Special Effects

Overflowing pill container

I was up to 260lbs. My MD had me on cholesterol medication, blood pressure meds and was talking about treating me for diabetes if my blood sugar got any higher. That last one did it for me. I could barely take care of my mental health meds. Never mind checking my blood and injecting myself with insulin however many times per day. I knew from the black box warning that my Zyprexa was causing all these health problems but I wanted to stay with it because it was the most effective drug for my mental health at the time.

Instead I tried going to the gym. I was very disciplined and went 5 days a week for at least 2 hours at a time. My MD even sent me to a nutritionist to see if it was my diet. When I told her what I eat each day, she said, “Wow! You’re hardcore.” She didn’t have any suggestions on how to change my diet because I was already more strict than recommended.

After 6 months of the gym and dieting (still not losing weight), my MD said I was one visit away from insulin. I went to my psychiatrist and asked to switch medications. His response was, “Well, you don’t have diabetes yet.” He was an asshole. So I decided to stop all my medications at once. That would show him. I ended up in the hospital a month later. That got him to switch me to Latuda. In the first month I lost 30lbs even though I went back to my normal diet and no longer went to the gym. I quickly got down to 200lbs without really trying. Still overweight at 5’10” but manageable.

My first experience with major side effects was when they put me on Risperidone. It was a great drug. I could think what used to be disturbing thoughts but now I was disconnected from them and didn’t get the fear and paranoia that went with them. After a few months I got an unmentionable side effect but I’ll mention it here. It made me impotent. There was no way I was 28 and going to spend the rest of my life not having sex. So I immediately stopped and again ended up in the hospital. (I really need to stop doing that). But I’d rather be crazy and have sex than the other way around.

Geodon was the worst but I was too messed up to realize it at the time. It was when I first went on disability. I kept telling my psychiatrist it wasn’t working so he kept upping the dosage. Eventually I was way over the recommended maximum. He didn’t understand it was the medication that wasn’t working, it wasn’t the dosage. I moved to a new doctor and got off the Geodon. That is when I realized I was also experiencing symptoms of Tardive dyskinesia. I found out when I went to the local convenience store and the woman behind the counter asked me if I was feeling better. I asked her what she meant and she told me I used to shake so bad when she saw me. I was a little embarrassed that I hadn’t noticed. That drug also came with impotence so never again.

I’m surprised I haven’t had more side effects in my lifetime. At one point I was taking over 20 pills a day. I would tell people I had to shut up because every time I opened my mouth my doctor threw another pill in it. It was true.

Over the years I’ve gotten the amount of meds down to the minimum. I’m still on Latuda. It comes with the same weight gain, diabetes warning as Zyprexa but I have actually lost more weight. It doesn’t get rid of my symptoms but it makes it so I can do at least the minimum to take care of myself. I still have days where I can’t even function as a human but I am afraid of making any med changes. I don’t want to be a guinea pig for the latest and greatest. Maybe if I hear from another person of something that works better I will try it but I’m just happy to have my symptoms mellowed out some and no side effects. If they made a medication like Risperidone without the impotence, I would be right on it in a heartbeat. Has anyone taken a schizophrenia medication like that?

The Pendulum Swings

When I first started my career of mental illness, my mood swings would come in neat little packages of about 3 months each. I would do a season of hypo-mania; barely sleeping, staying out until dawn with the other delinquent kids. I would be the life of the party; always the chatterbox. I probably acted like a normal hyperactive kid. Then I would slip into a season of depression. I would get home from school, chow down as much food as possible, then sleep for about 14 hours. I would hit the snooze button on my alarm clock until the last possible minute. It seemed I could never get enough sleep. I would stop hanging out with my friends to the point of alienating everyone I knew just so I could be alone. Then the switch would be flipped and I would be on my way up again.

Back then my highs were never too high and my lows were never too low. I don’t remember ever being suicidal even though I listened to Black Sabbath which was about the most overtly depressing music around back then. I had ideation but I never had a real plan to hurt myself. I think my mood would swing the other way before I became completely mired in my depression.

As I got older I got higher and lower. After being brought to the psyche ward by the cops during a manic episode, I finally came around to the idea I might need to be medicated. They tried different medications and when I got to lithium I discovered a new seasonal mood. “Normal”, that was one I hadn’t experienced in some time.

I entered a new cycle of life. After I got out of the hospital, they would send me out into the world freshly medicated. I would feel normal for about 3 months and then I would do what many people with bipolar disorder would do. I would stop my medications because I felt fine. That would lead to a 3 month bout of either mania or depression; a hospitalization and back on the meds. It took me forever to learn to stay on my meds. I was still against living my life with them and kept stopping. So I stayed on that wheel for years. 3 months on, 3 months off. I don’t know how many stints in the “Pavilion.” That was the name of the local psyche ward. I guess they wanted it to sound upscale. (It wasn’t)

In 2012 I was put on Latuda and everything changed. Now I have 2 year stretches of hypo-mania/mania, a brief respite where I have just my psychotic symptoms in the background and then long, deep depressions. I am writing this after coming out of a 2 year depression and I feel relatively normal. The only reason I have stayed on this particular cocktail of medications is because I hope for the excitement of a long stretch of hypomania/mania. Even with the risks coming with it. I’m not sure if I will get it because I recently started another anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer.

Now I feel like a long stretch of hypo-mania would be my reward for such an extended depression. I’m waiting for the rush but who knows if it will arrive. It’s been so long.

I’m still not sure if my cycles have changed as a result of new medications or if it is just something that happened because I got older. I would be interested in hearing if other people have had similar experiences. It seems so drastic to go from periods of months to now years long episodes. The good/bad? news is my mania isn’t as pronounced but my depressions are still so deep.

At the moment my metaphorical pendulum is at the point of equilibrium. I wonder how long it will stay before it starts an upswing. With this new medication I worry they have eliminated my mania and left me with depression. That would be unfortunate because I can’t take any anti-depressants. I have tried a lot of them and they either do nothing or send me to the hospital.

Sometimes I sit around hoping for that magic pill that will just make everything normal. But I’m also afraid of missing the “magic.”

First Psychotic Break

I remained undiagnosed until I was 28 years old. However my troubles started in middle school. They couldn’t understand why I was aceing all the tests but failing all my classes for not doing the homework. My mother, brother and I had to spend the summer with a psychologist to see if they were going to let me into high school. They did, and from then on it was a string of psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers all trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I lied to everyone because I thought I would be put in a mental hospital.
My first psychotic break came when I was 21. I thought I was having mental problems because of alcohol and drug use but I had quit everything a year prior. I started out in a manic mode with no sleep and plenty of energy. I lived in a small town with the streets roughly set in two concentric circles. I spent 7 days walking and walking, only pausing to rest for a couple hours each day in my bedroom. As I walked I was hallucinating, hearing a voice that I thought was god telling me I was going to hell. As I walked I argued with him. I was also seeing auras around people and buildings. People’s faces looked grotesque as I walked by and I felt everyone was staring at me and trying to keep their distance.
I was raised a wedding and funeral Catholic but never attended church services. Each time I passed the largest church in town the aura around it got larger and larger. I couldn’t figure out why I was drawn to it. Finally, on the 7th day I was sitting on a bench across from the church and decided I was going in to finish my argument with god. I walked through the large doors and saw the 30 foot tall crucificion statue behind the altar. The church was full of parishioners and I started yelling, “you are dead, I fucking killed you.” Over and over until someone put their arm around me and led me to a vestibule. I broke down and started crying and he asked me if I would like to see a priest. I said yes.
Later that day I met the priest in the rectory. By this time my mood had broken and I was severely depressed. Lucky for me the priest didn’t offer religious advice. Instead he asked me if I had ever heard of “happy pills” and steered me to the local mental health center. When I got there they thought I was depressed and sent me home with Prozac. It was the worst thing they could do for me. After 3 days I was manic again and felt like I wanted to go outside and beat people who walked by my house. I flushed all the pills they gave me and swore I would never take anything again.
Years later I allowed myself to be diagnosed schizoaffective bipolar one type. And it wasn’t until many years after I finally got on some meds that worked somewhat quell my symptoms. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

My first post at 3am

I’ve been online since ’95 and this is my first attempt at a blog. A long time ago I took a two year course in web design and programming. I got pretty good at it. I used scripting languages and database to make an Amazon style store. A couple weeks ago I thought I would design my own blog but quickly found out I was in way over my head. I had forgotten everything I had learned and it would take forever to get it back to just a simple application. So I scrapped that and came to WordPress. I’m having trouble here too.

That is not what my blog is about though. When I was 38 I finally gave up and went on disability for schizo-affective disorder. If you’ve never heard of it, it is like a cross between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. So it is a thought disorder and a mood disorder. If you have heard of it. I’m sorry.

That’s not my blog either. I think I will mostly tell stories from my life and hope people will relate or connect. I’ve had a pretty interesting life. Maybe you’ll think it’s boring. I got this idea because I was getting depressed by social media focusing on all the horrible things happening in our country. I mostly wrote and read jokes on Twitter but even all the jokers turned serious and don’t like other people telling jokes. So I need a break and here I am.

This is mostly a short intro post to act as a test to see what happens when I publish. I am completely lost on this site so far. Thanks for sticking with me.