The Story – from the beginning

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.

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One response to “The Story – from the beginning

  • Anon.

    It is not that the doctors at stanford know less than her. In fact they probably have more in depth knowledge than she can ever possess. They probably know a few hundred case studies back to front.

    However, the thing is that most of them don’t really give a damn about their patients. They become a means to an end. Whereas your current doctor cares enough for you to dvelve deeper into your psyche. That is why she is at the end of the day better than them. I think that you made the right choice.

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