It Only Takes One

October 10th was World Mental Health Day and no surprise, I was too depressed to write anything inspiring about it.

But the next day I received an email from someone who reminded me that one conversation, one honest way of speaking about mental illness and one connection can make a big difference.

“Hi Emily –

I’m sure you probably don’t remember me, but we met in the Freehold Apple Store about 6 years ago. Your computer was broken and I helped you get it repaired. In fact, you wrote me into one of your blogs:
http://www.mamasick.com/2011/05/my-2nd-blogiversary-the-mission-continues/
 
It’s been quite a long time since that day and I think about it from time to time. I keep your page and the blog post bookmarked for easy retrieval. It makes me smile every time I read it and recall that day as I’ve yet to encounter a situation like it.
I’ve thought about emailing you for a long time to say hello and let you know that I do still remember you and that day at the Genius Bar. Although our interaction was short, you most definitely left an impression. It’s not everyday that we run into people such as ourselves, who are as open to sharing about our respective illnesses.
My struggles with mental illness have peaked and valleyed since we first met and I’m happy to say as of this moment things have been going very well for me. I’ve recently started a new job a couple of months ago, moved into a new place and I’ve even met a girl I’ve taken a liking to. Although I know the depression can and will come back at anytime, I have learned to prepare myself for those times.
Anyway, I hope everything is well with you and your family. I don’t read your blog as much as I would care to admit, but I’ve went and liked your Facebook page and made myself a promise to check it more often. Please feel free to contact me as I’d love to hear how you’re doing.
All the best.
Your friend from the Genius Bar,
Aaron”
I wrote back to Aaron. I told him I remembered him because he made me feel like I had done a good thing, even if it was only speaking to one person. I filled him in on the years since we had met; my suicide attempt and my four in-patient hospitalizations, but that all things considered I was doing much better.
He wrote again to get into a little more details of his ups and downs. But that’s just the way Bipolar Disorder is and it is something we will both have to fight for the rest of our lives.
I think the lesson that we are meant to take from this is to not be afraid to talk to one another about mental illness. And I do think more people ARE speaking out about it and it IS becoming less stigmatized.
Hearing from Aaron really made my day, that just one small conversation could have such an impact on just one person.

 

So My Psychiatrist Went Off On Me

I’ve been seeing my psychiatrist since last August. She is a resident but I picked her because she was under the supervision of a psychiatrist who has a good reputation. The resident can’t do anything without her final approval.

When I met her this summer she said I was on too much medication (which I agree with) and she wanted to change some of my meds. So far the only things she’s done are to lower my anxiety med and increase my mood stabilizer. Not very many changes in the past six months and so it’s not very surprising that my depression and anxiety are the same.

When I saw her this past visit I brought Jacques in to help her understand that I have made no improvement and to give her some examples of this. We also mentioned that I was still having nausea even though I was now gluten-free because of the celiac disease so that was contributing to my mood.

She said she was at her limit with what she could do for me! “You want a magic pill, well there is no magic pill! Look, there are two ways you can go with this. You can go with ECT (that’s what they now call Electric Shock Therapy) or you can push through it and get better!” Meanwhile, sometimes I can’t get out of my house for two weeks and still feel sick to my stomach so what was she wanting me to push through and how was I to do it???

We were stunned at the mention of ECT. I don’t judge anyone for having it but I’d have to be suicidal to consider it, it is just not an option for me.

Then she said, “What about your son? Do you want his only memories of you to be you sick in bed?” She has never spoken to my son so she has no idea what our relationship is like. I have been very honest with Tyler. He knows that sometimes I can’t do things and we concentrate on the things I can do. More than once he has said I am the best mom in the world so I don’t think he is feeling deprived.

If I was in a worse frame of mine this certainly would have brought me lower and made me feel more hopeless.

At this point the head M.D. came in and Jacques said that the doctor had mentioned ECT for me. “ECT? No, you are not a candidate for ECT!” Then the Resident started backtracking and she said that we had misunderstood her!

The resident is graduating in April so I will never have to see her again, otherwise I would want another doctor.

I guess I will try my luck with the new resident and hope for someone who truly wants to work with me.

Photo credit: vox.com

Results of My Memory Test

Linking up with the Chronic Friday Linkup at Being Fibro Mom and the Weekend Blog Share at Hannah Spannah.

So many of us, whether it be from a disease or medication, experience impaired memory and concentration so I decided a couple of months ago that I needed to know why or where my problems were coming from. So I took a Neuropsychiatric or Neuropsychological test.

The test was about three and a half hours long and included being told a number of words and asking to repeat them, describing words shown to me, and a test on a computer where you had to figure out the changing patterns of cards. I also had to build towers from the largest to the smallest pieces while only moving one piece at a time, which I found the hardest part of the test.

My results said that my cognitive difficulties were most likely due to a combination of my physical and mental conditions along with the medication I was taking for said conditions. There was no evidence of dementia.

My psychiatrist’s recommendation was to minimize the use of my sleeping medication, the sedative that I take for anxiety, and the medication I take for my nausea. The medications that I take for bipolar disorder could also contribute to impaired memory.

So you mean everything I am taking to be a functional human being is playing havoc with my brain???

Suggested strategies for compensating included finding specific locations for important items, task lists, and tracking daily activities in a blog (hey!) or a notebook. I am pretty much already doing these things and still having difficulties.

I really don’t want to fiddle around with or lower my medication dosages so I guess I will have to keep dealing with these impairments with a sense of humor.

How do you deal with physical or mental and medication “brain fog”?

Do you have any funny stories about your memory troubles?

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My Son and His OCD

(This post contains strong language and may be upsetting to some. However, it is a true representation of what happened with my son this weekend.)

Tyler has been in therapy and on medication for his OCD for a while now but it only seems to be getting worse.

Lately one of my nine and a half year old’s rituals is to put his hands together and form a triangle and look like he is praying. Then he has to touch something. On Saturday night it was particularly bad. Not only could he not stop the rituals they would not allow him to get up from his chair. It wouldn’t stop.

Suddenly he started saying, “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck My Life! Fuck My Life!” I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know how to help him. Nothing I tried was working. Tyler often gets frustrated with me because I can’t understand what it’s like to have OCD. He’s right, I can’t. One time he told me, “Mom, you just don’t get it”, a phrase that was all too familiar for me in dealing with people and my chronic illnesses.

Tyler kept screaming and he said, “I want to kill myself, I want to kill myself, where are the knives?”

I said, “Tyler, are you serious about wanting to kill yourself? Because if you are I have to take you to the hospital.”

“I am serious!”, he said.

I called Grant, who does have OCD and he said he would be right over but first he was going to go to the pharmacy to get some Benadryl which had been recommended to us by his doctors, which would hopefully make him relaxed and sleepy.

As I waited I thought about what taking him to the hospital would really mean and how damaging it would be for him. I have been in-patient four times and while I did improve my stays were never without some form of damage or scars. I had often heard that the children’s unit was the worse in the hospital, that the kids were “crazy”. It would also mean Tyler staying in the hospital, spending the nights away from us, something that he has never really done. While I knew he could be helped, the visit could trigger some of his other issues.

While we were waiting for Grant he started to calm down on his own and was finally able to break the rituals. When Grant arrived we decided not to give him the Benadryl. As Grant made calls to his doctors, I asked Tyler if he still wanted to kill himself and he told me no. He also said he didn’t really want to kill himself and that he would never do that.

Grant was able to speak to a Child Psychiatrist at an emergency room who told him that it is unlikely for a child Tyler’s age to actually try to kill himself but we should monitor him very carefully over the next couple of days. He also told him that Tyler should be on double the amount of medication he was taking for his OCD for the drug to work effectively.

We see his psychiatrist and therapist on Wednesday.

No one wants to see their child in pain but I have felt mental pain and it is by far worse than physical pain. I worry about what Tyler’s mental health will be like as he ages. He has Tourette’s and has inherited Grant’s OCD and our anxiety. Will he also be bipolar like we are?

When Grant and I decided to have a child we went for genetic testing. We were told our children had a 50% chance of developing some sort of mental illness because of Grant’s mental health issues. My mental health problems started postpartum. While I will never regret the birth of my son I question whether or not Grant and I would have decided to have a baby if both of us were mentally ill.

I think about the teenage years and know they are difficult enough for any child, but what will it be like for one with mental illnesses?

I pray nightly for Tyler’s health and feel that we are doing the best we can with having him be in therapy and on medication but I just feel so sorry that we have brought these conditions on our son.

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My Blogaversary!

Inspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. Also part of my first time Friday link-up with Being Fibro Mom!

1. Throwback Thursday: Choose a photo from a previous May and write a poem or a blog post.

On May 19, 2009 I wrote my very first blog post and seven years later I am still chugging along! I won’t say going strong because some of my illnesses have caused me to stop writing for a period and I’ve lost readership, but I am trying to come back!

A lot has happened in seven years, some obvious, some not so, some things I never thought would happen. Tyler is almost ten years old but will always be my little boy, although I am no longer rocking him to sleep!

Most of the things that I didn’t expect to happen were the bad things. In 2012, I attempted suicide and was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. I have been hospitalized a total of four times, twice for depression and twice for mania.

Also in 2012, with both of us collecting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), we moved to Ohio, where my husband grew up, because of the lower cost of living.

In December of that same year I left my husband of ten years. He also has bipolar disorder but his episodes at that time included anger and rage. I don’t judge women who stay with abusive husbands but the first time an incident happened I immediately began making plans to leave. I also didn’t want Tyler to grow up in an abusive household.

I never imagined I’d be living in Ohio, I really miss New Jersey, but I own a small home and Tyler is happy here. My ex-husband has come a long way, we both have, to the point where we are friends and we even took Tyler to Disney World together a couple of years ago.

I also am blessed to have a wonderful boyfriend whom I met the day I left Grant!

The mission of my blog has never changed: to write a blog geared towards parents with disabilities and chronic illnesses and to write about the challenges we face raising our children. I hoped I’d be able to break down the prejudices towards disabled and chronically ill people who do not appear to look sick. And I also hoped to show people through my life how to be a better advocate for you and your family’s health, whether you are ill at present or what you need to know should something like this happen to you.

As I said, I don’t have as many readers as I used to but when I get a comment from someone telling me they are going through the same thing, or that I have given someone hope, or even when they give ME advice, it makes it all worthwhile!

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