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Archive for the ‘medications’ Category

Many of us with bipolar disorder take drugs to lessen the intensity of our mood swings, whether that is depression, hypomania or mania. We take them in spite of the side effects such as foggy thinking, memory problems, weight gain and sleeplessness or sleepiness, just to name a few. Many of us have convinced our doctor or psychiatrist to change our meds as a result of the side affects. Some of us have decided to tolerate some side effects because the meds are doing the job of leveling out our moods to normal or close to normal and, after trying many others, these are the only ones that have worked. We tolerate it because the toll the mood swings have on us is far worse than the side effects.

But what if a medication actually causes the behavior we are trying to prevent? Recently the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about Abilify. I read a bulletin from Drugs.com stating that on 5/3/2016, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has issued a warning that Abilify, an antipsychotic drug used to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and tourettes, has been found to have side effects which cause a lack of impulse control in some individuals. It results in compulsive behaviors such as spending or shopping, gambling, eating and sexual activity. Although they are rare, the FDA is still requiring that these side effects be listed on Abilify’s label.   Once the medication is stopped, the symptoms disappear.

By no means should anyone stop their medication without discussing it and working out a plan with a doctor.

These side effects are the very things that we are taking our meds to avoid. We want to steer clear of those manic and hypomanic type of behaviors. Findings like this it just reemphasizes the importance of being self aware. It is important to keep a running record of our meds, their dosages, any changes positive or negative and the start and stop dates. If something doesn’t seem to be working right, we can go to the doctor’s office armed with this important data. S/he will see that we have been doing our homework and, with the detailed records, s/he will be better able to help us. I certainly can’t keep all of that data in my head. I must write things down or I forget half of what I want to bring to my doctor’s attention during my appointment. I keep the record for not only my psychiatric meds but those prescribed by my family doctor as well. It serves me well.

You can find the FDA report online—I checked it out. https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm498662.htm

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What I am about to share is my perspective on life and how it helps me.  I’ve not shared this with you before but it’s had a big impact on me lately and I though I should share what is the core of what helps me with my bipolar life.

I’ve been reading a book with a friend called “Crazy Love” by Frances Chan. It’s about God’s great love for us. The book starts out showing us how infinitesimally small we are compared to the vast universe, that God created the universe and how small it is compared to Him. So now try to imagine how small we are compared to God yet he cares about us. He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life with him after we die on this Earth. All He wants is my love and obedience, that I should worship Him instead of my stuff and accomplishments. My power to achieve is feeble compared to God’s. And it is He who gave me the abilities I have to accomplish anything. So who do I think I am when I get all proud and puffed up about my achievements and leave God out of the equation. In fact sometimes I forget about Him altogether.  I walk around planning where I am going to, how I will make a living, how  I will go about my business as though I am going to live forever with no thought about the possibility I could die tomorrow or even today. The Bible describes our life as a vapor, here now and gone in an instant.

A question posed in the book Is why do we get stressed and anxious. If we truly trust God is all-knowing and all-powerful then why do we get stressed and anxious. The answer is simple–I’m  still trying to control my life in my own power which is sorely lacking.  I need to get off of the throne of my heart and let God take His rightful place there. He will give me the order I need in my life. He will display His power in me and through my life.  The Bible tells us to be anxious for nothing. I have nothing to fear.

The major part of my anxiety is induced by my illness, bipolar disorder. It’s sort of a chemical short-circuit in my brain affecting my moods causing them to be extremely high or extremely low with anxiety thrown in as well. My doctor was able to help control the mood swings and anxiety with meds. Any anxiety I experience beyond that is my own making and I have to give it to God and trust Him to help me in every situation.  And He does.
Only His strength is sufficient for me, my own strength is feeble. I’m glad to have God as my rock and He has blessed me with so much. I have a faithful, loving and supportive husband, three wonderful sons, two wonderful daughters-in-law and two precious grandsons. I have a church family who loves me just the way I am. I know that I am truly blessed in a myriad of ways.
It’s been a long day. We left home at 10:00 am to go to church. After church we did some food shopping. We didn’t get home until almost 4:00 pm. The depression seems to be lifting. It’s been a good and productive day.

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At times, the anxiety was excruciating. It was a knot in my chest that grew along with the sense of impending doom as the anxiety deepened. Sometimes it came with depression. Most of the time it showed up all on its own. Often, it was connected to an upcoming event: a trip, a family or friend’s visit, going to church or other places with lots of people or anything else that makes this introvert uncomfortable.

There used to be a time that I would accept anything strange or new easily enough even though it might be a bit uncomfortable. Not so anymore. Over the last year or so, I was feeling a low level anxiety constantly, except for the times it became overwhelming. I was afraid to take the clonazapam (Klonapin) that my psychiatrist prescribed because I would have to be taking it everyday and I didn’t want to get addicted. I finally got tired of suffering and told my psychiatrist (Pdoc) what was happening. He had a solution—another medication (i mentioned this in last month’s post), which I was not thrilled about but I said I would try it. I was to take it three times a day (gradually working up to that amount.) Three times a day felt like overkill so I backed off to two times a day, at breakfast and before bed and it was enough. I started to feel a slight difference on the third day. It took about two weeks to fully kick in and it has been a lifesaver.

The constant low-level anxiety is gone. I sometimes feel a very mild anxiety over some upcoming event but it is tolerable. My Pdoc said I could take the clonazapam if I feel the anxiety is too uncomfortable but I am afraid to take them together. I ran my drug list for interactions on Drugs.com and it advised against taking the two together. It hasn’t been necessary anyway. If it became overwhelming, perhaps I would try it.

I’m a bit overly cautious about mixing meds because I almost OD-ed on pain meds due to a MD’s recommendations to take different pain meds together, ones that he prescribed for me along with a pain med a surgeon had prescribed for a week. I called the MD to get his advice about dropping his meds temporarily while I took the meds the surgeon prescribed. The MD said “no, don’t stop. Take them all together”. After a couple of days when the full effect of all those meds kicked in, I started to pass out. I fought it by keeping moving back and forth while hanging onto a door for dear life. I knew if I sat down, I’d pass out and I thought I was going to die if that happened. I had to keep moving and breathing. I vowed that would never happen again so now I research all my meds and the interactions.   Occasionally I also ask the pharmacist if he’s run a check when I get a new med.

The important thing right now is that I no longer suffer with anxiety. The new med is not meant to use long term so I am wondering when would be a good time to wean off. Probably when I don’t have any events coming up for several months. Perhaps the cycle of constant anxiety has been broken so I’d be able to deal with the occasional bout of it again while just use clonazapam if it becomes a bit overwhelming as I used to do.  I’ll talk with my Pdoc about this in a couple of weeks when I see him again.

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On March 28th, 2017, I was prescribed a new medication, Buspirone, to treat anxiety. This is in addition to other medications I take for Bipolar disorder. I have only been on it for 2½ weeks but I feel a significant difference already. I started at 15 mg and am now up to 45 mg ( 15 mg 3 x a day). I haven’t had any significant negative side effects except on the first dose 20 Minutes after my first dose my hands, feet, face and tongue felt tingly but that disappeared after a few hours and never returned. My nose runs a bit more often than usual. I do feel energized, clear minded and happy. It has also heightened my libido a bit, which had been low. I take it that the constant low-level anxiety with frequent bouts of moderate anxiety were sapping my strength and dulling my mood and mind. I will be careful to stay aware just in case the med causes me to become hypomanic. I experienced a slight elevation in mood for about 3 days. I believe that was a reaction to the sudden absence of anxiety. Right now everything is at a safe, normal, level. It feels strange to not be able to worry about anything but it is, most of all, a relief. I can think about upcoming responsibilities or events and what should happen and what could go wrong and there is absolutely no tension or anxiety. I can process the thoughts with a clear mind. It’s amazing.  I am very thankful.

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Today is very special. It’s our anniversary. My husband and I have been married for 44 years. He stuck by my side through the best and worst of times. He’s a gem.

During the worst of times, when my bipolar was out of control, I didn’t feel I deserved him. I felt I was ruining his life. I wished I could die so he’d be rid of me and wouldn’t have to put up with my roller coaster moods anymore. During the worst depressions I would often think of ending my life. I figured that he would hurt for a while but then he’d realize that he was free from living through my hell with me. I tried to shield him from my moods but he could read me.

There were four occasions where I actually planned how to commit suicide and was ready to go through with it. I had promised my husband, that should that day come, I would tell him. I kept my word on each occurrence and he took me to the hospital for help. The last time was the charm—the doctor in that hospital put me on a combination of meds that nearly eliminated the cycling moods. The hypomanias have been eliminated completely. The depressions are now very few and shallow. They are pretty easy to control and keep from escalating. It’s been two years now and I’m still doing very well.

My husband fought this battle right beside me. He never gave up even when I wanted to. Communication was the key in our getting through it. He kept me talking and sharing what I was feeling and going through even when I didn’t want to but wanted to shut down. Those talks gave me the strength to dig deeper for tools to overcome and push through.

I know there are a lot of people out there with bipolar who feel alone, unlovable and that you will never know what it feels like to be well again. That is the greatest lie this disorder can tell us. It is the depression talking. It’s also the frustration talking. If you have a family member or close friend who you can talk to, share what you experience with him or her but initially do it when you are in a semi-controlled state if you can. You’ll be less emotional and make more sense. Our loved ones can’t help us if they don’t understand. The only way they can get a sense of what bipolar or depression is like is if we share and give them the information so they can learn. Direct them to websites that educate about bipolar. Let him or her come to an appointment with your psychiatrist for therapist so s/he can ask questions and learn. We need all the help we can get otherwise it’s a long and lonely journey.

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I am happy. For the first time in ages I actually feel happy. My mind is clearer, sharper. I’m not elated—not hypomanic. It’s like my mind has had a great weight lifted off of it and the fuzziness has diminished.   And the tremor when I write is gone. My beautiful handwriting is back.

I had a medication reduction. My psychiatrist agreed to decrease one of my meds 3 months ago by 5 mg. I found little relief so six days ago he agreed to reduce it by 5 mg more. That’s 10 mg total. It’s a powerful antipsychotic and you don’t need much to get results. I originally was on 20 mg. I couldn’t think clearly, had memory issues, fuzzy thinking and had a tremor in my hand when writing. Cooking was a major task because of having to multitask. Cooking dinner was a little easier today. God heard and answered my prayers.

It’s only been 6 days and I’ve had such good results. I’m wondering what another week will bring. Perhaps my mind will become even clearer. I can feel happiness again and that’s great. My emotions had been blunted for a very long time. I’m still holding a steady normal mood level so far. I just need to maintain it if I want to continue to enjoy these wonderful results.

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I’m different than I was 8 years ago. I had a sharp mind and a physically strong body. I moved around with great balance and my mind was creative, sharp as a tack. I felt things intensely, love, joy, pain and I laughed more. I found humor in life more. A couple of years of severe stress changed me. It triggered a severe depression and then bipolar swings. The hypomania presented as irritability at that time.

I miss the old me before the bipolar kicked in so strong. I don’t feel things the way I used to. My emotions are blunted and my mind isn’t nearly as creative and sharp as it was. I have memory problems.  I have to write everything down.  I know the bipolar is responsible for some of the changes as well as the medication I must take to help me remain in the state of wellness I’ve finally achieved. I know this but it is another thing to fully embrace it. It is hard for me to accept that I am less than I was, that I cannot do or feel as much as I did 8 years ago. My balance is a bit off physically.   I remember the old me and how capable I was. Now, multitasking is quite an undertaking. I no longer do it well.

I miss the old me. I am finding it hard to accept my new limitations. I know that the limitations are better than the alternative if I was unmedicated.  It’s just that I used to be able to work circles around people. I could achieve anything I put my mind to mentally and physically. I miss that freedom, the ability to create. I want it back.

I know someone is probably thinking, “Well change your meds.” I’ve tried everything out there and nothing worked until this combination I’m taking now. It’s a matter of acceptance and I have a hard time doing less than I used to be capable of. It makes me feel that I am less than the person I used to be. It’s something I struggle with when I think about it. I know I’m not less of a human being. I know I should feel good about having gone through the fires of bipolar and overcoming even if it is with the help of meds. I do feel some satisfaction in that. It’s changed me.   I guess if I lost my hearing or lost a leg it would change me too. My life would be changed and limited by what I could no longer do without helps like sign language and a prosthetic leg. I would still be able to do things but not in the exact same way. But life goes on. I guess what I am rebelling against is the loss of mental acuity.   Our minds are who we are. I know we are always changing physically as we age. I can accept that. But to lose mental acuity, cognitive abilities, for those to diminish is like losing a part of myself.

Please forgive my rant. I’m tired and sick with a respiratory infection today so I’m more vulnerable to succumbing to being a little irrational. I know I must accept myself the way I am and make the best of it. I know I have a lot to be thankful for and truly I am grateful. Things cannot go back the way they were—I must keep moving forward and try to do everything to the best of my ability the way I am now.   If I don’t work my brain and body, they will just get stale, inflexible. So I will just keep plugging along and be the best me I can be.

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