Category Archives: Medication

Dad…Pilot…USAF Col…Medication Nazi….

It takes all types of people to make a successful support team. I think I have mentioned before that my dad is a retired Air Force colonel. So as you can imagine he is not the “emotional breakdown” support team member. However, I am incredibly thankful to have in my life because he is the person I would credit most with my medication compliance.

His favorite costume...guess you can see where I got my weird side of my personality!

His favorite costume…guess you can see where I got my weird side of my personality!

I’ll never forget the first day of my first mental illness medication. I had been refusing each time my mom had tried to get me to take it for several hours. So later that night, I had some friends over and went out to the garage to get an “adult beverage”. I grabbed the drink and turned back around to head back inside and BAM! ran smack into my dad…..holing (drum roll now) the dreaded box of pills. Guess that military trains g wasn’t for nothing because after stealthily sneaking up on me he had strategically placed himself between me and the house. Using the element of surprise he removed the drink from my hand. Well Damn. Looking around and realizing there was no way out I used my next weapon, confusion.

Nicole: [wide eyed and innocent] Hi daddy! What are you doing? Would you like a Miller Lite–here let me get you one.
Dad: [hold out single, deception-ally harmless, white pill] I’m not letting you back inside till you take it.
Nicole: [Plant feet, lift chin]
Dad:  You’re friends are going to wonder what took you so long.

And checkmate…well played dad, well played.

And so, I took my first lexapro with a raspberry flavored Smirnoff   Not exactly what the doctor recommended  but it did the trick.

Resistance to medication is so common, and we fight it for so many individual reasons. The largest feeling I remember preventing me from taking it was fear. I was terrified what it was going to do. If it could affect my brain and my emotions positively….it could be just as negative.  I had heard the horror stories about what anti-depressants can do! I spent the first couple of weeks obsessing about it forever altering my brain and me going crazier than I already was. Symptoms of anxiety include catastrophic and obsessive thinking–I sure applied that to my medication!

I’m not going to lie and say those thoughts don’t still plague me from time to time. There are mornings when I stare at my medication for a few minutes trying to remind myself that it’s suppose to help me. There are times where random thoughts of it sabotaging my brain pop into my mind. And it has been a factor in a few of my medication “protests” (Like “hunger protests”…but with medication).

If you have the same problem, or are the medication Nazi on a support team, here are a few things that Rick did to help me manage this fear.

  1. Identify the truth: Specifically address the fears with your doctor. I trust my psychiatrist and I have specific memories of her describing numerous studies that show no long term effects. Have your team provide you with these studies….leading to my next point.
  2. AVOID THE INTERNET and even some books/magazines: The horror stories are out there–you HAVE to avoid them. I have never researched a new medication. I trust my sister and my mom to do that. No way would I take any medications if I read some of the scary stuff out there.
  3. Journal: Track how the medication makes you feel–that way you’ll be confident that if it’s “destroying your brain” you’ll notice. And if it’s helping, then you can see that too!

I’m so lucky to have such a wide variety of people on my support team–I owe a significant amount to my dad getting me to take that medication.  I hate to admit it, but it does make a huge difference in my life. and like in everything in his life, my dad illustrated the three core values of the Air Force.

  • Integrity first: While the blackmail and threats were questionable, he didn’t sneak it in my food!
  • Service before Self: Made me take it BEFORE getting himself a beer…clearly a sacrifice
  • Excellence in all you do: He succeeded right?

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Wednesday Wishes: Number Twenty-One

Have you ever read one of those “Ten things your guy wished you knew” or “Ten things your mother-in-law would never tell you but thinks you should know” (though in many cases—unfortunately for you, there’s nothing your mother in law wouldn’t tell you). Well I wanted to create a lists of things that those of us who struggle with mental illness wished the rest of the world knew—and hopefully get insight from my support team about what they wish I knew!

Number Twenty-One: I wish you would stop deciding to “try and see if you really need your medicine”.  You do. Life is better for everyone when you take it.

Love, Sidney (and I’m sure other members of my support team)

[First “Wednesday Wish” from the support team viewpoint!]

Disclaimer: Not all of these thought will reflect all people, in the same way not all “Ten things your guy wished you knew” would relate to my husband—some will not even relate to me. They are thoughts/concerns/opinions I’ve heard when talking with fellow adventurers along the journey that is mental illness.

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A (Good) Side-Effect of SSRI??

Disclaimer: The following theory is not endorsed by the part of my brain that received an MPA from Indiana University (or wrote the few more intellectual blogs!).

Instead, it is a theory created by broken part of my brain that’s just trying to make sense of why it is the way it is.

Here’s the theory—of the many many side effects of anti-depressants, one side effect is intentional. Nausea. Unless I take my medication with food, I end up feel very nauseated, like I am going to throw up. I’m pretty sure the creators of Lexapro intended this effect to encourage me to eat.

See, it’s amazing to me how fast I can lose weight when I’m going through a time of high anxiety. If you had entered my room this morning you would have seen a significant amount of clothes on the floor. Now, I admit this is normal, but this morning instead of sitting in a big pile, I had tossed them across the room in frustration because they were too big. After fitting two weeks ago. I’ve lost about five-seven pounds in the last two weeks because I’ve been so anxious.

Despite the fact that my favorite foods are bacon and French fries, I’m never going to get fat—because my anxiety is probably never going to go away. By no means am I arguing that this is healthy. In fact, I know it’s not. Eating nutritious, regulated meals is a HUGE part showing mental illness who’s boss—so being too anxious to eat can actually make the problem worse. Over time, I’ve developed a few tricks to help make sure my body gets the energy it needs, despite how sick to my stomach I feel.

1. FLINTSTONES!! I take particular vitamins regularly, but when I’m feeling more stressed they are especially important, or I will add a multi-vitamin for a short period of time.

2. Easy does it: I can usually manage to eat small portions of food—so I just have to eat small bits all day long…..

3. Healthy choices: I make sure the times I do eat are the “power foods” such as blue berries, spinach and lean meat. If my stomach is only going to hold an ounce of food it should probably be an ounce of chicken instead of an ounce of French fries. The only exception is ice cream. As my sister declared at a very young age “Ice cream has a separate tummy”.

But this often is not enough (notice the 5lb loss?) so this is where amazing readers come in….do you experience this? Or maybe just no desire to eat with depression? If so, how do you manage it? Have you found any tricks to help? Please share!

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Man’s best friend….Again

As some of you know, I’ve been following the research regarding service dogs and treatment for PTSD.  The more I read about it, the more amazed I am at its success. The service dog in the article link below wakes his owner up at the BEGINNING of nightmares–before his owner even realized they were occurring. He also is able to sense anxiety in his owner and is trained to stay close and show affection during these times.  Anecdotal evidence is showing that service members paired with these dogs require less medication and are significantly less likely to attempt suicide.  I hope the research related to this movement progresses so the VA will help pay the costs of veterans being paired with service dogs. These folks deserve the best possible treatment when the return home, even if the treatment seems a bit out of the box!

http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/sns-201210091900–tms–petwrldctnya-a20121010-20121010,0,1068272.column

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Bad thoughts be gone! Poof! *swing magic wand*

I’m sure you have noticed that I tend to keep my blog related to my personal experience and stories. What I don’t often show is my more academic side (I know…with my writing style you’d never know I had one!). I assumed that if people wanted to read more academic journals related to mental illness they would find it on their own.  However, I think I’ll start including a few here or there—I do A LOT (probably too much!) of reading related to mental illness, so this will be just the ones I find most intriguing.

This research discovery has me very excited. It’s a treatment for depression and suicidal ideation that can work in a matter of hours or days!  Typical medications take over three weeks to begin targeting depression, and for those with suicidal thought that can feel like years. While this is likely to be a groundbreaking drug for crisis situations, I look forward to the possibilities for those in “recovery” as well. About six months ago I was going through a depressive spell and when I woke up wanting to die, I remember thinking “gosh—I wish I had a xanax for this.”  See, with my anxiety I can take a very very low dose xanax and it is often takes off just enough of the edge that I can start practicing my tools. With depression there is currently nothing like that.  So when you’re severely depressed, there’s nothing to “jump start” your brain enough that you can start using the techniques you have learned.

But I’m also reminded of my recent post, “Long Black Train (8-9-12). In it I discussed holding on to hope that one day there will be a better cure for bipolar.  It’s exciting to see that possibility becoming a reality!

http://bbrfoundation.org/discoveries/ushering-in-a-new-era-in-depression-and-bipolar-disorder-medications

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Love is not enough…

Love is not enough...

Another post secret (www.postsecret.com if you don’t know what that is!) that I could relate too. Now I wouldn’t call the love of my family and friends “insignificant”, I wouldn’t even be taking my medication if it wasn’t for them.  However, I do agree that “Love is not enough”.  Mental illness is a chemical problem in your brain, and just like diabetes, medication is needed to manage it.

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Identity Crisis….

So something I really hate about being bipolar is the “identity crisis”—what is my bipolar and what is me?

I’m in the process of changing my medicine right now so this question is at the forefront of my mind.  Am I hyper right now because I’m excited that the weather has been nice and the holidays are coming up?  Or is the extra activity a sign of a manic swing?  Am I feeling down because I don’t like my job right now or is it a sign of my depression?  What’s the “normal” level of stress related to adjusting to my first full-time job?  Are the headaches and lack of sleep normal/expected?  Or should we try a different medication to help?

What about personality traits I think I have? I’ve always been the talkative and social one in my family, right??  Or is that just my outlet for extra emotions and mania?  My husband loves that I’m spontaneous.  I think I am.  But am I only spontaneous when I’m feeling impulsive and full of energy during a manic episode?

It also colors my view of my moods.  Like writing this today I’m in kinda a bitchy mood—but everyone gets to have those right?  Or wait—is mine due to the medication changes and that I forgot to take one of them for the past few days?  While I think I will always have more mood swings than my stable husband, how many and how intense can mine be before they are attributed to struggling with bipolar?

All this confusion results in a major fear:  Am I medicating away my personality and emotions?

What is related to MY ILLNESS?

What qualities ARE ME?

WHO AM I REALLY?

One of the best answers I’ve found to that question is at the end of “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life” by Dr. Daniel Amen.  “We are who we are when our brain works right….when our brain works right, we are more able to be who we really want to be” (pg 298).

Does that answer all the above questions or ease all my fears of changing myself? No—but it does give me a lens through which to view the questions. This is just a starting point; the rest I will have to work out in therapy, journaling, through advice and insight of family and friends, and my favorite—plain old trial and error.

I want to conclude with an ironic question–is even the identity crisis related to my illness? Bipolar is known to cause confusion about your view of yourself. Or is an identity crisis something every 24 year old goes through, and bipolar is just a unique facet in my considerations?

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Medication Wars

I have a love/hate relationship with my medication; I’m almost bipolar about it really.  On one hand, I love how much easier it is to practice tools learned in therapy when I’m taking it.  I love that I can function better under stressful situations and more importantly the “less” stressful ones that previously caused severe anxiety.  But–I hate the side effects.  I’m currently on drug cocktail 13—which would be pretty ironic if it ends up being lucky 13 for me.  While each change aims to lessen side effects, or improve effectiveness, with each change comes a time of adjustment—and for me, that means feeling very sick.  This current one has been the worst—as my body has been going through withdrawl symptoms.

I’m frustrated. I’m tired. I’m about to give up.

 And I know my support team is tired of hearing me complain about it.

Each time I start a new medication cocktail I think “this is it—I’m going to make it”.  And each time it’s not, a little part of me starts to give up.  Until I’m running out of hope….

However, today I was reminded of a story in the business book Good to Great about the famous Admiral Stockdale who spent eight years in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp before being freed.  Jim Collins, author of Good to Great spent an

Faith that you will prevail in the end

afternoon with Stockdale and recounts this story:

I [Collins] asked him, “Who didn’t make it out?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” he [Stockdale] said. “The optimists.”
“The optimists? I don’t understand,” I said, now completely confused.
“The optimists.  Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go.  Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go.  And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again.  And they died of a broken heart.” 
Another long pause, and more walking.  Then he turned to me and said, “This is a very important lesson.  You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

And this gives me hope—hope in the long-term outcomes of this medication journey.  Not necessarily this particular combination.  Each combination has taught my “team” and me more about my body and its reactions/needs.  And if this combination does not work—well I will move on to the next one.  And faith in end, not this particular battle, is what I am striving for.  (Or at least what I’m trying to strive for…)

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