Many, many moons ago, long after I was diagnosed mentally ill and after I was handed the many prescription drugs to cure me, quarterly drawings of blood were required from my doctors. They needed to see. They needed to look into my blood and calculate the obvious and not so obvious relationship the prescriptions they gave me had with the natural blood cells I was producing.
While not horrible, this monthly blood sucking visits were rather inconvenient. Unfortunately, I have never been able to visit a phlebotomist at one of my many therapist, psychiatrist or other doctor’s offices. I have always had to visit a third party to have my blood drawn and hope that somehow my records were sent to the correct doctor’s office for analysis. And the three minutes it takes to draw my blood (I have excellent veins) will never justify the incredible costs to have the procedure done. Add all that up and then introduce the known fact that I will avoid things until the last minute and you have the inconvenience I was speaking of earlier.
About nine years ago however, my otherwise healthy blood started to show signs that perhaps not everything was working the way it should. At first both my doctors and myself ignored the results as they were not significant enough to cause great alarm and could also be explained by other things going on within me. So, I continued my quarterly visits to get a needle rammed in my skin and the doctors continually looked at it as simply the up and down workings of a person who took large doses of multiple medications. It wasn’t that my doctors weren’t concerned, it was simply very strange to watch my TH levels go high and then low on the invisible spectrum they call the thyroid gland. And my serum levels indicating the toxicity my lithium was causing also moved along the spectrum. Boy, I hope I explained that right.
Stay with me here. A couple of years ago, I moved to another state closer to my family. As I am sure many of you know the incredible pain it to takes to change doctors and get all your records moved I won’t go into detail here. Sufficient to say, I once again had to deal with the inconvenience of finding a place that would draw my blood and send the results to my doctors.
When I started seeing one of my new doctors, he took a long at my blood work for the last so many years and was concerned. Seeing as this was a man who made his money as a lawyer before he became a psychiatrist, I wasn’t all that worried. He ordered blood work and I went to correct facility to give it to him. The results were the same funky results they had been for years. Only this time the doctor didn’t brush it off, he had a fit and fell into it.
Lecturing me on the incredible dangers of ignoring my thyroid (I would like to point out that my toxicity levels were perfect) he demanded that not only I get more lab tests done but that I go see a enchronologist. I nodded my head up and down, held out my hand for my prescription refills and left. The next time I went to see him the exact same thing happened: lecture, more blood work, and a demand. I again nodded my head and hand out my hand.
This went on for quite sometime. I was careful to never promise to go see the new doctor but my principles make it hard for me to lie. But prevaricate, that I can do.
During this same period I made a mistake. The kind of mistake that you learn early on in journey of mental health to never do. A mistake that quite frankly made everything that would happen to be next be not only ridiculous but my fault as well. My mistake: I told my husband and family about the test results.
To be honest I don’t like to go to new doctors. If the doctors I am seeing can’t help me, I don’t want to look any closer. On top of that like every idiot out there I started looking into the results of these tests and realized that there was a small chance I could have cancer or some other difficult disease. Add mental illness to any other disease and the pot boils dangerously. So between the frustration and the fear, I opened my mouth and complained to those I love. As many months have passed I am not sure exactly what I said but it couldn’t have been smart because all of sudden I was now promising to see a doctor about a blood test result that had been wonky for years.
And this morning I went.
It is hard to say if the visit was successful, if I got what I wanted to say across, or if once again I was looked upon as a diseased child who really wasn’t important in the scheme of things. The truth is it doesn’t matter, because despite what my family and even my friends who know about the appointment think, the next step is mine to take. It is mine to fall into or mine to jump across. I have fulfilled the promise to go to the doctor and now I get the privilege of deciding what exactly I am going to do and who it is I am going to listen to (none of it will be the internet).
One of the hardest lessons to learn growing up, and one of the hardest lessons to learn when you spend your teen years and your twenties trying to navigate through the mental illness diagnosed, is that when you act like an adult you actually have the permission of the universe to be an adult. It is not the permission of your doctor you need, nor the permission of your family, but rather a nebulous force deep inside of you that realizes that you can ask the questions you need answers too, you can stand up and simply say no, and you can decide what length it is that you are willing to go to achieve what you believe is right. Being an adult is hard, learning that you can be an adult is harder.
A lot of emotions and frustrations came out this morning visiting that doctor. Frustrations about the way I have acted for so long that directly effects the way I am perceived. Frustrations about the short cuts I have taken these last nineteen years that led me to going to a doctor when there was nothing in the world powerful enough to make me. Frustrations in realizing that life in all its glory doesn’t forget about yesterday. And frustrations in knowing that this little example is but one in a million times that I have forgotten the most important truth: it is up to me how I behave, and up to me how I react.
I know that the taking care of my health is vital. It helps when dealing with the oftentimes unpleasant aspects of my mental health. I know that living to see my grandchildren is extremely important to me. But I also know one more truth, and it is a truth hard won: who and what I am can not be tempered by the world around me and the opinions and even the demands of the world have to be heard but not necessarily followed. Who and what I am, what I will take, and what I have to work on must be determined by me. And only me.
Call me a freaking mentally ill island.