The Flunky Chicken

The Thinky Things Unloading Zone

The Story of Me, The Thinky Things I Think and The Simple Stuff I Make

FND and Solving Me, The Conclusion

(This is the final post in a series of six articles. To read from the beginning, click here. To read the previous post, click here.)

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In one of my favorite movies, Cast Away with Tom Hanks, Hanks’ character, Chuck Noland is stranded on a deserted island as the only survivor of horrific plane crash. 

After battling serious conditions just to survive, including one especially harrowing fishing incident, we see Noland acclimate to his new normal. When we see him later on, he seems to have adjusted extremely well, including handling a variety of situations with unusual ingenuity and skill. 

It’s only later, when he’s back home with his friend, that he recounts how he did not want to die alone. He tells how he focused on breathing while he waited for a sail that would help him get back home. 

He couldn’t accept dying on that island.

When he found his sail, he was willing to risk his life all over again if it meant getting back home.  

I could relate to that thinking. I felt like I had survived my own horrific crash. I, too, had learned to keep breathing, all the while searching for some sail that would carry me out past the breakers of my own precarious new-normal island. 

I, too, wanted more. I had to at least try to find my way back home. 

The night in June 2006 that I walked out of my psychiatrist’s office, I found my sail. 

I then set out on an open sea in search of a life I had lost nearly four full years earlier. 

Through an online search, I found a book called The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. In this book, Ross writes about her work with patients in her clinic and her discovery that using amino acids to reset the neurotransmitters in the brain and help regulate mild mood disorders.

I had previously asked my doctors if there were any known natural methods I could use to recover, since all the prescribed drugs were slowly robbing me of my health. I was told that I needed to keep taking my meds, even though they would most likely shorten my life. I was warned that going off my meds could result in my killing myself and “possibly others.” I was desperate to avoid any such horrible outcome. 

So I had kept breathing, observing and taking notes, watching for the sunrise tide that would bring me my sail. 

After taking the quizzes in Ross’ book, I realized that all of my neurotransmitters were malfunctioning on a significant level. In an effort to triage, I went online and did further research to find which neurotransmitters were being targeted by the drugs I was currently taking. 

Combining that information with help from Ross’ book, I wrote up a plan and bought the recommended amino acids. I set about slowly lowering the dosage of my drug while slightly increasing the corresponding amino acid to offset the lower medication dosage. 

It took me eighteen months of trial and error, with some very hellish nights and dead-end days, before I was finally completely off the prescription meds. After a few more months using the amino acids plan, I was finally able to regulate my brain using only very specific dietary and lifestyle changes. 

It took me a few years before I was willing to give the mental health industry another try. Beginning in 2012, my hesitation was rewarded by meeting some amazing therapists who utilized a variety of modalities to help me recover more of my health and brain function. It was during my time with these amazing professionals that I was finally properly evaluated and diagnosed. 

I still live with the conversion disorder or functional neurological disorder (FND), but I successfully manage it without any medications by utilizing a variety of tools I have picked up in the nearly fifteen years since my initial symptoms began. There are some days that really kick my butt. But I know what to do now. 

I have also been diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). Just like with the FND, I still have some pretty rough days. But those days are coming fewer and farther between and are shorter in duration.

I still battle to recover my physical health after years of medical procedures that damaged my health, doing more harm than good. 

I am not the same. 

And neither was the life I came back for.

My boys grew up while I was fighting to get back to them. Large portions of their childhood passed without me being there for the big moments. 

My sweet, patient warrior-husband was tired from the long battle. He lost a career he loved in the middle of the fight. We lost precious milestones in our relationship while we had our heads down, weathering this storm. 

So much was stripped away. 

Yet so much is left. 

In the place of my scared little boys are some nearly-grown, strong young men who weathered some storms by learning to send their own roots deep. Yes, I had wanted to be a part of helping them find that root. But it became more important to me that they found those roots at all than how they found their strength. 

My other half and I also found the Real, the genuine parts of us that go on standing after so much breaks off and is washed away forever. Turns out, there is a Real that can outlast a storm.

I often say that my biggest moments have my fewest words. This especially holds true here. 

I could keep searching to find my words. Or I could just let the words of Roo Panes’ song Home From Home say it so well for me. 

“Bright young sun, looks like the morning's come

And it's all come so easy like the heavens are wishing me well

And those dawning eyes brought forth my own sunrise

Well, it's been a long time since the beat of my heart was a friend

Well, it’s been a long time since I felt I was breathing again

 

In you I found my home from home

Left all that I knew for a love that I know

 

So fresh air open ways, mild nights wild days

Wandering in wonder, pondering what wandering we'll do

See I don't care about what, when or where

Cos I’m starting to realize the question worth asking is who?

I'm starting to realize the question worth answering is you

 

In you I found my home from home,

I left all that I knew for a love that I know,

 

And that grip you prized me from I was already trying to lose

It was holding me to hold me back from you.

 

Guess it's funny, this two-fold irony

Guess it's funny, this two-fold irony

 

Greatest victory through my own defeat

Greatest victory through my own defeat.”

FND and Solving Me, Part 5

(This is part of an ongoing series. To start from the beginning, click here. To read the previous post, click here.) 

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I was sitting in the doctor’s office, staring in disbelief at the psychiatrist sitting across the desk from me. 

I had already filled out the intake paperwork. I checked the boxes indicating that I wanted to die, I had no energy, I had lost my appetite. Yes, I was taking my meds, but they did not appear to be working. 

After reviewing my paperwork, the doctor explained to me that I was maxed out on my meds and the next step was electroshock therapy. 

Hence the disbelieving stare. 

Taking note of my reaction, he continued. “If you’re afraid of what you’ve seen in the movies or on TV, that’s not what ECT looks like any more. We’ve made a lot of improvements.” 

The only words I found were of the sarcastic variety. “Improvements? What is it cherry-flavored now?” 

My brain was tumbling, trying to orient itself. I didn’t really care what these alleged improvements were, and said so. 

“How do you improve passing electricity through somebody’s brain? No matter how you do that, that’s electricity. In somebody’s brain.” 

He attempted a chuckle, then hesitated. He looked thoughtful for a moment, then started questioning me again. He explained that it was possible that they had misdiagnosed me. 

By using the same “in-depth analysis” of his predecessor, within moments, he circled back around and declared with certainty, “We were right. You definitely have bipolar disorder. And since the meds that we have prescribed are the best ones for you, but are not working, the next step is ECT.” 

I realized that I recognized this decision-tree form of analysis. I followed the same steps when trouble-shooting my non-functioning appliances. 

“Did you plug it in? Yes.” [If yes, please continue to step 3.]

“If device is plugged in, please locate the power switch located near the base of the device. Please insure that the switch is in the ‘on’ position before continuing.” 

How was this medicine? 

Surely we could do better than this. I was so much more than some non-functioning appliance!

I thanked him for his time and left. 

I did some heavy thinking on my way home.  

On the one hand, my brain was “broken,” so I couldn’t possibly trust it for reliable analysis. Or could I? 

It was worth noting that even with my broken brain, I had still noticed the terrible assessment skills being used here.

From somewhere deep within me, something emerged. This whole wearisome routine with doctors needed a big change.

I reflected back on the past twenty-two months. 

There was the initial medicine they had put me on that brought no relief to my condition. It did however cause my lips and tongue to swell, sending me to the emergency room. 

The next medicine that they put me on that required me to visit a lab once a month to have a liver profile done. Still no improvement in my condition, but it was clearly the next logical step in the decision tree. Even though my results were showing within "normal" range, my hair was falling out in clumps, my weight was creeping up 2-3 pounds a week, and my ankles and hands were swelling. 

They pulled me off of that medicine saying that they were concerned that my heart and liver were in distress. The next medicine didn't improve my condition at all either. Thankfully, it took a couple of weeks before I had to return to the emergency room. I had a resting heart rate of 160+ and difficulty breathing. I was diagnosed with a panic attack and yet another medication was added. 

After adding that medication, I started having “racing thoughts,” so they bumped up the first medication. Then I started having new “panic attacks,” so they bumped up the second med. Then I started having “racing thoughts” again, so…yeah. 

My meds had raced one another to the top, and I was being told that somebody new wanted to take another whack at this from a different angle. 

All along, I had only seen the same decision-tree thinking. In that moment, I decided that since we were all guessing, I was going to do some research and start making some guesses of my own. 

Since I had the skin in the game, I was willing to bet that I was going to land closer to answers than anyone else had. With my health in sharp decline, I was pretty sure I couldn’t do worse.

Besides, I had the four most powerful motivating factors waiting for me at home. 

Since I had lived to fight another day, I decided to change the fight up a bit. 

I was keeping my promise. I was going to fight this from a new angle. Those four people who loved me, who suffered with me all this time, deserved at least that.

(To be continued….)

FND and Solving Me, Part 4

(To read this series from the beginning click here. To read the previous post, click here.) 

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Trust is foundational in all relationships, even the most incidental ones. 

When I approach a green light at an intersection, I trust that the cars who have the red light will stop. I don’t know a single thing about the other drivers. Haven’t ever met them. But I have a basic level of trust that those drivers will stop so I can proceed through a green light without fear of being hit.  

When trust is broken, even in the most incidental relationships, your beliefs shift.

The day I was diagnosed, my trust in my self was broken. My beliefs shifted. 

I had been diagnosed—accurately as it turned out—in the first week of my illness. Yet I had trusted my gut and pushed for a different diagnosis. My logic followed that trusting my gut had led to two years of needless pain and suffering for me and my family. 

In the days following the diagnoses, all the loss settled in around me. The pain was overwhelming. I had failed to recognize the reality of my situation. I had trusted my own gut to make good decisions, but look where I had landed. In those moments, it appeared that all this pain was all my fault. 

And I didn’t want to live anymore. 

This wasn’t the first time I had lost my will to live. The messaging that led to my thinking each time had been planted, then reinforced over years in a toxic, abusive environment.  

“You can’t be trusted to recognize reality.” 

“You can’t be trusted to make good decisions without outside input.” 

“All this pain is all your fault.” 

One of the benefits of hindsight is the opportunity to observe patterns.

Though I was treated and released that night in the ER, that visit kicked off a new twenty-two month cycle that had some familiar elements. 

The confusing symptoms that didn’t match the given diagnoses. Doctors who brushed off questions and any attempts to collaborate. Treatments that only made me even sicker without having any positive impact on my condition.  

By April, 2006, this new lap around the same old track had taken its toll. My physical health was significantly worse. The drugs they gave me caused a 90 pound weight gain, even though I was barely eating. My body was swollen, my spirit was broken. Much of my earlier feist was gone.

One morning, I ran out the front door and headed for my car. I was going out to end my “life” and put everyone out of this misery. I had become so thoroughly convinced of my own toxicity, I genuinely believed that if I were gone, every one I loved would be ok. 

My husband ran after me and planted himself directly behind the car. I screamed and sobbed as I sat in the driver’s seat, pounding on the steering wheel and window. All the anguish and frustration of the past four years broke loose, gushing out. He stood patiently at the back of the car—head down, handsand arms spread out across the trunk of the car, feet and legs braced—waiting. 

After several minutes, I finally quieted down. Seizing the opportunity, he ran up and jumped into the passenger side. 

There was no fear or anger, only tenderness as he asked,  “Hey, you. What’s going on?” 

I could barely get my words out through my sobs. 

“I just can’t do this anymore. I’m not getting better. I tried. I did the best I could but I can’t get better. This is getting worse.” 

He nodded reassuringly as I continued.

“Please, please help the boys know that this wasn’t their fault. Please let them know how much I loved them. Please tell them I tried.” 

He was quiet for a moment before he answered. 

“Can you call your doctors?” 

I sobbed again, “Why? They aren’t listening. They don’t care! This isn’t working! I can’t keep doing this to you guys. I’m can’t do this anymore.” 

His next words changed everything. 

“Will you try one more time? For me?” 

Those words were the defibrillator my nearly-gone spirit needed. 

I looked over at this man who had stood by me through the entire nightmare. He had been through so much, too. Yet here he was, begging me not to quit, trusting me to keep going, even when I believed that I was finished. 

I made him a promise in that moment. 

“For you? I would do anything. I would crawl over broken glass if you asked me to.”  

I had lost all trust in myself, lost confidence that I knew what to do next. 

But seeing someone I loved so much—who believed in me so deeply without even a hint of doubt—breathed life back into that moment. 

I could not bring myself to break that trust.  

 We walked back into the house together, and I called my doctor to get another appointment. 

I had lived to fight another day.

(To be continued….)