to. I don’t feel anything about it. Ambivalence is pretty much the most emotion I can muster. Other than complete and total sadness of course.

How do you fight through the bad times? Does anyone have any advice on where to go from here? I just feel so bad. All. The. Time.

As always, thanks for reading. And sorry this was a bummer read… another symptom of my depression is self-isolation. I have no real life friends anymore, so I am turning to my dear readers for some advice.

– S.


39 Responses to “Depression, Motivation and the Drive to Keep Going”

  1. Can I ask you how long after your op did you start to feel pain. 6 weeks after my fusion I got sciatica but at 10 weeks post op it became unbearable and I’m back on the pain meds and nerve meds. I’m hoping its not due yo the fusion but my other collapsed disc (sounds daft to wish that but you know what I mean). Xx

    • Hey there,
      It was a few weeks after surgery I started to have nerve pain really bad again. Within three months I was worse than before. Maybe its the fact that the trauma and pain from the surgery masks the nerve pain for a while? I am not sure. I have no idea what o did to decompress after the first surgery. There no incident that sticks out as particularly painful or anything. However I did spend the second night in hospital spontaneously vomiting for hours and that causes so much pressure… ??

      • I should have had a double fusion but we didn’t as you know yourself its not a great op to recover from especially teamed with a discectomy and laminectomy. I do believe my other disc has now completely collapsed but yes got 10 weeks I was really positive now I’m thinking shit nowe what, more surgery, back on 25-30 pain meds a day again. If I need another fusion how long to I have to wait? What the hell am I going to do about work? Now I keep telling myself things could be worse I could have cancer, but even my friend recurring from throat cancer said to me. Once she’s in remission its over I will never be cured. That upset me as its true but I’m not at risk from dying……………. My left leg is cured its brilliant woo hoo a positive. I think I’m going insane lol

      • The worst for me is my future has been changed irrevocably and many many things have been taken, I was 24nwhen I got injured, now I am thinking about kids and it seems like an impossibility. Or well I could get pregnant spend six months on bed rest and get another revision following birth but what kind of mom would make me?
        My life has ended as I knew it, but I don’t have cancer and very few people give me the chance to mourn. Its all well you didn’t doe AMD can walk… Which is great but what about what I’ve lost?

      • Jeez you are so young and here I am feeling sad at 39. My back problems are karma for my previous lifestyle…… Have you spoken to anyone about kids? About the possibility? You’re right people don’t give you the chance to mourn And they think well you’ve had your op, after a bit of recovery you will be back to normal, but this is normal for us. Dwelling on the past is really hard to let go. I took a diploma in hypnotherapy to help me get over some of my issues but even now it is hard to out on my game face as I like to call it……… Sometimes I think why should I put on my game face and I break down and cry, I feel better, but then if the person that is with me sees me then they feel shit……..
        Even if you do have bed rest and a revision you would have a baby and you would cope, don’t make a decision that you cannot do it yet….. Do you know what the effect being pregnant would be?

      • Blah! In had a huge response typed on my phone and it has poofed. Gone. I’ll write soon, right in the middle of moving and its killing me, even when i pace, rest and respect my limits. Its just so much to do. To top it off my landlord’s giving me a really hard time. Gah! Blah! And a few expletives. I hope youre feeling better, even for a minute.

      • Lol I do that a lot write out loads lean on a button and it disappears very annoying. Tell your landlord to kiss my ass 😉 I hate people that give people a hard time cos they are having a shit time

  2. I am 9 weeks post op and have gone from 20-30 pain meds a day to 3 a day. The withdrawals from opiates are by far the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. You can do it on your own, just take your time, plenty of extra multivitamins and sunshine, oh my god that is something I’d kill for right now, more sun. My doctor offered me more pills to get over coming off pills lol, safe to say I refused. I’ve been using meditation which I find amazing. Good luck xx and follow my blog for tips, I’m trying to get back to work this month on a part time basis even though my boss isn’t keen xx

    • Hello,
      Thanks for coming by. I guess this post is a little outdated because, while I appreciate your input, I have been recovering from surgery for the last three years. My first was I March 2011, and my second was Sept 2012. I have been in physio for four years, and could teach a class on chronic pain managing and spinal fusion recovery I’ve learned so much. It has been my life for a very long time.
      And about the meds, I take exception to people assuming I’ve been reliant on meds without trying any other ways. I have weaned off all my meds twice now and both times, even after giving myself six weeks to adjust to being med free, my heart rate a spiked to over 220bpm and a at at 180bpm at rest. My pain level was so high my body was under such strain my doc was worried I’d go into cardiac arrest. So I went back on meds. I had to, I do t choose to.
      Anyway, good luck with your recovery! I sincerely hope it goes better than either of mine. You mentioned in one of your posts that to begin with physio is stretching and strengthening, range of motion and endurance. That’s all it ever is. With a spinal fusion you will never have an strong enough core. Its a fine balance between maintaining your strength and not over doing it. Good luck with finding that balance!
      – S.

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  5. Lovely S…sounds like you have had a rough time and everything that pops in my head to write back to you just sounds so empty and just a pile of words. Although I only know you through the experience of sharing our thoughts and feelings via blogging you should always remember that you are important and you matter, even when you are feeling down and all around you just plain sucks.

    My partner has suffered from depression for many years almost most of his adult life, we have both found the cognitive behavior therapy helps to lift his thoughts away from the spiral of negativity. He has learnt some skills and techniques that really help him function day to day. Have a little search around the mighty internet for information and techniques that may help.

    It’s almost impossible to believe it now but one day your thoughts and feelings will change…when the going gets tough and you just feel like giving up remind yourself you can do one more hour, one more minute, a few more seconds.

    Sending you much joy and sunshine…S

    • Hi S,
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and insightful comment. I have read about CBT, haha I have read five different books on depression at this point, and I have been trying to put it into practice. Without much success, I might add. I am attempting to change my way of thinking, both in my internal thoughts and my relationship with myself. I have also been dabbling with deep relaxation and creative visualization. Both are a bit more ‘loopy’ and not quite as scientific, but at least with deep relaxation I can get to a point where I don’t feel like my body is preparing for an onslaught of epic proportions. My muscles, especially in my back, tend to be so tight that moving is painful. I think I am moving forward, even if it is at a snails pace.

      I think, at least for me, the key might be to reform my life, my diet, and my outlook on my future. I have a hard time looking past this injury. But it is something that I am working on. I have to define my value by my self-worth, and in order to do that I have to develop more self-worth and love.

      Again, thank you so much for your comments, they are very dear to me.
      xoox – S.

  6. Dear S. I’m up in the night….insomnia driven me to catch up on my blog reading. I’m so sorry I didn’t see this sooner. Oh, S. what an awful and difficult road you are on! I’m so sorry. I wish I had a way to comfort you. I’m typing on the phone–not my best mode of communication. Will write again from a full keyboard in the morning. Sending you hugs, Ruth

    • HI Ruth,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I am okay. Really. I just need to keep pushing through and fighting for the life I want and deserve. It will come.
      Haha, there is my positivity for the day and a new affirmation… The life I want and deserve will come.
      xox – S.

  7. Ugh. Big Sigh. I can relate so much. It seems so hopeless at times. Who knows, maybe it is. Maybe there’s some merit to abandoning the upstream swim and turning into the flow and cruising WITH the river. We fight so hard to ‘beat’ this crap. It’s really, really exhausting. BUT, the kernels of occasional happiness make me believe we’re not meant to feel chronically bad and we CAN feel good. It’s keeps me fighting… keeps me swimming upstream.
    Your last statement about self-isolation really resonated. If it weren’t for Facebook, I’d have few or no ‘friends’ at all. It’s been my only source of connection to people who know me. I believe the isolation perpetuates my depression and I’m committed to knocking that crap off. (I can talk a big game, can’t I?)
    I’m glad you shared and hope you have a parting of the gray clouds that envelope you right now. The sad thoughts aren’t ‘real’ or the ‘truth’. You are so much more than your depression is telling you you are. I hope you have folks around you to remind you of that.
    Best to you,

    • Hi Sandra,
      Thank you so much for commenting. It really helps me to realize that I am not the only one feeling this way, and that it doesn’t make me weak to want to go with the flow for a while. I have done everything I can to help resolve my injury and I need to keep reminding myself that I am more than the injury. It is not my fault, or my weakness, that caused the injury. Like you, I do believe that this isn’t the way we are supposed to feel or live and I am absolutely inspired by the major steps you are taking to better your own life.
      I am impressed that you can follow through with your plans. I make grand and detailed, achievable goals and plans and then I have no energy or drive to follow through. However following along with your story is amazingly helpful and it makes me want to try harder.
      I know that I need to change my diet. So much of how we feel is in what we eat, after all it is what we eat that gives us the energy to keep going. I have been playing with the idea of cutting out all sugar and pre-packaged foods, but I don’t know if I can afford a ‘fresh only’ grocery bill. Supporting two people of benefits is a mightly hard thing to do.
      About the self-isolation, I tend to isolate myself because I can’t handle seeing others lives come together so perfectly. (I realize that everyone has problems and that I only see the positives in anothers life, and I am not comparing where they are to where I am, rather I mourn the simplicity of being able to make plans and following through with nothing but your motivation spurring you on or holding you back.) As an example, my best friend moved four hours away from me about a year and a half ago. In the time that she has been gone, she has gotten married, started an amazing full time position and is now pregnant, which I just learned yesterday. I am so happy for her, she is very happy with where she is right now, not to say there is no stress, of course there is, but she is happy. I feel like a horrible friend because I am so happy for her but there is also this little voice saying “why can’t I be happy where I am” and the response is “because where I am sucks.” It is petty, but when I see others moving forward it makes me envious. I just want the freedom to make decisions and plans without first thinking how my back is.
      Sorry this comment reply went off into the ether a while a go, so I am going to wrap it up.
      Thank you for being here and sharing your thoughts with me.
      xox – S.

  8. Ugh. I wish I had a magic wand here, but unfortunately, depression and back issues seem to be kissing cousins. At least, in my experience.

    The best thing you can do is keep trying and keep pushing yourself to do something. Even if it’s just maintaining your routine of going to PT, ETC. A daily goal list helps, even if it’s just something as simple as saying — I have to take five photographs today.

    BTW, the trick to waiting lists is to be a bitch, I mean, persistent. As in call regularly and ask where you are on the list, and request that your surgeon or his nurse do the same.

    • Hi TitaniumBabe,
      I don’t know if I have expressed this before, but I sincerely value your comments. I value all the comments I receive, but yours hold a special place for me. The fact that you know what I am going through defies value.
      You are right, I do need to just keep going. I have to allow myself to feel success at my daily accomplishments and give myself a break. I put so much pressure on myself to preform like a normal person and I think I just have to accept that, right now, I am not physically normal.

      As for the waiting list… Apparently because I am not suicidal I can wait up to eighteen months for treatment. While I understand that there are many people worse off, it is still a bit of a slap in the face to be told your depression isn’t debilitating enough to warrant treatment in a timely manner. So, it looks like I have to beat this depression, as well as my opiod addiction, on my own.
      Thank you again, Babe. Really, I can’t express enough gratitude that you found me and my blog and have found it worth commenting on.
      I hope this finds you having a good day!
      Tons of love,
      xoxo – S.

  9. Oh, S, I’m so sorry to hear about your depression. Some of the painkilling meds may be contributing to the depression. I hope you will be able to get help from the “system” soon. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help. We are all on this earth to help one another. It must be really discouraging to get the strength to ask for help and then be put off because you’re not “in crisis.” Sounds like double talk to me. I wish I were wise enough to advise you but I’m not. Is there a support group you could attend? Ask someone at rehab if there is.

    Please know that I’ve missed you and I think of you and I’m sending positive, healing thoughts your way.


    • Hi Pat,

      Your comment brought tears to my eyes. I find it so incredibly touching that you have kept me in your thoughts. You are wrong in saying that you are not wise enough to advise me, you have helped me loads. I have been looking into support groups, but there is still the issue of getting enough motivation to actually attend one.
      It was incredibly frustrating to be turned down for the rehab/chronic pain program as now I have to deal with my depression and narcotic withdrawal by myself. I am anxious and scared about cutting down on my pain killers. It is always such a horrible two week transition, and I am also terrified that my pain is actually more than I am willing to admit and that I won’t be able to function without them.
      Thanks again for coming by, it means so much to me that I have loyal readers hoping for and sending positive and healing thoughts to me.
      I hope this note finds you well and happy, and that you have lifted some of the weight off your heart.
      xox – S.

  10. What’s happened to your photography. All those fantastic pics you were taking on your walks. I’d love to see more.

    How about lining up 7 views you like and taking a picture of one of them every day. So on day 1 you take View 1, day 2 view 2 etc. Then the following week you repeat the exercise so you build up a story of each of your views as the seasons change.

    Also I love it when you comment on my blog. How about setting yourself a target to comment on at least one blog a day. Be it mine or someone else’s (though great when it’s mine!!).

    So I’m going to chivvy you into doing so!!

    What other things are you interested in. I know you love knitting – how’s that going?? What else?

    • Hi Caroline,

      I really like your photography idea. Unfortunately, Canadian winters make it hazardous to my health to be out more than I need to. Ice is not my friend! Come spring I will find my muse again!
      I feel something building inside of me, I think that this spring is going to help me crawl out of my own personal long winter. I am in need of rejuvenation and rebirth, so that is my goal for the next couple of months. I want to get to know me, what drives me and what would make me happier. Your questions on my interests are spot on, however I don’t know the answer to the question “What else? [am I interested in]”. Knitting has taken a bit of a back seat right now, I am trying to get my area clean and organized again so I can actually enjoy sitting there and spinning rather than feeling slightly claustrophobic. I guess right now, I just feel a bit lost to the world, and more importantly, to myself.
      Please do ‘chivvy’ me into commenting and writing! Because you are right, I do enjoy writing and commenting on others thoughts. I should go back to sharing my comments and thoughts at least once a day. (Which I think is a worthwhile and useful goal to set for myself.)
      Tons of love, and hugs. I can’t thank you enough,
      xoxo – S.

  11. I don’t know if I have anything to say that will be that helpful because everyone’s journey is very different. But many of us, including me, have been there too.

    I did find reading the book “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron to be helpful to me in a time of crisis. But the rest of it, is just lots of time, grieving, cups of tea, and small steps, as you get better.

    • Hello,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, and for sharing that you have been here too. It helps to know that as isolated as I feel, there are still people who can empathize and understand what I am going through. It makes me feel less like a deviant and outsider.

      Baby steps seem like gargantuan steps for me right now, I think that I need to be kinder to myself. I always read others struggles and it automatically illicits an emotional reaction, I feel like they are so strong to be sharing and I always feel empathy into the depths of my core, but I can’t seem to apply the same loving kindness to myself. I realize when others have made big steps, but I can’t seem to congratulate myself the same way I do others.

      I am going to look into the book you suggested, I think someone else has mentioned this book to me before as well. Something you said really resonated with me. I have to allow myself to grieve my old life, because it is not going to be the same from here on out.
      I hope this note finds you well and happy!
      xo – S.

      • It is hard, very hard. I’ve gotten stronger over the years but there are still days that can be a struggle. But it does get better.

  12. Just one more thing to share. I also have discovered (primarily through my therapist) that I can use photography to help so that I am doing something creative and doing something at all, even if I hate everything I create. A hobby, if at all possible, even our blogs, can be powerful tools, especially if you set longer term goals and try to force yourself to stick to them. I know, easier said than done, but I wanted to share since I know that it can help some, and even the tiniest bit can lead to momentum. Good luck.

    • Goals. Ugh. You are right, I need to set some long term goals that don’t depend on the health of my back to be successful. I think blogging is going to be my new outlet. I hope.

      Hobbies are something I have never had many of. I went right from high school to college and then university and I don’t think I have ever allowed myself to become familiar with myself and my drives as an adult. … Hm. Now you are making me think!

      xo – S.

  13. I can commiserate. I’ve totally been to all of those dark places you mentioned, including the not showering or being able to do anything, and then for you to have the surgery and physical pain on top of it. I am so sorry. I have jumped around on meds and to different doctors for a dozen years and am finally trying something more extreme for my family, not myself. I would have given up on myself years ago. I’m not sure that there is an answer, but I hope you can find the help you need in terms of doctors and medicine. Finding doctors you trust are so key, even when it’s hard to even make a phone call. I also hope you can see that you’re not alone, even if you push people away and isolate, I swear, although I know that can sound cheesy. It’s true though. People generally want to help they just don’t know how unless you tell them. I wish the best for you in your recoveries. I’ll be back, and feel free to come visit, or write if you need a friend.

    • Hi TMS Therapy Mama,

      I find it very interesting that we have only conversed through blogs and comments, but I feel a kinship with you. I know it sounds loopy. I just can’t think of another way to say it.

      I am inspired by your conviction that you can get better and will for your family if not yourself. I think I may adopt some of that mentality. While I don’t have children, I do have parents and a sister who have had to watch my steady decline into a person they didn’t know was inside of me. It must be really hard for my parents to see me and know there is nothing they can do beyond being there for me if I need it. My dad takes these things especially hard as he truly believes it is his job to ensure my continuing safety and happiness. (I will always be daddy’s little girl and mommy’s baby, even now at 26.) When I think about how I am feeling makes them feel I am racked with guilt. They have given me everything they had to give, and I couldn’t have asked for more. But this is my struggle and unfortunately there is nothing they can do other than to offer their support, which I know I will always have.

      Fortunately, I do have a family doctor whom I trust unconditionally. She has seen me through some of my darkest moments and even today she is fighting for me with workman’s comp, who want me back to work full time, NOW, even though I have vertebrae hanging on screws and I am not healing the way my surgeon would like. So in that sense I have a great safety net, but she isn’t a psychiatrist and I think that is what I need now. I feel like I look at the world through grey couloured glasses rather than the more optimistic and positive rose colored glasses. I think there may be something wrong with me deep within myself in a place that I can’t access on my own. So I know I need help, I just hope I get it.

      I am going to try to do some more photography as the weather here improves. Typical Canadian winters of ice and snow are not friendly to people who have had back surgery. But come spring I truly hope that I can renew and rejuvenate myself as nature will do around me. Here’s hoping!

      Thank you so much for your comments. It does help to know that I am not alone. And your offer of chatting is so amazingly appreciated. I sincerely hope you know that the offer is wholeheartedly reciprocated to you on my part as well. I have always found it interesting that I can pull myself out of my dark place in order to offer support and love to others. By that I mean that I would love to be someone you turn to when you need a boost, and yet I can’t seem to boost myself. I see you and think you are so strong and courageous to be writing about and experiencing your depression, and then I look at myself and feel weak and like it is my fault I am depressed. I really need to put my guilt to rest.

      I am sending all the positivity I have to spare your way, Mama. You deserve it because you are an amazing person.
      xox – S.


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