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Isolation an coping


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#1 backinthestacks

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 01:59 PM

Does anyone have any advice for coping when their depressed partner isolates themselves entirely? I'm in this heightened and constant state of panic. Not only is the man I love unreachable, but I know he's living in his own personal hell. I can't think of anything else, which only makes the seconds tick by more slowly. Any advice would be wonderful.


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#2 JulesK

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 05:27 PM

Hi,
I can only speak as someone who is already pretty far on the withdrawn side and who regularly goes into complete avoidance of people when things are bad. I think it is a very primal instinct. Animals that are sick or in pain isolate themselves.

But I guess I'm curious as to what you say when he has isolated himself entirely and he is unreachable.

I took it as you don't live together and you haven't heard from him in days. If so, I HIGHLY recommend getting professionals involved. This could be something like calling a community helpline or local community health clinic and asking them what to do.

Will he be angry if he finds out? Maybe. But one thing I do when things are really bad is to assume no one cares about me and won't even notice if I'm not around.

But again, I'm not sure what you mean. Hope to hear from you again.

Edited by JulesK, 11 June 2012 - 05:28 PM.


#3 backinthestacks

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 07:50 PM

Well, that actually was the situation we were in about a month ago. He wasn't leaving his room/house or eating and drinking. I felt very guilty, but I called his doctor. I didn't feel I had much of a choice. It turns out he was having a really bad reaction to a new antidepressant.

He has slowly become a bit more receptive since switching meds. However, he'll still occasionally make plans with me for later in the day and then fall asleep for hours instead of showing up. I'm trying very hard to keep from taking it personally, but no matter how many times I tell myself he's just sick and it's not an indication of how he feels about me... Being forgotten still feels like rejection.

I wish I could get through to him. I worry constantly about the situation you described, and I never want him to talk himself into believing I just don't care. I hate myself for being hurt and angry by his behavior. I know, for the most part, he can't help it. It's just hard to keep reminding myself that when I'm wondering if his feelings about me and us have just changed.

Any insight?


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#4 JulesK

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 09:52 PM

OK, got it. Congrats for doing the right thing, I bet that wasn't easy.

I know it is hard not to take it personally and I really appreciate your mindset, which is to understand he's ill. It's the same thing as a heart condition or anything else. A lot of people struggle with that and it makes things harder for everyone.

But to put it simply ... you really can't take it personally.

He hasn't forgotten you, he's just too grindingly weary to get up and meet you. Again, this is my personal experience: I hate laying in bed, I normally get about 6 hours of sleep and then I just can't stay in bed any more. But if I'm feeling severely depressed I can sleep around the clock. I've slept through alarm clocks, the phone ringing, people banging on the door because they hadn't heard from me in ages, thunderstoms. Hours and hours and hours and hours of sleeping like the dead. And if he's waking up and seeing he's supposed to meet you, I'm willing to bet he's thinking something along the lines of "She's better off without me," or "She just feels sorry for me," or some other of the milions of little lies the depressed brain likes to produce because it isn't enough that we feel awful, we have to tell ourselves that we ARE awful.

I don't know. I will NOT lie to you and say that if you just hang in there one day he'll be all better. Because barring some miracle, the depression is going to be there. I'm not saying he'll always be this withdrawn (but you know that because he asked you to marry him). But there are going to be times when he IS this withdrawn. If you have children there will be times when he is withdrawn and you effectively become a single parent and his caretaker. I'm also NOT saying you should run away screaming :-).

A few things I would suggest:
1. When you make a date, have it at his place. Maybe don't plan to hang out for hours. Go over, eat a pizza or something, say goodnight. Again, right now he's very ill and may be struggling to bathe. Bathing, getting dressed and going out ... That's just too hard for him. And that way he'll associate eating with being with you. (We tend to forget things like food.)
2. Join a support group for relatives of people with depression. I THINK part of your worry comes from thinking that you're doing something wrong, but if you did the right thing(s), he'd get better. I wish that were so. But I think it would just help you to be around other people in the same position and hear what they've been through so you'll see that you're not alone.
3. Read, read, read about depression from both points of view (patient and relative).
4. Hang out here.

#5 backinthestacks

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 02:39 AM

Thanks for your advice. I've been making an effort to spend time over there, but like you said, he can sleep through a SWAT team. I appreciate the honesty and the glimpse at the situation from his POV.

I know this is going to be something we deal with throughout our lives, and I'm not expecting a fairy tale. I wish I could get him to understand that I am not trying to fix him, just figure out how we're going to handle this as a couple. The problem may not be going away, but neither am I.


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#6 JulesK

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:55 PM

I'll say that I really wish my husband and I had gone to counseling well before we got married. A lot of counseling. But, I was afraid to push it for fear he'd think "Yikes, get me away from this crazy woman!" and that would be it. We've done OK, but I know it would have helped him and me.

Such a suggestion coming from you it would probably mean a lot to him and show you're really committed to the relationship. Just a thought.

#7 backinthestacks

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 03:12 PM

Seeing as he's dead set against therapy for his depression, I can't see him being interested in counseling for us. However he is willing to look into self-help options and books we can do together at home. Any recommendations?


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#8 JulesK

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 04:22 PM

Perhaps, but I think it might make a difference because he won't be doing it for him, he'll be doing it for you. I suspect you're afraid of pushing him away, and I don't know if you all have set a date or anything but pre-marriage counseling never hurt anyone. If he absolutely won't go, you can go yourself, right?

I don't know him, but I think what I'll politely call stubbornness is a common feature of the depressed person. Sometimes we need a strong prod in the backside. Personal story: I was once dead set against ANY form of treatment for depression. I thought I could think my way out of it. Funny, right? It took someone I loved dearly telling me I absolutely must, no excuses go see a therapist. Again, I'm not saying you need to wrestle him into a therapist's office, but it is only fair to him and you that he understand what you need from him.

Sorry I don't have any recommendations for self-help books. The few I've ever read, I always find myself picking holes in them so I can ignore the advice. :-)

Anyone else have any idea?

#9 backinthestacks

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 05:08 PM

What you politely call stubbornness is strong in this one. :) Yes, it took my saying there was no way we could marry and raise a family the way things were going for him to finally see the psychiatrist. I'll consider talking to him about the counseling. Since this last MDE which was totally compounded by his old meds, we've taken a step back from marriage. His idea. I'm hurt but I'll live.


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#10 backinthestacks

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 10:46 PM

Sorry my last post was so short. The boyfriend and I got out of the house and did some shopping today, which was nice.

In the last 2 months, he had a bad MDE. Finally seeing a doctor about his depression and anxiety is really terrifying for him bc his sister was institutionalized in high school bc she was bi polar and using a lot of recreational drugs. He has a huge fear of being 'locked up in the nuthouse'. So, as the doctors appt approached he became more withdrawn. Once he started the first antidepressant, this only got worse. It was remeron and I swear it made him a zombie. The guy I know and love was no longer in residence. He shut down more and more, slept for days and eventually stopped speaking at all.

Once he as finally off it, he decided he couldn't commit to getting married for the time being. His reasons change a bit each day, but from what I gather he simply doesn't want to be a burden on me or hurt me. He was really terrified during the couple weeks he was on the remeron, bc he felt he had no control of his own actions.

His decision has been eating me up inside. I've told him how much I want to stick with him and that his illness doesn't change what I want for our future, but to no avail. Part of me believes his reasons, but it's hard not to think that perhaps he just doesn't see a future for us anymore, or that he doesn't trust me. Any thoughts?


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#11 listener

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 10:21 AM

Hi backinthestacks. I'm just going to throw in a few random thoughts here while they're bouncing around my head... One is that it's very important you look after yourself really well, mentally, physically and emotionally - and spiritually if that's something you do. I can see that your fiancé's struggles are pulling you off balance somewhat, as you talk about constantly worrying and being in a state of panic, etc. And that's normal, when you're part of a couple it goes without saying that what happens to one of you happens to both of you. But to the best of your ability you must make sure to keep yourself as balanced as you possibly can and try to maintain some independence in terms of *you* being the one to decide how you feel. Sticking with someone who suffers from depression and helping them through it is a long-term thing and requires endurance and patience. You kind of have to learn to get used to crises and be somewhat philosophical about them. You also have to go through phases where they aren't in a position to give you the reassurance and love and affection that you deserve and would wish for. Doing that takes a fair bit of strength and self-assurance. I think it's really important that you be able to know that you can be okay regardless of what happens, so that you can just give yourself to the present and love this person right now, and let the rest take care of itself. I think that means making sure that, in addition to all the love and caring that you are giving your fiancé, you also maintain the important things in your life that give you meaning, that fulfill you, that allow you to have confidence and contentment within yourself. I want to add, having said all this, that I'm not speaking from a position of thinking that all these things are easy and being able to do them all effortlessly in my own life. But I do try to apply all this stuff in my own life and in my relationship with my own partner and to the extent that I can do it, it helps.

I guess my feeling is that it's best if, while your fiancé is so depressed, you try not to place too much emphasis on the things he says or does and how it reflects on the status of your relationship and your future together, or how he truly feels about you. A major depressive episode is like a big battering hurricane that blows everything off course and warps and twists things that would normally be very strong and firm and clear. You really just need to make it through together, take care of the day-to-day things like making sure he's eating, going for walks, sleeping at sensible hours and for long enough, having a few simple conversations and getting some sunlight, that sort of thing. Once he's doing better, he'll think and talk differently. That's when you can go into things more deeply and when, if you're still unsure, you can find out if there really is a future for you and whether there is real trust between you. For now, I would encourage you to work on your own confidence and strength, to work towards being comfortable with the uncertainty, comfortable just being together for now and caring for each other, comfortable with believing in yourself that there can be/is a future for both of you regardless of where he's at right now - and comfortable accepting that if in the end things come to nothing, at least you've loved truly and generously and that won't have gone astray. Sometimes the person you love gets lost for a while behind the depression. If you can have patience and gentleness and stay calm and balanced in yourself, it's usually the case that the depression will pass and you'll find that person you love, quite intact and probably loving you a whole lot more for having waited and believed in them.

I think you sound like a wonderful lady and your fiancé is a lucky guy to have your dedication and support. I guess he must be a great guy too, for you to love him the way you do and be willing to work through the tough times that have come up. I think you're doing a great job with it all, and I wish you the best.

hugs

Listener

Edited by listener, 13 June 2012 - 10:32 AM.


#12 backinthestacks

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 04:33 PM

Listener-

Can I just say how much you are making my day this morning? Everything you said is right on the money, and exactly what I already know I should do. However, when you're in the middle of it, those things are hard to keep in mind.

I particularly need to remind myself that sometimes he just can't give me the reassurances we all need to feel secure in a relationship, and yet he still needs to hear them. Probably more often during the MDE than any other time. While that's really unfair and difficult, its just the reality of life when he's depressed.

He's doing a great deal better since he started the new med. I honestly believe he was more terrified during this episode than ever before because the old med sedated him to the point where felt like he lost all control. I didn't understand the situation and so when he came out of it he couldn't get why I was so angry and hurt. Neither of us were seeing the realities of the other's POV. We talked a lot last night and I know that our future plans will be back on track once he feels more stable and in control of things.

Thanks for your insight, and I'm going to do my best to take care of me this week. I'll keep you guys posted!


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#13 backinthestacks

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 06:14 AM

He told me tonight he can't marry me because he will never be able to make me happy. I'm dumbfounded and destroyed. I thought we were doing so well. I'm not asking for help. There's nothing I can do. I'm just heartbroken and had to get it out.


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#14 listener

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 06:54 AM

Hon, my fiancé and I have told each other stuff like that every now and then when we've been really down. It doesn't just happen with depressed people, it happens with anybody who's having a really rough time and feeling like they just don't have enough to offer the one they treasure the most. We've gotten through it though. The last time I did it, it was when my chronic laryngitis returned and I knew I was going to lose my voice for a good long time and become even more socially impaired than before. I just felt like it was all going to be too hard, that I'd be a burden on him, that he would get frustrated around a mute/disabled person, and that I couldn't give him a decent life with me. We've been down that road a few times over different issues, and each time we were both so devastated that eventually we talked some more and decided we could find it in us to try a little more because the thought of being apart was worse. I think as time goes on we realise that we'll have those feelings whenever one of us takes a big hit in terms of our health or life circumstances. We'll just feel like we can't give the person we love everything that they deserve and that we want for them to have, and so we'll feel like we need to give up in order to give them a chance at a good life. And then that feeling will pass, as we work things through and find other ways of dealing with the situation, and as we each renew and deepen and profess our level of commitment and intention. Our relationship is stronger than ever now and we know that we'll just work through these times when they come up. I think we're just less inclined to bother going there anymore since we now know that all that's going to happen is a lot of heartache and crying and then a decision to keep going with a deeper commitment and more love. So we just try to cut to the chase whenever possible.

I'm not going to say that my fiancé and I have the perfect relationship because if you look around you'll see that I post about my problems with him, lol. But having been through this stuff together has made us closer and more committed - even though at the time it was harrowing.

What I would ask you to do right now is sit down and think if you are prepared to love this person unconditionally and just be there, without expectation, without knowing the future. Maybe he will not be able to marry you in the end. Maybe he will. Can you accept not knowing, and just be with him, be there for him? Could you be happy that way? If you can, then just stay by him and tell him that it's okay. Tell him you understand his feelings and that you understand he can't make that commitment, and you are totally fine with it. That it's just one day at a time and who cares about the future. Tell him it's okay if he just wants to be friends, but you're there because you just care and want to be around him and that's all there is to it. Can you say that, and mean it right down in your heart? Take some time to work it through and get it sorted in yourself. If the chance of being together - with no guarantees - is worth it to you, worth all the effort and hard work and patience that you're gonna have to put in, then hang in there and there's a pretty good chance things will end up fine. If you need more certainty, if you need more than this, then, okay, maybe this isn't the right person for you and you will need to reconsider. But this is why I said to you that you must have contentment and happiness from within. If you can be happy without him, without his energy and his support and love, if you know you could be fine even if he left you completely - then you can stay with him and not be disheartened during the times when he isn't there for you. It's kind of a paradox. But I like it. It means that as women, we have to love ourselves and know that we are strong and capable of independence and self-sufficiency. And knowing that we can go it alone, means in most cases we won't need to, because we can hold on and stay connected to the ones we love even when they aren't being 'there'. Take some time to support yourself and care for *you* for a while. I promise it will help you get things into perspective and it will make it easier for you to stand by your guy without being so thrown by the things he says. It seems kind of obvious to me that he said what he said because he loves you and he just wants you to have a good life. I would suggest you go and do something good for yourself and get stable and calm, and then if you really think you can do this and you want to do this, come back and show him that you can and will have a good life even with him being the way he is. That will make things easier on him. Then look at the situation again and see what you think about it all. This is about you and what you want. You will have a good life, no matter what, if you look after yourself, and when you love, just love - try not to worry too much about what comes back. Love comes easiest when you're not clinging on to it.

I hope very much that this message doesn't come across patronising or unfeeling. I know this is painful and difficult and I wish I could put my arms around you and comfort you right now. I really do think you are a wonderful person with a wonderful heart, and I hate to see you hurting. I really hope that things get better soon. I know you will be fine in the end, no matter what happens. But I hope very much that things will be better soon.

I don't know if my advice is appropriate for you and your situation but I get the feeling you love your guy enough to move heaven and earth for him. You have to make a decision inside you if you're willing to make the sacrifice and commit yourself to someone who may not be able to give you all the stability and ease that you might find with someone different. Maybe this isn't really right for you. Maybe his mental health issues could prevent you from having some of the things that you aspire to in your future, and he knows it would be wrong for him to jeopardise those things for you. It's entirely your choice and your fiancé is trying to let you know that and give you the freedom and right to do that. So maybe there is some thinking and soul-searching that you need to do. I think in the end the decision rests with you. You need to really know if this is right for you, or if you want and need something that he simply may not have, even if he loves you with all his heart. There's no shame either way.

:bighug:

Listener

Edited by listener, 14 June 2012 - 07:35 AM.


#15 backinthestacks

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 07:39 AM

Listener-

You are being far too wise and logical for me at the moment. :-/

I believe every word you said, since as usual it's the truth I already know but can't see while I'm dealing with this kind of hurt. Since this major episode started I've seen just how much I've grown to count on him and plan my life around our relationship. I hardly remember life before we started dating a year ago, but I do faintly recall being a whole person without him at one point. I suppose I need to work on rediscovering that.

The hard part is that when he's not under the cloud of depression, he lives to fulfill his superman complex. I was once a stubbornly independent single mom. I wouldn't allow him to help me with a thing. I was offended when he offered to pay for anything more than dinner. The man wore me down and demanded to be my knight in shinning armor. Then once the depression hit, it was as if I couldn't remember how to function without his presence. Ironic, isn't it?

I will take some time to really consider if I'm up to this task. I think I can offer him all I have here and now and stop looking for a future. At least I can try.

The truth is, I worry more about how he would fair on his own than how I would. He's such a wonderful, intelligent and kind man, but his childhood and the depression allow him to see none of that. I worry he would give up entirely if he didn't have someone who believes in him unquestionably the way I do.

I pray you are right about the changing winds. I would give anything in my life to take away just a bit of his pain and self-hatred. I wish there was some way to make him see the amazing man I see. I suppose I just need to hold on and ride out the storm for now.

He is so unsure about everything these days. He asks me if I'm happy with his new med, and if it's working. This is just astounding to me. I'm not the one taking it! I do understand, though, that he lost all control with the only two other antidepressants he's tried. He didn't notice his personality slipping away or the fact that he had become a zombie. He has no real understanding just how long he's been staying in bed all day. But I can't be the one to decide whether a medication is effective or not, can I?

I do have a really stupid question, tho. Here is where my complete lack of experience with mental illness starts to show... How will I know when the episode has passed? Is there any certain behavior I should look for?

Thank you so much for all of your advice, and more than anything, for taking the time to read my whining :)


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Edited by backinthestacks, 14 June 2012 - 07:42 AM.


#16 listener

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 10:00 AM

Hi again and *hugs*.

You are being far too wise and logical for me at the moment. :-/ Ÿ˜


I'm sorry for that, you got me, lol. I have been a bit tense today and I've kind of been on here trying to run away from some of my own silly stresses for a while. I knew I was just kind of writing with a sort of logical/rational focus and not feeling your words as I would have liked to. I always worry, especially if writing in that mood, that I might come across patronising or dismissive, like 'oh, just do it like this!'. I know what you're going through is immense, and if I were in your shoes there's no way I'd be sitting here being wise and logical. I'm never wise and logical when there's issues in my own life/relationship. Well, a little, but interspersed with lots of more human and earthy and not-so-wise-or-logical behaviour.

As far as him asking you about the med, well, I don't think it's so unreasonable. It's like if you're trying to lose weight or do some treatment to make your skin clearer and you know what you feel/see, but you want to know if the person who lives with you can tell any difference. You can see for yourself, but you're not objective and because you're inside it, it can be hard to see changes as they happen gradually. I agree, it's worrying that he sounds like he needs your assessment in a way that comes across as though he's not really able to make his own. But I can understand why he wants you to help him gauge whether the meds are working or not - you're the one who sees him the most and you can see his patterns more easily than he can. That's not really so weird. I think it makes a lot of sense, actually. You may be the best person to tell whether his meds are helping him, because you can tell how erratic his behaviour is, how logical/illogical his thinking may be, whether he seems alert enough, calm enough, etc. Maybe you could think of it like a pilot flying a plane. Easier for the air traffic controller to tell him whether he's on the right path or not when he's going through the clouds.

I don't really know what sorts of things would tell you when an episode is over. Maybe someone else can help with that. As far as I'm concerned, mental health is just a continuum. Nobody's ever in perfect balance. Doctors have an arbitrary set of criteria which they use to tell you when you qualify as 'clinically depressed'. But everybody gets depressed and out of whack to some degree. I would say you can tell when it's over by the obvious things - he'll be less erratic, he won't tell you one day that everything's fine and then tell you it's over the next. He'll tell you he feels better and that he feels terrible for the stuff he's put you through. He'll have more energy, sleep less, be happier, act like a healthy balanced person. He'll smile! That's usually a good sign.

I understand what you're saying about having lost your sense of 'you' as an independent person, along the way since falling in love. I guess it's natural that when you enter a partnership with someone and decide to share your lives together, it does change all that and to some extent you're just not going to be a separate entity of your own anymore. It's probably going to be a dynamic balance that changes again and again at different times over the course of your relationship. That's my take on it anyway. They always say that early on in relationships the romance and the excitement and the hormones and chemical changes in your brain/body make you feel like all your boundaries dissolve and you lose the ability to separate yourselves from each other. And then as time goes on your internal chemistry reasserts itself and returns to normal and that's when you start to see each other from a more down-to-earth, calmer perspective, and the love that you feel for each other becomes different, changes in quality. It's all part of the seasons and changes and stages of life and of relationships, isn't it? Anyway, it sounds to me like you've just fallen very deeply in love, let go of some of your defences and barriers, and allowed yourself to trust deeply and to feel intimately connected - and hey, it's great. Maybe now you're moving into a new phase of your relationship and the time has come for you to exercise different parts of your being in order to fulfil yourself and the deeper purposes and developments that are coming about within that relationship.

Thank you so much for all of your advice, and more than anything, for taking the time to read my whining :)


Shucks, no need to thank me. But you're welcome, of course! :smile: I guess I'm just a sucker for a good love story. I love that you care for and believe in your man so much. I know he's not feeling quite himself at the moment, but I bet he loves you just as much back.



Listener

Edited by listener, 14 June 2012 - 10:14 AM.


#17 backinthestacks

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 11:27 PM

Sorry I haven't updated. The last couple days have been hectic, to say the least. I'll post a full update later, with all the latest developments...


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