I do not like doctors, not one bit. I am fully aware they are great people and they benefit billions of people throughout the world. In the end though, they are just human, just like me, just like you and they are not perfect, they make mistakes. Sometimes they misdiagnose a person. Until you have been incorrectly diagnosed you cannot truly imagine the effect, both short and long term that it can have on a person’s life. I have been unfortunate enough to have experienced this firsthand.
In August of 2002, shortly after my youngest child was born, my wife and I decided to move back to our hometown of Buffalo, NY. For the past two years we had been living in the Philadelphia, PA area. I had a great job at a telephone directory publishing company. I had worked at a similar company when we had still lived in Buffalo and the company in Philly, was in desperate need of people who were familiar with the computer program they used. I got my wife a job there as well, we were financially set. We needed something, we went and bought it, we wanted something we went and bought it, no problem. It seemed whatever we wanted we had it. There was one thing missing. It could not be bought or replicated in any way. We were missing our families, especially after the baby was born. It was just too much; we both needed that comfy familiar family feel.
We both wanted our children to be raised with our families in the picture, not six hundred mile away. Also, despite moving up in the company, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with all the political bullshit that goes on within the office environment. If I learned one thing about offices, it was that as you rise from the ranks you become an instant target. I had been sending out resume`s for some time and I had a couple of interviews lined up, so I called in one day and sent an email saying I had found a job in Buffalo and I was putting in my two week notice. By that point this company and I were mutually disgusted with one another, so they replied, “we will send your stuff in the mail, do not come back.” They gave me a nice severance check and I was pleased. I could focus on the move and finding a job.
We moved in with my parents, my wife and I and our three children. There was plenty of room, but it is never the same when you have to move back to your parent’s house with your own family. To make a long story short, I had several interviews, all went well, none were great and no job offers were made. I ended up going back to a job where I had once been the night/weekend manager of. It’s a store that sells only fish and other aquatic beings. I was not being paid much though, a mere seven dollar an hour, which is not enough to raise a family on. After some time, my wife ended up getting a job at the telephone book company that I had worked for a few years prior. Together we had enough to move out of my parents and we rented a small house.
The house just happened to be right across the street from my wife’s parent’s house and I mean right across the street. I kept sending out resume`s and seldom heard anything, getting the occasional interview which only lead to further disappointment. Also during this period my shoulder (which was operated on when I was a teen for repeat dislocations) started dislocating like crazy. In a three month period it probably dislocated at least ninety times. After about eight months at the store I had an interview scheduled for a job I really thought I had a chance at. The interview was set for a Saturday morning that I was supposed to be working. Feeling desperate, I called in and went to the interview. I got fired from my current job and no offer from the place I went to the interview. Dark times ensued.
I went from making almost forty thousand dollars a year to seven dollars an hour to nothing. Looking back I can now say without a doubt I was depressed. At the time though, I had no idea and my depression increased further with each dislocation of my shoulder. I expressed myself with anger, it seemed I was always mad or on the verge of a tantrum; I had no fuse and was ready to explode at all times. I never hurt anyone, other than myself; I would throw a tantrum and punch a metal door or something hard. The pain would usually snap me out of it. I looked like shit and I felt like shit. I was mean and miserable. It reached the point that my wife had had it, either I got help or she and our children were gone.
This was not something I could not live with, my family is everything to me, and so I started with my primary doctor. She gave me an antidepressant and referred me to a psychiatrist. He diagnosed me with bipolar disorder; he didn’t change the medications, only upping the dosage. Dr. A never really gave me a clue what being diagnosed as bipolar meant, after a couple visits though he did add a medication; something for ADD. Both these medications were expensive and the medical coverage where my wife worked put them as tier three prescriptions. After six months or so, feeling no improvement and now sleeping about two hours a night, I stopped taking them and did not go back to see Dr. A.
About a year later my condition was further deteriorating, so I decided to research bipolar a little more. When Dr. A first diagnosed me I did not think much about it. I guess I viewed it more as a cold or something that would just pass on its own, like a kidney stone(painful, but passable.) I learned it was a pretty serious condition and while I did not fit all the criteria, I did match up with some. I decide I am sick of feeling like shit so I make an appointment with a new psychiatrist. During the time from when I made the appointment until the date of the appointment, I spent a lot of time researching and finding online support groups. I also wrote. Looking back it was probably just dark, depressing ramblings, but I felt obligated to do it. I printed them out and brought them with me to my first appointment with Dr. B.
Dr. B was hot, that might very well be why I continued seeing her for as long as I did. She was in her late twenties, attractive face with a smoking hot body, believe me I got every minute out of my appointments with her, most times running over. If I had to guess, she was probably a first year doctor and she was in way over her head with me. After my first visit she prescribed a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant. This was the beginning of a five year medicine merry-go-round, a ride that spun me from one end of the mood spectrum to the other on a continual non-stop cycle.
Throughout those five long years, I was prescribed over thirty different pills and saw over a dozen different psychiatrists. There was a long period of time that I was taking twenty-four pills a day. Twenty-four pills a day!!! Four of these, six of these, two of these, but only one of these or you will get a facial tick and diabetes. Later on, I think I was taking more pills to counter side effects then for treating bipolar. Some of the more fun side effects I experienced were vertigo and colitis. With the vertigo, I had it for like three months before I went to the doctor (I was getting sick of seeing doctors at this time.) I would stand up and get so dizzy I would puke. I could no longer drive and I was always steadying myself, feeling like the world was rushing by at a million miles per hour. Colitis I will only say there is no easy way to determine if a person has colitis (if you don’t know look it up.)
Another side effect was weight gain. When this started I was underweight, my depressed weight was around one hundred and sixty pounds, in a brief period it ballooned to over two hundred twenty pounds. This lead to me seeing a whole multiple set of other doctors for back/hip pain, until it was finally determined that there was some disk damage and a nerve being pinched/blocked in the hip area. The likely cause of the nerve problem was from the weight that I had gained.
I could tell you some of the specific details from that time, but they would be out of context and hard to grasp. I will say I ended up in the psych ward twice during those five years. One time when the medicine threw me into an absolute manic state, that time I was there for three day stay and being around some of the other people of the ward I realized I probably was not crazy. The other time, I had become unable to feel or empathize, you could have said I had won the lottery or my mother had died, I would not have had a reaction either way. So in a desperate attempt to feel, I made myself an Irish coffee from sleeping pills and a pot of coffee, and let me tell you that is just a recipe for disaster. That time I only ended up staying overnight, after promising to take my meds. Meanwhile, at the urging of my father, as soon as I got home from the hospital I flushed all my meds. That was the hardest two months of my life, going from taking all these pills and just stopping cold turkey, suffice to say, I was completely out my mind for a good two months.
The back/hip pain started with me having a numb spot on my leg, it took at least two years, a half dozen doctors, several nerve tests, MRI’s, pain pills, patches, etc, until it was determined to be a blocked or pinched nerve. If I learned anything through this it was that Specialist (at least most) are complete arrogant assholes. It was not just me, I would listen to the way they would talk to other patients and feel embarrassed for them. They had no bedside manner whatsoever. It was one of these Specialists that lead to me saying the hell with doctors all together. He said to me, with a sneer upon his face, while talking about the nerve, “You’ll have to learn to live with it; there is nothing I can do for you.” The look on his face was like; get out of here you piece of shit. I will never forget how angry I was, but it did make me determined to deal with the problem myself. I have my weight down to one hundred eighty-five or so and the pain is mostly gone, if lost another ten pounds I believe it would go away for good.
Now I only go to the doctor when I am sick and the strongest thing I will take is an antibiotic. I credit my wife with enabling me and our marriage to survive those five years on the medicine merry-go-round, without her strength and love we would not have made it. We are now stronger and more in love than ever. When I am done writing the book that I am currently working on, this will likely be the subject of my next one. As they say, what makes a crazy man sane makes a sane man crazy and the details would make for some interesting reading?
Until then…. Stay crazy!
Just in case you were curious
While I was seeing Dr. B I had surgery on my shoulder and knock on wood it has been fine ever since.
After about a year of not being able to work and getting assistance from the state I applied for permanent disability. After three years I got approved, not for having bipolar disorder, but because of the fact that the side effects from the meds rendered me mostly useless. Since I stopped taking all my pills I have been trying to get back to work, but having been out of work for so long it is nearly impossible to find a job that pays more than I make on disability. I am going back to school and hoping that this will be the year I return to the workforce. In the mean time I have devoted myself to writing and am about half way through my first book.
Also, since I have been off the meds I have been my normal self, the person my wife fell in love with, not the empty shell of a person I had become while on meds.