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Re-evaluating Things a Bit…

March 29, 2014 3 comments

I think I’m going to need to manage my expectations about my illness differently.

From one perspective I’m very lucky. My lows and highs used to be very extreme and both of them made me pretty dysfunctional. That’s not remarkable, but it’s not pleasant.

Since I’ve been on decent meds the extremes have levelled out and I’ve been able to live a mostly normal life, however saying that things are completely normal is still wishful thinking. I noticed this fact this week when my brain tipped over from low to high (it is a gradual process).

I am a computer programmer and for months I have been having a lot of difficulty at work. I’ve been making all the usual excuses, telling myself I’m a procrastinator, that I’m just bored, that other people are making my work difficult, and so on. Even my psychiatrist told me what I needed was a good kick in the backside.

Then my brain switched into high mode and suddenly how to do all my jobs became so clear and I started working my way through them. I saw my excuses for what they were. It was my brain that was still impaired.

Don’t get me wrong: my meds deal with the worst of my symptoms. However they are not 100% effective, either.

I suppose I need to look at adjusting my meds, which is a scary thing because they do work very well. I certainly don’t want to become less functional again. Still the way things stand when I’m low things at work are pretty hard, so something has to change. No more wishful thinking.

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About Heath Ledger’s Performance as the Joker

March 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Maybe I’m just being captain obvious here, but I just realized something worth pointing out.

When I was watching “The Dark Knight” years ago I was struck by Heath Ledger’s physical performance as the Joker–specifically all of his facial tics and especially what he was doing with his tongue. It never dawned on me, however, that he was imitating actual symptoms except for what was in his own imagination. Ironically I have been on anti-psychotics for about ten years now, and during that time I have always been worried about developing tardive dyskinesia. I haven’t developed TD yet, but recently I realized that it’s pretty much what Heath Ledger was imitating in his performance. I googled it and more than a few people seem to agree with me. In fact many people think Ledger delivered a textbook depiction.

Status Report #13 (Lamotrigine and Lactose Ad Nauseam)

May 20, 2012 3 comments

Here’s the latest update: it’s a week since I’ve stopped the standard Lamotrigine and I still can’t drink lactose-free milk. Last time I stopped taking a lactose-bearing drug (Perphenazine) I was almost immediately able to go back to lactose-free milk. Oh well, I’ll be patient.

I saw my psychiatrist (pdoc) and he put me on chewable Lamictal, but it’s a children’s medication and it only comes in 2mg tablets. The therapeutic dose for an adult is apparently 200mg, so it means I’m going to be chewing a lot of tablets (I guess). It’s either that or don’t take the medication.

My pdoc also put me back on Risperdal, but this time on the oral solution–which is also lactose-free. This means I can get off the Modecate and the Amantadine. Again, I am taking the Modecate instead of the Risperdal because it is lactose-free. I am taking the Amantadine to counter the trembling caused by the Modecate. So instead of two meds I’m now going to take one: Risperdal.

Heaven help me if I ever lose my drug plan because all these oral and chewable alternatives only exist for the name brand versions. You can’t seem to get an oral solution or a chewable form of the generic Lamotrigine or Risperidone.

I wonder what lactose-intolerant people are supposed to do with all these meds that make us sick, and the answer is we’re not a big enough share of the market to matter. They just don’t care about us one way or the other. I guess since we’re not dying it’s not a pressing issue.

Well let me get serious for a moment. When I was taking the lactose-bearing meds my bowel was so inflamed that my rectum was prolapsed (part of my butt was outside my body). Let me assure you how painful that is. I had to take a spare pair of pants with me wherever I went in case some dairy slipped by my notice (sometimes the day before) and I didn’t make it to the washroom on time. Sometimes I just had to walk around with an obvious stain and put something under me where I sat. There was no alternative. Do you go home from work just because you’ve had a little “accident”?

I can’t consume anything that doesn’t have ingredients listed on it and I have memorized a long list of ingredients that are dairy but don’t say they are dairy. I have memorized what I can eat at fast food restaurants (nothing at A&W, Taco Bell, or KFC; almost nothing at McDonald’s or Harvey’s). I have learned to eat pizza without cheese, for example.

It’s no different than if I was allergic to dairy, except I won’t die if I mess up. So in that way I’m very lucky. It’s just that to know it’s the side-effect of a medication and that it’s caused by a totally non-essential non-active ingredient, that makes it infuriating.

Lamotrigine Revisited…

May 10, 2012 3 comments

I was doing great on Lamotrigine and really looking forward to using it–then the usual complication reared its ugly head. The medication is loaded with lactose. I didn’t notice with one tablet, and I thought it was other things with two tablets, but with three tablets I had a non-stop lactose reaction. So I went back down to two tablets, but the reaction didn’t go away. I went down to one tablet (after all I had been on two for two weeks and three for only two days) and still kept having a bad lactose reaction. Tonight has been about a week and I’m going to go off entirely.

My psychiatrist, who is retiring next month, is impossible to get a hold of, so I feel like I’m on my own. I don’t like taking myself off a med on my own, but I had no choice in this case. Maybe my next psychiatrist will put me on the one of the lactose-free versions of the drug (chewable Lamictal or dissolving Lamictal).

I’m not Dead Yet…

April 27, 2012 4 comments

I’m feeling better.

I’ve been using up all my creativity at work and coming home, walking the dogs, and watching TV episodes on my computer, and going to bed at 8pm. I haven’t had much to say lately.

I am up to 50mg of Lamotrigine and I think the only side-effects are are runny nose. I’m extremely lucky.

I have had such bad tremors that I can barely operate a mouse, but my pdoc thinks that is the Modecate and is cutting me back to 12mg every three weeks. We’ll see how that goes.

I could really use some hypomania right now.

Status Report #12 (Lamotrigine, Caffeine, and Sleep)

April 14, 2012 1 comment

I finally started Lamotrigine this week. I had been holding off because I thought it was expensive. With my drug plan it turned out to be less than $6.00. Stupid me for waiting two weeks. Tonight will be my fourth 25mg dose and so far I can only report a runny nose. We’ll see what happens when I ramp up the dose. The last thing I need is to be more sleepy than I already am.

According to my doctor the dreaded fatal skin rash “only” affects children, and it only occurs when the med is stopped suddenly and then restarted at full dose. Hopefully these will not apply to me.

I’m not depressed (this is always my big concern) but I just haven’t had a lot of time to write in the past few days. My mixed mood seems to be better. The agitation and unfocusedness are mostly gone as long as I monitor my caffeine intake. Rather than drinking over a box of 12x355ml a day I’m stretching a box out over three days. In the mean time I’m drinking a lot more water. As a result I’m pretty sleepy during the day, but it’s better than the agitation.

Monday through Friday I’ve started to get up at 4:30am and go to bed at 9:00pm. That’s what has made it hard to do blog writing. Once I’m used to being up so early I’ll be more useful in the early morning. My husband is back at work and in order to carpool with him I need to get up that early (I also have to walk the three dogs). He has to be at work in Toronto for 6:45am and he drops me off in Mississauga at 6:15am. The upside is that I can leave work at 3:15pm when my husband comes to pick me up.

Today, I got up at 7:00am and I’ve had six hours of naps since noon, but that’s because I needed it. I’ll bet I sleep like normal tonight.

On Having A Bipolar Mom

April 6, 2012 1 comment

I didn’t know my mom was bipolar until I was in my late 30s, some years after I found out I was bipolar myself. My mom’s diagnosis was manic-depressive, so when I told her I was bipolar she didn’t make the connection immediately.

This post is one of understanding and forgiveness. I think my mom did a much better job of carrying on than I did, with much greater adversity, much worse meds, and much greater stigma.

I think my mom already had a suicide attempt and a diagnosis of at least depression by the time she was in her teens. She got pregnant with me at 18 and married my father, who was 20. Because it was the 1960s, she gave up a promising career as a ballerina (she studied alongside Karen Kain).

My father was killed in a construction accident (at my mom’s father’s construction company) when my mother was 20. So she was bipolar, widowed, and with a child at 20. She got depressed and she tells me now that her doctor recommended taking a vacation, which she did. No lithium or other meds. Just a vacation.

At some point she decided to take her own life. The details I have are sketchy, but she left me with someone, and made the attempt, which thankfully failed. She tells me she made three attempts overall in her life, and at the moment I can’t remember the details of the third, but I think this one was the last one.
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