Archive

Posts Tagged ‘health’

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.

Advertisements

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).

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 #2

April 7, 2012 1 comment

In my last post I talked about having a bipolar mother, but I didn’t really talk about it. All I did was offer some dry facts, but I didn’t do much in the way of analysis. In this post I hope to correct that situation.

As I tried to get across in the last post, none of us is merely the symptoms of our disorder, and my mom is no exception. Part of the job of writing an article like this is trying to separate my mom the person (the much larger part of who she is) from my mom’s bipolar symptoms (the much smaller part).

I was self-centred as a little kid, and I never once questioned that my mom was 100% committed to me, or that she loved me. My mom had a (very) explosive temper, but she got her anger out of her system quickly, and moved into to forgiveness equally quickly. I was deathly afraid of my mom’s anger, but I rarely stayed in trouble for very long. My temper is similar: explosive and intense, but quick to extinguish and to turn into reconciliation.

As a kid I was oblivious as to whether my mom was having a good day or a bad day. I remember her laughing a lot. When she was feeling good she used to laugh at everything. I think she went to a lot of effort to shield me from what she was going through. Looking back I can remember four or maybe five major derepressions, one of which she was hospitalized for. Her bipolar cycles seem to be fairly long.

Read more…

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.
Read more…

Status Report #10 (My Doctor is Retiring)

March 31, 2012 2 comments

Well, I found out yesterday that my long-time psychiatrist is retiring in July. I’ve been seeing him since 2003 and while I had another doctor before him, that doctor retired after only a few visits. In Ontario it can take 4-6 months to get a new psychiatrist, so if I start now I might have a replacement in August or September. This doctor was a good doctor as far as I’m concerned. He did very little psychoanalysis; his approach was more of asking what were my symptoms and prescribing the meds to control them. I know a lot of people would be horrified by that approach, but it was just what I needed.

I suppose that going to a new doctor will be like starting over, to a degree. I suppose I can just cut-and-paste parts of this blog (maybe he or she doesn’t need to see the post on bullshit), fill in some more detail (did I mention my mother is bipolar?), and print it out. Seriously. On a positive note, I used to work right in downtown Toronto, so my doctor is in downtown Toronto. Now I live and work in the greater Toronto area (GTA), 40km away, so this is my chance to get a doctor closer to where I live.

At the moment I am taking Divalproex and lithium, but for a long time my doctor has wanted to put me on Lamotrigine, which is yet another mood stabilizer–this one also effective against depression. I was on it for a short time a few years ago but I lost my health coverage. Now I have my health coverage back, so we are trying Lamotrigine again. Anything that keeps away the depression is fine by me. If it doesn’t work I can stop it.

Health Insurance Scams

March 24, 2012 1 comment

In Ontario our doctors are paid through our taxes, but not our drugs, dentists, eyeglasses, hearing aids, etc. I don’t have to pay directly to see my psychiatrist, or for my lithium level blood tests, but I do have to pay directly for the lithium itself. I don’t know how drugs work in the rest of the world, but in Canada when a drug has lost its patent we get access to much cheaper generic versions of it.

Before I got back on a health plan I paid $19.31 for 150 capsules of lithium carbonate; I paid $81.80 for 120 tablets of generic Divalproex; and I paid $45.94 for 1mL of generic Modecate. This is basically a month’s supply of meds (3 weeks for the Modecate). That’s $147.05, which is half of what my husband and I spend on food, but I think the cost is affordable for something so important.

My pharmacist does a lot to make me feel welcome. Everyone there calls me by my first name, and many of the staff know what I need before I even ask, without even looking in the computer. The pharmacist even signed my passport application back when there was a requirement to get someone in a position of trust to do that.

I was very disappointed recently when I got my first big prescription filled with my new health insurance. The pharmacist told me there was no generic Divalproex to be had anywhere in the city, so he had to give me the name brand version Depakote/Epival for $165.41. Most of that was covered by my insurance, thankfully. I don’t buy his story of the generic suddenly being out of stock everywhere in the city, however. That was just insulting. Of course the pharmacist is gouging my insurance plan. Thankfully he never gouged me when I had no insurance, but the incident has changed my perception of how much I can trust him. Our relationship is more profit motivated than I thought, I guess. Live and learn.

Read more…