Long Time No See
I’ve mentally written and re-written the start of this post a thousand times over, usually while washing up or in the shower (the sound of water boosts my thinking), but when it came to putting it on the page I always lost my nerve. It never sounded right.
So it’s been almost two months since I posted, bless me reader for I have sinned. Prior to this my longest silence was a week. If you’ve been worried, or tapping your foot impatiently waiting for a friend who never shows up, I’m sorry.
Seven weeks ago, to save my husband’s sanity, and possibly my own, I began taking medication to combat the chronic depression that had gripped me for months. Because previous pharmaceutical forays had been either ineffective or deleterious I was prescribed a type of drug I’d never tried before. And oh boy, the side effects!
“Could you speak up? I can’t hear you over the noise in my head.”
The ringing in my ears deafened when I lay down to sleep at night, and tuned in and out sporadically through the day, filling my head with a noise overwhelming to me but imperceptible to anyone else. It’s a curious feeling, waiting for the internal clamour to cease while the world whirls on around you, oblivious.
There was the persistent sense of a hair in my mouth that neither meals nor meticulous dental care could assuage, not to mention the head-rash (yes, that was ‘rash’ not ‘rush’, more’s the pity) that prickled my temples.
There were tremors that made me look like a boozehound with the DT’s, a sporadic sensation of the floor giving way beneath my feet that felt like the preface to a faint, and did I mention the risk of seizure? Oh, and the dreams – LOTS of crazy dreams.
But the most difficult one – aside from a sudden aversion to coffee which in itself was bad enough – the one that persisted when all the others passed or lessened, was the feeling of nausea caused by looking at a screen; something like the motion sickness you get from reading in a moving vehicle.
As someone whose work revolves around a computer the irony was not lost on me, but it led to my increased use of the original word-processor – the notebook and pen. They say your brain and capacity for creativity is stimulated in a different way when you write instead of type so I tried to see it as a blessing in disguise.
An internet authority on little blue pills…
As if this wasn’t enough, expatlog.com was badly hacked in a brute force cyber-attack that gained me Google authority as a Viagra dealer and resulted in the loss of site content back to early February. I had most of my posts saved on file, but all your wonderful comments and discussions are lost.
This really floored me for a while – I knew much of the loss was irreplaceable and I had SO much restorative work to do I just didn’t have the heart (or the stomach) for it. But on the bright side I hadn’t posted for the previous three weeks so my sloth miraculously mutated into the bonus of least six posts (and resultant comments) that weren’t lost.
But I’m not giving you the whole picture here. I’ve felt oddly dislocated these past few weeks and while the drugs and tech issues have played a part, more than anything it was the paralyzing possibility of my entire existence facing a re-assessment that could change everything and nothing at the same time…
Since my youngest, S was diagnosed with Aspergers (or High Functioning Autism as it’s increasingly referred to since the the *DSM-V rolled it under the umbrella term of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)) at the beginning of April, my subsequent research turned up much that described me too. Coupled with the genetic aspect of this neurological condition (and that damn test!) I became curious to know one way or another.
Last week my suspicions were confirmed, and then some.
“Ok, so… you’re complicated”
An anxiety inducing referral had me back at CAMH (Canada’s leading mental health research facility and one of the world’s largest) for assessment by a psychiatrist with decades of experience and numerous court appearances as an expert in his field. At the end of the session, following the above pronouncement, my diagnosis changed from Borderline Personality Disorder to Aspergers Syndrome and Bipolar II.
Isn’t it strange how the things we so desperately need to know we’re right about can throw us for a loop when endorsed? I knew it would take me a while to process what this new information meant to me.
For a start, I’d never considered how I’d feel about my original diagnosis being thrown into doubt. From my reading I knew autistics often present with additional issues, from mood disorders to depression (a phenomenon known as comorbidity), often due to the stress of living with a different neurological roadmap in a neurotypical world, but I hadn’t considered the subsequent disquiet about accepting one ‘expert’s’ word over another. If a person’s life can be reassessed so drastically, who’s to say any of them are right?
On the other hand, while the label of Borderline Personality Disorder was delivered when I was far too sick to know which way was up nevermind able to research its accuracy, Asperger Syndrome ‘feels’ a better fit. It explains my social difficulties, preference for solitude, regular burnouts from frustration/exhaustion, delayed mental processing, alexithymia and sensory sensitivity. As one psychologist recently pointed out, I no longer meet all the criteria for BPD yet my problems persist.
Add to that the prevalence of Bipolar in my immediate family (father and sister) and I had to admit the high probability of his conclusion.
So, what do you do when so much of your life/thoughts/efforts have centred on striving to understand, and fighting the stigma around, one condition only to find out you’ve been re-branded? To accept the new diagnosis almost feels like turning my back on my old ‘tribe’.
I’m taking each day as it comes at the moment while this new information (and all its consequences) sink in. But there was one piece of good news with an immediate effect: I can drastically reduce the dose of those damned pills…
* The DSM-V is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-Fifth Edition. Published by the American Psychiatric Association it’s the primary manual used by American clinicians to provide a formal diagnosis of autism and related disorders. The manual outlines the specific criteria that must be met to receive a diagnosis, as well as the corresponding label and numerical code sometimes used by insurance companies to identify it. Its main purpose is to provide standard guidelines for the diagnosis of different psychological disorders and conditions.