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How the tragedy of HE gave me a new lease on life

It was almost 11 years ago that I started experiencing symptoms of HE. It started with severe depression. I worked customer service and would leave work early because I found myself crying uncontrollably. The first year, I don't have any memories of the first year or two. I lived with my parents and mom tells me stories of that time. I was in bad shape. HE affected my judgment and I lost my driver's license because of tickets and accidents. During a hospital stay, I insisted I had lunch with president Obama and my grandparents visited me (they'd been deceased for years). We finally found a wonderful neurologist in NC who helped me. He worked hard to get me approved for disability and I was approved quickly. High doses of steroids stabilized me but I still suffered major cognitive difficulties. The doctor explained my MRI as showing what felt to me like a "hand" squeezing my brain and where the "fingers" were there was damage. One of those areas damaged the part of my brain that controls my loss of taste and smell. I can't taste or smell anything. That and losing my appetite on steroids I lost weight very fast. Went from over 350 lbs to 195. I'm still considered overweight but 190's is a healthy weight for me. My lowest was 175 and I looked sickly. There are days I'd rather be fat and enjoy my food! Lol.

With a lot of you suffering depression, I thought I'd share this painful part of my story. Back in July, I was struggling with a lot of sadness due to numerous situations but the worst was losing these two girls that I've babysat for over two years. They were not a job, they were family to me and called me auntie. I pretty much raised them as I had them five days and overnights every week because their mom worked two jobs. The oldest and I had a strong bond from day one. I love them so much. Eventually they had moved to Georgia which hurt but then their mom cut me off. She had blocked me on Facebook and by phone. It felt like I lost them forever. And along with other issues I fell into a serious depression. On July 18th, I jumped off a bypass onto the highway. Broke both legs, right elbow, shoulder and jaw. The first couple days, my life was in question. I was in medical coma but the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was my mom and dad. My mom has always been my best friend and the past few years, I did some things to disappoint them and built a rift in our relationship but this tragedy has brought my best friend back to me. It also got me out of debt by not paying rent while in the hospital. Most other issues resolved themselves. I also found out the girls mom cut everyone off because her boyfriend she moved with dumped her. They're back in my life now and I don't babysit them any more but see them often.

My recovery was slow and painful. I was in hospital and rehab until a month ago. I left rehab AMA because I felt they were holding me back from healing. Since then, I went from being in a wheel chair to using a cane and now no aid needed. Last week I went to the park and walked two miles then went to different antique malls and walked another two miles- four miles in one day! Physical therapy is helping so much. I push myself. The therapist tells me to do an certain exercise for a set amount of times or reps and I try doubling each one. I have limited mobility in my right elbow, so the doctor is ordering a CT scan to see if removing the metal plate will give me mobility back. I have no pain. Due to the hardware in my legs, my knees bend inward slightly causing a little waddle which is awkward but I've gotten used to it. In rehab, they started me on Klonopin for anxiety and that has helped the HE tremendously. I used to be fidgety and anxious. Couldn't sit still but now very calm and can actually sit for long periods of time and converse with friends, read an easy book or just watch TV.

Right now I'm stable. I've accepted this as my new normal. My biggest issue is memory. I can remember unimportant things in detail from 30 years ago, but I forget important things from 30 minutes ago. I use my phone to remember important things. I'll send myself text messages with things I need to do or remember. I'm lucky to have a wonderful primary care physician. He cares more about his patients than the almighty dollar. He is always doing research to find ways to help me. So I went from severe depression, hallucinations, high anxiety and bipolar to being level mentally. I'll have mild flare ups occasionally but a tapered temporary dose of steroids gets me back on track.

The most important thing that came from this tragedy is a new perspective on life. I am truly happy and have a newfound love for life, appreciating the little things more. I am sharing because I want to help others. If any of you are feeling like you don't want to live life anymore, I hope you will feel comfortable talking to me. I know the HE depression can be debilitating and I want to be here for you. I'll share my phone # if you want to talk, or just message in Facebook. Know you are not alone.

I'm so happy I found the HESA support group on Facebook. I've made some new friends and even though we've never met face to face I know I can trust them if I need to talk. Everyone are a great support and encouragement to me.

by, Lisa Ann

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