Like many days, I was thinking today long and hard about mental illness. How it infiltrates the body and gets deep into it before you even know what hits you.
You wake up one day and you don’t feel fine. You probably ignore it. How long does it take to develop a mental illness? A few months? A few years? Extenuating circumstances? What do you think?
I was obsessed, trying hard to search in my memory looking for the one moment where I became bipolar. Was it a moment to start with?
I recall anxiety, difficulty coping with everyday demands, depression, but I don’t recall mood swings. I also don’t recall a moment or an incident.
Mental illness is not a common cold. It creeped on me a little by little until I was totally submerged and couldn’t breathe. Only then did I know I was ill. I did not have the tools to detect it earlier. How about you?
This is why recovery is difficult. The longer the illness before detection and treatment (whatever the sort- especially if they screw you up) the longer the road to wellness.
Now am better. At least I know what is wrong with me. I am taking meds that work, albeit the fact that they do have side effects. There is no drug in this world that has no side effect.
My thyroid is inactive. So I take a lot and I mean A LOT of levothyroxine without much trouble. My main problem is Quetiapine of which I take 700 mg. I have gained so much weight on it and can’t lose it. It makes me lethargic, slow, drowsy, and I could sleep on it 14 hours plus naps minimum.
Yes I don’t have mood swings. Yes I am not anxious. Yes I am not depressed. Yes I am not hypomanic. But I have no initiative, my IQ is probably half what it was before, I am just plain yoghurt.
Yes I know all them drugs alienate you. But this one is so subtle. Or maybe it is the high dose that is making me unaware of how different I have become.
You know I just want to be me. I haven’t been me since 2016 when I was 36 and now am 39 and am still this other person I don’t know.
Do you feel the same? Are you on Quetiapine? Are you suffering from its side effects like me? Are you thinking of tapering off? Are you scared? Did you do it? Is the grass greener on the other side? Your experience is highly appreciated here from a fellow survivor to another
My illness relates to many many factors. It is my upbringing and my biology. It is society, it might even be fate.
My illness maybe relates the most to a lifestyle, no; to a mode of being that I am not the only one to have created but surely had to abide to. My illness is so common you would be surprised. My illness is “in” these days. My illness is a mutation, a mistake if you would like. My illness is a blessing as much as it is a curse.
I get to the downs of the deep blue and sometimes I stay afloat. Sometimes I even catch a boat, a sailboat- nothing too fast. I wonder and I ponder about my existence and yours. I shed a few tears and even pop a few pills.
I always end up where I started with mixed feelings about everything. Nothing is my favorite as how should I know? My illness changes my mind as I grow.
Something is constant amidst this storm. I know there is a malfunction, that much is true. Why does it relate to inequality go ahead and ask me. All is a competition, life has become a race. We run around all day seeking a bigger dream. I don’t get there and you don’t either, but why does she? Born in here, studied in there, oh that is her family? Where is my choice in all of this? Where is this leading me? Achieve and fail and fail to achieve. I ask myself why I stopped dreaming. Those images were not mine but yours, so why keep them in the first place? Illusion, delusion, materialistic being. This is not whom I should be. Why wake up and swirl like a mouse? That’s when I decided not to leave the house. I felt immense fear from life; how on earth can I win this race? Exclusion, demotion, gender roles or nationality?
She told me that hormonal changes in female bipolar patients tend to send them over the moon sometimes. So what I am going through is not surprising. It is not a hormonal problem per se, it is just a confirmation that I have a mood disorder.
I asked if there is any biomarker that would tell us if I need a hormonal treatment to fix my mood. She said that there is currently no information on this. Surprise? Not really. So the only marker hormones wise is that of the thyroid gland functions. My numbers are not perfect, but not alarmingly different to cause such an imbalance.
My session was important despite the “negative” results. I now know that I need to make a big decision.
My doctor asked me about whether stopping lithium was due to hypomania and I said it was not. I would do this over and over again. The changes, the personality changes that most psychotropics cause me are just unbearable- to me. Again, this is such a personal matter that it would be straight stupid to advise anyone to quit or not. I am not preaching anything. I am just sharing my own journey, which might or might not be similar to yours. What is sure though, you might have gone through similarly difficult choices to make.
We agreed that my life as it is now is not fulfilling. The unpredictability of my attacks renders my illness a disability to me and to those around me. We are unable to plan anything. I struggle to be an adult, an independent person who requires little or no maintenance. I struggle to be there for my children as a full time mother. Career? What is that sir! Sometimes having a shower is already a challenge to me.
Having said that, my worst fear is hurting those around me. Till when can they deal with my unpredictability.
Till when will my husband take days off work, or leave the house with a feeling of apprehension not knowing if he will find me home when he gets back.
Till when will I have my father leave everything and stick around to be here just in case I cannot deal with the children. Till when will he hop on and off plans to come to an emergency situation beyond his or my comprehension? Till when?
So fact one; we know this cannot go on.
Fact two; there is no clear solution.
My dear doctor whom I respect so much suggested that I add a new psychotropic to my daily dose of Prozac.
You see I don’t have a conscientious objection against drugs. No, I don’t. The thing is with most drugs I feel alienated, weird… I twitch, I get nightmares, I get lethargy, restlessness, anxiety, and sometimes I even have suicidal thoughts that unfortunately led me to the emergency room more than once.
She said the new drug- Abilify– could help regulate my mood. The idea is to take it at 5mg – a super low dose – to keep my curves from skyrocketing or dropping at the speed of light. Sounds good yes. I would have to wait a few months to monitor the effect of Abilify on my mood and on my menstrual cycle.
Will it work? We have a fifty percent chance it does. Ok, side effects? For starters, it is prescribed to children. How bad could it be?
Then Surprise surprise, they said when they put it in the market that it does not make you gain weight. Oups! Mistake, she said it does in many patients and my readings confirmed a nice 10 to 20 kilograms of extra weight per year. Maybe at different dosages, but still. I won’t be able to tie my own shoelaces by 2020.
Ok. What else? Oh it varies greatly she said from one person to another. Reading suggests that the worst is in the beginning; like vomiting and the like. That does not scare me. What really scared me is that patients on this drug would complain of very low energy and of restlessness or need to move.
According to the official site of the drug,
“ABILIFY may cause movements that you cannot control in your face, tongue, or other body parts. Tardive dyskinesia may not go away, even if you stop receiving ABILIFY. Tardive dyskinesia may also start after you stop receiving ABILIFY.”
They might get also compulsive behaviors such as gambling and binge eating, cholesterol and anxiety.
How are you supposed to fight depression with all this extra weight and without any energy, with twitches and compulsive behavior? Don’t tell me stop searching the Internet. I did differ from a wide spectrum of side effects before. They are as real as it gets.
Her idea is that my Prozac would have a counter the side effects of Abilify and things would balance out. Perhaps…
So my dilemma is simply the following:
Should I risk living with these unpredictable cycles and watch myself and my family losing our minds slowly; or should I take the drugs and lose myself little by little and become a deaf note floating around in a soundless world?
Can you relate? Did you go through the same? Can you throw me a bone here? What did you do? What would you do?
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
Dear all, thank you for checking in. It has been over a month now that I have quit all psychotropic drugs.
I hate putting pictures of myself online. I need to do this. Here is me: one in ER while on a cocktail of drugs and one DRUG-FREE on a night out (with my husband cropped out of the selfie for his privacy)…
They scare you…
This is a rather long entry. I will be telling you about how the experience has been. I will also tell you at the end my two cents on my last psychiatric appointment. I will also refer to what I do to be able to manage my withdrawal after almost a couple of year on heavy drugs.
They sacre you…
Ever since this experiment spectrum of emotions, thoughts and physical sensations have been revealed to me ever since.
I am partially proud and relieved. I have this sensation of being in charge of who I am and once again responsible for my decisions and thoughts.
It is not an easy journey. A layer of artificial pain has been lifted away quite dramatically from my being. I discovered the traces of other pain beneath. It was thrilling to regain emotional and bodily sensations again. It is spectacular to be human and mostly to feel like one.
I find myself unable/unwilling to think or plan ahead. I try to live a minute at a time and not to complicate anything. Although I can achieve a wider range of feeling, I prefer to dwell on the surface.
They scare you…
I am prudent. I once read that bipolar patients are always waking on eggshells. I think it is also true for those who suffer from recurrent depression. I worry about the consequences of my feelings and try now to stay at the surface. I think that this is more than anything, a survival mechanism.
Bad dreams have been happening. They are too vivid for my liking. They are probably the most vivid I have had to memory. Why are they so scary? Because they are not based on fantasy. They surprise me as logical, and this is why all the while during the nightmares I think that I am actually loving those moments.
Tears are close by. Menial tasks requiring mental skills are tough for me. I need to concentrate with all my mind. Adios to multitasking. One thing at a time.
My weight is soaring. As big as a whale; as if I have eaten every problem I have ever thought about.
Together with my limited mental capacity, I feel short of who I am.
They scare you…
My 38th birthday is around the corner. I am worried about the forties, worried of turning 41 – the age at which my mother died.
I think of her a lot lately, with more understanding. Though my turmoil was partially due to my childhood with her and to her sudden death, my illness has taught me to see our relationship differently.
I understand her now more than ever. I feel for her suffering and instability. I cherish her ability to have taken care of me to her best; with her limited means. I don’t blame her anymore. I couldn’t have done better myself.
I hope for the years to come to be able to see my illness as tough-love; as a blessing in disguise.
They scare you…
A disturbing fact though remains.
I had gone to my latest appointment with my psychiatrist 10 days after quitting. She was of course against it. She said quitting suddenly has severe consequences. Depression of course was a runner up. I was also told that lithium won’t probably work again should I need it. Rebound is possible, no one knows when, how or for how long. It would be very dark I was warned.
Perhaps I could live with all that. Nothing she said was new until she told me something quite harsh.
They scare you…
Knowing that I write about mental illness, she told me that I should put a warning when speaking about going cold turkey. She said: ” Mothers who kill their children and then commit suicide do that because of depression”.
They scare you…
She left the sentence hanging in mid air; either to refer to potential readers who can harm themselves by listening to me. She could have also meant me; I was left to choose.
Besides being deeply offended and utterly shocked, I felt a lot of self doubt that I now regret. I dwell on this almost daily.
I say with utmost confidence – something I generally strongly lack – They scare you…
Bullshit; No one can pretend to know you better than yourself.
Bullshit; Stop stigmatizing mental health patients; you of all people should know how to weigh your words.
Bullshit; No! Our loved ones; for that fact my children are a red line that no one is allowed to cross.
Bullshit; no! Crying, anxiety attacks, binge eating/ drinking, nightmares, dark thoughts, are and were never ever directed to anyone else.
BULLSHIT!!! STOP!! I will not let your narrow single sided knowledge of an incredibly complex topic such as the human mind dictate how I should live my life.
I tell you my dear reader. I warn you like she asked me to do not to quit cold turkey. But I add to that; this road is not to be travelled unless under certain circumstances that are very complex.
You and you alone can decide how to live and what to do with your life. You alone will know when or when not to quit. You alone know down deep inside your motives for such a decision. And most important of all, you alone know if you are god forbid dangerous to yourself or worse to others.
Whatever you do, do not quit believing in yourself medication-free. Yet better, do not quit the hope for one second of being illness-free.
Without any conspiracy theories, let us not have the world of pharmaceutical companies tell us how to live or love our children!!
I do not deny that yes unfortunately such miseries do happen. Yet, millions of millions live and die without committing any of such acts and hopefully you and I are no different.
Should you decide to cut off or quit. I urge you besides doing it at the right time and weighing the benefits and the doubts as well as the consequences, TAKE SUPPLEMENTS.
I have a routine filled with micronutrients, vitamin D, omega 3, probiotics, and amino acids. I also use essential oils for withdrawal pains such as headache, back ache and insomnia. They help me a lot. All this is due to my dear husband. He has done incredible research on the topic and I do take all my supplements religiously. On most nights I sleep, and on most days I go out of the house.
Please I’d urge and beg you, if you are reading this before you go to your first doctor’s appointment because you are suffering, considering an alternative route. Do your own research, ask a loved one to do it for you. Just don’t start with antidepressants, mood regulators and benzodiazepines. You might just need iron and vitamin B complex instead. So take charge and do your homework. There is an alternative route – less travelled nowadays yes but real all the same.
No one will care when you have a zillion side effect but you.
I will be writing another follow up to let you know how things are progressing. Feel free to comment or ask questions…
I spent all day in bed today. The only thing I forced myself to do I to go for a jog; a mere 15 minutes.
When I was awake I smoked; I managed to finish a whole pack.
I am depressed, real down. I have nothing to do but wait for Prozac to kick in, which would be in a couple of weeks.
Even then, my hope of healing is minimal. I depend on Benzos and the one I am taking now – Rivotril- is barely reducing my anxiety.
I wake up at 4 AM everyday. Today I patiently waited till noon to get to bed again. I mostly listen to a cocktail of brainwaves. They put me to sleep. I want to induce an artificial coma, to wake up when these two weeks are over.
I am scared, I am numb, I eat motley carbs. It is raining outside. I want to sleep again.
Anger is a monster whose main duty is to scare you…
It comes at night, when everything and everyone is quite…
It has big claws and red eyes, it wants you to look at it, so that you tremble and fall…
At this point you would expect that the story would turn around, and the monster will be chased far far away…
No, my monster, my anger eats me up and makes me eat up and we struggle every night. No one wins, well it mostly wins with me taking my sleeping pill that sometimes only works for a few hours. I wake up, and it is still there with red eyes staring into mine challenging me to go into battle. I know I will lose sooner or later.
So far I have kept my promise of not harming myself. But the struggle with the anger monster keeps me alive but am dead really. Nothing matters anymore. I want to eternally sleep and I have to keep my eyes opened – reminds me of a scene where Donald Duck sticks up matches in his eyes not to fall asleep.
So till when will this battle go on, and what will happen when I have no more hunger to eat to keep my eyes opened? What kind of anger will I come up with? Will it be against me? I sorely hope so. And how strong will it be, crescendo or a volcano? Will I harm myself? Will I feel this tearing up between my promise and the fantasy of death? What is this spectrum of mood disorders and where do I stand? Am I evolving forward towards a more developed syndrome? I cannot honestly answer the latest question with anything but yes.
I passed through a hell of a night, but I kept alive. The fridge and I talked together like good old best friends. You see it helps me fight the monster. I looked at myself in the mirror while passing from one room to another. I saw my reflection: I was the monster. My eyes were shot red, my hair all over the place, my skin grey…
Yet I was alive. But this is a small fake victory – for am not alive no more than the monster is real.
I am an insane mother and this monster cannot hurt my little ones. I will not allow it, alive or dead….
I know how to fake it with my children. I only do not know how much longer I will be able to do this…
But I will do it till there is nothing left of me – or in this state (a lot) if you get what I mean.
I make no sense at all, even those around me find me nonsensical. I am one day seeking hospitalization, the second minute am cracking my head against the wall to get out.
I am scared from the monster, for that monster is nothing but my own mind….
As the droplets of rain fall onto my swollen feet, I wonder about the meaning of existence…
What does existence mean I ask in t his suffering? I gained 5 kilos in 2 days. That is a reflection of the anger and irritation inside of me.
When the grey sky looks down upon me, I wish I did not make promises of any kind to anyone.
Existence is so painful. That is the phrase that keeps repeating itself in my mind. With my swollen feet, I walk with shame around the house.
I want to shut the curtains and cover the mirrors. Yet, I can still see myself with my eyes closed, I suffer in silence.
If I am to scream, I would be voiceless. I am drained. I am a mass of depression roaming the house with clothes that ache from holding on to my ever growing body. I wonder how they manage to do it!
My body, my mind, my bipolarity are insanity. Insanity is a state of mind where nothing is logical or meaningful anymore.
A promise kept at the dark alley of a mental hospital to stay alive is the only thing to which I am holding. I do not even think I am helpable (new word)
I feel like red ridding hood, in a dark ugly forest with someone showing me the way to avoid being hurt by the wolf. I am now alone with my fears with no medical help to avoid this wolf of suicide and depression. Maybe the sounds of the ambulances I rode were not so bad. Maybe the million questions asked by the paramedics before being reanimated are not too difficult to answer. Maybe just the fact of voiding myself and putting the responsibility of being alive on someone else’s skills is not that stupid after all.
Just a vow to stay alive. My only wish is for this vow to be kept. No, I am lying, my only wish is that something not of my doing happens to me to alleviate this pain by ending the source of it: my mind. Maybe falling into a coma would be achieving both goals: staying alive and shutting off my mind if I am lucky.
The only hope is that when I end, all this suffering will end with me. Otherwise, it will be the biggest farce humanity has ever faced.
Well, I’m quite excited about today. You see, today I leave behind 41 long days of hospitalization. I have been waiting for this day for so long, it seems almost a dream come true.
Yet, I am afraid or rather apprehensive that today I leave the cocoon and safety of the hospital. I know I want nothing more than being with my family, with my husband, with my beautiful children, my ever so giving father and my loving mother in law.
My apprehension comes more from expectations outside. I need to get back to my role as a mother. My children miss me, but I miss them even more. I know that my husband is waiting for me patiently. I also know that my immediate family would like to have the house come back to normal, this was mainly my duty – I am a stay at home mother…
I also know that everyone understands my condition. They understand that now I am in a state of convalescence.
So since the last few entries that I posted on the blog, I like to leave you with some tips and tricks which I hope might be useful should you find yourself in a similar situation.
Here it goes…
– Don’t get too comfortable in your hospital stay: I think from my experience you have to know that everything is temporary. Getting used to the safety of the clinic is not something that you should really get used to. What I mean is you always have to know that there is a real world waiting for you outside. This real world is where you will spend the rest of your days. Please know that no matter how long the hospitalization is you will eventually get around and you have to be ready. This is basically a primary psychological preparation.
– Prepare your exit so that it easiest for everyone: Knowing that you’re not going to be at your full capacity once you are out makes expectations more real. You will need help. I am speaking as a mother of two beautiful children who require plenty of energy; energy that I do not have right now. Even if your budget is limited try to find help through family, maybe hiring a cleaner or a nanny, or maybe even relying on some good friends. Basic tasks could be haunting In the beginning, and I am certain that people around would be willing to land you a hand.
– Continue seeing your therapists and psychiatrist: I cannot stress the importance of this. Professional support outside of the safety of the clinic is essential for your well-being. You will adjust your medication according to the development of your case. You also should make sure that your therapist is there for you, ensuring that you are on the road to healing.
– Don’t pretend to be stronger than who you really are: We get carried away, thinking that we are better, thinking there could be no harm in taking more tasks than we should. Remember, one step at a time. Do not take more on your plate. You have a long way to heal even if it doesn’t look it to others.
– If you are a parenttalk to your children love them though as a mom or dad you might not have your full energy yet: You would be amazed at what can children understand. Just by maybe saying that mom or dad are yes at home, they will help little by little and take care of you slowly but surely. Ask for their patience, more important and more efficient than melt downs. I cannot stress enough the importance of one day at a time.
– Routine is your best friend: My doctors told me to try and keep a routine even though it could be difficult at the beginning. For example try to wake up early and have breakfast every day at the same time. Maybe we can go to the market, pick up the stuff that you would be eating the same day. I personally find that my muscles have weakened so much over the past months. Morning walks will keep you sane and will get you into an exercise routine slowly but surely.
– You need to rest: Again my doctors told me that I need to rest everyday. Even talking too much can drain you. He recommended naps but not more than 45 minutes a day.
– Be patient: Rome was not built in a day. Stay in tune with your body and don’t over do it. Little by little you will find your old self emerging; or better still your improved self coming to surprise you.
– Take supplements: read about taking supplements because this is very important for your overall health. Read about the importance of vitamin D, magnesium, omega-3 as well as a variety of other vitamins and minerals, they can benefit your wellbeing more than you can imagine.
– Congratulate yourself: Yes, you made it! Give yourself a big pat on the back. Be grateful you made it. They wouldn’t have let you out if you were not ready. And remember, you did most of the work! Be proud for your achievements: )
So honestly I have no aim here but telling the truth, which sometimes hurts. I hate this topic, but here I go.
My height is 165 cm. I Weighed at the start of my antidepressant treatment – my wrong antidepressant treatment Effexor (Venlafaxine) – 58 kilograms. Now, this was the era of sleeping 18 hour straight and walking like a zombie for the rest of the day.
Fast forward a few months and weight gain started, slowly but surely. I reached 61, then 62, and then summer holidays were here. Regiment was honestly pizzas and limoncello, pina colada and so on. I reached 64. Still I was ok.
Now my dear dear doctor who wrongly prescribed Effexor was telling me: “Come on, control yourself”. I told him, there is nothing else I am trying to do but this. He didn’t really care, or maybe he wasn’t able to believe me. Anyway, last time I had seen him, I had reached 68, he had inevitably increased my dose to 225 mg per day – said to be the highest dosage for outpatients.
I completely and solely relate my binge eating and my bulimic tendencies to bloody Effexor. According to Mentalhalthdaily Effexor can not only increase your appetite to eating more carbs, it also plays with your fat storage, does hormonal and metabolic changes and guess what ? Bloody Effexor improves your taste buds also plays a major role in shooting up your eating in social situations.
Of course individual differences play a role and so does the interaction with other drugs, your dosage and time span and so forth. They need to get their back covered if you know what I mean.
But this brings we to weaning off this horribly addictive drug. It takes forever. When I used to read accounts of people suffering months after quitting and saying that their metabolic rate got screwed up, I thought they were exaggerating. Bit by bit I found myself in this dilemma.
Now I am taking other drugs (of course) to remedy this metamorphosis. I take Revia and Baclofene but with so far very little if no result.
Apparently I have to resort to psychotherapy to overcome my newly acquired eating disorder.
I will keep on writing to give tips and tricks about how to get out of this situation when you cannot take Prozac and co, quite known to induce mania and mixed episodes in bipolarity.
Getting out of the closet would make you think of sexual orientation. But many others have gotten out. Today, I will write about why I decided to link my blog to Instagram and Facebook.
I have been writing for a while now. I am documenting my journey fighting mental illness as a person, a woman, and as a mother. It has been rough mostly, but it taught me a lot. You might be surprised by some of the topics or posts that will be shared. The main purpose of this blog is to promote awareness of mental illness. I want to also tackle a broken system, where mentally ill people are seen as helpless beings with no choice of treatment or quality of life.
Although I am supposedly a clinical psychologist, please do not take this blog as as a place for “medical” advise. It is just a safe heaven for broken hearts. I hope that in our unity we will be able to free ourselves from the burden of depression, bipolarity, eating disorders, addiction, or else.
Thank you for respecting other points of views, and thank you for trying to understand what the other is saying. We shall not blame each other or use inappropriate words. We are builders – it is enough to fight our inner battle; we do not need a wall to fight on to.