Thursday, June 11, 2009

it's official: I am not bipolar

This has been a really strange and stressful season of our lives. For starters, Greg resigned from his job last week--without a clue as to where our next adventure will be. But I will blog more about that in another post.

For me, things got really weird about a month ago when I went in to get the results of my second adrenal test. If you've followed my blog for a while, you may remember that I was diagnosed with adrenal exhaustion a little over a year ago. That first test showed that my cortisol levels, which are normally high in the a.m. and lower at night, were completely flipped, resulting in insomnia, anxiety and daytime exhaustion. So I started a regimen of supplements, lifestyle and dietary changes.

A year later, I was retested and was hoping for improved results (even though I still wasn't really sleeping).

This is kind of how my appointment went. The nurse practitioner I've seen for the past four years (mostly for hormonal issues) tossed the test results at me and said, "I've never seen such high midnight cortisol!" She can be really dramatic at times.

"What does that mean?" I asked, perplexed that there was no improvement after all my lifestyle adjustments.

"I think you are bipolar," she announced, patting me on the knee. "Your insomnia is cyclical and that's how bipolar goes--in cycles. I want you to take these meds--I call them 'happy pills'--and I promise you'll feel better in no time."

I must have gone into shock, because all I could think to ask as she wrote out my prescription was, "So, is there any reading I can do about bipolar disorder? I really don't know anything about it."

She printed off a list of reading material, handed me a prescription for Lamictal, and sent me on my distraught way. I literally drove around for 45 minutes, trying to figure out how to tell my husband I was bipolar.

My greatest fear is that Greg would exclaim, "Wow, that explains everything!"

He didn't say that, but encouraged me to do some research. I did, and discovered that Lamictal is a power anti-seizure drug used to treat epilepsy--and more recently, bipolar disorder. It has a number of nasty side-effects, including insomnia. I decided, bipolar or not, I wasn't touching that drug with a ten foot pole.

And after doing some reading about bipolar disorder, I really didn't recognize the major symptoms in myself--I've not experienced severe depression and the most manic thing I've done is plant a garden in my hot tub. I talked to co-workers with bipolar family members, nurses, doctors, therapists--all people who know me well--and they all objected to the label I'd been given.

But just to make sure, I decided to get an official second opinion. I made an appointment with a psychiatrist.

Now, I've never been to counseling (OK, I went once), so seeing a shrink was really a stretch for me. No pun intended. But this guy came highly recommended, was a Christian and he kind of knew me from a previous church we attended. He wasn't taking new patients but did me a favor and worked me in. So I marched into his office today, half-scared that I'd be carted off in a straight jacket, but hoping he would declare me of sound mind.

We chatted for an hour-and-a-half (hope my insurance covers that) and I got to tell him things I've never really told anyone else (except Greg) about my childhood and family. I won't go into details, but there are numerous instances of institutionalizations, rehab, incarcerations, suicide attempts, broken relationships, abuse and addictions . . . I described my swirly gene pool to the doctor with more than a little apprehension.

The doctor just listened to my story, and was silent for a minute. I'm pretty sure I was holding my breath when he said, "You are not bipolar. You definitely seem to have a genetic disposition toward mental illness, but you, by God's grace, are an exception. My official diagnosis is primary insomnia. You just need to sleep."

"You mean I should be crazy but I'm not?" I asked, only half-joking.

"Something like that," the doc said, smiling. He wrote me out a prescription for some mild sleep meds and sent me on my way.

Ah, the grace of God. Where would I be without it?

"For He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind."


Stephanie Anderson said...

I'm so glad you questioned that diagnosis, Shawn. You truly are an amazing woman. :)

Wendy said...

Hooray for sound mind! (which I think is in question for the doctor that diagnosed you bipolar in the first place)

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