Syndrome W

Some time ago, a group psychologist treated me most unjustly.  In a rage of hurt and anger, I asked my individual psychologist, “What can I do?”  He replied, “You can write about it,” and thereby my call was given.  I have posted 644 blogs and most of them have been about injustice in America—not injustice before the country’s law, but injustice before God.  He told us to care for one another.  We don’t.

So on July 24, my aide and my trustee took me to see Dr. Tucker.  He came in late and said he’d spent the last fifteen minutes on the phone with the VA.  Then he asked what he could do for me.  How many times in the last three weeks has someone said to you, “How can I help you?”  Of what service may I be?  That’s not a question you hear often, if at all, but it’s the question Dr. Tucker asked me.

Dr. James Tucker is the director of Medical Education and Family Medicine Residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, and a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University.  I find it curiously reassuring that “the system” has wit enough to put this good man at the forefront of education and training, however, I suspect that people don’t listen to him very much.


So I try to tell Dr. Tucker, but falter and look at my aide, Amelia, for help.  Amelia spends an average of 2½ hours a day, five days a week, with me.  We talk.  She’s the only person who actually knows what my life is like and how I feel about it.  She’s a 23-year-old woman who works for Peace.  On this kid’s shoulders rest the weight of a 65-year-old woman with an indwelling catheter and an electric wheelchair.

I begin to eke out the words for Dr. Tucker.  I tell him about Sharon, the nurse from the Visiting Nurse Association, who overwhelmed me, then lectured me on good behavior when I snapped (see ).  Then Dr. Tucker tells me that he just spent fifteen minutes on the phone with the VNA—not the VA Hospital, the Visiting Nurses Association.

He spent the time talking to Anger Banger (see ), trying to get her to see reason and take me back into care.  Dr. Tucker is a gentleman and a professional; he does not use crude words to disparage people, including those who also work in the field of medical care.  He did, however, take time to utter to us half a dozen long words about Anger Banger, the gist of which was that he is painfully saddened by her lack of compassion, respect and helpfulness in the care of a patient.

So we go on to talk.  I tell him that I don’t want any more catheter changes; no more strangers between my legs.  I know that if the catheter goes unchanged then eventually I will get an infection and, because of my immune system problems, the infection cannot be treated.  Dr. Tucker nods solemn affirmation that I am right about that.

Then I tell him that if the catheter is withdrawn, I will have to go to the bathroom every two hours day and night, and I quickly will go back to chronic kidney failure, stage III, which is where he picked me up a year ago when he ordered the indwelling catheter.  Again, Dr. Tucker nods agreement.

We talk a little about some other things.  He raises the question of depression.  I explain that if I lay in bed with the air conditioner on and music playing, I am not depressed.  If I have to get up and go out, or deal with stressful situations, e.g., heat, or the nurse from the VNA, then I quickly become depressed and often suicidal.  This is because of Woodlen’s Syndrome.

Syndrome W consists of this:  long-term use of psychiatric medications and then withdrawal from said drugs.  Who knows what the residual damage is?  If you spend twenty-six years training a rosebush to grow over a trellis and then remove the trellis, what does the rosebush do?  If you alter the central nervous system and brain for a quarter of a century and then stop, what have you got left?

It would be profoundly foolish to think that the brain will revert to pre-drugging function.  If I had been taking meth, LSD or bath salts for that long, what damage would you expect?  That’s the problem—nobody knows what to expect because nobody stops their “meds.”  Victims of pharmaceutical spell-binding, and familial and societal pressure, “psychiatric patients” just keep on taking their drugs until they die.  The infamous “studies show” that human beings who are chronic users of psychiatric medications (i.e., patients who are compliant with physicians’ orders) die four, or ten, or twenty-five years earlier than their non-drugged counterparts.  That’s people who keep taking drugs.

Nobody knows what happens when you stop drugs because nobody stops their drugs.  Except me.  Physicians have looked but cannot find any literature on the effects of lithium poisoning on the immune system.  Nobody knows how the nervous system is permanently altered by antidepressants.  I’ve got Syndrome W, which is a major factor to take into account in future planning, and nobody knows what it is.

I have some idea how it acts but nobody listens to me.  I know that the more physically active I am, the more likely I am to become suicidal.  At my best, five years ago, I could engage in hard physical exercise for an hour twice a week without becoming suicidal.  Now, combining Syndrome W with aging, chronic renal failure, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus and a few other things, three hours wheeling in the heat at a park can precipitate extreme emotional distress the next day.

Depression is usually triggered by the perception of powerlessness but there are a small number of cases where depression is caused by autoimmune disease, hormone imbalance or damage to the central nervous system.  That’s where Syndrome W resides, and nobody is studying it.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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