As I posted several days ago, I recently suffered kidney failure which was most likely caused, or contributed to, by years of taking lithium. Lithium has been a major part of my treatment for schizoaffective disorder, but given my current health situation, I had to stop taking it. This led to the worst relapse I’ve ever had. I’ll be honest, I was pretty scared.
I have started a new medication to replace the lithium, and am feeling a ton better. Since medications can be a trial-and-error process, I might not be out of the woods quite yet, but so far so good.
The last few weeks have been grueling both mentally and physically, and I want to share my story. Mental illness is so common, and I hope others can see the light at the end of the tunnel like I have.
A little about the symptoms of my relapse…
My thoughts were rapid-fire snippets. I’m normally not much of a talker, but I just couldn’t shut up. I randomly switched from topic to topic and could laugh and cry in the same sentence. Through all of my rambling, I kept telling my husband, “I’m still in here!”
It was exhausting – an up-and-down rollercoaster ride. I felt confused, a little disoriented, and out of control. It was like I had symptoms of depression and mania at the same time which I had never experienced before. I also had a few panic attacks – another first for me – and it was absolutely terrifying.
I got to a point where I let my hygiene go. I smelled, I couldn’t remember the last time I washed my hair or my body, and I apologized to my husband for my sasquatch legs (although he really didn’t care).
A little confession – It was kind of funny because I wasn’t sleeping and I was writing blog posts in the wee morning hours, but I was too afraid to post anything in case it didn’t make sense. I was aware that I was symptomatic. Unfortunately, I did embarrass myself on social media and am now in damage-control mode. It hurt but the only thing I can do now is look back with a sense of humor.
When I started to feel better, it felt like a fog had been lifted, like the last few weeks were a dream and never really happened. I’m not quite 100 percent yet, but I’m getting there. I plan on returning to work this week.
The Wonderful People in My Life
My relapse was embarrassing because most people in my life now have never seen me so symptomatic – including my husband. I have been on medication for twenty years and for the most part, they’ve done a good job of managing my symptoms.
Despite this being a new experience for him, my husband was amazing – nothing but patient and supportive – and my daughter made me laugh easing the pain and heaviness of the situation.
My daughter is only seven, and while I don’t think she totally grasped what was going on, I still felt guilty. Part of me was hoping my daughter wouldn’t remember this when she’s older, but let’s face it, she probably will. I can only hope that this will be a lesson in resilience. When you need help, help is available, and it is so important to value and respect our minds and bodies.
I couldn’t function and missed quite a bit of work. I was already low on PTO, so if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Ouch.
But I want to talk a little about my work. I work for the most amazing organization and my boss and coworkers have been nothing but kind, understanding, and accommodating. I am so inspired by the people I work with – both staff and clients. I have worked in direct care in the mental health field for seventeen years, and have had so many different experiences. Currently, I work as a peer supporter and art teacher for a local mental health organization. I have seen people struggle and seen people heal. I appreciate the people who have shared their personal stories with me as well as those who have listened to my story. Sometimes you can form the most powerful connection during your darkest hour.
Obviously, my psychiatrist and therapist have been invaluable, but I have to admit while being stuck at home, our kitties and guinea pigs have been pretty good therapy, too. It’s really amazing the emotional connection you can form with your pets. It’s like they know when you’re down, and by wanting attention, they are also giving you attention.
Making My Comeback
I am finally starting to feel like myself again. It might sound weird to say I feel like myself by putting chemicals in my body, but taking medication to treat my mental illness is all I’ve known for half of my life.
This whole experience just reinforces how important it is to take care of yourself. I got the help I needed and now I’m ready to move forward. I am so grateful for all the kindness and support I have been shown both on and offline. I am one very fortunate woman.
If you’re up for it, I would love to hear your own recovery story – from whatever it may be. Let’s connect with our darkness and be inspired by our light.