I’ll Take Goat Shit Pills If I Have To!

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Yes, here’s the uncensored Dyane in all her glory.  Most likely I’ll have some readers unfollow my blog, and maybe even an unfriending or two on Facebook as a result of this slightly profane post, but I’m starting to understand that I need to write my truth as long as I’m not being vindictive.  This post is most definitely my truth, and today I’m writing what I am most passionate about besides my family.

This morning I let my potty mouth loose after watching an extended eight-minute-long preview of a documentary film called “Crazywise”.

This documentary’s two filmmakers explain that they are comparing cultures and how each culture regards mental illness, which is fascinating to me.  I was very interested in their portrayal of several tribes which contain people who would be perceived as mentally ill in the United States.  But when the filmmakers showed glimpses of their interviews with American anti-psychiatric medication “gurus”; public figures I had closely studied when I decided to taper off my bipolar meds, my stomach turned.

Two of the subjects they featured in this preview unexpectedly triggered me big-time.  The first person was the author/lecturer Robert Whitaker, whose bestselling book Anatomy of An Epidemic (specifically his chapter on bipolar disorder) affected me profoundly. Whitaker’s book was one of several factors that influenced me to start tapering off my bipolar medications, which first caused acute mania and then I became acutely suicidal and required three weeks of hospitalization just a year ago.

Now, before I go any further, I know it’s not fair to blame an author or a book or a premise for almost killing me.  I want to be very clear that I’m not doing that.

However, if one is on the fence about taking bipolar psychiatric medications and reads Robert Whitaker’s work, specifically the bipolar chapter, his book is extremely convincing at making it seem like taking medications is not the way to go!  I was so hopeless and weary when I read that book.  I was ripe and vulnerable.  I honestly don’t know what exactly were his intentions with his book – it’s confusing to me given his smooth sound bites in the preview. I like to think that I’m not stupid or easily swayed by Whitaker and other so-called experts.  I’m just being honest with you because that’s what you, as my valued reader, deserve at the end of the day.

Another subject featured in this film is Will Hall, a famous personage in the anti-psych-med movement.  I was in touch with Hall at one point through his website, and he offers a free PDF “Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs and Withdrawal”.   While I know he has a good heart, seeing his face in the preview basically made me want to barf.

I had tried so many fucking psychiatric medications year after year to no avail.  Two rounds of unilateral and bilateral ECT.  Seven, yes, seven hospitalizations, which still sickens me whenever I think of it.  It astounds me that no psychiatrist I saw since 2007 thought to mention the one, old-school MAOI medication called Parnate/tranylcypromine (known as the “last resort medication” for bipolar depression) that would ultimately restore me to a good quality of life and lift my bipolar depression when taken in tandem with lithium.  (Combining the two – an MAOI and lithium – is key according to two very impressive studies I located on the internet.  They were done in the 1970’s, but their findings are still valid as far as I’m concerned, since it worked so miraculously for me 100%!)

When I started considering tapering off bipolar medication, if I had found a book that spoke to my trepidations, who knows – maybe it might have made a difference.  If I had encountered a story that documented a mother’s journey with bipolar disorder who was considering going the “alternative, natural” route but experienced total disaster despite consulting experts from around the world, who knows – maybe I would have paused. I would have, at the very least, interviewed such a mother.  And, most importantly, I would have found out what did work for her.

If I can help ONE person not experience the hellhole that I did when I slowly, meticulously tapered off bipolar medication by writing my book about what happened to me, it will be worth it.

I know there are so many people living with bipolar disorder who are suffering…I know what it’s like.  I know that 99% of of them would try any medication that could truly help them. I now know that I’ll take any Big Pharma or Little Pharma, patented or generic medication for my mental illness (and it IS a mental illness at least for me – my bipolar disorder ain’t no sublime, bewitching psychic revelation!) as long as it helps me.

I’m willing to deal with the side effects.  I’ll take goat shit pills if I have to.  I’m not going to demonize meds ever again.  I’ll watch the entire “Crazywise” film when its released and if (as I suspect) they glamorize the anti-medication movement, you’ll be seeing me speak out actively against this film, as much as an indie film lover I am, because that’s just not cool.   There are too many vulnerable, desperate people with bipolar out there willing to believe in the Kool Aide promises.  After the war I’ve been through with bipolar disorder, (and yes, I consider it a war and I have PTSD from it – my counselor agrees with this) I’m no longer a milquetoast.

To watch the “Crazywise” preview

I wrote the following comment in response to the Crazywise YouTube clip – I just went off and as you’ll see, I didn’t edit it- I was too angry at the time….

I just watched this preview and feel compelled to write this comment. After reading “Anatomy of an Epidemic” (the author is interviewed in this doc: Robert Whitaker) I went the no-meds route, I corresponded with Will Hall, Peter Lehmann, read Dr. Peter Breggin (anti-meds shrink), you name it , I read it etc. etc. Meds got my life back after I almost died. Tapering slowly off meds almost killed me. I won’t be living in a Shamanic culture anytime soon. These are all nice, smooth sound bites and I want to see this film, but I can tell you that it is not all black or white. My two little girls don’t care if Mommy takes pills as long as she’s alive to be with them. I love my lithium and no one is making a whole lotta money off me, I guarantee it.

 

The Power of One Pill

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Pills.  Ah, pills.  “Pill” is such an innocuous-sounding word, but anyone with bipolar disorder who takes medication knows that pills are anything but harmless.  However, unless you depend on medications to keep you stable, and unless you’ve experienced a med horror story, it’s hard to understand why someone highly sensitive to meds would TOTALLY freak out at missing just one dose.

(***Trigger Alert: suicidal ideation***)

Over the past year I’ve become used to taking my MAOI med Parnate (tranylcypromine) three times a day.  That hasn’t been a big deal – I’m incredibly grateful for it since this drug brought me out of bipolar depression when twenty other meds did not.

But as ridiculous as this may sound, refilling my Parnate has been problematic. Here’s a little backstory…please forgive me for it being tedious!  It’s difficult for me to spice up the topic of medication!

When I first started taking Parnate, my psychiatrist wasn’t willing to arrange refills.  His rationale, which he explained to me rather apologetically, was that he wanted to keep close tabs on me.  While I was frustrated with his philosophy (and I told him so!) I understood where he was coming from.  Eventually I asked him to arrange refills and he complied with my request, which was great.

Last week I noticed my bottle of Parnate was getting on the low side and I called Costco to refill it. (Unfortunately, I didn’t think to ask if their pharmacy offers an “auto-refill notification” system so I could be contacted when my medication was ready.  CVS has an auto-refill system that I use with my lithium, and it’s awesome.) In any case, I thought I would be able to get my Parnate without missing a dose.

I forgot that a holiday was coming up, Memorial Day, and that the Costco pharmacy would be closed exactly when I needed to pick up my medication.  That meant that I was going to miss at least one dose, which sent me into a panic.  I was furious with myself because it was my fault for what happened!  Furthermore, I was also mad because I hadn’t thought to ask my doctor if he could prescribe me a few extra “emergency pills” in case this kind of situation happened.  (BIG DUH!)

My husband Craig was in the same room when I flipped out about my error.  We’ve been together for sixteen years and this poor man stood by my side after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  He has been to hell and back in helping me with all my emergencies, care taking, my seven hospitalizations, you name it.

As I threw my tizzy fit, he casually said, “Don’t worry about it.”

What?” I screeched, just shy of a yell since the kids were outside.

Then I angrily muttered,”You’d probably feel differently about it if you were hospitalized seven times in the nuthouse!”

I could sense the hairs on his arms raise in aggravation.  He said nothing and walked away.

At that point I knew I needed to calm down, so I tried thinking rational, soothing thoughts such as:

“You won’t go off the deep end just for missing a dose!” and:

“It’ll all work out!” and even:

“Let go and let God!”

Lo and behold, my mood actually started to level out.  I released my anxious fears because there was absolutely nothing I could do short of robbing Costco.

I felt contrite for blowing up at Craig, and I tracked him down.  I told him I was sorry; luckily he accepted my apology and gave me a hug.  I know he’s burned out from having heard about my medication woes for so many years.  Anyone, even Mother Theresa or the Dalai Lama, would be tired from my numerous complaints, emergencies, and years of seemingly never-ending depression.

While I blame myself for not creating a good medication refill system, I do give myself a break regarding my feelings about missing doses.  I give myself another break for how powerful a pill can affect my system.  The following tale is why I’m letting myself off the hook for my tantrum one last time.

One, itsy, bitsy psychiatric pill made me suicidal.

My former psychiatrist prescribed me an antidepressant medication called Elavil (amitriptyline) and after I filled the script, I took my first pill. Literally two hours later I wanted to hang myself with my bathrobe belt and Craig, thank God, was home.

I told him I felt suicidal and he rushed me to the hospital. There is no way that anything else but that pill that made me feel that way.  I know the subject is so morbid to think about, but up to that very afternoon I knew that if I would ever actually take my own life, I would *never* use that horrific method.  I think that my brain played tricks on me, triggered by the medication, because someone I had cared about had hung himself just a month before that awful day.  I suspect my brain synapses wanted to do a copycat action in reaction to the medication. Who knows? Again, thank God Craig was home.

Because of what happened with Elavil, I’ll never underestimate the potential consequences of missing a single pill or taking a single pill.  I’m paranoid, yes, but now don’t you understand why I feel that way?

So there you have it.  “What’s the point of this post?” you may be thinking.  (I know that’s what I would think!) Well, if you have bipolar disorder and take medication, I implore you, don’t wind up like me.  See if you can arrange an auto-refill system with your pharmacist.  I know CVS does it and I’m going to call Costco to see if they offer the same program.  I’m also going to check in with Dr. D. about having an emergency supply of Parnate – at least a few days worth.  I’ve been wisely advised in this comment section by Rob to buy a weekly pill dispenser to give me more notice when I’m getting low on meds. (Thanks Rob!)

I do make a point of carrying an extra dose of Parnate in my purse in case I find myself away from the house unexpectedly for a chunk of time. These are all little things that can make such a big difference in my peace of mind, and yours.  Take care and may all your script refills go as smooth as silk! 😉

 

imgrescat pills(Hope this cat photo doesn’t offend you – I thought the expression was hilarious!!) 😉

 

Taking Bipolar Breaks

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Today was the day I woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head.  

(Just kidding…any Beatles fans out there?)

No, today was the day I woke up and I realized I was feeling bipolared out.

usually find the world of bipolar disorder to be fascinating, and as you can fathom, it’s relevant to my life as well.  When I read bipolar-related articles, studies, etc. I could very well come across a significant lead for my own recovery or to help a friend’s mental health issue. In any case, I want to be kept in the loop of this field, and I make a concerted effort to stay in the know almost every day.

But sometimes I would just love to spend a big chunk of time where the word “bipolar” doesn’t enter my mind once.

That’s impossible.  I take my MAOI (Parnate/tranylcypromine) meds three times a day. Just the simple act of taking these pills reminds me of the “b” word.

It’s possible I am also feeling burned out because even though it has been eight years since I was diagnosed, I still haven’t totally reconciled myself to the fact that I have this mental illness. Obviously, there is no way I don’t have bipolar disorder, but on a subconscious level I believe I think, “No way!  I don’t have those cooties!

I consider my burnout to be closely connected with overwhelm.  My psychiatrist advises that when I’m at my wit’s end about something (i.e. a phone conversation gone wrong, a traffic jam, a mild panic attack) to simply pray.  He’s Christian and while he never proselytizes to me about his religion, he advises me based on his own experience.  I don’t have to be a card- carrying member of any religion to pray, and I do believe in the power of prayer – both individual prayer and remote prayer.

While I can’t ignore living with a chronic illness, it’s in remission for now, thank God.  I’m stable, I’m functioning, and a side of me wants to distance myself from my “sick” side, if that makes any sense.  Those feelings may explain my wanting to detach from bipolar disorder in general.  My problem could actually be interpreted as a blessing in disguise!  I’m feeling better, therefore I don’t want to think about bipolar disorder 24/7.  That’s not such a bad problem to have. 

Being burned out on having bipolar and obsessing about bipolar are not insurmountable problems by any means.  I need more reflection and therapy to deal with my identity in regard to having a mental illness that is “hardwired” into my brain.  (I can’t believe I just quoted from that atrocious T.V. show Black Box, but I did!) That may be a simple-sounding strategy, but it very well may work.  Whatever I decide to do, I’m determined to take lots of breaks from contemplating bipolar disorder.

I’m going to pay more attention to things that having nothing to do with mental illness.  We are readying our house for a puppy’s arrival to take place very soon.  The prospect of watching a sweet, joyful little pup interact with my two little girls, who are beyond over the moon about having a puppy, will be fantastic.  

With summer fast approaching, there will be days at the beach and hours at the park where I’ll unplug from social media and bipolar obsession.  I don’t have a smart phone, so I won’t have access to the internet at either of those places, and that’s a good thing.  

For indoor activities, I can turn to my nine-year-old, who already knows more than her mom does as far as making crafts.  She has her own Hello Kitty sewing machine and how to use it; I don’t even know how to sew.  She makes beautiful rings and bracelets at the drop of the hat; I’m clueless about jewelry making.  She loves to teach others how to make things.  My other daughter is thrilled when I play hide and seek with her, pull out the Twister set, or play outside with her and our three chickens.  All of these activities and more can serve to pull me out of my head and into the moment.  I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to that.


 

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Wherever You Go, There You Are

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Lately I’ve been thinking about Hawaii an awful lot.

Last November, our family scrimped and saved for months to take a sentimental trip to Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.  My mother-in-law died last spring, and we brought her ashes with us, for she loved living in Hawaii for many years.  My husband Craig knew she would have approved of his scattering her ashes in such a meaningful location.  We also thought our two little girls would benefit from an informal family ceremony in their grandmother’s honor.

So yes, this trip was a big deal for us to take –  we definitely knew how lucky we were to visit such an exotic place.  We stayed at Al’s Kona Coffee  Farm, a rental unit with a kitchen so we could make the majority of our meals and save money.  My husband knew the Kona area well from visiting his Mom when she lived there, and he planned our activities to be mostly free or low-cost.

We had scheduled the trip twice before, but Craig had to reschedule due to my hospitalizations for bipolar depression relapses.  Al was very understanding of my medical situation, and not only was he flexible in our rescheduling; he gave us a good deal.

Look at how spectacular Al’s Kona Coffee Farm is!

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A month before our trip, my bipolar depression had finally lifted due to my trying an “old-school” medication.  I started taking the MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) named  tranylcypromine or Parnate.  My pdoc added it to the lithium I was already taking, and within two days – kaboom.  My evil, hated, soul-sucking depression was gone.

I located two studies online conducted in the 1970’s that found MAOI’s combined with lithium had a greater effect together to lift bipolar depression than when used separately.  I also read a document that described MAOI’s as the “last-resort” medication for bipolar depression.  When I spotted that, I said “WTF?”   Why no psychiatrist had ever suggested the MAOI class to me before, since I was super-medication-resistant, remains a mystery to me.  There are food and beverage restrictions with MAOI’s, but they aren’t the end of the world, and the restrictions are totally worth it if the depression goes away.

Anyway, three days before we took off on our flight, my depression returned.  Words cannot express the level of disappointment and fear that descended upon me.  I’ll cut to the chase right now and let you know that three weeks later, after we returned from Hawaii, my doctor added Seroquel to the lithium and Parnate.  The depression went away and it has stayed away ever since.

But the entire time I was in Hawaii, my depression was unrelenting.  I contacted my psychiatrist and we upped my Parnate dosage, but it made me feel too wired and didn’t alleviate the depression, so I returned to the prior dosage.  While I was able to appreciate my little girls’ joy as they boogie boarded, and I took in the natural beauty of the Big Island as much as I could, I still felt like a zombie.

I’m attempting to fake being happy in the picture posted above.  Underneath the smile is utter hopelessness.  Despite the beaches with warm aquamarine water, the incredibly tasty Kona coffee, the fresh poke fish, the chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, the dolphins, and the sunsets, I felt beyond horrible.

The lesson I learned was that it didn’t matter if I was in Paradise if I didn’t have the right meds.  Some of you know that’s way easier said than done!

We could have cancelled our trip yet a third time, but  since we were so close to our departure date I didn’t have the heart to cancel.  Plus I was praying for a miracle to happen.  At least Craig and the girls had a great time.  He didn’t hold it against me that I was a less-than-ideal travel companion, and I am very grateful for that.

Someday I hope we get a “do-over”.

When Craig took his mother’s ashes out to a stunning reef on the bay by the Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, I was unable to join him.  I sat in the sand, motionless for the most part, unable to even read a book.  I am hoping that some day we’ll have the good fortune to return to that area and I can pay my respects properly.

While there I’d pick a few plumeria flowers, which are flowers that my mother-in-law adored.  I’d walk out on the reef and toss the blossoms in the water in honor of the woman who gave me the best husband I could ask for.   Then I’d walk down to the beach and swim a little, because when we went to Hawaii last year I was so down, I couldn’t even swim in the ocean.

I know that many people in our world could never afford a trip like the one I describe.  Recently I watched the documentary “Happy” that profiles different cultures with authentically happy people.  None of the “stars” of this film were wealthy, most of them lived on small incomes and some were what our society would consider extremely poor.  All of these people truly appreciated their day-to-day lives.  We could all learn from these individuals.  I may never get a chance to return to Hawaii, so I want to appreciate my “here & now” better.  (I don’t know about you, but it’s much easier for me to do this in the spring when it’s warm instead of freezing!)

I wish each of you the trip of a lifetime, wherever your dream place may be.  And I wish even more that your love and appreciation for your here and now grows significantly over time.  It would be awesome if each of us, especially those of us suffering with mood disorders, could not only appreciate the present, but experience some simple happiness every day.

I am sooo not there yet, but I’ll let you know when I’m making some headway.

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