OK! So, it’s been two years, almost to the day, since I walked into my last TMS session and handed my technician Lillian a silly “thinking cap” that I’d knitted for her. The base of the cap was created with rainbow colored yarn, and then I sewed on gray, worm-looking segments, to make the cap look like a brain. As I handed her the gift, we both laughed with tears in our eyes, and I thanked her for “helping me to get through my gray matter to all of the colors that lay beneath”. And then we hugged. It was the perfect ending to a long few weeks.
Just a couple of days ago, I sat on a bench on the Santa Cruz boardwalk with my brother as my dad took pictures of my daughter and my mom riding some vomit- inducing ride that my daughter had chosen for them. My brother and I were casually chatting about everything and nothing. At some point I asked him, “If you could assign a color to depression, what would it be?”
“Black,” he said.
“What IS black?” I asked.
“The absence of col…O…I mean…all of the colors combined.”
I nodded and smiled, “I think that, too. Depression is all of the colors combined, and if you can’t figure out how to separate those colors, then it can be very dark, and heavy; a hole that swallows everything that we see as colorful.” He paused and then said, “Yeah, that makes sense. But, man, it can be really tough to get those colors to separate into strands.”
I agree, it can be tough. I think my brother and I have been lucky in the sense that our mom is sort of the opposite of depression. She is “clear” like a crystal that has the ability to refract light and show colors as vibrant and beautiful. She’s positively wired and she has always made it her mission to try and help us separate our colors, even before we knew what the task at hand was. From very early on, she knew that we were both a little “left of center” in how we viewed the world. (If you’re wondering what “center” is/was, the answer was her and our dad).
Our dad is also a clear. He doesn’t carry around a lot of white noise with him. He is quick to smile, and joke. He loves to be outdoors. He does his best with any task he takes on. He’s smart with statistics and such and it’s served him well in his chosen career path. He knows that success isn’t measured by the amount of money one has in their pockets, but in how they treat others and in the love of family. But, he also knew that the mortgage had to get paid, so he was grounded in that respect, and has been a hard worker his entire adult life. He is the perfect teammate for my mom and just by existing, together, they are a shining example of what “brilliance” looks like. My brother and I are very lucky to have grown up in this sort of environment. I don’t think either of us would be alive today if we didn’t have such a great visual example of what “human” should look like.
We put our parents through all sorts of hell. I don’t mean your garden variety version of hell. I mean, we were little terrorists who refused to absorb their light for as long as it took for each of us to come around. One of their kids (I won’t name any names, but it could have been me), ran away with the carnival…twice. That child checked out on the entire family for well over a decade. That child left her children behind and every generation before that, because that child couldn’t find the strength or the energy to separate the black. The other child (again, I won’t name any names, but he is not me), had his own struggles and time of disappearing acts. We both held on to the black in a way that seemed unprecedented in a family such as ours. We made mistakes…mistakes that were huge, and unforgivable. Yet, we’ve been forgiven and welcomed home with open arms, and now we are both loved AND trusted by our parents. It’s been a long journey that I wish I could take back in a lot of ways. But, also my brother and I…have the opportunity to help others who find themselves in situations that are similar to ours. We have purpose, and that helps to ease some of the guilt we carry.
I think we still have very little idea of how the brain functions and, as we progress in this field, we will be amazed and confused for many years to come. But, it seems to be a forefront issue at this time and I feel pretty lucky that we know the little bit that we do, because sometimes I feel like I am a sort of bridge between the duplicitous (normals) and the singulars (those with Autism, ADHD, Depression, etc). I’ve been diagnosed as high functioning pretty much everything that has a word that carries negative connotation with it. But, I have parents that welcome me with open arms, even after I’ve shut them out for so long. Actually, not just parents but family in general. Family that wants to hold me up and see me do better, feel better, be better. Because of this, I am able to use my diagnoses as tools instead of disabilities. I can tell people my story and let them know that some of us have to learn empathy, compassion, and emotion the same way as others learn math, science, and history. As a child, television was my teacher. I am not a big fan of cartoons (those people NEVER change their clothes and their voices drive me bonkers) . But, as a kid, I loved shows that had real people in them. My text books for how to deal with the world came in the form of Punky Brewster, Silver Spoons, Diff’rent Strokes (Whachu’ talkin’ ‘bout, Willis? Am I really THAT old?) Sometimes, things would backfire. I stopped crying completely for well over a decade because of a 30 second scene in a movie I saw as a young teenager, where the character I liked and identified with said she never cried. That was not healthy and it scared the crap out of my mom, sometimes. She wanted me to be human. In a lot of ways, I am more computer than human; I’m like a hybrid.
Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about me. You may or may not know that my mom’s brother, my uncle, is a doctor and he is the one who introduced me to TMS. I think this is very important to state because most of us who have depression and all that goes along with it, well…we are skeptics and think everyone is sort of out to get us, or our money. Most of us have “tried everything under the sun” to try to make our brains right and if someone I didn’t know were to tell me a few weeks of magnetic thumping on my head could change the course of my life, I would have laughed and said, ”oh…yeah…ok” and continued on. But this was my family, and it was my mom’s side of the family, so I went into the whole process knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that my best interest was at the forefront. I want to say thank you to Dr. Rick Christie for seeing value in me, and for loving me and our family enough to want to see me healthy and well. Thank you for making me feel like I matter.
I met with Dr. Shashita Inamdar in late June of 2017 and our journey began. I had my genetics testing done to see what sorts of chemicals my brain and body like and dislike and how they absorb such things. I started hyperbaric oxygen treatments and I began TMS for depression and anxiety. I also started medication for ADHD as I was given a test for that and apparently I have poor impulse control. This may or may not explain some of the minor detours I took in life (like running away with the carnival…twice).
So, I think there is a blog or three that I wrote and posted when I was going through TMS, but what about now? How am I now? Would I recommend TMS now? My answer is…maybe.
TMS doesn’t necessarily make you feel better, it makes you FEEL…better. It creates this sort of crispness to your thinking and seems to give the ability to find strands of colors in the black. This is amazing when you like the colors you’re looking at. What I mean to say is…when you feel good, you feel GOOD.
As soon as I started TMS treatment my sleeping patterns improved. I stopped having to nap 3-4 times per day and I was on a normal sleep schedule. I was able to exercise and it felt good. It was especially nice to have the hyperbaric treatments because I don’t think I ever once felt sore from working out. My daughter and I would get up each day and play “Just Dance” on the PS4 for 30 minutes to an hour each day. We walked our dog Nikki and went swimming. The summer days were long and we were making the most of them. By bedtime, I was tired and ready to sleep and I did so until morning. This was not something I had been able to do…well…for longer than I could remember. I couldn’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t feel tired and lackluster.
Even as kids, the rule was that we could watch an hour of TV per day, (uhm, yeah…ok). We were supposed to be outside in the air and with our neighborhood friends.
But, I remember spending many a summer day, or weekend, too tired to go outside, curled up on the couch watching my “lessons” and when I knew it was almost time for my mom to get home from work, I would change out of my pajamas and into my play clothes.
It had been a long time since I had a day where I didn’t feel utterly exhausted; a day without thinking “I’m ok. I’m just tired”. To me, improved sleep is the best thing that came from my experience, along with just KNOWING what my full diagnoses were. For this alone, I would do it again if I had to go back and choose.
Here is the “however” of it all, for me. I think maybe my treatments were too close together and everything happened way too quickly. I was lucky, though. I had already spent a huge portion of my life learning how to deal with life. If I had a problem, I typically knew how to express it. I had spent a decade “training the brain”. I had learned how to slow down and think about information as it came; how to know when I was thinking from my depressed mind or when something actually needed to be addressed. I was aware that I think pretty much everything into the ground. Through counseling and my folks, I had learned how to express myself when I needed to. I had learned to apologize when I was wrong and to stand up for myself and others when it is necessary. This is not to say that I was or am perfect. I have a short fuse (anxiety) and it can cause problems in the way that I deal with adversity. TMS mellowed me waaaaaay out. This means that now I don’t have to apologize for being a jerk quite so often, and that’s AWESOME. However, I think it’s important to note that TMS deals with chemical imbalance, not the ability to deal with issues as they crop up. If you do TMS you MUST have a counselor or a life coach, or the change you experience could simply be too difficult, especially if you didn’t have parents who were/are as supportive as mine were growing up. Expressing your feelings, and dealing with the bad stuff that life has to offer, is a learned process and no matter how balanced your chemicals might be, dealing with life still has to be done…period…the end.
I will say that I had a friend who was going through treatments at the same time as me. He had to stop. I think a big reason is because he still had to live his life every day. He was working and doing everything he normally would have done if he wasn’t getting his TMS treatments. I wasn’t. TMS was a pit stop for me. We (my daughter and I), were moving from OK to WA and we ended up staying at my folks during the 6 weeks of treatment. I had absolutely nothing else on my plate…literally. If I didn’t want to wash a dish, even, I didn’t have to. My support system was in place. I would absolutely say that this is important, but I also wonder if I would have felt like TMS was so effective, at the time, if I had other things I had to focus on besides the experience itself. TMS is hard, like, unbelievably hard. I often lost complete control of my emotions for no reason, and I DO…NOT…LIKE…THIS! It was frustrating and required patience from everyone involved. I can’t even imagine breaking down into ugly-face crying in the middle of a work day and not being able to do anything to help it. Looking back, I think of it like being trapped in a prison of darkness and then being expected to appreciate the sun once I was saved. I mean, I DID appreciate it, but it hurt in a way I didn’t expect.
Once I moved to WA, I had a decline that became super scary for me. I was unraveling and it was acutely apparent in a way that I hadn’t had to experience before. Remember how I said TMS doesn’t necessarily make you feel GOOD…it makes you FEEL better? So, with the move, I was struggling with the stress of leaving a decade of my life behind in OK, and starting fresh in WA, and, oh…my gosh, it was excruciatingly maddening. Like, I regretted having the treatments. I wanted my old self back. I felt like all the work I had put in on my own to be even keeled and “normal” had just been stolen from me because now I had very little control over myself.
BUT, I think, if it hadn’t been for TMS I would not have scrambled to get my insurance and go through the channels I needed to go through to get a good regiment of meds for myself, as TMS is not an option for me at this point. My insurance doesn’t cover it because it’s not like a magical forever cure-all. It’s something that may need to be maintained and booster treatments may be necessary. It does have a way of rendering certain pharmacy meds necessary if you’re able to have treatments on demand. It’s not something western medicine has embraced fully. I was offered a booster when I went to visit my folks last year, and I passed. I didn’t want to have the high I had the first time. It was too many colors all at once. Besides that, I am doing well. Yes, I take a few meds now, but I see this as a positive because I went for years white knuckling through my life. Before TMS, I would have never completed the paperwork I needed to get myself help. I would have never made and kept appointments. I would have never persisted with doctors when I knew something was wrong with me. I just wouldn’t have. And now I do.
A wise person said to me once “In every day, there are probably going to be good things that happen, and bad things that happen. How the day is, is how you choose to remember it” (Thank you, mom). I think TMS made it a little easier for me to remember the days in positive ways. It gave me a moment to breathe, and realize that there are things I can do to not have to work so hard to want to stay alive. I’m very grateful for that. It also gave me a moment to breathe long enough to apologize to some of the people I have hurt along the way. My son and his girlfriend visited me at my home in May. He is 24 now; he was 8 when I left. We had a good time. Maybe my middle child will come around soon, also.