Tuesday, 6 October 2009

I'm Not Crazy, I'm Just A Little Unwell

I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell
I know, right now you can't tell
But stay awhile and maybe then you'll see
A different side of me
I'm not crazy, I'm just a little impaired
I know, right now you don't care
But soon enough you're gonna think of me
And how I used to be
(Unwell, Matchbox 20, 2003)

Okay this song just screams Bob to me so I had to find a way to work it into a post. Plus Rob Thomas is kinda cute, with short hair at least and as you know it's all about the male eye candy! "I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell", (well probably a little crazy, or at the least "impaired", if I'm being honest. Aren't we all?). In the name of good health I have actually checked out my level of mental stability just to be sure. You never know when little hints of Rasputin may sneak in. After all, I have had times where the patients from One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest look quite rational. That's not to say that a little insanity doesn't go a loooong way in helping you cope with Bob. So how did I check my sanity you ask? Well I did an in depth Facebook quiz (or 9) of course. How else do you find these things out. When I did take the insightful quiz, What's your mental disorder, my answer was You're not crazy, so there you go all cleared up! Though that answer may be offset by the answer to the What's Your Future quiz, which said I was going to be a Mental Patient. (Hmmm....maybe I should also stop reading The Bell Jar. Lets face it Sylvia Plath was not the poster child for sanity). I now also know that I am a margarita, I should be character on Smallville (say what?), and my old lady name is Opal. Who said Facebook was a waste of time? This is vital information people. But I digress (what a shock that is, I know).

I've always loved this song. Even way before Bob came into my life, I'd belt it out when it came on the radio, much to the delight of my kids, NOT! I particularly love the inclusion of the banjo, pure genius. Is there another instrument that can personify crazy, well crazy or Deliverance style freaks. Whether you are into their music or not, Rob Thomas is a great song writer. (Wait a minute... Rob? Bob? Whoa? Coincidence? I don't think so). He has also written a great song for his wife who has a disorder, Her Diamonds, definitely worth a listen. Not that this post is a tribute to Rob Thomas or Matchbox 20. So back to the actual point of this post.

If you've been diagnosed with Bob or one of his like-minded mates you are likely to have also had the pleasure of being told you are "nuts", "it's all in your head", "you need to see a psychiatrist", "it's stress", "it's anxiety", "it's depression", "it's.........", and the list goes on. Anyone who has read my blog will be aware of my own pleasant sojourn into the world of misdiagnosis of the "looney bin" variety. Many doctors seem to believe that if they can't quickly place clearly defined, quantifiable parameters upon what we experience, all our symptoms must be due to an underlying psychiatric disorder. I'm not saying that psychiatric illnesses don't cause physical symptoms, or that this can't be a comorbid factor, or even that these aren't common (1 in 5 Australians will develop depression at some point in their lives). What I am saying is that these diagnoses should not be the fall back position for doctors who can't understand what we are explaining to them.

My own delightful Dr Useless made the following proclamation after about 5 mins of insightful questioning. "When a woman your age comes in with these symptoms it is always in her head". He then sent me out the door with no meds and no referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist, even though he obviously thought I was hysterical and depressed. He did however kindly staple a large fluro post-it to my forehead with "stupid emotional woman" written in permanent ink, and give me an Apu Nahasapeemapetilon (I so need to stop watching The Simpsons!) inspired "Thank you. Come again". Yep that helped. Now I did say at the time (when I stopped crying and frothing at the mouth with anger) Karma is a bitch buddy, and guess what? His "services are no longer required" at the hospital as of this year. I know it's wrong but that did give me a nice warm feeling deep down inside.

The problem with these kind of decisions, especially when they haven't bothered to go through the proper diagnostic process, is that once that's in your medical chart you can't get it out. Every doctor after that reads "depression" or "stress" or whatever terminology they use, as part of your general medical history. It doesn't matter how you explain it, that one little word will colour how they perceive you and your symptoms. The most frustrating thing is that before you give a psychiatric diagnosis you need to do medical tests to rule out an underlying medical cause and follow a strict criteria. Plus having a psychiatric or psychological disorder does not mean you are immune to developing other medical issues. Many physical diseases can show seemingly psychiatric symptoms; including, low folate, stroke, metabolic imbalance and, surprise, surprise, Bob. Physiological changes can lower your mood at an organic level. Physical changes and ill health make you feel like crap so you feel low and upset. When my bp is low and Bob is giving me a beating I can cry at the drop of a hat. Not because I am necessarily upset but because my physical resources have been stretched to the limit. Its normal to cry when you feel like utter crap!

There is huge difference between Clinical Depression and feeling depressed because you are ill, and most docs don't seem to get the difference. A Zanax or a Zoloft is not going to stop the blood pooling in my legs, thus causing brain fog due to lack of blood above my waistline. Talking to a psychologist, social worker or councillor may help with my coping with being ill but again it wont stop my cankles and "purlack" feet ("purple + black",that's for you Michele. Told you I'd work it in). When I was working in a hospital I spent a lot of time beating my head against the proverbial brick wall getting the medical staff to try and identify depression in our elderly patients. Now that I am on the other side of the clip board I find that many docs are only too eager to tell us we are depressed, because they can't or don't want to understand what is happening to us.

We are difficult to diagnose I know that. Lets face it no one has even heard of Bob. Our symptoms are often vague and forever changing, and therefore difficult to detect. My heart is essentially ok (as I know from numerous tests) yet I have difficulty functioning day-to-day. This does not instantly mean I am a nutter. It's okay for a doc to say "I don't know". It's okay for them to refer on. It shouldn't be on me the sick and exhausted patient to know what tests I need or what doc I need to be referred to but that is often the case. I was lucky to find my cardio. It was only through a freakish coincidence that another girl at work had a similar problem and was seeing her. She was the first one to take me seriously and give me a diagnosis. Before handing out the sagatious words "it's all in your head", I wish doctors would realise the damage this causes. That those five little words will actually lead to increased stress, self-doubt, depression and that some patients wills stop activley seeking the medical help they require.

So this is a big shout out to all the Dr Nick Riviera's (yes The Simpson's strikes again) in the world, with their degrees from "Club Med School" and the "Hollywood Upstairs Medical College". Thanks for making us feel irrational and hysterical, and like we are wasting your time.

Often friends and family will look at us like we have lost the plot, are faking, or are just plain nuts. And lets not forget the delightful shop assistants who have the panicked grin stuck on their faces and subtly sign to their fellow staff members to call security for the drunk, slurring and stumbling woman. We can be vague, misspeak, forget conversations, stumble, pike out of social events at the last minute, be able to shop one day and not walk the next. This does not make us, like my pal Sylvia, the obvious choice as poster child for good mental health. No one can see our symptoms for the most part so its easy to think we are faking. But we aren't crazy apart from the obligatory nuttiness required to make it through the day with Bob. We are ill. We have a legitimate physical illness.

I know what you are thinking right about now (ok that sounds a little paranoid). "The maddness is strong in this one". But really it's just the normal nuttiness and if you were living with Bob or one of his mates you'd understand. And a little nuttiness can go a long way.

Viva la Insanity!!!

Michelle :)


  1. Wow...I can SO relate to this. The conversations between me and my doctor's for the first four years of my illness were...

    Me, "But I don't feel depressed"
    Doctor, "But, you're crying, you must be depressed."
    Me, "But, of course I'm crying, I'm sick, I can't work, I have no social life and I'm 25!!"
    Doctor, "hmmmm....still looks like depression to me."

    Took four years until someone even did a physical examination...four years!!

    Do you live in Australia? For some reason I had it in my porridge-filled skull that you lived in LA!

  2. Hi Emma

    Its just too common. The only reason I got to my current cardio was because I was so angry and offended by so many other docs. It made me stick my heals in. Unfortunately so many people give up when they get that answer. It makes me so angry! I'm glad you finally found someone who listened but sorry it took so long.

    Yep I live in Aus. Victorian born and bred. I wouldn't mind a holiday in LA though!

    Michelle :)

  3. me too.

    after two years with this frankly awful condition, i had to pay or die. my weight slipped down the scale, the docs thought it 'all in my head'. so they ignored the repeat returns to the surgery.

    why,oh why? im on a lot of meds now, feeling a tad better, but still cant function, and at last they are running a barrage of tests.

    simpsons rule!. and by the way your post made me feel normal.x

  4. I can so relate to all of this. My last 3 years as well has been, heck whats the word I am looking for? Living Hell for the most part. While I am at any of my many drs, I feel as those all the blood is being SUCKED out of me. Not POOLING, but literaly sucked dry. I as Alice end up crying and again it goes back to being in my head. I still haven't found any doctors that believe me,and that is so depressing in itself. I love your way of words and wish I had the ability to do as you do with your Blog. Such a way to get it all out. Love reading each and everthing you write.


All who are lovely enough to comment should be showered with cup cakes, glitter and macarons. I promise to use my spoon bending mind powers to try and get that happening for all who are lovely enough to share their words. Those who go the extra step to share posts should really get a free unicorn. Or at least the gift of finding the shortest and quickest line at the supermarket on a regular basis. xx