Monday, August 3, 2009

A snapshot of serious, chronic illness

August 3, 2009

I’ve been unavailable for the bulk of my personal blogs for a little over a month. The reason for this absence is a combination of flare ups of my Rheumatoid Arthritis (an autoimmune disease where the blood attacks joints and connective tissue) and my Bipolar Disorder (chemical imbalances in my brain that cause episodes of mania and depression). While the problems are not unbearable, they have reduced my effectiveness and my stamina.

This snapshot is for those of you who haven’t been exposed to these serious illnesses. It’s my belief people like me need to talk about what we deal with on a daily basis as therapy and as a form of education for the general population. Even though there is still stigma attached to mental disease, we, as a family, do not hide my problems...


I am considered permanently disabled (for many years now) and unable to effectively perform any kind of work. I’ve been trained in behaviour modification techniques, and I am undergoing psychotherapy. Drugs are absolutely required at this time.

Current meds

Rhuematoid Arthritis:
Methotrexate (an immunosuppressant cancer drug developed for leukemia), Sulfasalazine (an anti-inflammatory), Leflunomide (an immunoblocker), Depo-medrol: an emergency injection 3 months ago (An extremely strong cortico-steroid), Celebrex (COX-2 inhibitor nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID)) and Tylenol-3 (This combination product contains three medications: acetaminophen, codeine, and caffeine. Acetaminophen belongs to the group of medications called analgesics (pain relievers) and antipyretics (fever reducers). Codeine belongs to the group of medications called narcotic analgesics. Caffeine belongs to a group of medications called stimulants.)

Bipolar Disorder:
Cymbalta (anti-depressant with some pain inhibiting properties: serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor), Clonazepam (family of benzodiazepines. It affects chemicals in your brain that may become unbalanced and cause seizures or symptoms of panic disorder.) And Quetiapine (an atypical antipsychotic often used in BPD)


I won’t share all of my symptoms with you. Suffice it to say they are varied and affect every aspect of my life.

What I’ve been experiencing this past month, on a positive level, is an increase in clarity and more short term stamina. I’ve also been able to better interact with and care about people. And my enjoyment of food and activities is returning.

In the months prior to this I regained my ability to read and write, anger virtually disappeared, my depression lessened, and I had only one manic episode.

But recently... my short term memory is slipping again; my long-term physical and mental stamina is deteriorating; body pain, especially knees, hands, shoulders and back, is at a 4 out of 10 with constant flare-ups to about 8; I can’t sit, stand or walk for more than five or ten minutes at a time without extreme pain; my afternoons and evenings include periods of melancholy and tears; and sleep usually ends between 3 and 4 am due to pain.

I’m always concerned about downturns because the repercussions can be severe. For example, in January of this year I was forced to commit myself to a psychiatric hospital. The eventual diagnosis was a bad reaction to a drug that had been recently added to my cocktail. I spent two weeks detoxing before being released and beginning a new drug regime. My mental condition is not considered to be situational (except, maybe, a bit of depression due to my physical losses and when my pain plays into existing emotional disturbances) but, rather, is believed to be caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain.

The two scariest things about my health situation is that both diseases are incurable and may be hereditary... The diseases already exist in other family members. Worse than this, my children will have to learn to watch for symptoms in themselves.

As a family, we work hard to cope with the daily challenges I face in ways which allow us all to create as much joy as possible in our lives. We must also be ever vigilant for signs indicating the onset of dangerous symptoms.

Determination to pursue an enjoyable lifestyle and a robust sense of humour are my most effective tools.

Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2009

For more of Clayton Bye's writing, visit his website or become a fan.


  1. Hi Clayton--I just spotted, over at Authors Promoting Authors that we had fair overlap on influences so I wandered over. This blog really moved me. I study pain outcomes for a living so know and believe how profoundly dealing with pain (and mental illness) can affect quality of life.

    I admire you for perservering and love that writing helps. I just wanted to offer encouragement to keep at it. I wish you the best.