M is for Medication

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailM. Medicine. Medication. Mental Illness.

 

When Tegan invited me to guest post, I was flattered. I mean, her largest sampling of my writing has come from my (sometimes constant) rambling/ranting/storytelling posts on my personal Facebook page. I’m not even certain if she’s aware of what she got herself into. Wait… am I sure of what I have gotten into? At any rate, she asked me to write about Medicine and my experience with it from the past several years. More specifically in regards to my experience in its use for mental illness.

 

I suppose first things first: I was diagnosed with Bipolar II in the Spring of 2003 when I was a college student at Michigan State University (http://msu.edu/) in East Lansing, Michigan, USA. Yep – I’m an American. So, my “talk therapist” aka shrink aka psychologist referred me to the University psychiatrist to begin medication. I can’t say that I remember my exact doses, but I have the recollection of my meds. Depakote was the first thing. Depakote was to control my manic episodes. While taking it, I was completely exhausted and trying to sleep all the time and my depression was still hitting me hard. So the doctor added Lamictal, essentially an upper. Long story short, I got tired of feeling disconnected from the world around me. I felt like a zombie and I was tired of taking medication after a few months.

 

Now, let me add in here – I don’t understand the idea of giving “downers” but also giving “uppers”. Shouldn’t they be able to find an even balance with just one of the medications? No, no. I mean, I get most of the science behind selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and blah, blah, blah.

 

About a year later I was having so much anxiety that I just couldn’t tolerate it anymore. I was prescribed Xanax at the lowest prescription dose by a general medical doctor. It was prescribed for use on an “as needed basis” which I could mentally accept better than a routine maintenance drug such as the Depakote and Lamictal. Xanax was like the Russian Roulette of anxiety medications, as far as I was concerned. I used three doses. One time I took the pill and I was on cloud nine, happy and fine and loving life. The second time I took the pill I fell asleep for 30 minutes, so deeply that a friend could not wake me even by punching me in the arm. When I woke up that time, I was disoriented and in the grumpiest mood. The third time I took a pill I went into this deep wallowing depression for three days straight and wished I had never taken a pill to begin with because I would have much rather dealt with some anxiety attacks than the “don’t-turn-on-a-light-or-open-a-curtain. Just-let-me-lay-here-and-wallow-in-misery” feeling.

 

Another year passed, and the anxiety was bothering me “too much” again so I went to a general family doctor in the city I had moved to by then. He prescribed Klonopin, an anti-anxiety medication. Again, I HATED this medication. It just brought me down to a point where I wanted to stay in bed all day. Who the heck wants to feel WORSE? You can picture an eye-roll here.

 

My final experience with mental health medications led me to a psychiatrist in yet another city, close to where I was living, with my bipolar type issues. This doctor prescribed Zoloft. Allow me to enter here that by the time I was at this point in treatment attempts, I was fairly well versed on the medicine options of the time, and had a basic layman’s working knowledge of the effects of various medications. Zoloft is an anti-depressant. Research had shown that a person who was either predisposed to, borderline, or diagnosed bipolar, should not take an antidepressant as the chemicals in these medications interacted with the brain chemistry and often compounded or inflated bipolar symptoms at various points in the spectrum. “All due respect, Sir, as I realize I have no medical degree and this is your specialty, but it was my understanding that bipolar people should not take antidepressants due to the interaction with the brain chemistry.” He replies with an agitated wave of the hand and “I’ll add Risperdal then.”

 

One month into this treatment combination the bottom fell out. I stayed up for three straight days (manic), could not even convince my eyelids to close despite my physical body screaming for the rest, my mind was in complete disorder, and when I finally was just about to go to sleep, I heard voices. I called the doctor’s office to let him know of this problem. He told me to take the Zoloft and double the Risperdal. I hung up the phone completely concerned with where all this medication was taking me and I decided, right then and there, I was “never” taking medication again for these problems. I couldn’t tolerate this “lab rat” feeling. No two doctors ever seemed to agree on the correct treatment protocol for me. No doctor had found a mix that really worked without me having to sacrifice some major part of my livelihood.

 

From November of 2004 until January of 2013, I did not touch another medication. What changed in 2013? I endured four (almost) solid months of migraines. My doctor in Kentucky prescribed 50mg of Topomax, an anti-seizure medication with multiple uses, and migraine treatment being one of them. A little research on my part found that it had also been used in the treatment of bipolar. This doctor had no inkling to my past mental health yo-yo. After 4 weeks, he doubled my dose to 100mg as I was still having migraines. A few weeks later he added a build up to 30mg of Amitryptilene – a first generation antidepressant also used for migraines, but effective for a different group of migraine problems (hence the double down on meds).

 

I hated the side effects of Topomax (neurological in nature, I was stuttering, couldn’t focus, getting tremors, and dealing with tingling/numbness in my fingers and toes). As I was dropping myself off the Topomax in dose steps (down to 50mg for a while, then down to 25mg for a while, to avoid serious potential body failures from abrupt discontinuing) I had floods of emotions. I realized that during the months I was taking both medications at full prescription dose, I had not had to deal with many negative emotions. In fact, I had essentially “forgotten” how to deal with those emotions because the medicine had masked it all. It was such a battle to regain that control. Actually, it often still is. I didn’t realize what an emotional basket case I really was until the past few months.

Now? Now I’m down to just 10mg Amitryptilene. I found a different doctor who did thorough blood work which lead to the discovery that I have Lyme Disease and Babesiosis. That last bit is something for a completely different post. However, my migraines are at bay.

 

It’s tempting… tempting to go back to that place where life was calm with the aid of my medications. I won’t say I’ll never take medication for that emotional relief, but I will say that for now, I’d rather battle the Lyme Disease and Babesiosis without a medication (Topomax) that inflates my neurological problems.

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Jennifer Henley, aka Momma Jen Hen, lives in a rural community in Murray, Kentucky, USA. A stay at home mother of three life zappers lovely boys, ages 13, 6, and 2, and college student who can’t seem to finish her first degree before a second decade passes, Jennifer has her own history of seasonal dissociative disorder, depression, anxiety, panic, and Bipolar II (rapid cycling manic depression). Sounds like a nut case, eh? With three boys, who could blame her? No, but seriously, she has been through psychological talk therapy as well as psychiatric care along with an long list of medicines, but has managed to gain control over her mental well-being medication free. Most days. Most days she has control. However, she still recognizes the importance that medication plays in so many lives for a better quality of life and even the slightest taste of normalcy for individuals. Each individual has their own journey. She’s here to speak (er, write) just a little about what she has taken from firsthand experience.

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25 thoughts on “M is for Medication

  1. Oculus Mundi

    I have also been through the mill with meds. I had ten years of various different SSRIs, plus tri-cyclics and those non specific older anti-depressants – one of which I am pretty sure caused my heart arrhythmia though I can’t prove it. Every single time I see my doctor he tries to persuade me to take meds again. I have been unmedicated for depression for about 16 months now. I do take occasional Xanax for the anxiety which mostly works ok for me, just makes me sleepy so I have to watch that.

    At first my moods and mental state ricocheted all over the place, but after about 8 months off the meds I found myself settling. I still bounce around and still have bad (sometimes very bad) days and weeks, but over the last 16 months or so I have managed these intervals the best I can, without medication. Bottom line, I gave meds the good old college try, they all had horrible side effects, they didn’t help much at all and I am sick of being a human guinea pig.

    I am NOT anti meds, but I’ve been there and done that and it gets tiring explaining that over and over to my doctor. It also gets tiring fending off well meaning friends who ask how I am and then start trying to persuade me to try this “new” medication which will somehow magically fix everything. Maybe one day I will try medication again, but for now, I will keep on keeping on, without subjecting myself to the latest batch of guinea pig chemicals on offer.

    I am glad for the people medication does help. But it’s not a magic wand, and it doesn’t work for everyone – there is no one size fits all cure.

    Good luck and thanks so much for your post 🙂

    Reply
    1. Musings of the Misguided Post author

      It’s unfortunate that there isn’t a one size fits all cure..things would definitely be a lot easier. Although it would be pretty boring too..

      Reply
      1. Oculus Mundi

        Yep, to both. They are now realising that depression can be caused by differing mechanisms in the brain, and we are getting ever closer to understanding it. I long for a future where doctors don’t just reach for a prescription pad but send you for an MRI or some such to find out where the problem is and how to fix it. Well, a girl can dream 🙂

        Reply
        1. Jennifer

          I certainly relate to your sentiments about guinea pigging the medication stockpile. I will say that as I’ve been doing more and more reading about vitamin deficiencies, MTHFR gene mutations, Lyme Disease, etc. (because of my own medical diagnosis of late), I’ve been quite intrigued with the connections all of these things individually have with many mood disorders. I’m becoming significantly more curious about the chance that doctors have quit looking at the “base” and “core” of individual systems and instead have, albeit well meaningly (that’s a word, I don’t care what word check says right now), fallen into the rut of hitting this mainstream of labeling symptoms and treating symptoms instead of treating problems. However, this is merely my own curious thoughts since I have no medical degree. 🙂 Best wishes for you to continue fighting the good fight and getting through those rough days and weeks to see the sunshine on the other side.

          Reply
          1. Oculus Mundi

            I suspect what you are saying might have some truth to it. We at the coal face have a pretty good idea of what is going on, even without the benefit of a medical degree. I am sure there are doctors out there who really do have a good grip on mental health issues and are still researching, but unfortunately it is not all being passed down to gen pop or mainstream GPs as yet. And each GP has their own quirks, their own expertise, sometimes it is a matter of searching till you find the right one. Nothing is ever simple, it seems.

            Good luck and best wishes to you too 🙂

            Reply
  2. Vicky

    Medication is so bloody tricky!!
    I long for the day when a blood test, or scan can correctly identify what an individual needs. Rather then being a human guinea pig! I have been on many different ADs for anxiety and depression, PTSD, and seem to be one of those people that it works great for 12-18 months then stops being effective.
    I’m currently on cymbalta, having had to increase the dose after 18months as it wasn’t cutting it at all.

    Reply
    1. Musings of the Misguided Post author

      That would be great if we could one day have that. It would certainly help a lot of people. I’ve been a huge mix of different meds and currently my AD is kind of working, taking the edge off but not completely. The rest is up to me I guess.

      Reply
    2. Jennifer

      It seems to be not uncommon for people to hit a “plateau” in their treatment protocol, then needing a boost or a change. For instance, I know one person who has been receiving treatment for anxiety since 2000. The medicine they started off on was okay, but over time they needed an increase. Then later another increase. Eventually, there was a slight change when the ER capsule came out. Then there have been a few med changes as plateaus have been hit or something hasn’t worked right with their body chemistry. That person is actually in a medicine related field.

      Reply
    1. Jennifer

      You are too kind. 😉 Thank you. It helps to have a pretty strong support network of friends who have been quite patient with the good, the bad, and the ugly through the years. Haha. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Renee at Mummy, Wife, Me

    I can not begin to imagine what it would be like to feel like a guinea pig and try one medication after another. It must be so scary. As for four months of migraines. You deserve a medal to survive that. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      I’m certain there are others who have felt like more of a guinea pig/lab rat than I. Of course, what’s the joke in there? They call it “practicing medicine” for a reason? Haha! The migraines were certainly something… I can’t say I was always a bright ray of sunshine for my family and friends. But, they ultimately understood I wasn’t myself and when I began the right level of medicines that took them away they could tell I was returning to my version of normal. 😉 Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  4. Emily

    Wow, good on you for keeping your humour in such a difficult situation – it must be endlessly frustrating not to be able to just take one simple little pill and feel better – we forget just how much more we need to discover about health and medicine. I wish you well 🙂

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      Thank you so much for your well wishes! 🙂 It seems the world of health and medicine is in a constant state of discovery, yes?

      Reply
  5. Dorothy

    I share a similar story, having been through the meds merry-go-round for depression and anxiety. I even had the blood test which tells the doctors which medications are best for your metabolism. Sadly, that was a false trail and now I’m back on the A/Ds I was on before the test. I have found a combination that works for now, but it’s by no means a magic wand and it has not solved everything.

    Thank you for sharing your story…

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      It seems there are so many of “us” out there. If by sharing my story I am able to let someone else know they are not alone, then I am happy to share. There were certainly many days and nights when I thought I must have been just completely insane and the only person out there like me (which felt terribly lonely), but thanks to people who shared their story, I found solace and refuge. Then later, strength.

      I hope that you may find peace and better health in the near future. <3

      Reply
  6. kirsty mackenzie

    well done for making it through, the mind is such a complex place, I hope you find a peaceful path very soon

    Reply
  7. Jen Hale

    Such a rollercoaster ride to find something that works for you. I recently watched the movie Side Effects and found it really poignant. Hope you’re doing okay now 🙂

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      I’ve never heard of that movie. I’ll definitely have to see if I can find that so I might watch it.

      I have to say there is a lot more to write about – this was certainly an abbreviated post. And to answer whether I’m doing okay now … well, I feel like that’s a complicated answer in some respects and might even be worthy of a dedicated post either on my own blog, or if Tegan would have me, here on Musings of the Misguided. Hmmm… gonna get to communicating with her on that in just a moment. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Katrina

    Medication is so tricky, I certainly assumed many years ago that they all worked the same for everyone but its so obvious to me now with all I’ve been through and seen others go through that that’s certainly not the case. It does make sense that we are all different and all react and are affected differently but it’s bloody frustrating!

    Thank you for telling your story.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. 🙂 It’s so interesting how we all change our mindset when we start experiencing things first and second hand.

      Reply
  9. Vanessa

    I find it amazing how you have to try so many things to find out if it works. I really would have expected more research into brain chemistry and so on…finding ways to manage your health is hard & I wish people understood how draining it is!

    Reply

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