Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Terror of Relapse.

Those of you who dropped in recently discovered a completely different CyberGal. Thankfully, most of the time, that dreadful over wrought part of me doesn't rise up to rip my normal life out from under me. When it comes around, I am terrified, that I've made no progress and am hopelessly mentally ill. At these times, God finds ways to aggressively remind me of His love and care.

Sunday was a record. God provided a dinner on Saturday and a fabulous chocolate cake on Sunday. As neglect was yet another part of my childhood, food speaks to me when I'm too emotional to respond to anything else. What I lived through this weekend is known as relapse. As much as I'd like to forget that my brain chemistry is screwed-up, It is screwed-up. My medications keep me from falling into a vicious cycle of non-stop crying, screaming and blacking out. Occasionally, when something catches me off guard, a trigger, of a memory, I'm still quite capable of accelerating into a state worthy of being hospitalized.

I am what is known as a high functioning patient. I do not abuse, or play games with my medications. I follow directions. Since there are more people in need of hospital beds, than there are beds, folks like me, are given extra medications, for those times, when we go off the track. I did for myself, exactly what the hospital would have done. Since I'm not violent, or dangerous, I am safe to remain at home. Here's the process.

Something triggers a severe emotional reaction within myself. In this case, being reminded of my own two years of being battered. Being reminded of some other memories of my blood, as well as the blood of others being shed. I overloaded, which for me results in true hysterics. I start to cry and can carry on for days, or even weeks.

This is not the healthy type of release from a normal tearful reaction. I have those also, and I react normally. It starts and stops rather quickly. When my brain chemistry gets stirred up, I'm like a run away train. I can't be calmed down. One doctor explained it to me as a brain that has been so over stimulated via trauma, as to not be able to calm down. The part of my brain that calms things down isn't working anymore. It got overworked and stopped functioning. The medications I take restore my ability to remain in emotional balance. It is a true miracle. After several years of not having the run-away-sobbing-episodes, I forget they can happen. When they show up, I'm taken aback. Will power is non existent for this situation. I eventually realize that I need to shut my system down, chemically. I took two sedatives, that would have normally caused me to sleep for days. They only caused a few hours of actual sleep, and then a drugged sense of wakefulness, but at least I had stopped crying.

How to explain this to the normal people in my life? I have to resist the awful temptation to hide in shame. God helps me stay focused and gives me the courage to continue. I am making this blog as a demonstration to someone out there, who has been mystified by a seeming inability to grow up. I finally went to my family doctor at age 40 and pondered having myself committed to a mental hospital. I'd had another total breakdown. About every ten years, my life would just collapse. This particular trip into hell, I was unable to complete sentences. I am highly verbal, and when I can't talk, there is really a problem.

It was almost funny. My doctor's office was typical, totally busy. You'd call up and tell the receptionist that your liver has just fallen out. She comes back with the first available appointment in six to eight months. So, when my psychologist said I needed to get my regular doctor to proscribe medication, I was sure nothing would happen for months.

I didn't count on what actually occurred. I called up, stated who I was, that my psychologist had referred me.. Then I'd lose my train of thought and begin again. After my third attempt, this kind woman asked me a question which let me know that I was in one hell of a lot of trouble:

"Would you like to come in right now...?" (Oh, NO!)

The next day, lying on the exam table, when the doctor entered the room, I jumped, arced, actually. My entire body jumped into the air. I realized I'd hit the end of the road. I was going to admit that I was nuts and take it from there.

I was 40 and conducting my life like a three-year-old. I knew better, but kept crying and carrying on anyway. I will never forget how hard that kind man tried to teach me what the problem really was. I could sense that he was using all his energy to get me to learn what he was trying to teach me.

I didn't change because, without medication, I couldn't change. Part of my brain wasn't working right any more. Probably from all the years of stress and physical trauma inflicted upon my poor brain. I gave that doctor points. This was the first time I'd even thought about my brain!

I thought it was about will power, character and maturity (or lack there of). This wonderful doctor asked me if I thought someone with diabetes could will their insulin levels? I laughed, that was absurd. What about a broken arm, can you think that well? I saw where he was going. I was afraid of getting on the psycho pills.

Man, I saw a friend on Thorazine, she was beyond gone, it was scary. It was like she went from crazy to comatose! But, I couldn't continue as I was. I filled my two prescriptions, went home and wept an apology to God, for probably doing something I couldn't undo - I took the pills. Within minutes I noticed changes.

Muscles all over my body started to relax. I could actually feel my physical body, in space. I knew where I was in the room. I wasn't breathing hard and shallow anymore. I felt like something wonderful was happening.

Soon, I had to find my first psychiatrist. A psychologist has a Ph.D. in psychology, and as of now, is not allowed to proscribe medications. They are attempting to change that, but, for now, if you need medication, you have to move up the medical food chain. A MD, or Medical Doctor has 12 - 15 years of schooling and training, whereas a psychologist can complete their degree in eight years. They are different disciplines. They both have their place and value.

Generally, a psychologist treats patients who don't need medication. The psychiatrist deals with those patients that do need medications. They also deal with the more severely abused group. My childhood has the terrible ability to make your average psychologist weep. I've even gotten to a few hard-core psychiatric nurses.

Psychiatrists have seen my background and worse, on a regular basis. They don't like it, but it rarely makes them cry in front of me. I find that a true relief. It is a drag, when I need to run down some piece of garbage that happened to me, and I have to stop and help the doctor cope with it!

I started taking medication in 1997. I couldn't handle Zoloft, it made my memories so strong that I wanted to get violent. I was then moved to Effexor, and Depacote. Depacote is actually an anti-seizure medication, but it helps stabilize bi-polar disorder. I no longer felt like my blood cells were clanging together and causing me physical pain. I used to get so depressed, my entire body just hurt. It hurt to be conscious. I had more energy and my attitude was a whole lot better. I seemed to have an ability to deal with things without getting so totally upset. I felt like I'd been delivered from hell.

I then had problems with my vision and it looked like I would go completely blind. This inspired my roommates to evict me, as they "didn't want to have to take care of me". I did what every truly desperate woman does.

I found a man who appeared to be an answer from God. The kindest, most charming and considerate person I'd ever met. He was more than willing to take care of me. (This is a red flag, for all of you who want someone else to run your life, they're out there, but, you are better off WITHOUT them!)

I moved in with him, and within days the physical abuse began. If I hadn't been on psychiatric drugs, I'm sure I would have ended my life. I was too scared to tell my doctors, or anyone else, what was really happening. After two years I finally got out and have been alone (thankfully) ever since. I had a lust problem, but two years of getting m face re-arranged really put some iron in my soul, and the ability to not lie down with someone because I'm physically attracted to them. Being alone is not that bad, compared to being battered. Trust me.

Once I returned to Oakland, I set about rebuilding my life. I had a few rude awakenings around employment, blindness and available housing. God did get me out of the ghetto, but not until I'd learned to obey Him, and make the best of it, as it appeared He wanted me there. Within a week of actually being content to stay in the ghetto, the building was condemned, and I was on the road. I now live in a safe, quiet area. I hope I never have to return to a living arrangement, where someone trying to stab you in the bathroom was just another day in the hood!

My HMO kept changing the medication rules on me. My medications were expensive. I had acquired Zaprexa at $8/pill, Effexor at $2/pill, and Depacote, at $1/pill. That's $11/day, every day. I refused to go into debt for medications. I dropped the Zaprexa, and went generic on the Depacote. Then Effexor was no longer covered. I was told that I could take a generic Prozac with something else, and it would equal what I was taking already, but at far less expense.

I was terrified of Prozac. I'd heard about the suicides/homicides under Prozac. I heard a radio program with a psychologist, who swore the entire Bi-Polar thing was a lie. Just another scheme for Eli Lilly to make more money. And they really had a winner in Prozac!

I bought this woman's book and began the re-education of myself. One of the symptoms of an out-of-control manic episode, is grandiose thinking. Try this: My psychiatrist has almost 20 years of school and supervised training, before they cut him loose to do private practice. I had an AA in data processing! But, after reading ONE book, by a Ph.D. I was smarter than my doctor! After all, he, the HMO and the drug companies were all just greedy bastards, out to make money, but I had the WISDOM to perceive how brilliant this Ph.D. was!

I gave my doctor The Word, from on high, and got off all my medications, under his supervision. He let me know, he felt I was over reacting, but I had the right to stop taking pills, if I chose to. THIS WAS HIGHLY ILL-ADVISED, but since I was so smart...

I got off all medication by my birthday, April 2 - and was the sickest I'd ever been by October. I have always had mild to serious social problems. I just don't quite fit in. I have a feeling it has a lot to do with being raised in something like a Steven King novel, but my blindness, doesn't help, as I totally miss the subtle social clues which are usually non-verbal.

By the time people speak to you about their irritation/discomfort, things are usually beyond repair. I'd gone to a new church. I was hopelessly mentally ill, but didn't believe it. So, people literally cleared a path away from me! I went home and crafted what I thought was a brilliant argument for assisted suicide (my own). I figured that most people hate blindness, and react to it, just like they do to, oh, say, a Black Widow spider!

That was it! If being blind was that bad, I was off the hook, there was nothing for me to do to solve a prejudice like that! They saw me as a Black Widow Spider! From there it was a natural move to euthanize this pathetic creature. I mean, we don't make dogs suffer like I was suffering... Right? I actually called my HMO and made an appointment with my psychiatrist to euthanize me. (I didn't have a problem getting in either.) It didn't occur to me that my thinking had totally left the plane of reality.

I had a dog/house sitting job that weekend, this was Friday. My doctor asked me, in real short order, if I wanted to go to the hospital. Once in the office, I couldn't stop crying. I refused, because of the job. He then let me know that I'd once again, won the 'oops' medical lottery.

"Well, that's fine. Being with a dog, will help keep you calm. But... If you change your mind. Just go to the hospital and use my name. They'll let you right in." This is an HMO, not a resort. I had a feeling that there was more wrong, than I had realized. I've never had an offer like that before, or (thankfully) since!

All of this was a little over a year ago. A lot has been learned about the condition of Bi-Polar Disorder, since 1997. My HMO, first put me through something called "The Intensive Outpatient Program", where they could keep tabs on you, in case, you needed to return to the hospital. This was VERY serious business. I was in a room with about thirty other hospital refugees. Some of the most depressed, messed-up, people I'd ever encountered! What was I doing here?

We had a big group meeting and then the last two-thirds of the morning was devoted to smaller group meetings, to give each patient more individual attention and help them plan their next step in treatment. This was ridiculous, four lousy questions! Name, why here (what brought you to the hospital,) rate how you feel today: 1: real bad to 5: real good and what is your goal for today? My God, what was I doing here? Patients couldn't handle it. I saw dedicated doctors crawl on their hands and knees in order to make eye contact with these terribly depressed people. They didn't let you get out of talking either. It might take five minutes, but they coaxed people into some kind of interaction. I kept looking at a wall and forgetting where I was. I had to spend a lot of energy remembering where I was and why... Then it was old CyberGal's turn to ace this silliness...

"What...Oh, yeah, its 2004. What do you mean that's not the right question? They always ask that..." I finally got my name right and then did remember why I was there:

"I stopped all medications six months earlier and got really, really sick. I read a book from the alternative health industry..." I was angry with that movement. I could have died and that Ph.D. broad would just keep on selling books, tapes, interviews and spewing her stuff for idiots like me to buy into. As the morning progressed, another woman had a tale from the 'herbalist', who drained her bank account to the tune of several thousand dollars, until, like me, she ended up in The Intensive Outpatient Program.

If I'd had the money, I would have also done all that crap. The color lightbox therapy: $90, specialty vitamins from Canada $400/Mo., tape on getting off the medications $10, (I guess the $30 for the book is just a down payment)? Let's not neglect Noni Juice, mushrooms from Japan (only organic), music therapy, massage that cures cancer, blood/organ cleansing, magnets, personal affirmations, UFO channeling and your Spirit Guides.

Go ahead and drink chi tea, soup simmered from your lawn clippings and the juice strained from the testicles of the Hocomporappenaquesto frog. However, dear one, when you get weary of being broke and still sick -


Do you get it, that this innocent-sounding, religious idolatry damn near killed me? Yes, some of their stuff is truly beneficial. But, remember, if you have a headache, and I run over one of your feet with a car, for awhile, you'll forget all about the headache! (My book will retail at $29.95: A One Way Ticket to Your Bank Account.)

As the medication levels came up, we patients had a host of messes to clean up. The saddest story involved a woman who tried to "exorcise" all the demons out of a relatives home. She threw all the furniture out of a room on the second floor, until the police and medics came to take her away. She has been permanently disowned by her family.

I had amends to make also. I'd concocted that cute euthanasia argument, thought it was good enough to publish and fired off an email to a friend in Canada. He spend a week making emergency long distance calls trying to save my life. My close friend saw me at my worst and nearly wept while pleading for me to get help. I finally did get help, but I cut it really, really close. I'm darn lucky I didn't loose both of these fine people, as friends.

While attending my HMO classes in downtown Oakland, I got mugged for the second time in ten years. I fought to keep my purse and cell phone. I was thrown to the ground and acquired a new permanent injury to my right ankle. I had to stop carrying a white cane, as I only see about five feet in front of me. Now, due to really serious walking problems, I use a Rollator. A Walker with attitude. In a way, the mugging was a good thing, as it forced me to realize that falling down all the time, in the street, especially, is a problem. (Yes, friends, I also like to swim in that Egyptian River: DENIAL too.)

The new medication works better than what I had before. I had been so depressed, that any improvement felt like heaven. I still felt depressed, but it was so mild. Now, I know, that one isn't supposed to feel depressed, at any level all the time. It is wonderful. I have gotten used to being balanced, contented, able to think clearly, solve problems and occasionally shed a few tears of gratitude, or normal sadness.

I have a whole flock of friends, literally all over the planet. I am blogging, and actually have a small following. I've been invited to help produce a pod cast. I'm studying Real Basic and having the best time I ever remember having in my life. I completely forgot about being out-of-control. I'd long ago put my 'emergency' medication on the top shelf of my medicine cabinet, where I keep long-term storage items, like a container of salt. I'd only taken one pill in the last thirteen months.

I have an almost irrestible temptation to fire off an apology email to a friend, who got caught in my cross fire, but I know it's not necessary. He would say (and has said) 'SOK' And so it is. I have missed one day of work, and not months. I have the joy of knowing that my chemistry is now back in balance. I have absolutely learned that I'm not up for any more child abuse horror stories. It is a very bad idea for me, to stroll down memory lane.

The most wonderful thing I know is the fact that God saved me, when I was crazy as a loon, listened to my various episodes and still loves me. I am continuing to heal. I want that one person, who will stumble into this blog, to hear me very well. It takes time, its not a constant upward movement, in healing. You will do, what you have read about me doing. Every so often, you will take a few steps backwards.

It doesn't mean you aren't getting better, it just means you are human. Your true friends usually can see it coming before you. There is love and hope with God - He gets it, when you are too whacked-out to avoid panic. It is part of the process. If you need help, start looking for it. (I mean real medical help. Yoga by itself, ain't gonna cancel out major child abuse.) If you have horror stories, those suckers won't just go away. There is healing and hope. Give Jesus a look-see. Remember, even though some of His followers mess it up (as we are not perfect) Jesus got it and is still getting it right.

1 comment:

Effexor Prescription Information said...

My name is Judith Haven and i would like to show you my personal experience with Effexor.

I am 37 years old. Have been on Effexor for at least 1 years now. As soon as I was on the beginning dose I could feel releave from my anxiety. My family life is so much better. My kids notice it. They applaud my for taking the side affects for a better live with them. No explosive episode any more.

I have experienced some of these side effects-
Nightsweats, I have twitches if I forget a dose.

I hope this information will be useful to others,
Judith Haven