When Your Intuition Is Right

Things started to go wrong in the summer of 2011. We had just built a beautiful house by the beach in our coastal town of Westport, Connecticut. I was at culinary school, taking the train in to the city every day, and continuing to write novels that were selling all over the world.

I had been diagnosed with ADHD a few months prior, and the medications were life-changing. I felt calm, focused, and when they wore off at lunchtime, the doctor prescribed more. Then more.

I got skinny, and stopped sleeping. I would stay up all night and was was edgy, and angry. I had tons of nervous energy, and didn't stop talking. Months of this, and our marriage was suffering, my poor husband bewildered by his speedy wife.

We went to see a therapist, who was also what they call in America a psycho-pharmacologist. Which means he is licensed to diagnose and dispense medication.

A few weeks went by. He announced, one day, I had Bi-Polar Disorder. Not Bi-Polar I, he said, but Bi-Polar II, which was less serious, but required medication to prevent the mania. In his opinion, I was a classic case.

'Do you not think this has anything to do with the fact that I am taking vast amounts of amphetamines?' I frowned in disbelief, jiggling my leg.

He shook his head. 'I am a professor at Yale,' he said, smiling, patronizing. 'And I've been doing this a very long time.'

He took me off the amphetamines and straight on to Depakote, an anti-psychotic. I gained two stone in a matter of weeks, and couldn't get out of bed. He added Nu-vigil to try and keep me awake, Phentermine to try and curb my now-insatiable appetite.

I would sit in his office on the brink of tears. I had no energy, cared about nothing, and was growing to pregnancy size, but without a baby. I kept saying I really didn't think I had Bi-Polar, that prior to the ADHD meds I had never had a problem with sleep, or mania, but he didn't listen. I didn't have the strength to fight.

After six months he switched me to Lithium, with Topamax and Perphenazine for weight loss, and Pro-vigil to try and keep me awake. I was rarely out of bed. I didn't have the strength or the inclination to do anything other than bury myself under the covers and wait for life to pass me by.

He told me I would be diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but in his opinion it was psychosomatic. I was too fatigued to much care about the name, or indeed anything else.

It took a year and a half for me to wake up. One morning I looked at my puffy, bloated face in the bathroom mirror, saw the deadness in my eyes, and realized this was no life; I couldn't carry on like this anymore.

My new doctor took me off everything. I did a two week cleanse. And still I couldn't get out of bed. There were days when I could only manage two steps, sinking onto the stairs in exhausted tears.

This doctor found a host of auto-immune diseases: Hashimoto's Disease, Raynaud's Syndrome, and odd things like neuropathy, where the nerve endings in my hands and feet had died. It was this that alerted him to the fact that it might be something else; that the body doesn't break down in the way mine clearly was without something bigger going on.

I was tested for Lyme Disease. Positive. As was the test for Anaplasmosis, another tick-borne disease. Living on the East Coast, my neurologist explained, it was nigh-impossible to avoid being bitten by a tick and thereby infected with Lyme. However not everyone is going to get sick. He believes that stress: pharmaceutical and/or emotional stress -- kicks off an auto-immune response in our body once we have been bitten by a tick.

A year of antibiotics, cutting out all sugar, carbohydrates and alcohol, and I am in remission. I have lost the weight, and remember what normal feels like. I don't have the energy I used to, and tire easily. Most days see me napping during the afternoon.

The wonderful thing about being a writer is that everything that happens is grist to the mill. It turns out that 95 percent of medication for things like ADHD and Bi-Polar Disorder, are given in America, yet America only makes up 5 percent of the world's population. Nowhere else in the world are people being diagnosed with mental illnesses at a rate like this, then given the kinds of medications that are enormously beneficial when you are truly ill, and devastating when you are not.

I created Grace Chapman, in Saving Grace, and I gave her my story. Not all of it, and not the Lyme Disease, but what it feels like to have your life taken away from you, to feel that you are slowly going mad. What it is like when no-one listens to you, because a doctor thinks he is God, and you no longer have the strength to fight.

I wrote about it because we have to be our own advocates, we have to find that strength, and we have to trust our instincts when we know the diagnosis is wrong.

Saving Grace is published by Macmillan, priced £14.99.