Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hyperfertility Mystery Solved!!

Playing in the background: The ceiling fan. On second thought let's crank up Pandora, here. Okay, Sea and Silence by Deuter. Liking that.

My rabid fans are no doubt aware that for some time now I've been having these fits of hyperfertility. The most screamingly obvious was back in May, when I camped out in front of my laptop for a solid holiday weekend and wrote something like 80 pages of Soulmender. What is hyperfertility, you ask? Well, that's when I feel like working nonstop for days, hardly bothering with such niceties as food and sleep. Or having nonstop sex, but this being a religious establishment and all that, I don't talk about that part in public. In one of my more infamous episodes, I cranked out the end of Part the Second of the Almighty Trilogy in an eighteen-hour sprawl of wordplay that had me forget to get up and get a bottle of water and then wonder, two hours later, why I was thirsty. I call it hyperfertility because it seems to hit right around the time I'm most likely to get pregnant, and because I feel like if a male came within about 100 yards of me, he'd have an excellent chance of knocking me up. Luckily, the only male around is Caesar and he is neutered. (By the way, you can follow Caesar on Twitter: @carpefelem)

Well, after the Soulmender incident, I got to thinking that this maybe wasn't quite normal. I mean, writing is temporary insanity, but, you know, telling myself I'll sleep an extra hour so it's okay to stay up until 11:30 or midnight when I know full well I'm gonna get up at 5 anyway and go to the pool, and then do it again the next night, because the more sleep deprived I am, the longer the hyperfertility lasts, is, you know, probably not all that good for me. The copious amounts of caffeine and sugar that keep it going are also probably not the greatest.

So as one of the hyperfertile fits was winding down, I went to see my doc for my Annual Exam (TM). And she asked me how I was doing and, for some strange reason, I leveled with her. And she asked me how long I'd been having manic episodes. And I said, about a year now but probably longer than that and did you just call them manic episodes? (She had.) Manic as in manic depression? (Yep, only we call it bipolar disorder these days.) Are you serious? (She was.) Well, crap, what does that mean?

Well, it meant that she was gonna port me off to a psychiatrist. And again for some strange reason, I went along with this. What's more, I wrote up a brief history of the Jeniverse, including my previous experiences with psychiatry (which began when I was five) and odd behavior among my family members (most specifically my grandparents, all four of whom, though dearly beloved, were a piece of work.) Being the paralegal that I am, I even faxed it over to the psychiatrist before the appointment. I mean, just in case, you know? It didn't necessarily have to be bipolar disorder. It could just be, you know, genetically enhanced weirdness.

So the psychiatrist, who was very nice, greeted me as, "You're the one who sent the fax, right? Boy, I wish everyone would do that. It sure made my job a lot easier." She then asked me a whole bunch of questions, some of which were bizarre ("Name the last three Presidents." Crap. Okay, there was George W. and was there a world before then?) and some of which were just spooky. "Do you wake up a lot during the night?" "Do you have a history of alcohol abuse or heavy drinking?" "Did you have thoughts of suicide before you turned 13?" How does she know these things? Hmm, she must be psychic. Maybe she's a mindbender. Maybe she's related to Roland and I should get out of here right now because - oh, right. Reality break, Jen. Sorry about that.

Anyway, when the smoke cleared and the dust settled she told me not only did I Have It but that I'd probably Had It my whole life. They know a lot more than they did in the 1970s, when I began my couch trip and when the idea of a bipolar child was unheard of. Now they know that not only can children be bipolar but they're catching them at the ages of three and four. Back then kids were more likely to be diagnosed with ADD, or "hyperactivity" which was what it was called. (Hyperactivity. Hyperfertility. Hmm.) What's more, they know it's genetic for a fact. If you don't have the genetic marker, you can't get it. And since all four of my grandparents had Serious Issues, it's entirely possible I got a quadruple dose. Or at least I got it from both parents, by way of their parents. "If you had children, I'd be telling you to watch your kids like a hawk," she said. (Nope, no kids. Hyperfertility notwithstanding.)

Cliches aside, What Does All This Mean? Well, firstly it means I've been very lucky. Bipolar disorder usually gets worse, not better over time. I've already been doing a lot of the things they'd tell me to do; exercise frequently, meditate, hot baths (jacuzzi, natch), massage therapy. I've also been self-medicating for years (booze and food, in that order; I quit drinking four years ago and started going to OA two years ago and gee, the symptoms just turned up out of nowhere, didn't they?) Secondly, it means I'll be taking some med or another for a very long time, probably forever, and visiting the doc often to get Checked Up Uponst. I'll need to keep a journal, track my moods, stay away from situations that stress me out. "But really," she said, "it's not that different than monitoring diabetes."

So I've been thinking about that, and I think she's right. In diabetes, your pancreas produces abnormal chemistry. In bipolar, your brain produces abnormal chemistry. With diabetes, you monitor your blood sugar levels,take certain meds, exercise, eat certain meals at certain times, and avoid some foods, including alcohol and excess sugar. With bipolar, you do all of that (monitoring moods instead of blood sugar levels) plus hot baths, massage and plenty of sleep. No more late night writing binges. No more staying up till 11 to watch Surviving Disaster (Dammit!!) I've already got a diabetic in the house, so I'm following most of the rules as it is. And Joan likes massages, too.

Notwithstanding, I'm A LITTLE FREAKED OUT RIGHT NOW, THANKEWVERYMUCH. There's something about going from a diagnosis of major depression, which most people get (everyone feels down once in a while) to bipolar disorder, which most people don't get. I mean, depression's normal. Bipolar - well, that's crazy. Maybe not walking down the street muttering to no one in particular and every once in a while announcing I'm God crazy, but still, crazy. So I'm trying to get over that. And I'm reading lots of books and scanning the Internet and trying to Connect With My Peer Group, which, to be honest, I've always sucked at. And strange as this sounds, I'm kind of mourning my lost hyperfertility. As not-good-for-me as it certainly was, it was a lot of fun.


the witch said...

Hi Jen,

I can sympathise, all your symptoms ring true for me, in fact, I guessed what you were going to say before you said it! All I can say is, I've been there.

I figured out my problems slowly by myself and started to freak out a couple of years ago when my symptoms became worse and worse. I was too afraid to seek help because of the stigma, but eventually I went to the doctor over other symptoms.

The doc is right when she makes the comparison with diabetes - basically, we're talking about a dysregulation of brain chemistry.

I'm lucky - it turns out my bipolar/manic/ADD are caused by an underlying thyroid disorder (also inherited) and I'm now on the mend. It's a very common misdiagnosis - so if I were you, get your thyroid checked by a specialist neuroendocrinologist who will test your T3 levels and antibodies (not just your TSH and T4) before committing to anti-psychs.

Lots of luck for the future, and take advantage of those manic patches while you have them!

Jen said...

Hi, the witch!
Really, it was that obvious? How embarrassing. I'm reading a lot of books at the moment and every time there's something about hypomania, I'm saying, "Yep, that's me all right..." No stigma here because I've been in and out of psychiatrist's offices since I was like five and been diagnosed with everything from ADD to major depression to something-or-other of childhood. But yeah, the doc is right. I'll ask her about the thyroid thing but I've been checked for that before. Oh, hey, are you really a witch? My wife is a witch. I tried to be one but it was too much work. It's much easier to just sit there. So if there are spells to be cast I leave em to her. She's the pro.

the witch said...

LOL - only obvious because it takes one to know one! Yeah, I'm another childhood ADD case too. I'm only a witch in the sense that I've done a lot of health research to try and fix myself.

Unfortunately thyroid tests aren't that reliable and a lot of people get missed because they're still inside the normal range. Ask for free T3 and antibodies to be tested, doctors often miss diagnosis because they don't test those in addition to TSH and T4.

Good luck for the future. :)