In 2000, one of my students, age 5, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I was working in the Early Years Program at the time as was a certified Developmental Service Worker which gave me the knowledge and specialty of working with children and youth with Developmental Delays and Learning Disabilities. I would do a lot of one-on-one work with the identified children
I’m writing this in response to a follower who asked me what a state of fugue was. I did “micromessage” them but one can not truly go into great detail in a micromessage. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to do so solely based on my personal experience.
I apologize for the length of this post, but I thought it was important to show how tedious it is to get an accurate diagnosis.
Well I wish I could tell you it was an easy process...but it wasn't. It was long, and at times, a very grueling one.
Fortunate for me, because of my short stint in the psychiatric unit, I was immediately assigned a psychiatrist, one that I instantaneously connected with, I've had him, and only him, for a little over 6 years, and our family absolutely adores him. He is an old school pen, paper, and files kinda guy, he counsels me for one hour a month, and isn't the typical pill pusher type of psychiatrist.
Initially, the process started with a lengthy questionnaire, that I had to fill out, and he tabulated the results. Based on what the ER on-duty psychiatrist had documented and his results, based on his interview with me and my husband, as well as the questionnaire, his initial diagnosis was Bipolar Disorder II, Rapid Cycling, Mixed State.
He then scheduled me for blood workup, a CT scan, and EEG, to rule out tumors, and to a neurologist, to rule out out MS or any other neurological disorders. I passed with flying colours. Was that a good thing or a bad thing?!
At my next visit, a week later, he interviewed my parents, as he wanted feedback on what I was like as a child, in elementary school, and in high-school. He wanted to see if there were any early warning signs or symptoms, as late onset at the age of 41 isn't the typical. The typical age of onset is before the age of 25. (Source NAMI.org) Yes, I had a very "normal" (sorry again) life, I was always cheerful, had a great long-lasting circle of friends, and did well at school.
He also interviewed my two girls to find out what kind of mother I was. HaHa! They said I deserved the mother-of-the-year award as I was so loving, I took great care of them, I never raised my voice, I did crafts with them about every other day, I read books to them nightly, I always included them while I was cooking or baking (Mommy's Little Helpers!). I taught them manners, how to respect their elders, and I taught them the importance of being involved in their community.
So basically, until the "event" that triggered my Bipolar Disorder, I was fine in all aspects of my life.
Now the torture begins! My psychiatrist referred me to a specialist at CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association, in Toronto, Ontario). I had 2 sessions, each lasting 4 hours, of interviews, question and answer period, mind games etc. After each session my brain felt like it was about to burst! I was a little deflated as the specialist confirmed the initial diagnosis of Bipolar II Rapid Cycling Mixed State (this I will discuss in a later post on how this feels for me).
Lastly, my psychiatrist referred me to Baycrest Heath Sciences, also in Toronto, Ontario, which typically serves the older population who have dementia, Alzheimer's, and cognitive disorders. Yes, I was only 42 at the time, and a long ways away for being considered part of the "older population", I was referred to Baycrest Health Sciences as they are one of the leading centres in brain health. Similarly, as with those who have dementia or Alzheimer's, I have cognitive issues, that being in my "frontal lobe" (the front part of your brain) which affects my "executive functioning" (difficulties with planning, verbal fluency (grasping for words), inability to multitask, difficulty processing, storing, and retrieving information, loss of interest in activities and trouble planning for the future). Note: At this point my IQ had actually dropped, since then though, due to my new learned brain exercises, it has gone up.
Now with that large serving of information, I had learned a lot about my physical brain, how it works, and where my deficits lay. The specialist relieved me, that I was not headed into early ages of dementia or Alzheimer's, but my cognitive impairments were clearly caused by my Bipolar Disorder.
So, the bottom-line is, being confirmed by psychiatrist and two highly trained specialists, that I have Bipolar II Rapid Cycling Mixed State.
It was a long and tedious process, but was important to me to get a proper diagnosis.
I will now leave you, as that was a lot of information to process! I will address more on this in upcoming posts.
To be blatantly honest, I don't remember the next 5 days.
Once upon a time, the was a "normal"(my apologies on using that word) Laura. It was one month after my 41st birthday. I apparently was alert, zero signs of anything concerning or abnormal. I got dressed in my uniform, drove to work, and chatted with some of the staff. I then took some of my co-workers to an industrial building, when suddenly I stopped walking, I was unresponsive, somewhat like a catatonic state. Someone brought me home (to this day I don't know who it was).
I then perked up and insisted on going to Canadian Tire (local hardware store), wearing a skimpy black dress. When my husband and I were touring through the store, I thought that I must have a 200lb concrete bird bath and started dragging it down the aisle. Hubby put that back. I immediate discovered a $2000 BBQ that we HAD to have, which I started wheeling down another aisle, even though we had a perfectly good one at home! Let's just say hubby got me out of there quick before I actually purchased something outrageous.
Remember, I STILL don't have any recollection of anything! I apparently was very happy when we returned from the store and BBQd steaks, on our perfectly good BBQ. I even sauteed mushrooms and onions, baked some potatoes, and whipped up a Caesar salad for the family.
After dinner, hubby noticed that I was starting to crash; slurring my words, walking very slow and staggering, so he told me to sit down in a chair, that he had put out for me in the sun, while he worked on his car.
I guess at some point, I went into the house and made 5 superficial cuts on my left forearm. I went to the adjoining door to the garage telling him, "Hun, I've been a bad girl". His response was calm with an "Oh Geez".
He then realized that something seriously wrong with me and immediately drove me to the ER. After being examined by the on duty psychiatrist, who gave me an initial diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder with psychotic features, I was convinced to voluntarily admit myself into the psychiatric unit for observation and initial treatment, I was not placed under the "72 hour watch". (Note: I STILL have no recollection of these events!
After 3 days of being on the "lock down" side of the unit, I finally awoke from my state and was alert. The nurse came in, with a big smile (one of the two nice nurses there, in my opinion). She asked me where I was, I looked around and replied, "a hospital". I provided her with my name and date of birth. It was only when she asked me what day it was, that I realized that I had lost a few days!
They then transferred me to "other side" of the psychiatric unit, assigned me my room, with another female, and was encouraged to mingle and participate in the group sessions. I volunteered to stay an additional 5 days to ensure the med therapy, the had given me, was working.
I hate to say this, I wanted to get out of there so much sooner and so did my husband as it wasn't the most healing environment. I realize the staff had their rules, but it was run literally like a jail (maybe worse). If I was exhausted by the end of the day and asked politely if I could take my night meds a half hour earlier, they would just point at the clock, give you a dirty look, and state, "medications are distributed for another half an hour", and slide the plexi glass window shut. All the lights were shut down at a specific time; bedrooms, halls, most of the common areas, except the nursing offices. If I got up in the middle of the night, as I wasn't quite tired, I would quietly grab my book, and walk to the common area, that did have a light on, and sit and open my book and read. The two nice staff, would come up to me smiling, and quietly ask, "you can't sleep?" and I would tell them I would only read for a little while, as reading made me sleepy, and I would return to my room shortly, which I always did. The rest of them however, would scold me like a child and send me back to my room like I was being punished!
The hospital, as a whole, is very lovely; comfy chairs, warmly painted walls, lovely art work on the walls, and nice new magazines. However, the "psych ward" was a totally different experience; mismatched furniture, old torn magazines, it's not a warm and nurturing environment; it's cold with it's atmosphere and staff (minus the two nice ones).
That was my "one and only" psychotic episode that has ever occurred, due to a life altering event (the trigger), since my diagnoses in 2010. I stay med compliant, to the letter, and use every one of my learned coping strategies so I will NEVER have to go there again! After a total of 10 days (5 being unaware, 5 being aware), I was discharged to go home.
I do however, stop in several times a year, to drop off new magazines that I have read because I know they will be appreciated by the residence.
So, if you have some fairly not abused magazines or puzzle books you aren't using, please don't throw them out, and consider donating them to your local psychiatric unit!
Laura Marchildon will blog honest and true posts about her real life experiences.