Dec 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Dear Friends in the Blogisphere,

Merry Christmas to you all! I hope that the holidays and the New Year are full of good times and good health for you and your families.

Thanks for all the wonderful reading and the support you've all been this year. I will update soon, but I'm feeling better than I have in a long time.

Happy holidays!

Apr 26, 2009

20 seconds looks like my attempt to become a runner again is going to take a lot longer than planned. I lasted less than 30 seconds running the other day and had to settle for a walk instead :(

Less than half a minute! I used to be able to run for over an hour.

Apr 22, 2009

i'm back!

Great news! My test results are back and I do not seem to have an autoimmune disease.

After a two-hour evaluation in the 'big city' nearby, the mood disorder specialist agreed with my psychiatrist that I am a "difficult diagnosis". I have no history of mania, but never really respond to antidepressants fully. Unipolar depression? Bipolar? Not depression at all? My main issue is fatigue, but hard to tell if it is physical or mood related. Great.

And so, my next stop is a date with Adderall or Modafinal. I really don't care what they put me on if it gets me out of bed and moving around again.

I've decided that my goal this summer is to run a 5 km race. This should be interesting as I am currently struggling to walk 20 minutes with my dogs without sitting down to rest. But hey, it's good to have a goal.

I've been remembering all of the things that used to be part of my life - playing in a punk rock band, rock climbing, traveling (and seeing more than just the hotel room). It is time to get my life back.

Today I am going to hit the treadmill and try to run/walk for a few minutes.

Here I go!!

Apr 9, 2009

What's up with Billy Bob Thornton?

I was listening to CBC's "Q" this morning with host Jian Ghomeshi, as he commented on his attempt at an interview with Billy Bob Thornton yesterday.

While I applaud the work that Mr. Thornton has done to raise awareness of mental health, I suggest that he take some time to work on his own issues.

I was disgusted by his immaturity and lack of respect for the interviewer, his band mates, and Canada in general. 

Overall, I think that Mr. Thornton has added to the profile and discussion of mental health (and mental illness) through his public service and through his cinematic career. 

I sincerely hope that this was just a bad day for him and not indicative of a more serious illness or addiction. In the meantime, the Boxmasters concert is one I will be taking a pass on.

As for Mr. Ghomeshi, this must have been a nightmare interview for him, but I applaud his professionalism dealing with such an uncomfortable situation. 

After hearing that the Boxmasters had cancelled the rest of their Canadian tour dates, my husband and I decided to catch Willie Nelson and Ray Price in concert earlier this evening. 

Ray Price was simply incredible. In a sharp suit and tie, he was a consummate performer. I had shivers down my spine listening to him croon through "Heartaches by the Numbers" and numerous other country classics. To make up for the last minute change, both Price and Nelson extended their sets. 

What good fortune we had to see Mr. Price perform. He reminded the audience that he is 83 years old, and while he would love to return and play again, 'time is a monster'...

Willie Nelson was fantastic. He was obviously enjoying performing new arrangements of his older works. His entire set had a blues/jazz fusion feeling and a soulful harmonica player added to the stripped down music.

It was good fortune that the Boxmasters caught the flu *um, yeah, sure* as Mr. Price and Mr. Nelson do not deserve to be associated with the negativity caused by Mr. Thornton's childish antics.

Price & Nelson - absolute professionals. Spot-on musicians. Superb showmanship. It's too bad that the Boxmasters didn't take notes from these fine performers. 

Apr 8, 2009

you kneaded me!

With my recent spat of headaches, I've found that all of my family and friends have been very kind and helpful...this morning, my cat joined in too!

I woke up today with kitty on my pillow, 'kneading' my head. It was just like a massage - with claws!

Apr 7, 2009

the joys of anonymity

One of the aspects of being a patient that many take for granted is their relative anonymity.

In many Canadian provinces, we work in a health "system", which means that in any one geographic area (around 1 million pop) all of the hospitals, long-term care facilities, health service providers, mental health & often public health services are part of the same organization. One organization I worked for had over 20,000 employees.

For patients, this can mean more integrated care, consistent policies & electronic record sharing - kind of like a restaurant chain - you know what you are getting, no matter where you access service.

The downside I have learned happens when you (as a professional) become a patient in your system. Having worked with the vast majority of department directors, managers, vice-presidents, medical officers of health, and specialist physicians, I don't can't just "blend in", I am not invisible.

No matter which site I go to for care, there is a good chance that I am going to run into a colleague. The thought of having to explain my miscarriage, depression, overall illness, resignation and entry in to the PhD program is more than I want to get into with most people. To be candid, I feel like I failed, in that I could no longer keep up with my work demands during the worst of my illness.

Next week I am going to be seeing a specialist in a city about two hours from my home. It's going to be nice to be where nobody knows my name.

Apr 4, 2009

dog park

It was a good morning. My puppies curled up next to me on the couch as I sipped my coffee. My husband was still sleeping soundly in bed next to the cat. And there was no headache. No headache at all.

With the sun streaming through the window, I felt alive for the first time in weeks. I actually wanted to go outside. How long has it been since I took the dogs for a walk? Months?

When all of us were up and about, my husband and I put on our coats and boots, filled our pockets up with plastic bags, and headed to one of my favourite places - the dog park.

The puppies ran and tumbled, bowed and growled and chased. They looked so happy to be in the sunshine, running freely. I'm holding hands with my love, and feeling absolute joy. This is my family, this is my life. This is what a good life feels like.

Apr 3, 2009

don't worry, it's just a little atrophy...

If your head CT report concluded:

"mild frontal atrophy"..."perhaps related to condition" (what condition?), would you feel concerned?

Apparently not, according to my new internist.

Good news, I suppose, but still...brain and atrophy aren't words I want in the same sentence!

Apr 2, 2009

the headache

I saw the Internist today. What a letdown. No answers yet.

Of course, I knew that she wouldn't be able to tell what is wrong with me with one visit, but I was so hopeful that there would be an answer in sight.

She is doing more blood work and told me my thyroid is enlarged and my cortisol levels are low (adrenal fatigue, anyone?)...I will get my blood taken tomorrow, but won't get the results for about three weeks.

My headache is back. I feel nauseous and will be putting my laptop away soon as the light is making it worse.

I'm not sure how much longer I can handle this relentless headache. I am in tears tonight trying to manage it.

Tylenol 3 + Advil = no relief

Any other suggestions? I'm at about 8.25/10 on the worst headache of my life scale.

Mar 31, 2009

questionable advice

I know that my friends are well meaning and have nothing but my best interest at heart. However, I have been a little surprised lately by some of the suggestions I've received from them about my health.

Here are some recent ailments that I have been advised of:
  • Adrenal Fatigue - although my levels are well within normal, I am told that "western" medicine lab tests are not sensitive enough to pick up on this ailment. The treatment? Lots of rest and bovine adrenal supplements. Is it just me or does this sound like a really bad idea?
  • Candida (yeast overgrowth) - I am the first to admit that a yeast infection is nasty, nasty, nasty! I am totally behind a good anti-fungal treatment when warranted. But the idea that candida is growing throughout my body, raging through my innards just doesn't resonate with me. Unless one's immune system is severely compromised, I think we can tick this one off the chart.
  • Wheat Allergy - despite having been tested for celiac (twice), there are still friends of mine insisting that I must have a wheat allergy. This one isn't totally off-the-wall, there are real cases of wheat allergies, but living a wheat-free lifestyle is hard work. At least it doesn't involve eating cow glands, so I suppose this one is at least a possibility.
I will be the first to admit that modern "Western" medicine doesn't have all the answers. It is tempting sometimes to want another perspective, another option on the table.

I suppose I just like to stick to things that I can research in peer-reviewed journals. Am I being too closed-minded?

the real me?

After weeks of tapering Celexa, I finally reached zero last weekend. And while I still have two other antidepressants floating around in me, my personality seems to have shifted. I have become angry and agitated.

What scares me most is that I no longer know the "real me". Without the meds, am I really an angry person? Or is the "real me" when I'm on the meds?

I feel totally overwhelmed.

Mar 30, 2009

cranky counting

Eight days of a constant migraine headache

1 broken central vacuum requiring service call

1 broken nearly-new washing machine (warranty expired) requiring service call

1 broken floor vacuum cleaner (beyond repair)

1 outdoor hose frozen and broken requiring service call

2 dogs, 1 tearing the house to shreds (he's a puppy, I have a headache)

1 paper left to finish

1 presentation left to present

1 missed episode of House

0 mg cipralex onboard (tapering complete)

Penelope is cranky tonight. Really cranky.

a question of trust

I came across this article today on Salon that caught my eye. It seems that one of the most reputable journals of medicine, the JAMA, is angry at a 'whistleblower' who pointed out a potential conflict of interest.

The article states that Dr. Johnathan Leo - a professor with the Lincoln Memorial University in Texas - noticed that the author of an article published in JAMA about Lexapro failed to disclose a financial relationship with Forest Labs, the company who make Lexapro.

I took the time to read JAMA's response and I found them to be quite defensive.

Journals are the 'go to' source for trusted information on health issues. Physicians make prescribing decisions based on information gleaned from the latest journals, patients rely on this information to be neutral and reliable.

It's a question of trust. It is vital that conflicts of interest be illuminated. If my doctor prescribes a medication for me, I want to be certain that their judgement is based on objective, neutral reporting of well designed studies.

I am not saying that the results of the Lexapro study were invalid, only that a lack of disclosure on the part of the author calls the results into question.

Here's hoping that this will be a wake up call for journals and researchers who publish in them.

Mar 27, 2009

forced to keep mirena?

Why do some health care providers feel that they are entitled to force their patients to keep unwanted Mirena IUDs?

I recently came across a blog post from a NP where she vents her annoyance about removing a recently inserted Mirena from a patient who was concerned about the side effects. The majority of the comments she received are almost more disturbing than the original post itself.

Tales like this are repeated frequently across the web - women told that they must keep IUDs that are causing them discomfort. Adding to this concern is the reluctance of other health care providers to remove an IUD that they themselves didn't insert.

I can't for the life of me understand why a provider would be reluctant to remove an unwanted IUD. It is a simple and quick procedure. Do they not believe patient's reports of side effects?

Am I alone in thinking that this kind of behavior is offensive?

Mar 25, 2009

frustrated, desperate

I'm scared.

For the past few years, I have tried to hang in and be a 'good patient' as a host of symptoms started to steal away my life.

Only a few years ago I was a busy health professional with an enjoyable career. I worked out regularly, did yoga three times a week, went out for dinner with friends, performed in a band, went rock climbing in the mountains...

Now I am a student on an LOA who rarely leaves the house; spending most of my time trying to get enough energy to do basic chores. 

I stopped seeing my friends, as I was sick of always talking about what was wrong with me (a hard topic to avoid, since it has eaten away at every part of my life) My world has become so small.

I would give just about anything to put on my running shoes and just RUN again.

The past three days I have been mostly in bed, in the dark, with a migraine. Three days of nausea, diarrhea, body aches, and unrelenting pain in my head. F@*k!! I've had enough.

Last Sunday I was in church, during communion I started to pray. I feel like I am dying. There is no way anyone could feel this shitty and not have something seriously wrong with them. Why can't anyone give me an answer??

I keep getting referred to specialists and then...wait...

My psychiatrist - after two years of working with me - isn't sure anymore that I have a mood disorder. He thinks something else is going on; BUT, both he and my Primary Care Physician can't agree on which type of specialist I should see, so I will be seeing them all:

- Rheumatologist
- Internist
- Neurologist

I simply can't live like this any more. I am desperate. I need to find an answer. I cling to the hope that if I have a REAL diagnosis, then perhaps there might be a treatment. 

I am in need of hope, or at least a "good day" to help me get through.

Mar 18, 2009

mirena IUD & depression

Last summer I was finally starting to feel better. My energy had increased, my mood was stable, things were finally looking up.

My husband and I talked about the possibility of another pregnancy, but the postpartum depression was still too vivid in our minds to risk again. Still, we weren't ready to give up 100% on the idea of a future baby.

I visited my doctor to discuss an IUD (as I have clotted previously, the pill was out for me). She suggested I try the Mirena, an IUD that provides a very low daily dose of progesterone. I was told to expect that with the Mirena I would eventually no longer have periods (sounded good to me).

I had the Mirena installed on a Friday. By Saturday morning, it was clear that something was very wrong with me. I was in tears, angry, anxious. I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. I felt like I just didn't want to exist anymore.

My husband asked me if the dramatic return of my PPD symptoms could be related to the IUD. I hadn't even considered that! After googling for a few hours, I came to learn that Mirena wasn't for everyone. There were far more potential side effects than I had been warned about.

Searching for the product monograph online, I was shocked to find a clear warning that the Mirena IUD could re-trigger depression in women who had a history of the disease.

I was angry with my physician for prescribing me something that had undone nearly a year of healing. I was angry with myself for not doing the research on possible side effects myself before making my choice.

I tried to have it removed over that weekend, and I couldn't find anyone who would take it out!

First thing Monday, I was back at my doctor's office to have it removed. She apologized and told me that she hadn't considered the effect on my depression. I appreciated her honesty, and was just glad to get the damn thing out of me.

It took several months for my moods and my body to get back to where it had been pre-Mirena.

Many women use Mirena and have great experiences with it - to them, I say "wonderful"! I was not one of those women. I'm writing this post today to alert women who have a history of depression of this potential side effect of Mirena.

Mar 16, 2009

still grieving my miscarriage

Two years ago this week I conceived. I found this out from my manicurist. While painting my toenails one day, she said to me "You're pregnant". How she could tell, I will never know, but she was right.

I had never really known if I wanted children, and given a history of clotting disorders, wasn't sure it was even well-advised. Nonetheless, I was excited and did everything 'by the book'. No coffee, no alcohol, limited fish, you know the drill...

We started to plan, we were building a new house at the time and designed it to have a nursery connected to our master bedroom. We picked names for either a boy or a girl.

And then on our moving day, I started spotting. An ultrasound showed no heartbeat at 12 weeks. While the movers were busy taking the boxes to our new home, I was busy losing our future child.

Surprisingly, I didn't take it as hard emotionally as I thought I might. I understood that sometimes these things happen and that we could try again.

What I didn't plan for was the crash. About six weeks later, my brain fell apart. I stopped remembering things, had trouble concentrating, experienced confusion, could no longer chair meetings reliably. I felt absolute fatigue and despair.

I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. Treated with a combination of Cipralex, Wellbutrin & Risperdal. It felt like I had left my body, was floating around watching my life from outside of myself. I couldn't carry on a conversation, couldn't feel much of anything, actually.

Falling apart was an awful experience, it involved giving up my career for which I had earned three degrees and considered my identity. I lost my job, my confidence, my life as I knew it.

Two years has gone by and yet still the grief hangs there. As does the question, was it really postpartum depression? Maybe I was misdiagnosed and that might explain why I failed to respond to medication.

Will there ever be a chance to try again? Do we even want to risk it at this point?

Holidays are a good time for reflection, and somehow, despite the noisy children in the hot tub and the screaming babies at breakfast, I am still wondering...

Mar 15, 2009

sun stroked?

I've never been much of a "sun person". While others are lying on the beach soaking up the rays, I am covered up with hat, towel, sun umbrella and 45+SPF lotion looking for a nearby palm tree for shade.

Despite taking precautions, it isn't easy to avoid the sun on a Mexican beach the past few days I decided to lotion up and get outside to enjoy the weather.

Sun day #1 - Migraine, had to come back to the room and drug up and sleep it off.

Sun day #2 - Touring the ruins, body ached, mood was awful, felt feverish, so fatigued I had to sit and rest repeatedly, slept during the car ride 4 hours feeling miserable.

Sun day #3 - Sat in the sun at the pool today for about an hour, went back to my hotel room feeling nauseous, had chills, slept for a few hours, woke with severe muscle aches.

The only days I've felt well are the ones I've spent inside or in the shade. I can only conclude that the sun just doesn't agree with me. Either that or I have a really strange virus. Am I a complete hypochondriac? It would be laughable if it wasn't so miserable.

Sometimes I feel like such a wreck!!

Mar 14, 2009

cranky on the ruins

So you might ask how someone who has now been on holiday since mid-February could possibly have a bad day?

I think it's being tired , as I was up at 6:30 am to go visit the Mayan ruins this morning. Lately it's been hard to fall asleep. I notice that when I'm tired, I am cranky and often teary. Sometimes it is easy to mistake it for depression, but it usually resolves with a good nap.

My fatigue was in full force. It takes a surprising amount of energy to spend a day touring. My husband really deserves a travel companion who has his energy and stamina.

Does anyone else feel like a sad, petulant three year old when they are short of sleep?

Mar 12, 2009

heaven is real (or finding my "new normal")

Standing at the airport bookstore, only moments before boarding my flight, I grab the first book that catches my attention, throw some cash on the counter and run for the gate.

I squeeze into the seat next to the window and realize that I have selected the book "Heaven is Real", by Don Piper. I had never heard of the author before, despite this being his third best seller.

In a nutshell, Don Piper claims that he died for 90 minutes following a terrible traffic collision and was brought back to life. In that time, he says that he went to Heaven. He feels that his mission today is to spread that news with people.

Sometimes I struggle with my Christianity. Am I being called? What does God want me to do? Could he please send me a very clear text message??

Obviously I don't know if the author really died for 90 minutes, and while I tend to believe him, that is not important really. What is important is how he describes coming to the realization after his accident that things would never be the same for him again. With his myriad of injuries, he was going to have to find his "new normal".

This book was worth 10 therapy:

I have spent the past 2 years waiting for the 'old me' to return. Waiting until I was healthy enough to be a rising star again, to resurrect my great job and excellent professional reputation. BUT....what if the 'old me' doesn't exist anymore? What if she never will? In short, what if THIS is my NEW NORMAL?

As simple as this sounds, this small shift in my thought process feels like it has liberated me: I may never get better!

I may never be that high performing, straight A honors student ever again. Or the high ranking health professional - maybe that is gone for good too.

And you know what? It won't matter.

I need to discover what my new normal will be. To find a way to be kinder to my self and honoring of my body's limitations. To use my talents to offer hope to other people.

Heaven is real. It's just hard to see from behind the fog of depression.

Mar 7, 2009

it's good to be home

vacations are great, but some of the best things in my life were just waiting for me to come home.

Mar 5, 2009

my titers (or lupus part II)

I just got my lab results in hard copy. I thought I would post them to see if any of you can make more sense of them than I can:

ANA: Positive
TITRE: 1:160
PATTERN: Homogeneous pattern
Speckled pattern

Mar 1, 2009


I learned something new recently; I am a "synesthete".

Synesthesia may in fact be the coolest thing about my otherwise challenging brain.

Never heard of it? I hadn't either until last week. But after coming across an article about it, I had this "aha" moment where I realized that what they were describing fit me perfectly. Oddly enough, I had never considered that other people didn't taste words or hear colours!

For me, the worst is the word "terry", it is light green and tastes awful, like bitter dish soap. The name "Linda" is a much darker green, and is a pleasant taste. Other words are blue, no matter what.

I also learned that the way my brain conceptualizes days of the week and months of the year is unique in that I see them as forming a shape outside of my body.

Take the test and find out if your brain is as cool as mine ;-)

the end of my holiday

I've taken a break from blogging whilst I've been away on holiday. It was nice to sit out in the sun, relax on the water and feel like a normal person once again. And I did feel like a normal person!

My family is amazed by how well I've been doing. They have told me it's like having the "old me" back with them.

Of course, as soon as I return home, I'm scheduled to complete my tapering of my medication, which I put on hold so I could enjoy my trip. Considering three weeks ago I had to have my family make me toast and tea and that my brain forgot some very important basic facts, this is not an idea I relish.

I've been offered a very nice contract when I return home, but am very nervous to accept. I know that I could do it today, but with my condition lately, there is no telling what tomorrow might bring. Also, it would involve traveling, which I am about done with now!

I will be very happy to see no more hotels for a long while. I am missing my puppies and my kitty cat so much now, can't wait to be home and give them all a cuddle.

Feb 18, 2009

another piece of the puzzle?

A few weeks ago, I was driving to class when I started noticing a pain in my right rib just under my breast. Over the next few days the pain got more and more miserable. It hurt to breath, it hurt to sniffle, it hurt to sit, it hurt to lie down.

I started popping extra strength Ibuprofen, and decided to visit my massage therapist to see if it was being caused by muscle pain. He evaluated my pain and pressed lightly on my sternum. HOLY FRIG it hurt!

For the life of me, I could not remember hurting myself. I mean, if you hurt so badly you can hardly sit or stand, wouldn't you have some idea what you did? Sleepwalking? Too much arm waving with the Wii?

His best guess is that I was suffering from a condition called "costochronditis."

It's been about a month now and I am starting to feel better, but interestingly, I was just "googling" it, and it looks like it has some relationship to autoimmune diseases. Perhaps the whole autoimmune theory isn't as crazy as I thought.

Feb 15, 2009

penelope escapes from the snow

It's a funny thing being in your mid 30s and finding yourself on "spring break" ... um, sorry, I mean "reading week".

Earlier this week I didn't think I would be well enough to travel; but tonight I'm lying in bed in a gorgeous hotel suite looking over the ocean...and life is good. Perhaps a few days away from my couch will be good for me.

Travel for me has certainly improved since my first time around as a student. My first road trip was spent searching for a Super 8 with the lowest room rate. This time I am happily ensconced in a four star hotel, munching on the complimentary wine and cheese and I no longer have to eat all of my meals at Taco Bell...hmmm...this mature student thing isn't really all that bad.

Hopefully, I will be a good student this week and crank out my midterm paper whilst enjoying the sand and surf.

Feb 12, 2009


My test results are back. It appears that they are all normal, except for one.

I tested positive for high anti-nuclear antibody (ANA). It seems that can happen in about 20% of the population for no good reason, so I may not have Lupus. But considering my symptoms, there is a good chance that I do have it.

My doctor's office is seeing me tomorrow morning for follow up.

I feel a ray of hope shining in. Maybe I will finally know what's been wrong with me for so long.

Feb 11, 2009


Sometimes I feel like this is how it will be forever. I don't see any hope of truly being "well" again.

As I've mentioned, I really do have a lovely life - certainly nothing to complain about - but living with whateverthef@ck this illness is has slowly eroded into my sense of optimism.

I am so sad today. I was thinking about babies, especially the babies we won't be able to have, and my train of thought crashed.

I was watching Oprah today telling women that if their husband cheats, it's obviously because of something they were doing wrong. And even though I cannot imagine my Dear Husband cheating on me; he felt so far away (and, well...he is...6 time zones to be exact) and I felt so lonely.

I didn't get any of my readings done for class tomorrow. In fact, I'm thinking of withdrawing from school this term. My brain is not functioning properly and I really need a break from worrying about how I am going to get through.

On the plus side, my house is really clean (and I got to sleep through the whole transformation). And my Mother brought me over blueberry waffles.

So why am I on the verge of tears? Why does it feel like I can hardly breath?

Feb 10, 2009

oh my speeding heart

So far today's withdrawal symptoms haven't been too bad. I'm definitely tired, but nothing new with that!

The odd thing is that my little heart-wreck is racing. I've taken my blood pressure a few times with my handy home blood pressure machine * and have found that my BP is a remarkably low 88/49 with a pulse rate over 100. Nifty. **

As My Amazingly Brilliant Husband is away on business this week, and I am at the bottom of the motivation pit, I have relented and hired a person to help me clean the house tomorrow. (by help, I expect that she will be doing most of the heavy lifting). I feel so guilty not doing my own housework. I mean, what else do I have to do all day? Sleep? Rest on the couch? Check my blood pressure? How flippin' hard can it be to throw a load of laundry in along the way?

Apparently, the answer is very hard as the mountain of clothing piling up in the bedroom closet can attest to.

My Fabulous Mother came by tonight with groceries for me and stopped in for some tea and a game of Wii golf. It might have been cold outside, but in the land of Nintendo, the sky was blue and the fairways were perfect!

It seems that I might have overdone it swinging the "golf club", as I am now short of breath and thinking I need a nap before I can get ready for bed. Did I really just write that sentence?

Did I also mention that I am (or was, not that long ago) a reasonably proportioned, fit person? Who the hell gasps for air after playing Wii golf??

  • I am very happy to have my wonderful family and the sweetest furry creatures you could imagine.
  • I am very grateful that I am able to afford to have someone help me with the cleaning.
  • I am very grateful for my beautiful home.
  • I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to go away on holiday next week to a sunny beach.
One day at a time. At least I'm not feeling sad!

(*note: you might be suffering from hypochondria if you own a home blood pressure machine)

Feb 9, 2009


Wow. I feel as though I've nearly been hit by a train. Miserable!

My head hurts, my body aches, my eyes hurt. Either I have a horrible flu, or this is the beginning of withdrawal setting in. I was so tired today I could hardly make it up the stairs! I almost called my Mom over to make me some tea.

All this and I've only gone down by half. I'm not sure I want to see what it feels like to go off of them 100%.

On the bright side, my mood is fantastic!

Feb 8, 2009

could it be possible?

What if the depression I've been struggling with isn't depression at all?

Here's what happened: I shouldn't have worried about being "too well" for Friday's appointment with my psychiatrist. As it turns out, I crashed that morning and was barely able to drag my carcass across the city to see him.

He listened to my story of how things have been for me since Christmas, and seemed very perplexed. Thankfully, My Husband was able to attend this appointment with me, and was able to give some additional insight about my moods.

My doctor is concerned that I have not responded to any of the multiple treatments I've had over the past few years and that my physical health is worsening along with my moods shifting more rapidly.

I could care less about my moods; what I can't stand is the fatigue. The overwhelming energy it takes to get out of bed and make a pot of tea. The fact that I avoid showering day after day and have been wearing the same pajamas now since Friday morning. This is not me! After three good days, I feel like I have crashed. Sometimes I wonder if I have chronic fatigue (and depression?)

After my brief reprieve earlier this week from brain fog, it has set in again and made focusing on anything next to impossible. All I want to do is sleep.

Interestingly, my doctor is now wondering if there is something physical going on with my body that he hasn't picked up on.

So here are his recommendations:
  1. Consultation with another psychiatry specialist - (thought I was already seeing a specialist? how much more specialized can you get in mental health?)
  2. Testing for Lupus, Celiac, hormone levels, and a whole host of "outlier" illnesses.
  3. Tapering off two of my medications over the next ten days to see if any of them are causing the fog & fatigue.
I am very frightened of coming off medication. I've done it before and things got much worse without it. But I am grateful that he is still trying to solve the mystery of my downward spiral of health.

It is such a crazy thought after all I have been through that it's possible that none of this has been depression, but rather some strange autoimmune disorder. If you've been here, you can probably understand if I share with you that I would be grateful for a diagnosis that is physical in nature. Something objective that I could show to people and that they would be nice about.

I guess I will just have to wait and see what happens. Today was my first day of tapering off of Cipralex and Wellbutrin. I feel dizzy, sleepy, teary. I think this is normal, so I am going to find my sweet little furry friends and bring them to bed with me now. Everything always feels better when there is a soft, warm, fluffy ball purring next to me.

Feb 5, 2009

good news, or bad?

Three days. Three beautiful, blissful days of peace. My fog lifted for three days and I was able to:
  • wake up
  • read
  • think
  • smile
  • call a friend
  • have a shower
  • play with my puppy
  • clean the house
  • feel joy
  • stay awake for 12 hours
  • remember how wonderful life can be
This would normally be great news, fantastic news; except that tomorrow I see my doctor for a medication review. The last time I saw him was before Christmas.

The past three days have been so out of character from the past two months, I'm afraid that he is going to get the wrong idea about how I have been doing.

On the other hand, maybe I am doing better. I just hate to get my hopes up as my history has shown these brief windows of wellness that ultimately crash back down again.

How do I portray how bad things have been when it is all I can do to stop myself from beaming, glowing with joy that I finally feeling well again?

Jan 31, 2009

how badly do i need my brain?

Topomax. The specialist I see in Psychiatry has prescribed me this anti-epileptic drug as a mood stabilizer. I was on Lamactil last year, but was one of the unlucky few who got "the rash". sigh....

Weight loss. Average loss over one year is 6 kgs.
Mood stabilized (hopefully)

Memory loss
Word recall diminished
Affectionally referred to on the web as "Stupimax" or "Dopomax"

The obvious problem here is that I think I need a working brain to stay in my doctoral program. Academics always came easily to me, and now I find myself struggling to get through a reading. Re-reading papers several times over to get their meaning. I can ill afford to have my mind function any less than it already is!

What should I do???

I have tried just about every combo and augmentation available. I have scanned PubMed articles until my eyes are crossed. I am out of ideas. Do I dare risk my frontal lobe?

Any thoughts or experiences would be gladly welcomed.

Jan 29, 2009

a perfectionist get a "B" grade

Confession time: All of my life I was an academic superstar. I attended gifted classes in school, skipped two grades, earned top marks all the way.

When I applied to my PhD program, I had a straight A average from both my undergrad and Masters programs. I was awarded two scholarships and I was ready to change the world!

Fast forward a few months. Seemingly out of nowhere, my intrusive companion Depression makes a visit before Christmas.

Before I know it, it has me consumed. As I try to write my final papers and exams I feel like I am trying to think through a dense fog. Nothing is clear, my memory has holes in it. Concepts make sense in my head, but as they hit the page, they become incoherent ramblings.

For the first time in my adult life, I get a B in a course. This has NEVER happened to me. I feel dumb as a box of bricks. I desperately want to tell my professors that "this isn't me, this is the depression". I want to haul out my report cards, awards, publications...anything to make them see that I am not this fuck up who can't write an intelligible paper. I want them to see beyond the depression, but I am too scared to tell them.

I worry every day that maybe my academic skills are a thing of the past. Maybe I have to accept the loss and move on to something different in life. But I have to hold on to the hope that one day, something is going to work. There has to be a treatment out there that I will respond to.

To think anything else....I just can't go there yet.

Jan 28, 2009

a depression by any other name...

I read this thought provoking post today from Neuroskeptic and it piqued my interest. In the post, he talks about the term "depression" and how people often equate this with feeling "sad".

This got me thinking, the term "depression" does no favours for those of us living with it. Even with the term "clinical" tacked in front of it, it sounds just too...mundane.

There aren't many diseases where the suffering is so great that many people will choose to end their lives rather than cope with the pain. With any other life-threatening disease, people would be sympathetic, concerned about the sufferer.

I'm going to pose a hypothetical example, (not from personal experience) - so if you think I've got it all wrong - by all means correct me.

Say you go to ER with symptoms of a heart attack or stroke - I think you will likely fly pass triage as you are scooted straight into the concerned care of the medical team. Provided you are not obnoxious and, (in US) have insurance, you will not be made to feel like an imposition. You will have made the right choice!

On the other hand, suppose you present to the ER with severe depression feeling suicidal. You will likely sit in the waiting room for hours, it will be debated as to whether or not you have a 'true' emergency. You might get further if you actually attempted suicide, but if you're just thinking about it... surely you can wait until morning to see your family doctor!

So I wonder, would it make a difference if we could re-name and re-conceptualize depression as something that the average person can't relate to? Something more than feeling sad?

How about "Necrotizing-Affectitis"? Would that buy some empathy?

People can be so kind to a person with a broken leg (provided they didn't break it while under the influence). But try telling folks that you've had depression and see what happens.

Depression is not a normal, everyday emotion! From my experience, it is a bit like turning the contrast down on your TV set. Suddenly, everything looks dark and dreary. Physically, the fatigue feels like you are carrying an invisible backpack full of lead. It feels like there is no point going on and being a burden to those around you.

Is it possible that people would be more compassionate if the diagnosis sounded a bit more... severe?

Jan 27, 2009

joe vs the volcano

Remember this little gem of a movie from 1990? Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan long before 'Sleepless in Seattle'?

The story goes something like this: Joe is a hypochondriac in a dreary job. One day his scheming doctor diagnoses him with a fatal "brain cloud"and along with his evil boss, tricks him into becoming a human sacrifice for a volcano - in exchange for a short time of living like a king. Why did the volcano need a human sacrifice? Can't remember, it was a long time ago, but it seemed to make sense back then.

Anyway, the point is this: that in giving up his life to the volcano, Joe realizes how much he wants to live, and more importantly, what a stupid diagnosis a "brain cloud" is. He also learns the value of good luggage.

Somewhere in all of this is a lesson about depression, hope and the need to be skeptical of any test results that sound like weather reports. Not sure you're following me? Maybe this will help.

a day in the life

My alarm went off at noon today, l briefly considered getting up...not yet...too sleepy...then dove under the duvet for another two hours of hiding. Welcome to my life! My nights and days are upside down and I've hardly left the house since Christmas.

I make my way to the kitchen for coffee, but gravity catches me and I'm pulled into the pillowy clutches of the couch. Must drink I really need a shower? Sleeping doesn't work up a sweat, does it?

Suddenly it's five o'clock and the sun is setting. Another day is ending and I'm still watching Law & Order many episodes did they make of this show? Hey, I can look that up on Wikipedia...I still have a pile of readings left to study and a final paper to write that I'm ignoring...sounds like time for another nap...

I have been blessed with an amazing life: a gorgeous, kind husband, a beautiful home, a good career...WTF is wrong with me??...I have it all! but I'm on my fifth medication cocktail in two years and lately it is fizzling out.

Must be time for another bowl of cereal. I think that's pretty much all I've had to eat the past few days. It's fast and easy. My cat stretches out on my bed... boy that looks comfortable... maybe just a little lie down?

And that's been what its like lately. This is my little blog about depression. Getting through it, coping, and doing whatever it takes to make it through to the other, not THAT other side!...