When you can't fight depression

5 years ago
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My younger brother is smart. 

Like, wicked smart. Such as, can explain time-travel smart. Should be a rocket scientist kind-of smart. Could hold a conversation with Sheldon Cooper smart. 

Brother holds a Masters degree from one of the best universities for his specialty in a very difficult field of science. He moved across the country, on his own, to pursue his dreams. Now, Brother works for a booming company in his field. He worked his @$$ off to get the offer. 

If I was SEO-tagging my brother, I would use words such as "ambitious," "driven," "passionate," "relentless" and "dedicated."

And at the moment, I would also use the word "depressed." 

The transition into the workforce is said to be the most difficult life-change for men. It goes a step further for my brother. 

He suffers from seizures.

When he was five years old he had a brain tumor removed from the bottom right side of his skull. It required two surgeries in three days. I still remember the look on his face when my mom and dad told his five-year-old self, with tears on their cheeks, that he had to undergo a second surgery because the 'doctors missed some of the bad stuff.'

"Ok," he sighed. 

He took it in stride, just as he had the numerous MRIs, doctor visits, medications and the first surgery. My mom use to joke that if an obstacle like this had to happen to our family, this brother was the most prepared to handle it; my youngest brother and I (the oldest) were way too dramatic to cope calmly.  

Twenty years later, my parents were in town visiting him when he, as he referred to it, "zoned out." Their view was different. The seizures were back. In a short matter of months, the "zoning-out episodes" that he know knew were seizures went from once in a while to weekly, daily, multiple times of day. 

So the medication trials began...

Medication 1 did not do the trick.

Drs added Med 2 resulting in a very minimal change. 

Med 3 caused a serious rash that sent him to the emergency room. 

Ans that brings us to Med 4. One week into the very low-beginning dosage, and my brother is falling out of life. 

Thoughts of walking out of his job; moving back home with the family; and working in a retail store because he can not handle the stress of responsibility all go through his head. He spends hours wandering around the city trying to clear his continuously foggy mind. A cup of coffee gives him jittery anxiety. Cutting out caffeine craddles him in a state of lethargy where he can not find the motivation to go food shopping. 

Throughout all the medication changes there has been anxiety. There have been mood changes. There has been uncertainty. 

It affects his work performance. It affects his social life. It affects his sleep schedule, needing 8-hours-plus to get through a day. 

But the despair that now lines his voice, that, that is new. 

He calls... me, my parents, his close friend... often spending long periods of time sitting in silence. Our phone calls, specifically, will include rants about work, funny stories about the family and anything else to distract him from his frustrations. Other times we watch YouTube videos together or discuss upcoming trips.

There are serious conversations too. Should he find a new job? If so, what kind of job can he handle? Should he call the doctor again? Who can he find to talk to out there? 

Most recently, after his doctor re-introduced the idea of surgery, our the conversaion strayed to a new laser surgical technique for epilepsy that has shown success.

No matter how high or low the conversation goes, when we hang up I break down. I cry for his frustration, but I also ache because I can not fix it. 

The thing is. I went through a depression at his age. I remember the day cleary that I woke up and came to terms with the idea of suicide. A feeling of calm had come over me that had been missing from my mind for a very long time. It was peaceful; it was reassuring; it made me smile. I had the power to end the pain. 

I do not know why that feeling came on that particular day. But that was my rock-bottom. 

No one could have changed my thoughts. But the two people who I shared my true feelings with – I was living 4,000 miles away from my family and friends; it was easy to hide – would sit on the phone with me in silence, sometimes for hours at a time. They helped me feel less alone. 

Now, here I sit on the other side of the equation... and it scares the living crap out of me!

Will my brother hit his rock-bottom? How deep will it go? Is he strong enough to fight it? What the hell can I do to help? 

Everytime his name appears on my phone I wonder if he is feeling sad. I worry he is anxious. I fear he is in a dark place. 

 

Some days he laughs, some days he doesnt.  

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