Thursday, August 30, 2007

When It Rains, It Pours. Or something.

I just have rain on the brain, because it's now windy and thundering and it could possibly actually RAIN this evening, which would break August's dry streak. That would be great, since our place is dry as a bone, and even the yucca and poke sallet are long-dead, dried to a crisp. And I think at least part of the missing fluid around here is turning up in my husband's lungs and extremities.

Alex was just starting to recover from his second bout of pneumonia since spring, and now we're trying to deal with a sudden flood of edema in his lower legs and feet, which appears to be jacking up his blood pressure. This comes on the heels of switching from one mood stabilizer (which, after giving us a good three years of treatment, just kind of...stopped working, as these drugs sometimes do, varying in effectiveness from individual to individual). It's not enough that he takes 14 different medications every single day of his life, but Alex also has to pretty much constantly juggle and switch up the "cocktail" in order to maintain optimum stability.

I walked into the living room last night, and blanched when I saw my husband's feet propped up on the footrest of his recliner. The swelling was unreal. I nagged him into seeing the doctor right away today, and when he went this morning, his blood pressure was something like 168/98. His "base" blood pressure is consistently low-normal, so the high reading was alarming. He was sent home to get still and elevate his feet, and given a diuretic in an attempt to reduce the fluid, which could be causing the hypertension. We're to monitor his blood pressure and report back if it doesn't go down, and we'll have bloodwork done next week to check...well, everything.

When you're talking about a mood disorder, being "med-compliant" seems like such a simple thing. But it isn't. You have to weigh side-effects against each other (NOTHING is without side effects--it's a matter of picking your poison), and in almost every case, trade a certain degree of the physical health you enjoyed previously (maybe something as simple as being able to maintain a healthy weight) for a certain degree of mental stability. Everything is a trade-off. We could be looking at lithium sensitivity or even toxicity...of course, we just switched back to lithium, which is the gold standard of mood stabilizers for a reason, after something else lost effectiveness. And we switched away from lithium for the first time last year when its thyrotoxic qualities killed a good bit of Alex's thyroid function.

The point is, this is a complicated tangle of health-management issues, and I really appreciate my husband for doing what it takes to protect his mental health, at the expense of his vanity, his cognitive speed, his coordination, and many other "little" things. If this is not something you have to deal with, give thanks now. If you're struggling with coming to terms with any of these issues, I have a couple of great resources for you. One is a lecture by Dr. Xavier Amador, author of the book I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help and others, and another is the new cooperative mental-health blogging effort Be sure and bookmark that last one, because you'll be visiting regularly, I predict. I am honored to have been asked to contribute to RealMental, and hope that Alex and I can contribute material that will be relevant and helpful to others who might be going through some of the things that we've been through. Kudos to Leah and Jess for spearheading this effort. It's already been a blessing to me to read the incredibly "naked," honest, and emotionally-told stories there.


  1. I wish I had this post three years ago.

    In the midst of a complete breakdown after the death of my son, I was misdiagnosed as being bipolar. (I don't blame them. The symptoms I was having were very, very close to it and I was a complete mess.)

    For over a year I had to deal with coming to grips with bipolar disorder and everything that comes with it. The pity, the labeling, juggling all the meds. It was so difficult and frustrating. Everything about it from the system to the side effects.

    When they figured out the misdiagnoses and that the meds were making things so much worse, everything was discontinued and though I still struggle, I got better.

    Even though I don't have to still deal with this on a daily basis, I cannot believe how much I learned, and how much compassion and love I feel to those who fight the fight

    You and your family deserve all the blessings in the world.

  2. Thank you for pointing to
    I am obsessed already.

  3. I hope they figure out what is causing the swelling and Alex feels better soon. My uncle was on multiple meds and stuff for his problems, which were not bipolar, but still mental problems. It is tough to watch and you are much closer to Alex and helping him deal with this.

  4. Wow. I just visited RealMental and I'm speechless. Got it bookmarked.

    Thanks so much for your latest post -- I feel for you and Alex and admire how open the two of you are about what you're going through together.

    I read on RealMental that you've had a hysterectomy, obviously at a very young age, and I'd love to ask you about that. I've been given that option by my gynecologist and I'm wondering about the consequences as I'm only 41. If you're open to sharing your experience, I'm at:

    Thanks again for your great post!

  5. much love to you guys. I truly enjoy your post and the pics. I'll be praying for my nrother Alex.

  6. Love to you guys - what a hard road to travel. I am currently dealing w/ a few medical issues myself - and was whining a bit, not anymore...okay, I'll still whine as I hate shots. BUT you guys are an amazing couple ~ to work through all this together. I hope things get sorted out!

    And yes, thank you for the links!

    elizabeth (hinterlens)

  7. sister is bipolar and my family and I have been on a rollercoaster for over ten years since her diagnosis. The last three years she has been markedly stable since she finally came to terms and is med-compliant.

    But you know there's more to it than that what with side effects (for her it's been hand tremors, dry mouth, massive weight gain, skyrocketing cholesterol) and the constant see-sawing moods that require little tweaks in meds every few months.

    Hang in there!!

    PS...your daughter is SO GORGEOUS. I think she has the most beautiful and remarkable little face. She's a character. I loved the series of flu-shot photos. She looks like a little walking so cute.