Monday, October 17, 2011

What's Going On

I woke up last night somewhere around one o'clock with my heart racing. These episodes are occasional, but still very frightening. What I was likely experiencing was a panic attack, potentially brought on by medication. I was deathly afraid of something more intense. The antidepressant I take leaves me sensitive to certain types of food and prescribed drugs. I love strong coffee in the morning, but I can only manage a cup or two before I feel the same distressing tightness in my chest. I've had three hypertensive crises and each time one of these "milder" reactions is felt, I'm immediately afraid of their most extreme manifestation.

Should I have a hypertensive crisis, I have no choice but to go directly to the Emergency Room. I'm in no condition to wait for a bus, so the paramedics are called instead. I'm fortunate in that I'm only minutes away from a fire station. Short of breath and terrified, I somehow make my way to the bedroom to collect bottles from the pharmacy. It saves me having to spell out names of medications and exact dosages. These will be left for the paramedics when they arrive. I am then loaded into the back of a waiting ambulance, where an IV is started. We wait for ten or fifteen minutes to be assigned a hospital, then we are on our way.

Having arrived, I am lifted onto a bed. After I've informed at least two nurses and a doctor about what is happening, I'm hooked up to a machine that monitors my blood pressure and pulse rate. If both reach dangerous levels, I am administered a medication through IV. For the next two to three hours, my hands white-knuckled to the side of the bed, I observe as pulse and blood pressure slowly recede. The frightening aspect is that both heart readings rapidly cycle upwards and downwards until then. It is emotionally and physically exhausting.

Once my pulse slowly, eventually registers under 100 beats per minute, the doctor returns. We're going to discharge you now, Mr. Camp. The IV is removed and the results of an EKG have registered normal. I have likely lost some chest hair because half of the electrodes fail to stick to my skin otherwise. I know an EKG is about to get underway when I see a nurse pushing a white, flat, rectangular machine on a cart, one with what seems like 200 leads attached to it. Inevitably, he or she is also holding a razor. I'd just as soon they take all of the hair off, because the shaven patches look strange.

What I'm dealing with now is different. The depression end of bipolar disorder frequently arrives during a change of season. Lithium is an effective drug but it can be a fickle one, too. At the moment, I've apparently needed to take more than before. The past four days my depression has returned, albeit not as strong as it has been. The psychiatrist has prescribed a time-release version of Lithium that is intended to dispense a more or less even distribution throughout the day. I woke up today around ten in the morning, which is exceptionally late for me.

I'll try to get my act back together soon. It troubles me when it's difficult to provide a high quality analysis of some issue or another. Still, it doesn't do much good to fight against a limitation of this strength. In the meantime, I'll just try to stay calm and distract myself from worrying too much about it. No one asks for a chronic illness. Like always, I seek the silver lining, should I have the ability to find it.

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