Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Illness

I have an illness. I will have this illness for the rest of my life. I will be on medication for this illness for the rest of my life. I will not allow this illness to define my life.

I have been very lucky and healthy most of my life. Other than the occasional strep throat or cold, and what I thought to be a mild case of low seretonin, I never had to see a doctor on a very regular basis. I went on a low dose of anti-depression medication about 6 years ago but only saw a general practicioner once a year to have it refilled. Things were much better than they had been before I went on the anti-depressant, so I figured everything was good to go.

Well, after taking my current job, which drains every ounce of my strength, I started having more problems. I finally sought help from my general practicioner about a year and a half ago. They did a broad spectum blood test, and sent me to a sleep clinic, which after an overnight sleep study and months of different medication, produced nothing helpful other than the knowledge that there was no physical reason for me to be sleeping poorly. The blood test produced absolutely nothing out of the ordinary either.

Continuing to press the point, my general practicioner decided to shake up the meds a litte. He put me on a different anti-depressant. Well, this one was great. It gave me more energy. I had motivation coming out of my ears. In fact it bordered on obsession. Unfortunately, although I felt a little better, it didn't fix the problem, it actually made it worse.

So, a few months later when I come into my general practicioner's office at the end of my rope, insisting that I had walking pnumonia or mono, but with a list of symptoms that described a textbook case of clinical depression, he finally refered me to a psychiatrist. At my first appointment, a few short days before my 30th birthday, the psychiatrist listened to my symptoms, took my medical history, and diagnosed me with Type 2 Bi-Polar disorder. I was devistated! This is the same illness that my dad has. This is the same illness that allegedly caused the behaviors that still haunt me to this day. What if I treated people the same way? Happy 30th Birthday, you're a monster! Let's just say that I did not weather the milestone birthday with the grace I was hoping for.

This diagnosis was followed by a string of unfortunately timed coincidences, some good some bad, but all overwhelming. Just 3 weeks later, my grandmother passed away and the moment the funeral was over my extended family imploded. I anticipate that with the exception of two cousins, I will never see my mom's extended family again.

The day my grandmother passed away, we found our house and within 6 weeks we were closing. That meant a move which is stressful under the best of circumstances. All of this while going on and off different medications.

The first thing my psychiatrist did was put me on a mood stablizing medication. He warned me that I might be more depressed until we got the medication and dosing right, but I was not prepared for the crushing, overwhelming, sufficating, drowning experience that would follow. One of the biggest challenges with an illness like bi-polar is that I've never really experienced "normal", so I you have no ruler, no standard, by which to compare my moods. When I first went on the mood stabilizer I felt like I wasn't at home in my own skin... like I was consistenly trying to crawl out of my skin to be free of the sensation. That subsided thankfully, but it left behind the most sufficating experience of clinical depression that I've ever experienced. If I was not as stubborn as I am, I would not have gotten out of bed as often as I did.

It took my psychiatrist about three months to figure out that I would not call between visits. I didn't want to "bother" him and figured I could suffer through until my next visit. Once he figured this out, he moved me from coming in every four weeks to every two. And after listening to my complaints, he upped the dose of both my meds.

Just a few days later... I stepped out of the fog that had been the last three months of my life.

It's amazing how feeling so bad can make one so appreciative of feeling good. I still feel like I have an unsteady hold on my sanity at the moment. But hopefully as the days turn into week and the weeks turn into months, I'll be able to trust this new feeling of stability.

I have an illness that will effect me for the rest of my life. I will not let this illness define me.

1 comment:

MeLissa said...

Bonnie, thank you for being so vulnerable and raw. I pray your blog will reach beyond the limits you thought possible. There are many things that people deal with in the dark by themselves. Darkness makes everything scarrier; just ask the little one who needs the bathroom light left on. I cheer you on as you shed light to those who are ashamed and living in darkness. I pray God's blessings over you. MeLissa