Speak Up!

It’s been 2 weeks since I was released from the hospital from having my tonsils removed. I think I can actually talk about my experience at the hospital now. Before I just couldn’t deal with it.

Some of you know and others may not I have bipolar, schizoaffective disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, and so forth. I am also 37 years old. I had been sick since September 2017. Every couple weeks I was in the doctor’s office feeling as though my batteries were run down. They tested me for a large variety of things but the one test that came back positive was a strep test.

Strep throat, if treated, is normally not a huge deal for most people. However, the top 3 antibiotics that treat strep throat, unfortunately, I am allergic to ALL of them. So they gave me another antibiotic and hoped that it would work.

They wanted to give me steroids to help me recover, but I refused. (Before you get huffy…let me explain.) I know my body well enough to know that they always make me extremely mean, unable to eat, unable to sleep, and they mess with my mental status to the point that I will have a HUGE episode of some kind when they are coming out of my system. So my doctors and I have agreed that they are a last resort drug. We actually had a conversation and discussed the fact that I would avoid them unless it was a matter of life or death. (Take this medicine to help you or you are going to possibly die – kind of thing).

From September 27, 2017 to January 24, 2018 I tested positive for strep 6 times! They had sent me to a specialist and that was an experience all on it’s own. I found immediately that I had issues in his office. All the gadgets and equipment started me into panic attacks. Upon meeting him, I fessed up! “I have generalized anxiety disorder. I am going to sit here with my eyes closed in order for me to deal with being in this room and not flip out on you.” He agreed and joked with me. He asked if he could keep his eyes open.

Surgery was scheduled. I went through pre-op, but received a phone call the next day saying that they wanted to do my surgery at the hospital instead because of other issues that I have. I agreed. But they set me up at the hospital that my daddy died in and to make matters worse I am the exact age he was when he died. (I know this is a matter or mind over matter. I know not to think about it or worry about it, but my brain is my enemy at times. I was extremely nervous about the entire situation. There was no comforting me!)

I have only had to stay over in the hospital once prior after surgery and my Gram stayed with me in order to help keep me grounded and not freak out as bad.  But that was prior to me having Moose, my dog. He’s never spent a night alone and has only been away from me 2 nights in the entire time that I have had him. So I convinced Gram to stay with him (because he is selective about who he will let attend to his needs). Which meant that I was going to spend the night in the hospital ALONE.

I came out of surgery and things were ok. I was attended to and given ice chips and things while my family was still there. Then they left.

Every time the RN came in she would inject pain medication into my IV and leave. The CNA was supposed to keep me with cold stuff to swallow to reduce swelling. I asked at 2pm about my medications for mental health. They told me they would check on it. They injected my IV with pain medication and I was out again.

By 6pm, I called the desk because I no longer had ice, water, or anything. I couldn’t talk or swallow. I was in pain. But I realized I also hadn’t had any of my mid-day mental health medications. The CNA came. She said she would be right back.

Supper was delivered. Orange juice and beef broth. (I just had my tonsils out – no citrus juices or hot liquids allowed to go down my throat.) But I did get a glass of room temperature tea which by this point was a blessing because I had had NOTHING to drink in hours.

By 8pm, I was in tears! I couldn’t find my cell phone or someone would have been coming to get me out. I was now in pain. I had to go to the bathroom because of the IV’s of fluid they kept going into me. I was hooked up to those massage things that stay on your legs to prevent blood clots so I couldn’t get up out of bed myself. By that point I had almost missed 2 doses of mental health medication for the day! I was still stressed out and anxious about where I was. No one was around. No one was helping me despite my repeated attempts at contacting the nurse’s desk.

I feel so bad for the poor nurse that came in. Because I unloaded on her when she came into the room at shift change. Poor nurse Christina heard about all the troubles and I and the fact that at this point I was begging for my mental health medications which are mood stabilizers and panic attack medications. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I still had to go to the bathroom and I was DONE! I was angry.

Angry doesn’t begin to describe it. I was beyond furious at this point. She immediately got the correction of information and gave me a dose my mental health medications. She took the massage things off my legs so I could go to the restroom when I needed to. She brought me ice chips, water, 3 jello cups, 2 pudding cups, and 2 ice cream cups. She did everything she could to help me out and I was grateful. And instead of automatically being injected with pain medications she ASKED me if I wanted it.

In a few short hours things were a ton better. My mood had improved and I even convinced her to remove the IV from my arm and began taking medication for pain by mouth as needed.

So this is my thought tonight….speak up! And keep speaking up until someone listens. Do whatever you have to in order to keep yourself mentally and physically safe. Don’t allow anyone (even if they are trained to do so) ignore you. If you have mental health issues, make sure that they give you your medications. If you need specific things, tell them firmly if they won’t listen. Talk to them about the options you have when you are doing well enough to know what your body needs.

Oh and here’s a side note — some of the pills looked different than the ones I take (different manufacturers) so I made her show me the packaging so I knew what I was taking. You have rights to know what is being done to you. Speak up!

 

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoClem Onojeghuo

Total Exhaustion

Tonight I am up again late thinking about being in a state of total exhaustion. For a long time, I have said that your mental, physical, and spiritual states are all connected. (This applies to you no matter what religion you have I believe because your spirit or fire that drives you can be your spiritual side as well.) When one of those is stressed due to sickness, exhaustion, over-scheduling, or something that keeps them from being able to find rest at some point the other two will step in place and keep you stable for a little while.

But it adds extra pressure to those other two states as well in the process trying to support you in the area that you need help and handle their own tasks. Before you know it you are in crisis mode in all three areas.

Currently, that is where I am. I’ve been physically sick and battling strep since September. In the beginning, my mental status was on track for the most part and my spiritual status was as well.

Now we are pushing on 5 months of battling strep. That’s 5 months of the other two parts of my health trying to support me and keep me stable while running a fever every day for the past two weeks, getting limited amounts of sleep, and trying to continue working and my daily tasks.

I started seeing slips or changes in my mental health toward the end of November. By the beginning of January, I noticed the need for more medication to help with panic attacks. I am struggling to deal with depression mostly and some mixed states of bipolar. My doctors have suggested increases in medications. I’ve resisted to this point because I feel that the truth is if we can fix the physical part I can regain control of where I need to be.

I’ve really tried to stay on track in boosting my physical health and used tools in my coping techniques to help with my mental health conditions. I’ve tried to lean on my faith and pull my support system closer to me.

The good news is that I have a surgery scheduled for the 12th of this month. I’m hoping this will fix the physical issue and things will work better. I just wanted to give you something to think about.

When you are trying to deal with mental health you also have to take into consideration that stresses to your physical and spiritual health also affect your mental status. They may be big changes that hit suddenly are too much for them to compensate for at once (deaths, loss of jobs, etc) or they may be smaller (lingering illnesses, unresolved issues, over-scheduling yourself, etc). Be mindful of this and be kind to yourself.

I’m Still Me

I wasn’t diagnosed with anything “scary” to other people until I was in my mid-20’s. They accepted the PTSD because it made sense with what I had been through. They accepted the Generalized Anxiety Disorder because they had seen me go through the attacks. They even accepted the incorrect diagnosis of “clinically depressed” because they knew that I had times of dealing with extreme depression.

But when labels of “bipolar” and “schizo-affective” were added to the list, people who had known me all their life began to see me and treat me differently. It breaks my heart. It feels like a deep cut to me that doesn’t heal. The relationships with family and friends are gone now. And the only thing that changed was a label.

They had been through the changes of moods, paranoid thoughts, fears, hallucinations, uncomfortable times, and seeing the highs and lows of it all. They had comforted me and helped me through it all. Yet, when the label was placed on it, suddenly I was a whole different person.

I’m not. I’m the exact same person! I the same person as I was before a label was added to a chart in a doctor’s office. The whole reason that label was added was so that insurance companies would pay for my medicine and treatments. I’m still me.

I still cry. I still love. I still breathe. I still hurt. I still feel. I still get excited over silly little things like getting sesame chicken after craving it for 3 days. I still love opening emails or text messages that just simply say “Have a great day. I’m thinking about you”. I still laugh when I hear a baby laugh. I still cover my eyes when I know a scary part of a horror movie is coming. I still walk my dog. I still love to cook. I still pray. I still protect the people that I love. I still act, think, feel, respond, and live life the same — well maybe a little easier.

I got a little better because I started getting the correct treatment and medicine. But suddenly others see me differently all because of a label.

In a way, I might understand. I might get it. And who knows before labels were added to me, I might have done it to others. (But I hope not.)

We need to remember to share our stories and stop hiding behind a mask pretending we are what people expect us to be labeled as. We need to allow people to see that we are the people they interact with them every day. We aren’t the people that they see in the media (who are always quick to point out that someone had a mental illness when they do something horrible). We need to show them that the books, movies, and television shows don’t tell the full stories.

We are still human. We still feel. And most importantly we still need to be seen and have the chance to be loved.

Tabbi

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoJuan Davila

Meet the Bear Named Panic Attack

Having several mental health diagnoses can make daily life a bit of a struggle. Adding stress to daily life can cause a number of issues such as panic and anxiety attacks. When my grandfather suddenly died a week after finding a small spot of cancer in his throat, I spent time with my grandmother to help her adjust to not being alone.

However, the added stress of his passing, being away from my home and comfort zone, and several other factors during that winter caused me to have extreme panic attacks. I dealt with them the best way that I knew how. I tried not to let her see me in my worst states in hopes of keeping her calmer.

One morning as we were sipping coffee and watching the snow fall, she asked what a panic attack felt like to me. We are from the country. This is how I explained:

Imagine yourself walking alone a trail in the woods alone. You are a good distance from the house, but you can see it still. You glance over your shoulder and back to suddenly face the largest bear that you have ever seen. He’s standing on his back legs with arms spread. You see his claws and his teeth. You know he’s in an attack position.

Now think about how your body is responding. Your breathing changes to a more rapid speed. Your heart rate increases. Your palms become sweaty. Your thoughts begin to race as you try to decide the best way to handle this. Do you run? There’s no way you can outrun him. Do you climb a tree? No. He climbs too. Do you stand there in fear? Do you scream? Do you remember what you are supposed to do? You are full of fear. You feel frozen. You feel like you are paralyzed and can’t move while your breathing and heart rate continues to change. You feel sick at your stomach. You don’t know what to do. You just want it to stop. You just want to wake up from this nightmare. You don’t feel like this moment will never pass. You feel like you are about to die.

Now remove the bear and the woods. You are safe in your house. The doors are locked. Everything is calm. There is nothing around you to harm you in any way. Yet your body and mind still have the same response as if you were facing that bear. Now what do you do?

She looked at me as if she had seen me for the first time. She told me that she never knew what I went through and asked for me to help her learn things that she could do to help me in these situations.

For me, it is hard for anyone else to help. Moving my body such as shaking my arms, trying to slow down my breathing, changing small things such as lighting and music in the room, and reassuring myself that I’m safe are things that help.

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoChris Geirman