I don’t make specific “Resolutions” every year, but I have an idea of what I’d like to happen. Sometime they do, sometimes they don’t. This year they didn’t even come near what I wanted was 2006. I started the year fresh and full of hope. My husband was in a job he really liked and was good at. I had a thriving tutoring business, was getting paid enough even for us to have that magical three month’s savings. I was home most of the time taking care of my healthy, bright, friendly one year daughter. She had her days, but so did I.
But, I was moody sometimes. I would get really angry and my whole body would shake. Some times, well, a lot of times I would sleep about 12 hours at night and three hours in the afternoon. None of this stuff was unusual. I was still breastfeeding, still co-sleeping so as a usually heavy sleeper would need more naps during the day, right?
So, I thought things were okay. The year chugged on and so did I. That is, until one night I woke up with a baby sprinkling my face with kisses. I didn’t even open my eyes, I thought, if I could put her under the water in the bath tub, I wouldn’t have her here any more.
I called my OB-GYN and told her what I’ve told you. She prescribed me Paxil and wanted me to get to a counselor right away.
Paxil. Within ten minutes of taking the pill I became super efficient and very happy. I felt like my brain was completely re-organized. I cleaned the neglected house in twenty minutes. I flew grandly through the day. My heart was lighter, my speech was fluid, although rushed.
Then came the night.
I had vivid images of different ways to kill my daughter. It was like playing cards shuffling in front of me, each one more horrific. I couldn’t hold any other thought in my mind. I couldn’t be with her at all. I was advised to find a psychologist.
The first counselor was a gentle, pretty woman who listened calmly and kindly to my story and told me she didn’t feel equip to handle PPD at the level I had.
I went to another counselor, who, after hearing what I told you asked me, “What did you THINK it was going to be like being a mother?” She didn’t seem at all concerned about my child’s safety at all.
When I called to cancel my second appointment, she called back and left a long message, which I am proud to say I deleted.
My OB-GYN called me to check on me and was appalled at the second therapist’s behavior. She had a colleague of hers, Dr. CJ who saw me that Saturday and immediately diagnosed me with bipolar disorder.
I went to a psychiatrist on Monday. He agreed with her and sent me to the hospital. I stayed for six days.
Now, I expected myself to say that my world came tumbling down after that, but it didn’t. Even writing this down makes for a sensational climax, but it really didn’t. It was the beginning of a journey. Medication after medication, weight gain, short term memory loss, hospitalization, partial-hospitalization, and more side effects. During all of this I expected my world to crumble, but that’s not what happened at all. It was a relief. I always knew there was something about me that was drastically different from most people I knew. Now I knew why.
Although that was true, the symptoms remained, but no where near as powerful as before. Sometimes I would be so high I would clean the house down to the q-tips. Other times the side effects had me shuffling around like a ghost.
I was given the devastating news that I should have no more children and I needed to wean my 23 month old because of drug-interactions. (I realize that is longer than an average child nurses.) We were ready to start trying for another again, and had planned to do so the next month.
After a while I stopped improving. After months of fighting my insurance company, I was seen at the Stanford Mood Disorder Clinic and their Women’s (Bipolar) Clinic. They recommended I stay the course with the current drug therapy, which is code word for there was nothing they could do that they weren’t already doing,
I moved, almost entirely because of my disorder, from a bustling metropolis to a mid-sized Northern California city. I found a psychiatrist and a therapist there. The psychiatrist would not let me access my records, although I had a legal right to see them. My therapist was consistently between ten to twenty minutes late. One night I was going to kill myself. I had the liquor, I had saved up the pills and I was going to take them all, but for some reason I didn’t. I told the shrink and he said to me, “I’m a little worried about the suicidal thoughts. I’ll see you in two weeks (instead of a month.) Now, any other health care professional would have hospitalized me, I obviously needed to be so, but I wasn’t about to go and check myself in. What was also disturbing was the meds caused me to stare off in to space. My husband kept reminding me I was doing it, but it was impossible to stop. I decided it was time for a different doctor, and there I found Dr. H.
Dr. H’s office was in a smallish suburb of my little city. At our first meeting she said to me, “I just looked at you and knew you were on anti-psychotics.” She gave me a drug called cogentin and said to take two if it wasn’t effective. I almost immediately brightened up. All my extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS) went away, except for the memory loss. At our next meeting I told her about it and she suggested I had obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I wasn’t too sure about that until I stopped checking my keys five times from the moment I left the house to the moment I unlocked my SUV’s door. It was like I was on vacation from all of the problems and issues I had, but the memory loss was still there. I told her again. She suggested that I might have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), and prescribed another drug. That made seven.
I was not thrilled to have yet another disorder, my husband has ADHD and we have none of the same symptoms, however, I took a inventory of symptoms and I scored unusually high. She prescribed an amphetamine and again, it was a great relief. The thoughts were no longer like balls in a pinball machine. I could focus during sermons, listening to music and was able to better complete tasks. There is no typical ADHD case, but in the situation I was in, the drugs fit me fine.
I am still baffled about how Stanford, considered the finest bipolar clinic in the United States, failed to identify the issues that a one young woman practice in a little northern California town was able to.
I found Dr. H and my new, prompt, psychologist just a couple of months ago, and I’m more stable than I ever have been. We’re still working out the kinks, but I’ve gotten to this place after a lot of hard work and commitment to getting well. Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, it’s been a difficult journey, but if I want to be well, I’ve got to follow it. The verse from Proverbs 3 says “Trust the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight” has been a great comfort to me. I don’t have to understand the reason I’m sick, I just have to go forward on the journey that is my life.