- 1: of, relating to, concerned with, or involving both mind and body <the psychosomatic nature of man — Herbert Ratner>
- 2: of, relating to, involving, or concerned with bodily symptoms caused by mental or emotional disturbance
We hear it so often, especially when relating to depressive symptoms. Depression hurts. Ever heard that expression? Probably. That is, after years and years of being called a hypochondriac, lazy, dodging responsibilities, neglectful, irresponsible, neurotic, uncaring, inattentive, a complainer, and a flat out liar. You might still be getting flack for that, right? I sure am.
We’ve touched upon the issue of bipolar depression and it’s limitations at Dailystrength.org’s Bipolar Support Group and again in Blogging Beepers throughout various posts. Bipolar depression literally destroys us both mentally and physically. It’s a proven fact that bipolar depression and hypochondria have nothing to do with one another. The aches and pains are real. The exhaustion and fatigue are too real for words. The headaches are blinding and are just as real to us as they are to you “norms’. Depression causes a variety of symptoms that aren’t just made up in our heads. And they sure as hell aren’t made up because we’re too apathetic toward our own lives.
I’m a control freak, much like Ruby who writes “I Was Just Thinking…”. I cannot stand the idea of someone else having to take the reigns of my life. It is my body; it is my mind – I can do, say, think, whatever the hell I want. Except when I cannot physically or mentally do the things that I think and want. I don’t put the responsibility on anyone else. I don’t throw my kid at the nearest person because I’m having a breakdown. I don’t let the bills go unpaid and I don’t let my house get to the point where it would likely be condemned. I wear my stylish clothes, dash on that makeup, and I don the smile that you trolls love so much. I keep on moving at MY pace, where the “norms” like it, or not.
Which brings me to Monday. I noticed that I had been losing pace unusually fast, and my physical health had turned for the very worst. Unusually so. I had made a recent, but passing mention of a physical illness in, “When it Rains, It Bleeping Hurricanes”. And since “To See If I Still Feel”, I’ve been making multiple mentions of a lingering depressive episode.
I bring you a surprising answer.
Definition of SOMATOPSYCHIC
: of or relating to the body and the mind; especially : of, relating to, or concerned with mental symptoms caused by bodily illness >
Shortly after the accident, I contracted what I thought to be influenza. It happens biannually. This year, it was the stomach flu at Christmas, and the body flu in the summer. The year before it was H1N1 (or Swine Flu) over Halloween and “viral syndrome” (AKA summer flu in doctor-speak because, they don’t seem to think anyone can catch the flu outside of flu season). I hate it, but that seems to be the rhythm of circulating illness.
Anyhow, during this June influenza, I developed laryngitis, and as a music teacher, this is bad, bad, bad news. As a wife of a man who has diagnosed hearing loss but is too vain for hearing aids, it was the most aggravating thing to ever happen to me. 99.9% of As the Pendulum Swings readers have never met me, seen my face, or heard my voice. I am very careful to preserve anonymity. (Yeah, come find me among the 1,223,348 people that live in Allegheny County, PA!) I’ll tell you this. I am a 5 foot 1 inch powerhouse of sound. If I were a stereo, my speakers would be larger than I stand. I don’t need a microphone in assembly halls, cafeterias, stages, or theaters. Literally. So having the mother of all sore throats that preventing me from speaking at all was a challenge.
But this continued for over a month. I didn’t want to see a doctor because I knew I would get all fired up when they told me it was something stupid like allergies, asthma, cold, etc that could not account for these symptoms. But they would. Because I’m a big flippin’ hypochondriac. And I would’ve been a whining drama-queen who blew my symptoms out of proportion just so I could go on being lazy. Over the last week, though, I noticed that I started to lose a lot of traction. My throat felt like there was glass in it, I had a half an octave surrounding my speaking voice, I was intermittently running a low grade fever, and I had a super sensitivity to changes in temperature. I noticed my behavior changing. I started letting go. I let my kids in my classes have free periods. I couldn’t go three hours with the dire need to sleep. I let my kid destroy the house and hardly said a word to him. I couldn’t. My throat hurt so bad that I would only talk when it was absolutely necessary. But when the shortness of breath came, I knew that wasn’t anxiety or any other psychosomatic symptom. I literally wasn’t getting enough oxygen into my body. And I started to feel it – HARD.
My husband pretty much reluctantly took me to the local urgent care after he got home from work yesterday. He kept saying, “It’s up to you, it’s up to you.” Manslation – I will take me if you tell me that I have to. It turns out, I have (drum roll please!):
Walking pneumonia with acute bronchitis complicated by history of asthma, as a secondary infection to influenza. And do you know who invited this illness into my ecosystem? It wasn’t the children. It was the dirtiest, nastiest, smelliest, most abominable creature I have ever encountered – Rs (we’ll call him). Rs is my husband’s estranged best friend who recently made reconciliation. When this guy comes around, it never fails that someone becomes deathly ill. One year, we thought he gave C.S. SARS because they both had respiratory infections so badly. (Neither confirmed, nor denied. No one had health insurance). C.S. was almost too sick for our first Valentine’s Day. The only person in my family Rs hasn’t gotten sick yet is T.D. And if T.D. ends up in the hospital because of that misogynistic germ breeder, there will be hell to pay.
As my doctor is giving me this information, the light bulb goes off in C.S.’s head. “Oh yeah, Rs had that about a month ago!” Smooth operator there, Einstein. You could’ve killed your wife who seemed like the only person susceptible to this illness! And speaking of, how was I the only one who got any of these illnesses in the first place? Oh yeah, because I don’t have an air conditioned bedroom, I sleep next to the fan, I spend at least two hours a day in the elements in my commute, I don’t sit at a desk all day to do my job, and I chase after a hyperactive toddler all day.
“This bleeper is going to get an eyeful when I get my phone back.” Yes, I was sick enough to leave my Blackberry, which is normally an electronic appendage, at home on the desk. The text message conversation looked a little like this:
So it turns out that for all of this time, this entire month, I have not been having an episode. My psych meds were ineffective because they aren’t made to treat somatopsychic illnesses, like pneumonia caught by a music teacher who just so happens to have bipolar disorder. Only the Z-pak, 60mg of prednizone, and sucking an albuterol four times a day is going to cure that.
I will never let anyone call me a hypochondriac again.