Depression

This blog is more a personal diary for myself – To keep the brain cells working – and also a way to communicate with family and close friends. But because it is open to the wider public, sometimes I  think twice before writing. This morning I hesitated, then decided to acknowledge- to myself as well as to others – that for the first time in my life I am suffering from depression.

This has been building up over the last month: I have faced endless setbacks and lack of progression in the rehabilitation, combined with the stress of combatting the system to keep on having treatment.

The real killer has been not so much the usual discomfort of rehabilitation but these sudden, mysterious, violent, knife- like pains in my right arm, which occur with a frustrating lack of pattern. Since the injection in my arm they have if anything got worse – but that could be because of increased, determined exercise by me in my twice daily pool sessions.

There has been an embarrassing and more frequent tendency for my eyes to fill with tears during sessions with the kiné, Audrey, and ergothérapeute, Delphine, when some movement has precipitated this sharp pain. Yesterday morning was particularly bad, so I decided to seek help.

I was already scheduled for a routine visit with the clinic’s psychologist, Francette (I had somehow slipped through the administrative net and failed to see her on arrival), and decided to ask her what I could do to stop this embarrassing weeping. I was not expecting miracles, just some practical advice about how to cope better.

My first ever visit to a psychologist! She turned out to be extremely nice, intelligent, sympathetic and easy to talk to. I recounted my difficult four years – shoulder operation, hip operation, cancer, and second shoulder operation (all operations with complications) and added Brexit in the list of setbacks to overcome.

Francette completely understood that it was the shock of how one’s country of birth could display such intolerance as much as the practical impact on my life that had generated physical distress. She said she had been abroad in 2002 when the French left had to vote for Chirac in order to keep Le Pen out and she had experienced the same physical shock.

She confirmed that it was the horrible question mark over what was causing the pain and the potential this had to completely overturn my plans for my life over the next few years which has proved the breaking point.  My body, she said, is responding physically to the combination of physical pain and emotional stress and uncertainty. It is saying: “enough!”  (This sounds more plaisible and articulate in French.)

i will see her again, but meanwhile she encouraged me to revisit plans for what she delicately called the next tranche (slice, I suppose means more, stage) of my life. At the same time she also thought a course of anti-depressants could help stop the current cycle and would be passing this opinion to Doctor Belhassen. I agreed, acknowledging I had no fear of dependency as I had always found it easy to stop medication following lengthy use after operations. I’m also booked onto a lesson she gives on relaxation (less convinced by this…). An interesting aside, I think the French have a much more open and ready acceptance of the role of psychologists and therapists than we do. I saw for example that the – apparently very self confident – policeman was the patient before me and showed no embarrassment at meeting me on leaving.

Then on to a pre-scheduled meeting with Docteur Belhassen to review the effect of the infiltration. He was not surprised it had not worked at all and repeated his scepticism that the problem was in the biceps.  He repeated that it upset him as much as me that he had so far failed to discover the cause of the pain, but the arm is filled with a complex mixture of muscles and tendons making diagnosis sometimes tricky.

What was promising was his declaration he did not want to give up. He has decided to send me for a scintigraphie and also a special échographie where the arm is examined while moving to try to track down the problem. He added that he did not want to prescribe me anti depressants yet as he was convinced that knowing what was causing the pain – and hence having a strategy for solving it – would be the best medicine I could have.

then he came round his desk to shake hands -as we do in France – and to give me a big hug – less commonplace.  Despite his excitable, eccentric behaviour I’m actually quite fond of Dr Belhassen.

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