I was 55 when I had an experience that a psychiatrist diagnosed as a psychotic episode of an organic origin, namely a noticeable loss of prefrontal (?) tissue. I was in an extremely unhappy marriage, diagnosed three years earlier with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue and at age 52 I became unable to work. At about the same time I began to experience a profound and deep depression and was prescribed Prozac. An array of other physical symptoms hit me in a near blitz. I experienced hair loss, weakness in my legs and frequent falling, urinary incontinence and severe tremors and twitching, to the point where I was unable to carry anything without dropping it, could barely get a fork to my mouth and my once beautiful handwriting became illegible. In addition, for someone who spent years as a newspaper reporter and public speaker, my impaired speech and memory problems were devastating. At the beginning of the "psychotic" episode, I began to fear my husband was doing or going to do something injurious to me. I began experiencing severe paranoia and became suspicious of his sudden friendship with the woman next door in our new neighborhood, convincing myself something was going on between them. He actually did nothing to easy my fears and seemed to enjoy provoking me, or so I thought at the time. I'm embarrassed to go into details here but there was an incident when he was traveling out of town that my fears and suspicions landed the police at my home and if my husband hadn't arrived home when he did they would have taken me into protective custody. I knew then that I needed help and fast. Around the time I started seeing the psychiatrist I had already started experiencing auditory hallucinations, hearing music from unknown sources, thinking I could hear the woman next door talking, even accusing my husband of trying to "reprogram" my thinking by using neurolinguistic programming, which by the way I used to teach in sales seminars when I was well and working. I also had visual hallucinations and I'm sure I experienced some things people taking illegal drugs often wished they could experience. The doctor took me off Prozac, started me on Depakote, lithium, risperdal and from the onset of the symptoms until I no longer experienced any hallucinations was six months. I saw the psychiatrist for a year, until she no longer accepted my kind of insurance and I transferred to a new doctor. In her records which were transferred to the new doctor she wrote that I was the most complex case she had ever treated. My depression continued however and the only way I can describe it is that from my eyebrows up my brain felt dead. Speaking was an exhaustive effort. My new doctor took me off other meds and started me on wellbutrin and then sxi weeks later adjusted it to the maximum dosage. One afternoon I awoke from a nap (I was sleeping 20+ hours a day), went into the livingroom and sat down and thought "something's missing"! I was wrong though. Something was back and it was my life! I woke up that day from a deadly 5 year depression. The doctor was worried about me feeling too good and started me on Lamictal to prevent mood swings as he was concerned about bi-polar depression and how I hate that word! I vowed to myself to recover my life completely and there were times, even when I was just sitting in a salong getting my hair done, that I wondered if I'd ever feel physically strong and even halfway well again. I pushed myself hard, took a cruise without my husband, started flying back East to reconnect with my siblings and family, forced the issue and bought a car after not driving for over three years. Slowly I regained my physical strength, which enhanced my mental strength. I got a puppy, a computer and life began to return. I pushed the sale of our home (thank God before the market stalled) and about 14 months ago I went and opened my own checking account, cashed our CD's in, paid off all joint debt, divided the rest andI left my husband and moved 200 miles away, bought another puppy (because he kept my dog), became very active in my church after 14 years away and started volunteering 2 days a week. I live on my Social Security, still have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue but feel 80% improved much of the time. At first I'd have 2 good days a week, now I have only 2 sort-of-bad days a week, but manage very well. Although my second psychiatrist felt my husband was mentally abusive, controlling and manipulative, I didn't see it until close to the end, when I realized how he had felt empowered by my illness and often encouraged me to rest or I'd get ill again and was always asking how I felt and acting like he was catering to me when all he wanted was my dependance on him. I sometimes worry about that "episode" and if anything like that could ever happen to me again, but I am sure I'd recognize the paranoia and unclear thinking immediately and not hesitate to get help. I'm almost 60 and never thought I could be this content or functional again and I want to stay that way. I wonder if my experience is unusual and would appreciate hearing from anyone regarding their opinion of my story. I pray all my remaining years are as clear as the last 4+ have been, but as happy as the last 1+ is.
Published On: February 07, 2008