Friday, March 09, 2007

Singin' da Medicine Blues, and why I am never going to the hospital again

First of all...don't freak out about the title. This is NOT about current hospitalization, but rather...past hospitalizations.

You see, I was sick yesterday. It wasn't bad, but it was enough to make me stay home. The thing with being bipolar is this: you sometimes have to be very careful with over the counter meds or even some prescription meds.


A little thing called "cross-reaction". It sucks.

For example, steroids (esp. cortisone) can be bad business for BP patients. Steroids can trigger a feeling of being "hyper" in a regular person, but with BP, it's the equivalent of shoving a box of fizzies up one's a$$. You go to the moon, circle around it about 8 times, come back, and then binge on comfort food like there's no tomorrow. Oh, and of course, you can't sleep. That's the real sucky part. So if there's a need for steroids (e.g. asthma attacks, certain types of injuries/illnesses, etc) you have to confer with two separate doctors PLUS the pharmacist. In other words, getting over the physical malady and staying balanced are carefully weighed against one another. They have to be. This includes inhaled asthma medications...which is why I don't like to use them unless I'm in a situation where the high can be contained to my home as opposed to the office, where I can easily inflict it upon others.

Another frustrating thing? Many of the new meds out there are anti-seizure meds. The "gold standard", according to my doctor, is Lamictal. I LOVE's my best friend. I can definitely feel it working, and (save the weirdness of the auto accident a couple weeks ago) it keeps me on the most even keels I've had in a LONG time. I'm at a good dosage, and the next goal is to bring the Paxil CR down to a maintenance level. Not sure if the lithium will stay or go...that's another hurdle that needs to be examined.

However, the craptastic thing about Lamictal? It renders birth control pills useless, or damn close to it. Now, the contraceptive factor is not an issue, as D had the "big snip" several years ago. On the flip is nice to have birth control to monitor my monthly cycle. I haven't been on it in a while, but to be honest, I was thinking about getting on the stuff again for just that reason. With the Lamictal factor, though, it is not happening anytime soon. You think I'm crazy enough NOW, think about if I'm preggers. (You're shaking, aren't you?)

The list goes on...sleeping aids, diet pills, etc. Thanks to the current cocktail, anything else that is introduced has to be passed through the powers that be and monitored closely, or the end result can very well be...say it with me, now...


In case you weren't aware, I have been hospitalized five times. Once in 1999, twice in 2000, once in 2001, and once in 2002. I have been hospital-free since 2002, and will work my A$$ off to remain so. Since my a$$ is a large one, it will be quite a task.

The first time I was hospitalized, I only stayed overnight and signed myself out. That was one of the dumber things I've done. I went to the emergency room in Iowa City, and somehow got shuttled to Cedar Rapids (probably because my first psych was a doctor there). The ward was a mixed-bag lock down unit. We had detox-ers, people like me who were just frazzled as hell, and mentally challenged patients as well (one of whom tried to hug me and drooled on my shoulder). It was one of those units that encouraged group activity which I hated. I sucked at tai chi, and didn't want to share my damned feelings with anyone. I wanted to erase feelings, as a matter of fact. Feelings WERE my problem (I thought).

The next three hospitalizations were at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City. Their ward was nice, and to be honest, a lot more peaceful. Since the UI Hospitals had a lock-down ward, the patients who weren't as much of a threat to themselves or others were in 4 North (the unit's informal name). It was a ward where they worked hard to just give people space and peace. I had a room-mate for, maybe, one day. Otherwise, I had a room to myself, I met with my doc once a day, and generally was given space to do what I wanted. I read, I slept, I talked to friends on the phone, etc.

When I was at Mercy 4 North, Ed H. came to see me every day after work. We had our issues, and while most people would have said, "He damn well BETTER come", he very easily could have played scared and stayed away. But he didn't. I have always admired him for that.

My mom came to see me a couple of times (once on the first stay and once on the last). I'm not sure how she felt about it - I think nervous, scared, frustrated, and other feelings were swirling through her. My sister didn't come, but she had three kids to take care of, and was an important part of my Grandma Dawson's care system.

My dad came once, along with my brother in law Chip and my twin niece and nephew, who had JUST turned six. That was the best time. I still remember them bounding into my room.

Chloe piped up first. "I'm SIX, Aunt Sue!"

I looked at her and said, "Well, what's so great about being six?"

Her answer? "Well, it's not five." (Fair enough...)

Cameron looked me up and down, finally saying, "You don't look sick. Why are you in the hospital?"

I replied, "Well, you know sometimes when you get so angry your mom puts you in time out? Well, when you're a grownup, sometimes you have to put yourself in time out. That's why I'm here."

He nodded and said, " you have any crayons here?"

Chip and I made small talk, and he really was quite kind to me. He could have made cracks about the "crazy" sister in law, but he didn't. Daddy...well...he got lots of hugs. Lots and lots of hugs. We ate lunch together in the cafeteria, the kids scoped out the fish tank and other things to do, and then Chip took the kids home. Daddy stayed a while longer to visit...he said that he would have been happy to take me home so I didn't have to wait for Ed H., but I said, "No, I'd rather wait."

The 2nd time I was hospitalized at Mercy was Thanksgiving weekend. It was quiet in the ward, but they remembered me there. I didn't stay as long because of insurance, but the meds were tweaked yet again. Ed H. came every day. Nobody else came because I didn't want to tell weekends suck anyway.

The 3rd time at Mercy was Easter weekend. I think I had been brewing a "spell" up for a little while (subconsciously), and it all spewed out the day before Easter. Ed H. and I were fighting about what to take to my mom's for Easter dinner, and I snapped. I drove like a maniac to Mercy, and it was the first hospitalization with a "mixed" episode, I believe. OH LORDY, I was lucky I didn't kill anyone on the way. Anyway, I know I got a shot of a high-power sedative, and I remember crying about wanting to have a basset hound. Mom came once, Dad and Ruth couldn't get away, and Ed was there every day.

The next entry will be about my final hospitalization in MD. Stay tuned.