Evil Gal Productions

Mere Smith
is a recovering Southerner,
longtime TV writer,
author and blogger.
March 27th, 2013 by Mere Smith

Lost In The Meremuda Triangle

N.B. To paraphrase one of America’s most esteemed contemporary philosophers, Samuel L. Jackson: this is one long motherfucking blog post.  I’d suggest waiting until you have time to read it all in one go, or conversely, read it before bedtime to ensure a good night’s sleep, which will probably start around paragraph 3.  You’re motherfucking welcome.

.

So there’s something wrong with me.

And before the resounding chorus of “DUH!”s creates enough energy to jolt the Earth out of orbit – settle down, folks. For once, I’m being serious.

–ish.

Ask anyone who’s tried to see me in the past few months and they’ll tell you: it was a roll of the dice as to whether or not I could actually show up. (Mr. Benjamin, in particular, I offer apologies to you, after our three – count ‘em, three – cancelled outings.  According to ancient etiquette, I think I now owe you approximately two oxen and a wife.) Normally I’d chalk it up to ye olde hermit-writer social anxiety – because, hell, what can’t I chalk up to ye olde hermit-writer social anxiety? – but to be honest, it just felt like I was extremely sad about feeling pukey all the time, a mixture of sensations that culminated in a very public and appalling clusterfuckorama that finally – finally – slapped me awake. Yet because I had been so deeply asleep (read: “denial la la I can’t hear you”), in order to wake me, said clusterfuckorama was forced to slap the shit out of me. Like, really, really slap me so hard it left me with a faceful of broken blood vessels.  Literally.

But we’ll get to that.

For any of my readers who don’t know – which is, what?, the one guy who stumbled in here after Googling the word “cuntrocket”? – I am bipolar AND completely unashamed of it, the same way one might be unashamed of having cancer – because being bipolar is a physical illness. And feeling ashamed of a physical illness makes about as much sense as feeling ashamed that you aren’t a helicopter. In other words, that’s just fucking crazy.

Now if you wanna get technical about it, I have Bipolar II, or the “milder” form of bipolar disorder – and oh, how I love that adjective, “milder.”  You might as well have a milder form of Buzz-Lightyear-Jammed-Up-The-Ass Disease:

.

medium

It’s like being “slightly” pregnant.

 

The shrinks only differentiate it from Bipolar I because you tend to err more on the depressive side, and you don’t experience full-blown manic symptoms, i.e., you don’t have psychotic hallucinations about Elvis talking to you through your rice cooker – followed by you running through the streets, naked and shouting, “WOW ISN’T THAT THE COOLEST FUCKING THING BECAUSE I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW ELVIS LIKED RICE HEY LOOK AT MY TATAS!”

Thus, I got off “easy” by having what I like to call “Bipolar Lite,” which basically boils down to, “All the meds, half the nuts!”

And the meds?  Oh, the meds you will take! After several failed experiments immediately following my diagnosis, I’ve been on a steady three-drug cocktail for almost a decade. Except for the occasional “dip” – where some of my depressive symptoms resurface for a couple days, but dissipate on their own – with the meds’ help (AND years of therapy AND exercise AND yoga AND meditation AND getting enough sleep), I’d finally wrested a mostly-normal life back from my rogue neurotransmitters.

Yeah, serotonin and dopamine, you fuckers, I’m lookin’ at you.

However.

If you do any research at all on medicating brain diseases (one more time: it’s a disease, not an attitude problem, assholes)(okay, that last part was attitude), you’ll soon discover this Super Fun Science Fact: in a large number of cases, for reasons unknown – even if you take your medication religiously – eventually the meds can simplystop working.

Yep.  Easy as that.

One morning you get up and… you’re just re-fucked all over again.

I could pitch a bunch of theories as to why this is – your body acclimatizes to the meds and stops reacting to them; your metabolism changes as you get older so you stop processing the meds the same way; you start taking another drug that interacts weirdly with all your other drugs – but no one, not even the board-certified brain-peelers, has a comprehensive explanation for what I call the Attrition Effect.

It’s just like life, I guess: messy, inexplicable… and sometimes everything up and goes to shit for no reason.

And despite several (fine, several several several) warning signs over the past few months, when it came to the Attrition Effect, I was firmly in the Never Gonna Happen To Me camp.  Nope, not me, I’m different, I’m frangin’ awesome, I have diamond-hard willpower, I have absolutely FORBIDDEN it to occur, thus…

…I’m a wishful-thinking dumbass, just like everyone else.

Not that this is anything to feel ashamed of, either. Face it, if some guy walked up to you and said, “Hey, how ’bout I shove this sharp stick into your brain and stir shit up in there?”, I’m betting your answer would be something along the lines of: “Fuck off, you fucking psycho!”

Which is essentially what I’d been telling my brain for several months when it kept nudging me and whispering, “Hey, um… there’s something… I think there might be something… y’know… kinda… off… from what we’re used to here? I dunno… maybe it’s just me but… hey, only if you have time, now, I don’t want to be a bother but… could you… oh, say… look into that for us?”

To which I kindly replied, “Fuck off, you fucking psycho!”

(And yes, being a woman with a brain disease, I can use the word “psycho,” just like I can use the word “cuntrocket.” Ah, the small perks of marginalization.)

Now, “Fuck off!” isn’t a particularly nice thing to say to your brain, what with its keeping you breathing and getting you into college and preventing you from accidentally stepping off cliffs and providing you a living and putting up with all the chemicals you’ve been feeding it for the last ten years – and its, oh by the way, making life worth living, you ungrateful meatsack!

My brain may be a tad pissed at me.  But I can’t blame it.

After you’ve lived ten years in a mostly blissful state of productivity and personal growth, you get a little cocky.

* * *

Even the ancient Greeks knew “cocky” is a really bad idea.

.

Ask Icarus.

Ask Icarus.

 

* * *

Yet as I said, I’d been pretty miserable for the last three months. And not just mentally “off,” but physically ill, too, since there isn’t a lot of room in your skull, and your “happy/unhappy” lobe is located relatively close to your “I’m-fine/I’m-vomiting-like-The-Exorcist-chick” lobe. At first I figured (“denial la la I can’t hear you”) I was just catching some virus. A lot. Like, every other week or so. Infinite Stomach Flu. ‘Cause that happens, right? Right?

But then I went to the dentist.

Which turns out to be a stunningly bad idea when A) you use nitrous even for cleanings because you have a pre-existing dental phobia (due to your childhood dentist, Dr. Mengele, D.D.S., breaking teeth off in your jaw when you’re 10 years old) and B) your stomach is already kinda… BLEAAARRRGGHH.

I won’t go into too much detail – largely because I don’t want to make you barf up a pancreas – but I think I definitely saw my pancreas in the dentist’s bathroom, coinciding with the worst panic attack I’ve ever had in my whole life – and let me tell you, for someone who’s had panic attacks for 20 years, that is saying something.

Oh, and all of this took place in front of strangers, which was nothing short of gaggingly awesome. Granted, they were kind strangers, ones who murmured and patted my back comfortingly while my pancreas did laps around the toilet bowl, but nonetheless, strangers who never needed to see my pancreas in the first place.

All of which necessitated The Finance’s actually leaving work to retrieve me… or rather, to retrieve the weeping, pukey, shitting ball curled up on the dentist’s waiting room floor, sobbing under a blanket and trying to hide her face from the normies. After we got home, there was more puking and panicking and shitting and crying – mainly because I didn’t know what the fuck was happening to me – and indeed, I cried so hard I broke almost every blood vessel in my face, which I didn’t even know was possible.  But for 36 hours afterwards I looked like a sunburned cherry tomato. (Just trust me when I say: not a good look for the Whitest White Girl in the Whole White World).

Hence, let this be a lesson to you, kids: Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.  It’s a river made of acid and lava and nuclear sewage filled with cobras and butchers’ knives and dead babies you hacked into pieces with the butchers’ knives. That is to say, it’s your worst fucking nightmare and you, lucky you!, you get to live it out in front of other people!

That’s when I thought maybe there might be a problem with my meds.

Take a moment.  I realize my genius is magnificent to behold.

So I went to the shrink, who gave me new meds that turned me into a zombie.  A zombie too stoned to go out and chase people.  A zombie that slept 14-16 hours a day and fell on the floor whenever it tried to get out of bed.

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facefirstcomforter

Hand to god, this really happened.

 

I couldn’t write a text, much less finish the “Elementary” script I’d been working on. I couldn’t talk on the phone because people thought I was drunk. (Hi-lar-ious, since I don’t drink. And when I say “hilarious,” I mean, “fucking irritating as shit.”) After a while I just stopped talking at all because I couldn’t hold a thought in my head long enough for it to exit my mouth coherently. Matter of fact, when I finally told the shrink this new medication wasn’t gonna work, it came out, “I can’t tay thish ‘cush I nee’ mah job for mah brain.”

My shrink answered, “Yeah, I don’t think this is the meds.  I think we should run some blood panels.”

I muttered, “Whaffever,” and promptly fell out of bed again.

So the blessed, saintly Finance drove me to the clinic and I underwent a bunch of tests (you know what’s a great preschool game? My First EKG!) and they poked me with a bunch of needles and sucked out a gallon of blood and – surprise! – what they told me was:

It’s not Infinite Stomach Flu, you moron.

No one catches the flu for three months straight, you idiot.  No one.  Even Keats, in the final throes of his tubercular wasting, was healthier than you are, despite your working out four times a week (prior to Zombieland, anyway).  And no, there’s no mysterious dust you’re inhaling from the treadmill that’ll give you an excuse not to work out. (Fuck.)

Reading their lab numbers like tea leaves, they were pretty sure I had something called Central Hypothyroidism – which, hey, whattaya know, causes nausea and depression! – and is like regular hypothyroidism, except it has nothing to do with your actual thyroid glands. (Gotta love how the medical community names stuff.  Too bad I didn’t have milder Central Hypothyroidism. I would’ve known how to deal with that.) No, this particular condition originates higher up, usually in your pituitary gland, which – say it with me – is also in your brain.  And the main cause for Central Hypothyroidism?

Is a little thing we like to call a brain tumor.

thescream

 

Whoa, whoa, whoa – cheap shot at dramatic effect, y’all.  I’m not gonna leave you hanging past that sentence.  More specifically, the most frequent cause of Central Hypothyroidism is what’s called a pituitary adenoma, which, yes, is a type of tumor, but not, like, a Hell’s Angel kinda tumor. No, 90% of the time these adenomas are just a bunch of cells hanging out where they shouldn’t, making trouble… more like juvenile delinquents.  And these JD’s probably don’t even know they’re causing trouble – like I said, they’re just hanging out ‘cause they’ve got nowhere else to go and nothing better to do; in other words, they’re benign, or non-cancerous – but they’re still leaving their cigarette butts all over the damn place and carving PA ♥’s PA into their desks, all of which in medical parlance adds up to, “Yo, they’re fucking up your hormones, dude.”

And as you may or may not know, fucked-up hormones can lead not only to fucked-up feeling, but fucked-up thinking, too. So those past few months I spent in “denial” about my meds not working anymore? Were probably due to my fucked-up hormones, rather than the Attrition Effect. In fact, to the best of all the doctors’ knowledge, the meds never stopped working, and I’m back on the cocktail I’ve been on for ten years.

So on the one hand, “yay?”

And on the other hand,

“HOLYSHITBRAINTUMORBRAINTUMORFUCK!”

Allow me to share a few words you never want to hear from a doctor:

“We need to schedule you for a brain MRI.”

My stomach, which for the last few months had stubbornly insisted on fighting its way up?  Suddenly plummeted into the parking garage. (And those cheapskates at the clinic don’t even validate.)

The MRI was five days later.

DO.

YOU.

KNOW.

HOW.

LONG.

FIVE.

DAYS.

IS.

WHEN.

YOU.

“MAYBE.”

HAVE.

A.

BRAIN.

TUMOR?

Like, so much longer than it’s taking you to read this blog post.  (Hard to believe, but true.)  During the intervening period, the zombie medication finally cleared my system, and I was back to being my usual charming self… which meant I was eaten alive with anxiety and crying at the drop of a hat.  Only this time I felt okay about it because I knew it was just my fucked-up hormones… well, that, and the whole “possible brain tumor” thing.

Now, do I have a pituitary adenoma?

No.

I found this out a few days ago after getting the results of my MRI. I would’ve said something before then, but who wants to write, “Guys, hey guys! I think maybe I have a brain tumor but I’m not sure so I’m opening this Kickstarter campaign just in case they need to crack my skull and dig around in there and I might need a wig but I want a really COOL wig okay so please donate!”?

That’s the main reason I’ve been off-grid for so long. It’s hard enough to write true or untrue things, in general.  I’ve found it impossible to write about things that may or may not be true but we’re not sure, so let’s do more tests.

So we did more tests.

After the negative result from the MRI, came the thyroid ultrasound, where I found out my right thyroid gland is twice the size of my left one (fucking overachiever – and underachiever at the same time – I can’t win), which means… frankly, I don’t know what the shit that means. But I have an appointment with a fancy-pants endocrinologist next week to explain to me what the hell is going on. I may be put on thyroid replacement medication, I may need even more tests – but I feel infinitely more well-equipped to deal with it now that I’m back on my usual meds, know that they’re still working, and I DON’T have a brain tumor.

It seems odd, to celebrate the non-existence of a thing, sorta like celebrating a tornado that bypasses your house, or a car accident you just missed having — all the while knowing that that tornado hit someone else’s house, and tons of people get in car accidents every day.  But the sense of relief — it’s not me, it’s not me! — is a real thing, a palpable thing, a thing you’re sure exists. And it, too, spawns its own reaction: gratitude.  Gratitude of the highest order, appreciation of what you do have, and hosannas to the Grand Hoo-Ha, even for your mild form of Buzz-Lightyear-Jammed-Up-The-Ass Disease.

So where do I go from here?

image

To infinity and beyond, my friends!

Infinity and beyond.

Comments

34 Responses to “Lost In The Meremuda Triangle”
  1. Kim in Fargo says

    Welcome to the “Surprise! You Don’t Have Cancer” club. I was hospitalized with a raging kidney infection caused by the 17 kidney stones lodged in my kidneys (not making that up). So the doctor walks into my hospital room where I’m pumped full of Demerol, Compazine, and IV antibiotics, with a big smile on his face, and said something like “Great News! It’s probably not cancer” and I’m all “……….. what?” because no one told me cancer causes kidney stones or that they even thought I had a tumor in the first place so my gratitude may have left a lot to be desired.

    On the other hand, Yay you! Glad you’re back among us.

    • SEVENTEEN FUCKING KIDNEY STONES? Are you kidding me? What were you doing, adding shale to your morning coffee? Though your experience does make me wonder one thing: if they could’ve run tests on me without telling me anything about cancer… would I have preferred to be kept in the dark? I know we’re supposed to say, “No! Of course not! You want to make informed medical decisions!”, but part of me is like, “Shit yeah I wish they’d kept that to themselves! Like I needed that kind of tsuris?” Does that make me a coward? Very well, then, I am a coward. But like, one of the cool cowards. Like Noel.

  2. Wow!! You are so brave to make it through all that! I got exhausted just reading it. I’m so glad you are back on meds that are working – and that it isn’t a brain tumour. I have been sending you many good thoughts and energy over the past few months, so I hope that helped.

    Welcome back!

    • I think you were probably just exhausted from the reading — god knows I was exhausted from the writing; I really need to learn how to use bullet points. And thanks for all your good wishes, sams. It’s good to be back!

  3. QuoterGal says

    Mere, that is some fucking amazingly-awful terrifying journey you were dragged on. Thanks for writing this – and goddam those hormones and brain-thingys and thyroid glands. Oh, maybe I should say *bless* them for the Good Vibeitude.

    Whichever, you got it/them and more… So glad you got through the tunnel and out the other side. ‘Cos you is my fierce Evil Gal.

    • Yeah, let’s just say on my list of Most Sought-After Vacations? This little trip would’ve ranked near the very bottom. (Actually having cancer would’ve hit ground.) And I promise to be even fiercer in the future… AS IF THAT’S POSSIBLE. 😉

  4. Yay you’re back! I totally relate to the “not being able to write things that may or may not be true”: I can never write about things I’m dealing with, if I don’t know the outcome.
    Anyway, it’s not about me. I’m glad you don’t have a tumor, and I hope the meds work fine now. To infinity and beyond, indeed!

    • It’s like this: I can be truthful, or I can tell stories. But for some reason I can’t do the in-between thing when stuff isn’t settled. Maybe because there are so many unknowns, and I like to know what I’m writing? Or there IS the possibility that I was just scared shitless and writing it down made it more real. Now that I think about it, that’s probably closer to the truth.

  5. 1. Kim, CANCER CAUSES KIDNEY STONES?!?!?!?! I have had stones since I was 13 and NOT ONE FUCKING PERSON EVER TOLD ME THIS

    2. Mere! I love you and I’m glad you don’t have a tumor and I’m glad your med cocktail is working still and you are on it and I hope that this pituitary/thyroid thing is so easily fixable that it’s free (like, drinking one extra glass of water or something.)

    • Kim in Fargo says

      Parathyroid tumors cause potassium & calcium leechin from bones. It’s rare but happens. But DUDE! 13?? I feel that.

    • Aw, Mels! If the cure for whatever’s going on is simply drinking another glass of water a day, I will be out back with the garden hose. Which came out totally wrong and yet… oh so right. :)

  6. First of all, I’m b!X’s mom, and, if I could I would mother the world — so forgive me if I indulge my proclivity here. As you look for causes and treatment, you might want to investigate some approaches that the medical community (as wise and competent as it is) ignores. For example, sometimes an enlarged thyroid is simply caused by an iodine deficiency and that triggers a host of other symptoms; sometimes there’s some sort of metabolic imbalance that’s worsened by certain foods. It might be helpful for you to try a naturopathic MD, or a chiropractor, or even acupuncturist and see if any of their treatments help. I see a doctor for certain things and all of the others for other things — and sometimes it all works in combination better than just the treatment by one “expert.” Eastern medicine sometimes works better, especially when Western medicine flounders. Just something to think about as you struggle with a bunch of stuff that might be related, even though it isn’t obviously apparent to the good doctors, who don’t diagnose holistically. Good luck, girl. Hang in there.

    • So that’s how you got here! I always wondered! I’ve been told by many friends that Eastern medicine works really well on/with the endocrine system, and having been totally and utterly cured of my sciatica by acupuncture, it will definitely be on my list of possible treatments as soon as I figure out… y’know… what the hell is going on in the first place. Seeing the endocrinologist next week, so hopefully a diagnosis will be forthcoming, and I can move from there. And thanks for the luck; I’ll take all I can get!

  7. Can you please get sick with something I can enjoy? Sympathy HURTS.

    #PRA (Relief, happiness, support, etc.) also hate.

    • The best part about this whole ordeal? I didn’t die, so your torture continues. Really, that’s all I cared about.

  8. @Dalekette says

    Hey, so sorry you’ve been ill. I just had to comment, as I’ve been unwell with sleeping 12-14 hours a day too, and had to have a brain mri, and I also have central hypothyroidism, secondary to hypopituitary. I never heard of anyone who had the same lurgy as me! Nice to meet you! Hope they sort you out and you’re feeling better soon xx

    • HEY! We’re lurgysisters! (Forgive me for assuming about your gender; I’m just working off the “-ette” part of your name.) Sorry to hear you’re not feeling well — I hope they find something to help you tout de suite. And hey, statistics say that Central Hypothyroidism only occurs in anywhere from 1:20,000 to 1:80,000 of the population — which just makes us shiny and special. Let us lord our specialness over all those “naturally healthy” people! They don’t know what they’re missing! (The bastards.) You feel better, too, now, y’hear?

  9. Wow.

    I’d been wondering why I hadn’t seen you around on Twitter, and now that I know… I’m just really glad things are (relatively) okay. Not to get all mushy on you, but I very much admire the grace and humor you brought to your recap of everything you’ve gone through. You are indeed quite fabulous.

    • You’re the fabulous one for saying my insane bloviating had “grace and humor”. Seriously, how many days did it take you to read it? 7? 12? Don’t worry, you won’t hurt my feelings — I don’t have any left. Really, though, thank you for the kind words, Sara. It’s so nice to see you again.

  10. nypinta says

    1) Yay, It’s not a tumor.
    2) You’re brain is kinda passive aggressive. But whatever.
    3) I can’t imagine, even after reading this post, how hellish that was. And I’m pretty sure if it was me I’d be a lot more bitter about it. Especially something that would cause any emotional outbursts in public. Because homie don’t play that.
    4) I challenge you for whitest white girl in all of whitedom status. I once had to argue with a guy for three hours that I wasn’t wearing makeup to look like I was a vampire. The non sparkly kind. True story.
    5) My brain tried to walk me off not one but two cliffs. In it’s defense, there was a lot of tall grass near the edge of the second one that fooled the eye…
    But hey 6) not a tumor!

    • I laughed SO hard at “Your brain is kinda passive aggressive. But whatever.” I loves me some irony. And when we eventually meet (which we will; be afeared), we will have to whiteness-duel. When one of the nurses went to take blood (I dunno, like, the sixth time, maybe?), she looked at my arm and was like, “Well I don’t really even have to tourniquet you, do I? I can see your veins from across the room!” I know, I know. It’s hard to feel so attractive, but I try to deal.

  11. Missed you lots.

    • Missed you, too, cab. Believe me, I’da much rather been with y’all. You’re WAY more fun.

  12. Delurking to say how sorry I am you are going through this. I’m an old lady, so you’ll believe me when I say I think you’re awesome and so talented. I hope that you are well enough to pursue the Elementary spec because it will be great!

    • Is it wrong to print out a blog comment and tape it to your computer to bolster your self-esteem? ‘Cause even if it is, I’m kinda okay with that sort of wrongness. Thank you for saying such nice things. And I’ll be getting back to the “Elementary” spec as soon as possible, I promise. I love the story, and I want to finish it!

  13. ohmygod. wow. Um… I am very, very glad that you do not have a brain tumor, and can talk and get out of bed and write gut-wrenching posts. Feeling quite shaky, having gotten to the end of that. The whole thing sounds so utterly horrible and then you’re suddenly funny in the middle of describing the horribleness and my husband wants to know why I keep making “that sound” – which is a tortured sort of laugh. Wishing you well, talented lady!

    • Thanks so much, Catherine. Sorry I made you make noises. (What?) And speaking of talent, I’ve really been enjoying “Red Monster Dancing Shoes”! Where’s my Part 3, lady? :)

  14. I have nothing clever or witty to say, just I’m glad it’s not a tumor in my best Ahnold voice and that you have been missed.

    • Well I have nothing clever or witty to retort, so I guess that makes us even. And I’ve missed you, too. Thanks for keeping me entertained with your blog for the last month: I was never at a loss for hot guys. Which was important for my morale, dammit!

  15. Lioness says

    Ah my dear. What hell you’ve been living through. So so so very happy that things are turning around and answers being found.

    • And hopefully MORE answers to come. Which’d be nice. ‘Cause I still have a ton of “What the hell?” questions. The good news is, I’m feeling a lot better these days, and being able to talk to you guys again only helps. Thanks for your well-wishes; they are so appreciated.

  16. Thanks for sharing your amazing story so far. Good luck!

  17. Mich elle says

    So I’m just now reading about this whole ordeal…
    Of course I’m glad that you don’t have a brain tumor. I am curious what happened with the Endo though? Do/did you have a Thyroid Nodule? What did they do to treat it?

    I’ve been dealing with growing Thyroid Nodules for the past 9yrs and my Thyroid Specialist(at Moffett) wants my Thyroid removed, however the Surgeon won’t do the surgery, so I’m stuck finding a surgeon that will take me on to do the surgery. It’s VERY Frustrating when it’s affecting everything from my energy levels to sleep to ability to take my other meds bc it’s blocking my throat.

    It seems like you’ve been doing pretty good recently, but a health update would be nice :)

    BTW, I love how you described Bi-Polar :) I’m going to bookmark this post for future use…

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