Last time I talked to you about why I chose to try ECT, or more specifically, my history of depression. Many people called me brave, and I thank you for your kind words. This made me consider, though, exactly what bravery is. Most people think of brave people as those who take great risks. There are many kinds of risk, but even in cases where a split second decision is required, you will rely on what you know. You will make an assessment. Is the risk I’m taking worth the possible costs?
For instance, you might decide you want to go bungee jumping. What are the risks and what are the benefits? Everyone’s different, but I’d probably look at it like this.
Risk: You could fall to your death and die.
Benefit: Wee, it’s fun!
In this case, I’d decide that no, jumping off a cliff, even with a rope tied around my ankle, is not worth risking my early demise for benefit of an adrenaline rush (I don’t even have to pay for those!). On the other hand, when I made a decision about getting ECT, I looked at the decision this way.
Risk: Very Expensive. Memory loss. Cognitive problems. Pudding brains.
Benefit: I might feel like living, and my life become more worthwhile, for myself and those who love me.
In order to make this decision, I did my research. I can research the crap out of anything, taking hours to find out which shampoo brand is the best, which makes me a great librarian though sometimes an annoying person. So after my psychiatrist asked his students in front of me what was available to those who didn’t respond to drugs, they said, as one example, ECT. When he asked them what it stood for, they hesitated, and I said “Electroconvulsive Therapy.” Give me an A.
You might think my psychiatrist is mean asking his students these questions in front of me, but honestly I think he just loves to mess with them. The best way to learn is to do so in a real setting. I could have refused the students had I wanted to, but it turns out I find their suffering entertaining as well. Anyway, at first I said, “Yeah, nope”. I’d heard plenty about ECT, and Sparky had always told me to watch myself around electricity, so this seemed a no-brainer.
My psychiatrist told me what ECT was like now, and how much it had changed from the days of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. He bemoaned the fact that there is so much stigma, and that this and politics often dictated whether a variety of treatments are available to patients. For instance, ECT was once available near my home town, but it was taken away. The closest hospital that offers ECT now is over a five hour drive from where I live. “In the end,” he said. “They take it away, and the patients suffer.” He said he has seen it work because he’d administered it himself. “I am convinced you could feel better in as little as two weeks.”
What exactly takes place during ECT? I won’t know until I’m there, and even then I’ll be asleep most of the time, but I did find this video that shows the procedure.
A little disconcerting? Slightly. On the other hand, it’s also a far cry from what they did to Jack Nicholson. As you can see, the actual shock lasts seconds, and only one part of the body shakes to show there is a seizure. Oxygen is given, anesthesia, and something to stop the convulsions. But just look at those people helping with the ECT, holding his hand, smiling gently. Vultures!
By this point, as I said before, I’d been through years worth of drugs that eventually failed. Some of them had dangerous side effects, just as dangerous as ECT’s side effects, or worse. If you get right down to it, everything carries a risk of side effects. Childbirth is risky, even if you’re young and healthy. I know, because at 27, I had to wait two weeks for tests to find out if my baby was mentally handicapped. She turned out healthy, but it did shock me into reality. None of us is immune to tragedy.
So I researched, and so did my friends. As I mentioned briefly earlier, I found a little straight forward information, and many, many websites full of warnings and sometimes near hysterical accounts from patients. I realize that this treatment doesn’t work for everyone, but the success rate is listed at near 80 percent. Even if that data is wrong, and it’s only 50 percent, or heck, 5 percent, is this something we should deny desperate people? Chemotherapy kills your body’s cells, both healthy and cancerous, yet it is a common procedure for people with Cancer. Rarely do I hear of someone cautioning a person “You know Chemo is barbaric. Don’t do it!!!” The reason you don’t hear this is because, unfortunately, for now it is one of the few treatments that have been shown to succeed. It takes a terrible toll on the body, and it doesn’t always work. But what else should a person do? Take vitamins? Smoke kale? Tell me, what else should they do?
What else should terribly depressed people do?
That is why I don’t presume to tell others what to do with their own bodies. Screaming that a treatment – whether pills, a medical procedure, or even eating kale (you might choke)- is barbaric, outdated, and cruel could scare people away from the one thing that might help them. I did find one blog written by Natasha Tracy, advocate for mental health. She had a terrible time with ECT. But she fights for it to be available, because she knows that her experience is not what everyone will experience. What helps you could hurt someone else, or vice versa. I encourage you to visit her website; it is full of good information. It is also full of really angry people in the comment section. But she keeps writing.
I am aware that writing about this could open myself up to a lot of these same angry people. But so many have helped me over the years, and I want to help someone else. I want there to be more information about what ECT really is, and how it works. I want people to find an account that is from a real person, but still factual. Even if it’s a bad experience for me, I want to demystify this treatment for Depression. That’s why I decided to write. I weighed the risk (testing out the waters with a friend), and I made a decision. Eventually you have to stop researching, and make a choice, just as I did to try ECT.
I have much more to talk about, but I’m running out of space. I will tell of what the actual process of preparing for ECT entails (hint: you don’t walk right in and get shocked), and how I went about figuring out how I was going to get there in the first place. The decision was one thing. The execution of that decision, quite another.
Remember: Everyone is brave in their own way, just by getting up in the morning.
“What if you get all the way up there and there’s nothing?”
“What if there’s everything?”
– from the movie Tomorrowland
Earlier Merry at Knocked Over By a Feather wrote about a friend who is preparing for ECT treatments. That friend is me. You may have noticed, if you read my blog much, that I haven’t exactly been posting a lot lately. I’m sure the lack of informational posts about Trump, boogers, imaginary ponies, etc., have left you in a lurch. I hope to get back to that at some point, but right now things aren’t going so well. This is nice speak for “There is no need for Hell; I’m here guys!”
The reason I asked Merry to write about it first was because I was afraid of the responses. I’ve researched ECT, (electroconvulsive therapy or “shock therapy”), for nearly two months now, and most of what I find are horrifying stories. Yet ECT is often successful at treating depression, or at least raising you to a point where you can treat your depression. The minority write the scary stuff, and shout down the ones who have positive experiences. I’m not saying people do not have bad experiences, but what one finds positive and another finds positive can be very different. If you are so depressed you can’t function, side effects, even serious ones, can take a back seat to even the possibility of getting well.
I don’t like to talk that much about my illnesses. Alice is supposed to be funny – to a select group of people anyway. (Hi, friends!) Some might say it’s because I use humor as a defense mechanism. Humor at least makes the awful go down a little easier. These illnesses are not something to joke about, though, especially not to the new psychiatrist who is in charge of the ECT program. He seemed to think my joke about the butcher knife was not funny. Killjoy.
I feel like I should offer you my history, because I did not wake up one day feeling sad and decide to go get my brain shocked. It doesn’t work that way. ECT is, in general, a last ditch effort when other treatments have failed. We have come a long way in mental health treatment just within the last few decades. Now, thankfully, we have antidepressants that do work for many people. They might even work for Scientologists, though I fear their problems mostly stem from being jerks.
And that’s another issue. It’s hard enough to juggle a chronic illness like Depression without dealing with other stress. Most people have to work. You’d be amazed at the number of people who have worked for years with the black dog dragging them down. Don’t tell the cute college students, but work kind of sucks at least part of the time, even if you like your job and your coworkers. I have been in my job as a library assistant at a university library for over seven years now. If it were not for the people I work with, especially my direct boss, I would not still be working. Like far too many people, I would be forced onto disability. Depression is the second greatest reason for people taking disability now. Only heart disease has more people.
Yet even with my decent working conditions, I am struggling to keep afloat. I already take antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. These help me if all conditions are going well, but stress is always present, and it doesn’t take much for my cup to runneth over. When you are depressed, everything becomes difficult. Bit by bit I’ve watched as I’m able to do less and less. Reading back on old blog entries, I can see my downward trajectory. For a well person, a stress would be your car breaking down. For a depressed person any of the following will do:
- Getting out of bed
- Putting on clothes
- Doing laundry so you have clothes to put on
- After that shower you haven’t taken
- Brushing and flossing your teeth
- Putting on makeup – sorry I made myself laugh there
- Getting your hair cut – I am now Rapunzel
- Taking your children to school in traffic
- Walking into work. And the day has just started.
People who are well have a hard time understanding this. Depressed people don’t understand it either, because often there is a disconnect between what part of your brain knows you should be able to do, and what the other part is willing to let you do. This disease does not exist in a vacuum – it exists in an ever winding circle involving illnesses both mental and physical. IBS, Asthma, auto-immune diseases, chronic pain, and even the heart disease that is winning the disability race all wind round and round. Did the depression cause the illness, or did the illness cause the depression, or both? Where does it start and where does it end?
I’ve always dealt with respiratory illnesses due to being allergic to all of creation. But in 2012, I came down with a serious case of pneumonia. This wasn’t your walking, take a pill, back in a few days kind of pneumonia. By the time doctors put their tiny heads together and figured it out a week after symptoms started – a chest x-ray! What a wild idea! – the pneumonia had spread over my entire right lung. It was a miserable experience. If you want to hear about it with cartoons and jokes, just look up “pneumonia” in the search box. Anyway, I missed over a month of work, and even after I returned it took a couple more months to fully recover. I never recovered my sick or vacation leave at work. From that point on, I was always running behind, making up time for being sick or going to appointments because I could never keep any leave. I almost never have a week with no absence. For the last five years I have wondered when they would fire me. At times, I hoped they would, because I was just so tired.
The depression came next. I’d been fairly well for the last several years on the meds I was on. Yet each major stress would cause a pill combination to fail. It didn’t help that my shrink was a psychotic idiot. I thought I had no other choice because I lived in a small city. He gave me meds, then if they didn’t work, he yanked them and threw others at me. Often there was no way to know what, if any, of my new meds were working and which were not. All these medications have side effects. One, Abilify, made me feel great for about a month before I was taken off of it for a 10 pound weight gain. I would be put on it another time at a lower dose, only to be taken off it once more after a few months because I was climbing the walls. I also developed a tendency to shop online which, along with gambling and other risk taking, is another possible fun side effect.
By the time I finally found another psychiatrist, I had been hospitalized three times. I fully believe that people should go to the hospital if they are suicidal or even just so desperate they can no longer cope. But after the first visit at my hospital, the other two were lousy experiences. I have a couple of these stories on the blog as well. However, the one good thing about the hospital was that you did not have to cope with the outside. They gave you meals. They gave you pills. You went to group. The other people could be kind of scary, yet you still felt a belonging with them. And while you wanted to leave, it was hard to return to the outside.
My new shrink is not perfect, but at least he looks me in the eye and seems to care. I encourage everyone, if possible, to shop for a good shrink. This guy is messing with your brain and body. It’s good to trust him if at all possible. No, most shrinks are not going to have long talks with you. They prescribe medicine because they have big brains filled with knowledge that does not always include common sense. Common sense is for counselors. Don’t be afraid to try talk therapy if you can, because it can be very helpful. Some people are able to get by with it alone. Some use it and medication. But for some, both of these stop helping after a while. I found myself on a cycle of new pills, everything okay, new stress, pills fail, rinse repeat. Finally my doctor suggested ECT.
I know I haven’t discussed much about the actual ECT, but I plan to in the next posts. My history is important though, because all of this weighed into my decision to try this treatment. It is my hope to detail the process of getting ECT (it is NOT easy) and then the actual ECT itself. Since I am told I will lose memory, I figure I should write down what I can when I can. My hope is to help other people who are faced with such a decision with information and not just fear mongering. ECT could fail. I could be worse off than before, but then again, I could be better. My family deserves for me to try this. I deserve to try this. I don’t want to spend a life in misery, and I’m willing to try whatever it takes.
I will officially start ECT on June 5th.
So here goes. Geronimo.
No, really, I mean – what? I have been sick a few days with what we Americans, or maybe just Southerners?, call the CRUD. I have a doctor who said that all upper respiratory infections, tonsillitis, bronchitis, laryngitis, oompalitis, etc are basically the same. So I have one of those. I don’t know. But I have been miserable. You know how miserable? Think of those ASPCA puppies and kittens they show you all the time. The ones that look like Hitler just electrocuted their mother right in front of them. They’re shivering, they’re hungry, they’re wondering why people are just filming them and not doing anything. Which I know I AM wondering. Like sheesh, get the puppy a blanket, and some dog chow you fiends. Sheesh.
It occurs to me the puppies might be actors. If so, well done, puppies.
Anyway, I have been just as miserable as those animals, only not nearly as cute. I was chatting with my friend Merbear on my phone and since I now have a Smart Phone . . . yeah. They got me. But not with the latest, greatest literally exploding phones. No, I have an old Samsung, but it still works. Like it lets me take videos of myself lying down and coughing into the phone so I can show my friend just how bad off I am. And she was like, “Have you tried steam?”
And I’m like . . . steam? I mean I have been having respiratory ailments since my teens and I am like now not a teen and I don’t know how many times I’ve used steam both for myself and my Things (kids for any of you newcomers. More on newcomers later) and I hadn’t thought of it yet. So thanks, Mer, I used steam and it helped a little. I still feel like crapsters, though, and I missed more work than I have time allotted for that, which hadn’t happened in a while and was quite annoying. It’s like my illnesses all hang out and try to figure out who gets to like jump me first. No, no, depression it was your turn LAST week, now let’s give stomach a try. No he had it before. What about me, the bladder – you know the one that – er – leaks. Okay, we’ll let you in, because the cough and that leak thing go together. Yay!
Where was I? Oh, right, sick. You know just when you think you have it all under control, one of those guys pops up. Or better, a new one comes in. Remember how in that emo post I wrote last time I mentioned Lice and other Holiday Tales? Well, yeah, lice came to visit. I hate bugs in general, but bugs that are like, ON YOU? Yeah, that’s beyond awful. So we treated Thing Two and then treated her again and then oh whew and then Thing One got it so we treated her and again and then later . . . they were back. Cause Thing One has very thick, curly hair and my husband and I have very little patience for combing with those awful combs that couldn’t go through a doll’s hair. But I had something up my sleeve. Research. That’s what I do, unless, you know, it’s for a post. So I found this comb, and wow it is like the Allah of Combs judging from what must be real reviews because these reviews were super intense. These people have war stories. So I ordered it.
Guess what Amazon Prime is late on getting to my house? Yup. I WANT MY COMB AMAZON.
So things have not been going that well for me. I was afraid I would never be funny again. This was my greatest fear here, not like dying of CRUD which I kinda thought I might a couple times cause holy crap it’s awful. But yeah, it’s humor, you got to have it. And when I wasn’t able to write, well that was lousy – uh – wrong word. But here I am, writing, and I don’t have a plan to it (did you pick up on that yet?) and it only has one pic in it which I had stored but hey I did it. Cause people have been looking at older posts of mine. So then I check them out. And I laugh because I like my own stuff. But also because it is memories of my life, like with my kids, my work, with me. And the sicks aren’t going to get me. Okay they will, but not like forever there will be days when I’m not sick of some sort! Or have bugs! Possibly! But also if I don’t write then I will not get to expose the really stupid people who have lately been commenting on my old posts. Do you remember booger guy? The one who corrected my grammar on a post about boogers? Well, there’s more of that kind of snot, get ready.
Eventually. Because there are people extremely concerned about my virtual family, a heretical Christmas song post, my knowledge of Sophia the First. Etc. But at any rate, I am trying. So the best thing you could do is not say you are sorry for me because life is life. We all have crap. Heck, our whole country got one big piece of it today, but I didn’t see any of it, or care, cause I was sick. So there are some good things about sick, I guess.
Please like and follow and comment because just one like or follow or comment could save this sad puppy from the horrors of this post.
Hello, all, for a change I decided to write a post on stupid politics. This one, though, is about the effect of politics, and this election specifically, on mental health. I know – who would get mental problems from this election? It is posted on a mental health blog called Canvas of the Minds. It’s a great site where bloggers from all over blog about mental health. Sometimes with snark – if they are me. So please visit Canvas and check out the other authors as well, or let those in your life who deal with this fun stuff know about it too. I will close comments so people will, hopefully, comment over there.
Couldn’t figure out how to reblog. So here is the link. LINK DROP!
I haven’t been posting as much lately. I’m not sure if very many people have noticed, but I have, and there is a reason for it. Put out an APB for one sad pony and one squirrel possibly high on meth tainted nuts.
In case you don’t know much about these two (any first time people who somehow stumbled over here can find out more on my About page) these guys represent my depression and anxiety. Guess which one is which? I’ve been having issue with both of these little hairballs, and since I’m allergic to fur, I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to both of them as well. Some say they are just pictures, but believe me, they are a little too real.
These guys didn’t always represent my issues. Originally Sad Pony was just a funny meme I found somewhere that I tossed onto my page. I loved him so much I did this quite often. There is something about a pony that just looks this sad. I realize he probably isn’t really sad, he’s just tired, you know, typical pony burnout. But he sure looks pathetic in that picture. Added to the humor (my sense of humor is a little different, like me!) are the words “Sad Pony is Sad.” I find this dopey redundant sentence totally hilarious. But also fitting. Because even depressed, I can see humor everywhere. Sometimes, with enough distance, I can see how humorous some of my depressive thoughts can seem. Like Eeyore on steroids.
At some point, Sad Pony just became another character on my blog, just as he is a character in my life. I am not depression, and depression isn’t me. In this case, it’s a fat pony that just flops down on top of me and says “Take a break. Take 50.” It’s rather hard to get things done with this thing sitting on you. Forget the black dog. I have a Sad Pony, and ponies are heavy, especially when lethargic. Or so I’ve heard. I’ve never met a real pony – er beside this one who is REAL. Somewhere. I mean I have no idea who shot this picture. But I thank them.
But I’m not always just sad. I also have anxiety. And the best way I’ve figured out to describe anxiety is with a squirrel. Have you ever watched these guys before? Holy crap, it’s like some wire in their brain is being repeatedly shocked so that they have to dart from here to there and back again for no particular reason that I can tell. Maybe it’s because they are toward the bottom of the food chain, and don’t want to get eaten. The only time I’ve seen them remotely calm is on the college campus where I currently work, and that’s because college students are always – purposely or not – feeding the little suckers. They’d grown so unafraid that they will actually sit on your foot. The squirrels, not the students. These squirrels can never leave campus or they will be killed almost immediately.
Squirrel also started out as a picture I threw into posts partly because of the Disney movie “Up” where a dog is given the ability to speak and, not surprisingly, he has little to say and is often distracted. He can be in the middle of a sentence, spot a squirrel, and yell randomly “SQUIRREL!” That’s my anxiety in a nutshell (pun intended bwaha). I can be totally fine and then suddenly feel extreme panic. I am fearful of what most people are not, like say going to work. Sure they might not want to go to work, but their adrenaline doesn’t shoot up because they are going there. This anxiety would be considered normal if I worked in, say, an ER. But I work in a library. Rarely is my life in danger at a library, though we have had snakes, bats, spiders, wasps, and yes, once a squirrel invade. Also when people shoot up campuses, they often go for the library. I learned this is our Active Shooter Training at work. It really helped with my anxiety.
As you can see, these two fellows often interact. Depression makes me see anxiety as even more ridiculous, causing me to feel sad, then spiraling me into anxiety because oh no I’m sad again and how long will this last and then back to depression because come on, you have nothing to be afraid of, Alice. Well, except maybe the possibility of a Trump presidency. Then again, if we do get him, we probably won’t last long as a country because we will be bombed off the earth. Either by other countries or ourselves.
Comforting thoughts, there. Not really, but what is comforting is that I have this blog. And over the years, I’ve had others identify with these two, and even encourage the figments of my imagination. It’s great when other people willingly share in your delusions. And no matter how much that squirrel runs, no matter how much he distracts me, no matter how much he encourages me to scroll through the Internet all day long or do impulsive things, I have a support system. Same with Sad Pony. There is usually someone – like friends Lindy, Jody, my best blog friend Merbear and naturally my Things (among others) – to eventually help distract me from the distraction of that squirrel. There is usually someone who, while maybe unable to lift that pony, will lie down with me until he leaves.
So I’m having a lot of ups and downs. Meds really help with this, especially this last one that injected several of Squirrel’s best friends directly into my bloodstream, leaving me wanting to literally climb the walls and run out of my own skin. You are ready for anything to help you at that point, even a fat pony to sit on those squirrels. But I stopped that med, and I continue to hope for the future. For even the most sarcastic people have hope. I thank this blog, and my blog readers, for helping keep up that hope. I thank them for letting me be Alice.
P.S. As a little aside, I have started another blog about my dolls, titled appropriately Wonderland of Plastic. I only have an introduction and one review up so far (Wonderrrr Womaaaaaaaaaan!), but promise more to come. I discuss the dolls and history and since it’s me, Alice, of course I have snark. I’m not sure I can totally write without it. This is also where I’ll be moving my doll stories with the Things. We have more torture planned for our Disney princess housewives. Because there is life after the fairy tale.
It’s Monday, ya’ll, which means another full week OF DREAD. I like to be prepared, so I started my dreading early – Sunday night – when my anxiety reached top notch and I had to decide how to calm it down. Oh, sure, there are lots of ways, but you have to be able to GET to those ways in order for it to work. For instance:
Music can be calming. But once you reach Maximum Squirrel Overload, you are kind of past that. No kind of music, saying you were calm enough to find a music player, is going to make you feel better. There are a few types of music. Sad music: bad idea cause you are already anxious and probably depressed about being anxious and sad songs won’t help. Happy music: bad idea too because what business do people have being happy when you are freaked out? Then there’s rap music most of which I think is best classified as Angry music because there is much talk of popping caps in posteriors. Popping a cap might help with anxiety, but the jail time afterward would not, so don’t try it. Also, what are your chances of being able to find the gun?
I love when people say to work out your anxiety or depression with exercise. Look, people, I have no idea where any of my sweatpants are, and if I did, they would be dirty. Then I would have to wash them. And dry them. And put them on. That’s way too much work when your mind is going 1,000 miles an hour. You are already getting a mental workout, and trying to add physical to it can be too much. I guess the best way to describe it would be to expect someone to solve 500 quadratic equations, cure Cancer, and write a symphony, then tell them they had to do this all on the treadmill or elliptical. Now yes, if you manage to get to a gym before you reach Squirrel Overload, you have a chance of physically beating that anxiety back, but if it comes on suddenly, it’s just way too late.
Hot, soothing beverage!
This is usually my best bet, except this time I could not make the cocoa because even though I had cocoa packets, I did not have milk. Well, I had milk, two half gallons, but they had both expired. Saying I was able to force myself to pour the milk (which might come up in chunks which milk should never do) down the drain without barfing, I couldn’t because there were already dishes in the sink. So first I would have to put the dishes in the dishwasher. Except the dishwasher is full so then you have to put the dishes up except that they didn’t all come clean, so they have to go back in the sink. No one wants milk curds on top of that. So forget it. Finally I drove to McDonald’s for some, but they “broke” the machine. I would break it too if I worked there, but still. I had to drive yet another place before I finally got my cocoa. Then I remembered I hadn’t taken some of my pills, so I swallowed them with cocoa only to swallow them wrong and get heartburn. Once I had finished taking care of the heartburn, I managed to go to bed. That, my friends, is way too darn much work.
The last thing I feel when under Squirrel Overload is funny although I probably act rather amusing and or terrifying (it’s such a fine line) when under the influence. This morning I was not as sparkified, just dreadish, and telling myself that I just had to go to work for a little while even though I wanted to stay home. So I drove my Things to school and somehow the conversation diverted to dead dogs because – are you really surprised with us? Anyway, we discussed Where the Red Fern Grows which is a classic children’s book because it involves two dead dogs AND a dead child (for more on the dead dog topic see my post on dead dogs in literature. It’s a real romp.) And the Things, who were both forced to read this book, reminded me that the bully in the book was killed and I was like oh when he was mauled to death and they said no, an ax fell on him. Which is such a great image there. And I was like, dang, that author had some sort of personal vendetta against dogs and boys named Billy. And Thing Two said, “Mom, it was just an AXident.” Get it? Well, we did, and we laughed, because we have problems. But not as many as the author of Where the Red Fern Grows.
So the dread is still there, but at least I made it to work. And when I think of that horrible pun about an ax falling on a kid, I smile. I guess when you are on Squirrel Overload, it helps to have a couple of Things handy. I’m willing to rent them out.
Yay, I’m back! Well, most of me! I think!
You might be thinking this post will finally solve the case of the missing gallbladder. You would be wrong. But I’m going to tell you all about it anyway. My sick posts tend to be some of my best, or at least my pneumonia ones got a lot of praise (story starts here – link drop!). Maybe I write better with lots of pharmaceuticals and / or fever. I don’t want to repeat the fever thing, nor do I know of a way to achieve one on purpose. And pharmaceuticals – well druggies ruin everything.
Where was I? Oh, right, my doctor scheduled me for surgery. When the big day arrived, my husband took me to the waiting room. Waiting for surgery is sort of like waiting for Christmas – only no gifts and they cut you open and stuff. So actually nothing like Christmas, except the expectation of something awful. Like pain. Or relatives. Yet I did get a present – my friend L came to hang with me, despite not actually needing to go to a hospital at all. This makes her insane, but a nice friend, especially for me.
They called me back and checked my vitals to make sure I was alive before they possibly killed me. Yeah, I know all about it, doctors, it’s hard to glance over that part of “possible death we are not responsible for” mentioned in that paperwork. Of course I signed it, because I felt bad enough to not care much anymore. I was nervous, so I focused on interesting and /or stupid things happening to write about later. I got some. They took me off again to a little temporary hospital room of my own with a TV and a bathroom and a bed that had to be hand-cranked because day surgery nurses are given a lot of crap.
I washed myself with a hand-i-wipe and put on my hospital gown. I’d never seen one like this before. Usually they are cloth and open to the back to better expose your behind. But this one was made of paper and had covered rimmed holes all over it. I wondered if they specially designed the gowns for doctors to peek through while doing surgery, but it turned out that they used them to, I’m not kidding, hook you up to a blow dryer. They stuck a hose on my gown and vroom instant warm. I have to get one of those things for home. It’s great.
They also hooked me up to an IV. They put it in my hand where it’s harder to find veins, so she poked around my hand with a needle and it was so fun. Luckily my husband turned on the TV to distract me with Dr. Phil. A lady suspected her husband of cheating on her, and her square-headed husband was all “No I didn’t but I’m not taking a lie detector test.” And Dr. Phil was rubbing his chin with that thoughtful look that said “I am taking this seriously” before telling the man that he was stupid liar. And he said he wasn’t. And his wife said she just had to know for sure if he was cheating on her because the marriage was totally worth saving because they’d had two kids in three years and how exactly was this guy managing to run around on her? My husband didn’t get five seconds off – I knew exactly when he was due home from work and I was maniacal enough from a day with screaming infants and toddlers to chase him down if necessary.
Once all my prepping was done, and my doctor had finished patient number one for the day, and Dr. Phil had run off before they revealed the lie detector results, they rolled me into the operating room. I have to wonder – do these operations get to be as routine as working at McDonald’s? I can imagine them rolling patients in one by one with a little number and then sending them out the door for pick up. Also with poking four holes in you, and pulling things in and out of it, I can’t help but think of the Operation game. Wouldn’t it be funny if it really buzzed if a doctor didn’t get their tools out of the holes just right? Like on that commercial, only with real patients. I would film it. Anyway, they rolled me to the operating room and then I was waking up in a totally different room and off I went back to my temporary hospital room. And people came to visit me and I said “I feel GREAT.” cause I did, I really did feel great. And they were happy I was all better now. But what I didn’t realize was that the reason I was all better now was because I was HIGH. It makes a difference.
I asked my husband what happened, since I had so many questions. Like did they actually find the gallbladder, or did they just poke holes in me and say forget it? Did they find it all shriveled up and hiding behind the liver like the freeloader it was? Was it just in the wrong place? When you carry babies inside you, your organs shift all over the place – fun fact they never tell you till you get pregnant. So maybe it was way down with the kidneys? I asked him. He said the doctor just told him the surgery went well, and they’d see me in like three weeks. Say what? I love my husband but he’s not good with the big questions. Like why was my gallbladder missing before and where was it now exactly? Not like I wanted it in a specimen jar, but I do like to have answers.
They left me with four bloody incisions covered in what some kind if sticky saran wrap – the wrap made the blood spread out so it looked about 500 times bigger than it was. The bellybutton one was especially pretty, with a jagged line looking a bit too much like the Joker’s smile. And while this was supposed to be “minimally invasive” I think if you put my abdomen up against a gun shot victim’s, they’d look pretty similar.
When I got up to walk around I felt a bit nauseous. Don’t ever tell your doctor this. They assume it’s the pain meds and tell you not to take them, and then you aren’t high, and then you realize you have been seriously snookered. I only had seven of them anyway – that’s right seven – and no refills. Thanks drug addicts. They let me go that afternoon. That evening Thing One had her premiere in the high school musical “Crazy for You.” I missed the first one, but I saw the second performance a couple days later. More on that to come, as well as the mystery of where the heck my gallbladder went. I think my story would make a fantastic musical, with dancing doctors, organs, and surgical instruments. Or maybe I’m just high.
P.S. It’s been over a week since surgery. I’m feeling much better now. 🙂
Some of you were wondering what happened with that whole missing gallbladder thing. Okay, one of you was, which is more than enough for me to spill my guts. So to speak. Anyway, after the test, I went back to work, probably getting radioactive cooties all over my desk, and an hour later I got a phone call. If you get a phone call from a doctor that quickly, it’s usually not a good sign. My GP’s office informed me that I was to see a specialist and they’d set up the appointment and everything. “Uh, for what?” I asked. And they said “The hospital didn’t tell you?”
Well, of course not. I asked why I was seeing a specialist and the nurse lady said it was because my gallbladder was dead. Look, I realize we’re not talking about hearts or brains or you know, popular organs here, but I still don’t think you should just tell a person a part of their body is dead just willy nilly over the phone. So I was rather shocked, since my doctor was sure they’d find nothing wrong (and he was partly right as they did find nothing), that there was actually something wrong. I told them that the doctor hadn’t even seen my gallbladder and the nurse said “oh” and covered the mouth piece and I heard muffled talking in the background. “She says they didn’t see it?” This did nothing to reassure me.
“Oh a non-visual gallbladder still means it’s not working,” the nurse said. “Your appointment’s on Friday!”
And she went off to get her latte. This test and phone call took place on Monday. Which meant I had until Friday to Google “Non-visual gallbladder”. I don’t recommend doing this. Pretty much everyone recommends NOT doing this, but I am both a masochist and an obsessive researcher, which makes for a good librarian but kind of a nutball otherwise. I found out that gallbladders aren’t visual on scans sometimes because they’ve shrunk all up and stuff. I bet my award-winning liver is just so embarrassed to have that pathetic gallbladder nearby.
I found plenty of tales of people who got their gallbladders out, and their entire lives were ruined forever and ever. Many warned “Do not let them take your gallbladder!” and I pictured Mel Gibson shouting it in a fake Scottish accent. But the thing is, if the organ’s not working, leaving it in your body isn’t exactly going to do you a lot of good either. Because I read, you might want to put that sandwich down, that gallbladders can rot and get gangrene. Delightful!
So I told people about my dead gallbladder and people were about as enthused as if I’d told them about my dead goldfish. “Ah, happens all the time!” they said. “I know like my sister, aunt, dog, etc had theirs out! Why some people just go get it taken out for giggles! Nothing to worry about.” So I spent the week being annoyed at the people who said this was the end of the world, and annoyed at the people who completely dismissed it. I finally went to the doctor on Friday, and mostly spoke to the nurse, who seems like a nice lady. She told me her husband, the doctor, took out her gallbladder. That must have been interesting. I let my husband work on my car all the time, but I’m not sure I’d let him work on my body. What if he put something back wrong? Awk-ward.
I’ve learned so much about gallbladders. I liken our knowledge of our bodily anatomy to our knowledge of foreign geography. There are many organs in the body that we don’t know the name of, the location of, the purpose of, or that they even exist until there is an attack. Sort of like how we never knew anything about the Middle East till we starting bombing them. I had no idea where my gallbladder was, or my liver for that matter. I’m pretty sure the only organs people know much about are the brain, heart, and lungs, since it’s kind of hard to live without any of them, and you don’t need a road map to find them.
The doctor gave me a pamphlet about my surgery that had a picture of this weirdly happy lady on the cover. There were gross pictures inside it of the gallbladder and the liver, and other pictures detailing the surgery. It’s called Laproscopic, meaning they poke four holes in you like a potato before you put it in the microwave, and then they stick a camera in one of the holes, and their operating instruments in the other holes. I have no idea how they do this, or who first thought up the idea, or how they first tried it out. Did some aspiring doctor just feel like poking holes in his cat one day as a kid? No idea.
So they cut your gallbladder off and seal it and then just whoosh, pull it out through one of the holes in a baggie. I’m not even kidding. They stick it in a baggie, like you might bring your sandwich in (I told you to put your food down). And after that, they re-rout your liver to take a right at the intestines and bang, you’re good to go. Recovery from this takes no time at all! Saying they don’t screw it up somehow! Anyway, it has to be done cause that’s why I’m so sick. So naturally the first time they could get me in to do the surgery was in two weeks, which I’m told is actually very fast for doctors. If it blows up (I’ve heard it can) then I might get in faster.
So I’ve made it one week, and am looking forward to preop and more tests, and then the actual surgery next Thursday. You can bet I’ll have a report, saying I survive and all. I have missed a lot of work, so asked the doctors if I could have a note for work. They said they couldn’t write a note for nothing, cause I hadn’t had the surgery yet, their logic being that I was having the surgery for absolutely no reason, and would only need time off to recover from the not-needed surgery. Apparently. At least my Thing Two was concerned about me.
“How long will you be in the hospital, Mommy?” she asked.
“Oh, I’ll probably get out the same day,” I reassured her.
“Then I don’t get to have fun spending the night at Grammy’s, like when you had Pneumonia?”
Thanks, Thing Two.
Stomach viruses suck. So do rotten stomachs, which is something I’ve had since I was a little kid. All my worry is processed in my stomach, so I often hear people groan “You and your stomach.” My depression wasn’t diagnosed until after they first performed a bunch of stomach tests including the “drink liquid chalk and let them take funny pictures of your insides with radiation and pretend they see something while hiding behind protective walls” test. They didn’t find anything with all the tests, so they said “Passin’ the ball to you, mental people!”
They do this a lot because it is well known, by doctors anyway, that the brain and other bodily organs have absolutely nothing to do with one another even though they are all part of the same body. Each organ should have someone different taking care of it, these people should not communicate, and if it happens to be something none of these specialists understand, it’s off the the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist being the one guy who does not issue funky tests unless you want to count the “Hey, try this drug. It probably won’t kill you.” test.
But, wait, Alice, you might say, isn’t there research saying there is a strong mind-body connection? Haha, don’t be silly. Where did you get that from? John Hopkins? Mayo Clinic? Frauds, I tell you! The majority of doctors are far too busy misdiagnosing people and making sure their malpractice insurance is up to date to look at stupid research.
Well it turns out I do have depression and anxiety which do affect bodily systems, like my gut. My GP ran some tests and informed me that my liver test wasn’t normal – it was like, way better than other livers! Like, go liver! Except that hey I still feel like crap. So he decided I would have a Cholescintigraphy (Also Called Gallbladder Radionuclide Scan or HIDA scan) performed. It’s a test that checks gallbladder function. And you read that right, boys and girls. It involves radioactive crap – only instead of just a scan, they shoot this little tracer thingy up into your veins!
I was super excited about this test, especially after the nurse said I got to be a super hero and just in time for Halloween! I always wanted to be Spiderman. Shooting webs from your hands and bouncing from building to building sounds like fun. Superheroes get all the perks. Like I bet Superheroes don’t have to work, not if they’re smart. Why blend in with the population when you can be totally famous just being yourself? Huh, Spidey? Enough whining about personal responsibility and crap. Have some fun.
So they injected me with the radiation, but I didn’t immediately get super powers. Instead they had me lie under this table with my arms held up in a sling and this scanner looming over me while they took pictures of my organs. I wonder if they saw my liver and thought to themselves – there is a LIVER. Give it first prize. I hope they saw my liver anyway. Because what they didn’t see was my gallbladder.
Yup, supposedly I was to lay there thirty minutes while they took glamour shots of my gallbladder, then they were to give me some other stuff, possibly nitroglycerin so I could explode my radiation all over the place, that was going to show them how my gallbladder functioned. This was all supposed to take an hour. Only they never took any pictures of my gallbladder because, after a lengthy search, they couldn’t find it. Yup, that’s right, they lost an organ. I’m pretty sure I’d remember having an organ out. Clearly these doctors could have used a good map.
I figured they were going to send in another tracer to help with the search party, or consult with a specialist like that dog from Blue’s Clues, but no, she just told me to go. So I asked like, “What was the doctor going to get from this if they didn’t find the organ?” “Oh, he’ll know something just by not finding it”, she said. Know what? She couldn’t say. Right. So after that, and a rather hefty bill, I’m left more confused than I was before the test, which I’m pretty sure is how they are designed.
But that’s okay, because according to the nurse, I am still radioactive for the next couple of days at least. Don’t mess with me. I’m the Nuclear Librarian, you guyz.