Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Disappointment and Anger

I'm home from the hospital. My back is only slightly better. I now have numbness, tingling and weakness in my left leg, which necessitates walking with a cane around the house and crutches for anything of any distance. I am now two days away from missing my marathon, and more importantly, 3 days from missing skydiving with my brother, niece and nephew--an outing which was my idea and which I arranged. I'm so disappointed I don't even think I'll be able to go watch them jump. I can run more marathons, but missing my niece, nephew and brother's first skydive is an opportunity I'll never have again. That fact has had me in tears more than once today.

My last day in the hospital was quite challenging. Throughout the day it became very clear I was being treated differently based on my mental health diagnoses. I had concerns about going home as nothing had been resolved, but I was being treated like I was attention seeking. My practical concerns and physical complaints were dismissed. I had a nurse practitioner argue with me over my MRI results, results she insisted were benign but according to a specialist I had just seen actually were far from benign. And as I was leaving, members of my inpatient treatment team flat out refused to write up a referral for outpatient physical therapy. No reason. They stated I had to get a referral from my primary doctor instead, which is bullshit. I get patients everyday from Mayo Clinic who are referred to me by their inpatient doctors and providers. What benefit she got out of refusing to write up a referral I can't imagine.

As far as my MRI, I learned there are many ways to interpret an MRI depending on which slides you look at, and only the real specialists understand how to properly read them. After my MRI, the initial radiologist read it as "benign." Then it was read as "basically benign" with a small disc bulge at L5 (that's the fifth lumbar vertebra) by the physical medicine doctor, but since my numbness, tingling, weakness, and reflex changes all corresponded to an injury at L4, that didn't really make any sense. Nevertheless, he ordered an epidural injection to L5. I was game for anything that might help but frustrated the images did not match my symptoms, and nobody seemed to care.

Fortunately, when I arrived later in the neuroradiology department for my injection, the neuroradiology consultant correctly read my MRI as having a large "disc extrusion" at the level of L4 (picture a really full zit popping at full force and squirting its contents into the space where the L4 nerve root exits the spinal canal) and a smaller "disc protrusion" (a full zit which has not yet popped) at L5. She showed me the pictures. The extrusion and protrusion were clear as day, and more importantly, both findings were fully supported and corroborated by my physical symptoms.

The fabulous neuroradiologist attempted 3 times to inject corticosteroid medication into my L4 space, but she couldn't get the injections to work, so she attempted an injection at L5, which did work. My pain lessened (an L5 symptom), but my leg numbness, tingling and weakness (which are all correlated with L4) has, as expected, gotten worse.

It's been a rough couple of days. My mood has certainly taken a big hit. And I'm still fuming at the way I was treated as my inpatient doctors found less and less evidence, at least in their eyes, of anything actually being physically wrong. (Therefore, it must just be the mentally ill chick seeking attention and making things up, right?) Last but not least, my discharge summary doesn't open with a statement about my excruciating pain, which was the reason I was hospitalized. Instead it highlights my mental health diagnoses, first and foremost, before eventually mentioning I had acute back pain. Recurrent depression belongs in my past medical history, for sure, but it had nothing to do with my back pain, and it certainly did not need to be highlighted in the first sentence of my discharge summary.

The stigma of mental illness follows us everywhere. Anyone who thinks it doesn't impact our care for a variety of conditions is either clueless or blind. It's stigma! It sucks! And it really pisses me off!


Nathalie said...

Etta how absolutely infuriating that stigma is (once again) being imposed on a physical medical situation.
I have known of this phenomena happening with other people. Your mental health diagnosis was irrelevant during your recent admission to hospital. Perhaps when you feel up to it physically, you could write to the hospital with a complaint. I am from the UK where we have a patient liaison service for situations like this. I wish you well with your recovery.

Jean Grey said...

There is a lot of stigma with mental illness and now a lot of stigma being a pain patient- they think you are drug seeking, etc. I'm glad the steroid at least helped some, and I hope you find a good PT to work with.

The Real McCoy said...

Wow, literally adding insult to injury! I'm angry on your behalf. I agree with what Nathalie said above: when (or if) you feel up to it, I definitely think it would be worthwhile to file a complaint against those who treated you so poorly. Their supervisors need to know that certain patients aren't being treated fairly/properly.