You’re Depressed! – The Medical History of a Life Coach
If you are new here and are expecting to read some killer Life Coaching tips, or you have a sensitive disposition, or you like to read scannable posts, you may either want to leave now, or be prepared to leave in a few minutes when you get confused, bored or indignant.
As I said in my last post ‘Do You Want The Warts and All Story’ I have thought long and hard about writing a post that is so personal. I realize it wont be for everybody and I do understand that it’s not self development in the conventional sense.
On the other hand, there is a deeper message here that I think some people will resonate with and that’s why I’m laying it all out there with (almost) no holds barred.
And I also want to make one thing perfectly clear, I’m not looking for anybody’s sympathy, in fact it wouldn’t be welcome at all. I’m incredibly lucky to have a family I love, a job I love and live in a country I love. Everything else is a bonus.
“No I’m not”
“Yes you are”
“Look I’m telling you I’m not depressed, surely I should know?”
With that my GP reached into a drawer and pulled out a laminated card with a list of about 10 things on it. He then proceeded to inform me that if a patient had more than 4 of those symptoms, they were officially depressed.
I looked suspiciously at the sheet and could see that I did indeed fit the bill for 4 different symptoms.
I was struggling to sleep, I did have some anxiety (mainly because I couldn’t sleep), I was irritable and I was tired all the time. Perhaps he was right, perhaps I was depressed and didn’t even know it.
In retrospect, I probably should have said:
“Look you stupid bastard can you not see that a lack of sleep will cause all the others symptoms I’m suffering from, and that depressed people don’t feel hopeful and optimistic?”
But hindsight it a wonderful thing and I didn’t say that because I didn’t know it, I just meekly took the prescription for Prozac and went on my un-merry way.
A few months later and I’m back with my doctor patiently explaining that the Prozac didn’t do anything other than make me feel like I had flu when I took the unilateral decision to go cold turkey and stop taking it.
That rash behavior was met with a raising of one eyebrow and a scribbling on his prescription pad. “Oh fuck it” I thought, Not more drugs that don’t do anything. What have I done to deserve this, can’t he just prescribe me some ecstasy?”
Little did I know that it wasn’t more drugs, but a referral for a psychiatric evaluation.
I was even more incredulous at this development than I was being told I was depressed, but my Doctor insisted that I go and get checked out for my own good.
A week or two later I skulked into the psychiatrists offices after bunking off work feigning toothache because I didn’t want anybody to know where I was going.
My discomfort was heightened when I realized I knew the therapist that was about to evaluate me as he was a regular in a pub I frequented and we were already on nodding terms. Fortunately for me Steve was a young guy that looked far more like a hippy than a shrink and he immediately made me feel relaxed and rather normal.
We chatted for about an hour when he said:
“I have no idea why your doctor sent you here, you’re not depressed and you don’t need our help”
For a while I was elated to realize I wasn’t suffering from depression, but that elation didn’t last long. The fact of the matter was I knew I wasn’t depressed, but I didn’t know why I felt the way I did.
It was around this time I had my first ever root canal. I can remember drinking a cup of coffee at work and suddenly getting this excruciating pain that was unlike any other toothache I’d ever had.
Nothing I did or took seemed to have any effect. Within 24 hours I was lying in the dentists chair feeling pretty sorry for myself, when he rather proudly informed me I had not one, but two abscesses, and thus I needed two root canals. Bummer.
A couple of years later and with a new doctor on board I thought I’d try mentioning my lack of energy and sleep problems again. The main reason for making the appointment was a gnawing feeling in my stomach that I was getting from time to time that felt like I was being tugged at from the inside.
I couldn’t see what the doctor was writing as I talked, but I got the uneasy feeling it was:
Hypochondriac time waster!
And my suspicions were somewhat confirmed when after a bout of prodding and poking he suggested a psyche evaluation and a course of Prozac.
He went on to explain about psychosomatic illnesses and that he couldn’t see anything actually wrong with me physically.
I left with a prescription I had no intention of having filled, my tail between my legs and a determination not to go back again unless I was on my last legs. I even fantasized about getting really sick and dying, just to prove a point. Then I could have the last laugh by having etched on my headstone:
“See, I told you I was ill, you bastards!”
Maybe I did have a psychiatric disorder after all, because normal people don’t think like that, do they?
Over the next few years I was plagued with insomnia, root canals, stomach issues and one other completely unrelated and somewhat delicate problem.
Helen and I got married in April 1996 and even though we weren’t in a rush to have kids, we also weren’t in a rush not to. As such we decided to let things take their natural course and see what happened.
After 6 years of not a lot happening at all, I decided to consult with a fertility clinic and get checked out.
I wasn’t at all prepared for the results.
I didn’t have a low sperm count, I had a zero sperm count!
You’re probably thinking, wouldn’t that be obvious?
The answer is no, not at all, everything looked great from my perspective, if you get my drift.
I’ve never been a macho kind of guy, I really don’t care that I can’t bench press 250 lbs, have trouble growing a beard and have never been ripped like a side of beef, but this was a tad disconcerting, at least for a while.
Then again there wasn’t a lot I could do about it, so like the root canals and stomach issues and lack of energy, I just had to suck it up.
No jokes please!
Over a period of a few months I started getting pains in my neck and tingling down my right arm. My latest doctor sent me for an MRI that showed I had 2 severely bulging discs at C4 and C5 that needed attention.
C4 and C5 are so close to the brain stem that they have to be dealt with by a neurosurgeon rather than an orthopedic surgeon. When I went to see the consultant I’d been referred to he seemed intent on explaining the gravity of the situation, and the risks involved of such an operation.
Consequently, I put off the inevitable for as long as I could, but when it got to the stage where I had to lift my right arm out of bed in the morning with my left and my triceps had atrophied to the point where Monty Burns would have been embarrassed, I decided enough was enough and I had the double discectomy in July 2003.
Funny (now) story: When Helen came to pick me up to go home I was in a lot of pain as you can imagine. We were barely out of the parking lot before she almost ran into the back of another car and nearly put me through the windshield by braking so hard. Then about a mile from home she did the same thing again and almost ran into the back of a truck.
Things were tense for an hour or two after I got home let me tell you.
Fortunately for me, I had the operation during the hottest summer on record in England with temperatures hitting 100 degrees. I had a fabulous month once the initial pain had worn off to recuperate in the garden and ponder my future whilst ADP paid my wages.
The time off made me realize how much I hated my job, and how much I despised feeling stressed all the time and I promised to myself that things would change some way, some how, because this was no way to go through life.
On reflection, I think that was the first time I ever realized (or at least accepted) money and happiness are not intimately connected.
A move of house in 2002 had brought the option to sign up for a new doctor, but my experiences had scarred me to the point that I really didn’t want to mention my tiredness and sleep problems to the poor guy.
But by early 2004 my sleeping was really taking a toll and my new doctor seemed really nice. After all he was the guy that sent me for the MRI that actually showed something that wasn’t purely in my head so I decided to have one last crack.
Gratifyingly, he was very empathetic and didn’t seem to believe I was a raging hypochondriac, or a total loon. Although he did think I was suffering from high stress levels and prescribed some sleeping tablets and gave me some relaxation tips.
I wanted more than that though and decided for the first time to take matters into my own hands.
I signed up to do a stress management diploma at Sheffield University so I could learn how to work on my own stress levels.
At that stage I had no idea what a Life Coach was and had no idea that this would be a crucial and very fortunate turning point in my life.
When the material arrived it soon became apparent that I’d never been depressed, or even close to it. And that if my doctor had actually known anything about depression other than what was written on his cheat sheet, he would have realized that too.
I’d never felt hopeless or worthless, I’d never felt down for extended periods of time, I’d never considered self harm and I never lost interest in things that I liked doing.
Every single symptom I’d had could be easily traced back to a stress and a lack of sleep.
By early 2005 I was eagerly using my new found knowledge to lower my stress levels and in May I attended a Life Coaching certification course. Even at this point I wasn’t 100% sure it was what I wanted to do, but it did feel right.
So with an impending move to the US looming I finally quit sales and started Life Coaching full time.
By the end of the year, my stress was just about gone, my happiness levels were up, but mysteriously I still wasn’t sleeping very well.
2006 – The Life Coach Years And On
I made a few mistakes when we moved to the US in early 2006, but probably none greater than taking the advice of a broker on which medical insurance plan to sign up for.
I had no comprehension of the world of co-pays, HMO’s, PPO’s and a medical system that revolved around profit and loss the same as any other business. I just presumed I paid my monthly premium and all was good in the world.
My initial consultation with my doctor threw me for a bit of a loop when I got handed a bill. I never realized that the insurance company didn’t pay the lot, that’s how naive I was.
Being in a new country and hearing what a wonderful medical system it had I decided to broach all my issues with my new doctor.
Alarmingly however, nothing seemed to change in terms of a prescription for this and a prescription for that. None of which achieved anything other than reducing my bank balance.
Note: Actually it isn’t entirely true that nothing changed, because I really like and respect my doctor and I have never felt like I was a pain in the ass to him!
My doctor finally suggested an ultra-sound, a colonoscopy and an endoscopy to hopefully get to the root of the problem and I was relieved to agree to these.
Unfortunately, I’d no idea that my medical plan meant I was going to be receiving a battery of bills that almost forced us to move back to the UK, but that’s another story.
Other than showing a benign hemangioma on my liver that the results were inconclusive and I was no nearer knowing what was wrong with me.
Until that is I went back for the follow up with my GI doctor. He walked into the room and before he’d even shaken my hand said:
“You have hemochromatosis”
“It means you have too much iron in your blood and I need to refer you to an oncologist”
Bear in mind my wife is an oncology nurse and they are not words I ever wanted to hear. My heart sank.
Fortunately, it’s not as bad as it seemed though and whilst there’s no cure, the condition can be managed by nothing more than a monthly phlebotomy and the removal of a pint of iron rich blood.
This was the first time I felt like I had lucked out however, as my oncologist informed me hemochromatosis was usually asymptomatic and often the first time people find out they have it is when they are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
I got my first abscess since moving to the US and it required something called a hemisection to remove part of the root of the tooth. A long and fairly painful process (although my dentist and the specialist he referred me to, were both awesome) followed by a long and very painful bill.
I also had a lump on my upper gum that my dentist questioned me about and I told him the truth, that I’d had it 5 years or more.
He wasn’t convinced, and after I admitted it had grown a little bit during the last few months he referred me to yet another specialist.
It turned out to be another fucking abscess, only this one had grown into the bone and required a procedure that really hurt to remove it, followed by a bone graft from cadaver bone to repair the damage. Nice eh?
Woopy-do another lump appeared on my gum, or more to the point a very small lump I’d had ages became more noticeable. As I was under the care of an oncologist I opted to get it checked out by a surgical dentist who my wife worked with.
She was completely baffled. She prodded it, poked it, measured it and took photos of it, but had no idea what it was and she suggested we either biopsy it or simply monitor it.
After informing me the biopsy would cause me to bleed like a stuck pig, I opted for the latter option.
The following day I got a call from Helen telling me Elizabeth (the dentist) knew almost certainly what it was. I am incredibly grateful to her that she went home and took the time to do some research on her own time.
It turned out that it was a rare, but known side effect of hemochromatosis and relatively harmless.
I just looked at the word count and I’m at a crazy 2,600 words with plenty to go. In the next post I’ll tell you how things have started to come together and why even though my specialist told me I had the cortisol graph of somebody that dies early from cancer, I was happy to hear it.
Click for part 3 to The Medical History Of A Life Coach
Photo: ‘Pills’ Courtesy of Jamie