Somehow, I tested negative for COVID-19 while my husband was positive. Not sure I really believe the negative result but I’m recovered pretty well overall so I’ll just take it for what it is.
Of course I picked a horrible time to try to reboot my blog. I came down with fever, chills, and cough on Thursday and went and got tested Friday. Now I’m waiting for my results but I’m pretty sure I’m positive for COVID-19. So let’s try this again in mid-June when I’m feeling better and not quarantined with a recovering husband and caring for an infant.
My bipolar depression saga
For those who are interested, I am chronicling my bipolar depression saga over at This Journey Is My Own. The first post is Journey of My Bipolar Depression. You can read all my posts on mental illness on that blog by clicking here.
Anxiety. Depression. Suicidal Thoughts.
Anxiety. Depression. Suicidal thoughts. They are all rolled up in one.
I am anxious about a lot of things these days. From something as mundane as sitting here typing on the computer to driving to cold calling a prospective client (which may never pan out because I’m too anxious to call right now). My anxiety has been debilitating in the past where I didn’t want to leave my home, and I fear it’s getting to the point of debilitation again on some days.
My anxiety depresses me. It keeps me from doing things that no one would think twice about. But here I sit, a prisoner in my own body, freaking out about nearly everything. To escape this, combined with my severe lethargy, I crawl into bed and sleep, hoping that when I wake up, things will be better. But they usually are not.
Please don’t get me wrong. I have a life many people would envy: a loving husband, a supportive family, and a steady job. I am thankful for the good things in my life. But this attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness doesn’t take away the depression inside of me.
I do not want to go back to the hospital. If I fear anything worse than death, it may be going back to a psych hospital. I have passing suicidal thoughts about hanging myself, but I haven’t been able to act upon it. I can’t determine whether I am a harm to myself in which case I would need to go to the hospital. The point of the hospital (for me) is to get me away from things that would cause immediate harm to myself. But I can’t be locked up in a hospital forever. (I guess I could in a state institution but that would be a nightmare.)
Somehow, existing in this jumbled mix is me. Somewhere inside, I am bubbly, wonderfully wacky, and beautifully strange. The depression and anxiety fuzz all of that. I am only some of what I used to be. I go to sleep, hoping for some kind of reprieve from this dark cloud that hangs over me.
Lamictal and Abilify: Back on Medication
After 2 years of not being on medication, I am back to a daily regimen of lamotrigine (Lamictal) and aripiprazole (Abilify) with lorazepam (Ativan) as needed.
Many of you may know, or may not know, what I decided to taper off of medication so that I could get pregnant. Well, that hasn’t happened. And my thoughts got to a point where it became life and death again. I didn’t want to go back to the psych hospital so I asked my psychiatrist for help.
My psychiatrist (God bless him) is a very conservative psychiatrist. He was the one who helped me off of medication 2 years ago, and he’s the one titrating my dosages up now. Lamotrigine is for long-term maintenance of the bipolar disorder, aripiprazole is for short-term maintenance of bipolar disorder and SAD (seasonal affective disorder), and lorazepam assists with severe anxiety as needed. I started taking the medication four weeks ago, and I’m only on 50 mg of lamotrigine and 5 mg of Abilify. There will be no increase on Abilify and I titrate up on lamotrigine every 2 weeks. My next big jump is 100 mg.
My psychiatrist expects me to come off of aripiprazole within the next few months (hopefully by December). If not, I will have to get regular blood sugar and cholesterol tests performed. He will adjust all medications as necessary in the event that I am pregnant. He’s a great psychiatrist; he’s willing to work with me based on my situation rather than him throwing drugs at me. He allows me to have complete control over my treatment regimen, which is something I like and respect.
In the past, I may have come off as anti-medication, but really, I’m not. I advocate for use of medication in a necessary, responsible manner. In 2010, 253 million prescriptions were written for antidepressants.¹ (Keep in mind that the U.S. is estimated to have 307 million people in the country.²
That’s about 82.4% of the population taking antidepressants.) This is not responsible; this is too much. In the comments, people have rightly corrected me in the assumption that 1 person can get multiple prescriptions in a year; I failed to remember that.
Let’s assume a person is on 1 antidepressant (the majority of people take 1). Beginning in January, that person gets 5 refills for 30 days. By May, the person will need another 5 refills. Then another prescription is dispensed in October. That’s 3 prescriptions per person. Of course, this can vary depending on how often the doctor will see a patient so let’s generalize and say 5 prescriptions per person per year. My calculations for prescriptions per American mean that nearly 20 percent (about 17%) of the population is on antidepressants. Sure, it’s not my original ridiculous number of 82.4%, but I still think this is pretty high. (By the way, feel free to correct my stats in the comments if necessary; I don’t claim to be a math wizard.)
While I am not on an antidepressant, I am one of the millions of Americans who is on medication for mental illness. For 2 years, honestly, I’d forgotten I had anything relating to mental illness. It was nice to wake up and be myself without thinking about me plus bipolar disorder. Every morning and every evening, it’s now me plus bipolar disorder plus SAD plus anxiety. These are all real symptoms that need to be managed. I don’t want to be dependent on this medication forever, but I may have to. If it helps me manage my suicidal thoughts and function with people in life, then it’s worth it.
Your turn: What do you think about taking psychotropic medication? Do the symptoms outweigh the risks for you? What’s been your experience in taking (or not taking) psych meds?
1. Shirley S. Wang, “Antidepressants Given More Widely,” The Wall Street Journal. Published on August 4, 2011. Available at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903885604576486294087849246.html. Accessed October 20, 2011.
2. Google Public Data Explorer. Population in the U.S. Last updated: July 28, 2011. Available at: http://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=kf7tgg1uo9ude_&met_y=population&tdim=true&dl=en&hl=en&q=us+population. Accessed October 20, 2011.
The psychology behind sabotaging a mildly successful blog
There’s no other way to say it: I choked.
Depression Introspection, originally hosted on Typepad, was a mildly successful blog within its niche community. I updated the blog regularly and within a year, watched my stats rocket and was named one of PsychCentral’s Top 10 Depression blogs. I enjoyed researching and learning information then providing analysis for the world to see. I wasn’t the first (or second or third) mental health blog but I was part of the early game.
After claiming the #1 spot for PsychCentral’s Top 10 blogs of 2007, I freaked. I averaged 5,000 page views a day. For a nobody like me, I found that nothing to sneeze at.
Then the pressure was on. The pressure came from no one but myself.
I regularly received emails asking for advice or comments on older posts. But the pressure to keep and satisfy an audience became overwhelming. It was all self-created. I wanted to compete. And when the competition loomed large and appeared daunting, I cracked and walked away from it altogether. Updating the blog was no longer fun, I hated doing research, learning about mental health became a chore.
From 2006-2008, my entire life surrounded my mental health and learning about it. Within 2 years, I grew and changed. I no longer wanted to write about mental health on a daily basis. Nor did I want to put so much time and effort into generating content that earned me very little money. But I have a bit of a historian in me: I can sit back and appreciate the hard work I put into this blog. In an effort to preserve the content, I spent a good bit of time and energy into moving this blog from Typepad to WordPress. Even without updating this site new information, my old posts (especially on Lamictal) still get regular hits and comments. Simply that amazes me and makes me realize how valuable some of the information is within this blog.
With the exception of the Quotes of the Day, which are scheduled to update through March 2010, this blog is basically defunct. It’s up as a resource for people to browse through and glean some kind of knowledge on various psychotropics (however outdated the information may be). There is always the possibility I could update regularly again but I doubt it. Like I mentioned previously, I’ve grown beyond simply mental health writing and update a personal blog titled This Journey is My Own where I blog about various topics from introspection to politics to religion (mainly Christianity) to race relations/identity. I run quite the gamut than what I used to write here. And I purposely do not mix the content because I serve two different audiences with each.
So there you have it. I’ve since learned that I’d rather never succeed than watch myself hopelessly fail. Not that I was failing with my blog. Far from it—I was succeeding, succeeding beyond anything I could have ever imagined. And when I saw that I had to work to maintain that success (after having achieved it so effortlessly and carelessly), I choked, sputtered, and stalled.
And walked away.
I know a lot of people were sad to see the regular updates disappear. I fell off the blog scene and keep up with people mostly through Twitter. But I did what I had to do for me. To maintain my sanity. The joy and the love for writing the blog were gone. Once those things go, it’s time to end it, which is what I did.
My other blog has a regular audience of about maybe 5-10 people max. And that’s okay. Any more “success” and I think I’d choke. Besides, I’m really just trying to write for “an audience of one” now.
So if you’re new to the site and visiting, feel free to take a look around, there’s some good information to be found. If you’ve been a regular reader, thanks for your loyalty in showing me that I’ve got what it takes to be mildly successful.
I struggled, wrestled, and prayed. A thank you to those who also prayed for me.
I poured a 3-oz cup full of Tilex and debated on drinking it. The main reason that kept me from ingesting is I wasn’t sure whether it would just cause a really bad stomach ache or whether I could actually die from it. A Google search for “Could Tilex kill you?” yielded no relevant results except for “Tilex kills mold!”
I’m happy to announce our sink drain no longer suffers mold or mildew as of this present time.
And it’s not a suicide attempt because I never attempted.
Lamictal-free and lovin’ it
I’ve been off of Lamictal for the past month and a half thanks to a wonderful supportive mental health community of bloggers. I’ve replaced my Lamictal dosage with 1000 mg of Omega-3s derived from fish oil capsules. So far, so good. I haven’t felt suicidal although I do admit I’ve caught myself wanting to feel suicidal. Believe me when I say it’s significant progress to go from feeling suicidal to wanting to feel that way. (By the grace of God.) Special thanks goes to Gianna at Beyond Meds and Stephany at soulful sepulcher.
I haven’t blogged on mental health lately because I haven’t had much to blog about. Any attempt at regular blogging now is mostly done at This Journey Is My Own, which is distinctively personal, reflective, and an unabashedly Christian blog. I guess it can be considered a scrapbook. Thoughts and rambles flowing freely through the blog. I don’t have the attention span, dedication, and motivation to do anything like I used to with depression introspection. I’m not averse to updating this blog every now and then but the months with 80-some odd posts are now gone. The Quotes of the Week should continue updating through early 2010. Enjoy.
Day 3: Lamictal-free.
I stopped taking Lamictal on August 1. After going down to the 12.5 mg, I would wake up in the mornings feeling clear-headed and energetic and then take the 12.5 mg dose and suffer from brain fog and feel lethargic. I took the 12.5 for about 4 days then stopped. I think it was necessary for me to be on the 12.5 mg dose at first but I think my body adjusted to the lack of Lamictal in my body quite quickly and does well without it. Instead, I now take about 900 mg of Omega-3 capsules 2-3 times a day to assist in regulating mood. Should I get pregnant, I am OK with continuing that regimen.
So I’m on my third day without Lamictal and haven’t noticed any side effects except for having a terrible energy crash yesterday which caused me to go to bed at 8 pm. (However, I have noticed an overproduction of eye gook in one eye and visual blurriness. Not sure if it’s related to the medication though.) I’m actually scared because I feel like I have newfound freedom—a new lease on life, if you will. I am now responsible for my thoughts and actions. Technically I always have been but I have no medication to blame for anything now. It’s all me. After being on Lamictal for close to three years, it’s kind of scary. The potential for withdrawal effects still exists (especially the possibility of that nasty rash) but with each passing day, the likelihood is less and less.
Part of me is excited. This is a new chapter in my life. Who am I without Lamictal and its associated brain fog? Will I get my creative juices back? Is my severe depression gone? For how long will my suicidal thoughts stay away? Will my manic/mixed-mood episodes return with a vengeance? What in my body chemistry will change?
Ladies & Gentlemen
We are now beginning our descent into Lamictal-free Airport. Please make sure your previous medications are stowed and that your side effects are fully behind you.
At this time, we request that you turn off all dependence on psychiatric devices.
Federal regulations require that you put your seat belt on in the event of any side effects. We hope you enjoyed your flight on GSK Airlines and hope to see your business again on a future medication.
Once again, ladies and gentlemen, we are now at 12.5 mg and are beginning our descent into Lamictal-free Airport.
(Photo source: Wired.com)