Mental health diagnoses are not a definite, just an educated guess. Usually if the medication used to treat a decided diagnosis has positive effect, it is enough confirmation to assume that the guess is most likely correct. This was once explained to me by a medical professional. According to this formula, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, according to this same diagnostic tool, there is also a rather large margin of error than cannot be ignored.
A reader asked me to delve a little deeper into my mental health status after reading yesterday’s post. Understandable. I’ve been pretty quiet about how I’ve been doing for some time. Honestly, I haven’t been quite trusting of some folks who stalk my blog, which is why I haven’t said much, but I’m not going to let a few ugly seeds ruin something positive, so here it goes.
The Lithium I was on for about a year and a half seemed to be doing pretty well, I guess, but I actually had nothing to compare it to. I went from being on Prozac, which worked great in my post-partum and breastfeeding craziness phase, to popping Lithium without a break in between. The Prozac was working up until a few months after I stopped breastfeeding, but it appeared as though as soon as April was done with the boob, I went manic. I couldn’t sleep. I did crazy things. I almost got a divorce. Right then, I feel like it should have dawned on me (or at least one of my medical professionals) that perhaps with the hormone change, the mania was actually a result of the antidepressant doing its job a little too well.
In retrospect, I probably should have weaned off the Prozac before trying anything else. The Lithium did okay, but I had trouble with it. It got the mania under control, but I got depressed. The opposite effect. The Lithium did its job a little too well. So what made logical sense to a doctor? Treat the depression in addition to the mania. See where this is going? Oh, well, since I was showing signs of both mania and depression, I must be bipolar, right? Well, maybe. It’s possible that was a correct diagnosis. Except that the Lithium depressed me and half the medications used to treat the depression side of the bipolar disorder had horrible effects, and two almost killed me. My doc was puzzled because even on the lowest doses they would knock me out completely. Considering that sort of thing has to do with metabolism (which I have a very high one when it comes down to food and health), it looked like I had an incredibly sluggish one, which didn’t seem right to her.
The woman who was managing my medication happened to be one of the best in the state, if not the country. One very smart woman for sure. But something that I think was missed was that what if, what if, I was diagnosed incorrectly to begin with.
I found out in the fall that Ann (name changed) was retiring. She gave me a list of referrals. For months I stared at that list. Looked them up on the internet. Tried to figure out what I was going to do. There was something that was bothering me about the whole situation. I looked up everything I could about bipolar disorder, depression, mild psychosis, PPD, treatment, and reflected on my own postpartum and life-long situation. An acquaintance died. I had some shocking realizations hit me regarding dance, my situation, and why I was unhappy with my life. And I realized that although it appeared that I was on the “correct dose” of Lithium and Seroquel, I didn’t really feel happy, just blah most of the time. Going through the motions.
I’m smart enough to know that something wasn’t quite right, and so I started questioning my treatment. I also started making major changes. I decided to go back to school. I quit teaching. I ended running my Friday night event. James and I admitted that the world of dance had destroyed our marriage and our ability to function as a couple, so hit with the choice of divorcing or leaving the dance world, we decided that our life together was far more important. And then, two months ago, a few days before Thanksgiving, I had this horrible pain in my lower abdomen that was more excruciating than natural childbirth.
I wasn’t sick. No organs were failing. There appeared to be no source for the pain- just the horrible, crippling pain. I don’t ever go to the doctor for anything other than my regular med check ups. This wasn’t fake or a hypochondriac moment.
I decided then and there that the reason I hadn’t called someone on my doctor referral list because I felt that deep down, something wasn’t right about either my diagnosis, the medication, or both. One thing that rang true the entire time I have received treatment for a mental disorder was the fact that with the exception of handful of incorrect-drug-induced moments, I have always been able to think clearly and rationally. That’s not always indicative of truly having bipolar disorder. All of my worst “bipolar moments” actually happened ON medication. I have had ups and downs my entire life, but nothing compared to the moments of mental haze that were a direct result of medication gone horribly wrong.
In other words, I have a feeling that one I had gotten past the postpartum depression, the very medication that was supposed make me “sane” was the thing making me unhealthy. And I was concerned that my abdominal pain attack was a result of a buildup of medication in my system.
Right after the horrible pain in my abdomen, I started backing off the Seroquel one pill at a time, slowly. When I reached a certain dose, I stayed there for at least a week. When I was down to one small pill, I began backing off of the Lithium a tiny bit at a time. Not too long ago, I took my last Lithium. Not once did James or I notice my sanity starting to shake. In fact, I have felt quite “normal” for a change, except now I have energy again, I can wake up the moment my alarm goes off, and I feel like I can summon up some emotion again.
And before anyone chastises me for weaning off meds without doctor supervision, rest assured I DID go see a doctor about both the stabbing pain in my abdomen and made her aware of my choice to stop all prescription drugs. In addition to her, I went to see a doctor and make an appointment to start neurofeedback. She is also aware of my situation and has doctors to recommend should I start showing signs of needing to be back on some kind of medicaiton.
I’m no idiot. I am fully aware that just because I feel better off medication does not mean that it will always be the best decision. However, because I’m not an idiot, I also have realized that medication may not have been the best route for me once I was done with the Prozac. My depression was possibly situational rather than due to some horrible chemical imbalance, and massive changes in my life have proved so far that it is likely I can live a balanced life with normal ups and downs in a healthy manner seeking treatment other than Lithium and other drugs.
The years of therapy and medication helped. But I am not of the mindset that they are the best route for someone who is otherwise healthy. It appeared as though it reached a point where the drugs were becoming the problem rather than the solution. There may be a point again where they become necessary, but for now I am relieved to feel like my old self and happy to be living a life according to what I want rather than taking care of everyone else’s needs and wants first.
My blog has been published only since the PPD hit, thus my readers have only known me on medication. Of course I probably seem crazy to the public. You have nothing to compare me to. But the people who have known me would most likely tell you that while I’ve definitely struggled with depression, I actually have a good head on my shoulders. In other words, one of your favorite crazy bloggers is quite possibly, in fact, surprisingly sane.
Current Mood: Cool