By Angela March 2, 2011
I think it’s important to know how this story began. It really started over 4 years ago, although I was only officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in April 2010. It was a long, painful road to this diagnosis. A road I would never wish anyone to travel.
To post this story as one entry would be terribly long, so I’ve decided to break up the posts into chapters.
On October 4th 2006 Steve and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary and our gift to each other was Grace. Grace was born at 1:57pm.
She was a wonderful baby. She slept, ate and was awake all when she was supposed to be. The only issue was Steve’s job. He travelled for his job and was often away Monday to Friday. Often overnight for a few nights in a row. It was never out of the ordinary for him to work in Fredericton one day and Yarmouth the next. He was never home. I was always alone, with Grace.
They called it “baby blues”. I called Them patronizing. I hate that term. “Baby Blues”. God, it makes it seem so childish and insignificant. It sounded so “ho-hum”. There was nothing “ho-hum” about it. I was raging. Angry, mad, anxious. I was everything, but not “blue”. I hate the color blue now.
Compounding my “Baby Blues” was the fact that I never felt confident as a mother. I felt awkward, clumsy and weird. The first time I went out in public with Grace by myself was when she was 6 weeks old. I never joined any “Mommy”-type things. I didn’t want the “Mommy” army seeing my incapability’s and judging me. I already felt their judgement for not breastfeeding or co-sleeping.
Come Spring and the “blues” seemed to turn into a shade of beautiful mauve. I was happy, I was outside, I was in the garden. I was getting prepared for the things to come: Grace’s 1st birthday party, my return to work and I was training for the CIBC Run for the Cure. I ran or walked with Grace up to 10kms a day. I lost a ton of weight. I was feeling amazing.
BANG. Back to work, daycare, Steve still away all the time. Is there a term for a mother who has a toddler, works, and does “Battle Monday to Friday” by herself? I mean, aside from” Single Mom”. My mauve was turning back to an ugly shade of blue.
I hate the color blue.
I had had enough.
There are millions of Mom’s who work, take care of their kids, take care of the house without this whining and complaining. I’m stronger than this. I will plough through this.
And I did. Until summer 2008.
Grace had never adjusted to daycare so we decided: enough was enough, let’s get her out of there. The problem: no spots in any daycare in anyway close to where I worked. So, I did what any mother would do, I thought of my child first. I quit my job. To become what I feared the most: a stay at home mom. Luckily, Steve got a new and wonderful job. Home at 5pm every day, no travelling. But Oh, god, no. Me? A stay at home mom? But I never breastfed. Isn’t that a prerequisite?
Meanwhile, the rage, raged on. I went to the Doctor. She recommended a therapist who diagnosed me with Major Depressive Disorder and Acute Anxiety.
She prescribed a low dose medication.
By October, I was no longer a Stay at Home Mom. I was a college Instructor. Hmm. Dreams do come true. The new job allowed me to work in the morning and be home in afternoon. Plus, a spot in a daycare very close to our home opened up. Life was beginning to look up.
March 2009: So tired, so tired and still so angry. New Meds. Higher dose.
June 2009: Still tired, sill sad and angry. Are you sure, that this isn’t something physical? Blood work reveals hypothyroidism. New Meds.
September 2009: Thyroid levels have levelled out and are normal. I’m still very tired and withdrawn.
November 2009: Sent to Mood Disorder Clinic. After testing, they think it may be Bipolar disorder. What? Now, I’m terrified. From what I know about Bipolar, I’m terrified. Freaking out. Doing my own research doesn’t help alleviate the terror I feel. Bipolar??!! Oh, my god. How do I tell my family. Oh, my god. Oh, my god, oh my god. The tears I cried over this could have solved drought problems in central Africa.The thoughts running through my head were terrifying. Bipolar. Bipolar. Bipolar. I’ll loose my job because I won’t be able to handle it. I’ll fail at my marriage because, oh my god, can we be strong enough for this? I’ll loose Grace. I’ll be an unfit mother. Oh, my god, oh, my god, oh, my god. This can’t be happening. I cannot be bipolar.
I began visiting a therapist once a week at the clinic and decided to put medication on hold. There was a part of me that didn’t believe I was Bipolar. Sure I had mood swings. Who doesn’t? I would never call myself manic though.
By March 2010, the weekly sessions got to the bottom of nothing and it was determined that medication would be best. I begged them to consider it being something physical. Oh, please let it be something physical. Something physical is so much easier to explain. Like a brain tumour. No, I was told. You would have had different symptoms. Vision issues, speech issues perhaps. No, this is bipolar.
Family meeting. Oh, the tears we cried. My mum, my mother in law, and oh god, my dad. My dad. My dad, my dad. Oh, the tears.
My mum bought a copy of Bipolar for Dummies. I went on Lithium. It was March 8th 2010.
Wednesday, March 17th 2010. Evening. Unable to finish my St. Patrick’s day Guinness. Something isn’t right. I’m tired. A different tired. I’m going to bed.
Thursday, March 18th 2010. I remember it was very hard to get out of bed. I remember being very lethargic. I was teaching afternoons and was using mornings at the office for prep. I was intending on being at the office by 10, but that was going to be a stretch today. I had started smoking again the summer before and I was still smoking at this point. Before I got on the road for Halifax, I stopped to get gas and a pack of cigarettes. When I got to the counter, I froze. What kind did I smoke? Oh, my god? What’s happening? Stop staring at me, it will come to me. Oh, my god, how embarrassing. Yes, Yes, those are the kind. Thank you. Terribly sorry, have a good day.
I must be tired because my eyes are very heavy and for some reason I’m not really seeing anything out my right eye.
I got progressively worse throughout the day. Words were not coming. I had thoughts, intelligible thoughts, although, there were no words to match. I was petrified. I wouldn’t let on. That’s it, I won’t let on.
However, I was also working as a literacy tutor for adults at the library on Thursday evenings. I had to cancel. I never cancel. I cancelled. Got through the day. Drove home, not seeing out of my left eye, words and thoughts not working together.
Friday, March 19th 2010: Blood work in the early morning to establish a baseline for Lithium levels. I get out of there at 9am. Cell phone off. I get to work at 10am. Student waiting for me. I didn’t remember I had scheduled a rewrite for an exam. They tried to get a hold of me. I never forget anything with regard to my students. Oh my god, I’m so sorry, I had blood work, and, well, ok, let’s get it on right now and I’ll mark it as soon as your done. I’m very sorry about this. When the exam was over and I was to mark it, I couldn’t read it. I knew there were words on the page, I knew what the letters on the page were, but it was hard to put them together in my head to make sense of it. Wow, what the hell is happening. I got up, walked around, went to the washroom, splashed water on my face, took a deep breath. I was ok. I tested my reading on the advertisements in the bathroom. I could read. I rushed back to my office, marked the exam, logged the final grade and called Steve. Something is wrong. We thought: side effect of the Lithium or a drug interaction. I called my Doctor. No, it couldn’t be that. But let’s stop the lithium anyway to see if anything changes and come see me next week. I got very bad throughout the rest of the day.
Saturday, March 20th 2010: Grace’s swimming in the morning. I could not see out of my right eye. The confusion in my head was like 10,000 thoughts swimming around independent of each other and I was trying to make sense of all of them at once. I wanted to talk, but words would not come out. Would NOT come out. Like there was a word traffic jam going on in my head. I had to walk with my hands out in front of me so I wouldn’t bump into anything. Imagine. Imagine what that looked like. And poor little Grace swimming her guts out in the pool. When we got back home, Steve told me to lie down. I was so confused, crying, confused, crying and talking jibberish. What is wrong with me?
That’s it! Get your coat on, we’re going to the hospital!