After two months of continuous panic about health problems, I am FINALLY feeling good again! I’m unbelievably happy. You don’t appreciate having good health until it disappears!
And I’m finally feeling more relaxed about my mood. For the last month, I’ve been facing the possibility of sinking into bipolar depression, without having a psychiatrist to treat it. This is half of why I’ve been losing sleep; the other half was probably a bit of hypomania from stopping the lithium abruptly. However, I had my intake appointment with my new psychiatrist (Dr. Po Wang, head of the Bipolar Clinic at Stanford) on Thursday, and I’m now confident that I have a doctor who is (a) superbly competent and (b) someone I can get along with. This meant I got my first decent night’s sleep on Thursday night, finally feeling safe from bipolar depression.
What I love about Dr. Wang is that he knows his stuff cold, and I can have intelligent conversations with him about the medical journals and other resources I’ve been reading.
For example, we were discussing medications, and I said, “I react very strongly to a lot of drugs…I think I may have low levels of the CYP3A4 enzyme, because I react strongly to a lot of the drugs that it breaks down – like codeine, naproxen, (long list). I just want you to know that, in case it affects how I react to various medications.”
Without hesitation, he replied, “No, codeine is CYP2D6…what were the other ones?” And then suggested a genetic test that would tell me about some of the enzymes I was wondering about, and help predict my sensitivity/reactions to different mood stabilizer drugs. And about eight ways to tweak my current medication combinations to reduce or even reverse the weight I’d gained on Abilify, with minimal risk to my mental health. And he could explain why any of those medications combinations might work, and the pros and cons of each tweak.
My inner geek is totally in love!! A HUGE difference from the psychiatrist I just fired, who didn’t even know basic facts about lithium, the most common medication prescribed for bipolar disorder.
I also asked Dr. Wang if he could suggest a more technical reference for learning more. He suggested “Manic Depressive Illness: Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression,” which he said was a bit out of date but still a great starting point. It’s 1,262 pages and about 150 of them are citations to research papers. Definitely not for the faint of heart, but I really want to educate myself about this, so I’m thrilled. So far I’m about 30 pages in. It’s super dense, but I’m learning a lot. My main problem is that someone’s inner geek keeps drooling all over my iPad. Sheesh! 😉
Physically, I’m also feeling much better than I have in quite some time. I’ve been working with my physical trainer for 8 weeks now, and we’ve progressed from doing mostly dynamic stretches and general conditioning exercises to doing more strenuous weightlifting. I’ve decided that I want to get into powerlifting, for reasons which I will explain in another blog post. I don’t plan to compete in it, at least not at the moment, but I like the idea of doing a sport that builds strength and doesn’t require 20 hours/week of training. It will also help keep my bones strong, although given that my last bone strength evaluation came out at the 95th percentile (stronger than 95% of other people my age), I’m not too worried about that. Apparently I have bones of steel. Hurray for that!
Anyway, I’ve been trying to get Mike to come to the gym with me for almost two months now. He finally came with me on Wednesday – and to my surprise, I was lifting just about the same weights he was! Mike is 13 inches taller and 8 years younger than me – so historically, he’s been the officially designated Big Strong Person in the household. Of course, he’s also been a couch potato up until now…
…but, up until two months ago, so was I. Which means I’ve gained an impressive amount of strength in just eight weeks! My flexibility is also drastically improved, and I have way more energy, too. So all is good on that front.
And the exercise has also been driving my blood sugar down, even before we added Metformin to my meds. On my last test, it was barely into the diabetic zone, and I’m pretty sure that, by the next test, it will be back to prediabetic, and I’ll no longer be considered to have Type 2 diabetes. That will be a HUGE relief, too!
Because someone needs to be played with:
…and someone needs a belly rub:
Gotta stay healthy, so I can do my One Job! 🙂
Congratulations, Tien !!!
Happy for you!
Patricia Morton says
Tien, I am very happy for you! I, too, just found a great new doctor, who helped us through a recent scare that turned out to not be a permanent health problem. I agree, that a bout of poor health really makes you appreciate the good health we (hopefully) normally have. It makes all the difference in the world.
Keesha Standley says
Woohoo! I am so glad things are working out now.
(no pun intended)
Thank you for sharing your bipolar struggles. I have friends with the same diagnosis, and your posts help me understand their plight better. Also, weight training! I’ve been wanting to boost my energy, but it did not occur to me that weights could be an answer. Thank you!
Cynthia Hull says
Thrilled for you, Tien! And I am confident that a 1200+ page document will be no match for you. In fact, I suspect you’d be suspicious of a much shorter one.
Diane Irvine says
Since you like intelligent reading material that is evidence based and references actual research journals, can I suggest a resource for your newfound interest in power lifting? Barbell Medicine is a great podcast that also puts out web articles, done by two doctors. They reference a lot of recent research and are more than willing to point people to journal articles to learn more. This is especially important because most people in the fitness industry, including trainers and some doctors, pass along information that is anecdotal at best and often very outdated. In fact, most of the conventional wisdom that gets passed along is pretty suspect.
Tien Chiu says
Thanks, Diane! This sounds fantastic. I’ll check it out!
Linda Mesavage says
I have been a lurker on your blog but had to jump in and say how happy I am for you! Finding a Dr with the expertise you need who is willing to communicate, priceless!
Janet S Colville says
Good to hear. And CONGRATULATIONS! Getting healthy and feeling good is no easy feat. Glad you’re taking the time and energy to get the job done.
Tom Cotter says
Tien, we’re (Tina Broderson and me) are both incredibly pleased with your new ventures into mental and physical health. A competent doctor is critical, and it sound as though you have a great one now. Your blogs always provide insight and hope. Best wishes going forward.
You’ll probably finish that jigsaw puzzle by the end of the century, if you haven’t already!
Stephanie Change says