Wednesday, December 18, 2013


*deep breath*

A few weeks ago, I was in the hospital again. Admittance #4 of 2013, if we're keeping track.

#1) Gall bladder attack and removal
#2) Severe pancreatitis and liver disfunction
#3) Double pneumonia
#4) Psychiatric unit

Yes. I know what you're probably thinking. I really just told the entire internet that I went to the funny farm. The castle of crazy. The bin of loons. And it's not the first time. But to not say it out loud would send the message that having severe depression and anxiety is shameful. It's not. So, I said it out loud and refuse to be ashamed.

I was having a hard time. Multiple panic attacks every. single. day. Depression that made breathing seem like hard work. Near constant suicidal thoughts. It was pretty brutal. And after a while, it started to feel dangerous. So, I admitted myself.

I was in the unit for three days. It was not a good experience. Not even a little. Rarely are psychiatric units a place of hope. Truthfully, most units are places where they wait for your medications to start to kick in and the suicidal thoughts to go away. Nothing more than that. Understaffed. Chaotic. Sterile. Humiliating. That about sums it up.

The hardest part was when I met with the psychiatrist. I told him my history, social and psychiatric. I carefully listed as many of my medications as I could possibly remember. Prozac and Lithium and Celexa and Lexapro and... and... and... The list was a mile long. I answered all the usual questions. After a while, he just stared at me with a look of bewilderment and said, "We can't really do anything else for you. At this point, we'll have to rely on just improving your health. You need to try getting one of those..." And then, I stopped listening for a while. And it sunk in. I've tried it all. They are out of options. How can this be? Is my brain really *that* broken? Apparently, yes.

Huh. *long, awkward pause* Well, that sucks.

What did I do after that conversation with the psychiatrist? I kept swimming.

In case you skipped the video above, this would be a good time to watch it. It's worth it. I swear. I'll wait right here.


So. What's next?

Well, I've been fighting this for 25 years and have to come to terms with the fact that nothing has worked over the long haul and probably never will. I have officially been diagnosed as "treatment resistant." I have to figure out exactly what that means and find a way to embrace it. A pill will probably never fix me, and that's that.

What have I been doing since I left the hospital?

Light therapy. Yoga. Occasional sleep deprivation. (Yes, that is actually a recognized treatment for depression.) I'm not sure if any of it is actually working, or if it keeps me busy between panic attacks. Either way, I'm doing it.

I keep telling myself that this is not the end. It's just the beginning. But instead of the beginning of a new treatment plan or approach, it's the beginning of acceptance. I'm going to stock up on metaphorical swimsuits. I'm going to learn to tread water now and again when I'm just too tired. I'm going to do the best I can to keep up my physical health so I can better cope when my mental health goes to shit.

I guess I'm just going to swim.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Off the Rails

A while back, someone (who shall remain nameless but rhymes with Hecki Berod) reminded me that I should write more. Or again, as the case may be. It's been ages since I put fingers to keyboard in order to actually SAY something. So, here is my attempt. But who am I kidding? I get more out of the writing than anyone will ever get out of reading it.

Things here have been... unlucky. I've been taught all my life that with hard work, good things will happen to you. You make your own luck. You can't just expect good things to happen to you. If things go badly, you have to take responsibility for those events. And for a long, long time, I believed it completely, taking it all straight to heart. When things didn't go well for me, I blamed myself and my inadequacies. It had to be all my fault, right? That's what I'd always heard, anyway.

Fast forward to March of this year (2013 in case you're time-challenged.) While driving to my grandmother-in-law's funeral (rest in peace, Grandma Lorraine), something happened. I was in so much pain. I insisted that Rhett immediately take me to the ER, because this amount of pain? NOT NORMAL. My gall bladder was chocked full of stones and about to pop. Great. An hour away from home with 4 kids while in my funeral clothes, and I choose to have my gall bladder nearly burst? Awesome, self. You win at weirdest timing EVER. But, a few good drugs, some emergency surgery, problem solved. Right?

Nope. After surgery, I still had pain and reflux and all sorts of weirdo gastro problems. I'll spare the details because... well... yuck. I was sure that it was my body just getting used to the idea of not having a gall bladder anymore. Wrong. There was something amiss.

In July, I had a full on attack of pain that left me almost unable to speak with my heart racing and my stomach completely revolting. The gall bladder pain? Nothing in comparison. Back to the ER we went, this time while in Topeka. Guess what? I had gall stone(s) left behind after surgery. Apparently, I was passing them. My liver was severely compromised. And worst of all, I had pancreatitis. In a nutshell, that means that your pancreas is inflamed, swollen, and STARTS TO EAT ITSELF. Dear sweet baby Jerome! WHAT. THE. HELL.

While in the hospital, I had an absolutely horrendous experience. My doctors were inconsistent with my care. They gave me the wrong meds. There was a huge host of other problems and mistakes that made it impossible for me to trust them anymore. So, I asked to be discharged. They agreed that would be fine and that I could easily recover at home. Within less than 24 hours after leaving, however, I ended up in another ER, in another town, because they'd forgotten to give me antibiotics and meds to manage my pain. (Pancreas eating itself = hurts like hell and needs antibiotics.) Wow. I really know how to screw the pooch, huh?

I could go on and on about the luck I thought I was making for myself. I could mention the double pneumonia and the countless doctor's appointment and the financial strain that this has put on my family. But, in the end, that's a waste of good words. And instead of wasting words, I'm going to get to the point: sometimes, unlucky just happens. And sometimes, it's not your fault.

Considering my long held belief that everything WAS my fault, I had to change my thinking completely. No one deserves or can cause this many things to go wrong in a 6 month period. NO ONE. Personal responsibility for your part in your own life is one thing. But all this business? The chaos and craziness? Utter bullshit that the Universe handed to me on a platter? No. And when I finally came to terms with the idea that I wasn't to blame, I found a little piece of peace. Proof positive that all I can do is my best and hold on for the ride.

In case you're wondering, I feel about 1,000 times better than I did a couple of months ago. Thankfully, my body has largely healed itself. Tests have been done, and it's believed that I don't have anymore bastard gall stones hiding out in my liver or lying in wait in my bile ducts. I've been deemed mostly "cured." But am I? Now, my life has been turned on end in the realization that I'm not in charge. Whoa. That's a bit of a shock to the system.

I'll eventually get over the shock, but I'm still knee deep in it at the moment. If I've learned nothing else in my 39 years, I've learned that life is messy and chaotic and CRAZY. Shock is normal. But, it will go away one of these days. Maybe.

Dear Self,

Life isn't fair. Don't take it personally. Don't (always) blame yourself. Just hold on because sometimes, the ride gets bumpy. And sometimes, it goes completely off the rails. Hang in there.