Like many of us, I struggled to find a topic to blog about. A million ideas went through my head: I could talk about random things, I could talk about television shows, I could talk about my hobbies – any number of things. I’ve been going through some health issues recently and I thought about blogging my mystery illness and my quest for a diagnosis and cure. I sat on the examining table, after having gone through the litany of coordination tests, and listened to the neurologist’s conclusion. He told me that my most significant problem is that my bipolar is out of control. This upset me. Wouldn’t it upset you? But at some level, I recognized the truth beneath the pain. And I realized that what I should be blogging about is my struggle with bipolar. It’s the largest thing in my life. I can’t avoid it, or side-step it, or ignore it, because as soon as I do, it clubs me over the head and drags me off into a deep, dark alley that’s difficult to crawl out of.
As I sat there, listening to the neurologist tell me that my symptoms were related to my bipolar, I grew agitated. At that time, all I could hear was, ” it’s all in your head.” The doctor asked me many pointed questions: If you know you’re bipolar is out of control, why haven’t you done anything about it? Dredging up my past, he wanted to know why did I stay in an abusive relationship for seven years? I told him it would take a week to explain. I felt as if I was on trial. I felt betrayed. I wanted to ask my husband: why are you siding with them? Why are you ganging up on me? Why is it not enough for me to say: yes, my bipolar is out of control, but let’s talk about what is really wrong with me? What has bipolar got to do with my aching joints? What does it have to do with the deep, throbbing, chest constricting pain that sends me to the hospital?
I have neuropathy – idiopathic of course, because only 40% of neuropathies can be identified. A 60% failure rate. How do you like those odds? Also, I probably have multiple sclerosis (MS), but it isn’t active and doesn’t really require treatment at this time. He said that I don’t display any neurological symptoms. Ha! So I can touch my nose with my eyes closed and I can flex my feet and feel a pin. But I can’t walk too fast or I will trip and fall. There’s an odd stitchy feeling – like a tickle but not quite – that wraps around my torso and it will trigger the neuropathy pain. I can’t find a word I want when I want it, or I substitute a different one and never realize it. I don’t know what I am saying anymore and I can’t remember what I’ve said.
But it’s all in my head.
Except that’s not what he said.
But in a way he did.
There was the explanation that it’s all in your head because all pain is in your head since the brain interprets pain, etc. The nurse was no better, trying to explain to me that the guy in the room next door has broken more body parts than he can count and yet he wants to know why his arm hurts. It’s all in his head too, she explains since that’s where the interpretation of pain is. But I’m not buying it. No. She gives my husband the schedule for my new neuropathy medication – 3x/day, evenly spaced, gradually working my way up from 300mg to 900mg. She gives the instructions to him, because the crazy lady wouldn’t understand. Or wouldn’t be willing to follow it.
My husband was there acting as a translator between what the doctor said and what I heard through my mania, but all I could hear was his betrayal. He was on their side. When did I lose my only ally? I didn’t hear the doctor say that my symptoms are real, but that my instability is amplifying the pain. The doctor kept saying, the bipolar is preventing you from dealing with the pain. Whatever that means. It still sounds like “it’s all in your head” to me.
But yesterday I made an appointment with the counselor. It had to be done sooner or later anyway, and this is as good a time as any. I’ll have trouble finding a psychiatrist since I live in a small town, full of (apparently) crazy people because they aren’t taking new patients. However, I have accepted that the neurologist was right about one thing – my meds need to be reevaluated and I do need therapy. But I think he’s wrong about one thing too – the pain is real and it’s not in my head.
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