The big day of the Wednesday night get together at my house finally came. Nobody ran out screaming, horrified by clutter, so it was definitely a success. I’m really so glad I put so much effort into getting the house ready because although things are still far from perfect, I was able to relax and enjoy my friends. As an added bonus it allowed me to finally show off some of the work I’d done painting and decorating over the last year or so. Which in turn motivated me even more to keep going with everything. (Hooray for motivation!)
Even with all the work I’d put in over the last couple of weeks to get ready I almost had to cancel the whole thing because of an almost complete inability to sleep over the last week. As the name of this blog would suggest, I suffer from bipolar disorder and I am just getting back on meds after finally weaning my baby. It’s been a pretty bumpy road thus far. Once I finished breastfeeding I found a new Dr (I’d moved too far away from the last one, and don’t like him enough to make the drive) and we started a plan to get me back on my old mood stabilizer. The one that has worked for me since my initial diagnosis over 10 years ago. After a few weeks, and dosage increases, I realized that I was having some drastic side effects. I was completely unprepared for this. Even though I have extreme and bizarre reactions to all antidepressants (I don’t even attempt them anymore) and most other psychiatric drugs, I had never, NEVER had any side effects whatsoever with this particular medication. This time not only did I have sedation issues, but it was making me incredibly short tempered and irritable, irrationally so. The problems were so bad I had to stop taking the medication and my one reliable saving grace was gone after all these years. At that point I panicked.
When I went to see the Dr the next time (lets call him Dr D, even though he’s actually a Nurse Practitioner, which I didn’t know until I was already seeing him and didn’t really want to start the hunt/wait process of finding a new Dr again) he insisted I try Abilify even though I had told him previously, and in this appt, that I was very opposed to taking it. Unfortunately I was so out of sorts from the shock of losing my one reliable medication I finally agreed and took home a sample pack. I left feeling much worse than before I’d arrived. That night I decided to do some research on Abilify and decided it was definitely not for me. I know it can be a wonderful drug for many people and I’ve never suggested that anyone else be opposed to taking it, it just isn’t right for me. With my history of extreme and unusual side effects it just seemed too risky. Especially since I’d been pretty balanced for nearly two years (during pregnancy and nursing) with no meds at all.
That night I snapped out of my despair and got back in touch with my personal philosophy about psyciatric treatment. I really beleive the Dr and patient should be a team. The Dr has clinical experience and knowledge, and the patient has knowledge of their own personal experiences with their disorder and its treatments, which is equally valueable. I have found over the years that most psychiatrists do not share this philosophy and I have to be strong and hold my ground when I feel it’s needed, which is not always easy to do.
At my next appt with Dr D I explained that I had decided not to take the Abilify (that didn’t go over too well) and reminded him that I had expressed my reluctance to him repeatedly before. I had done some research (Although I think you should always check multiple sources, Crazy Meds is hands down my favorite site for researching psychiatric meds) and wanted to try Lamictal, a drug that many Drs had previously suggested for me but hadn’t been given a real try for one reason or another over the years. He finally agreed and the next experimentation process began.
The first few days are always the worst right? Taking those first doses waiting to see what unpleasantness they might rain down into your life. Luckily, I seem to tolerate Lamicatil pretty well, but I found I have to titrate my dose VERY slowly, even slower than the guidelines suggest. At my next meeting with Dr D, after a long discussion of what was going on in his life (if you’ve been under psychiatric care for any length of time I have no doubt you’ve had this experience, probably more than once) I explained what I’d noticed about titration and my tolerance and he nodded and scheduled my next increases totally by the book, not acknowledging that because I was already moving myself up slowly, this would actually accelerate me faster than the guidelines! I asked for a modification that he felt was unnecessary but finally agreed to. when I got home I still took a little longer to move up than he wanted, but I felt I had to listen to my body.
Last week I realized my next appt is looming and I’m not on that final dose yet. I figured I should be on it for at least a week when I go just so I have some decent feedback about tolerance, so I upped the dose again even though I didn’t feel ready. Since then sleep has been very hard to come by, and my energy level and mood is almost frantic. I’ve been running around keeping so busy that I never stopped to think about what might be causing it. Once I figured it might be the meds, I still felt trapped at that dosage. It wasn’t until last night, after having a relaxing evening at home with friends, that I finally realized I have control over this. This morning I dropped my dosage back down and already feel a little better. I’m still exhausted from the week’s worth of lost sleep, but I’m a little bit calmer, which is a nice start.
The point of this long, drawn out post is that it is so easy to get lost in treatment, no matter how experienced you are. I’m sure a lot of people that read this blog won’t be able to relate to this post, but I wanted to write it for the people that will. It can be hard to keep your focus during treatment, and maybe impossible during crisis, but it’s so helpful when you remember that you do have a say, and you are ultimately in control of your own treatment. That control is yours to take or give away (which is sometimes needed too). Once I get balanced on a dose of this med I will be on the hunt for a new Dr, one that will hopefully listen, at least a little.