When Relying On Small Victories To Move Through Depression There’s A Very Real Risk The Small Defeats Will Carry Us Under

Caring for yourself, looking after your physical health, just isn’t a priority for someone who constantly wants to die. It wasn’t like I was in pain, my teeth were usually in pretty good shape, but I wasn’t flossing or rinsing or brushing three times a day either. In fact, it’s a little difficult to afford Fluoride Rinse and Mouthwash when you’ve only got $120 in available cash at the beginning of the month, and Food Banks don’t give out mouth-care products.
“…The Little Things Get Neglected”; Something I wrote last Spring

“Lithium mouth”, or Lithium as a cause of rotting teeth, is an Urban Legend… probably started by the Followers of X3nu. Lithium can have an effect on the amount of saliva generated in your mouth. Which, in layman’s terms, means “having a dry mouth.” This is probably due to its being a salt… but I’m not a scientist. So if you’re taking Lithium drink some water.
…Something that was explained to me by very smart people.

I started feeling down… bad, depressed, blah, grey, whatever, just after Christmas. Actually it was a month before Christmas, but the days before and after Christmas were pretty good. Wait… no, it was earlier, maybe August.

Yeah, there were a few days in September where I was doing okay but August and October sucked… then most of December. So I guess I started feeling… ‘grey’ back in August. No… wait a minute… there was last Spring and early Summer which sucked pretty bad leading up to a couple of not so bad days in July just before those goodish couple of days in September. There was a month in the early Spring, I think it was March, which went pretty well… I think it was March. I know January of 2007 I was recovering from some pretty traumatic shit from the Summer and Fall of 2006. How far back, exactly, do I have to reach into my memory to find… something?

We need to be able to find small victories, little moments we can lose ourselves in so we can fight against the voice in our head telling us what a huge fucking failure we’ve become because we couldn’t stop failing over the years and decades which make up our lives. Sometimes we stop seeing those victories… or the space between the last one and now just gets too long to remember. If I was an addict and in a program like AA or NA, this would be the time when I should call my sponsor.

I was sitting in my mom’s car, driving back from the Dentist about a month ago. And I was trying to find the right word to describe how I felt. But I couldn’t. The Dentist had just told me there was no hope for one of my teeth, and very little hope for another. And if I wanted to save the second tooth I’d have to work at it… brush multiple times per day, floss deep, use baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, gargle with salt water. If I wanted to save the tooth.

So I bought the baking soda and the hydrogen peroxide… if I wanted to save the tooth all I had to do was try. And I didn’t try. On Friday of last week I got an infection on the first tooth. On Saturday the second tooth came out. On Wednesday of next week the infected tooth will be extracted. On the way back, with gauze in my mouth soaking up the blood from the new hole in my face, I figured out the word I was looking for… defeated. I was feeling… I have been feeling defeated.

I’m not sure… maybe, maybe I’ve felt like this before. But my memory sucks large right now so it’s basically impossible to find any historical context. I think I’ve felt like this before but lacked the word. But it’s not the feeling which is bothering me… there’s something more. It’s giving up. I feel like I’ve given up on some things. By next week I may or may not have lost two teeth, but I didn’t even try to save them. I looked at the tools for a couple of months and I knew the risks and what was at stake…

And it wasn’t like I was doing Behaviour B knowing I was supposed to be doing Behaviour A, it was me not doing anything. It’s not the pills or the treatment, I’m not suggesting I’m in immediate danger of stopping either… and I still see a future but I think it may be the type or quality of that future which is pushing me deeper into Grey.

I have to eat cold mushy food for the next few days, then again for a week after the next tooth comes out. My mouth is in a lot of pain right now… no it’s not, only when I chew. Or drink. Or yawn. Then there are two more teeth the dentist says might have to come out… those two would make six since last Spring. It just feels like I can get through the depressing depression shit, but then people I care about are fucking off, or I’m damaging my foot, or my printer won’t work, or I erase two-years of edits for my book, or the leg on my chair is missing its rubber stopper so now I have to write while on a slant, or a bunch of photos come out blurred, or my teeth are falling out…

I don’t Know what’s going on… I have assumptions of course, and little theories why I feel like this. I think a lot of it has to do with the teeth, of course. But also because I’m still not sure about the whole Living Thing. I still Have a future, I’m pretty sure of that… but just because I’m not suicidal anymore doesn’t mean I think my future is worth living through. Considering the effects long term depression, tooth loss and inflammation through infections have on heart disease said future is getting a lot shorter. So maybe I’m not taking care of myself as a kind of slow, semi-methodical quasi-suicide. Or, maybe I’m not taking care of myself because I haven’t learnt how. But if it’s the latter the time to learn this shit is rapidly running out.

How the Fuck does a thirty-seven year old dude Not know how to take care of his teeth? How can I, knowing the consequences, not do everything I can to save what I’ve got left?

Holy fuck… as much as I feel Grey, like I’m fading, as much as I feel some clarity from the Disease, I also feel like I’m breaking down.




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Classic, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Dentist, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Poverty. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to When Relying On Small Victories To Move Through Depression There’s A Very Real Risk The Small Defeats Will Carry Us Under

  1. exactscience says:

    Well this is going to sound overly dramatic. All that evil men require to succeed is for good men to do nothing.

    I think it is fair to say when it comes to the illness we can be pretty good at identifying what is bad for us, maybe even proficient at no longer doing the bad stuff but trying to improve our health – well that’s just alien.

    Years of thinking our health doesn’t matter trains us not to learn how to maintain our health, how to care for ourselves. I am twenty two, I still figure at some point I am going to grow up, stop being a child and actually use the skills I know I have to care of myself properly.

    Perhaps it is the legacy of multiple suicide attempts or persistent depressions that makes thinking of making a concerted effort to be well difficult, but surely that is why we post to our blogs and talk to friends and therapists and keep taking the pills.

    We want to live and we want to live well, you, I and all the other mentalists will get to making the decision to choice living well at some point – we just need support.

  2. bromac says:

    I think it is hard to focus on the small stuff, like teeth, when you’re focused on ensuring success with mental disease. It’s hard to care about flossing when you’re just trying to not off yourself.

    But, now, it seems as if you have time and space for these concerns. So start working on those things. You mental health is improving, you should have more time to focus on your physical health as well.

    Just one thing at a time.

    I have needed a new eyeglass scrip for two years now. And a teeth cleaning. Sometimes these tiny issues can be the straw, so to speak. But, by actually following through with your physical health (talking to myself also, i suppose), you can most likely improve your mental health. Being good to your body as well as being responsible.

  3. Nita says:

    It never rains, but pours they say! when things start going wrong, they start going wrong altogether! happens to me all the time. the trick is, don’t feel sorry for yourself. Get angry, not depressed! Meet it all head on, and conquer! life is very tough whatever they say about it being beautiful.
    sorry if this sounds a little rough dude!

  4. dame says:

    oh babe, i’m so sorry you’re going thru this. firstly, there’s just nothing worse than mouth pain. i went to a bad dentist a few years back which led to infections and then extractions. between the physical pain and feeling like i was just rotting away and being carved into or something — i went into a seriously deep funk. it’s easy to feel like, fuck, i’m deteriorating. literally. i think you’ll feel far better once they patch you up, but in the meantime, i know, it’s shit. hang in there, sweetheart. you’ll get thru this. big hugs. and music. of course.

  5. First off, I too agree with dame and am sorry that you are having to go through this again (the teeth stuff.) Doubly, triply, to the nth fucking degree I am sorry about the Depression. Lord almighty will that ever end with us?

    Stupid question.

    Sorry. I don’t mean to be a downer. Maybe that’s just me being a realist. But don’t let me drag you down–no, no. If anything, I’m in your rowboat with another bucket, bailing as fast as you are!

    Now about this post. Funny…I was sitting up with ridiculous insomnia that I have not had in years, trying to envision a “happy place” to relax. Something visual. It was hard. It wasn’t so much a “victory” as you say but something similar? Just a wee, little thing that could make me just sigh a bit and say, “It’s okay, PA…don’t worry. Things may be screwy right now in your life but…?”

    Oh, the future. I know I have one too but damned if I can see it! All I do is just keep walking the path day to day. Perhaps you could do the same? I know it’s hard when maybe we have envisioned things in the past and time marches on–and as I feel now, I don’t know where it’s marching onto–but it is marching somewhere if that makes any sense.

    But I sometimes too feel it is all pointless. I understand what you are saying.

    Personal care? Jesus Christ On A Flaming Pogo Stick! Welcome to PAs personal hell! I won’t even mention for fear of embarrassment! I’m 37 too and sometimes I feel like a bloody six year old! Granted, I’ve had a good day today because of the lack of sleep. Why not take the time to do something hygienic while you’re staring at the walls.

    I think there may be various reasons why we may lose focus of taking care of ourselves. I think it may be because of the illness and we relapse into crapland and we just don’t care. I have also thought about your “quasi-suicide” suggestion–no, I have. As far as my lack of eating (very bad PA is on that point) I have also questioned it as a way of gaining control over things in my life where I have no control. This is one of the primary the reasons or thoughts behind the cause of Anorexia.

    I know I was always better off with a partner. When I am on my own, it’s right down the extremely, slippery slope of “PA Sucks At Self Care.” I never used to be like this when I was (hypo)manic.

    Small victories? True, you may not get a walloping pat on the back but when you are working your way through shit, there really is only so much you can do. When you’re trying to get to any degree of stability, you have to pace yourself. It’s not like you can start climbing mountains right off the bat. And, I know…it all still sucks because even when you get half way up the mountain something can knock you back down.

    The point is, I guess if you don’t at least start with the small victories, you won’t build up any confidence and start feeling better.

    Okay, did I write a long enough comment here?

    I hope it all makes sense and doesn’t sound too pollyanna. Believe me, I’m not feeling all that wonderful myself these days. I think I might be just faking it. Or flip flopping…or something.

  6. markps2 says:

    I am not a dentist, but my first impulse is to fight and say bullshit. The tooth in the photo looks ok to me. Is the chewing side gone > nerve damage infection?
    Anyways you could get a second opinion Dentist.

    In the big picture staying alive is more important than flossing your teeth. So look at it positively.

    I went to the dentist recently and I have the same problem about teeth cleaning and depression.

    To make myself change my ways, I wrote a note and taped it on my bathroom mirror to read everything I look in the mirror. “Floss teeth” it says. it 10% floss 90 % walk away Ill do it later.

    The most important thing in my perspective is discilpline.
    It takes discipline to do. Its not that I hate myself, its finding the time and being determined to floss.

    I still do not floss every day, but I am improving to at least once a week.
    Once it become a daily habit, I think I’ll be ok.

  7. bromac says:

    How you doin’ Gabriel? Usually you comment on one or two of our posts……..

  8. Gabriel... says:

    Everyone: Getting out of bed has been difficult recently, and once it happens interacting with people — analogue or digital — takes more energy than I’ve got, but I’m listening to my “Totally Non Suck” mix and drinking cold milk with Nesquick so my adrenaline is pumping a little more than it has been.

    My doctor has been pushing those “special lamps” on me recently so this Friday I’m going to get one… I’m not sure why I’ve resisted it so far.

    The problem with my teeth comes from genetics, one of the various Periodontal diseases, and poor dental hygiene. The direct result is loss of bone density, according to this dentist and my last one I have the bone density of someone twice my age… which isn’t good.

    Aside: one of the common causes of periodontal disease is smoking, which I did for seventeen years and fifty-one weeks.

    The dentist has made a point over my past five or so visits to shove a mirror in my hands so I can watch her bounce my sick teeth around… she gently pushes down on them and they pop back. The ones she wants to take out (tomorrow and maybe later) actually rock back and forth like they were baby teeth. It’s not pretty.

    The tooth in the picture actually started to fall apart in my hand… the dentist is going to let me film the process tomorrow so, if it goes well, I’ll post it as a YouTube later on this week.

    Purple ninJAH: you can write comments as long as you want, and it made perfect sense to me. Thanks for the email as well.

    Dame: I like the sound, thanks. Try this one

  9. thordora says:

    Sorry I haven’t been around. Tons of work, and the not on vacation suckage…

    I wish I knew what to say when this happens to someone else. I don’t, aside from your own words that it’s not real, and it will end, and just to ride it out. You’ve always been right when talking to me, so remember to listen to yourself.

    And the weather is SHITE, but at least it’s not snowing, right?

    I had one tooth pulled-never again. I don’t envy you my friend. But I’m reminded that I should get to the dentist.

    Hang in there. Email if you need to.

  10. markps2 says:

    “The tooth in the picture actually started to fall apart in my hand” . damn.
    I’m going through the stages.
    from the internet “In the Kübler-Ross Grief Cycle, the second stage is one of blind denial. In order, the stages are: Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Testing, Acceptance.

  11. bromac says:

    My SIL, 29yoa, has major teeth issues. About a year and a half ago she had most of her teeth pulled in one sitting. She had a great dentist, a teaching dentist, and was lucky enough to get implants done for half cost as a teaching tool for another dentist.

    I know what you’re experiencing and I’m sorry. Try to keep your head above water.

  12. dame says:

    she goes well with pain killers

    warm thoughts, darlin.

  13. Gabriel... says:

    It’s all over now… it didn’t give much of a fight, but I did catch it all on film. I’ll post it as a YouTube soon. Thanks to Everyone for all the Thoughts.

  14. You know…I should have figured you’d “capture” it all somehow…

    Visual nin-JAH

    Take care,
    Purple nin-JAH

  15. Pingback: Sure I Lost Another Tooth And I’m Stuck Eating Mush For Another Week But Armed Only With A Camera Somehow I Won The Day « …salted lithium.

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