And I’m back, folks!
I have been dealing with a depressive stage for about 6 months now, and I’m just now finally getting better. I don’t feel manic (or even hypomanic), but I do feel much more motivated and productive. I should have some real new content within the next few days. Rejoice!
I was in a general low phase for quite some time, but it would fluctuate from functional to near suicidal. I was working hard with my therapist on my PTSD so my depression was not be addressed too aggressively. I was, however, seeing my psychiatrist regularly and we were tweaking my medicinal cocktail little by little.
I’ve used Lexapro along with anti-convulsants and anti-psychotic medications for years. The Lexapro seemed to be working well until lately. My psychiatrist is a very cautious one and stepped me back up to a normal dosage very slowly. Here’s the kicker, when we doubled my dosage from 10mg to 20mg (which I’ve taken before), I became morbid and suicidal. I began cutting again and thought of death everyday. It just kept getting worse and I seriously considered hospitalization again…though I wouldn’t have been able to afford it.
We finally decided to try a new approach (thank the Lord!). We lowered my Lexapro back down to 10mg so that I can taper off of it and added Effexor. So far I have been feeling great…but not too great, mind you.
For those of you who don’t know, Lexapro is an selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Effexor on the other hand is a serotonin-norepinephrin reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Basically it works on keeping two form of happy juice available in your brain instead of just one. So far I have been feeling more motivated and have not thought about suicide in a week. This could, however, be a bit of a placebo effect, but I’m doubting it only because I really did not expect this to work.
Anyway, I hope everyone is doing well, and if not that you’re seeking the help you need. I’ll have a much more technical post in the days to follow.
I’m still a bit depressed, as you can probably tell by my 2-month hiatus. I’m battling with my psychiatrist and some drug companies at the moment. This whole not having insurance thing is a lot more difficult than I ever realized it would be.
The gist of things is that I don’t think I’m on the right cocktail of medications. Lexapro, Trileptal, Abilify, and Seroquel seemed to work wonders on me, but I can’t get Trileptal now because it’s technically not approved for psychiatric use. I suggested trying Tegretol since it’s basically the older version of Trileptal, but apparently you need to take blood tests once a week for about 3 months to make sure your white blood cell count is where it’s supposed to be. Blah. Instead they have me on a relatively high dose of Lamictal, which is supposed to help battle my depression while keeping my mood level. No offense to my psychiatrist, but it’s a load of bull. I finally convinced her (with my oppressive suicidal thoughts) that I needed to be back on Lexapro…woohoo! However, she only put me on 5mg to start. I understand that she doesn’t want me to cycle, but honestly, I’d rather get manic than deal with this prolonged depression.
See, the problem with my bipolar disorder is that I’m NOS (No Other Specified). In my personal story, this means that my depression is long-lasting and severe BUT my mania, while short-lived, is true mania, not just hypomania. So I get the best of both worlds. Hooray for me! It seems to me that the doctor is so worried about keeping my mania in check (and for good reason) that she’s focusing too much on that and not enough on my depression. When it gets to this level of severity (well, I’m better than I was) it’s just as dangerous as my mania.
I just want all this flip-flopping and med-changing to stop. And oh yeah, to be HAPPY again. I miss that.
Apologies for the delayed post. I shall hopefully start updating more in the near future.
My apologies for not posting for nigh a month. I’ve been utterly depressed as of late and dealing with a lot of things, such as moving back in with my parents (oh joy of joys!) and starting, quitting, and starting yet another job. I promise I’ll add some quality content in the near future.
Love you all!
Akismet is, I think, blocking more legit comments than I originally thought. If you’ve left a comment and I haven’t responded, more than likely it got eaten. I’ve been trying to un-tag the spam messages, however Akismet isn’t showing any spam messages waiting in my queue so…if you have suggestions to fix this, PLEASE let me know. If you notice a comment of yours has been blocked, please get in touch with me. Thanks guys!
This is just a short post to get some things out there. I’m having some trouble with my meds lately. I was on some great insurance a while back and I was on Abilify, Trileptal, Lexapro, and Seroquel. Nice cocktail there. I was doing really well on that and then I lost my insurance when I was forced to quit my job. I’m going to my local mental health center and they’re great, but now I’ve switched psychiatrists and guess what?…they have different ideas about what medications I should be taking. On top of that, without insurance I have to live on samples at the moment and Trileptal is damn near impossible to get as a sample.
My new doctor doesn’t like to prescribe antidepressants to people with bipolar disorder because they can cause unnecessary mood cycling. That’s all fine and well, but I tend to be depressed a LOT more than I’m manic and the meds I’m on now aren’t cutting it. I’m back on Lamictal (I took it about a year ago) and Abilify and we’re tapering off on Seroquel (only when I have a mood flux or if I really can’t sleep). Last time I was on Lamictal I was up to a 150mg dose PLUS I had Lexapro. My mood was pretty good. I had some flexibility with my drugs, too. I could lessen my dosage of Lexapro when I was feeling a manic episode coming on and I could up my Seroquel for the same reason. It helped me feel like I was more in control of what was happening to me. Now my Lexapro has been taken away and I’m only on 100mg of Lamictal and I’m just not feeling up to myself yet.
If you’ve taken Lamictal then you’re well aware of the potential rash you can get from it. There’s about a 10% chance of getting the rash and less than 1% of that can be fatal. The trick here is that the rashes all appear the same so if you get the rash you immediately must go off the medication. I’ve so far had no rashes or anything, but because of the risk one has to use a step-up process to get to a high dose. I had to step up from 25mg a day to 100mg a day over a 5-week period. This has been a LONG five weeks, let me tell you.
The short of it is, I just don’t feel happy. I’m functional to a point, but my motivation is still relatively low and my energy level is lacking. I have a med check coming up next week and I’m going to let them know how I feel about my medication and see if we can’t fix this. I’m just not feeling up to myself. I’d love to hear some of your stories about your medication mishaps. I know I’m not the only one struggling to find that perfect combination of price and effectiveness here. Any advice for me? …maybe I should quit complaining and start exercising.
This will probably be one of the most difficult entries to write. I want to talk about my own battles with PTSD, but to do that, you see, I must reveal a lot about myself. Not only that, but I run the risk of having flashbacks and anxiety attacks. I imagine it will take me a few days to get all of this out in the open, but I’ll try. I’ve always wanted to strive for complete honesty in this blog and I’ll do my damndest to stick to that ideal.
I’ll start from the time I first started having flashbacks, around the time I was diagnosed with PTSD. I was at work one day and a man came into work with whom I had shared a sexual encounter. I was working for a corporate gas station/convenience store and he and I had worked together one night the year before at a different store. I knew he lived in my town as he was going to the local college, but I just sort of guessed I could push it all aside and hopefully never see him again. At that point I still considered what happened to be just a nasty turn of events. Chalk it up to some bad sex and bad chemistry and call it a night.
I had kept up that charade until I saw him come into work and get into my cashier lane. We recognized each other, but neither of us said anything. After he left I began to feel like there was a heavy weight on my chest. I started to hyperventilate and could feel tears welling in my eyes. I quickly yelled to my boss that I needed to take a break and ran to the bathroom where I sat in a stall, bawling my eyes out for 10 minutes. This is something I have rarely ever done in my life. Sure, I cry like any normal person, but I don’t have physiological reactions to things like that. I just saw him and I was this driveling idiot. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I tore off my shirt desperately trying to get air. I thought I was going to die. The fear was palpable, like it was a thing pressing down on me. I have rarely been so terrified in my life.
After I recovered from that episode I thought everything would be fine. That is until I saw the man again a few days later. This time, though, I was clocking out at work and getting ready to leave. I looked over and he was in rapt conversation with a friend and coworker. I suddenly became so protective of my friend that I seriously considered taking a box cutter and stabbing the guy. What was this? Why was I so angry and violent? I’m usually quite the passivist. The feeling that he could do to someone else what he did to me was horrible. I had terrifying thoughts of what he would do to her, just as he did to me. I ran, crying, from the store. Again I cried in my car for another 10 or 15 minutes, just sobbing uncontrollably.
At around this point my mood shifted. The experience of the trauma flooding my thoughts came back full force and I found myself in a manic state. Suddenly I couldn’t sleep for days at a time, I started smoking cigarettes again, I was trying to do anything to keep my mind from wandering back to those disturbing thoughts. When I did sleep, which was little and rarely, I had nightmares about being raped. I didn’t know what was going on at the time. I didn’t even acknowledge the fact that I had been raped at all. No, it didn’t happen. Not to me.
Due to my manic hysteria, my mother pretty much forced me to go to the crisis center at my local mental health facility. I explained the manic thoughts and added, “…and I think I’ve been raped.” It was so nonchalant, like I was saying oh well, just if you get the time to check into this…it’s no big deal. I saw my therapist very soon afterward and it wasn’t until then that I fully understood what had happened to me. I denied left and right that I had been raped. It simply didn’t happen, but my therapist said to me that the guy sounded like a predator. It wasn’t until I started recalling (very painfully) the entire incident that I really put the pieces together.
I can’t really go into detail here, at least not yet. It’s just very difficult, but suffice it to say, I was raped. That was my first step to recovery, simply admitting what had happened. However, it didn’t make everything all better. To this day I still have flashbacks. I see his face any time someone mentions the word rape or there’s a story about it on TV. I get so angry I punch walls and want to shout. When I was hospitalized the second time (for being off my meds and complications with the PTSD) I had a couple of violent outbursts and was told that I only internalize or externalize my anger instead of accepting it and processing it. I get what they’re saying, but I’m still so angry. I don’t know what to do with those kinds of intense emotions.
I haven’t had a panic attack over the incident for a couple of months now, but sometimes I still have minor anxiety attacks. They usually pass quickly, but they’re still frightening. I feel like my whole life is being controlled by this terrible person, by this outside force that’s just…evil. I’m not a bad person, I keep reminding myself. This is not my fault. I did not do this. I’m getting back into therapy now and we’re going to cover things like this so I can finally start to get over this. Time has worn down the acute attacks of fear and anger, but sometimes I still get them. I don’t feel in control of my life and I’m not a person who enjoys not having a handle on things. I wish so hard that one day I’ll wake up and it will all have been a terrible nightmare, but I know that’s not how it works. From this point forward I have to accept that a bad thing happened to me, but it does not define me. I guess the only way to go is up, right?
I feel like I’m still holding back from you all, even with this telling post. I want to explain more, but the details are graphic and frankly, they upset me. Please feel free to ask questions in emails or comments and I’ll try to get back to you. I want this to be an open place where people don’t have to be afraid. I hope this helped somebody. Just knowing that other people know what you’re going through can help, but each case is different. I will never fully understand what happened to you and you’ll never fully understand my troubles, but we can empathize. However, as Dumbledore once said (hey, the 7th Harry Potter book is coming out soon, had to throw it in there, “It does not to dwell on dreams.”
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that effects approximately 7.7 million Americans. It can be caused by numerous events such as war (it was once referred to as “battle fatigue” and “shell shock”), being a victim of violent crime (rape, mugging, torture, kidnapping), accidents such as car accidents or natural disasters or a number of other traumatic events. Often times the event happens to the primary individual, but there are many cases where just witnessing an event (such as something happening to a loved one) can cause PTSD.
What are symptoms of PTSD?
- Persistent and recurring painful recalling of events (can be through images, thoughts, or perceptions)
- Upsetting dreams of the event
- Reliving the experience (may be acting as though it is happening , hallucinating, or flashbacks)
- Acute psychological distress when faced with things that remind the person of the event
- Physiological reactions to stimuli reminiscent of event
- Increased agitation
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Anger outbursts
- Lack of concentration
- Startling easily
- Avoidance of things associated with events (not previously done before occurrence of event)
- Avoiding thoughts, emotions, or talking about the event
- Cutting off contact with people associated with memories of the event
- Avoiding activities or places associated with the event
- Inability to remember or bring up important aspects of the trauma
- Lack of interest in activities, especially those that may have an association with the event
- Feeling detached or unable to relate to others
- Unable to process feelings (such as love toward others)
- Expecting little of the future (by way of marriage, work, family, health, etc.)
What do people with PTSD experience?
- Intense distress
- Reliving of the traumatic event in a variety of ways
- Physiological reactions to stimuli associated with the event
- Panic Attacks
- Flashbacks (reliving the trauma)
- Problems with sleep
- Feeling detached
- Feeling numb
- Startling or scaring easily
- Aggression (sometimes resorting in violence)
- Loss of interest in activities formerly enjoyed
- Difficulty with affection
- Avoidance of things associated with the trauma
What happens when you have PTSD?
I’ve already mentioned the basics here involving how a person with PTSD may act or issues they might encounter, but what can really happen? PTSD ranges from mild to severe and people who experience traumatic events can have many or all of the above symptoms. In many cases events brought on by another person (such as rape or kidnapping) have a more intense effect on a person than that of an outside source like a natural disaster or accident. Often times, as with many other mental illnesses, PTSD can be accompanied by other ailments such as depression, substane abuse, or anxiety (PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder, after all). Some people with PTSD have a relatively high level of functioning and it may not even be clear to them what their anxiety stems from exactly and some people have huge difficulty socializing or even working.
What are flashbacks?
Flashbacks occur when a person relives or reenacts the trauma. This can cause a person to lose touch with reality. The feelings associated with a flashback are very distressing and may come in various forms like images or even smells.
How are you diagnosed?
As with any illness, mental or otherwise, only a qualified professional can really diagnose an individual with PTSD. A person must experience symptoms for at least a month for the diagnosis to be complete. Often times the symptoms begin within three months of the trauma, but sometimes symptoms don’t appear until several months or years have passed.
How long does PTSD last?
The degree and duration of PTSD varies from person to person. Some people never develop PTSD from a traumatic event while others develop a serious and debilitating case. In some people, symptoms go away after a few months and for others they experience symptoms for years after the trauma. Occasionally PTSD can become chronic.
I hope this brief introduction to PTSD was helpful and informative. I’m planning to make a post about my own battles with PTSD, but as you might imagine, it’s turning out to be more difficult than I thought. Even writing this and talking about symptoms causes triggers in me and I become upset or angry, but this is something I knew would happen from the start. More on my own battles with PTSD and current treatment plans in the near future.