Taos, New Mexico
Diagnosed with Hep C in 2002

My life has been ruled by erratic behavior and running. When I was a child, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. I was given glasses and was supposed to be fine. That didn’t keep me from disrupting the class to tell the teacher how much I loved her earrings. When I got older, I ran away. I ran as far as I could, hoping that one day I could run away from something inside of me that was broken. I finally ran right into the arms of substance abuse. That numbed me and silenced the nonstop chatter in my head.

In 2002 I got really sick and almost died. I was diagnosed with hep C. I was just happy it wasn’t HIV. I went to prison in 2005 and came home in 2010. I continued with my life, not thinking about hep C. It wasn’t that important.

In 2012 I got pregnant and discontinued drug use. I’ve been clean ever since. I’ve settled down a lot since then. In December of 2014, my father came to live with me. He had stage 4 cirrhosis. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in about 10 years. I took him in, angrily and bitterly, because he was my father. I am grateful that I chose to do this because this single event opened my eyes to many things about myself that I otherwise would have never seen. I now knew how serious hep C was. In March, five days before his birthday, I chose not to prolong his life, and he passed away.

I went on a shopping spree after he died. I bought a pair of $300 boots, diamond necklaces, a dresser and a 2015 car, which I could not afford. After the shopping spree high wore off, I hit a low. I needed to get treated for hep C and I needed to see a therapist.

I complained to the therapist about how the car purchase had seriously disrupted my life. I said, “I do not know what possessed me to buy this car.” She looked at me and said, “Faye, this was such a bipolar thing to do. You have bipolar II disorder.” My face fell. I had heard that before when I was in my teens when a psychiatrist told me I had manic depression. Another flat-out told me I was psychotic. I was 15 at the time and I thought, I’m not a psycho!

I signed up to take an abnormal psych class in the fall. The wheels began turning. In September, I started treatment on Viekira Pak and ribavirin. I was so excited to start treatment, and I thought that curing me of hep C would make my life even better. At least now, I won’t die from cirrhosis. That fact has made my life better.

Before I started treatment, I read as much as I could about ribavirin and I had every single side effect—exhaustion, blisters, urinary tract infection, you name it. With all of the physical side effects, nothing could have prepared me for the emotional side effects. The first week was spent in a blurry haze of sleep, tears and anger. Three days into the second week I hit full-on mania. I began vacuuming my ceilings. I did this for three days. I couldn’t speak, and God forbid someone interrupt my manic cleaning. I then went on to create an entire line of bath and body products, including homemade soap. My emotions were totally up or down. I kicked my husband out. Then I called him sobbing to come back home. Somehow in my third week I was able to step aside from everything going on inside of me and see: Oh my God! I am bipolar! These things that are going on are magnified because of the ribavirin. But this is also how I am; I am bipolar.

That took a few days to sink in. I went back and forth looking over my entire life. Could this be true? I didn’t want it to be. I am halfway done with my bachelor’s degree in psychology, and with all my knowledge—which isn’t that much—I still couldn’t believe it. However, it made sense. It explained everything.

I made an appointment with the psychiatrist and called the liver clinic. I went in at four weeks and found out that my virus was undetectable. For the moment, I no longer have hep C. Now we are figuring out how to stabilize my moods so that I can continue with my life, meet my goal to be a therapist, and raise my son in a stable environment. I see three therapists: my original therapist, a family therapist and a psychiatrist.

Ribavirin has been the pits. I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster these past six weeks. Being on this very difficult treatment has opened my eyes to who I am. It has helped me to be more aware of myself, and my behavior. It has given me explanations that I had searched long and hard for. It has opened my eyes to my mental health, something that I may have never seen otherwise. People who are mentally ill may not always know that they are, right?

I am so grateful for this drug. I don’t normally swing from one extreme to the next so rapidly. I feel empowered. I feel blessed. Not only is my hep C gone, but now I see other things that need addressing, and I am figuring them out. I am grateful for this awareness. The darkness and intensity brought on by this medicine helped me to open my eyes and see things differently. This treatment kick-started many other things, like seeking help from a therapist. It put my husband and me in therapy together, which is something we should have done all along. And although I am scared, I am excited to begin my search for mood stabilizers. I can imagine a life where my son gets to grow up in a stable home, with a mom whose moods don’t swing. That’s the most important thing here.

In the end, ribavirin has made my life better, given me awareness and is leading me to seek help for my moods. I have something to give back here to other people. Now I feel assured that I will be able to.

I am now into week six of treatment, with six more to go. I’m halfway done! I am more stabilized now. The rage has subsided. I realize that I just have to roll with it for now. I thought at week three that I could not continue treatment, but the week four lab results gave me the power to keep going. I meditate through the rough parts. I pray. I do yoga and I create. I am embracing this and am stronger. I don’t know how much more strength I need, but I guess as much as the universe decides to throw my way. I will get out of this alive, my family will be intact, and I am better for this. I am aware. I am empowered and I am CURED!

What three adjectives best describe you?
Loving, kind, strong

What is your greatest achievement?

Being sober!

What is your greatest regret?
Hurting people I love

What keeps you up at night?

If you could change one thing about living with viral hepatitis, what would it be?
Nothing. Everything happened the way it was meant to happen. I can’t spend my life trying to change my past.

What is the best advice you ever received?
Keep fighting!

What person in the viral hepatitis community do you most admire?

Greg Jefferys

What drives you to do what you do?
My son

What is your motto?
Live life to the fullest.

If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?

My son and dogs

If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
Lioness. I mean, come on! Queen of the jungle!