Update on Ellie

1/16/2018     2:32am

So, Ellie had her last surgical check this week and the surgeon said she’s doing “Terrific!” They are amazed at her progress from paraplegic to walking around now and playing, and she just started physical therapy last week. He said we’re doing a great job with whatever we’re doing. I am so happy. I am grateful for everyone who helped out with the fundraiser in prayer or money and am grateful to have my dog back. She still has some pain and stiffness and walks a bit weird but I’ll take it. ;) Thank you SO MUCH.

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© Michelle Routhieaux 2018

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To NOT Feel Safe

1/3/2018

Yoga Therapy Art_0150 (4)

Fingers & Toes – A few can hold parts of my brain, secrets, but when they’re all full my brain can’t function.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2018

PLEASE

9/16/2017

It was the coolest thing. Usually I have trouble feeling connected, like I could be pressed hand to hand with you but not feel you – like there was a glass wall between us. But it wasn’t so at this yoga event I went to last Sunday. I knew the teacher and brought a few friends. It was literally us (the yoga people) and then the waves. And in between I lost the glass for awhile. I don’t know how and don’t care, but I found that girl from the other side wearing pink and saying, “PLEASE Don’t Leave Me.” This is her hand.
(Art from 9/12/17)

© Michelle Routhieaux 2017

Sent by God

3/15/17     10:54pm

A strange thing happened tonight. I was out to pizza with a friend and I had my dog Ellie. I know crazy people are drawn to me but tonight’s variety was different. I was at the counter waiting for a change in receipt when a disheveled man came in from outside and asked about Ellie. He started talking about PTSD service dogs and mentioned he was homeless. He told me he saw a super famous doctor in La Jolla once. I asked if he was a vet and he said no, that he wasn’t part of “the killing machine.” I tried to end the conversation and go back to my friend but no such luck.

The man came with me and sat down with us. He said there was something he wanted to tell us, something important. I have no idea what it was. I do remember him saying the word “bitchin'” and his name being Greg. My brother’s name is Greg and he’s the only one I’ve ever heard say that word. I wanted to give him a low income housing resource. Instead I heard about his experience being homeless, his family structure, some pro-Trump ranting, and how if he’s going to join a gym it has to be 24 Hour Fitness because it’s right down the street.

The man was filled with tears. He knew we wanted him to leave, yet he stayed. He asked if he could pray for us. He put out his hands and I held one and closed my eyes. He said a powerful prayer for my friend and I. God was there. I could feel it. He walked away and we took our pizza and left. The feeling stayed with me that God was there. Before I got in the car he showed up again and said to me that he really needs my help and would I PLEASE help him to get some place to live, some place with a bathroom and a shower, that he would work hard. He just really wants help. It was sincere. He never asked me for money or to buy him anything. He came to bring God to me.

I got in the car and told my friend about faith, that what is holding me up now is faith. I don’t understand what’s happening and I can’t fix or change it, but what I have is an unending faith and a posse of blessings and a crowd of people who love and support me. I have Jesus. I let go and trust. I am held. I’ve been really scared and, as my friend would say, “losing my shit,” and tonight God sent me a homeless man to refocus, to reconnect. He didn’t go anywhere. He never stopped caring for me, making everything right. Sometimes I just can’t see.

Thank you so much, God, for loving me. Please show me how to help your servant Greg.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2017

Hope in Electricity

1/23/2017     11:43pm

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I feel so good. My body is really sore and I can’t drive but I feel light. Colors are crisp and clear. They may only last a moment but I have ideas. I smile warmly for no reason. I breathe deeply without having to think.

Today I had ECT (my 1st since April). A change in anesthetic caused some problems but I am so much better. I am blessed with an amazing doctor who genuinely cares about me and a dream support team. Friends are helping with rides. I am released to rest and sleep (both from my depression & ECT).

It’s been almost a year since I was doing somewhat okay. My current therapist says he doesn’t recall ever seeing me not in crisis. Late summer I started to get worse. My repeated calls for help fell on ears that considered them my norm. I prepped to go inpatient in Sept/Oct but thanks to an amazing arsenal of coping skills and extra sessions of therapy I was able to hold off. I asked for ECT. My doc wanted DBT-IOP. I got pushed into a different program instead due to my people being in DBT, despite my multiple warnings that it was not a good idea. It was, as anticipated, a catastrophe that ended with an event appropriately described as trauma that I’ve yet to be able to process. In 1 day I went from 25+ hours of treatment/therapy per week to 2-3 hours. Not good.

Lately my suicidal ideation has been through the roof. I’m fighting for my life. I’ve also been impulsive, angry, self-harming, dark, unable to access empathy, scared, feeling alone and hopeless. Last week I called my therapist at midnight. I packed for the hospital. I cried.

They laid hands on and prayed for me at church on Sunday. It was unexpected yet utterly calming. I was surprised last week when my pdoc offered ECT. In one moment she validated and made my ongoing normalized experience true. I was confused. Even this morning I was panicked as they put me under. But Dr. M had my hand and I could feel God and see the outlines of my angel and D- and some unknown to my left. I am exhausted and sore but I am okay.

God, thank you for blessing me with family & friends and kick ass doctors. Please continue with my healing and keep using me for Your will.

My next treatment is Thursday. I wonder how long they will last – not the set but how long between treatments before the effect begins to wear off. I’m itching to do weekly. I can drive then. ;)

I enjoy resting and sleeping now. And rain

M

Update 1/31/17  1:46am:

I had a treatment on Thursday and another today. The weekend was really bad but I feel better now. I’m getting some rest and reminding myself to do one thing at a time, be “gentle to self,” as we say in group. I’m proud of me and grateful for my treatment team, my friends and ECT. There is hope in electricity.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2017

On the Election

10/19/2016     7:25pm

I’m sitting here watching the Presidential debate. I feel so disheartened. I back Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump as a President would literally kill me. But that’s not the issue for me. The issue is pride.

I remember the last two elections. I followed them closely and supported Obama. I posted on Facebook and put up yard signs. I have an Obama sound card. I felt proud to be an American. I felt involved and I felt hope. My viewpoint mattered and my response was wanted. Not so much now. I even went to local candidate events.

(listen to them talk about entitlements – VERY important to me)

At least for a moment there was involvement and acknowledgment of people like me by Bernie, a chance to rise and make a change. But it’s gone now.

I don’t post this as political commentary about a specific candidate but as a WTF about this election. I want to be able to trust the leaders of my country. I don’t want to be ashamed of my leaders or avoid the topic or change the channel each time it comes on. I want a candidate to rise up with.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is on tonight. It’s the 50th anniversary. I’d rather have Lucy as my president.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2016

On ECT…

12/26/2015     1:56pm

I’ve been wanting to write on ECT for awhile now. It seems everyone has their own opinion about it, even if they haven’t experienced it. I say, unless you’ve tried it shut your face. This is my experience with it.

In case you didn’t know, ECT stands for Electroconvulsive Therapy (shock treatment.) Right, like in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” only not. ECT is used for severe depression when medications and other treatments haven’t worked, suicidal depression, psychosis, severe mania or catatonia. It may seem barbaric but it’s actually quite effective. Antidepressants have about a 30% effectiveness whereas ECT is about 70%.

I started ECT mid-November after 15 years of med changes and 13 hospitalizations. I wish someone had offered it to me sooner. 5 of my doctors worked together to make it happen. Here’s how it happened. I was given the option and information that I could sign only after having it for 24 hours. My doctors made sure my labs were good and I passed my EKG. I was evaluated by 2 doctors and then scheduled for my first session. I opted not to view the ECT video. I’ve seen it before. I’ve had many friends who’ve had ECT so I knew a bit of what to expect and considering I’d rather have been dead the outcome really didn’t matter.

I started ECT inpatient 3 times a week. The night before they give you a red wristband that means you can’t eat or drink after midnight until they take the band off (because of the anesthesia.) I got lucky for my first ECT and had my favorite nurse assigned to me. She came to get me super early in the morning when the ECT dept was ready for me and walked me down there. The nurse there greeted me with a smile and took my vitals. The nurse from my unit stayed with me until it was my turn. Then they took me back to meet my doctor in the treatment room. As soon as I go in, I sit down on the gurney (which is ridiculously soft.) The nurse on my left starts an IV in my left arm, the nurse on my right covers me with a warm blanket, the anesthesiologist is above my head and my doctor is either sitting at a computer on my right or standing at my feet talking to me. Someone puts electrodes on my forehead and right temple. I try to stay conscious as long as possible but inevitably mid-sentence my doctor grabs my right hand, smiles at me and says I’m going to get sleepy. The world gets a bit blurry, shakes back and forth two or three times and all goes black. The next thing I know I wake up in the recovery area. I still have no idea how I get there. When I wake up I feel happy and healthy, they take my vitals and someone gives me apple juice.

While I’m asleep they shock me on the right side and top of my head (unilateral), causing a seizure. In the IV they give me meds to paralyze my body so I don’t shake. Because of this, they breathe for me. They tape my eyes shut and put a mouthpiece in so I don’t grind my teeth. I don’t suggest keeping contacts in if you wear them. I did the first time and somehow lost one when they pulled the tape off. Don’t worry. They do it before you wake up and it doesn’t hurt at all or leave a mark. I have longer seizures than most people. Last week I had my longest yet – 148 seconds. The length of the seizure doesn’t seem to matter as long as it’s at least 20 seconds. Some people have bilateral ECT, which means they get shocked on both sides. That kind of ECT has more memory loss and side effects. They don’t seem to know how or why ECT works. I read an article last year that said it slightly damages the part of the brain that’s overactive in depression. Other sources say it basically jumpstarts the brain or changes the chemistry. Either way, it works.

My first ECT was the worst. They didn’t give me any extra meds because they didn’t know what I’d need. I had no idea where I was or who the people on my unit were. I was crawling on the floor nauseous with a HORRIBLE headache. I did at least remember my nurse, who I’ve known for years. My legs hurt SO bad for several days, which they told me was because they were super muscular and adjusted the anesthesia. They “stacked” my first two treatments – two days in a row. After the first one they started giving me Toradol and Zofran in the IV and I’ve had much less difficulty with pain and nausea.  After the first treatment I felt joy, which confused but elated me. I didn’t know it was possible. I had 5 treatments inpatient and was doing so well that they discharged me without a plan for maintenance treatment. Then my therapist fired me and some other shit happened and I took a hard and fast dive towards death. So I decided to go back to ECT. Now I’m getting treatments once a week.

ECT has not been without side effects. After doing treatments three times a week I couldn’t drive for 2 weeks. Now that I’m doing it weekly I just can’t drive the day of or the day after treatment. About an hour after I wake up I get a headache and feel very nauseous. Sometimes I can stay up and work on the computer or write. Other days I just sleep. I have Tigan to take PO for the nausea. My memory is spotty and my cognition is definitely impaired. I have trouble remembering names, passwords, how to get places. My mind, which is usually chock full of thoughts and ideas, is often pretty blank. This is new for me but I don’t altogether hate it. There are certain things I don’t remember at all. I’ve gotten into arguments with people about things I apparently did but have no memory of. This is frustrating for me. Thankfully at least one of those people understands why. My mind is usually a steel trap. If I don’t remember it, it didn’t happen. But I guess now it might have. I’m learning. It’s like ECT as ERP. I’m learning to accept not knowing or remembering. I so often now hear myself saying, “I don’t know.” I also get very sore muscles for a few days after my treatment – sometimes my neck or shoulders, tongue, back. The soreness seems to travel but doesn’t show up until the second day.

I feel offended when people tell me I shouldn’t be doing ECT or when they hassle me about how many treatments I’m having. They say they’re concerned about my mind or the side effects. They fail to take into consideration that it’s saving my life. I KNOW I’m not the same. I’m aware that my mind is different. I’ve seen how it can ruin people’s minds. It’s not ruining mine. I trust my doctors and God has given me ECT. Maybe not for forever, but definitely for now. I finally found something that actually helps me. I do feel sad more often than usual, but I believe that’s because I’m actually feeling. I’m dissociating less, actually living in the moment. It’s new for me. I think it’s good. I intend to keep doing ECT until my doctors and I agree on stopping. Please don’t try to dissuade me.

If you’d like to talk about ECT, feel free to leave me a comment here or contact me personally if you know me. I’m not up for philosophical arguments but I’m willing to answer questions or help you out. It’s not as scary as it seems. I promise.

This is the Mayo Clinic article about ECT. Mayo Clinic – ECT

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015

Building a Life on Happiness

11-16-15     4:47pm

Homework: Imagine a life built on happiness…

Imagine a life built on happiness…

I would have energy and motivation. I would take chances and try new things. I would take better care of myself and spend more time with friends. I would DANCE and maybe have the guts to try musical theater again. I could tolerate spending more time with the girls. I would spend less time in darkness crying.

(eat dinner)

I would probably do more fun things like bowling and Zumba. I would be stronger, more able to handle others’ crises without crashing myself. I would have more art parties and probably shower more often. I might even be able to start brushing my teeth regularly. What a concept.

If I had a life built on happiness I’d paint my nails more often. I’d probably answer my phone and my self-esteem would improve. I could move on to DBT Level 2 and spend less time in appointments and therapy. Maybe my health could improve and I could have less random physical and neuro symptoms. That would be nice.

A life built on happiness would probably be filled with hope and possibility, art and writing, LOTS of music and dancing and yoga and movement. And maybe I could learn how to do nothing. That would be nice. I could find peace. Learn boundaries. Set limits. Take risks. Breathe. Be.

I just asked my nurse how long my seizure was today – 79 seconds. I wonder why they’re getting shorter (105, 97, 79.) I hope it’s not a trend.

I almost lost my room today. I’m thankful I got to keep it. I wonder how my life would be different if I had discovered ECT works for me before now…  I’m glad I’m brave.

I was right. Something did die with ECT – the intense need to die, the voice telling me I need to die somewhat constantly. It is almost absent. I feel a sense of wonder and joy. I do get heavy waves of sadness but not deathly despair. I feel happy to be alive.

Dr. H is letting me go to DBT on Thursday. Armando is going to take me and bring me back. I’m so glad I’m not dead. It’s a new feeling. This is a chance to reinvent myself, build a “life worth living” like they say in DBT. I’ve never been healthy before. Life starts now.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015

The Red Wristband

11-11-15     8:55pm

I was given a gift tonight. D- visited and we sang. I shared some of me with her. She doesn’t want to lose me. I enjoyed the singing, the truth connection, but I still want to die. The exhaustion of interacting used everything in me. I talked to H- in the hall. Then J- came with a gift – a red wristband.

I never thought I would be one of those people who took a million meds or had a rolodex of doctors. I’ve never planned to be a sick person. I didn’t look forward to struggling through days. Yet here I am with a red wristband. I feel defeated. I’ve turned into Janet, only I’m not dead.

What does it mean about me?

  • I have ECT at 9am
  • My doctors are very concerned about me
  • I am sick
  • I have failed
  • I can no longer tolerate living this life
  • I am… free.

I think I can let go now, stop fighting just for tonight. God is here and my family is around me. My insides are hollow and my outlook dark, but my soul rises up. This is the end. I want to die.

I trust my team. I don’t want to let them down. I will sleep safely and meet Dr. M in the morning for ECT. I’m scared but I trust him with the brain attached to this red wristband. I just don’t trust myself.

I thank God for my doctors and my friends & family.
I’ll let you know how it goes.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015

Revelation

3-7-15     6:13am

I woke up at 5:15. Feels like Christmas morning. I took a shower. We don’t leave until 7:45 or 8. I’m excited. It’s almost my BIRTHday!

I had a revelation in the shower.

Old Thought: I can’t have that.
New Thought: I can have all things God wants for me.

I feel the power of the old, the peace of the new. Surrender. I believe it. No conscious cognitive therapy involved.

I’m going to my aunt’s today. I want to ask for the house. I keep getting flashes of things that scare me, of reasons not to want to live there alone, aside from the fact that it’s next to nowhere. Snakes and intruders mainly. No readily accessible emergency services. Poor medical care. I know nothing about septic tanks or wells. Maybe it’s just a dream. At least it’s my dream. A dream worth having. Besides, God kills snakes. I pray a snake doesn’t kill Ellie.

I feel like I’m missing meds. Or I just slept great. Hmmm… What did I switch around last night?

I’m going to listen to “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” audiobook. Noreen recommended it. Thomas found it at the library. I put it on my ipod. I’m almost afraid.

But of what? Liking audiobooks?

No. That I won’t be able to tolerate those either.

Dammit, Michelle. Enough already. STOP AVOIDING. Don’t think. Just dance.

Yeah, I need to do that too.

READ THE DAMN BOOK.

Alright already. Geez, lay off.

Mom’s upset I’m up early. I feel like I’m missing Seroquel from a diet healthy in psych drugs, but I know I’m not. Hmmm… I really must trim some of my specialty medical care. I pay upwards of $900 a month right now in care not covered by my insurance. And that’s not a typo. Where did I get lost? How did this happen? Probably the same way new wardrobes showed up in my closet when I was manic. This time I’m collecting people. You’d think they were priceless.

I feel an overarching sense of excitement and impending doom. I’d like to sleep but I’m wired and already dressed. I told Auntie I’d make her pancakes. Gotta get there first. I know. I could upload back-pictures or do my credit counseling online. And take some Benadryl so I can breathe.

Over and out, Chickadee.

-M

Michelle Routhieaux 2015

Rebranding

3/1/15     12:32am

Hello, dears. ;) It’s like greeting an old friend, sitting down to type. It has been awhile. Someone asked me recently, “What happened?!” in regards to my hospitalization. Well, a lot. I haven’t been able to answer that question yet. I thought I’d try here but it doesn’t seem likely tonight. I’m tired. I feel disconnected.

I worked all day in somewhat of a trance on my room and my chair in the living room – organizing papers, moving things around, throwing things out. I took a 4 hour nap in between but was able to create a space for me. I took some pictures but they came out blurry. I made space to put down my dance floor, a rug and my purple BackJack. I assembled some metal cubes to store stuff I don’t know what to do with in. Everything is up off the floor now. I even changed out the art on my walls. My room reflects me now. Colorful, calm, full of possibility and flexible in use.

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My birthday’s coming up next week. I’m excited. I’m going to my aunt’s house in the desert – my favorite place in the world to be. I get to spend time with my family and my dog and alone time with the dirt – my salty desert dirt. Is it just me or are there a lot of the words me, my and commas here? My mind is on its own today.

I’ve decided this year the purchase I want to save up for is a fountain. Yes, I want my own fountain. I got a mattress I love and last year I bought myself a swing. A fountain seems a fitting next step. I feel calmer near water and always gravitate towards it in gardens and at the hospital. So I’m starting a fountain fund. If you want to pitch in toward the fountain for my birthday, just because you like me, or because you have nothing better to do, you can send money through PayPal to my mom (diana.routhieaux@gmail.com). I made an Amazon wish list too. I want to buy a bowling ball this year but I’m not sure when. I’m overspending recently…

I feel like a seven year-old after a long day at the fair, coming down off cotton candy and ice cream, talking in circles and not making much sense. (stare) Then again it is 1:30 am and I took my meds at midnight. Eh, same effect. I’ll leave you to it. (Zap!)

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015