Hamster Wheel – A medication Journey

we decided to call it quits and try something else. …

It’s true I’ve been absent again. It’s been another roller coaster ride the last few weeks. The Latuda was so hopeful when it started. That first week on it I felt like I was coming to life. But as we adjusted and the medication built up the hypomania gave way to pure unadulterated panic attacks. These weren’t like anything I had ever experienced in my life. At least twice I was ready to check myself into the ER because I was coming out of my skin. So my doc gave me some anti-anxiety meds – Clonazepam with a side of Hydroxyzine – it took about a week for me to be able to sit still again and sleep. Honestly it was one of the worst mental health crisis I’ve had in awhile only to be topped by the coming depression. I was incapacitated. Couldn’t sleep, couldn’t watch tv I was that agitated. Plus now I was on 3 meds instead of one which I despise. Additionally because I was so sensitive to the Latuda and it has no XR option I had to take it 3 times a day split up to keep from going into freakout mode. Now this wouldn’t have been so bad but they had to be taken at very specific times and I had to eat 350 calories minimum when I took them. Eating when you take them helped them be better bioavailable but also prevented nausea. (I tried to cheat a few times and the nausea was BAD) So my days felt like I was tied to my meds. No mistakes allowed. So after three months of trying, and only getting up to 40mg (for like 3 days immediately had to drop back down to 30) and after gaining 8lbs, and after so many terrible panic attacks- we decided to call it quits and try something else.

But BOY HOWDY DO YOU DO – trying to fight the panic/mania triggered a depression and then coming off the Latuda? well that’s when I knew for sure it was good at keeping depression at bay because it was like falling off a cliff. I wasn’t just down I was out…I was in freeze mode. Dissociation mode. Can’t Even plus ultra mode. And no amount of ANY suggestion was getting me out of it. I could barely eat. And at the end of it all I spent a whole day just crying. that was fun. My suicidal thoughts came back triple fold and again I had a few days were I wondered if I needed to be under observation. I do not like to feel that way…mostly because logically I know I don’t want to die but my brain goes off the rails and the thought was nearly constant in a way I hadn’t experienced for a few years and hope it stays away for a long, long time.

So I started on Lithium. 150mg to start for the first week. And then about 6 days ago I upped my dose to 300mg. (we are hoping to get me on XR tablets because I just seem to do better when things are spread out and not happening all at once) and in the last three days it’s like a veil has lifted. I did get a little hypomanic today so I have to watch myself and not take on too much or make too many crazy decisions. Sometimes coming out of a deep depression I can get over zealous because it just feels so good. But I was able to make plans and PHONE CALLS this week without freaking out, even answered unknown phone numbers a few times today — that’s crazy! LOL (for those that don’t know me I have suffered with terrible phone phobia for over a decade and it has really affected my life fairly significantly so this was a pretty big deal)
Normally? panic attack city being on the phone at all, let alone answering an unknown number… today just casually said “Good Afternoon this is Aminda”. So nice.

So once again feeling hopeful and hope we can get a dose that keeps me out of the depths but doesn’t send me into a frenzy. Last week when I was still deep in the depression my therapist and I discussed things like ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy) for people who have medication resistant depression. I’m hoping that this time we can not go down such dark paths. See I’m anxious to get this mood stabilized a bit because we can’t focus on my ADHD until that happens. So fingers crossed this medication can get me to a place of alert without being a basket case. OH also my appetite is back to normal so that feels good!

Anywho that’s about it for now. Just a peak at the trials we have to go through to get our medication right. I’m 4 months in now and we are still trying so if you are going down this road you have to have patience and persistence. I hope I’ve found my therapeutic answer, and I hope you do too!

Neurotransmitters are Bastards

At one point in my life I considered myself pretty darn smart. I thought I could do just about anything I set my mind to and thought of myself as a “problem solver”. What I didn’t know was how much I was just banging my head against walls of my own creation. Those “problems” were often just the consequences of what I now understand to be some fairly severe issues with being an untreated, unregulated bipolar human. From my anger issues to my impulse control there was always some self-sabotage that was happening at any given moment in my life. The roller-coaster that has been my emotional life has been an exhausting, and often, terrifying ride. (For me as well as everyone that knows me)

This whole blog was started as a way to chronicle my life of being bipolar and the ride that is having a brain that… just …. well – vacillates (LOL the understatement of the week) and more importantly my work to accept and work to be more regulated. I’ve talked about my relationship with being bipolar and how part of that rollercoaster has simply been my own understanding and acceptance of the diagnosis and its ramifications and implications on my life, actions, personality, and choices. What I’m trying to suss out is what is ME, what is just some haywire neurotransmitter, what is the trauma, and what are the consequences of my actions. And recently I had a crash course in dealing with neurotransmitters gone wild – it was so not spring break worthy. That tale is one of medication reactions that I may not have the energy to fully express because I’m still trying to recover from them. (I think I’m on day three of writing this post, which sadly doesn’t mean it’s great, just that it has taken that much for me to focus long enough to do it. UGH)

OK but this time it really wasn’t my fault. No really LOL, March 8th, 2022 I started taking latuda to treat my bipolar depression. It was one of my longest, deepest depressions of my life. (and yes that is saying something) And I had been doing all this great work with “The Artist’s Way” (and my own subsequent work to build a more non-theistic and neurodiverse accessible version “The Way of your Inner Voice” which will be starting up again in August – get on the email list to get the deets: Is That My Voice Newsletter Signup ) For you see doing that work gave me the courage and the drive to finally face my demons and work on getting stable enough to do the things I generally just dream about.
Bipolar can be degenerative and I realized that the longer I avoided the hard work the worse it would be for me. So here I am battling it out with neurotransmitters that are being poked and prodded by medications and the results are sometimes nearly unmanageable. And that is where I have been the last week. Fighting side effects that have sent me into outrageous panic attacks with physical ramifications and a few times I was ready to go to the hospital because it got bad enough I was worried I would snap. But for once in my life long journey of dealing with this I got HELP!!! At first I just suffered through it, (if I’m 100% honest part of me blames myself and sees myself as “weak” and a “failure” for not being able to fix it on my own, mixed in with some deep fears about the medical establishment, I’m sure that’s a few therapy sessions deep) but finally I got to talk to my psychiatrist and I was properly, but kindly, admonished for being stubborn. I have some new resources should it get that bad again. And overall I felt heard, believed, and cared for. If I wasn’t such a giant ball of stress waiting for the next wave of crazy I’d probably be crying with joy over that victory. Maybe when I stabilize a bit more I’ll have a good cathartic cry wherein I relive all the times I was no heard, believed, or supported. But right now I’m too tired. I’m fairly heavily medicated in the short term to give my body time to adjust to having feelings again…those feelings really agitate me 😛

Dear Jibbers Crabst will I ever get to the point? This has been a hell of a week with panic attacks, dives into nihilism, a little self pity, and a whole lot of fight to not give up. But we make our adjustments. I share my thoughts with my therapist and I keep moving forward. Slowly like an ancient world turtle slow I keep doing the work, #fillingintheforam #nevergiveupneversurrender
And maybe when those neurotransmitters get feisty find your way of laughing at the folly at being a giant chemistry set with emotions. Drink your water. Get your sunshine. Write sad poetry. Rinse. Repeat. And as I struggle with my side effects NOFX sometimes lives rent free in my head.

*I 100% believe in the purpose and efficacy of modern medicine when applied with conscientiousness and while fully aware of its limits and side-effects. I believe when can use modern and traditional healing modalities concurrently to support whole mind-body healing that accounts for individual needs, differences, and experiences. To eschew either is to our peril.

ephemeral

Just some rambling thoughts as I navigate the ups and downs of treating my bipolar moods.

I have found myself feeling dried up again. Once again engaged in the never-ending battle of swell and recede. I’m like the tide. Endlessly waxing and waning – I guess that makes sense the tide and the moon being inexorably connected and they mirror my moods. Mercurial. Capricious. Inconstant. Why does nature get to ebb and flow and be called beautiful, powerful, mysterious…and I am fickle, a flibbertigibbet, a flake.
Chasing my tail wanting nothing more than to find some consistency, some peace…yet my mind swings so intensely from one state of being to the next. It’s exhausting sleeping alone and still not knowing who you are going to wake up with. I have dredged up so many things and the emotions weigh me down.
I feel stuck again. Chocked on the memories. I can feel the walls in my spirit slamming into place. And the same old fears start to rise up – there is no hope. You can’t be stable. You aren’t bipolar you just need to focus more, you just need to be more motivated…The voices of childhood haunt me, chasing me down not letting me feel hope, not letting me believe…
I ride the waves that are my moods and never know where I will land. I’m trying to find the truth, the real me w/in the shifting tides.
In the liminal spaces, I know the true me waits, hoping to be freed at last.
I keep pressing forward. This note a testament to how my brain shifts and changes, how my whole way of being transforms. It’s like living with a stranger.
Distracted. Dissociative. Divided.

And I was so enjoying the ability to write for a bit – it feels lost. But Julia Cameron tells me to “fill in the form” So I’m writing, not so it will be good, but so I can practice. I’m writing to create, not to impress, or to gain anything other than the practice. I’m writing because I need to write. My thoughts spilling out onto the page for no other purpose than to exist.

I fight the fears, the shame, the pesky perfectionist voice that says I’m embarrassing myself. Because shame is a prison. Fear a coping mechanism. I fight the urge to give up because I know the tide will come in again. The mood will change. I will wish I hadn’t given up when the brain shifte. Never give up, never surrender.

I’ll live to write more of the story another day. My bipolar warriors we can ride the waves, we can survive the full moons, we can keep going during the darkness. Life is an ebb and flow our work then is to learn to surf it better. We learn by practicing. Today I beat back the demons. No day but today.

Ephemeral.

Photo 74839377 © Max421 | Dreamstime.com

“self-help” requires a team people

I know I’ve been writing mostly back story, my origin story if you will. But I read this piece on The Mighty today that really reminded me of my experience and I feel compelled to write about the good that is happening for me in the here and now, and how much privilege is involved in being able to get the proper help and why we, as a society, are actually really really awful to anyone who isn’t “normal” enough. I mean we are terrible and awful. But I digress. Let’s start with me.

I am currently not working. Between my mental health, physical health, and taking on the caregiving of my mother with dementia it has been impossible. I’ve been unemployed for 3 years now. The first year was all about hospital visits and surgery recovery with my mom. I wasn’t even home but living with her and that whole saga is another post altogether LOL…but, after awhile, we moved her back to California and bought a house with her divorce settlement so we could have some security and I could take care of her properly. That was about 2 years ago. It took some time to settle in and I started to think about going back to work but needed something flexible, and at home so I started building my own Voice Over business. I found I have a talent for it, I love it, BUT sadly I did not have the stamina or stability to run my own business successfully. Sure I was making strides yet I could see how I would struggle to be available for sessions, I had to cancel so many things because sometimes even my voice will change depending on where I was physically. I simply wasn’t ready. Additionally having to be there for mom and her medical care was time-consuming. It was too much for me to handle. Yet I was determined. First, I thought it was just me being scared and lazy. So I started and ran sessions of The Artist’s Way for a year – which led me to even create my own process The Way of Your Inner Voice and that helped me move past a lot of mental/artistic blocks. I was opening up creatively, I was starting to feel again, I even started to have hope. But that’s when I hit wall after wall mentally and physically. So 9 months ago I made the decision to go all-in on making myself better. Facing my demons and my past and truly building a sustainable future. And 6 weeks ago it all finally came together where I could really dig in.

Here is where the privilege comes in. See, I live with my grown children and they help me. I have a support system. I live in California and I have Medi-Cal, Medicaid for indigent Californians. It has, quite simply, saved my life. It took nearly 16 months since getting on this insurance but I now have a TEAM of people that I am starting to trust. It was a process I started about the same time I started doing “The Artist’s Way”. At first, it was just all about my thyroid and fatigue etc, etc, but then I realized it was so much more (that was the 9 months ago mark when I knew I needed to face my mental health issues) It took months of PCP appointments, MONTHS of waiting for referrals, and then longer to get the appointments with specialists, and it took months of struggles on the phones and people driving me to said appointments. Hours in lines at pharmacies. It has taken a team, consistent insurance, and a lot of literal blood, sweat, and tears… And that was just to get started about 6 weeks ago to try out medication and start with my therapists (mental, physical, speech). None of that would have, nor has it ever been, possible to do while working full time. We expect too much of people already struggling. I think it’s why I’m so dedicated to working on myself right now. Because I absolutely understand and appreciate the mega shite tonne of luck and privilege I have right now to be able to do this work. I stopped everything else. I am dedicated to my morning pages. My meditation. My walks. but most importantly I am dedicated to riding out getting on medication and changing doses and all the side effects that process entails. Dedicated to fully communicating with my doctors and therapist about my progress. Faithful to my routines. Devoted to full honesty and transparency. And most importantly feeling all the feelings I haven’t had the time or energy to face before.

So yes there are sleepless nights, Yes we are poor AF as I have been denied disability and SSI several times (I don’t honestly understand) yes the medication has side effects and the therapy is painfully slow. But by hook or by crook I’m riding this particular wave to the end because it’s the best one I’ve seen in a long time. And although I won’t be able to cure anything or become a superhero, I know that this will set me up for success in a way that I have never had the chance to even hope for. I’ve been swimming against the tide and ignoring how the undertow has sucked me under time and time again so I’m learning to surf and building a better board (that metaphor took on a life of its own but I’ll allow it)

Because I’m done being ashamed of my struggles and I’m recognizing the absolute badassery of what I have managed with shackles and weights tied to my feet – imagine what I can do with just a little bit of support and time to recuperate. We all need time to heal. Hustle culture is deadly. Breathe deep. Find the spaces to heal. And if you see someone who can’t? express nothing but empathy. There are no damn bootstraps, hell there are barely boots for most people. Compassion begins with yourself.

And then sh*t got weird

The one where I describe the total cr*p fest that was the 18 months after my husband’s death.

TW: Suicide (I’m too worn out to make it pretty with memes and pics sorry for the wall of text)

After Rob’s death, I sunk down into a deeper depression than I had thought possible. The very act of living and feeling was like a knife in my brain. I didn’t want to feel or think about anything. I had a bit of luck in that my company underwent a merger and I was laid off – lucky because I surely would have lost my job anyway and at least this way I got a severance package. After the first month of binge drinking and living on anti-anxiety meds. I turned to yoga. When I say I “turned” to yoga, I mean like in a cultist way. That trajectory will be woven through some of this but it deserves it’s own examination so maybe one day I’ll do a series on how asana (yoga poses) saved me and then destroyed me. It’s a whole thing. But now it’s simply a thing I do to keep my hip from screaming and I believe meditation is one of the greatest gifts I took from being a yogi and a teacher. Again meditation deserves it’s own telling but that is for another time.

I get super into Core Power Yoga. I chose it randomly from an internet search because they had a location and schedule I could use. I went EVERY DAY, sometimes multiple times a day for months. Simultaneously I was living this duel life where I was partying with my motorcycle and Hashing groups. So I was living so bipolar it’s comical. I was split and needed constant distraction. But I thought I was “healed”. I was pretending. I got involved with a few different lovers very quickly as well… and that is where it got weird. I was playing in polyamorous couples, drinking, dabbling in drugs again (I had given them up after college) it was like I was at my worst manic stage from my 20s but coupled with a deep depression and accented with a lot dissociation and outbursts of anger.

I was still pretending that yoga had “cured” me of my grief. But I was secretly spiraling out of control. Then the money ran out and I had to go back to work. This was probably the beginning of the end for me because the stress of a new job, traveling, and trying to maintain my yoga practice (which might have been the only thing keeping me from joining the circus at this point) I was slowly unraveling. I looked like a super hero on the outside. But inside I was suppressing more and more. The yoga stopped being soothing and just became another place where I was pretending to be OK.

One of my relationships unravelled, it wasn’t shocking none of us had any business trying to be a thruple and I was ousted of the relationship. I was too vulnerable. Mind you this is less than a year from Rob’s death. I was in no way ready to move on but I felt I had to and I was DESPERATE to replace that love. DESPERATE. It was like I had a collapsing black hole inside me and I was trying to fill it with anything – wine, women, song! You name it I would have tried it. I travelled. I took Rob’s ashes to new places for that first year. I wrote a SHITE tonne of poetry. I pretended.

But when that tiny ray of light was doused when the third in my thruple said I had to go – I was crushed in a way that felt worse than the night robbed died. I just couldn’t stand to feel the things I was feeling. That black hole sucked me right in…After I was dumped. I, once again, pretended I was strong enough. I was fine. I went to a movie and dinner with my mom and assured her I was fine.

(Cue Morgan Freeman: She was, dear listener, not fine)

I went to bed with a glass of wine and lay down on Rob’s side of the bed. I saw his last crossword puzzle unfinished. I cleaned his glasses. I rummaged in the nightstand. And there they were. His pain meds – Oxycontin. I thought. Just one so I can sleep. I took one. Waited. I still felt. I still wanted to sleep. I didn’t want to die particularly, I just wanted things to stop for a bit. I wasn’t strong enough. I was failing. I was letting everyone down….I took another one.
Then I thought – F*ck it…and took a handful. Mind you washed down with wine. Then the panic set in. What if it worked and I never saw my kids again. What if this was it. I was conflicted.

It is fuzzy from there- I know I talked to someone on the phone. The cops were called. I had a gun pulled on me when they asked what I took and I reached for the pills in the nights stand. I woke up in the hospital. I saw my mom’s face.
I was transferred to the psych ward…Identified as BiPolar yet again…and that my friends is a story for another day. Because oof da. That’s a lot.

There is still so much shame. Sigh – but when I come back maybe we’ll talk about how sh*tty the psyche ward is and how we watched One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest when I got out.



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