I’m having trouble writing this post because I’m thinking so many things at once and having trouble figuring out a single point to make. So bear with me while I free associate a tad, will you?
I’m battling fatigue lately, and if I'm in a battle then it has almost won. It has kept me away from work for about a week now, I’ve spent a lot of time sleeping on the couch during the day and it’s been concerning me. All of that sounds like losing scores to me.
Fatigue has also put me at odds with my family doctor… and I don’t know if that’s a win, lose or draw, honestly. Or for whom the score tolls.
Almost a year ago, I went to my doctor to complain about fatigue. For someone with depression, fatigue is a gauge and so I went in nervous I might be getting worse but I could see no real reason for worsening.
It’s frightening to often be faced with messages about how depression is something that can be recovered from, and then try to resolve with myself that maybe I was getting worse and I didn’t know why. It’s been years since my breakdown in 2010, and recently I find I’m questioning when this will ever pass and when will I be getting on with my life. It feels like I’ve been in a freeze-frame for a long time, waiting for a wave of something to come over me that will be wellness.
And therein lies what I’m beginning to see as an issue. There’s a kind of a trap to mental illness that I find very hard when it comes time to seeing my family doctor. I think the trap is that unfortunately the way the health care system in Ontario is set up in such a way that most of the time someone like me, who’s not experiencing acute mental illness, depends on seeing a family doctor for help.
I’ve been very, very fortunate because for a period of about 30 years I had a family doctor in private practice and that had me feeling like my doctor actually knew me which was a grace when I had my breakdown in 2010. But she has since retired and I’ve been seeing a new doctor at a clinic for the about two years now. And honestly, when I watch my new doctor, I see a young woman who appears run off of her feet. My appointments with her always feel rushed, the waiting room is usually full and it takes about a month to get an appointment.
In about May 2014, I started to really question how I was feeling and went to see my doctor. At that point she talked to me about how depression is something that is not completely understood in terms of what physically happens within the brain. She talked about how medication treatment is a lot of trial and error.
We ran some blood-work and decided I had vitamin decencies and that might be the answer to my fatigue. The thinking too was that I should take more antidepressant.
I went back in September/October 2014 because I was starting to book off of work sick a lot and taking more medication wasn’t working for the fatigue. My doctor started talking to me about moving to a different medication. That hit me hard and I rejected the idea.
I heard her tell me that she has more experience with another medication than the one I was on. And she explained to me that it is a level up from the one I was taking. I didn’t want to move to stronger medication, it just didn’t feel like the right thing to do…. But I found myself back again in November still feeling very fatigued.
Taking pills just wasn’t sitting right with me anymore and that seemed to be my doctor’s only offering. So I booked all my holiday time and sick leave together to take a break from work. I tapered down from what was by that point was a high dosage and went off completely.
There’s been a remarkable difference. There’s a mental fog that has lifted that I didn’t really know I was functioning under. I feel like my concentration is improving, along with my memory and I don’t feel like my mind is racing anymore. But it feels like mental fatigue has been traded in for physical fatigue.
I visited my doctor again on March 9 and this time listened while she said, “Conventional medicine says that people like you have faulty neurotransmitters….” She went on to make a pro-medication speech to me again.
Bless her, she’s really lovely but that sentence (people like you) made me re-think conventional medicine. Especially when I watched her type most of the time she was with me and hardly looked away from the screen at me. I’m not convinced she heard me but if what she read to me was what she typed into my file, then it’s in perfect grammar.
She closed the window on the computer that is my file, and I can still see her spin in her chair, look at me and ask where I was with menopause as she was collecting her things to leave the room. She said we should run a hormone screen but rather than complete a blood requisition then, she promised we would do it on our next visit… in a month.
We didn’t even talk about my blood pressure which was 93 over 46. The nurse took it before the doctor came into the room and I made her repeat it to me because I’ve never heard my blood pressure be that low.
Feeling like the fatigue was exasperated by shiftwork, I called back for a sooner appointment to ask for a letter restricting me to dayshift at work for awhile. What I got was an email response read to me by the nurse over the phone accusing me of “rearranging my life around my illness” rather than vice versa.
They do say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result!
So off I went to a psychiatrist appointment at the Civic hospital to see if I was insane! I have it on good authority that I am not. Phew! The psychiatrist put me at ease and told me he thought quitting medication was right for me and that at this point it likely wasn’t helping me anymore. He offered me a six-week day hospital program that I’m calling “skills, not pills” which starts tomorrow. It was like he read my mind and offered me something that is going to help me get ‘unstuck’ and move forward in my life.
I also went to a naturopath because I have every confidence she and I are going to listen to what my body is trying to say. She freaked about the low blood pressure and ordered bunches of blood work to get to the bottom of it.
And this is what we call resiliency my friends!