By Janine Milliken
The dreaded menopause has hit me fully at the tender age of 45 years. I am trying to write this blog, while sweating, vomiting, sliding off the chair, migraine and lying all over the computer. Yes, not a pretty sight, but I am determined to get these blogs out.
I have been to see my Doctor already at 0700hrs to see if he could offer any help, which he did. I felt better for a whole 30 minutes and then the migraine started again. I am too scared to tell my Doctor as I am sure I am a continual pain in his bottom, as there is always something new that has developed and all new drugs have been tried on me. I bought in a new drug from Holland. What a huge deal. Customs and the shipping agents were very confused about this drug as they had never heard of it. It had to be shipped at 5 degrees the whole way from Holland to Zimbabwe. The Shipping agents did a brilliant job and the drug arrived.
With great excitement this drug was injected into me. My dad, the Doctor and my mom all stared at me with bated breath. I had to tell them I felt nothing and I had the migraine. Everybody, now disappointed, decided to carry on with my old treatment. Apparently the new drug only opens arteries in the brain and if that is not your problem, it will not work. So I guess that was not my problem after all that hullaballoo.
Without giving up, my Doctor is still researching my migraines and is determined to find a cure. For this I am forever grateful. We have tried everything available to us, even ending up in Johannesburg getting a 4 inch needle stuck into my neck, I still have the holes to prove it. The Doctor is surprised at my high threshold of pain, as am I, but I think I will do anything to get rid of these migraines.
My life is totally turned upside down and as much as I would like a job I am unable to work as I just collapse in a heap. I have good days and I have bad days. On the good days, I try to do everything like pay bills, visit friends (I have lost a lot from this illness) and do some shopping. Today is a really bad day, to the point I have forgotten who I am and am walking around the house in circles.
Thank goodness I have an understanding husband, who works hard and supplies the money for all my medical bills. Without him, I would probably be in a gutter sniffing glue or just in a gutter. While in Johannesburg our hotel was situated outside a bridge where all the drug deals were done. I was not supposed to walk to the headache clinic, but it was so close, that I thought I might as well. As I passed under the bridge, I was approached by the drug dealers, as I could talk their language (knew all the poisons) and knew what they were on about, they left me to carry on walking. On my way back, I was greeted and they left me alone and I was not assaulted or followed. Maybe, my knowledge of drugs has saved me from being kidnapped on a couple of occasions. These drug dealers now saw me as a friend and one actually posed as my body guard and walked me to the hotel, which I am grateful for. I have a large knowledge of drugs, not that I take them, but as a neuro psychologist and having been to a psychiatric ward, I am aware of what drugs do to you and how they affect your mindset.
While in the psychiatric hospital, the woman and men were separated. However, one man liked me and kept finding my room. I was not scared of him, as he was addicted to morphine, would come into my room and collapse on the floor. Once he had slept the morphine off, he would apologize for annoying me, get off the floor and go back to his room.
I managed to make so many friends there. On arrival my hair straightener, hairdryer, brushes and clips were taken off me. Somehow I thought I was going to a hotel (lol). However, I managed to find a young beautiful woman who had managed to hide her hair straightener and every morning we would do our hair together. Another friend I found, had a stash of crayons and I managed to go and colour with her during the day and so my days were kept busy going from room to room.
Unfortunately I did snore my head off in my room, which I did share with two other ladies. The poor ladies did not sleep and so were moved out my room, leaving me with my own room. I managed to catch up on reading, made friends with the smoking ladies, who told me all the tricks they would do. As I did not sleep well, as I was being taken off sleeping pills, I would go and speak to the nurses at night and had a very pleasant stay in an otherwise negative place.
I was the only Zimbabwean present but because I could talk Afrikaans I was like the mascot of the centre. My dad is Afrikaans and taught me. I was accepted into the fold and even given a nickname, ‘sunshine’ as I was always smiling. I had a ball, organized everyone, did some yoga, watched the rugby and kept really busy. When my husband collected me for an outing for the afternoon, I spent an hour out of the centre and told my husband to take me back as I felt so safe there. It is a real thing with people who have been through trauma that they need a safe space and get panicked if taken out of the safe space. I felt completely safe in the centre, made lifelong friends and was sad to leave.
My psychiatrist was the best in Southern Africa, so I was really spoilt with the attention I received from the medical staff. The Doctor took 30 minutes to diagnose me. Completed a pill regime for me and I have never looked back. I have been stable on these pills, although I do go ‘high’ but I know what to do now as they educated me on my bipolar.
When I tell my friends I am bipolar, they get a bit panicked as they are given a very different view of it through the media, or they have experienced an un-medicated bipolar person. I will tell you that it is nothing to be scared of, we are normal, our brains just work faster than others and our brains produce too much chemicals or too little chemicals. There is nothing to be afraid of with us bipolar people and we are not violent. We just get very hyperactive where we stay awake for three days and three nights and then we get very depressed where we will not leave the house. The psychiatrist managed to educate me on my condition and I can take extra pills when I am down, or take less pills when I am hyperactive. I do have to have sleeping pills every night as my sleep meridian was damaged in the accident as well as part of my brain stem.
After the accident I was unable to talk. I understood everyone, but the words would not come out my mouth. As there is no rehabilitation in Zimbabwe, I had to do it all myself and I started to listen to music and learn their lyrics. Slowly my words started coming back to me. However, if I am tired I slur, my words are all backwards and I cannot think of the simplest word to the point I change my whole sentence. Other times, I am so clever I actually wonder if I have brain damage at all. My neuro psychologist said that I must have been very clever before the accident (obviously did not use it!) and that is how I have managed to cope.
I managed to get a neuro psychology degree (in 3 years rather than 4 years), qualify as a Neurofeedback Practitioner and a Biofeedback Practitioner after the accident just to prove to myself that I could do it. Which I did. I am very proud of myself for this achievement so I am sorry if I have to boast here about it. I also have to boast that I passed with distinctions in every exam including anthropology and social science.
I tried to work in the field of psychology but found it so traumatic and it would further compound my trauma, to the point I could not do it anymore. I now just use it for friends and family. I have a very good relationship with children, but also found this further traumatized me so I had to stop working completely and take a break. I am much better for it and find that I can better serve as a consultant rather than a full time psychologist.
I have brain farts (that’s what I call them), when my brain just goes blank and I look at the person and wonder what I am talking about. I also get seizures now, which can be scary as I usually just pass out and find myself on the floor. The one time, I passed out and woke up to a murder scene, blood everywhere. I had hit my head on the floor tile. As head injuries do bleed a lot, I had a lot of blood everywhere and a tiny little cut above my eyebrow. It looked rather impressive. 6 stitches later, and moaning the whole time at the Doctor that she cannot shave my eyebrow, cos eyebrows do not grow back! The Doctor kept on shouting that I should stop being vain as I needed the eyebrow shaved off. After the eyebrow was shaved off, I was very upset as my face was lob-sided and kept moaning at the Doctor, who learnt to ignore me. Thankfully, I have good genes and in no time the eyebrow had grown back, much to everyone’s relief as all they had heard about for 3 weeks, was one eyebrow! I may be a bit obsessive at times.
My usual trick, before the seizures were stable, was for me to fall off the toilet every time I went. My husband had to accompany me to the toilet to make sure I did not pass out. However, every time he did not accompany me to the toilet, I fell off it! The seizures are stable and I have not had one for about a year, which is a good thing. I am still on seizure medication because it is a brain injury induced seizure so can come at any time.
I still manage to live a good life and actually forget about all these aliments. My memory is rather shocking and I try and cook but end up burning everything as I forget I am cooking. I have tried putting alarms into the cellphone, had egg timers and still the food is burnt and I am wondering around the house trying to find where the burning smell is coming from.
I do miss my former self, but then I try not to think about it. I know the person before the accident and she was happy, had no depression, was fun and had no drug addictions. I am now bipolar, got addictions (which I watch), I still have fun, however, I am very impulsive which gets me into a lot of trouble sometimes.
My whole diary is programmed on my cellphone. I lose touch of time and so try look at the time every hour. As long as I know what my weaknesses are I can try overcome them. Some days I do and some days I do not. It is ok, I am better than when I first walked out of the accident and I am very well educated on brain injury. My neuro psychologist had to upgrade my injury from mild to moderate which was a bit disappointing. I am supposed to go every year for an assessment, but I try avoid these as I do not want to know which part of my brain is declining. I would rather just use the tools available to me, and carry on with life as best I can.
I do have very funny moments as I do not have a brake from my mouth to my brain, so if I think it, I am going to say it regardless of what it is. I am clueless as to time, days and dates. I never know what day I am on. I have often walked out the house in my pajamas and said to my mom that everyone who sees me just has to deal with it. I have often dressed myself inside out and gone to a meeting looking like that, or forgotten to brush my hair. The bigger picture is that it really does not bother me what
I look like, and my friends accept me as I am.
I have a temper like a firecracker, which sparks and then fizzles out. Which is good as my tempers never last long and I have long forgotten about it. I have realized that it is better to be kind to people, respect people as you do not know what they are going through in life.
I have a problem with personal space, in that I do not know what that is. I tend to get up too close and personal to people and then stroke their arm. My family think this is hilarious as they cannot stop me doing it.
Sometimes, I get conversations completely muddled and I have to go to my mom to sort it out so that I do not get the wrong end of the stick. Thank goodness for my family. All my family absolutely love me, look after me and always remember my children. Something very important in my life. My children, although in heaven, are a part of my heart and I a part of their hearts.
My cousin is getting married and is doing a special table for all those family members in heaven, including my children and I feel so honored and loved that she is doing this. I am so ecstatic my children will be a part of the wedding. Not many people think of this. I can cry in front of my family, throw a tantrum, sing or whatever and they just accept me as I am.
I must tell you that my aunt had talked about putting my Gran’s ashes in the rose bed. While my dad was reversing the one day, he reversed into the rose garden. I got so upset and was shouting that he was running over granny and could he get off granny. My family, quietly took me inside and calmed me down and said that Gran is still in the cupboard, so not to worry. I do strange things like that, but my family are very understanding of my quirks. I have to say we all laughed about it afterwards, and I told them to please keep Gran in the cupboard, for my peace of mind.
The one time my cousin went with her husband to spread the ashes of her gran on her father’s side of the family. When they emptied the ashes, the wind came up and blew the ashes into their hair, mouth, nose and clothes. She came home and we all had a good laugh that she had now swallowed her Gran and she better wash her hair soon.
Talking of ashes, my children are still in my cupboard as I cannot bring myself to spread them. I want to keep them close to me and know they are always there. I am not sure if this is denial or selfishness. My children are in heaven, I know that, but their earthly bodies are in my cupboard, where they will stay for now.
My mom read this blog and picked up my smoke – she does not smoke! Lol
If you would like to read my full story, my book is available on Amazon, Eternity in my heart, by Janine Milliken.