Freak out

I’ve started this post once or twice a week for months. I get out a sentence or two and stop – too tired, too fried, or too apathetic to continue. I’ve been MIA most of this year, clicking the occasional “like” the few times I venture out into social media. Reasons and excuses abound, but there’s no biggie I can point to and say, “that’s the one you can blame.”

Well, that’s what I tell myself, choosing to deny it as if acknowledgment will make it real: depression. Denial is easy with the apparent presence of cause. In addition to a handful of issues, I’m fighting a losing battle with disks going bad up and down my neck. It’s been bugging me (off and on) for the better part of twenty years, but early this year the pain escalated to a full time problem. I don’t have the energy to go through the rest of the laundry list tonight.

Me and depression go way back. It’s half-brother anxiety hangs around too. More often than not they seem to come without an obvious cause, so it was easy to dismiss my dark moods as a personal failing: an inability to shake self-pity.

Inspired by a friend, I’d made a little more progress on this post than usual this week, but the kicker was a letter I received in the mail Friday.

You may have heard about a New England company (the New England Compounding Center) responsible for a nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis, involving a tainted batch of steroids injected near the spine to treat back pain. The letter I received told me the series of injections I received in my neck earlier this year contained a steroid manufactured by this company. The upside is there have been no confirmed cases of meningitis linked to the steroid my doctor used, but it has been recalled and physicians have been instructed by the Department of Health to notify patients.

Here’s a quote from the letter: “All of us at xxx xxxx xxxxx understand that his information is alarming and frightening. Please do not hesitate to call us about this matter.” I can’t tell you how relieved I am that I have their permission to be alarmed and frightened.

The letter provides phone numbers and web site addresses for the FDA Division of Drug Information and the Centers for Disease Control. You know what that says to my anxiety prone mind? “The CDC is expecting your call.” I don’t want to be someone the CDC is expecting to hear from.

And then there’s every hypochondriac’s dream: I’ve had half the symptoms I’m supposed to watch for since before the injections. Headache, stiff neck, nausea, and sensitivity to light… I’ve had them all with great frequency this year, either due to the pain in my neck or the migraines it’s triggered.

My goal for the next few days is to focus on the following words: “there have been no confirmed cases.” Surely there would have been one by now, right?

In the mean time, my spare thoughts are with those of you with your own problems, and anyone facing an encounter with Hurricane Sandy.


  1. Hey John:

    Drug companies. They got your back. Great slogan, I think.

    I am sorry that you’ve had so much sh•t to manage this year. Migraine pain I get (enough with the puns already!), and I have a few slipped disks in my neck, but they don’t hurt like they used to hurt.

    I know that pain is so bloody personal. For everyone around you, it gets old, but for you it’s fresh and new every single day. I do wish I could get you up here to my therapist because she has healing hands, but I’m sure you’ve explored every avenue available to you.

    I know you may think that I’ve been to hell and back, and I suppose I have, but I think depression is among the worst illnesses that can happen to anyone. I went through an extended bout when I was in my late teens and early 20s, and I barely made it out alive.

    That you talk about your problems with such clarity and good humor is so rare, and I think it says a great deal about you. It might feel as things are caroming out of control, but I think you still hold the reins.

    You’re a good man.

    I see you as a terrific writer, a fine thinker, a kind man, a fantastic father, a dedicated husband. I see you as one of the strongest people I know.

    I see you as a great friend.

    If I can help, just reach out. You have a standing reservation.


  2. I can’t begin to express the anger and outrage I feel that you’ve be subjected to a product put out by this company. That is just totally beyond the pale (whatever that is) (maybe it’s pail?) That is hardly what ANYONE needs much less my dear John. I am spitting mad.

Give the gift of words.