a little reminder from God

today, unexpectedly, God spoke to me while i was in church. while it might seem trivial, but i felt very strongly about it. it was also reminiscent of a similar situation that occurred a few years back when i tried feebly to return to church (Novena Church).

at the end of the Mass, an announcement was made asking for a doctor as someone has fainted. i saw someone responding immediately, and guessed he was a doctor. i went looking for where that person might be once the priest exited. it happened that she was a friend of a friend’s. while she did not lose consciousness, she got physically very weak. the doctor asked her a series of questions, and what stood out was her history of gastrointestinal symptoms. because he was a male doctor, he couldn’t do a physical examination on her. he kept asking her to press on her abdomen to see if it elicited any pain. till that point everyone else, including me, were just bystanders. i wanted to let the doctor do his thing. but by then, i stepped in, told the doctor i was a registered nurse, and asked if i could help palpating her inguinal area. it was evident that it was difficult for any lay person to be palpating in the right regions, and with enough depth. he was glad someone could actually properly palpate her inguinal area. pain was elicited when i palpated her right inguinal area, but nil for her left side. it confirmed his suspicion of appendicitis. she was shivering too, despite a sweater over her. she told me she was still feeling cold, so i took off my thick sweater and laid it on her. i did this despite knowing my scarred arms would be bared for all, even the doctor, to see. but nothing was more important than the wellbeing of a patient, that i knew. we stayed with her till the ambulance came, and i reported the findings of right inguinal pain to the paramedics. i stopped short of reporting rebound tenderness, although that is characteristic of appendicitis, because i did not palpate that. but seeing she was in good hands, the doctor and i left.

throughout the whole situation, and after that while i was in the adoration room, i cannot help but feel a stirring in my heart. again it was the same stirring i got a few years back. i felt like God was reminding me of what He first called me to be- a nurse. whether or not it was a push to return to nursing, or if it was a reminder of my identity as God’s child and my gifts that were God-given, i do not know. but i know this will linger in my mind and heart for a long while.

i’d give anything to go back to nursing, but i’ve tried very hard and subjected myself to a lot of scrutiny and “abuse” because of my mental illnesses. it remains to be seen if i will return to nursing one day. maybe one day i’ll be well enough to go back, barring my scar-laden arms.

thank you Papa God, for reminding me of who i am, and the fire that burned so brightly in me once upon a time. this calling is something i can never forget, and will continue to pursue, even if i’m studying psychology right now.

being tested

once again, i’m being tested. and this time’s proving to be really difficult.

i’ve lost faith in the mental healthcare system. i should have, a long time ago, actually. times like this, the only advice is to go to the emergency room to likely get admitted. my reluctance to do so most times, is because the team in the ward is literally helpless. they can’t do anything for me. i am there only because it’s a safe environment. but i need more than that and my usual weekly therapy. additionally, the team in the ward doesn’t know much about me. me, and my psychiatric history, is extremely complex. and they haven’t taken the time nor effort to know and understand me. besides, the ward is a terrible place to be. it is not in the least conducive for recovery. so what am i to do?

my psychiatrist can only see me early December at best. and he’s already bending the rules to get that for me. while i am grateful, it’s still a long way to go, and despair is all i’ve got right now. i just saw my therapist yesterday. did my psychiatrist really think therapy would make things better for me? sometimes it doesn’t. sometimes it is triggering. sometimes i stay status quo. rarely i move forward.

i know things are really bad when the tears fall in public. even the realisation that i am crying in public, makes it worse. i don’t like finding myself in this position. yet i feel extremely helpless. i’m at a loss.

my sisters-in-Christ have been trying really hard to support me. they’ve been trying to get me to keep the faith, and rely not on myself, but on God. times like that, this is most difficult. i guess all i can do now is to keep trying. because if i don’t, i’ll be gone from this earth.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

without choice

one day out in the wild, and i am starting to question if i made the right choice being discharged.

i found myself in the same sinking sadness i knew so well. it was unbearable. i shot an email off to my psychiatrist asking him what i should do. i didn’t expect him to reply immediately, but he did.

because the sadness still lingers after the ECTs, he told me that it is highly unlikely it will go away with anymore ECTs. desperate, i then asked him if there are any adjunct medications i could try to even lift the mood a little. devastatingly, his answer was a flat no. the sadness that stems from my personality isn’t the kind that medications and ECTs can help. he told me only therapy could.

my eyes widened. admittedly, i didn’t know how to react at first, although this information isn’t new to me. surely there must be something??? but there’s none. only therapy. i got angry with myself, with a friend, and also my psychiatrist. 

“you are telling me there’s nothing to even remotely lift the sadness???” 

there was none, and i didn’t like taking no for an answer. i didn’t like to experience these emotions so deeply. i didn’t like how they made me feel, nor the way it subsequently makes me act. 

4 years of therapy, and we only started making real progress this year. how long more? the sadness can’t wait. i can’t wait. 

it’ll be too little, too late.

yet another inpatient stay is over. i survived. it was a result of being impulsive. i acted on my emotions, rather than on logic. very regrettable. i’ve finished my 63rd ECT today. i finished off the cycle of 6 that i started the last admission, but didn’t finish.

it’s been extremely trying, being away from home. i clung on so tight to my faith, praying the rosary when i can. being inpatient always allows me time to think about things. about the things i think and act upon. it is no secret that i have very maladaptive coping skills. i’ve always though about how i should cope. the right way. yet i have no answers, even though i am extremely aware of what’s right and wrong.

the ECTs have helped, but they are not the solution. much of the work still lies in me. i have to stop wanting the pain, stop wanting the blood, stop wanting to hurt. but because it’s been my life for 6 years, these need time to change.

my confessor has been extremely edifying. he anointed me with the oils for the sick. the first time it’s been done all these years being sick. it’s God-given, and i treasure it very much. my community- Sinners- have supported me a lot too, and i am extremely grateful. i’ve been extremely blessed in this manner.

i hope there won’t be anymore inpatient stays, but that is unrealistic. i just hope there are greater intervals between stays. that i don’t have to rely on inpatient stays to keep me safe. i have to stop wanting to terminate the pain. pain is part of life, and i have to learn to cope or live with it it.

back to life. and back to reality, where the real seems so unreal. where reality is tougher than being undead.


going, going…

it’s that time again. i have been in the dark abyss for far too long. i truly am no longer safe.

i’ve tried. i really have. it is never my wish to be inpatient. it’s a terrible place to be in. and i never fail to feel like a failure succumbing to institutionalisation. but i have learnt that choosing to be helped is strength itself. choosing to fight to live another day, and many more to come, is courage. i’ve been on the brink of giving up, of dying, so many times. surely i can get through this again?

God gives me grace. but my flesh fails. and the depressed and suicidal mind is ominously strong. i can’t fight it myself. 

it’s time to surrender, to say “yes, i need help”. it’s especially time to take courage in the Lord, and accept that i can’t do it alone. it has to end here, at least with this escalation. 

let go, and let God, Steph. fight to live.

died a mini death

i’m tired. exhausted. the pain is getting to me all over again. it’s like a never ending game of “catch me if you can”. i’m always running. running till i’m breathless. the pain latches on like a parasite then, subjecting me to its whims and fancies. then i am so spent trying to make the pain better or go away. if not, i am stretched trying to be ok with the pain. i never really get to rest. not from these, not even from life.

i almost had a meltdown on Thursday. i had pretty bad sleep, pretty the same with the insomnia that has haunted me for years.  woke up at 8am. headaches crept in. trigger points started screaming. my shoulders are same old. i popped whatever painkillers and anti-emetics i have. i used the TENS unit and also the tennis ball. by mid-afternoon, i felt like i got hit by a truck. it was time to leave the house to see my anaesthetist. i literally had to drag myself out of the house. whenever i could, i’d try to curl up to rest my head. in the car, in the waiting room, in the bus or train. i felt like even my head had trigger points yelling at me to quell the pain.

my anaesthetist increased my pregabalin again to the max dose of 600mg. i agreed reluctantly because of the costs. (2 weeks of pregabalin costs $240!!!) we kept tramadol and etoricoxib at max doses of 400mg and 120mg. he finally caved in and gave me ergotamine although i don’t have true migraines (just really bad tension headaches that don’t respond well to tramadol).

i boldly asked him for trigger point injections beside the spine at the thoracic spine level. also, near my sacroiliac joints. he agreed, but i think it’s because he’s only injecting bupivacaine without steroids. he doesn’t like to use steroids on me anymore. because i was particularly sore and the jabs hurt more than usual.

i was very grateful to him. but my pocket bled from the cost of the medications. the pharmacist also gave me a scare with several of my pain and psychiatric drugs possibly prolonging my QT interval, because i already have a very slightly prolonged QT interval the last time i had an ECG. sigh.

i left the hospital still feeling like a wreck. i took the ergotamine almost immediately, with the rest of my painkillers. it took me about an hour to feel less uneasy. but 2 hours later, wham!!! i felt like i was hit by a train, and could drift off into lala land while talking to my friend. because of that i had to terminate the “dinner date” earlier than usual, and went home to be horizontal.

that was a true fibromyalgia flare, and gosh it was dreadful. feeling slightly better since. all the painkillers, ergotamine, sleep and being horizontal, helped. but the pain has killed my mood, and has robbed me of my energy.

triamcinolone in my shoulder!

saw my rheumy today. i haven’t had much flares since i last saw her a little over a month ago. the shoulders, though have never failed to persist in hurting. it’s presumably the same ol’ tendinitis and tenosynovitis.

both inflammatory markers were very slightly elevated. ESR was 28, and CRP was 25. there didn’t seem to be a reason for them to be elevated. i haven’t had any infections lately, nor active flares. so rheumy and i talked about getting an intra-articular steroid shot into the subacromial space, since it’s the only thing troubling me. i remember deciding with her and my anaesthetist that i should stay away from the intra-articular steroid injections because i’ve accumulated a very high steroid load last year, leading to a lot of weight gain without having much benefits with my pain management.

but since i haven’t had any since the end of last year, we decided to give it another shot. we chose the left shoulder to jab because it has a smaller range of motion. i’m letting it rest today, then tomorrow onwards i have to go back to doing my strengthening and ROM exercises. right now, post-injection, it’s flaring up a bit. not unusual. it’s always happened with any joint injections.

seeing my anaesthetist 2 days later. if my left shoulder gets better in these 2 days, i may ask him to jab my right shoulder. we’ll see how.

right now though, my RA is pretty quiescent. not complaining. in fact, i’m actually very grateful to God for this. i’ve seen worse flare days. so it’s quite a respite. but i’m having more physical problems with fibromyalgia and headache, and i’m taking a shit load of painkillers everyday. am aware that i need to invest in a good TENS unit. but i’ll wait till i see my anaesthetist.