In the Dark

Lorrie flipped the pages of the magazine Lisa gave her. The pictures of the Caribbean started her thinking of her coming summer vacation. Today is the first day of Spring, she thought happily, and Summer will be here before she knew it. Suddenly a weird feeling swept over her body, grabbing all her muscles at once, arching her back violently. Her stiffened neck muscles slammed her head into the wooden headboard. Like a huge fist, her body strained with a vibrating tension, her heart pounding, feeling like it would burst out of her chest. Again. This time Lorrie let out a shriek that woke her husband in the next room.

Thinking heart attack, Tom rushed Lorrie to the emergency clinic nearby. Waiting for the doctor he nervously held her sweating hands. He kept asking her what was wrong, but Lorrie just shook her head mumbling “Mommy, mommy” over and over. The doctor sent Tom out while he examined Lorrie, now nauseous and looking pale. No fever, heart beat elevated, no shaking in the limbs, no spasms in the   duodenum , and blood pressure normal. A nurse took some blood for testing, the doctor sending Lorrie home to wait for a diagnosis.

After an excruciating wait, one doctor recommended that Lorrie acquire a heart monitor for a week. Another prescribed strong digestion pills for her  duodenum  problem and a third wanted a psychiatric examination. The heart monitor proved that nothing was wrong with her heart, the stomach medicine caused nasal bleeding and the psychiatrist was totally unsympathetic and wanted her to snap out of it.

Fortunately, Lorrie got to see a brain specialist, a doctor who was in on the invention of the PET scan, a device that maps the different active areas of the brain. A thorough testing revealed that Lorrie’s brain had a chemical imbalance, causing all of her recent symptoms. A week’s stay in the hospital was advised and her response to at least a dozen different medications was unfortunately unproductive. During the following months Lorrie could not function normally. She sometimes had to be fed by hand, a catatonic-like state taking over her mind. There were numerous attempts of suicide. Careful watching saved her life several times. Lorrie was caught in the middle of the night heading for the railroad tracks. All sharp tools had to be hidden. When asked how she felt, she could only say that everything looked black (this on a sunny day). Fountains of unneeded tears flowed down her cheeks, the constant singing of hymns in a high, tearful voice, and anything higher than the floor would cause her extreme anxiety. Only after eleven sessions of mild shock treatment were there any signs of improvement.

It took three years of minute adjustment of the medication of choice, but Lorrie finally could say she was almost totally cured. Occasional lapses of depression were to be expected and experienced but Lorrie coped with these periods bravely. One in five women have serious depressions and men are not immune. A high percentage of the new papers written by research doctors are about the problems associated with the treatment of depression. Of the hundreds of proteins found in the brain, only ten per cent are fully known. Depression is not a condition a person can ‘snap out of’. Much patience and understanding is needed to help bring these unfortunate victims back to full function.