Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What's Wrong?

October 1999 - November 2001

The last time we went on holiday together was in October 1999, we were celebrating our 2nd anniversary, and we had such a lovely time I didn’t want to come home. I didn’t know then that once we had returned home Mr Mans health would rapidly deteriorate and he would never be the same again. He started suffering from the Epstein Barr virus, but due to pressures at work, and through fear of losing his job he forced himself to go into work each day. At that time he worked for Royal Mail, but he worked in the office dealing with holidays, overtime, figures, that sort of thing. He loved his job but he was under a lot of pressure as no one else in the office knew how to do it, and as if his health problems didn’t make things difficult enough for him, his manager would continually be adding to his already heavy work load. He worked six days a week and would often bring work home with him to do on a Sunday. He would come home from work and go straight to bed, too exhausted to eat, and not get up again until it was time to go back to work. I sometimes would get up at 2am to cook him a meal, just so that I knew he had had at least one meal that day. We hardly ever saw each other and it was a very lonely time full of worry about his deteriorating health.

He started suffering from persistent headaches and his GP prescribed him anti-depressants, which at the time I didn’t understand. His medication caused all kinds of side effects, including night terrors. He would call out fearfully in his sleep and then wake, sobbing. I felt angry at the GP for adding more problems to how Mr Man was already feeling, but I realise now that he was trying to lower his levels of anxiety and thus treat the head aches.

All of these problems continued and gradually worsened over the period of a year, and I would often beg him to take sick leave from work. By October/November 2000 he realised that he just couldn’t carry on anymore. He had had a week off work for holiday (after having to train someone to cover for him), and had started to feel a little better, but with just one day back at work he felt as if he had never had any time off. He finally decided to take some sick leave.

Mr Man is a very proud man. I don’t mean in an arrogant way, but it’s very important to him to be able to work, feel useful, and provide. He found it extremely difficult to stop working, and even more difficult to claim benefits. In the end his own GP had to convince him to claim, telling him that he was entitled to it as he was ill through no fault of his own, and had worked hard and paid tax for 13 years.

By September 2001 he was medically retired from his job, and by this time he had been referred to the Psychiatric Day Hospital and was under a psychiatric consultant for his depression. He was so ill, and sleeping so much still, that our 4th anniversary in the October seemed to just come and go without us hardly noticing, which was very unusual for us as it’s usually a very special occasion for both of us. Days later he was in hospital with Pneumonia and Septicaemia. Neither of us realised at the time just how serious his condition was; it was only a few weeks later when Mr Man was seeing his psychiatrist again, and I was explaining how anxious he had been about getting back to work, when she said to him “Do you realise how ill you’ve been? You could have died. It’s going to take a while to recover from that”. We were both a little shocked by this.

It was about that time (November 2001) when Mr Man was prescribed Lithium. He began sleeping even more – 18-20 hours a day, and wetting the bed every day due to this medication. Although I had missed him so much and was so worried about him while he had been working during his sickness, this was far worse than anything we had faced so far. He sunk into a depression so low that he became someone I didn’t recognise anymore. It was a very scary time with his psychiatrist mentioning hospital admissions and ECT, but nothing could have prepared me for the fear I felt when I realised just how suicidal he had become. Through all of this no one really knew what was wrong with him, it was just an accumulation of several things - Epstein Barr, headaches, recovering from Pneumonia and Septicaemia, and now severe depression.

Next: "One Flesh" covering November 2001 - May 2002

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