For the last month, I've been fighting depression. However, I didn't use the D word TOO much when talking to friends. Instead, I would say that I was "fighting the side effects of a medication called Arimidex." That was true. As the pharmaceutical company puts it in the list of potential side effects, I was experiencing "mood swings." But in my case, it wasn't mood swings, plural. It was one mood swing, singular. One swing DOWN. No lows then highs. No middle ground. Just one deep swoop down into the gray pit of depression. I suspect this is what "mood swings" REALLY means for most women who experience this underemphasized side effect.
Why not just come right out and say the scarier, uglier D word? It's more realistic, more sobering, more honest, and much more fair to any woman who needs to know what to expect from this drug. Such a side effect is no small thing. Of course, once you sucuumb to it, your doctor then wants to prescribe an antidepressant. My response to that: Thanks but no thanks. Jesus.
The reason I was even able to write that last paragraph is because I woke up yesterday morning and realized, as I was transitioning from dreaming to waking, that I had an odd feeling. I couldn't quite place the feeling, and then it dawned on me. I was feeling a hint of well-being! I could see a sliver of sunlight shining through the tightly shut blinds in my brain. And I'd had a nice dream, one that actually included some erotic components!
Every other morning for the past three weeks, I woke up filled with a sense of dread, and felt the equivalent of the following thought): Oh no. Another day. I can't bear it. I don't want to do it. If only I could just stay here in bed all day, talk to no one, do nothing.
Yesterday morning was different. I felt a hint of my old self resurfacing. Someone who was capable of waking up with a feeling of optimism instead of pessimism. Someone who could open her eyes and look forward to the day ahead.
What had changed? Nothing. Except that the drug was beginning to wear off. That's my theory, anyway. My estrogen is starting to come back; thus my hormonal balance is getting better; thus my oppressive mood is lifting. My joints and muscles aren't aching as much, either. Gee, will my libido come back too? Have I actually un-spayed myself? Cool. I feel empowered by that.
I also feel the beginnings of an incredible sense of relief. Now that the Old Me is returning, I can go back to living with breast cancer in a way that makes sense. I can reclaim my joie de vivre. I can continue to search for ways to fight this disease without destroying my spirit and my will to survive.