Thursday, August 16, 2012

Crohn's, Prednisone, and Depression

"I hope I don't catch depression."

We were somewhere in the house, the same house where this same fear hauntd me when I was a teen, when J. randomly made this announcement.  He said it as if he DID NOT want to catch the mental illness as if it were germs picked up from the pencil sharpener at school. 

hmmm. I thought as I peered over at him
and saw the determined look
in his face.

I saw me.

Sooooo.... First off I thought:

'Does he even know what it is?'  Thus far into his short life, he's been around a lot of health field related stuff....

In order to find out what exactly he thought this Depression thing was I had to ask him some questions.

What do you think it is? What do you think will happen? Why does it scare you?

 He linked it to drinking alcohol,  being drunk and or on drugs; and being unhealthy- then people don't like you and you're bad.

  I confirmed to him it wasn't "catching".

(However there are all those surveys and tests that show, if a mom is depressed her kid is bound to be, too. More guilt to pour all over motherhood! Thank you surveys!)

I couldn't help but go back into my own youth and self righteously and pray, prove, that  I  Never, Ever, would "fall" victim to depression. --From my High Horse I was Convinced that I would never lay all day in bed or not be able to find the strength to lift all those muscles that I'd earned throughout my youth playing sports and go out throwing a football with my kid (s)

If I wasn't in a sport I would go out daily and put in the River Run/Walk with my Pea Pod friend around the corner. We'd work out. Once I even had the thought in my brain: "I could still find the energy and dogged determinedness to work out if I had an extra thirty pounds.- I could fight hard and lose them." And then I skipped off in my tight jean floral shorts.  (that hit my knees)
(Look, it's all coming back in style again! Just too short, unless you unleash your mamabilly.I should have kept those jean shorts from Jay Jacobs. Darn.)

Running in the harsh Rexburg winters around campus, around the track- wondering how many miles I'd run until my missionary got home; came swiftly to a halt when I got sick. Real sick with some kind of lung problem. It felt like a heart attack. The Torment (brother) and also occassional running partner to me to the ER where they told me I had pnuemacysstis. And infection in the lung lining that hurt like the dickens every time you moved, coughed, breathed or thought.

 I stopped running. Walking up to class was tough enough with the lung thing going on.

So the stars aligned and that's when my career as an athlete took a dive, my health bordered on mono or just laziness. I tried to work out every day inside but I still had to walk back home in the cold.

All crashed into a heap when the Crohns Disease took its grip; I fell off the horse and have tried hardily to climb back on it and only gotten my foot stuck in the stir-ups.

Graduation came and all I could muster was enough energy to throw my stuff in a the back of the truck and move home, never mind walking for my diploma.  Which I justified as cheesy- I felt half way done!

I should've gone! Those moments need to be celebrated!

However, J.'s one question that day was at the center of my being through out my life. The big fear that had held my whole life in its grip: would I suffer with this bizarre mental thingy ma job?

I did.

I do.

And if you can believe, I had a question recently posed to me about which had the worst stygma:

Depression or suffering from an embarrasing auto-immune disease that left me gastrointestinally challenged" Crohns. Oh, and had a family of disorders and cousin diseases with it.

But which did I think was "worse".

I paused. I had to think hard.

The constant running to the bathroom. Becoming deathyly dehydrated after twenty to 30 times a day of losing everything inside of me. The painful fissures that bore through my skin through which feces ran past every time I ran to the john. A disease that was worse than child birth, without an epidural AND a default episiotomy clear through?

Would there be ANY question which partial genetic disease was worse?


The social stygma of depression was more taboo and uncomfortable than having to discuss same sex marriage at a Presedential Debate. It seemed more acceptable to discuss politics, sexual orientation, and even bowel movements than depression.

Yes, I would much rather handle and have a disease that has white blood cells attack your body than be minutely associated to Depression. Sadly, they are linked. All of it. Together. ugh.

And once the D word is dropped, and I don't mean diarrhea,  people are wondering if you are bi-polar, Schizophrenic or.... whatever else that involves frenzied hair, being holed up in a house like a hermit or a brillaint Phantom that goes about operating an Opera House.  Geez. Heaven forbid!

With the Crohns, everyone associates Crohns with your stomach, what ya can and can't eat and going to the bathroom NONE stop. Which, right there, you'd think that being in the ladies rom that much, and it sounding like a Civil War being played out, would be enough to confine you to your home memorizing The Gettysburg Address- but after the decade long initiation to the disease, it's half my worries.

The trailing disorders of this disease attack the pancreas, liver, eyes, bones, joints-- you name it; they all come quietly packaged with this disease. But it's the one package of it attacking your brain and nerves that gets on your nerves.

Once I got the bathroom routine down- Carry wipes, Oust spray in the small bottle, and a few other goodies along with a good sense of humor; you are set. (Until the disease progresses and you're carrying a small first aid kit. Just let that go. And find some funny friends or something.)

When you have an illness you swap war stories, notes, and other bits of advice. Some that
I've talked with adamantly deny any depression with their Crohns. And say so proudly as if they were strong enough to cast off the evil spell. Which left me feeling weak.

 They could be completely telling the truth. But it was that way they said it- how they avoided depression; the effort in which they let you know that it isn't the case with them tells me there is something there that we all like to pride ourselves on:

Normal Brain Function.

 Sometimes I think my suffering with this fun package of illness is payback, or to be humbled for judging those I judged when I was younger. Or for those that I see that I think:

"Someone please sedate her."

And it's me.

What a revelation the day I found out about Prednisone Pshychosis!

(Prednisone model- so harmless and college-ish chem. class looking. Don't be deceived.)

Finally, a name to ascribe the hell that is prednisone! A real founded illnes brought on by that lovely, continously giving drug. Whether you struggled with pre-existing, predisposed, unprepared prednisone induction- you could develop this lovely mental illness. That is perhaps temporary. Comes when it wants. Leaves when it wants. Or leaves you alone. But it is a gift- that keeps giving- even when you are off of it! Yay!

When I read about a 3 year old patient who turned "pred punk" on her folks and had to talk to the oncologist about Pred Pyche.... I bawled. Yes, I was on prednisone. But can you imagine? One day you are you. And then you are you on prednisone and you are you on prednisone; isn't that fun.

Somehow I thought that if I stayed "fit" enough, busy enough, or whatever ENOUGH- I could escape the dreaded Depression side-effects.  Everything points to the fact that if you eat healthy, work out, think positively, heck, you will stay mentally fit as a fiddle.

 Documentaries on cancer, or you name the topic- are much more uplifting and honorable than say the legacy poor Lincoln's wife has had to leave historians all these years. "yeah, Lincoln woud just have to go outside and take a walk when his wife got "sullen" or became a, this is my recent favorite cliche comment: "a hot mess".

I feel horrible for judging an individual who once stood at my church's testimony meeting and spoke for a good 30 minutes. This poor person, I thought. I shifted uneasily in my pew as intimate and odd info was poured out over the congregation.

 My eyes would lazily drift to the clock. Then to the person. Back to the clock. Eventually to family members with wide eyes if something crazy was said. Then we I would look to the Bishopric. Some of them sitting quite stoicly, others shifting in their chairs and me wondering if there really were these red lights on the podium that I'd heard rumor of in certain circles that were for the "emotionally and elderly unstable." A sort of kind way of saying, please sit down.

Now I see this person functioning in society- doing all sorts of volunteer work and am ashamed of my pre-mature judgement and subsequent pay back. And I'm spilling testimony on a blog.----

It was in HS that I first learned the names of some Depression medication

and they were said and talked about in such a way that it would be more acceptable if you did heroine at a party then ending up on one of those. And in a way it seemed it was connected to your marriagability. And you couldn't mess with that! Heck! You needed to be married, have several children, stay in shape, serve in various church callings and have perfect hair!

When I graduated from the two year church college unmarried; there was almost a stygma to that, too. I didn't find the ONE.

It wasn't until 26 that I realized,, hey I am young.  But by then I was married to my disease and that was easy to say.

I'd endured pioneering of drugs. I'd been put on prednisone without much guidance and no google to meet and discuss side effects. I didn't know I could ask my Dr. for a sleep med to help me go to sleep- and here I was a full grown adult at a major university. But I was so damn sick, I couldn't even answer the phone or call my Dr. to discuss these things. It was the late 90's.

Now, I am all set up with Dr.s who can help my lungs, gutt, arthritis, and Depression. I have found meds to help endure the prednisone moments. Not that it is any easier, or that you don't still say what you would have censored under normal circumstances because your brain is just on fast forward- but it helps.

When I read about people who try to do it themselves or say things to the effect that they want to- it makes me wonder: "Am I weak?"  And sometimes I think: "No, I have the gutts to address my problem. I'm sorry this person has to suffer alone."

Don't get me wrong- Tom Cruise is right on the money when he says some psychiatric drugs are poison. All drugs are poison, Tom. You have to find the right one for you.

I feel sorry for those out there that can't admit they see a shrink. It took me awhile to say I was seeing a pshychiatrist. But then I started to wear that sentence like a badge of honor. Heck, I was seeing a person who went to shrink school AND med school!!! Lucky me! But it takes time and I still like to see the reaction on people's faces when I mention it in conversation.

Or the time when I was in the ER for Crohns and the PA suggested I see one and I told him I was. He was confuddled. But I forgave him. Which is a lot of what you have to do with suffering and being sub par- forgive. Not others. Yourself. For not meeting the standards you set for yourself.

Oh, and don't forget courage. Heck, I'd run into the twin towers and try to save someone rather than have fam members or friends see me sitting on a heating pad on the couch or taking a bath in the middle of a nice day cause prednisone has me sweating so bad.

It took courage in HS to acknowledge zits, some hair in unwanted places. The peach fuzz on my upper lip. But now, with all these side effects, one of which is hair growth in odd places- like your tear ducts for example. But, no worries, these are soft compared to the nice boar bristle that starts coming in all over your face. Which is a good thing or else blinking would be harder than usual.
And, no, it doesn't make your eye lashes come in fuller. In fact you lose hair where you want it and grow it where you don't.

I feel sorry for those who suffer mental illness and feel they won the Gold Medal for Not seeing a shrink and feeling their way through life on their "own".  But there are side effects to some drugs that aren't fun- and that is their perogative to choose. But what I am referring to is the feeling of superiority. Of self accomplishment at NOT succumbed to getting help.

Those kind of people who have such strength that they can have amputations without anesthia.

One day I was talking to a person who had broken off an engagement to someone and finally, with reluctance just said: "Insert gender here, was bi-polar." As if that was a sufficient explanation why THAT relationship was a NO GO.

I nodded, with agreement- fully acknowledging that was akin to marrying an AX Murderer. "yeh, you don't want to go THAT route." But in the back of my mind I am thinking: "Whatever happened to in sickness and in health? Well physical health.... yeah... but the other. Boy, look out.

More and more we  vets come home with PTSD. Well, now it has a name. But every person that probably went to war walked away with some mental change. I mean, look at Padre. That poor soul was conditioned to have everything in his vicinity clean and he had to raise 7 kids that hadn't been to boot camp- well, technically.

All this rationalization in the middle of the night on a blog, nonetheless, has been something I have wanted to write about for a magazine at some point in my earlier writing aspiring days. But I needed to do some research. Not just haphazardly start discussing a topic like right now.

Too late.

The memories of being a kid and not wanting to enter into what my mom did resurrected when J. made his comment. I feared The tired look on my mom's face and vacancy that came over me as a young woman when I distanced myself from my mother and latched on to things at school and severed the emotional connection to her suffering.

J. would call it payback- but I think it is better termed understanding of sorts- when you yourself get to see ALL that you feared of happening to you, happen. At first you think God is punishing you for having such horrible thoughts of another person and being so judgemental.

OR, you are coming to realize that you were one naive, uneducated soul as you have had your heart thrown out there on the public chopping block.

I feel a deep regret for being embarrased about my mother coming to pick me up in the suburban after a Jr. High practice. For being embarrassed that she wore MY hand me downs- so we could buy that pair of basketball shoes and pay that fee. I feel like such a punk for feeling like a victim at points when I looked at my teammates parents in the stands and asking myself: where was my mom and Dad? But have you seen the cost of getting into a game? Good night, nurse!

He worked odd hours and can you imagine taking three young kids to a game and having to chase them under those old school bleachers. But really it made me nervous when they were there because I wanted to play GOOD when they were. I wanted them to see that all THEIR hard work to allow me to get out of doing the paper route and depending on them to provide shoes for each new season, was paying off.  (For the record they were there at times. And they were there at state. And I can still hear my mom's shrieking, nervous cheering coming frm the bleachers and those are the best memories.)

Some women, and men, are able to successfully hide or deny their deficiencies. I proud myself when go out and about and see someone homeless, or an individual who can't match their clothes and gives long testimonies. But then I recall those moments when I made an absolute fool of myself at the pulpit and the days that I didnt' care if I matched either. I still am pretty proud. And I deny my mental status on a daily basis at times, if it suits me and can help me get through the day.

I still can't decide if I could choose which is worse and where the lines even cross:

Crohns /suffering from Depression.

But I don't get the choice as to which to deal with as they come bundled. Some days I'm glad I have the perspective of it and others, I just hate it and I wonder what it would be like to be that young woman who had the strength to get it all done, the sports, the cleaning, the homework, the degree, the job.

As J. is getting older I am realizing what is embarrassing to him... and it is pretty funny. One slip of the tongue about a simple thing and boy howdy. This is going to be one long haul for him- and me. I will try to stay in the background- but I blog.

I write. And, like my mother, I get really excited at sporting events  if I have the strength. So he'll just have to suffer.  Sorry in advance, Son.

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