Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Warning: May Have Been Genetically Processed By The Same Equipment As Nuts

After I checked myself into hospital to get help dealing with my alcohol dependance (dependance? addiction? which should I call it? words are so loaded with hidden meaning) and there was some space for me to think, really think, for the first time in years, there were things that I began to realise about myself. Writing in my journal helped to solidify those realisations. There were certain behaviour patterns that kept cropping up, things happening in a cyclical fashion. There has been underlying depression present for as long as I can remember, with occasional windows of what I have considered "normality" that on reflection may not have been normal at all.

I have seen many many mental health professionals in my life. It started when I was 19, being treated for Major Depressive Disorder.  I have been on 6 different anti-depressants in my life. I have been so depressed I couldn't get out of bed. I have cried continuously for weeks. I have been suicidal on many occasions since my teens.   I was absolutely serious about it last year, when my GP made Monkey Boy take control of my medications to keep me safe.  When I see a new shrink, we do the usual thing of going through the family history, list the stressful things that have happened to you.  I've done it so often I now see it as some kind of entertainment: what will the reaction be when I tell them? Will it be humour? Sarcasm? Offer platitudes? Or a chin drop to the floor? (that happened just once, but was quite funny. Maybe you had to be there. Or be me.)  My most recent therapist told me shrinks love people like me because it makes their job all so interesting. I'm a complex case, multi-faceted.
Yes yes, I know I'm fucked up, that's why I'm seeing shrinks.

The family history has always been:
  • Mother: controlling, manipulative, emotionally abusive in extreme, chronic depression for which she was given Valium and told to stop being neurotic.
  • Father: violent, anger issues, developed Alzheimer's in his 80s
  • Eldest brother: depression. Suicide in 1998
  • Middle brother: violent, anger issues, turned to God to solve all his problems (is that in the DSM these days?)
  • Youngest brother: paranoid schizophrenic. Suicide in 2001
  • Me: well you all know by know I'm fucked up in an interesting multitude of ways

(You can tell I'm assuming I am never going to be working again at this point, yeh?)

So the therapist/GP makes assumptions and decisions about medications based on that information.  But what if its wrong? What if it is incomplete? What if it is incomplete and you don't even know it?

I'm a great believer in the power of Dr Google. Some may scoff (many most all doctors do) at self-diagnosis, but I believe that if you are using the information wisely it can bring you closer to a proper treatment a lot quicker than if you leave it up to your overworked, underpaid, stressed out health professional who just doesn't have the time to listen to all your problems.  I learnt pretty quickly while dealing with infertility investigations that I had to be my own advocate for proper health care and diagnosis, and this is especially so if you are dealing with a chronic health issue. I know my body, I know what is normal for my body, in a way my GP never will because she doesn't have time to listen to me tell her. There are a million nuances that I am aware of but cannot articulate.

So I read a lot of medical websites. Professional ones, as well as teh forumz. And sometimes I read stuff that punches me in the guts because it has described me clearly on paper, and made me reassess things I took for granted as being normal.

Trawling mental health sites and reading up about alcohol dependance, anxiety, depression etc, I came across articles on Bipolar Disorder. I read them out of interest more than anything else, because I have extensive experience of living with someone who had Bipolar 1 with Psychosis. (Fun times.) That is what I think of when I think Bipolar. That is not a label I would ever apply to myself.  Ever.

Except I keep reading. Especially the section on Bipolar II, where there isn't the crazy mania people normally associate with Bipolar Disorder. Instead, there is the extreme "whale shit at the bottom of the ocean" depression combined with at least one instance of Hypomania, or Mania Lite.

Cue Oprah's "Aha! moment."

It all fits and that means that maybe if I get the right medication I wont feel like whale shit any more.  Woohoo. Except the likelihood is fairly low unless you have a family member who has a Bipolar diagnosis too, which I don't.  But you never know right? So I get a referral to  a psychiatrist (I hate them, the last one I saw kicked me out of her office after reducing me to sobbing hysteria by telling me that society didn't want to help people with mental illness).

I will have a full mental health evaluation. Doesn't that sound like fun?

A couple of nights ago I had a long Facebook conversation with a family member (the only one I have any contact with) and discovered that what I knew about my family profile is wrong. It turns out that:

  • Eldest brother: had Bipolar, prior to suicide.
  • His daughter: has Bipolar
  • Middle Brother's daughter: has Bipolar




I have had depression for as long as I can remember, and despite the 6 different kinds of antidepressants I am still depressed on them, though not whale-shit depressed. I don't want to kill myself when on the right AD.  I become too apathetic to kill myself, which is not really a glowing endorsement for relief of depression, is it?  The only time I can categorically state that an AD made me not depressed at all was when I started taking Prozac and the first month felt like I was on Ecstacy. Looking back, I can see it: hello Hypomania!

I am so unbelievably grateful to have this new knowledge of my family's mental health history. It could very well make the difference between a definitive diagnosis and a "you might have this, or you might have this, here try these pills and see what happens."  I've had enough of those experiences. I know enough to know that there is something wrong with my brain other than good old unipolar major depressive disorder.  

On Friday, I will have what may very well turn out to be the most important appointment of my life.

This is probably the first time in the history of everything that someone has actually wanted to be diagnosed with a mental illness.

image from http://www.883jia.com.sg/blog/kaiying/?m=200902
Image from here

Well, hey, I'm crazy like that.


  1. Well, I can relate to a lot of what you've posted and could write an essay in response. What I will say is that I've been there, and I've had a shitload of medicos to help too. The shrink I have now, who was the one I got when I was hospitalised for my nervous breakdown, is awesome. I hated him at first, thought he was rude, arrogant etc. But he's actually very skilled at both diagnosis and prescribing medication and also holistic ways to deal with the whale shit stuff. He got me onto mindfulness, which has been awesome; he encourages me and he's dabbled with the medication so that it works pretty well, with the least amount of side effects.
    Once you are really, properly diagnosed you can be really, properly treated. And as you say, that can be a huge relief. I hope it goes well for you. And I'm always here if you need support. xo

  2. What a great post!

    Dr Google and Oprah and blogs have made me think that I may have BP II too.

    I've been treated for depression, anxiety, etc, for nearly ten years now and it was only my current GP that saw through all of that and realised that I was being psychologically abused.

    With her help I cut myself off from my ex and was able to finally focus on my health. As my depression hasn't really lifted to any great extent, I figured that BPII could be a real possibility. My GP isn't totally convinced by she did prescribe a mood stabiliser for me, which has definitely taken away those horrible dark pits of despair.

    Perhaps a visit to a new shrink might not be so bad after all...

    Thank you for sharing all that, Sharon... I love the honesty of your writing, it inspires me to do the same...

  3. really? the psych said that? they should be thrown out of the profession! for if they don't believe in these little twitches in the brain, what is the point of them?
    oh right, $100/HOUR. now i see.
    good luck lady. let's chat before i go into the forest this Friday, in case I never come back... xx

  4. No idea what to say here... Hope you get some answers at least

  5. I really hope this all works out for you. Glad to hear you're starting to find the information you need to get the right help. Take care of yourself.

  6. I had the same A-Ha moment too, when I discovered Bipolar2. An offhand comment made by someone about my extreme mood swings reminded me of a friend with Bipolar (who had committed suicide). I dismissed it, because I wasn't 'like' him. Not manic like him.

    So reading about hypomania....blew my Freaking mind.


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