Tag Archives: meds

Like a backpack

I’ve been carrying around dread like a backpack. It’s heavy and ugly. I can’t shed it. Nothing makes it a whole lot worse and nothing makes it better. Strike that, my 20 minute yoga practice made it better, and I should pull out the mat and do my 50 minute regime, but can’t bring myself to do it. It’s depression.

Small lost her backpack and she was in tears. If she doesn’t bring her calendar, she gets her name on the board. If she gets her name on the board, doesn’t get AAA, this certificate that comes with a special pencil or eraser indicating Achievement, Attendance and something else I don’t remember. The awards are given out once a quarter. I was very careful not to point out a great big, “Who cares?” It’s part of the magic of childhood, these little rewards are. In someways, it’s like the counting. I say to the seven year old, “Small, you need to follow my directions.” When she does not, I start counting, “1-2-3” She hates it so much, even though there is no consequence beyond being counted to. My mother says I don’t deserve a child like Small. She is right. But what is my mother ever do to deserve me? I was an excellent, hard working student, (Small is average.) I stoically moved from one house or city to another. She told me I was hard to read and I’m sure I was. What point was there in having a heart if it was just going to break? What was the point of making friends just if we would move on soon?

Depression. The big black dog. I have got to get off (or reduce) my mood stabilizers. I think they are the fault of my memory lost. I’m not trying to get off them completely, in face there is some sort of credibility in taking Lithium. Not so much in Lamictal. Lithium’s kind of old fashioned and it’s powerful. It’s kind of like eating fubu (not the clothing line.) It’s potentially dangerous, even deadly. I was afraid of it for a long time. It is the kind of drug you can kill yourself with, if that’s your thing. A social worker at the hospital assured me that my lithium levels were so low I’d not have to deal with toxicity, which had long been a fear of mine and the reason I never took it when I was offered it. He also listed a gaggle of rich people and celebrities that can afford anything but take lithium. I’ve told you that bipolar is no respecter of persons. You get very poor folks in the hospital, and middle class and billionaires all obediently taking their pills and learning the opinions of the hospital staff on how to manage their lives. Some of us need that information more than others. I, for one, need that information more than others.

I don’t know what I’m going to do about the way I feel. I read a book I have read 1,000 times, which usually comforts me. I made some deliberately soupy fudge and ate that. I took my meds, including my happiness inducing B-complex gummis. I’m drinking water. I ate breakfast. I’m roasting a turkey.

I took an Ativan to calm down. There were other things I could do to settle my thoughts. Avitan is barely working. In the hospital I told them it was no more calming than drinking a glass of ice water, and I believe that true to an extent. In the hospital, though, you go to a lot of group therapy and it doesn’t matter if you sit there like a zombie or not. I try not to. I’ve been told a few times by other inmates that I don’t seem to belong there among the patients. The first woman to tell me that was a forty-fifty year old bipolar veteran – she said she’d never seen someone like me. The second was a blind woman who I was escorting around the place because the staff was overworked. Granted she couldn’t see, but it still felt good to be of help and to seem like I was not too wacky. Honestly? It’s not too bad that I am bipolar, but I love that I “pass” as a mentally uninteresting person. Many disabled people do not have such a privilege. One time I couldn’t get my car to start and the taxi driver asked me what I did at the hospital. In retrospect, he probably wouldn’t have asked any patient what they were in for. Still I was happy. I don’t want to walk around looking stoned anymore. The same medicine that made me look so haunted was the same one that made me fat. I’m not (so) fat anymore and I definitely look less stoned.

Fun fact: I’ve traveled the world and seen a lot of things through a taxi-driver’s window, but I had never met a taxi-driver’s whose native language was English. I told him that and he ignored it. I’ll bet he gets that all the time.

I am going to have to drive for forty-five minutes to get my pills refilled today. It’s a necessary pain in the neck. If I want to be able to look ordinary, I have got to take my pills and vitamins. If I were really committed I would be doing my yoga, meditating and drinking more water. The thing is, those things are close to impossible when I am depressed. I know it will make me feel better, but I can’t believe I will ever be better. When that hope speaks to me in a way I can listen, I will. Now they are just memories of a time when I was okay. I will be again, soon. I know this because I can remember past experiences when I seemed to snap out of it. I can do that, it’s not too difficult to wait. In the mean time, I’ve got to sort my pills.

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It Doesn’t Mean, “Just Don’t Want To” (PG)

Lethargy. It’s not really boredom. I’ve been bored, once, and this is not like that. I was twelve months pregnant, two weeks overdue, and naked except a very large football t-shirt given me by a friend. It was enlightening in a way. “Huh” I thought, “this is what people are talking about.”

Lethargy is different. It’s something I just can’t bring myself to do anything about. With boredom I had nothing in mind, but with lethargy there are long lists of ideas and I have the wherewithal to do none of them. A large pile of pills sit to my right and I can’t bring myself to eat something so I can take them. I was ampped last night so I took a Xanax to fall asleep. That usually wrecks the next day, so I’m not exactly sure why I did it. I don’t like to do it, Xanax is addictive and I can tell you my theory why.

Xanax is, among other things, muscle relaxer. It is strange because if you take it, you get a mildly buzzed, sleepy feeling. I have fallen asleep in a really fun church service and have not been able to sit through movies – I’ve had to lay down, under the influence of Xanax. I’m adjusted some to it, but here is the problem with that: Let’s say my anxiety is really high. I take a Xanax. I feel better for a few hours. Problem is that when the Xanax wears off, I feel just as stressed as when I took my first pill, if not moreso. It would have been a better idea to go for a long walk, or do relaxation inducing yoga. An addict is an addict, and the same lists A.A. gives with ideas and possibilities, could be used for the Xanax user.

Mornings are slow for me anyway. I usually get Small ready for school and sometimes I even get dressed. (Drawstring pants are serviceable for any occasion.) I walk her to school. I write for a few hours and talk to or other friends. After I get Small for lunch I come home and do house things. I’m making those cards you are asking about, and I will post them once I have a few to view. One half of the couple likes things austere (in a nice way) and the other is Southern. I think I’m going to make half of them simply and the other half ghastly. (Okay, not ghastly, but with lots of embellishment – sometimes I like things like that, too.)

Must find something to put in the belly. Do you like the word “belly” or “tummy” better?


The Parents

The other day my good friend, CH, asked me how my parents reacted to my manic-depression diagnosis. Excellent question, and I know some of you have already heard a part of this story. Nevertheless, here is the answer:

After the psychiatrist confirmed my psychologist’s diagnosis, I wanted to use his phone to call my dad. The doctor wouldn’t let me to privacy reasons, so I drove around until I found a pay phone. (I didn’t believe in cell phones.) I called my dad at work. “Daddy, I have bipolar.” He responded, “This is J. W.” I told him again. I started to cry. I asked him to call my mom. The whole time I was on the phone there was this guy in a dark red truck ogling me. When I got off the phone he asked if he could give me a ride. I almost spit on him, but all I did was give him a dirty look. I knew even then I wouldn’t ever forget him.

My parents rushed home from work, threw some clothing in the car and drove to my house three hours away. By that time I was in the hospital. My eighteen month old was with B. I had secured breastfeeding rights for her, so my parents brought her every morning and every night to nurse. My dad would cry the whole time we were together. I kissed him and tried to soothe him but I couldn’t really do it. I was the cause for his grief. So long as I stayed in the hospital, I could not assuage it.

I think a lot of my dad’s sorrow came from guilt about his family of origin. My uncle had schizophrenia. He died in a mental health facility for disabled veterans. Their mother probably had some sort of mental illness as well. My dad had escaped it, but I hadn’t. I learned later my father was also afraid because of the other patients. Many of them were fresh after a suicide attempt, so they were drugged even further out of their minds. Perhaps I was not as sparkly as I was when I came in, but I wasn’t suicidal any more. At least not that suicidal.

He talked to my therapist once and asked her how did it get so far without him knowing? That question is one I have asked myself many times. Why didn’t they figure it out? I knew I was different than everyone else at a very young age. (We’re talking early elementary school). I started asking for counseling in the seventh grade but my mom told me I didn’t need it. My parents must have thought that I was just quirky and slightly crazy. My severe mood swings were dismissed as part of my personality. I was great fun high, and was mean, spiteful and unthankful when I was low.

My mom is usually more emotionally reserved than my dad, and this instance was no different. She likes to take care of things, and she did. Not only was she caring for my toddler daughter, but she did things like scrub the carpet to get the sizeable stains out of it. She brought me my new clothes to wear in the hospital. (I had gone on a shopping spree the Friday before. I bought a vacuum and about about $1,000 of clothes. In retrospect she had the option of returning them, they still had their tags and I had a receipt. She didn’t, so I got to look cute while most everyone else looked like hell.)

I will always be thankful for them for coming to see me every morning and every night and bringing Small. My thankfulness extendes to their attitude: They were excited to see me and wanted to be there. There was no resentment that the visits were inconvenient or too long. They wanted to stay as long as they could to spend time with me and to let me spend time with their granddaughter.

I got out of the hospital and resumed living, only with doctors or therapist appointments three times a week and a handful of drugs morning and night. Life was difficult. Only B saw the grueling pace I was working at. No one else could fathom it. I wanted my parents to know, and to understand, though. For a while there, if they were around when it was time, I’d sort my pills in to pill boxes in front of them. I wanted to show them how serious this illness can be. I have a lot of bottles of pills. Most recently I’ve added an anti-nausea drug because my B-100 pill makes me throw up several times a month. That brings my prescription bottles up to a grand total of seven. This is not counting the vitamins. I asked the pharmacy tech if I had more prescriptions than any other customer and she said, “for a young person, yes.” They even know me by name.

But back to my parents. My mom lives with us four days a week. I know part of the reason is that she wants to keep her eye on me. She and my dad are getting a grip on all this means. Bipolar can be fatal and I feel like, even if I have long stretches of stability, The way I see it I am always going be on the brink of a episode. A mood swing can be triggered by just about anything, it’s just a matter of how the symptoms present themselves. Sometimes I’ll be elated and deflated, up and down, in a day’s time. Sometimes I’ll sleep until 10 (we’re normally awake at 6:30). Sometimes I’ll buy everything in the mall that is my size. Sometimes no symptoms will present themselves, and my new goal is to try to at least look like I’ve got it together the way I used to when I worked full time. If I work hard I won’t do most of those things most of the time, but, aside from death, I can guarantee that no episode will be my last.

I do want to be well. I rarely miss a dose of my medicine, no matter how unpleasant it to do so. I am on a diet that helps regulate my mood and I make an effort to exercise. (Not enough of an effort, if you ask B, and he is right.) I try to do little things, like go to bed at the same time every night and follow doctor’s orders. I’ve stopped overeating, for the most part, and started dieting and losing weight. All these little things contribute to a centered life and a healthy brain. I think my parents know that I usually am doing my best and working my hardest, and they do a lot to help us along.

So there is my answer. My parents were grieved, but strong and generous in their response to finding out about my illness. It is hard to ask for more.


About being depressed and why

I’m pretty depressed.  I heard a rumor that a friend of mine was trashing my husband and our marriage to her mom, and the mom reported everything she said to my mom.  Look:  We live with her.  She knows most everything that goes on.  You’re not helping and you’re hardly hurting her perception of Mr. M.  What you’re doing is hurting me.  I can’t believe a friend would betray me in that way.  You’re an integral part of our lives.  How could you do this to us?

(I don’t think this person reads this blog.  So I’m not addressing you.)

All that might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Or not.  I was outside convincing myself to lift weights and started getting all wobbly and I was afraid I’d drop the kettlebell again.  I gave up.  I think one of the reasons I didn’t do well was because I’ve been eating mostly cookies.  They’re good:  Oatmeal with dark chocolate chips (Like that makes them healthy.  All those wacky anti-oxidants.  My cholesterol is a little bit high – maybe I should eat more of them.)  I know my body is changing but it’s covered in a two inch coat of fat and it’s going to take real dieting for it to go away.

While I was wandering around the garage, not exercising, I returned to the things I always  perseverate on.  Mr. M won’t let me waste or even spend money on my interests.  Mrs C gives out copies of Babywise (which makes her the enemy – then add all the other evil things she’s done to me.)  I start thinking of suicide.  I think of my mom talking about how horrible A.A. is because others have to forgive them when asked to made amends.  As if she has ever done anything deserving of an apology.  My skin is breaking out like crazy for no reason at all.  Or no reason I’m aware of.  My closet is full of clothes I bought when my hair was light and now it is red.  I’m glad I have a lot of black t-shirts.  I am frustrated by my daughter.

But, as I am a rapid cycler, I open the refrigerator and it’s full of food!  Wonderful – we may have no cash but we do have plenty to eat!  Hallelujah!   My friend, Ms D, is coming to see us and we’re going to have a great time.  My sister-in-law and I are getting along well and she may come down for Christmas.  The Valentine’s books are coming along well, despite my multiple mistakes (I remind myself the whole time that they don’t have to be perfect.) My husband makes me drool.

It’s up and down, and sometimes up and down at the same time.  I wish it wasn’t like this, but it is.  It’s complicated, and while there is probably a medicine that could deal with that I’m actually tired of that.  I don’t want to try something new, I want what I’m taking to work.  I think more than a dozen pills a day is enough.  I write this knowing I’ve told countless bipolar brethren to try meds and if those don’t work, try some more.  I tell them to fight for their mental health.  You know what?  I’m tired of fighting.  I know it’s possible for me to wake up tomorrow ready to be up in arms, but I am just not like that tonight.


Off ADHD meds. Still!

I promised updates about how it feels to be unmedicated with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.  I’m in a unique situation because I didn’t start taking it until I was in my thirties.  Then, almost by accident was diagnosed and subsequently medicated.  In the beginning I felt like I suddenly knew what it was like to be able to keep one thought in my mind.  Instead of ideas constantly bouncing all over my brain I could choose one and hold it.  I didn’t have to wait until I was “in the mood”.  I didn’t have to play music in the back while I was writing to train my brain to focus on my work.  In some ways life was better.  (TMI) Sex was better because I was just thinking about what we were doing.  I could track better on other’s thought processes.  I could go to sleep without dozens of thoughts dancing in my head.

And then I went off the drug.

All the ideas came back in full force.  The army of thoughts stomped through my mind usually.  About this time I started taking B-100, so that might have something to do with it.

My memory came back.  I was losing my car every where I parked, no matter where I went.  Since I quit I have not lost my car even once.  I am able to remember stories I’ve told so I’m not telling them over and over again.  I used to go in to a room and not remember why I went there.  I’m sure you do that too, but I was doing it pretty much every time I went in to another room.

Did the Vyvanse do that to me?  Who knows?  But I’m not going on it to find out.

This sort of hyperconcentration is good for living in the moment – hence the example using sex.  But I was able to sit and read a few chapters of a book, set the book down and re-read the same chapters without being aware I was re-reading.  Now I’m able to comprehend a book.  I don’t know how Vyvanse would have helped me in school, but I don’t think it would have helped at all.  My brain was like a car stuck because of a train.  Running, but not going anywhere.  I wouldn’t be impulsive, but my impulsivity never really hurt me before.  Maybe it did and I don’t remember.


“What kind of psych meds would you like?”

This is an expanded post as an answer to a suffering friend. If you’re familiar with my story, it’s kind of repetitive; I hope you don’t mind.

PLEASE SEE A DOCTOR.

I, as you probably know, take a whole lot of meds because I am bipolar, OCD and ADHD. You can read about my journey in my blog, however I’ll give you my humble opinion and try not to be a jerk about it. This is your thread and I don’t want to take it over, but I want to tell you some stuff. Take it or leave it, okay?

After the baby was born she cried a lot. She cried three hours once, while we were holding her and patting her. She cried five hours in the car. I wanted to kill her, literally, but figured it was normal: Who would want a baby that constantly cried? I wished I had another baby, not the one I had. It was a very hard time. People talk about missing having an infant int the house. Well, I don’t miss it a bit.

Things were bad, but they were good too. She was a cute baby. She talked early, laughed early and was in great health. I loved trips to the doctor because they felt like report cards. I always got “A”s.

But I was suicidal, as usual. I had been so since the eighth grade and had never done anything about it. I had horrific visions of violence against me – crashing cars, getting hit by a car, jumping from a bridge. This was completely normal to me and every time I sought help I was told I didn’t need it. (Hi Mom!)

I could have gone like this indefinitely, but I got to the point that one morning while she was kissing my face awake I thought, “if i put her under water she will leave me alone.” I called the dr the next day.

Thus began my journey through psychiatric medications and therapy. It turned out I had more than PPD, which is what everyone thought it was. I wound up in the hospital – and I belonged there.

I realized after this incident that I was being a negligent mom. Yes, she got nursed (2 years!) dressed and changed regularly. But I would do things like let her go in our dangerous side yard, watch her pull a roll of carpet over herself, and sleep for hours while letting her play independently and completely unattended. Things were not good and I didn’t even realize how bad they were.

I was given a medication that slowed down my racing thoughts. I tried a lot of meds with some success. (I have rapid cycling bipolar, the worst kind) Only one ever made me feel indifferent, and it wasn’t even that indifferent – I took it for just a few days. They never slowed down my love for my daughter and family. They never stopped me from pursuing my dreams, they never (well, once) interfered with my sex life. I can’t live without them, regardless of what any one says about mental illness being a spiritual problem, or something made up. Just last week someone jokingly asked my husband if we had any psychiatric medicine in the house. He seemed to think about it and said “no”. After thinking about it, I decided what I would say if I was offered this question:

“What kind would you like?”

Of course no body wants to start psych meds. I never thought I would have to take medication every day of my life – but I do and will.

The Bible says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The world considers psychiatric illnesses to be a form of entertainment. People love to make jokes about the nearby psych wards, or drugs. (“What, did you miss your Lithium today?) I would love to say the Christian community is different, but in a whole lot of situations they’re not. Like I’ve discussed here before: Many Christians consider brain disabilities to be spiritual problems. Others think it is demonic. These thoughts lead me to think that as a community we need our minds renewed. The church should be a place all disabled people are embraced, and even healed. . I’m not talking about praying away schizophrenia, although that would be nice. Healing should never be required in a church community as a prerequisite for membership, or even leadership in the church body.

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 5:7

I’m talking about teaching people about relationships and real love. I’m talking about providing for each other’s needs. I’m talking about genuine acceptance – something that can come through love, but doesn’t come through easily.

Please consider a trip to the doctor. If the meds don’t work for you, you can try others, and if nothing works for you can always stop taking them.