Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sophie's Choice- To Med Or Not To Med

I have a bad back. So do lots of people. Mine stems from a bad fall, landing on my back as a summer camp counselor. Add to the fact that Mother Nature has, depending on your view, either blessed me or cursed me with a set of DDD's. So this past September, I threw out my back. Nothing new here. A couple days in bed with the heating pad, and I should be as good as new.

This one went from bad to worse. I could barely walk, crawling around from the bed to the toilet, into the kitchen to put out kibble and water for the cat... back to bed. I couldn't reach the cabinet to get my meds, so I went without. And during that time, I went cold turkey off my anti-depressant. I don't know if the pain and nausea I felt was from my back pain or the med withdrawal.

Eventually, a couple days later, I felt fine. And when I went to take my meds in the morning- I noticed the Cymbalta bottle was empty. And my brain, felt clearer than it had in over a year. I didn't think twice, took my lithium, and decided from that point on- no more Cymbalta. No more anti depressant in my cocktail.

I started running low on my lithium back in October. I was flying blind, no psychiatrist at the time- because she and I had a parting of the ways. I was on a dose of 3100 mg a day, and I realized- I better find another doc, and make the script last. So I weaned myself down, on my own. 3100 one day. the next day, 300 less. A week later another 300 less. And down down down til I got down to nothing. That was one fortnight- two weeks ago.

I feel wonderful. My brain is clear for the first time in years. I can write. I actually feel like I can talk to people. I am not afraid to leave my apartment. Other than massive cravings for sea food and sugar, (Anyone for chocolate covered shrimp?), I feel better than I have in years. I've gone down from sleeping 12-14 hours a day to a normal eight.

I have had periods of my life when I have been med free- the shortest one was about 2 or 3 months, the longest was slightly over a year. Mood swings, hanging pretty close to the middle, but no serious highs, or lows. What would happen is my brain would clear, and I would evaluate my life. And I wasn't happy with it. At various times, I was working at jobs that I was over qualified for and bored out of my mind. To the outside world, it seemed like a good job, i just felt my brain was atrophying and I just started hating it. Hating getting up in the morning, hating every part of work....hating coming home to an empty apartment with a cat, and no other company. I joined a dating service, no luck, and I was past the point where I would go to City Gardens or Zadar's or Katmandu, after spending an hour or more on makeup, hair and clothes, to have some drunken clod spill beer all over my clothes, or bump into me and make drunken sexist comments about my figure. Ugh.

I stopped drinking in clubs and started drinking at home, on the weekends. Really drinking. From Friday night, til Sunday night, drinking, passing out, anything to stop the lonliness I was feeling. I always had bad luck with men, they either were intimidated by me because I was "smart", was "one of the guys", or just "not pretty enough, too low maintance". Finally, I got tired of it all, decided to give up my weekends doing volunteer work and working in bookstores for extra pocket money. I love books. I love every aspect of them, feeling them, shelving them, reading the book flaps, opening them and just loosing myself in a world of words. But I was still suicidal, I just knew how to hide the ideation. I would go to the shrink- to the therapist, and just take what ever pills were given to me, not questioning. More lithium. More antidepressants. More more more.

And hate the way they would make me feel. But I was a good girl, I wanted people to like me, I wanted...... I wanted no trouble, and to be liked. Winding up in a Dickensian orphanage was my biggest childhood fear. I still act like a child around authority. Never questioning, never saying "please sir, can i have some more", while my tummy is rumbling.

Now, a new doctor. A script for a new med cocktail- back to lithium- a new anti depressant- Abilify- and Topamax. I put them in my wallet, shake hands with the doc, and leave. The scripts have stayed in my wallet for a few days. I don't feel like filling them, yet I finally do. And put them in the medicine cabinet, not taking them. I know my disability needs me to be on meds, but do I take them or not?

My mother cries. She wants me to take them. She is convinced I will suicide if I don't take them. I am convinced I will suicide if I do take them. Not now. But someday.

The other night at my local DBSA meeting ,I bring up a topic. Would you rather live two very good years, being able to be the best of your abilities, functioning as a real human being, and happy- but off meds- or on meds and live 20 years just existing, just breathing but unable to think as your brain is clouded in a sea of fog and miasma? All your life is reduced to a bunch of involuntary bodily functions?

I said I would rather live two more good years than exist in a prison of fog and miasma made possible from a clouded, broken brain. Some agreed with me, most did not.

Most did not. The story of my life. Not fitting in anywhere- and not knowing what to do, but following my heart, and soul. Tomorrow may rain. I'll follow the sun.
(Picture by Frieda Kahlo. She knew about a bad back too).


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're experiencing happiness right now! Meds, no meds, whatever. But please savor the good feelings that are with you! My goodness, to feel clear and happy is such a blessing. I am intensely envious.


(By the way, I just got back from a few month in an inpatient treatment facility where we weren't allowed to use the internet, so I couldn't blog. But I'm back in action!)

Anonymous said...

Wow, Susan. What a good point you raise. As you say, it may be a Sophie's choice.

I know I'm not a fan of meds, although I'm on them anyway. I don't know if I'll ever be able to get off them.


Beth said...

Girl, you are one of my oldest and dearest friends. Reading your blog makes me sad. Sad because there is so little I really understand. You were upfront with me fairly early on in our friendship so the biopolar lingo isn't new. What's scary is how deep this disease really goes.

Love you,

tinkerbell the bipolar faerie said...

Savour the clarity ... keep it as long as you can. But the meds ... a Sophie's Choice, indeed. For each of us, the equation weighs out differently.

The object is to make the decisions and take the actions that work best for you. I tell myself it's my responsibility to learn about the meds, etc ... otherwise, who keeps the doc in line?

I really do appreciate the honest tone of your blog.

Mark p.s.2 said...

If ones emotions are more powerful than ones intellect, the heart rules the mind, one has to be careful as the heart can sing songs of great happiness or great sorrow.
The intent of the psychiatric meds is to regulate the power of the heart over the mind .
Friends who have mental illness, and swear to being mentally ill, do not believe they have the power themselves to moderate their emotions, and need the meds to be stable. This might be a self fulfilling prophesy, but they seem happy in the security of it, happy that the psychiatrist is in charge or responsible for their mental health. Trapped or content? I don't know.
I like my freedom.

Red Pill Junkie said...

Nice to see you used Frida's painting. She too had to struggle with a lot of pain during her lifetime —not just the back, but also miscarriages and a cheating husband— but while she could she tried to suck the marrow of life. Her motto was "Viva la Vida" (Long Live Life).

>"Anyone for chocolate covered shrimp?"

Would you believe there's actually a Mexican dish that involves shrimp AND chocolate? I kid you not! In fact, it's my family's favorite Xmas dish. I give you... Romeritos! :)

(Romeritos' Recipe)

My mom makes a BIG pot of Romeritos every Xmas, and when the whole family (cousins, uncles and inbetweens) gather up on the 25th, EVERYBODY wants a nice serving of Romeritos with their turkey.

So yeah, maybe those shrimps with chocolate have helped me avoid a life of antidepressants dependency ;)

Pyroclasm Jones said...

All I want are those good days. That clarity. Thanks for sharing this.

Tom said...

Wow. Great post...your recent back problem happened for a reason. Keep following the path it's leading you down and enjoy the clarity. It sounds like you're in a much better place this time around being med-free.


My Blog:
Fell Better:

susan said...

@NOS- happiness is wonderful. I am glad you are back on line and in the blogosphere. I missed your blog.....

@LIttlewolf I don't think I will ever totally be off them either, I think I will always be on a dose of lithium. But it's Ok.
Tail wags to you too!

@Beth, god I miss you girl, and the baby. You are my best friend in real life, and I hate being so sick in the brain I cannot visit you.... that's why I am writing, to try to get someone, anyone to understand...

susan said...

@Tinkerbell, you wrote "who will keep the doc in line"? You hit the nail on the head. We must take an active role in our recoveries, and if we are too ill to do so, have someone who can help us.

@Tom- I think in your honor, I will post a picture of my stuffed panda bear- or my picture of the baby panda in the DC Zoo. He's not a baby anymore.....

susan said...

@Mark, I like my freedom too, which is why I hope I never have to go back to the hospital again. Ever.

@RPJ- you actually sent me this picture months ago... I have been saving it for the right post. I love the idea of chocolate covered shrimp...Can your mom send some to me via the internet????

@Pyroclasm Jones, thank you for visiting. That clarity is holding me afloat. I hope to see you again in the blogosphere.

Ashleigh said...

I think the question you posed is one we all ask ourselves on a regular basis and the answers change just as much. I hope this happiness continues for you! Clarity is an amazing thing!

P.S. I'm a new follower! :) Love your blog, it inspires me to find the truth in my own recovery of this stupid disease.

susan said...

Ashley, thank you for finding my blog. I love your sentence " it inspires me to find the truth in my own recovery of this stupid disease."

Recovery of this stupid disease. Truer words never spoken....;-)

Melissa said...

Oh, Susan. I am happy and scared for you. I guess I'm a little like your mom in that way. I've finally gotten to a point in my own recovery where the meds are stable and I am a creative, functioning being. I choose to med because I can be those things on my current dosage. If I was still experiencing the muck of Zoloft, I would probably have joined you in your two years of happiness v. lifetime of... oatmeal. Yes, tempid emotional oatmeal.

sallyo said...

My husband agrees with you about the two good years. I'm glad you're feeling better, but (and this is the mom in me; I don't mean to lecture, but . . . ) watch your moods, and if you need the lithium, start slowly and only take as much as you need. Here's hoping 2010 will be a healthier, happier year for you.

Carter Nelsen said...

You're definitely not alone in dealing with this difficult choice, Susan.

I was diagnosed bp only a couple years ago, & I've been lucky to have meds that work w/o anything too terrible in the way of side effects. Like Melissa, my meds have kept me far more creative & functioning than I was before I started them.

The choice is indeed tough, & we each have to go where we have to go. Take care of yourself, & best of luck whichever side of this fence you choose.

Anonymous said...

More excellent writing. You are being used by the universe to help other people.

You may feel weak, but you are very powerful. Other human beings connect with you. It takes a powerful person to make human beings...across the globe feel connected.

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