Snow Day & Meds

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Today the world is shutting down around me because of the massive snowstorm hitting the East Coast. It means I have the day at home to do whatever I need to do, and I find myself not knowing what that is. I have two midterms next week that I need to be preparing for, so I can try and figure that out for a while. I am tired though. I was exhausted all day yesterday, even through the Adderall. Everyone on campus seems to be sick, so maybe I’m catching something. Or maybe it’s just another dip. I did find myself thinking very dark thoughts yesterday, in flashes that left as fast as they appeared. They’re nothing that I would act on, just thoughts, but disturbing nonetheless. It’s hard to be sitting in math class, trying to follow along, when you can barely keep your eyes open and your brain feels like it’s on a spin cycle. I feel emotionally dizzy: not quite balanced, not quite off balance.

Overall I would say I am doing really well right now though. Like the bunny above says, I’ve got a lot of problems, but I’m dealing with them. I am trying to keep myself above water: making sure I get to therapy appointments, taking my meds, keeping in touch with my psychiatrist, expressing myself at home, staying social.

I thought I’d take a minute and talk about meds. They are a contentious point for a lot of people, and rightly so. They can be life-changing but the side effects can be just as life-changing. The list of things I’ve been on in the past is about a paragraph long at this point. Right now I take Lithium, Cymbalta, Abilify, Propranolol, Klonopin, Xanax, and Adderall. Xanax is just PRN (as needed), usually for panic attacks or severe anxiety. Adderall I take PRN during the day when I need to focus.

Lithium is a serious drug. It can have repercussions on liver and kidney function, for starters, so I have to go every couple of months to get my blood levels tested. Lithium toxicity can be deadly. Which is fun. The test is also useful for determining the proper dosage (if there is too much or too little in your system). Lithium is one of the older mood stabilizers, so almost everyone has heard of it and might be surprised that it’s still in circulation. The reason it’s still around is because it still works. Honestly I have never found a cocktail that works as well as this one does, and that’s thanks in large part to the huge role that Lithium plays.

Cymbalta is an antidepressant (SSNRI – Selective Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor). What that means, as far as I understand it, is that my brain doesn’t absorb the proper amount of serotonin or norepinephrine, so Cymbalta closes the channels in the neurons that these two neurotransmitters pass through after they’ve been released from a presynaptic neuron, allowing the neurotransmiters to remain in the synapse longer to be absorbed by the postsynaptic neuron. SSRIs function in the same way.

Abilify is classified as an antipsychotic drug, commonly prescribed for mood disorders like Bipolar and others like Schizophrenia. It can also bolster the effects of antidepressants, so it is often used in tandem with them to increase their utility. We added Abilify to my list to bolster the Cymbalta as well as deal with the debilitating dissociative states that I have every once in a while (usually a couple times a month or more). So far it has been very helpful.

The trouble with meds is sometimes you need meds to counteract the side effects of other meds. That’s why I take Propranolol. Lithium gives me tremors and spasms, so I have to take it every day in tandem with the Lithium. It works very well and can actually function as an anti-anxiety drug in its own right, an added bonus.

Klonopin is a benzodiazepene that I take to sleep and for extreme anxiety. It’s slower acting than Xanax but can last longer. For a while I was on a lot of Klonopin to keep me calm, but it ended up being too much and made me into a zombie. Now I only take it at night to fall asleep. Xanax is also a benzo, and I only take it when I feel myself ramping up to a panic attack or during one if I haven’t been paying attention.

We all know Adderall, prescribed for ADD, ADHD and sometimes narcolepsy, which is a mix of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. From what I understand, amphetamines work with dopamine, but I’m not too sure of the science beyond that. I take it because I realized that doing my work was harder than it should be. Since I took Adderall in college and it was very helpful, it seemed logical to try it again now that I’m back in school, especially since all the meds I’m on can make me sleepy and unfocused. Being unable to focus is also just a part of BPD and Bipolar. If my symptoms are acting up, it’s hard to get on track and stay on track, but Adderall gives me a leg up and I actually feel “unmedicated” when I take it, like it nullifies the dampening effects of everything else and allows me to be me.

I know a lot of people who are anti-meds. Some people don’t need them. I didn’t always need them. I went for years without taking any and I was OK, until I wasn’t. But right now I need them, and I’m OK with that because I’d rather deal with side effects than being suicidal or hospitalized. If I never have to deal with that again I would be the happiest person on the planet. And chances are I won’t have to stay on the meds forever, so says both my tdoc and pdoc. So for now, this is fine. I take my meds, I go to therapy. That is the crux of my regimen.

Sorry if there are typos in this post. I keep finding them as I go along. I don’t know what my hands are doing. ALSO I am not a medical professional, I am an amateur, arm-chair psych specialist who only knows stuff from her own experience and reading. Please don’t take anything I say as medical advice. It is only my opinion and POV.

P.S. I added another response to RE: Questions, please, and if I get more questions I will continue to add them there. Thanks to C and Kimsseven for asking!

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