23 January 2010

Week in Review 23 January 2010

There are subjects that I have not caught you up on since returning to work full-time. I am going to use this week in review to address the various issues that actually encompass more than just this past week.

Iron Infusions: The study included receiving 1000mg of IV iron infusions. I received 200mg Mondays and Wednesdays for 5 days. Throughout the process, the clinical specialist drew blood to check my haemoglobin and ferritin levels. This study will go on for a year although no more iron infusions are to be given. All subsequent visits are geared towards monitoring my blood levels to see how I fare over the course of the year. On day 35, after the final infusion, my haemoglobin only rose to 12.1 (normal is around 12.3-16). However, my ferritin level (one of the key indicators in my case) rose from 5 before the study to 96. While I am pleased with the ferritin level, I still have borderline iron deficient anaemia. I am disappointed that my haemoglobin did not rise any higher. I am curious to see how the blood level results will be over the rest of the year. My savings grace is that I have not had to pay for any of this as being part of this clinical trial, and the added bonus is, once I have completed the yearlong study, I will be compensated for my travelling costs.

Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies: If you recall, I began having symptoms of ataxia on 13 November 2009. It began with being unable to keep my balance then progressing to ocular involvement called nystagmus then to short-term memory loss. I failed certain neurological tests (most notable the Romberg test. The combination of all three symptoms indicated that I had Wernicke’s encephalopathy that does, in effect, eventually causes organic problems with my brain. If left untreated, the transient symptoms will become permanent. It was suspected that mine was caused by a vitamin B1-Thiamine deficiency. As a result, my GP decided to run a huge panel of vitamin and mineral blood work. The results showed that my B1 levels were undetectable as well as my Selenium levels (essential for the proper functioning of the immune system). I was ordered to start taking 100mg of B1 twice a day and 200mg of Selenium once a day. After six weeks, the repeat blood tests showed marked improvement and my balance had almost come full circle, although I still have some ocular involvement and short-term memory loss (my brain is healing slowly). Another level that was far below normal was vitamin D. Instead of taking an OTC version of vitamin D, my GP wrote a prescription that I am to take once a week for eight weeks, then once a month forever. This does not even include the fact that I have to give myself 1000mcg vitamin B12 shots monthly forever. My doctor essentially told me that I would be taking these vitamins and minerals forever, along with a multi-vitamin that I am supposed to start taking. Coupled with all of my bipolar medications and the ones for my continued high blood pressure, I am swallowing a horde of pills a day.

Individual Therapy: Now that I am no longer in group therapy, I have starting seeing an individual therapist. 20 January was actually my third visit with her following the intake assessment and one follow-up appointment a couple of months ago (my group therapy took precedence). This visit I determined that one of the first factors I had to deal with was my borderline personality disorder.  You’ll note further down in the link what the causes are—I meet all of them. In examining the causes, I decided to deal with my disruptive family history first. I have discussed at length in previous entries how I have been treated as a pariah at holiday gatherings these past seven or eight years always celebrated at my niece’s home. She patently exclaimed that I was not welcome the first time she hosted these events. I ended up attending, even though I had not received an individual invitation, as a result of my nephew’s insistence. He said, “Alix, family is family. You belong there.” When I showed up at the front door with my nephew, my niece clearly displayed her anger and let me know I was not welcome, but she could not refuse my entry because other people had already noticed me, so she was stuck. The entire time, even my mother showed her displeasure, I was uncomfortable. Always the queen of protocol, she said I should not have come because I did not receive an invitation. To this day, I have no idea why my niece hates me—my mother will not volunteer any information and my sister even told me not to confront her daughter. So much for my supportive family.

Getting back to my early years, I was sexually abused at age five. Upon my mother and older sister finding out, my mother shook my shoulders and told me I was never to ever speak of this to anyone. This was during a generation when it was not understood nor dealt with. I was made to feel as though it was my fault. The family dynamic changed forever after that. I felt abandoned by everyone because no one would help me with all of the shame and guilt I felt. Years later, those memories were buried during the haze of my years-long addiction to smack and coke (I used to shoot speedballs). I eventually cleaned up and have been clean for 23 years. However, during my detox period, all those memories came flooding back. I worked up the courage to confront my mother about the sexual abuse and at first, she denied it ever happened. Then, with further insistence, she simply said it was in the past and refused to discuss it with me ever.

A few years later, my parents had a huge celebration for their 50th wedding anniversary. I was living out of town, but my mother wanted my son and me to attend. I simply asked if that particular family member who abused me would be there and she replied yes. Then she told me that I was only welcome if I did not create a scene. I promised I would not (always being the dutiful little girl trying to find that ever so elusive but never found approval). However, I was very anxious about seeing this family member (whom I shall refer here as L). I had not seen L since the memories surfaced. I was not sure how I would react. When I saw him I felt a flood of emotions wash over me and I was not sure I would be able to control myself, but I remembered the promise I had made to my mother. He acted as if nothing had ever happened. I kept my limited contact to perfunctory responses and immediately found someone else with whom to interact.

The next two obligatory times I had to be around L was my father’s funeral and my nephew’s first wedding. I could not keep my distance as far as I wanted because these events were small family gatherings, but I was determined never to attend any events where he would be present with the exception of my mother’s eventual funeral.

Or so I thought. My sister called me this week and told me she wanted to do something special for my mother’s 90th birthday in September. She wanted everyone to be there. Not only will I have to deal with my niece (a favoured one as she has produced my mother’s only great grandchildren), but there is an outside chance that L will be there. My sister did mention that L had declined because he had already booked a hike in Italy and that was his priority. To tell you the truth, that pissed me off. Isn’t my mother’s 90th birthday, an occasion that will never come again, something that should take precedence above all else? Tell me that he did not know that the week he booked his hike was during my mother’s birthday and that it was her 90th. How callous can someone be? Of course I already had a very poor opinion of him (to say the very least), but this was the last straw. As oxymoronic as this sounds, I hope he changes his mind, if only for my mother’s sake.

So, getting back to my therapy session…I made it a special point to tell P that this celebration would be coming up in September, one that is creating enormous anxiety for me, even now. I need to process all that has happened since childhood. Since the event is not until September, this will give me quite a while to try to come to terms with everything. I wonder what the process will be concerning trying to deal with everything. I can only afford to see her every two weeks, so I hope we can accomplish a lot.

My Psychiatrist: I am now seeing him every three weeks—a far cry from weekly appointments along with daily phone check-ins. R seems pleased with the state of my bipolar disorder, and so am I. The cocktail he has me on (Lamictal 200mg 2/day, Geodon 80mg in the morning and 240mg at bedtime, Provigil 200mg 2x/day, Lexapro 40mg daily, Ativan 2mg 4x/day, and Ambien 20mg at bedtime) has been very productive. I am being cautious about the Lexapro since it is an anti-depressant. In bipolar patients, while these types of drugs can battle the profound depression I found myself in, I have to be aware if I progress to any mania since these drugs can produce this side effect. I am monitoring this very carefully. I do not want to mess with this cocktail as it is servicing a precious need of keeping everything in balance right now. However, R has discussed getting me down to a maintenance cocktail that would probably result in taking me off some of this medication. I do not think I am ready for this yet. It been too soon since I tried to commit suicide. While I have made great strides, I still feel as though, at times, I am teetering on the edge. Even though my next appointment is not until 04 February, I know I can call him at any time. He always calls me back and spends however much time I need without the cost of an office visit. I am very blessed to have such a wonderful psychiatrist.

My return to work: The days leading up to my first day back to work on 04 January was met with much trepidation. I was full of fear and anxiety as much as I tried to stay in the moment. As part of my medical disability status, R sent a letter to the group managing my FMLA program indicating that I should only work four-hour days the first week and six-hour days the second week. My manager was very supportive about that suggestion. I also asked my manager if I could adjust my schedule to work 0700-1530 opposed to 0800-1630 which he agreed to. This serves a two-fold purpose. First, it frees up the afternoon to make available opportunities to have my continued appointments without missing work. Second, I am finished working while the sun is still shining—something that is important to me. I used to hate waking up in the dark and finishing my day in the dark, especially during the Standard Time Zone in winter.

The first two weeks my manager wanted me to concentrate on taking some mandatory computer-based training that was indicated during my absence. Then he wanted me to cull through the 1000+ emails that had collected during the three months I had been away. Just as an aside, no one from work ever knew why I had been on medical leave. Nevertheless, I had to explain to my manager that one of the side effects of my “treatments” was a vitamin B1 deficiency which resulted in a transient short-term memory loss. He seemed to take that OK. But that factor gives me a lot of anxiety as I don’t remember how to do a lot of my job. I was only in this new job for two-and-a-half months before being gone for three. So, I am still on my learning curve. My team may not appreciate the fact that I still have to ask questions, especially on some things of which I had already displayed knowledge.

After the first two weeks, then all of my clients were informed that I was back to supporting their accounts. Just when I had cleaned up my email box, as of the 19th they started flooding in again, yet another source of anxiety. I made it clear that I was not capable of working any overtime, so I am always left with emails that I have not read by the end of the day only to snowball into the next day. Too many critical projects are all happening at the same time. Meanwhile, my day-to-day responsibilities go on.

I try to stay in the moment each day and that, along with relaxation techniques such as being mindful and deep breathing, are helping somewhat. I have to admit, my Ativan plays a roll here as well. My goal is to do the best I can for my clients during my eight-hour day, and when that is over, to simply walk away from the laptop and let my business line go to voicemail (I work from home). I am giving myself room to acknowledge that I am going to be slow on the uptake for a while, but I have to believe that, at some point, I will be back up to speed.

Overall, I am now in a much better space than three months ago. I am quite surprised at the insight I have discovered about myself along the way. I know I will never “recover” from my bipolar disorder and will be on my meds for the rest of my life. That is a sobering thought (and an expensive one—the Geodon alone costs about $1200 before my $1200 yearly deductible is met). It hurt to pay that much a week ago for my refill, but how many people can say that they have met their deductible during the second week of January! At least now, my coverage for everything is at 90%.

I know this was a long entry, but I had so much to review. It is my intention to do a week in review each Saturday since I am back to work full-time. I have to admit, after being on the computer all day at work, sometimes the last thing I want to do is to get back onto my own computer after work.©2009

1 comment:

  1. Hi Alix

    Just wanted to drop in and say I'm glad things are, in the main, going well for you at the minute. I will reply to your email, for which many thanks, but wanted to give you a quick shout-out here anyway.

    Take care

    SI :) xx