Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Emergency and depression

I'd never heard of an Emergency Medical Technician until today, when I saw Emergency Medical Technician Jobs advertised.   One of the jobs is advertised this way: Responsible for the pre-hospital care of patients who are in need of this care as a result of accident or illness, which sounds to me pretty much like a person working an ED or ER situation.  Which is what my new daughter-in-law does, even though she's not called an Emergency Medical Technician, but a Physician's Assistant.  No doubt someone can inform me as to the difference between these two; I'm sure there's enough of a difference for them to be classed differently. 

Admittedly my daughter-in-law can work in non-ER situations too, so perhaps that's an element of what is different about the two roles.  

Skipping through my clippings (that bit of rhyme is kind of appropriate to what I'm about to say) I came across a description of Australian poet, Les Murray, and his fight with depression.    It comes from a review of Murray's book, Killing the Black Dog: a memoir of depression.  At the age of 50, Murray fell into a deep depression, "occasioned, he believes, by the chance comment of an old high school tormenter who came to a local reading given by Murray and who “cheerfully recalled to me one of the nicknames she had bestowed on me 30-odd years previously.” (Murray had experienced a less severe depressive episode at the end of the 1950s.) Within days, his fingers started tingling painfully, and he later developed a sudden aversion to nicotine. He landed in an emergency room with what turned out to be a panic attack. A doctor sent him to the psychiatric ward, where his depression was diagnosed."

Ah, the panic attack.  I know these horrors well.  Murray would have up to four or five a day, as well as suffering from the “the 4 a.m. Show” in which you find “your troubles and terrors ripping into you with a gusto allowed them by fatigue and the disappearance of proportion.  I wonder why 4 am is such a significant hour for depression sufferers?   I know 4 am well, but the same process can start earlier at 3 am too.  Though I haven't suffered depression for some time, ordinary anxiety can bring on these early morning calls, when you wake with a snap and suddenly your brain is in full locomotion mode.  It takes quite a bit to get it to settle down again, although I've found that reciting old Psalms and poems I've memorised helps to distract the brain that wants to go and do something now!  The brain likes you to get up rather than lie in bed, and sometimes that's the only solution: getting up and taking a pen and writing down what is bugging you.  Writing it out of your head certainly helps. 

Another poet, Billy Collins, has an apt line regarding this in his poem Journal, where he writes:

And when my heart is beating
too rapidly in the dark,
I will go downstairs in a robe,
open it [the journal] up to a blank page
and try to settle on the blue lines
whatever it is that seems to be the matter.

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