Dr. Maria Brink
As I’ve alluded to in my previous blog post, my life has been turned upside down and wrung inside out in
the past two years. From this, I’m struggling to find the reason to continue to scuffle along through life.
I’m aware that many people have had these thoughts from a young and tender age, however I was
blessed not to deal with that particular issue while growing up and during the beginning of adulthood.
Now that I’m looking at depression from underneath its weight, I have an entirely different
understanding of it. Wow. It’s all encompassing. It blocks all the light and adds thousands of kilograms to
every movement that I take. More recently, I’ve had the addition of suicide ideation. This scares me, yet
I can’t seem to change it, and I think it’s far more dangerous for me to ignore it. The second my mind is
left without something to fill it, the ideas of how dying would be best creep in. Slowly, yet with great
determination it creeps, until I’m left with nothing but how much better the world would be without me
The scientist in me is fascinated by this. This is new, you see. Novel. My lack of ability to control it is
astonishing and I am intrigued that I am such a prisoner of what used to be my greatest ally. Perhaps,
even if you don’t experience depression, you can understand what I mean. We, doctors treating multiple
species, need to use our minds all day, every day. Innumerable decisions to be made, medical principles
to apply in situations that we have never encountered before, creative problem solving, brilliance and
kindness towards our patience who can’t speak for themselves. Whenever I needed to, I could always
rely on my brain to support me and help me and to solve the problems I set before it. I could also retreat
into it whenever I needed some space away from how my day had been. This scuttling back into my
mind is now a terrible idea. I should not spend time inside my head, particularly when I am alone, as
doing so increases my risk of not seeing the sun rise tomorrow. What used to be an ally of mine is now a
nasty enemy that is constantly considering how to kill me.
Fighting this enemy adds to the fatigue and exhaustion that I feel every moment of every day.
Yesterday, in particular, was a day that I was very tired of fighting. So very tired. Crushingly exhausted in
a way that sleep can never resolve.
Adding to this, I also have a form of dysautonomia called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome
(shortened to PoTS). The definition of this syndrome is that when I change position from supine to
standing, my heart rate increases by at least 30 bpm, without a significant change in blood pressure. My
heart rate likes to go from a resting rate in the 60s up to the 170s. It is horrendous. Additionally, any
part of the body that is controlled by the autonomic nervous system is affected (digestion, oxygenation
to the brain, urinary bladder voiding, sleep, etc). Essentially, my autonomic nervous system is a jerk.
There are also other medical issues that I am waging war against on a moment by moment basis. The
point that I am trying to get across is that these are not visible if you walk by me in the grocery store. To
the casual observer, I look like a healthy, albeit out of shape, young woman. So, when I need to sit down
in a line because I am pre-syncopal, the judgement is intense. I get stared it, scrutinized, judged, and
even pitied. Most of the time, when I share that I am unable to stand for more than 10 minutes at a time
I am not believed. I am accused of faking it, of lying, or of overexaggerating. All of this contributes
significantly to my depression as it makes it so much easier to continue to believe that I am worthless.
This struggle against the invisibility of my health issues has brought to light something that I was not so
aware of before - each person you interact with throughout your days is dealing with something in their
life that you can’t see. If we all could extend just a bit more kindness and understanding, it would make
the world a much better place for you and for me. I am working at being much more understanding and
kind to others when they tell me that they need something. I don’t question, I validate. I believe them. If
a human being is being vulnerable and sharing something that is true for them at that time, it costs
nothing to be supportive, yet it is a priceless gift to the person who receives it. Even when I can’t see
exactly what they are experiencing, that doesn’t mean it’s invalid.
To borrow from Ellen: be kind to one another. Today.
Dr. M. Brink
The Admin Team of NOMV is a group of veterinarians dedicated to improving veterinary mental health.