The First Medication Change of 2020

Photo by Olga DeLawrence on Unsplash

I had plans for 2020. I am sure there is not one person that was not affected in the mental illness community that was not affected by COVID-19. One of my major plans was to lower Seroquel to a more manageable level that I feel less like a zombie in the morning, then the novel coronavirus hit, and I was using Zoom to meet my psychiatrist.

One of the fears is that not seeing me in person means that the trust that I spent over a year building that was crushed by the coronavirus. It is not that the trust was not there, but instead, you never know as a medical professional how isolating like I was advised to do would affect me in different ways. I understood this, but I was also frustrated. There is no doubt I had to learn patience (this came in life coaching.)

The idea of waiting is new to me, but not all is bad. After months of back and forth and resisting the urge to make changes on my own, I decided to broach the subject again, and the result was more to my liking. It was an incremental change from 400mg to 300mg, but it has made a difference. I still sleep, but I am waking up at a better time while still being rested. It is important to note that having my CPAP machine helps me get to sleep quicker, and that is important to note as to why the case I made was valid over time.

There is always this point that I need to make: medication changes should always go through your psychiatrist or medical professional. They are the ones that got you on these medications, and they are the professionals. I can’t stress that enough. Change is good but in the right way. The next step is the continual work on my social anxiety and panic attacks, which have been better if I am honest. That has been in the changes that have happened to my approach to stay in the moments of now. The tools I learned in life coaching have helped me create space with my own physics. Thank you as always for reading.

Thank you always for reading.

For everything social media for James Edgar Skye visit my Linq site here. 

My Life Coach can be reached at groundsforclarity@gmail.com. If you feel suicidal, Kim specializes in helping those who are like me; I recently had my own brush with suicide again in October, and Kim was a pivotal part of why I am still here with her life coaching alongside her ASIST training.

For ASIST Suicide Prevention Training Program | LivingWorks please visit here: https://www.livingworks.net/asist

Buy my book on Amazon through my website.

Always Keep Fighting

James

Photo by Christina Victoria Craft on Unsplash

Three Little Pills.

Lamictal.

Rexulti.

Seroquel.

This is my religion.

I am at their mercy

They are my Gods

Whenever I am reminded how much three little pills balance out my life, I think of those cigarette ads. The ones where they show how people’s lives are controlled and built around when they have a nicotine craving. That is me with my medicine. I time my evening activities around my medication. They make me sleepy and I have to take them early so I don’t wake up feeling out of sorts.

Twelve-hour shifts.

A Master’s degree program.

Social life.

Worship my medication.

A meticulous, exhausting, necessary routine.

It is worth it. Worth every moment that I have to cut my day short to ensure that I don’t absolutely wreck my life in the name of a late-night Netflix binge. Worth maintaining a healthy relationship with my family. Worth not losing a career I worked so hard to build. I think we should raise a glass in honor of the battle we fought to find our Gods.

The trial and error of medications.

Finding the perfect antidote to our mania, depression, suicidal ideations, and emotional rollercoasters.

The HORRIBLE side effects.

The painful testimony leading up to the diagnosis.

I despise being thrown into the love/hate relationship I have with these three little pills, but they saved my life. They saved my life in so many ways. I hate that we are in a not so exclusive but exclusive club where so many people have to relate to what we all go through.

You know what I love though?

I love that we are all here to complain about the medications and the journey that led us here. I love that we survived what surely was out to get us.

You aren’t weak or taking the easy way out. You aren’t using medication to numb the pain. You are taking control. WE are taking control.

I am so happy we are all here.

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

Changes

At times, little changes can make all the difference in the world.

It has been a couple of weeks since I finally got what I desired most this year, a real change in my medication, and finally some light going into 2018. So far I have seen major changes in my anxiety at night which have meant during my day I am not dreading going to sleep with anxiety levels through the roof.

In “Light in all the darkness” I talked about the changes my new psychiatrist made in my last doctor’s appointment. My doctor gave me the ability to take up to 4mg of Ativan a day up from just 2mg a day, which my previous dosage a few years ago was 3mg throughout my day, and it has been a success so far.

In the first few days, I took all 4mg of Ativan throughout my day just so that my body would get used to the new, and much better, dosage. Since that time I was able to adjust on normal days to take 3mg a day, and those days where I am more out of my safe space I can move up to my max dosage.

It’s not a cure-all but I think it helps in the interim so I can refocus my efforts on fighting my anxiety. I even had two different nights where I didn’t need my night time dose of Ativan (that hasn’t happened in years.) Since changing my dosage my anxiety levels have gone back down to very manageable which is great.

I still had a bad day over the last couple weeks, but I am realizing the more I talk about my issues here on my blog the less these days affect my week.

I am hitting a stretch run in my final two weeks on my last semester of 2017. I am so close to the end of my bachelor’s degree and to be honest it has been a tough and long journey. Still, 2018 is shaping up to be a good year. I will be starting my master’s program in the summer, I graduate, and I am hoping big things with my writing projects.

The other change in my medication has also helped me adjust to a better nighttime routine. Prior to my last appointment my Seroquel dosage I took every night was an interesting one. I had 100mg tablets with the option to take anywhere from 300-600mg at night. It was never the same every night and it made my sleeping schedule very erratic. Some nights 400mg would suffice to get me to sleep while others it took 500-600mg.

The upside of the higher dosage is I slept okay for six hours a night, but it would take me three hours from the time I opened my eyes to get out to bed (one of the side effects for me with more Seroquel in my system is that when I wake, the medicine is still in my system and if I fail to fully wake up for hours.) It stands to reason the lower dosage I take the better chance I have to wake in the morning in a better mood.

After explaining this to my new doctor he made the decision to change my individual dosage while still keeping the options open every night. I now can take up to three 200mg tablets at night. I have found in the last two weeks that I can sleep well enough most nights with just taking 400mg. With my original dosage, I took 300mg right away and then moved up to 600mg as needed throughout the night. It meant sometimes three hours before I would go from laying down to actual sleep.

Again its just a few weeks in so I have no idea what the long-term effects will be when it comes to the two most important medications that I take. I think the next logical step would be a change in anti-depressant because my current one just doesn’t feel like it is working.

Change is good, and I feel as if I can really look at the possibility of finally getting my social anxiety and my general anxiety back under control to a functioning level. My new nighttime routine has helped me get to sleep earlier and sleep better. I still wake up during the night way too much, but one issue at a time.

I have really felt so much better. I have been able to start my day with a small dose of Ativan and it helps me get through my late afternoon before having to take another dose. My anxiety level, which was hitting 9-10 over the last month has been a more manageable 5-7 level most days. I logged one day in the past week that was an eight, but if I can somehow get into the 3-5 range it means I am managing my anxiety again.

So that is where The Bipolar Writer is at the moment. Looking forward to getting through the next two weeks and having some much need break time from school.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoRoss Findon

Insomnia and Seroquel

I can trace a good deal of the issues in my life to my struggles with insomnia. I think most experts in the field of medicine can agree that sleep is one of the most important parts of mental health. It is no wonder why when I fail to sleep well one night in can snowball into many nights in a row of no sleep. When this happens in my life, it means all bad.

My psychiatrists over the years and my therapist believe that my own current struggles with depression and social anxiety have its roots in my issues with insomnia. Looking back at my life, the problems that I have with sleep go back to when I was seven. I can’t remember a time when sleep was not an issue in my life.

As a kid, I would spend my nights honing my skills and Role Playing gamer usually until two or three in the morning. Gaming became my way to fill time when sleep failed to find me. As a teen, I would spend even more time at night not sleeping and it was common for me to go day or two with no sleep. I got better at being an RPG gamer simply because it made the time pass with no sleep interesting.

I was a teenager when I first found sleeping medication a helpful way to finally get sleep. I wouldn’t use it every day, but when my sleep got to levels that would become a familiar part of my life, days without sleep, it was common to reach for a sleeping aid. Most of my teenage and young adult years I used over the counter sleep medication to curb my insomnia.

In my early twenties, just before my diagnosis with Bipolar One, I was prescribed my first prescription strength sleeping medication. I will always remember my experiences with Ambien because it affected me in funny ways for the month that I took this sleeping medication. At least I can laugh at it now. I know these experiences only through word of mouth from my family, but with I took Ambien it was common for me to sleepwalk and once I was found outside my house in the cold.

Perhaps the weirdest, or funniest I can’t decide, is that sleepwalked falling through a glass table without injuring myself (I often slept in a zip-up hoodie.) I was found asleep laying in the glass from the table by my family.

Insomnia has always been an issue that leads to other problems including depression and anxiety. Over the years, my doctors prescribed me with several different sleeping medications to supplement my Seroquel. As of now, I am off sleeping medications because over the years they have become ineffective. Now I must rely on Seroquel alone at night.

Seroquel is a well known antipsychotic and I have taken this medication every day for the last ten years for my Bipolar one issues, but I also use this medication for sleep. It has been the most effective medication to combat my insomnia. There is good and bad when it comes to Seroquel and my life. It is effective in high doses. I have taken as high as the maximum allowed (according to my psychiatrists) at 600mg.

Over the years I have worked to lessen the need for Seroquel in my struggle with sleep. At points in my life I have taken as low as a 300mg dose, but in the last few years, my struggles with the effectiveness of taking Seroquel for so many years has made it a battle every night. My dosage now varies on a night to night based on how much sleep I got the night before. The unfortunate reality of my life is my dosage has been at 500mg most nights.

Insomnia is the one thing that seems to be unmanageable in my life. I have my struggles with depression and social anxiety daily, but I have found solace in my writing, meditation, and of course coffee. I am able to manage my other issues with the right combination of medication. But insomnia continues to bother me and it is a real unwanted companion. 

There have been nights lately where a maximum dose of Seroquel doesn’t equate to sleep. It is something that will worry me moving on.

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t need Seroquel to sleep, and I believe fully that it is an addiction, but the flip side of that is not being able to sleep. It’s a tough road to be on and I don’t know what will be in store for my future.

Will I find a way to be less dependent on Seroquel or find a way to be off it all together? It is something for the future J.E. Skye to deal with I guess.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: HS LEE