It feels like it’s been a really long time since I put the proverbial pen to paper. I have seen my followers slowly increase over the past several months and I feel bad as I have had literally nothing to show for it. For that I apologize. So here goes…
What’s new? Well since my last blog I’ve gotten married, joined a hockey team, was writing and acting in a sketch comedy show for Christmas, taken on directing a play, and we have started quasai-eating better and almost meal planning. Oh, and I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder just before Christmas, so my appetite is waning, i have lost interest in theatre, I have no desire for physical activity and my beautiful bride is worried that the diagnosis has changed me.
“But Cole,” you may ask, “You have been depressed for years, how is it you are just being diagnosed with this now?” You wouldn’t be reading this if you wanted the short version, but I will try to make it as entertaining as I can…
We got married in Ireland in September- which was amazeballs (as my wife would say), and we had such a good time. I learned how to drink whiskey (on the rocks, of course) and she learned that I actually DO know how to drive. (Parallel park in a rental car, driving on the opposite side of the road, on the other side of the car, on a busy street, between two cars already parked, ON MY FIRST TRY… perfectly. Not an exaggeration.)
We were having a great time one night when she mentioned to me how “up” I had been the whole trip and as great as it was, she wasn’t looking forward to the inevitable “down” that would follow.
Fast forward to November and I have been up and down more times than a roller coaster. There are days that I get home from work and I go straight to bed and don’t get up until morning. Now would be a good time to point out that I am very high functioning with severe depression. I can do my “day to day” things; what I deem to be responsibilities or obligations, but anything more than that I have no more steam for.
My wife has fibromialgya and rheumatoid arthritis. She swears by the spoon theory. If you haven’t heard of it, check it out– I have found it’s a pretty good way to relate not just pain management, but even depression and with putting life into perspective. Anyways, most days I wake up with no spoons, manage to do what I feel I am responsible or obligated to do (such as work) and then when I get home, I have to shut down.
I went to see my doctor (who is also the current mental health specialist as our community doesn’t have one) to discuss making a change to my meds because of all of the issues I had been having. Pulling away from interests, lack of appetite, spoons and such.
He sent me for some labwork and told me he would contact me after he got it back to discuss options, and asked if I had been seeing anyone (a therapist) lately. I haven’t. I am in the lucky minority of depression sufferers that because I am high functioning and able to blend into society well, I am not a priority to the system. I have seen many therapists in the past but for one reason or another I would either fall through the cracks or the timing wasn’t right.
First there was Frankie. After I was first diagnosed with depression (and didn’t identify with it), I saw her for almost 3 years in conjunction with a psychiatrist mixing meds like it was his first chemistry set.
When doctors ask me what anti-depressants I have been on, they get frustrated with me when I say “all of them”, then they see my med history from back then.
After all was said and done with Frankie, she refused to believe that I was able to function at such a high level with no more of an explanation other than “I just soldier on”. In the end, she told me there was nothing more she could do for me.
After my “incident” that landed me in the hospital in 2015, I was set up with Shelly. She was nice but she always seemed like she needed to be somewhere else… then one day she was. I showed up for an appointment and was told she had left her job (and town) that morning. I’m sure it wasn’t because of me…
The hospital set me up with an intern after Shelly but eventually the appointments just ended. I don’t even remember her name, just the pencil skirt and heels. I was feeling much better anyways, I didn’t need a therapist on the regular anymore. And things were good, until they weren’t. Like I said, roller coaster. I would ride the waves for the most part, but every once and a while something would happen and I would have a sudden urge to throw myself down a flight of stairs for no reason at all.
And by “something would happen”, I wish I could tell you there were specific triggers. In the beginning there were. It was always kids, something to do with kids. More often than not a father and his kids, but kids. Now… it’s like trying to analyze dreams. “Maybe if the laundry detergent wasn’t blue on a day that I eat and as long I don’t see my left ear in the mirror and neither of the dogs have crapped on the floor when I come downstairs in the morning…”
There have been probably 3 or 4 therapists since the intern, all set up through the health care system. Living in Canada, one of the greatest benefits we have is the health care system, but like anything else in the world- there are things to complain about. First and foremost; mental health care.
Ok maybe not first and foremost… there’s the lack of family doctors, unreal ER waiting room times, overworked and grossly underpaid nurses, access to (or lack thereof) specialists, waiting lists for procedures… the list goes on and on and on.
It’s one of those strange things as a Canadian that I don’t understand why we take pride in it. It’s like Tim Horton’s. All around the world if you are with a Canadian, and we see a Tim Horton’s, we HAVE to take you there to see how amazing it is, but here in Canada, we actually don’t really like it.
So my doctor sends me for lab work and asks if I am seeing anyone. “Not right now.” He suggests that I should, so I start looking for local therapists online. Waiting for a therapist through the health care system can take weeks or even months. Longer if you fall through the cracks. Not that I would know…
Looking one up online and booking an appointment yourself, well that can take weeks as well, but not months. I do have to pay out of pocket, but we have insurance benefits through work that will reimburse us, so it’s basically free. And quicker. And I can pick who I want.
Looking through different websites and resumes and online feedback, I finally decide on one I think I might like. Click. Enter personal info. Click, click. Select a day and time you would like to meet for an evaluation appointment. She will do evenings?! Clickety click!!
And just like that I had an appointment for later the next week. As I am still seeing her, to protect her privacy I will call her Anna. That first meeting went well. I felt pretty comfortable with her right away, told her where I was at and what I had gone through in the past. She immediately felt that my meds needed changing as I had been on them for quite some time and often with patients, they just stop working. I called to make an appointment with my doctor the next morning to discuss changing the meds when I was told that he was on vacation and would be away until the new year.
I like to think I can be cool and roll with things, but at a time when I am feeling near my lowest, afraid I am losing my sanity and I have no goddamn spoons… this was bad timing. I got ahold of Anna, let her know, and she jumped into action. She had a nurse practitioner she was going to set me up with so that I could see a psychiatrist sooner than later and get my meds figured out because they needed to be figured out. Aaaand breathe. Thanks Anna.
I would start seeing Anna every week for the first little while but as I started to level out (rollercoaster, remember) we cut that back to every other week. My appointment with the NP was set up through her website and again, an evening appointment! I followed the directions on the website to the address listed and it brought me to a charming little house. I have been to therapists that work out of their homes, so why not Nurse Practitioners?
I walked up to the door, rang the bell and a pretty little woman roughly my age answered the door. “Hi, is Lisa (not her real name) here?” Pause for dramatic effect. Then blink. Twice. “She hasn’t lived here in a real long time, but people keep coming around asking for her. If you see her can you tell her to ask folks to stop coming here?” Then the door closed.
I could hear a train whistle in the distance as I stood there in the cold watching my breath evaporate on the glass insert of her front door.
“Self,” I thought to myself, “don’t panic- I’m sure there’s a simple explanation.” Did I read the address wrong? (Did lots of other folks..?) Nope. Did I have the wrong night? Nope. Did I have the right to panic? Probably, but did I? Ok maybe a wee bit, but I got in my Jeep and decided to call her like a calm, sane person.
Voicemail. Ha ha… ok… Sure… I’ll leave a message… So just as I put the Jeep in gear and was about to drive away, she called me back. Turns out she didn’t realize she had an appointment with me, didn’t actually check her online scheduling program, and would I be ok doing this over the phone? Not like I have a choice at this point…
We talked for close to an hour- at least 15 minutes of which was her apologizing, and at the end she told me she agreed with Anna that my meds needed changing because I had the wrong diagnosis. I says pardon..?
Apparently it’s quite common for doctors to diagnose people with severe depression and move on, but time is beginning to show that many of those patients are in fact bipolar. Hence all of the swings with no apparent triggers.
She was setting me up with a teleconference to meet with a psychiatrist to confirm the diagnosis and get the meds updated since my doctor was away and things were very crucial for me at this point in time. Things really seemed to be moving forward. I met with the doctor and had a good conversation with him.
On a scale of 1 to Jeffery Goines, I barely register because as I told him, “It’s not like the germs talk to me ALL the time…”
He promised to get my diagnosis and prescription for new meds out to Lisa right away so I could begin my new treatment. Things were good. I was feeling hopeful, optimistic even. I had a new diagnosis, a new plan, a new hope. Things were going to start getting better sooner than later. Or so I had hoped. Turns out I AM a victim of bad timing…
See there is this thing that happens at the same time year after year regardless of your mental state. It’s called Christmas. It doesn’t have to be called Christmas, it can be called Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah or Billy Bob’s Time of Doin’ Nuthin because for the most part- the whole world slows down to a dead crawl and pretty much nuthin gets done.
I have been asking Lisa every friday for 3 weeks now if she has heard anything. Guess what… nuthin. She reached out to the psychiatrist on Monday to inquire about the status; the appointment hasn’t even been transcribed yet. The past several days have gotten darker and darker for me, so I made another appointment with Anna hoping that will help. That appointment is next week.
I got a text from Lisa today. I was super excited when I saw her name come across my phone, and then I read the text; “You should go ahead and book an appointment with your doctor to discuss your medications. The reason I bring this up is I am very pregnant and will be leaving on maternity very soon. I wanted to give you the option to start with your own doctor as the medication treatment process usually occurs over several months.”
So because my doctor was going to be gone until January, it was decided the best course of action for me was to rush to teleconference me with a psychiatrist to re-diagnose me to adjust my meds because of all of the tumultuous swings and waiting for my doctor to return was too great of a risk. Now, because the psychiatrist is so overworked he hasn’t been able to get to my file in order to properly treat his patient the best course of action is for me to make an appointment with my doctor (which could take weeks) and start the process all over again.
Canadian Health Care. Time for some changes?