Friday, May 13, 2011

A week of medical mayhem

This past week has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me.  First my husband and I went to talk to my gynecologist about trying to have a baby.  The news wasn't exactly good.  She thinks I might have poly cystic ovarian syndrome which can make getting pregnant pretty difficult.  While I knew about the disorder I didn't think that I had it because I didn't have a lot of the symptoms that people with it exhibited.   I go back next week for more testing to find out exactly what is going on, but for the mean time our hopes of starting a family have been put on hold.  If that didn't break my heart my doctors appointment today did.

I've written before about my decade long struggle with depression. It is something that is always with me, sometimes feeling like it is going to swallow me whole, but sometimes seemingly to lie dormant under the surface.  The medicine that I have been taking for the last few years wasn't working. I thought that the dose just wasn't correct, so I made an appointment to see a psychiatrist.  If you have never been to a psychiatrist before, there is a lot of paperwork to fill out.  They can't draw blood to determine if you have depression, so they need to make you answer the same question 5 times in 5 different ways to determine where you are coming from.  The first sheet asked, "have you ever at any point..." followed by questions like 'increased talking and rapid speech, been excessively hyper, had difficulty concentrating, get in arguments/fights for no reason....down a list.  I started to get worried as I checked 'yes' for almost every question, except for irresponsibly spending money. I was thinking to myself that this sounds like bipolar disorder, but some of the symptoms had never been brought up and didn't seem as severe as what I thought bipolar disorder was.  Anyways, I was hoping the sheet was just a quick assessment for something like ADD until I looked at the bottom and saw that it was printed by a drug company as a bipolar disorder check list.  I sort of tried to play all of the yes's off by writing that it seemed to generally happen when I drank too much caffeine or took phentermine.  Nah, I'm fine...I just need a refill for a different anti depressant and I'll be fine.
I get in her office and we start talking and she goes through the list and makes me tell her if I've ever felt any of these without chemical assistance. I realize...I have. In fact, I've felt or experienced most of them at some point.  I started to feel my stomach drop as I knew what she was going to say next. I don't have depression.  I'm bipolar.  I am bipolar.  My eyes are starting to tear as I type this, admitting to myself, and the world that I have a disorder that I have attempted to run away from.  I was okay with have depression, hell most people seem to these days. But bipolar? Isn't that this super serious disease? Don't people do insanely stupid things like spend their life's saving and have sex with prostitutes?  Yes, some people do things like that when they are manic, she explained but bipolar isn't about how high your manic episodes are, it is simply that you have them at all.  The analogy she used is that having depression is like walking along and occasionally having the bottom fall out. Being bipolar is not only having the bottom fall, but also having holes in the ceiling.

I apparently don't have manic symptoms but instead a less severe type called hypomanic symptoms. She gave me a paper that listed some. I have some of these, but not all of them....
-You cannot stop talking often fast loud or excited (umm...yeah, that's me people--I talk too much even when a voice in my head is going "STFU!!)
-You are more active than usual, often without a purpose (I generally throw myself into doing some chores when I feel like this or jump up and down a bunch and then crash)
-You need instant gratification, attention and approval (to some extent)
-you are quickly irritable (sometimes for absolutely no reason...again, sorry hubby)
-you quickly show displeasure (sorry if I've done this to you)
-you exaggerate and overdo all behaviors (I don't think I do that...)
-You are more hostile and argumentative when you don't get what you want
-You wear brighter colors than usual (I found this fascinating, and true!)
-You spend more money and give more gifts (also totally true)
-You write more letters, make more phone calls and give more advice
-You travel more
-You don't care so much about the rights and feelings of others
-You enjoy taking more risks

Another thing I learned is that things like my fear of going new places, knocking on my neighbors door to meet them, doing things by myself isn't normal either. I apparently also have social anxiety disorder. I think my social anxiety and crippling, at times, fear of judgement and rejection has offset some of the ruder qualities of the bipolar disorder so basically I'm not a complete asshole to strangers (only the people I love...sorry guys).  I think of the trip that I took to Spain in college and how much I regretted not doing more on my own, and now I understand why I kept putting it off, and why I would rather stay home and stay in places that I had been and was comfortable with.  I understand why, while I suck at routines (apparently having bipolar disorder can make having routines difficult because you never know how you are going to feel at any given time) I need things MY way so that I can feel in control of the situation and not get anxious.

How does it feel to realize that you've been misdiagnosed for the last decade? Pretty shitty actually. The horrible part of it is that I am in the vast majority of people that are diagnosed. Most people go a DECADE before they are diagnosed.  One of the reasons that people aren't diagnosed more is that people don't go to the doctor when the feel good--they go because they are depressed. They don't tell their doctor about the side effects above.  One of the reasons I was so terrified of being diagnosed as bipolar was that the medicine, while better now than it was even a decade ago, is pretty heavy hitting.  Anti psychotics and mood stabilizers have a lot more side effects than Prozac.  My doctor wrote me a prescription for a mood stabilizer, a very low dose.  She wants to see me again in two weeks.  I will try it and see if it helps, or harms. I hate playing the Russian roulette of medicine, but at least I have learned in the last couple of years that I can live without medicine.  I'm also going to find a therapist. I've realized that I have learned quite a few good coping mechanisms, and maybe in time I can learn to live without medication.  Knowing I'm bipolar will also help if, when we do have kids, I have post partum depression.

I don't know completely how I feel about this so far. While a lot of the symptoms describe me, having this label doesn't define me and frankly I thought a lot of those things up there were 'normal' before now.  A couple of weeks ago I was watching glee and someone said "your illness is not who you are supposed to be. It is keeping you from who you are supposed to be."  Depression, bipolar, social anxiety disorder aren't ME.  They are a part of who I am, but knowing more about them is going to be how I can LIVE with them and be who I've always wanted to be.   I have dealt with so much in the last 8 years. I have dealt with so much--successfully and I think, no I know I can deal with this.  I have to wonder how this diagnoses would have helped me as as teenager though, or if having to live through it and learn from my mistakes has made me better equipped to deal with this disease.

Please note: I am not a doctor or a therapist and the opinions and thoughts in this blog are mine.  If you think you have bipolar disorder or any mental illness, please please please get professional help.  

I drove home, stopped by the mail and drove up to my house.  What I saw there both infuriated and scared me to my core.  It was Henry, our strictly inside cat sitting on our front porch, our door open.  Where the hell is my husband? Is he lying inside hurt? My mind immediately flickered to the creepy scam artist that tried to con me into buying magazines yesterday. Did the guy come back? What I did next came as instinct--I didn't even think about it. I pushed down the horn for a good five seconds.  Henry jumped 3 feet in the air, and ran inside, followed closely by my cat, who was hiding behind the neighbors bushes.  My cat has NEVER been outside.  The only time I tried to take him anywhere outside of our porch was a misguided attempt at teaching him to walk on a leash.  He crawled up me and lay in a trembling mass in my arms until I went back in.   I slammed my car into park, grabbed my bag and ran inside yelling for my husband.  Thankfully he was alive, although after I yelled at him, he might have rethought that. He came in, grabbing our recycling bin on the way and somehow forgot to latch the door.  Our cats had been asleep on the couch when he came in, but at some point got up to investigate, and seeing an open door meandered out.  We've been letting them out on the back porch, which is two stories up and they can't get off of, because the weather is nice but after this little 'adventure' I'm rethinking how wise it is to allow their fear of the outdoors to diminish in any way.

Tomorrow is our housewarming party.  I know that even if only a few people turn up, I am in a place of love surrounded with friends and the best husband ever.  I don't think I could ask for anything more than that, although I wouldn't mind some sunshine.


  1. I have some hugs for you, I'll bring them tomorrow. <3

    Kudos to you for being brave enough to go to a psych and figure this all out. It's fricken hard to admit to yourself that there is something WRONG in your head. It's even harder to tell the world! You are awesome and I applaud your openness about your experience.

    Maybe reading your story can help someone else and I think it's amazing that you put yourself out there like this. You are all at once whole and yet broken, vulnerable and yet courageous.

    The coming days may be difficult. I can't promise you that the journey ahead will be easy, but I can give you my word that you will only be alone if you choose to be. If you need anything, call.

    You're a remarkable person, and I'm so grateful that our paths have crossed.

  2. Reading this, I have several things to say. I will probably forget some of them, and will come back later for more.
    First off- sorry to hear the potential bad news at gyn. office. If it's any help, my friend's best friend just had a baby this year. She has PCOS. She did have one loss, but then went on to have a perfectly healthy baby. It certainly happens.
    For the Bipolar business. I understand the urge to reject or shy from such a disorder. My mom has bipolar II (which it sounds like you are describing... is this what the dr. said?). If the symptoms best fit, then I think you will be much better off if treated appropriately. My mom wasn't diagnosed until she was in her 40s. She had it all along, just never knew. Don't forget, though: YOU are not bipolar. You may happen to have it, but that is not what you are. You are a person. I just read your post again and see that you already said this- it is worth repeating, though.
    If I may ask... what med did the dr put you on?

    If you want to talk more, I'm here.

  3. So sorry about the possible PCOS! I really hope that's not the case, but if it is, there *are* ways of dealing with it, so there's still hope for having children.

    There's a major stigma against psychological disorders that is simply uninformed. Bipolar does not make you bad! Let me repeat that: bipolar does not make you bad! You are still the exact same person you were when you were diagnosed with depression. The diagnosis doesn't change you; instead it should empower you.

    "Another thing I learned is that things like my fear of going new places, knocking on my neighbors door to meet them, doing things by myself isn't normal either." It's not? Aren't most introverts that way? Because if not, I've got the same problem. But if so, the thinking in this country is waaaaay skewed toward "extrovert = good, introvert = bad." I mean, I knew that already, but this would be overboard. Hm.

  4. Sorry I got sick and missed the party.

    Your reaction was not over the top about your cat. It was justified.

    My mother got medication for Social Anxiety Disorder after my sister got on it while in rehab for alcoholism. My mother said wow I never knew how anxious I really was. She was severely OCD as a symptom when we were growing up. She is much less so now. My sister self medicated for 40 yrs w/alcohol.

    I learned how to deal w/it through very active participation in Drama Club. I was not myself and it gave me courage to be more relaxed in other situations.

    My son has had anxiety disorder since he was 2 yrs old. His teen depression is a direct result of his anxiety disorder and his inability to create a life for himself. He hides out at home unless forced to.

    While you may have a touch of anxiety that you are seeing some regrets in your life due to it, you are doing fine in comparison to most who have social anxiety disorder. You have close friends. You have reached out to meet new people when you moved. You made it to the doors of the neighbors, etc. My child can do none of these things. it took a year for him to be able to go to the mail boxes and get our mail. Do not let this Dr make you more depressed!! New Dr needed now ....



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