Monday, November 10, 2008

i'm cuttin' back

I've noticed lately that a lot of medical personnel operate on the notion that if a little is good, but not quite great, well, then let's just up the dose, missy.

One of the things I learned in the pysch ward a year ago was to take what I was given; if I realized there were more pills or different colors of pills in the little cup I got every few hours, I took the pills and asked questions later. When I arrived at UNI, I took two pills each morning. When I left a week later, I took nine pills throughout the day. The first night, as promised by my therapist, I got a new pill at bedtime. But she was wrong about its effects. It was not a lovely deliverer to restful sleep. It was an amazing, frightening way to keep my mind racing, doors opening and slamming closed, screeching and crying, while all of my muscles relaxed so much that all I could do was lie still in bed, while my mind wrapped itself up in knots, warred against itself, and refused to realize that my eyes were closed and all of the images were in my mind. Likely one of the longest nights in my life.

Within a day or two, my three pills per day increased to nine. My antidepressant was increased and an anti-anxiety medication showed up in my little cup. By bedtime, I realized that I now had three pills that were a different color than the old familiar ones. When my psychiatrist and therapist showed up the next day for one of our three daily chats, I asked about the extra pills, and the psychiatrist explained that he thought I might need them, so he had added them to my cup list. Unlike the 'no such thing as a sleeping pill' pill from the first night, these new friends relaxed my body and my mind. Relaxed might not be a strong enough word--it was more like being asleep with my eyes open. Stupor-like, maybe. But, the doctor gave them to me in my trusty little cup, so I dutifully swallowed them down and waited for their magic. Unfortunately, those stupor-inducing pills turned me into a blubbering, quivering mass of uncontrollable emotional silly putty. I morphed into whatever was imprinted on me by those around me. And yet, after only a week, feeling more fragile and vulnerable then I had ever felt, the docs (or perhaps the insurance) sent me home. Astounding.

A few weeks after I left UNI, I saw a new psychiatrist and by new, I mean that I met with him for 20 minutes and at our next appointment, when I admitted that I was still crying just three weeks after my mind shattered, he introduced me to another new pill. Lythium. I had never heard anything about lythium, and the guy who prescribed it seemed convinced it would cheer me up and hey, it's nothing to worry about, trust me, ms gillian. So I did. After only a few days, I was beyond relaxed, beyond stupor, close to zombie. Walking, non-dead zombie. My eyes were open, but I wasn't home. More often than not, my eyes were closed, my mind begging for rest.

After three months on all of those pills, even I started to wonder where I'd gone. The shrink seemed offended when I asked about lowering doses, so I checked in with my internal medicine guy, who agreed that I was taking high doses of strong medications, and also agreed that I could, over a few weeks, stop taking six of the ten pills. After a while, the coma with my eyes open was relieved, and even though I still had some crazy side effects that were caused by the pills I took to control the crazy in me, I started to feel better. And I started seeing the amazing Carolyn, my therapist.

A few months ago, some of my scarier crazy symptoms reappeared and the regular doc increased my antidepressant. And increased my antidepressant. That's when the tremors increased and the involuntary twitches reappeared. Oh, and then I discovered my inability to put together a coherent sentence--mostly, I think, because not only were my fingers trembling, my brain had seemingly became a bowl of jello. Man, was it fun to hang out with me. Okay, maybe it was fun for others, but not so fun for me. And hello, I was with me almost constantly.

That's why, a month ago, I decided it was time to see who I am now, after all of the drugs and all of the therapy. I lowered my antidepressant dose. And the next week, I lowered it again. And last week, I lowered it again. Kids, don't try this at home, because I didn't talk to my doctor before beginning my tapering plan, which is the one prohibited thing that is in big capital red bold letters on the information sheet that comes with most drugs, and is repeated several times for drugs that alter the brain, ergo the mind.

This morning, I called the doc to get the lowest available dose of the antidepressant, so I could take that amount this week and then be done with it next week. I left a message with his nurse, and while he usually returns my call before 7:00 pm, I have yet to hear from him.

I feel better than I have in a long time. The nagging sense of immenent uproar has been quieted. The communication skills I've learned at the knee of my therapist are still with me. Who knows, maybe by Christmas, I'll be able to speak in coherent sentences--sorry, jr, no more slips like the time I said, "Not to change the sandwich, but..." and the remainder of my sentence was lost in the sudden outburst of merriment because seriously, what mom says sandwich when she means subject, while walking into the IHOP with her family?

If nothing else, this post should be an excellent tale to keep the kids off the drugs. You've read about my brain and my brain on drugs. Kids, don't take pills unless your doctor prescribes them. And don't take pills just because your doctor prescribes them.

So, for now, I'm high on life. Don't seem to need all those pills. Might decide I need them afterall, or maybe my family or Jack or you, gentle reader, will observe something that indicates all is not well in the gardens. But, for now, I am upbeat. Not cover up upbeat--true, real, alive upbeat.

Or perhaps it is a whiff of hope.


Lisa B. said...

Very glad to hear you're feeling so good. In a related comment, what the hell is up with your doctor? Again, so very glad you're feeling good.

Stu said...

I love you mom. I worry about you all the time, and it helps me inside to know that you seem to be doing better. I've done my fair share of drugs (admittedly, on a completely different scale) and I know that happiness that can be experienced when you finally start to cut back. It's even better when you start to cut back and you don't feel awful doing it.

I'm pretty sure you were one of the strongest voices urging me to see a different doctor when the first one started suggesting options that didn't sound all that great (so what if that turned out to be the final outcome, it sure didn't seem like the logical second step). If you aren't happy with your doctor, ditch em for someone else. There are plenty of excellent doctors out there, you just might have to try two or three.

And of course, if you ever need to, Audrey is always willing to chat.