Dave's Progress. Chapter 61: Wake-Up Call at the A&E.

So, there I was, innocently sitting in a session for the Pathways Group (a recovery group for the long term mentally ill) when it was decided that this week would be a session about physical health. At this point my heart sank a little, as, although my physical health has been of concern to me for some time now, I feel I have been putting off doing anything about it out of sheer worry. If I did go to the doctor's for a check-up, for instance, I was concerned about exactly what they might find, considering I feel physically sluggish most of the time, mostly due to my increasing girth, due in no small measure, in turn, to my taking of anti-psychotic medication. Indeed, I believe I have already mentioned in these pages quite a few times, that statistics are said to be emerging of people with diagnoses like mine dying relatively early deaths due to physical health problems, which would seem to be exacerbated both by medication and our own, if we are honest about it, bad habits and often sedentary life-styles.
Anyway, I was eventually called in to get myself "checked out", and what emerged confirmed some of my worst fears. My blood pressure was alarmingly high, while my pulse was alarmingly low. I had to point out to the staff, though, that my heart rate had always been low due to a congenital heart defect I have had since birth. Despite this, they were so concerned about it that they rang an ambulance, which then carted me off post-haste to the Accident and Emergency unit at my local hospital.
I was asked a number of questions about my health by the paramedics on the way to the hospital, and as the ambulance drove on, I seemed to develop a short, but worrying burst of hypochondria. If my blood pressure was high, maybe I had an enlarged heart. After all, how could the poor thing keep going on pumping blood around an ever increasing waste band without getting just a little exhausted. Sometimes my leg feels numb- perhaps I had circulatory problems. My diet is OK, but I still eat chocolate. Maybe my blood sugar was buggered and I had diabetes. All these thoughts and more went through my mind until we eventually reached the hospital.
Once there, a blood sample was taken and also an ECG (electrocardiogram) to measure my heart beat. Then I was left by the nurses in a wheelchair in the middle of the A&E to wait for my situation to be assessed and for the doctor to come and tell me either the worst or best.
As I sat there, it ran through my mind just how much I resent the side-effects of the medication I take. I have mentioned these many times before, but more than anything else it has meant that I have somewhat lost control of my own physical health. My weight gain, although perhaps unusually large, is not uncommon amongst patients, and many are also diabetic or seem to be prime candidates for heart disease. So, although many of us have bad habits which further complicate matters, such as smoking and drinking, the role of medication in making things a whole lot worse, I would suggest, can not be underestimated. Indeed, when you have experienced long-term mental ill health, it can be that bad habits such as smoking and drinking go along with your illness, often used as coping mechanisms to relieve or dampen symptoms. So it is that incidences of dual diagnosis (of both mental illness and substance abuse) appear to be quite common, and I can hardly think of anyone who has engaged in mental health services who has not, at some point, hit the bottle or smoked a few fags (cigarettes) out of sheer desperation. OK, I know there are exceptions, but if my experience is anything to go by, they are quite rare.
So, as the doctor came towards me at the A&E, I was fully expecting a bad prognosis. In the event, however, things turned out to be not quite as bad as I expected. So my blood pressure was high, but not high enough for me to be admitted to hospital- I would simply have to go to my GP to get medication for it. My heart, although working hard, was fine. My blood sugar levels were fine- I did not have diabetes. My circulation problems were explained away by merely sitting too long in the wrong position which would cause anyone to have a certain numbness or pins and needles. And finally, my cholesterol levels were fine also. The only thing left was my bad habits of smoking and drinking, and the doc advised that if I carried on as I was, I would seriously risk shortening my life-span to a great degree, perhaps living only in to my fifties. I have to say that considering everything else seemed like good news, I was somewhat shocked by this prediction. It was as if he had said, "yes, everything is OK, David, the only thing is you're going to die in twelve years' time".
Suffice it to say, then , that this was something of a wake-up call for me. Although, in general, the news was good, I know I have to make changes to my life-style if I want a better, fitter future. So, giving up the dreaded smokes is, perhaps, a must. The odd drink, the doc said, will not hurt, but maybe I should cut down even further than I already have done. As for medication, I know I will be asked to continue to take it to avoid any chances of relapse. But if it becomes a question of life or death, and considering I have had four, or nearly five, years of good mental health, I can only say whether I take it or not will become a very vexed question indeed.
That's all for now from your normal, average paranoid and delusional man.


klahanie said…
Dear David,
Indeed, as you note, a bit of a 'wake up call'.
As your mental fitness has improved; it seems like the ideal time to enhance this by working on your physical health concerns.
We both know that mental and physical well being are very much intertwined.
Here's to you hopefully making the positive changes to your lifestyle that will see you become even older than I am now:-) And you know how ancient I am.
So what say we go for a nice long jog at about 5:00 in the morning. Hmmmm..maybe not.
All the best, David, and here's to your health.
With respect and kindness, Gary
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thanks for your concern. Hopefully, if I make a few changes and get some help in that process, which it now seems like I will, things should turn out OK. I should have mentioned that the doc also said a positive thing in that "it's not too late to turn things around". So, there's still time for me to change.
Hopefully then, I can grow as old as you, Gary, which, as you say, is very old indeed.
Thanks once again,
dcrelief said…
Hi David,

I am not a doctor but have extensive experience. A website with particulars might be of interest to you:

This site gave me the information I needed to assist in decision making, regarding my health, both mental and physical.

The fact that you're not in a somber or 'zombie' type state is encouraging. My own doctor let things go too far with 'wrong diagnosis', inattention, and overdosing.

It is an individual's right to live well. Set your goals, but be kind to you.

In health and peace,
David said…
Dear Dixie,
Thanks for your comment and concern.
I have to go back to my doctors next week, after having had various tests. Hopefully then I will know exactly how much is wrong and what I have to do to about it.
And I will try to be "kind to me".
With much appreciation,
David said…
This comment has been removed by the author.

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