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Story of depression, suicidality, love, hope, treatment success and full recovery.

Updated: Apr 4




  Today I'm sharing a story. Story of depression, suicidality, love and hope. It is a real clinical case, one of the cases in my practice, but all personal details are changed beyond recognition, so privacy is protected 100%.  This story is a story of hope, and this is a story of love and this story starts a few years ago, at the time when this elderly man walks into my office.


He is in his mid 70s.  His wife just died.  They've been happily married for 50 years. And she was a love of his life. He was referred by his primary care physician because he was complaining of depressed mood. He endorsed this idea that he doesn't see what's the point of him continuing to live without her. And he lost tremendous amount of weight. He was kind. His eyes were very, very, very sad. He was well related, eager to talk. And the amount of suffering and sorrow in his voice was tremendous.  Obviously, we explored suicidality and it was very clear that he has passive thoughts of death induced by his loss and his emotional pain, but that he's really not going to do anything.


He was meeting all of the criteria for depression  and initially  it was understood as complicated grief, but it got really severe.  It started being moderate to severe depressive episode.  He would have hard time falling asleep when he If he does fall asleep, he'll be waking up very early in the morning with a sense of despair, emptiness and loneliness.His mood was depressed for most of the day.  He lost tremendous amount of weight.  He really did not enjoy anything anymore. He was just existing.  And  he wanted to get some help.

 

We started psychotherapy together with antidepressant medications and initially it did not go well. First medication choice, he did not tolerate well. He ended up  vomiting and  we had to switch the medication. Second medication was tolerated well, but  he was not clinically effective. We were upping the dose, upping the dose, upping the dose and really his depression was not lifting.  His only activity that would get him out of the house were his weekly appointments with me when he would come for therapy to share his grief and his depression. He was very discouraged he believed that  nothing's ever going to work, that nothing is going to help him and that only  death and rejoining his  wife in heaven is going to be something that is going to relieve this pain.  He was willing to try one more medication. 


We changed the class of antidepressants and obviously he stayed in therapy.  And very, very, very slowly over the next couple of months  his depression started to lift. It is very insidious.  But he He started sleeping better,  he started  eating better, he started gaining back some weight,  he was not feeling that  exhausted and unmotivated all the time, and he actually started watching the game, the football game that he previously would not miss but during his depression couldn't care less about.  I started talking to him about other stuff. His therapy sessions were not evolving only around pain, around loss.  He started sharing other details of his life.  He started speaking about the reasons how and why he and his wife did not have kids,  about her infertility and his tremendous love for her  that was  augmented by the fact that they literally spend all of their life together.


He spoke about fidelity, he spoke about  certain temptations throughout his life, but he said absolutely nothing was a temptation strong enough to take him away from his beloved wife in any way.  Slowly,  he started remembering her not with tears, but with smiles.  Instead of remembering death and loss, he started remembering beautiful moments that  they had throughout 50 years. He would tell me anecdotes, or moments when one of them was embarrassed, or moments when One of them helped out the other one and  moments of laugh,  moments of passion,  his perspective changed.  His medication was optimized.  He kept coming to therapy religiously.  But he started being open to other activities as well.


He was getting out of the house, getting his own groceries. He started cooking. He was not ordering food anymore.  And throughout this process, he started helping a neighbor.  A neighbor was also an elderly woman.  And,  she had a hard time getting groceries. Actually, she had a problem that was impairing her capability of walking and it was quite challenging for her to go up and down the stairs so he became somebody who is helping her out, getting her groceries and obviously this additionally helped because he regained the sense of purpose. He felt like somebody needs him and  very, very slowly we stopped talking about  his wife's death and started talking about his life and his thoughts about his life that's developing right now. 


His neighbor, she was grateful  for his effort to get her groceries so she would  start cooking for him.  So she would make a soup and insist that he has to come for,  a plate of hot soup. She would bake a dessert. She would insist that he has to come, slowly but surely, they developed a little bit of a romance. He decided one day to help her down the stairs and to have a lovely walk in the park so be it it was spring. With increased activity, he actually reported that her gait, her capability to walk,  started improving. And then one day,  he came to my office.  He was  stuttering.  He was blushing.  And he asked,  if he can be prescribed Viagra. 


After evaluating cardiovascular risk  it was possible for this to be done  and  it's clear how and why he needed this medication.  Therapy sessions shifted.  He started talking about falling in love, passionately falling in love with this woman and  we encountered a whole new problem.  He loved his wife so much. He spent 50 years with his wife.  He never engaged in any type of romance with anybody else. And here he is now, after his wife's death,  having a relationship with another woman.  So, a feeling of guilt. and shame  surfaced out.  So our entire treatment shifted from  dealing with grief, depression, and loss to dealing with guilt and shame and the fact that he  honestly, genuinely, passionately loved his wife and that he now honestly, genuinely, passionately loves this woman that happens to be his neighbor.


One sentence that resonated with him  was my feedback that his love to his wife was genuine, that his wife  must have loved him back, and he agreed with that.  And with that love in mind,  His wife would most definitely want him to be happy.  And one of his responsibilities, his legacy to her,  is to take care of himself and to allow himself to be happy because his happiness would make her happy.


This really helped with the feelings of   shame and guilt.  Suddenly,  he started missing his therapy sessions. He would apologize, he would cancel, he would say that he really wants to go to a museum with his girlfriend. And gradually, we terminated the case.  He developed  a whole new life, a whole new love. He overcame severe depression with passive suicidal ideation. He regained his health and he was passionately in love and  sexually active  interestingly enough quite passionately sexually active and you know sometimes eager to even brag a little bit about it but it was clear that We can stop and that he's good enough and that my door is open if he ever needs help again. And I never saw him again.  And I'm very happy that this case terminated the way it did.  And it warms up my heart  because it's telling me, it's telling you that it is never late.  For anything  in life.


I love this story and I hope you love it too.  It is squeezed into a few minutes but this treatment lasted  about two years.  So, first year was really focused on depression, second year was focused on handling this romance and, uh, Uh,  the feelings that I mentioned. So  it's a short story, but it reflects two, almost two and a half years of treatment with therapy and medication and it resulted in triumph in happy ending. I'm very glad that I never saw this guy again. 

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