October 12, 2011

One Can But Shrug One's Shoulders

So, life…

It seems to be getting more sci-fi by the minute.

First, after eight months of gainful employment, I rejoined the world of the unemployed for the second time, thanks to a spectacular up-the-line bust-up at my job which had a trickle-down effect to, well…me. Out in about an hour, in a manner akin to “don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.”

Then, I woke up about a month ago, got out of bed, stood up, and immediately did a face-plant on the floor.

Hmmmmm, I sez to myself, I sez, that’s not normal. Let’s just get up, dust ourselves off and get on with things as they should be.

Face-plant #2.

Hmmmmm, I sez to myself, I sez, this continues to not be normal. Never mind with the standing up, then. Let’s sit up, just prop ourselves up against the side of the bed, wait until things right themselves, dust ourselves off and get on with things as they should be.

Face-plant #3. I just didn’t have as far to fall this time.

Hmmmmmmm, I sez to myself, I sez, there seems to be no standing up today. In fact, there seems to be no sitting up. In further fact, there seems to be no up at all. What a veritable pickle. My only option, from this point forward in life, seems to be lying on my back on the floor. (Bet you’re already thinking, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Shame on you. Okay, yeah, I thought it, too.)

This was followed by about an hour of scooting myself across the floor on my back, trying to get to the phone and, when my t-shirt rucked itself up, discovering just how cold tile can be on warm flesh. In truth, because I knew I was safe on my back, the hour also included wiggling my way to the closet, opening it with my toes and spilling a pile of food on the floor for the cats (because I didn’t know how things were going to play out or indeed how long the cats would need to fend for themselves); wiggling my way to the front door to make sure it was unlocked for the EMTs (again, toes); and wiggling my way to the phone and calling my sister in San Diego first (so she could contact the cat sitter, which was important, and cancel a lunch I had with BFF Ken, which, in retrospect, may not have been as important but, hey, I had her on the phone) before I called 911. (It was a good thing I called Big Sister first because, once I called 911, the EMTs were there in a minute. Literally. I hung up, relaxed on the floor…and heard the sirens.)

(Incidentally, throughout all of this, I really, really, really had to pee. That was the true torture.)

Five more blackouts and six days later, I was released from the hospital with a diagnosis of cataplexy, suspected conversion disorder. Which, in layman’s terms, means the best the docs could figure out was that my subconscious had decided it had had enough of this life (regardless of how I felt), was determined to give up, and was going to make me lie down and stay down fer, like, ferever. (By the way, hospital? I coulda done without the 12 or so heparin shots in the stomach, thanks all the same.)

(For those interested in the gory details, the attacks were like being a marionette whose strings were all cut at the same time. Eyes slammed shut, head dropped, knees buckled, and, hello, floor. But I could hear and feel (do you know how many painful things EMTs do to you to try to wake you up? Holy Toledo!)—and, to a minimal extent, gurgle responses to questions but I had no control over my body and couldn't open my eyes. This seems to be the nature of cataplexy.)

So, I’m home. I’ve been home for a while but I'm still weak, dizzy, loopy in the head, sometimes I have trouble walking, and my eyes feel achy the way they do when they've been dilated, which all adds up to my not being well enough to look for work but not being sick enough to go on disability. And the diagnosis? Well, I just don’t know. I’m not entirely convinced it’s psychological (there were other physical symptoms that were just weird like how much my muscle tone withered in 24 hours) but the hospital docs did an intense work up—I was shoved into and onto and over every machine imaginable, and anything left over was attached to my body in some fashion or another, saw a GP, a psychiatrist and physical therapists—and, since leaving the hospital, I’ve seen a therapist multiple times, another psychiatrist, another GP, and am seeing a neurologist next week since the epilepsy which I’ve had for years does muddy the diagnosis waters a bit. True, there is some shrugging of the shoulders going on on the part of the professionals, but they don’t know what else to do—except tinker with my medications, which has been more of a nightmare than the cataplexy. Have not been enjoying that. I have made them untinker most everything they did.

In the meantime, the one unavoidable fact is that I cannot live alone—this go-round, I was lucky that the only thing I hurt was a toenail (which has turned a lovely shade of puce)—and there's no way to know if the attacks are under control, so I’m most likely shutting up the little cottage, packing up the cats and heading down to San Diego for a few months. The consensus, professional, amateur and otherwise, seems to be that a little sunshine and a lot of family certainly can’t hurt.

While I’m still here in Seattle, however, my coterie of Guardian Angels—friends and family in-state and out—have been peforming their ever-selfless magic and keeping me safe, sane-ish and fed. You know who you are, Guardian Angels, and I won’t even try to say thank you because it just doesn’t even come close.

The biggest change? Guess who has a cell phone.

Posted by Ryan at 10:37 PM | Comments (29)