Everybody has a story. My story is the one I know best and can write about. It is not a memoir of chemical dependency or self-abuse. Those subjects have been written about many times. This is a story of my winning battle against depression and the vagus nerve stimulation treatment that saved my life by bringing me Out of the Black Hole. And, this is the first book to be published about winning the battle with a medical implant procedure called VNS Therapy™.
Personally, I don’t believe the stigma associated with depression has changed one bit in the past century, so I was apprehensive about sharing my story. After all, I had spent the majority of my life hiding my depression from family, friends, and business associates–and now I was writing a tell-all book.
I wrote the main part of this book as if I were having a conversation with my closest friend who was looking for guidance with his or her debilitating chronic depression. I discuss the misery I experienced, the seemingly unending search for answers, the vagus nerve implant procedure itself, and my subsequent recovery from the grip of depression. The last part, the appendices, contains technical information about depression; the VNS Therapy System™; and Cyberonics, the manufacturer of the vagus nerve stimulator.
I hope my journey and the treatment I chose helps readers with their depression treatment plans; especially when they consider whether or not to undergo vagus nerve stimulation therapy. When I decided to participate in the investigational trial there wasn’t any information available to me. I just signed an eleven-page consent agreement and hoped for the best.
On June 15, 2004, the FDA’s Medical Device Advisory Panel recommended approval of vagus nerve stimulation as an adjunctive long-term treatment for chronic depression. Cyberonics, the manufacturer of the VNS Therapy System™, is in the process of providing the FDA additional information required for the FDA to render a final decision consistent with the Panel’s recommendation. Currently VNS Therapy for the treatment of chronic depression is available in Canada and Europe.
I also wrote Out of the Black Hole: The Patient’s Guide to Vagus Nerve Stimulation and Depression for the loved ones of people who suffer from depression. When a patient reaches the severe, chronic level of this disease, often it is their family members who are making the medical decisions. At the other extreme, the family members may be in the dark about what is going on between the doctor and the patient, or they don’t trust the information that they’re receiving from their loved ones. One thing is for certain, the lack of knowledge about this disease and not knowing the best way to help and interact with the suffering loved one complicates everything.
I have been fortunate throughout my life because I have always had access to the best medical care available (for any illness), and I have a close and supportive family. I don’t know how people survive severe depression if they don’t have access to good doctors, the latest pharmaceutical drugs, psychologists, psychiatrists, and a strong support group. Many depressed patients have none of the above, yet they still endure. Their stories, in many ways, are more remarkable than mine.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote a book titledIt Takes a Village. It’s about how we can shape our society into the kind of village that enables children to grow into able, caring, resilient adults; physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. If my family wrote a similar book about the past ten years of my life, it would be titled It Took Heaven and Earth. So, I’ve also written this book for them. Let’s get started.