Recovery, Chronic Fatigue and Depression (Part III)


I had learned that the cause of depression is the perception of powerlessness; once I got my power back then I would be all right.

Um, well, not exactly.

Around 2009 I moved to another HUD-subsidized apartment building in Syracuse.  It had the best manager I’d ever met in my 53 years of apartment living, and it was located within wheeling distance of my dentist and Syracuse University—everything that was important to me.  As long as the weather was dry and the temperature was above 40 degrees then I didn’t have to use either Medicaid transportation or Centro’s Call-a-Bus, I just could wheel wherever I needed to go.  Being poor is a bitch.

I was determined to be fully disabled in 1991 and went on Social Security Disability.  Now, in 2014, I am on straight Social Security, which gives me $832 a month.  I have been living below the poverty line for 23 years.  Think about that.  Think about your income level, and mine.  Because I am too sick to work, I am poor.  There are a bazillion people like me—sick, old and poor.  Every time you talk about poor people, remember that you are talking about me.

So I moved into the University section and got my physician to refer me to the State University of New York, Upstate Medical Center, Institute for Human Performance—which turned out to be a vast, empty warehouse that is one of SUNY Upstate’s most astounding boondoggles, not to mention taxpayer rip-offs.  I went there and tried to exercise, only to discover that my puny efforts didn’t come anywhere near meeting the standards set by the physical therapist.  I had to quit.  Much later this was played back to me by my physician as “You were noncompliant.”  Did he ever ask why I stopped going?  Nope.  He just made a negative judgment.  He previously had been the medical director of a major hospital.  It was his choice to stop being an administrator and go back to practicing medicine.  More’s the pity.

I was getting progressively more tired and spending progressively more time in bed, and then I discovered that my diabetes mellitus was getting out of hand.  I had stopped checking my glucose on a daily basis because I had my diabetes under control with diet and exercise. Now, I couldn’t exercise but my diet was still healthy, nevertheless, my A1C level was rising.  It had, in fact, gone from 6.8 to 13.2, and my daily finger sticks were above 350; they were supposed to be below 120.   So I started taking insulin, which worked just fine for six months, then it made me suicidal.

Ever since I had stopped taking drugs in 2001, any attempt to re-take them made me suicidal.  Antidepressants, antibiotics, diuretics, analgesics—everything would start by making me tired and end up by making me suicidal.  And nobody believed me, but there were two significant factors.  The first was psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology (PNIE).  PNIE is a recent school of study that most physicians know nothing about, and it links your emotions to your nerves to your immune system to your hormones.  There is interplay between all four systems—press on one and you alter the other three.

Perhaps I should mention that I have an I.Q. of 139 and my board scores were high enough to get me into medical school, but I have a learning disability—executive dysfunction—that has prevented me from achieving academic success.  I can’t do book learnin’, but I can succeed at some research.  So I studied everything I could about the immune system, which was the unknown factor in the PNIE mix.  At the encouragement of my doctors, I had attended a workshop on immunology that was designed for physicians.  I earned 5.5 hours of continuing education medical credits.  The same week that I got the certification that I was being educated at the doctoral level, I also got a letter kicking me out of SUNY Upstate Medical Hospital.

When a physician—or an entire hospital—kicks you out of their practice, they have to send you a certified letter telling you so.  They do not have to give a reason.  Really.  There is absolutely nothing democratic—or even mature—about the medical profession.  The reason why you are being kicked out is kept a secret.  You can’t fight it because you don’t even know what “it” is.  So, on the one hand, I was thinking and being educated at the doctoral level, but I also was being kicked out of a major teaching hospital.  SUNY Upstate could not tolerate me, however, the certified letter had no practical import:  Upstate physicians continued to see me.

The other significant factor in why pharmaceuticals made me suicidal may have to do with the 26 years that I took antidepressants every day:  who actually knows what antidepressants do?  The manufacturers state that ‘the exact mechanism whereby [this antidepressant] works is unknown.’  So you ingest a chemical that alters your brain every day for 26 years, then you stop.  What have you got left?  Nobody knows.  There are studies and reports of what happens in the first few weeks of acute antidepressant withdrawal but there are no long-term studies.  You train a rose bush to grow over a trellis for 26 years and then you withdraw the trellis:  what happens to the rose bush?  In what ways had my brain function been permanently altered?

We now know that antidepressants can make people suicidal.  That was not known when I started taking antidepressants in 1975.  I attempted suicide a dozen times while taking antidepressants—and the drugs were never blamed:  I was.  Now, without antidepressants, no physician was interested in investigating what was wrong with me.  Doctors who practice physical medicine don’t want to have anything to do with a patient’s emotional life, or psychiatry, so I was on my own.

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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