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Posts Tagged ‘side-effects’

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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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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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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One of the side effects of my 3 different psych meds is weight gain—all 3 of them.  As each med was added my weight rose.  I don’t eat any differently than before all the weight gain. I’m told by my family doctor and by much of what I’ve researched that each one of these meds have a tendency to slow the metabolism in many people thereby causing one’s weight to rise.  I know from talking to other folks taking these or similar meds that I’m not alone in this problem.

There was one medication in particular that shot my weight up and when I insisted that my psychiatrist take me off it, I lost 22 pounds.  So now my dilemma is how do I lose the rest of the weight?  I can’t stop my meds because they are working.   I’ve tried lots of others but only these work.  I’ve decided to try cutting out all foods with sugar.   That’s really hard to do since just about everything except unprocessed meat and produce has sugar content.  So I’m reading labels and if sugar is the fifth or sixth ingredient or more on the ingredients list, then I can have it.  Anything saying sugar, maltodextrin, sucrose or anything else ending in “ose” is forbidden unless it’s way down on the list.  It’s tricky because even the things marked sugar free still have another form of sugar in them.  Check out the ingredients on a pack of sugar free gum.  So as soon as our house guests leave, I’m on a mission.

What do I want to gain from this?  Nothing   This is one battle where losing is winning… and I want to win.

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When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, my psychiatrist and my husband were the only people that knew. And only my psychiatrist and I knew what meds I was on and why. My family physician didn’t know and I didn’t have a therapist yet.

 I read an article about the importance of sharing information between doctors so that they and I would be my healthcare team. A loved one (my husband) would also take part and be prepared to act as an advocate in case I can’t speak for myself. This really made me think hard.

Why is it so important? Most of us don’t have doctors who talk to each other. My family physician knows my diagnosis so she can be aware of improvements or declines in my condition. She also checks my thyroid and cholesterol levels along with a few other tests to know whether or not my medications are impacting my health. They have in a couple of areas so I was able to report back to my psychiatrist exactly what my physician found. We were then able to discuss whether or not I needed an adjustment or change in my meds

 I eventually did find a therapist and kept him informed of all that was going on medically. He could often tell if there were changes for better or worse and suggest what I might want to discuss with my doctors. He also helped me deal with my early frustrations with just having bipolar and my fears about what the meds might do and were doing to my body. (I just started seeing a new therapist and like her so far.)

I keep my husband informed of all that is discussed with all of these doctors and the therapist. Often, he goes with me to the psychiatrist so he can ask questions because he wants to be a strong support for me..

I am the one at the core of this team, keeping each of them informed of what is happening with the others. And I work hard at leading a healthy and active life. I’ve learned numerous coping skills to help me live a productive and normal life as best as is possible.   And the coping skills that I use are discussed with everyone on my team. I have been reminded by one or the other of them a couple of times to remember to use music or some other method that slipped my mind

My husband, my psychiatrist, my physician, my therapist and I make a good team and I can say I’m quite healthy because of it.

Have you put together a team or plan and has it worked well for you?

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been dragging around for a few days wanting nothing but sleep but not giving in, then changing to feeling fine.  Another few days I’d have chest pain.  I’ve been having pain as if I have a bad gallbladder but that was taken out 7 years ago.  What gives?  I haven’t felt anxious, I only felt depressed 4 days in these past few weeks, no mixed moods.  For the most part, my moods have been stable/normal.

Recently, my internist put me on an allergy med and supplements–that’s when I ended up feeling worse.  I stopped the supplements and felt better.  I started them again and the sleepiness/fatigue kicked in again, my upper right abdomen started hurting more, etc.  I asked my internist/family doctor if these new supplements and allergy med would interact with the buproprion (wellbutrin), conazepam (Klonipin), seroquel for bipolar disorder.  I also asked about interactions with prazosin (alternate use med for PTSD nightmares). “No, no and no”.  So what’s going on.  Since taking psychiatric meds I’ve gained too much weight, my cholesterol has gone sky high (for which I have to take simvastatin), I have 2 heart valves  damaged, and a cardiologist thinks I may have had a TIA when I was in the hospital for spinal nerve impingements with excruciating pain–for that I was also given steroids, hydromorphone which made me deathly ill, changed to opioids, etc. while thy still had me on the psych meds.  It’s no wonder I had the TIA on the day I was supposed to be released–I suddenly couldn’t speak right, everything I said during my exit interview was garbled and the whole hospital floor was put on Stroke Alert.  Thankfully the incident passed without any residual effects.  I went home the following day.

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