When Chronic Conditions Collide

For the past 25 years or so I have been very open about my mental illness diagnoses of bipolar, depression, OCD, anxiety, and panic disorder. Well, that is in most facets of my life except for one.

Since gaining control over most of these conditions I have left them off the medical “cheat sheet” I have made up containing diagnoses, medications, allergies, doctors, surgeries, etc. I have left them off because usually when a doctor sees that and all the pain meds I am on, they pretty well make up their minds what is wrong with me without a full assessment.

I say “gaining control” rather than being healed because I have no delusions that this could ever happen. These conditions are with me for life – it is how I deal with them that makes the difference. And for the last 10 years, I have done whatever it takes to keep on top of my mental well being and believe me, it is a full-time job – as are pain management,  my marriage, my faith, and all other facets of a normal life. It is just a little more challenging for me to look like I have a normal life, that’s all.

Now, this is not to say that I do not mention my mental conditions to doctors when needed. I would be a fool not to. But if I am seeing the doctor for something totally unrelated to my emotional health, I keep it on the QT.

Monday was one of those times when I had to make a judgment call.

Over the last two months, I have had a cold, a sinus infection, another cold, what I thought might be bronchitis, and finally, a never-ending cough which yesterday lead to some severe chest pain. Other than an antibiotic I got for the sinus infection (which I reacted to and stopped after a couple of days), I self-treated all these conditions. It was only when the chest pain started Sunday night that I decided I should maybe go to the ER.

Hubby drove me to the hospital and I was immediately taken for blood tests and an ECG. The triage nurse said I would also go for a chest x-ray. However, when, after two hours no one called us, we pretty well knew that it wasn’t my heart and that was what I came for. The fact that they didn’t do the chest x-ray to rule out infection of some kind, didn’t really surprise us. We talked to a different triage nurse who said things looked fine and I might as well go home but to come back if things got worse.

That was around 7:30 pm.

At 4 am, the phone rang and it was the hospital. The charge nurse said that they called my name several times and asked hubby why I left. He said because the other nurse said it was fine. Well, they wanted me to come back in. I had just finally gotten to sleep about an hour before, but we decided we better do this.

We went back and had to sit in the waiting area a good half hour… with no one else there! Finally, we were sent to get a chest x-ray and were escorted to a place in the Fast Track Department of Emergency. Now the ironic thing about that name is you wait there for hours before you are seen by a doctor and are pretty much ignored until you do.

When I finally did see the doctor it was 7 am and I was exhausted from coughing and no sleep. She told me my ECG, x-ray, and blood tests were all normal. She grilled me about ever having problems with my heart, why my ankles were so swollen (wasn’t I there for her to tell me?), taking my inhalers at the wrong times and the fact that I was JUST having an asthma attack.

I wasn’t allowed to say much and was ready to walk out. Then she mentioned the drug I vowed I would never go on again – prednisone. And I flatly said “no”. She was still playing offense and I was bound and determined I was not going to tell her why I didn’t want to take it, even if it was my only hope for feeling better.

But it came out. I mentioned that for most of my life I have battled with depression and bipolar and how I have worked hard to gain control. Prednisone takes away that control of my moods, actions, and emotions. I told her I did not want to go through all of that again, especially while dealing with asthma and my pain flares.

She changed. All of a sudden she was asking if they weaned me on and off the drug and that they don’t do that anymore. Instead of being on her original plan of 50 mg for 10 days, she suggested one initial dose of 50 mg and four more days of 25 mg. I was also to increase my steroid inhaler to four puffs until everything was settled down.

I still wasn’t happy, but the fact that she seemed more interested in treating me made me accept this plan. She added in Amoxil, which is the only antibiotic that doesn’t give me allergic reactions and works, and more inhalers. We discussed my nebulizer and she said that isn’t as effective as inhalers. We were having a real two-way conversation and I felt good about the diagnosis and treatment. I waited for the meds I was to take there and my prescription and headed on my way.

I had texted hubby to come get me so he was there waiting. I think we got home about 8 am. He went back to bed but I was feeling very anxious from the prednisone and inhalers so it took a few hours before I could sleep. When I did, I had my first few hours of coughless sleep.

When hubby went to get my prescriptions the pharmacist noted that the Advair inhaler has severe interactions with my Flexeril (muscle relaxant). I have been on both for years and no one has ever told me that. Yes, I have felt the symptoms but never knew what it was. So, here was another example of how things can slip through the system to the detriment of the chronically ill patient.

I am having mood swings and am still very fatigued and out of breath. However, I am pretty sure this is the right course of action. If I hadn’t gone to the hospital I wouldn’t be getting any relief and would be much worse. And if I hadn’t explained my fears regarding prednisone I would not have been properly treated.

I guess with chronic illness sometimes you have to take a risk to get better.

Lydia!

 

15 Replies to “When Chronic Conditions Collide”

  1. thank you for sharing this story. My heart goes out to you having to go through all this. I have a history of a number of medical illnesses and disorders ( but not mental issues) and I have spent some time in the ER and in the OR. I find it interesting when a doctor of nurse takes an interest due to the fact that there is something unusual about the case. I am glad that the nurse took an interest and I am sending positive thoughts to you. all the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Lydia… What can I say? What a warrior you are in all this. As always, but especially with the Holidays coming, I am sending you extra warm thoughts! I admire and love you very much, although we don’t really “know” each other 🙂 *Big hugs* Get better really soon!! And a mention to your hubby for his support… but I know well that it goes both ways 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Cyranny, I truly feel the same about you. And thanks for the kudos to my hubby. I didn’t mention the best part. After I told him what went down with the doctor, he said he was really proud of me for speaking out and risking the mental “branding” to clarify my reasons for not wanting the drug. That meant a whole lot, believe me!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with him. Totally! You had to be very brave to speak out like you did. I “only” suffered from depression, and I know how prompt people (both from the medical fields and people in general) are to label you! And once they do, that can’t be undone. You’re plagued with those stigmatas, no matter how many campains they run to make people understand what mental illness is.

        It takes a lot of strenght to speak out, and here’s a high five, two thumbs up, and a “woot woot” to you my friend 🙂 xx

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Dearest Lydia,

    I truly understand how that feels and how much it sucks 😞 I’ve been on prednisone myself for 11 years nonstop now and have even gained steroid resistance, but can’t get off them as nothing else works for me. Some years I need to take my body weight’s worth of it as well, which seriously fucks you up – no other way of putting it and I think you can agree. In a major flare however, it’s all that will kill the pain – not even morphine really works. It really is one devil of a drug, yet such a lifesaver too. I sincerely hope you get to come off them soon, and get to enjoy your Christmas a little. You deserve nothing less! xx

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  4. Thanks, Cheryl.
    I feel I don’t have a right to complain about my few days of misery when you have been on it so long with no chance of a change. I am sitting here replying to you at 3:30 am my time because a) I am feeling a manic high to the point I put up the Christmas tree (something I wasn’t going to do this year) and b) when I tried to go to bed had my first coughing fit in several hours. It is a devil of a drug and yet I know, as do you, that it is the only way I am going to get my breathing, and my pain, back on track. I do hope that someday you can find another answer and that you too can come down from this hell.
    Love, Lydia!

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    1. Thanks, Bethany. I am on day 4 of the medication and yes, I am very tired. What makes me frustrated is that the nurse who told us we could go never recorded that. So hours later (which we would have been sitting in the outer waiting room all that time) they got around to calling my name.

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  5. I’m glad that doctor didn’t get distracted by what you told her and kept her focus on why you were there and solving that problem. Hopefully this stuff doesn’t set you off too bad and that some middle ground can be found.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Yes, that was a big risk that I took but it seemed to work in my favour (for a change). I have actually taken my last dose today and there have been many ups and downs, but I have been prepared and just kept myself aware of what was causing it and that it will be temporary. I am still having some breathing problems so will have to see. Hopefully I will not need more prednisone.

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  6. Hi Lydia, thank you so much for sharing your story. I was diagnosed last year with severe anxiety, depression, an allergy to dust mites, and allergic asthma. I’ve spent the past year trying to take back control over my health, with a good number of successes and a very good number of setbacks. It means a lot to hear from someone else who has experience going through the same thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Sally. Take heart, you will find a point where you feel you have more control over your illnesses than they do over you. It will not always feel that way but the more it does, the stronger you get.

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