Hello to all you amazing Canvas readers! Remember me? Maybe? Just a little? Clearly it has been a long time since I showed my lovely face around these parts. Some of that has been life, part of it has been Blog For Mental Health 2014, but most of it. . . Well, here goes.
The last post I wrote for Canvas, well, I started composing it at the end of 2013, moved on to actually writing it into March 2014, read and re-read the 1,800 words I had managed to knock it down to, and after all that I finally shelved it. You see, as some of you know, I was incredibly ill from September 2013 well into January 2014. I wanted to write about it, to somehow put it all down in words, because I have never been so ill in my life, and the experience became one of severe trauma.
You see, as well as I thought I was faring (and all things considered, I was faring well), I still had a visit from a not-so-old, not especially friendly phenomenon. I had three or four Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures (PNES). These have very aptly been described as “bodily idioms of distress” (Medscape), and I first met up with them after my electroconvulsive therapy in 2010.
Without going into detail, essentially your body is screaming at your mind that all is really not well and you need to deal with it. I thought I was forever done with the PNES a couple of years ago, after working through my PTSD as far as was possible. But as I have told more than one friend, PTSD is the gift that just keeps on giving. I realize that while I am healthy as I am ever going to be in respect to that issue now, certain pieces of it will stay with me forever. Strange though it may sound, that’s okay.
Particularly those seizures, I think, are here for the duration, and for them I find myself weirdly grateful. They clued both my doctor and myself in to the fact that no matter how well I was holding on in the moment, I was scared on a very deep level as far as the degree to which my body was shutting down. It’s important to realize and to be prepared for this. If I’m honest about all that is going on, I have a better chance of tackling and treating it.
As far as the physical illness triggering everything, that experience I tried for months, with thousands of words, and ultimately in vain to explain? We have no idea what it was. None. At the time all indications pointed to a severe recurrence of mononucleosis, and I am grateful that’s what I believed it to be, even though I was wrong. Had I been looking otherwise at what was going on, staring down what was ultimately an unknown making me so ill, I know that my mind most probably would have shattered. It took me about two months into my recovery to admit my doctor was right, that what I went through was not mono, it was something strange and foreign, a disease process that we will probably never have a name for.
That, in and of itself, is a different kind of trauma I am processing now. There is only so much I can do with it, and I know it’s going to be quite a while before I’m through this part. But through it I will get, of that I haven’t any doubt.
What I went through, what I’m still recovering from, I may not be able to communicate it adequately, but it deserves acknowledgement and recognition, if for no one else but me. Because though the illness was physical in nature, it turned into something profoundly traumatic for me, mentally.
Eventually, the mental distress and dissonance resulted in a trip to the Emergency Department on the 16th of December. Physically, I was absolutely ill enough to warrant a trip to the ED. Ostensibly, I went in because I was so damned sick and tired of being sent to this doctor and to that one, of getting inconclusive, contradictory, non-answers altogether. I went to the ED because I figured they could do a better job of checking every system, at least the basics, and giving me a full workup that would hopefully result in some answers.
Honestly, though, I went because I knew if I had to stand even one more day of chaos and uncertainty, that tenuous, thin hold I had against a major mental health crisis, all the fighting I had done up until then, it would be lost.
That was the first time I have ever known the deep need to take myself to the hospital because my very survival hinged on it. In all my 33 years, I had never wrestled with hurting myself or become suicidal — a major miracle in itself — but that day I knew my mental state depended upon answers about my physical state.
I didn’t actually get any answers, at least not any new ones. And yet I somehow left the vast majority of my anxiety on that hospital bed along with the gown I had worn. There were no seizures after that day, and that alone had a tremendous impact on me beginning to heal. I cannot imagine a stronger argument for how intimately and inseparably mental and physical health are linked.
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