When Stress Turns to Depression

Hello and welcome to the blog today. Today’s post is about a more serious topic – severe depression. It’s been kind of rough lately and I just took a four day trek… but not the kind of journey we’re used to seeing here. Nonetheless, some aspects are still fun to tell.  Humor can always be found in the toughest of times.

I’ve had a lot of personal stress lately. The financial situation was bad over the winter and is slow to improve. The foot injury has not improved much and the pain is substantial at times. The work stress has been off the scale lately – one aspect of the constantly changing fast food industry. (I’m the third of our group to be hospitalized for stress in the last two months). Add in to that several days without much sleep and the crash should have been expected.

Friday night I started experiencing some scary symptoms – shortness of breath, chest pain, and the hands and legs wouldn’t move as expected. The brain would not even think clearly at all. I got myself into the hospital by walking (staggering) 1/2 mile from home. Tests were run and I was told it was not a heart attack – likely just a really nasty anxiety attack.  I was diagnosed with a severe depression that had hit rather suddenly.

Well, the next four days were spent in the “horsepital” as Mom called it. No medication was required, other than usual stuff I take for diabetes, etc.  Other than very tired and stressed, it was good to be lucid!  Most of the time was spent meditating and resting.

I was placed in a ward with a handful of people my age and older. Some were frail with physical disabilities, others had mood disturbances. But all of them were very nice folks.

One guy, who appeared about 70, had a smile that looked like Dad’s. He didn’t have teeth and couldn’t speak much but when I’d talk to him he would smile warmly with his mouth open and a twinkle in his eye.

Another lady had her husband visit nightly. They live along a popular trout stream not far from Jones County. The husband invited me to their private property to fish. I’m sending them a card and keeping in touch.

Yet another woman (who I will call “Donna”) had been in the healthcare industry many years ago. She would go from patient to patient giving her advice in a less than gentle fashion. She told me that she’s seen diabetics lose the little toe, then the other four, then the foot, etc. and I was too fat – morbidly obese. Donna didn’t mince any words! The next person would get a different lecture. It was amusing, especially when she would start chewing out the nurses!

I made friends with a guy who is a little older than myself. In the evening we would all watch TV in a common area. The guy, who I will call “Don” (not his real name), would get us all interested in a program and then change the channel. Nobody really complained as we watched first a western, then kickboxing, then a cooking show, etc… but not more than four or five minutes at a time. Thank goodness Don liked “Bonanza”. We got to see a full episode.

A wonderful volunteer came in Monday and played a bunch of music on a piano. Most of the people didn’t listen but rather went into the dining room to mob the cart containing the dinner trays. I stayed behind while the young lady played (on the slightly out-of-tune piano) a requested upbeat Gospel song – “Power in Blood”. She asked me to sing. I got excited and started loudly singing along. It was heard all over the ward, including by those dining!

After the crooning, it was time for dinner. Hospital food is always pretty bland. Some of us were on carb restricted or salt limited diets. There was clandestine activity as old bony hands passed butter and salt packets back and forth under the table like contraband. Smiles and twinkling eyes gave us all away. The nurses knew, but cut us some slack.


On Monday we had a crafts class. Some patients painted ceramic figurines. A couple ladies made beaded items. I crocheted. In fact, with a time limit in place, I made this potholder in record time. The ladies loved it. It’s now hanging in the Trekker Van, a reminder of the relief and kindess experienced these last few days.

But what about Jenny? On Friday I put out dry catfood and water sufficient for at least 10 days. She was fine. When I arrived back home Tuesday afternoon I called the kitty and she ran at warp speed through the trailer, bounded onto the chest freezer, slid like a baseball player, and leaped into arms. Jenny was making desperate sounding, raspy, howling meows. It sounded like she was very emotional. I can’t say if she was crying but I know I was. We went for a walk Tuesday night and all is well now… but she is extra loving.

For now the focus is trying to recuperate as much as possible. I’m back to working again and planning to do something special, perhaps going to see fireworks and doing some camping between the 2nd and 4th of July. There will be pictures!

I hope nobody reading this experiences depression or anxiety but if they do, I hope the person seeks out help and finds the type of kind folks as I encountered. And yes, I’ve been following the retired nurse’s diabetes recommendations, remembering how she said on diabetics they first cut off your little toe, then the other four, then the foot… I’ll never forget “Donna” and her lectures!  🙂

Jenny says, “Can’t I just lick your arm?”

Take care and thanks for visiting! Safe and happy camping!

Brad and Jenny
Jones County, Iowa

About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"
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6 Responses to When Stress Turns to Depression

  1. Jo says:

    WOW you sure had yourself a little meltdown. But I am so happy you took yourself to the hospital to get help. It’s good to know your much better now. Keep having good thoughts. And I’ll keep you in my deepest thoughts

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo and thank you. Life sure isn’t any easier but with some fishing time and meditation, Jenny and I can tackle (pun intended) anything that life throws at us! — VT

  2. Roderick Duell says:

    Good job hanging in there and taking care of yourself. Depression is a strange beast, sometimes unpredictable and seemingly random in its appearance. The English have a great name for it ‘the black dog’ which comes and goes.

    As a retired psychologist I can say you’re doing all the right things by recognizing your struggle for what it is, being open and honest about it, and asking for help when you need it. Having a kitty who loves you helps too! Best to you.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Rod and thanks for the very supportive words! It’s been a great learning lesson and there are plenty of take-aways. I need a better support network of friends. Facebook doesn’t cut it. LOL. But also I am learning to identify what is causing the problem, i.e. a toxic person in this case… and then figuring out how to handle it. Internalizing doesn’t necessarily fix things! But I met the neatest people – both patients and staff – and am optimistic all will get better. It helps to have a 4-footed psych nurse with me, too! Take care! — VT

  3. my_vantasy says:

    Oh my goodness, this is not at all what I expected when I pulled up your blog today, but I am thankful that you had the strength–both physically and emotionally–to take yourself where you could get help. Although “Donna’s” bedside manner could use some tweaking, it sounds like you received the message. I am a firm believer in the power of pets, so let Jenny work her magic on you. Do take care of yourself. I am one of your Internet friends that values our online friendship. Remember that next year I am coming to Iowa to camp with you. I buy the food and you cook!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi and that sounds like fun! I’ll be here! It’s ironic because I was thinking of you this morning. I caught a nice fat catfish and picked a quart of black raspberries. The plan is to come up with a nice, savory baked catfish recipe and put it online. This one is about the same size as the others from the pond and should yield nice usable fillets.

      Jenny has been an angel the last couple of weeks. Cats and dogs do so much to make our lives happier! Well take good care and thanks for the kind words. — Brad

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