Then there was the time when…


I was feeling really bad recently, it was all about my son being so far away from us. How we sold our home and moved. My mind kept telling me that parents aren’t supposed to do that, parents are supposed to stay put, kids are the one who are supposed to move away, and then when they want, come back home for a visit. I guess that is generally how it works. But when we decided that my husband would accept the job offer in Louisville, my son had been accepted at Albany Law School. We, at that time had thought that he would be going to Law School in Albany, so no one would have stayed behind in Buffalo. But as things turned out, SUNY at Buffalo Law school called him in Albany and told him he’d been taken off the waiting list, so he resigned from Albany Law and I went and got him from Albany. We scrambled to find him an apartment because there was a housing shortage in Buffalo and we were moving to Louisville in November. And then I got very sick, out of touch with reality mania 😦 So those were the circumstances that led to us leaving my son in Buffalo, which had been our home for 20 years. I had actually mostly lived in Buffalo since I was 11. It was where my son grew up, in our beautiful home in East Amherst.

Recently, thoughts of our home, thoughts of leaving my son behind, even thoughts of how my son is not here to east the dinners I cook, all those thoughts had me sobbing, feeling guilty, thinking about all the mistakes I’d made with my son and how I’d never be able to correct them. Basically, I was miserable, living in the past, heartbroken and acutely re-experiencing empty nest syndrome. Every morning I got up sobbing, feeling like my heart was breaking (that’s what empty nest syndrome feels like, a broken heart that your precious child has flown the coop), just negative, depressing thoughts. I wrote to my e-counselor and even she got really worried about the tenor of my email. She told me to call my doctor. I forwarded him the email and asked him for help. At this point, I was beginning to see that this is not just negative thoughts, this is a depression. After my doctor read my melodramatic email, he said the best thing to do is to keep talking to my counselor, this was not a psychiatric issue, it was a psychological issue. I was dumbfounded. I told him that I was so disappointed with his answer, that it basically meant he was not going to help me. After a few emails back and forth, after I insisted I was going into a depression, and these thoughts of abandoning my son, empty nest (again) and all the negative thoughts were actually attaching themselves to my depressed mood, he agreed to help me with my medication and gave me a few options of what to do and I chose increasing my Seroquel from 50 mg to 100 mg. And now, since I did that, I feel so much better. Yes those thoughts are still there, but now they are not destroying me, they are not breaking my heart, the intensity of the sadness and suffering has decreased.

Just a couple of points why mental illness is so difficult to deal with:

1) Imagine having to convince a doctor that you really had broken your leg, and you were crying from pain, not some nebulous psychological issue.

2) Imagine going to a cardiologist, who misdiagnoses you with coronary artery disease, and you look at your own symptoms and tell him the correct diagnosis is a tumor of the adrenal glands leading to over production of epinephrine (haha) leading to tachycardia, and you are right!

I realize that symptoms and descriptions of symptoms, and people’s opinions can be different, and that is exactly why mental illness is not only a bear to live with, it is also a bear to have treated.


PyramidsGizaNileInFlood_1 Not just a river in Egypt 🙂

Denial. Everyone goes through it to some degree in any illness. But in mental illness, it is especially a factor. It’s quite hard to deny an x-ray showing someone they have a lung tumor. But it is not difficult at all to deny that you have a mental illness. First of all mental illness affects the very organ you use to discern what is real and what is not, namely your brain. Also, sometimes being out of touch with reality (as in mania, schizophrenia, deep depression) is something you don’t remember. So while in the throes of the worst stages of mental illness, you don’t remember those periods. When you come out of those phases where you’ve lost touch with reality, the memory of that is not there. In which case it’s easy to deny that you have mental illness. Also, mental illness is experiencing extreme moods, extreme sensitivity, sometimes it’s normal to experience extreme moods. So mentally ill people, sometimes don’t realize they have a mental illness. They do not have insight (see the following post on INSIGHT I posted on 2/3/2015: Insight is the ability to realize that the things you’ve been thinking, doing, aren’t the real YOU. It’s the mental illness that is making you feel and do these things. For example, you are having wild moods, angry, weepy, depressed, belligerent, you are even picking up objects and throwing them at people you are angry at. This is not normal behavior for you. When your dose of medicine has been adjusted, you look back and think “Wow, who was that in my body? Why was I doing all those insane things?” THIS is insight. And that is the end of denial. And until you stop denying that you have a mental illness and start going to see your doctor, start taking your medication, MOST IMPORTANT is the medication, you will not be free of your mental illness. Just like an alcoholic has to stop denying that they are an alcohol addict, and admit that alcohol is in fact a big problem in their life, once they stop denying that and accepting it, then they can start treatment and take steps to be free of their illness. Just like that, a mentally ill person, after they stop denying that they have a mental illness and start going to see a psychiatrist and taking their medication, after this step, they can get counseling on how to deal with a mental illness, they can exercise, meditate, do yoga, anything that will relieve stress and for people with bipolar d/o, keep their mood in the normal range, this is absolutely, positively grand!

When I first became sick, went into a suicidal depression, at first I had no idea what was happening to me. But when the doctor told me I had major depression, I accepted it. And yes, there were times, in the midst of manic phases, when I didn’t know I was sick, but there would always come a time, even in the most lalaland phases, I would realize that I was very sick. And so this insight has helped me cope with my illness much better than if I didn’t possess it. In that sense, I count myself lucky, that I have this insight.

So no denial and lots of insight are the prescription for a better outcome for people who have mental illnesses.