The “Fair Warning” in the title refers to the fact that I’m back, and after two days I have a lot of ground to cover. Translation: This may be my longest post to date (I am inserting this after looking at the word count, just so you know). It will also be backdated to yesterday, because that’s when I began writing it. Here I go.
Since I seem to have lost my sleepies (perhaps temporarily, but I’m crossing my fingers for longer), I have a million different ideas and I want to get them out – but they’re in all kinds of bits and pieces and pieces and bits, and for once I don’t care!!! I’m just excited that my mind is back. So I’ll probably be jumping from thought to thought with no connection that makes sense to anyone except me.
I’m going to guess my bipolar friends will have the thought of hypomania in their minds, either in the forefront, or as an unconscious, nagging feeling. I won’t dispute it outright, but this has only been going on for about five or six hours, and I usually am pretty self-aware. But there are definite instances when I still, after years and years of this, need a little nudge to notice when my moods are out-of-control (or verging on it), so if you get this and you aren’t subscribed – or you are subscribed and know bipolar (or even just me, you know what I mean) – would you be kind enough to keep an eye on the next few posts, and “nudge” me (comments, email, whatever your preferred method) if you think I need it? This is an honest request, and I know it’s asking a lot. . . But I don’t flip shit anymore when someone comments on my moods – honestly, that’s one thing I have learned. Aside from which, I’m asking for what I realize could be quite a favor. Never in my life have I asked a favor of anyone and then had the gall to be upset with them because they were so kind as to complete the favor, even if it didn’t turn the way I would have preferred. I may have some memory blanks, but I still don’t believe I have ever behaved in such a manner.
I know so many of you have incredibly busy lives, and you haven’t necessarily the time for much. I apologize to all of you for even asking. But I am trying really, really hard here to head off something extremely not good. Any help at all. . . And you don’t have to give me some detailed response, you can leave a comment/send an email/send a text/whatever that simply says “nudge.” I’ll get it.*
So far I’m wrong on the “jumping from thought to thought” bit (surprise). I think that can be easily explained. First, when I write, I often go in a completely different direction than I consciously meant to, which is one of the reasons I find it so beautiful and therapeutic. Second, I feel like I kind of “got my brain back,” I guess would be the best way to put it (maybe another post – one day I’ll look for all of my maybe/another post references and make myself actually write about them, that should give me material for about a month). Aside from my girls, my brain is probably the thing I love most in this world. It is decidedly that which I cherish, adore, and appreciate above all other things that make me the specific and unique Homo sapiens sapiens which I am. And ever since I emerged fully from the ECT haze (not to be confused with the long-term effects the experience bestowed upon me, those are still thriving), once again able to fully utilize my fervently adored synthesis of gray and white matter, I have not had more than a week or two where it hasn’t given me some reason to worry. That’s damn near a year straight, and I’m not counting back to the beginning of the ECT, when I should have been extremely worried (that would tack on another eight months, for a lovely round 20 months, or well over a year-and-a half).
Had I known then. . . Actually consulting my notes, I was extremely worried at first, but not for the reasons that ultimately still plague me. After a few treatments, I basically progressed into a rapid-cycling, delusional, completely unaware, and even at times clinically psychotic haze. The psychosis was a very strange, oddly curious experience, honestly. I was hallucinating, full-blown hallucinations.
The background being that I have had very mild tactile (affecting the sense of touch) and olfactory (related to the sense of smell) hallucinations for years, but literally so mild that the first few times I startled and looked around (tactile), or asked anyone near me if they smelled what I did, usually food or smoke (olfactory). After that, the disconnects didn’t bother me, which probably seems very strange. . . And still, to this day, if I smell something and there is someone in the vicinity, I’ll ask them if they smell it, too. Honestly, I do it completely out of curiosity and an attempt to be aware and monitor the things that go wonky with me (much in the same vein as the plea above).
But the ECT hallucinations. . . I was seeing things (visual), hearing very distinct noises as well as voices – not in-my-head telling me things voices, but someone calling to me from another room (auditory). And of course the tactile and olfactory increased. What makes this very odd and interesting to me, is that while in one part of my brain these were absolutely real occurrences. . . It was almost as though my mind was split. As real as they were, and as gone as I was (and believe me, I was gone), I knew as I experienced them, with a very faint but absolute certainty, that they weren’t actually real, external stimuli that existed. They were strictly a product of my wildly out-of-whack mind. I knew that no one else could see/hear/feel/smell what I did.
It’s. . . I don’t know, I guess unfortunate is the word I will choose, in retrospect. I was still semi-cognizant of reality, but not quite enough so to make the connection of, Hey, if this kind of shit it going on, maybe it’s a signal that it’s fucking my brain up instead helping it. The hallucinations were fairly early on, but as I’ve written about in previous posts, by the time I even consented to the shocks, I was so psychologically and emotionally worn down, desperate, and in my doctors’ thrall. . . Add to that repeated shocks to my brain. . .
I can honestly say that is the only time in my life that I ever “let” anyone force me to do anything. I researched the treatment very thoroughly, considered it very carefully, made an informed decision, and said to my doctors (vociferously, and without doubt or hesitation), “No, never, absolutely not, under no circumstances.” I expressed this determination explicitly to five doctors. Repeatedly, for three solid years. I have a written report from one of them who had suggested electroconvulsive therapy as an option for me, more than two years prior to my “consenting” to it. I know this isn’t important to anyone but me, but it is so important to me. Please be kind and indulge me.
The psychiatrist in question is regarded as the best of the best, the doctor for bipolar in the whole of my state. I won’t detail his credentials, due to my rule of not disclosing identifying details about anyone in this forum, but they are extremely impressive. He doesn’t even have a regular practice, he is one time consultation, and by referral only. Translation: He is the doctor to whom the utterly confounding, seemingly hopeless, inarguably treatment-resistant patients are sent. A few months ago I was granted a second consult with him. I say “granted” not in a snide manner, but because to my understanding, anything more than one visit is nearly unheard of, and it took some string-pulling, as well as genuine kindness and sympathy for me on his part.
His relevant assessments on my “Mental Status Exam,” (direct quotes).
- “-cooperative, insightful, thoughtful”
- THOUGHT PROCESS: ”Logical Directed”
- COGNITION: ”Normal Cognition”
- INTELLIGENCE: ”Above Average”
- JUDGMENT: ”Intact”
- INSIGHT: ”Good”
Direct quote regarding ECT: ”-Consider ECT. Ms. ~ and I discussed this. She is currently not in favor of this strategy, though it has proven remarkably effective for many patients. She is aware of the primary side effects, cost and commitment to 6-8 weeks of intensive treatment.”
Psych speak for, ‘She’s intelligent, she lacks neither judgment nor insight, her thought process is ideal, she understands concepts without any distortion, she takes her time and considers things carefully,’ (Mental Status Exam). After doing some research on the Mental Status Exam and the terms psychiatrists use to complete, or “score it,” if you will, I can put it much more concisely: I passed with flying colors.
Next, ‘As far as ECT as a treatment, she has researched the shit out of it and refuses outright to even put this on the table as an option,’ (quote about ECT).
Couple the two, and what you get is, ‘She is cognitively flawless, and has made an informed decision about which her position is absolutely unyielding.’
How did I deteriorate from a lifetime of being that woman to one who was helpless, easily manipulated, and so drugged that I ceased to think at all – I just listened to what my doctor declared was best and regurgitated it as my own idea. To guild the lily, I’ll point out the period that ends the previous sentence is deliberate, no error, because that is a question for which an answer does not exist. Thinking back, I feel as though I was living my life in Brave New World. Close to three decades of an exceptionally strong will and independent mind occluded in two-and-a-half years.
As I said, it’s the one time in my life when I was so broken and desperate that I allowed someone else to make my decisions for me, if you honestly believe that in such a state I was capable of doing so. The word “allow” implies that one has thought about something and given their consent. Two of the Merriam-Webster definitions, “permit; to give consideration to circumstances or contingencies.”
Of everything that I have lived through, it is the one and only thing that I would ever go back and undo, if I could.
Moral of the story: Don’t ever let someone decide things for you. If five professionals are telling you one thing, all the same thing, but your instincts are telling you something else, listen to your instincts, damn it. If you can manage to hear your mind over the sound of their insistence, there’s a reason for that: You know what’s best for you, because despite the combined 160 million years of training and experience of these people, you are the only person in the entire world who has lived your entire life in your body.
Sorry for the complete derailment and uber-long post. That’s what happens when I can’t write for days. It all rushes out of me in one enormous burst.
*Oh, and I’m already feeling way more level. So if you would be so kind as to keep me on your radar (because I’m not new at this, level can be quite fleeting), that would be nice. But I don’t think you should be quite so concerned for me as I was when I started writing about this.
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