Finding My Antidepressant Match

In the late fall of 2016 I was at my lowest point mentally of my entire 25 years on Earth. I laid in bed most of the day, suicidal thoughts constantly buzzed in my head and I was struggling with self-harming on an almost daily basis.

My therapist was very serious when she told me it might be a good idea to get on antidepressants. I never in my life thought I would get to a point where medicine was necessary. I thought about the stigma behind taking antidepressants, that people who take them are “crazy” and “can’t function on their own”.

But you know what? I couldn’t function on my own so I started my grueling journey to find my perfect antidepressant match.

I called my doctor who took my condition very seriously as well which I am so thankful for. I swear without her and my therapist, I wouldn’t be here. She prescribed me a low dose of an SRI as well as Larazapam for my anxiety.

Immediately I got nauseous from the medicine. I already was having trouble eating so the added nausea wasn’t helping. I took it daily for weeks with no improvement in my depression. She increased my dose but it didn’t help.

To get me on the right track with my medicine I was sent to a psychiatrist who created a long list of medicines that he thought could help me. It started with a bunch of different SRI prescriptions but none of them worked for me.

For months I tried different pills at their highest doses but nothing made any difference in my mood nor did they decrease my suicidal thoughts. After 6 months, I was ready to give up. I had heard positive things for other people so I questioned why these pills didn’t work for me.

In spring of 2017 I saw my psychiatrist again hoping he would be able to figure out a better solution for me since no SRIs worked. He said to try a medicine typically prescribed for individuals with bipolar, Wellbutrin.

Starting that was the first time in months that I saw a change. I began to think more clearly, I wasn’t nauseous, I had more energy and my mood was getting better. It was a relief!

If you are trying to find the right medicine for your mental illness, do not give up. It is absolute hell until you get there but finding the right pill for you is possible.

I thought I would never find my perfect match. Even though it took a long time, I am glad that it finally worked out.

The Cure for Depression: A Daily Routine

Aw, crap. It’s morning.

Let’s roll out of bed after not sleeping well, glare at our alarm, blame everyone in the world for how terrible we feel, and stalk off to the bathroom to read our phone get ready.

With a winning morning routine like that nearly every day, why are we confused when the days continue to suck?

Did anyone ever watch The Lego Movie? D’ya remember that Emmett had an instruction book literally subtitled: “The instructions to fit in, have everybody like you, and always be happy!”? We, the viewing audience, laughed as Emmett breathed deeply, greeted the day, ate, exercised, showered, and even said, “Hello,” to all the cat lady’s pets.

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In true exciting story form, the film suggested that Emmett’s real, interesting life began once those stupid instructions blew away. Sorry; but this is not how life works.

Life is really long, and we need to want to live it.

Following a routine like Emmett does is not bad. Routine is not a swear word. It’s actually a magic formula, far more magical than Expecto Patronum or even Avada Kedavra. A routine gives us a little, workable guide for getting through our foggy cloud of negativity and hopelessness.

And, you’re following a routine as we speak. It just may not be a good one.

So! *rubs hands together eagerly* Let’s get started on following one that is good. Here’s a sample morning that I threw together:

  1. Wake up, preferably early.
    Yep, we’re starting there. You already blew the early-to-bed thing. Plus, if we start with bedtime, you’ll be like me and procrastinate starting a routine until you can finally get to sleep before midnight -so we’ll get started, like, NEVER.
  2. Tell yourself you love you.
    This is not vain, it’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It’s good for you; and you are worth it, you beautiful/handsome person.
  3. Do something active.
    If you are following my advice to exercise daily, this may be the time to grab those workout clothes you set right by the bed.
    OR, to not stress you out at all, just do a little stretching. L’internet has loads of simple yoga day-greeting moves that only take a few minutes.
  4. Eat food or get ready for the day.
    I am the only woman in a house of males (all family, don’t worry), so I have to get dressed pretty much right away. For you, though, maybe you can slouch over to the toaster in your skivvies. Whatever; just go. Keep moving.
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  5. Whatever you eat, make it healthy.
    Healthy also doesn’t need to be a bad word. Toast is healthy, at least compared to a breakfast of peanut M&Ms you found behind the couch cushion when you sat down to read your phone instead of stretching.
  6. Shower and/or get dressed.
    Just do it. Don’t give yourself time to think, What am I getting dressed for? Life is…. Ending that sentence is never a good idea for a depressive mindset. Like I said, keep going.
  7. Take your meds, if you do that.
    I don’t know your dosing schedule, but most are taken after a meal and in the first part of the day.
  8. Go somewhere.
    Yes, to your computer chair to check into a freelance job is “somewhere.” I know that some of us are recluses by choice and/or mental condition. If you can get outside to at least stand on the porch and watch the sun, please do.
    Otherwise, I highly recommend getting completely out of the house. Go on a walk, pick up groceries, visit a friend, see a museum, or go to work if you’re employed.

Obviously, this routine is not a hard-and-fast rule. If you decide to pack a lunch in between steps 7 and 8 I won’t leap through your screen and slap you. I mean, you gotta eat lunch, too. I understand.

Still, it’s a good format. Use it like a foundation, something to plagiarize completely for yourself and adjust according to your personal flair.

In terms of the rest of your day, I feel that people’s schedules vary too widely to tailor as much as I did above. If you work, the day’s pretty much planned out for you because you have to do that. If you’re at home, set up activities similar to the morning one.

The main idea is to have assigned tasks; to keep moving.

Depression loves to settle on us like a putrid cloud. We let it. Making life pointless and then dwelling on the pointlessness of life is a vicious circle, but a daily routine will help break you out of that.

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Now, if you’re still with me, you may be wondering about a nighttime routine. I mentioned this in a previous article on sleep, so I don’t want to bore anybody. That, and I’ve exceeded my morning routine writing time. If I wait much longer, I’ll finish the rest of the chocolate almonds and will somehow decide to not exercise due to post-sugar crash.

Don’t get caught up in writing the perfect routine. Use mine for now; I gave you permission. As you follow it, you can slowly change to what works better for you and your lifestyle and work schedule.

You can do it, you beautiful/handsome person you.

Photo Credits:
Wikia
Deryn Macey
gbarkz

Stabilize

I sat in the waiting room clutching papers in my hand. For two weeks I had prepared to tell my doctor that I finally began seeing a therapist and that the diagnosis from her standpoint was leaning towards bipolar disorder. Awkwardly I gathered my things together once my name was called and followed the nurse for blood pressure and weight checks. Weighing in at 210 pounds threw me off guard at first, but I suppose that’s what happens when you stop drinking every day.

The nurse handed me the same GAD checklist that gets filled out each visit. I hadn’t seen my doctor in a little over a month so my numbers were up higher than in previous visits. As I would fill out “More than half the days”, I could feel that I was getting beside myself again. I should’ve been better than this. I should’ve been normal.

The doctor came in the room almost as quickly as the nurse left it. Before I could even allow the “hello” to escape her lips, the paperwork was extended in her direction and I told her I had gone to a therapist. “We think I may have bipolar disorder. I’m not throwing chairs or anything like that but after reading off the symptoms, a lot of things make a lot of sense. The high sex drive, the huge interest in hobbies only to drop them within a week or so, the days of not being able to make myself get off of the couch, my lack of focus and excess of indecision, it’s all here and then some.”, I said while pointing at the bipolar information sheet.

“Well I had my suspicions, but getting a second opinion from a therapist definitely solidifies a treatment option. Let’s try weaning off of one of your antidepressants and adding a mood stabilizer.”, she said.

I want to be clear by saying that I’m not glad that I am on another medication, but I am glad that I may be one step closer to finding a way to live life without my life getting in the way of… Well… My life. The problem I have with my mental health is that I wake up with either no motivation to get anything done, or so much motivation that I run errands and still not get anything done. I can have a great day until a derogatory comment is made to either me or a friend, and it sends my mood into a sullen, sarcastic, and depressing cloud for either hours or the rest of the day. I feel as though I have never had any control over my sensitivity or emotions, even as a child.

It has been four days since I have begun the process to stabilize. The new medicine I am trying is called Topiramate and if it’s anything like my Lexapro, it probably is something that will take time for my body to chemically register before a difference is noticed. Honestly, the biggest side effects I feel today are lethargy and extreme dizziness. It is as if I have hit the bottle hard enough to have woken up drunk and held onto it. This medicine is also used to treat seizures as well as migraines, so I feel that it plays with a different part of the mind than I am used to, so hopefully a change will come soon. According to other articles, it takes around five to six days for the side effects to dissipate.

This is only the beginning of this journey, and I write to keep you in the loop about this process in case any of you ever go through the same thing. If you feel as though you need help with mental health please reach out to someone. You are never alone. I am available for contact via social media if anyone ever needs an ear to listen. You can find my contact information as well as my other blog posts at www.outtodry.blog.

Take care everyone!

Are Antipsychotic Drugs Safe?

Today’s topic is an interesting one to write about, are antipsychotic drugs safe?

I am by no means an expert in the field of medicine and what works for a mental illness. Instead I write from exeprience.

I have been taking antipsychotics since day one of my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder. My antipsychotic of choice is Quetiapine (known by its brand name of Seroquel.) In my own life, it is the most important drug that I take besides Ativan. I have taken Seroquel every day for the last ten plus years.

Seroquel became a part of my daily cocktail of medications because I was hearing voices. It was during my first suicide attempt when I was first brought to the hospital and entered the psych ward. Over time, my psychiatrist put me on the strongest dosage allowed. I have been up and down with the dosage ever since.

It is this one medication that I can’t live without, but the side effects are often something that I have “to deal with.”

That is where I want to go first. One of the things that I regret in the beginning when first receiving my diagnosis is that I didn’t ask questions about anything. I did what the doctors told me and took any medicine that they gave me. I did some research in later years but by then medication was a part of my life.

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I didn’t care enough about myself at the time to understand taking antipsychotics would mean having to live with side effects.

Here are some of what I deal with daily when taking Seroquel.

The simple ones are dry mouth. I have to combat that with lithium as well so I drink lots of water throughout the day. I also chew gum. I often go through a pack in three or four days (sugar-free of course) and gum also helps with anxiety.

When I have already taken my dosage, it can sometimes leave me dizzy when trying to get up to walk around late at night. Even at a high dose, it can take me up to three hours to get any real sleep.

The one I struggle with the most is when waking in the morning. Seroquel is a powerful antipsychotic. I use for sleep beyond keeping my psychosis in check. But in the morning it sucks. I wake usually at around six or seven in the morning, but I am not really awake. I can feel still partly asleep. It can take up to three hours before the Seroquel has left my system completely and I can get out of bed.

When have to force myself to get up and it takes a mountain of caffeine before I am myself again. Seroquel stays in my system longer the higher dosage that I am on. At the moment I am at 500-600mg most nights.

I wanted to dedicate the rest of this blog post talking about an important part of any new medication but antipsychotics in particular. It is paramount to always research especially when taking antipsychotics.

  1. It is important to know the risks of antipsychotics. You can achieve this through research on more than one source. Complete information on any medication you will need to make the right decisions.
  2. Don’t be afraid to tell you, doctors, you don’t want to take an antipsychotic. In the beginning, it would have been better to know that over time I would become more reliant on Seroquel. My first dosage was 50mg and it has done nothing but increase over the years.
  3. Also don’t be afraid of the side-effects. Antipsychotics have their uses and if you decide you need it but are afraid of what you learn, don’t be. Everyone is different. You can write down what is working and the side effects in a journal and discuss it with your mental health team.
  4. My last point is exploring alternatives to medication when it comes to antipsychotics. I was very anti-counseling when I was first diagnosed. I still don’t go to group therapy because it’s not for me. But for you, it could mean never taking a medication ever.

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I am sometimes left wondering if everything I deal with today could have been different without medication.

I am by no means an expert. I always write my blogs through my own experiences. It is always good to listen to what your psychiatrist or doctor is telling you. They have the expertise that I don’t, at the same time the long-term effects might be something you don’t want.

I can’t imagine taking Seroquel because without it I may slip back into psychosis. What is even worse I may never sleep again without taking my Seroquel. it is the only medication that can put me to sleep anymore, and I have tried everything under the sun to sleep.

To answer the question if antipsychotics are safe, my answer isn’t so easy. Antipsychotics have their place and for the most part other than depending more on it, Seroquel has been good to me. It’s important that we work with the people on our mental health teams to find what works for you.

Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoJonathan Perez

unsplash-logoHush Naidoo

unsplash-logoKatherine Hanlon