And seeing that it was a soft October night

Notice: Today I am not in a chipper mood. An honest mood, yes, but happy and spunky? Certainly not.

True to every major holiday, I have managed somehow to get sick. Truly, don’t ask me how: I avoided malls, major gatherings, offices of any variety.  I swear, illness finds me. And I find that I’m not terribly happy about this.  Not the cold/ flu/ pneumonia thing going on, but the illness thing. Okay, I confess, I’m not just unhappy; I’m downright furious – on behalf of both my husband and myself. I don’t know if I want to throw things out windows, scream obscenities at the people who do not pass by (lovely bonus of living in the middle of nowhere – you never see any damn people – yes, this is sarcasm), hit the wall repeatedly (pillows are too soft), run my hand-me-down car into a tree, or just cry. I think the crying scares me the most. I’ve always been terrified of crying.

This whirlpool of confusion starts this time every month: about one week before ECT. ECT has helped, tremendously.  Far more so than any of the other painful, humiliating, and generally inhumane treatments I’ve tried for a condidtion which I may or may not have. The greatest problem – aside from the extraordinary inconvience and fuzziness – is the amnesia. they aren’t kidding when they warn you about it. Now, I don’t know if I just experience it worse than most, or if I notice it more because I’ve lost an almost-photographic memory, but I have huge, monstrous holes in my memory now. Also, I have no short-term memory whatsoever. The really old stuff – as in, older than 15 or 20 years – is still there, but I barely remember my daughter as a baby (she’s 7); I hardly remember my courtship with my husband; I don’t recall most of the books I’ve read or movies I’ve seen (and this is my life); even if it was only a year ago. There’s “living in the now” and then there’s “living with no past.” I’m with Tohru Honda (“Fruits Basket”) on this one: I don’t think there are any memories that are okay to forget, even if they are bad ones.

So, once a month, I drag my entire family to a hospital 2 1/2 hours away. I actually like the anesthesia – it’s the best sleep I ever get. It’s the afterwards. I can’t remember where the car is. I don’t know the day. And I have no idea how much of myself I have now lost.

As if I haven’t already lost enough. Enough? Almost everything. You can imagine how little patience I have for people whose problems could be solved with the application of a little gumption and imagination. I feel that they don’t know what loss is.


My daughter just came upstairs to check on me. My husband (her dad) did not sleep at all last night due to – you guessed it! – illness, and of course I’m profoundly not well myself. She told me that today she’s taking a day to take care of her mom and dad, because sometimes we need taking care of.

Something else about which to wonder: why treat a condition which may or may not exist?

I have a theory: people in general do not like Things That Are Different. And the way I think and work with ideas and information is different. This, combined with a well-nurtured case of PTSD, is a little scary. (I think it’s something that could be lovely, but many with prescription pads and lab coats, or with overstuffed couches and well-meaning expressions appear to think otherwise.) To get me out of their offices as quickly as possible, they write scripts for meds with generally make me worse – not better – and call in the next patient. And so, I have ended up at the treatment of last resort, and with a conglomeration of physicians none of whom take actually responsibility for me.  Some have even been kind enough to call me “untreatable.”

Perhaps I am untreatable because there is nothing to treat.

Perhaps I have spent years believing that I am broken when I am merely shaped differently, newly, a new design based on an older model. One must know the rules before breaking them; perhaps I have simply broken new rules.

Perhaps. If I could only remember.


About Shannon Blue Christensen

Storyteller. Author. Editor. Literary Critic. Director. Teacher. Knitter. nascent Musician. Student. Operations and Quality. Marketing. Historian. Lear's Fool. View all posts by Shannon Blue Christensen

5 responses to “And seeing that it was a soft October night

  • jtactorTurner

    This was so moving. Thank you, new, brave friend.

    And I am rather sure I shall never forget you. Cheers

  • Theodora Goss

    Shannon, I’m so sorry to hear that you’re going through this. You have all my sympathy. I have a good friend who’s going through an illness that doctors have not been able to diagnose with certainty, but that sometimes puts her in a wheelchair. It sounds as though you’re going through some of the same questioning and difficulty she is. I know words don’t help, but I do want to send good wishes and a thanks for sharing.

    • shannonbluechristensen

      Thank you for your kind words. I do appreciate them greatly. And while I do appreciate your sympathy, I’m actually hoping my friends (super-new, new, and old) would be willing to offer up encouragement and support. It’s a challenging thing, re-birthing yourself, mourning your old self and all those lost abilities and dreams, and trying to squeeze out of skin grown too small. I think everyone can benefit from a cheering section during these times. (Including the times when the cheers sound more like “Get off your ass, you coward!” and less like, “Hey, look at that really hard thing you just did! Good job.”)
      Take care, super-new friend,

  • coppervale

    “Perhaps I have simply broken new rules” is one of the best lines I’ve ever read.

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