Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Invisible Illness

As my name on this blog tells you I consider myself a skeptic but I do not do scientific skepticism here much, and I will not do it here either. I want to talk about how grateful and blessed I am by modern medicine and the scientific method that has provided us with this ever changing, improving medical science.

I have always been very healthy in body most of the problems I have ever had are pretty much in my head. The health problems I have can not be seen on the surface, even by medical professionals sometimes. This does not mean they are incompetent, this means they can not read minds. You can not see pain or mental illness on the outside often that is why they are misunderstood by observers, and sometimes even by sufferers.

I was very lucky. When I had my breakdown and I descended into my dark place of depression and psychosis I received treatment but every step of the way I had to fight to get it and advocate for myself. I seemed calm rational and sane even as I was breaking down. I tried to explain to doctors that I was breaking down but  they just saw someone who seemed to be alright. When I was at the hospital the psychiatrist was not sure I necessarily needed anti-depressants. I had to explain to her this was not a temporary condition that would go away as the initial stress went away. She believed me and medicated me. 

I got so lucky. The first medication I was given worked. This does not happen every time, often people have to go through years of trial and error to find the right medicine. Thank you medical science, thank you God. It also worked fast. After three weeks I felt like I turned a corner. One day dramatically things looked different, less enormous. It was like the elephant I had to eat was chopped up into bite sized pieces and I saw that there was a possibility that over time I could get over this and the task in front of me could be accomplished with time. I was cautious. I made them keep me another week. They wanted to send me home after a week at first, then two, then three but I had to make them keep me until I was ready to go, until my medicine was working, until the feeling of facing the world outside did not fill me with unspeakable terror.
My struggle continued outside. Things got harder as I got out, as they tend to. I had to face the world, face my husband and the stresses of being out on my own for the first time ever. I still miss being at the hospital sometimes. It was so safe there. I had to now convince a whole new set of people I was sick. I was optimistic and full of enthusiasm to get on the path to my new life but every one had their own idea about what I should do and they did not ask me what I needed.
I had to convince a new mental health nurse I was sick, and eventually that my depression had worsened and I had regressed several months and had to up my medicine, also I had to convince a psychiatrist. They were not incompetent, or blind, or anything. They just could not read minds. I was clean, my clothes were nice and I took care of myself and I felt better when I talked to others. How could they possibly see the dark moments of depression and loneliness I experienced? They were not in my messy apartment as I forced myself to make something to eat and broke down crying in the middle of slicing vegetables, collapsing to the floor and swearing tourets like: Bastard, fucking passive-aggressive douche bag! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fucking asshole!

The real difficulty was convincing the non-medical people. I have been told by so many people that I should not have tried to kill myself because suicide is a sin. Really? Wow, you know, I did not grow up in the Christian culture so I really had no idea. (What is the font for sarcasm?) My parents, every time my medication comes up, are still trying to convince me I should stop taking it. They do not understand. It was even worse in the beginning listening to my father's two hour lectures about the evils of psychology. Don't get me wrong, my parents are great and supportive in this time. They just do not understand, or even in some cases, acknowledge my sickness.

People tell me I should just pick myself up by my boot straps and clean my home. After all, it won't take that long, it is a small apartment. Just pick up after yourself. I wish I could. I really wish I could. Get a job, any job, earn money and quit living off the government. Even immigrants who do not know how to speak Finnish can get jobs in cleaning because they want to. People are poor in Kosovo and things are bad there but they have no depression.

That is what I hear. It is hard, I am alone in my sickness in a lot of ways. Make no mistake about it. I am ill. Just because I am not visibly ill does not mean I am fine. If you were to take a look at my brain under an MRI you would find that my hippo campus has drastically shrunk from what is normal for a 31 year old woman. The functioning of my frontal lobe is different and impaired. I have a drug to treat the chemical imbalance and slow the re-uptake of serotonin but only by taking it for a long time and going to therapy and in general living a healthy happy life can I hope to fix the physical changes in my brain. There is a hope that one day I will be fully cured and my depression will go into remission forever, but I may have to be medicated for the rest of my life. The first possibility is what I hope for but I am alright with the second. I am willing to take my chances.

What about the long term side effects of anti-depressants? We are not aware of all of them. Some may say. I answer: What about them? I have a friend with diabetes. There are long term side effects with having to take insulin too, but no one worries about that because it is necessary for her to live and they understand she will take it forever. I do not see how my case, if I am medicated for the rest of my life, is much different.

No comments:

Post a Comment