The Drugs Don’t Work

Now the drugs don’t work
They just make you worse
But I know I’ll see your face again
The Verve, The Drugs Don’t Work

Dear Internet,

Ritalin, Concerta (32mg and 54mg), Adderall, and Focalin.

To give you a brief idea of the foray into my brain has been like, in the last five months, I’ve cycled through the above and received well documented and undocumented side effects for my efforts. Focalin, the latest drug, pushed me to the edges of paranoia, anti-socialism, and rapid/cyclic impulse thoughts.

I would not classify myself as being an introvert or extrovert, I seem to be fluid between the two, but on Focalin in social situations, I was always scamming to get a way out. I would wall myself up internally so that even the most banal small talk would be difficult. I would come off as standoffish, an asshole, or just plain weird.

People in my space made me nervous. People taking up time I had allocated for another task, irritated me. Music, I realized today, was not listened to because of depression, but because it moved the focus to something I didn’t deem as being important instead of allowing me to work on the task at hand.

I was sharp around the edges.

We could have the most innocent of conversations and I would take great umbrage at any perceived slight I felt thrown in my direction. Then I became hyper-sensitive to this behavior and had to monitor all written and verbal conversations to make sure I didn’t fuck shit up.

All of this defense and protection is exhausting.

Being crazy is exhausting.

Tonight I told my medicating therapist I took myself off of Focalin, and as of the Tuesday, I’ve been free of legal meth for 5 days. I’m still on lithium and will remain on lithium for as long as I live, but for now I need a break from the ADHD drugs. At least not take them on a regular basis.

He agreed.

The medicating doctor thinks this is all rapid signs of over stimulation. I am not going crazy, well not at least yet. The doses I was on for all of the drugs were of the lowest dose available. Ritalin works, but on occasion and for a few hours, and any attempt to prolong the drug doesn’t work. Good when I need to work at home or want to sit down and write, but I don’t think, at this time, I want to be on an ADHD drug permanently.

Since I’ve built my own coping skills on managing ADHD all these years, although haphazardly, I’m going to research for resources of tried techniques to help compensate so that the Ritalin will be last case use, not first in hand. I’ve also started my meditation in the morning to calm my mind.

In the last five days, the amplified symptoms have calmed and started to leave. Now I hope to find only peace.

x0x0,
Lisa

Lithos

Dear Internet,

I’m so happy ’cause today
I found my friends,
They’re in my head
Lithium by Nirvana

Friday I had my follow up with Dr. H., my medicating doc, and I was hoping he’d say, “Yep, Concerta isn’t working, let’s put you on X and try that instead” and let me go on my merry little way. Didn’t happen. Of course, because that would be far too easy. So, now, then what do we do?

I spent the better part of an hour going over every drug that has entered my system or that I had left in the last couple of months (OTC or prescribed), and went through my entire 1.5 weeks on Ritalin + Concerta experience. Noting to him every little new “thing” triggered by either drug or was put to rest by either drug. I’m thankful that I wrote as much as I did while tracking my mania/The Sads, but I didn’t write enough because he asked me a lot of questions I could not easily answer nor were there any hints in my blog when I checked while at his office. I think it’s important to be a public voice for this drug experience, but sometimes it’s hard to keep track of what I’m doing and how I’m doing or do it in a matter that is more coherent. Maybe it doesn’t have to be?

TheHusband pointed out maybe if I wrote more stream of consciousness (which I did a lot of when I was in my ’20s), it would be easier. I think he has a point. While I plan on keeping up with writing about this publicly, I need to be more diligent on my note taking privately. I bought DayOne for my Mac, iPad, and iPhone ages ago and used it pretty heavily after for the first month or so and then tapered off. It was interesting how much came out when I was writing only for me – though to be fair, when I write here, I also am writing just for me. But writing in a matter that is more private, I suppose, frees up a lot of internal censorship that I unconsciously use on myself. The only glitch I had using DayOne was when I was on computer (like work) that is not MacOS variant based. My solution to that was either bring in my Air (which I’ve been doing more of) or use Evernote and create a folder tag for DayOne writings to transpose later.

So, more writing about this experience. Duly noted.

As I said a few weeks ago, the accepted diagnosis is ADHD with Bipolar with bits of Borderline Personality Disorder thrown in for good measure, which coincides with the diagnosis back in 2005. When I was living in Northern Virginia (NoVa) from 1999-2002, I was seeing a therapist there who cycled me through a lot of drugs: anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotics (alternative for the anti-anxiety) for Bipolar and definitely anxiety. I was on, then off, then on, and then off so many drugs that I felt like my brain would just explode. I swore then no matter what the fuck happened, I was NOT putting myself on any of that medicinal merry-go-round again. I’d learn to live, cope, and exist with my current brain chemistry as it is because I could not take that kind of mental anguish again.

So when Dr. H. said he was putting me on lithium today, I burst into tears in his office.

With the exception of Klonopin in the last ten years, I’ve been mainly drug free. I was hell bent on going holistic on the vapors of my brain, but that apparently hasn’t been working and so, where we are.

This where the helplessness started to become so overwhelming that I nearly bolted from his office. I came to him, as a recommendation from Dr. P. to get the drugs for ADHD and monitor them, and now he’s putting me on this medicinal go around for the bipolar, which is apparently triggered by the ADHD? The way Dr. H explains it is that if Ritalin AND Concerta are triggering mania, depression, and other traits of the bipolar, those need to be addressed first before Concerta (or any related drug) can really be effective for me. I’m unlucky in that not only do I tend to metabolize drugs more quickly than other humans, and I also tend to pick up the rare side effects from the drugs. They can’t plaster me with a catch-all drug to cure X because that triggers these other things that have now sprung up.

Dr. H. gets my hesitancy about this, but he feels pretty confident we can find that sweet spot where everything plays nicely and I can feel some sense of normalcy. But it will be tricky, which means I have to be more diligent on keeping track of my moods and everything else in between.

This isn’t the first time I was on lithium, as I was on it during the first chemical-go-around when I was living on NoVa and I remember that sweet spot for like 3 days when I was on lithium and something else where everything was fucking awesome. The world seemed brighter, the colors were deeper, food tasted sublime, and I did not feel like a scatterbrained idiot. Here’s to hoping that we can get there again.

ProTip: Don’t ever read forums, regardless of the reliability of the website, about drugs, drug interactions, or their side effects. Because you’re going to end up self-diagnosing yourself with consumption or the vapors, and never want to leave your house again.

TheHusband, who rejects “white man medicine”1 for most everything gets that in order to make his Pookie Bear better, she’s got to swallow the poison. We’ve been big supporters of whole foods lifestyle for a long time, and while we tend to fall off the wagon here or there, for the most part, for fat people, we are pretty fucking healthy fat people. But we know we can do a lot better, so before this drug shenanigans came into play, we planned to kickstart our healthy eating and exercise again. To be more whole, mentally AND physically just reinforces the idea that we really need to get behind this and stick with it. The goal is that with a better balanced diet, more exercise (as I am more mobile now), and seeing Dr. P. every week and Dr. H. monthly, things will (hopefully) start to get better.

Kale smoothies, here we come. Rah. Rah. Rah.

But darkly, in the shadows lurking, I also know, as it is with any kind of drug that is taken for the brain, there is almost always a dark side before the dawn. That is the risk you have to take.

My regime is 600mg of Lithium (1 300mg tablet taken twice daily), 36mg of Concerta, and my usual assortment of multivitamins and supplements. Because of the Concerta, I’m off caffeine (and have been for 11 days as of this writing). because of Lithium, I cannot take NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc) and I should watch my salt intake. Dr. H. also wants me to refrain from alcohol while I’m on lithium, which means I can’t dip into the Absinthe my brother got me for Christmas.

I’m also allergic to dairy, so there is also that to add into the do not haves.
It’s a good thing I like water.

x0x0,
Lisa


1. He’s Native American.

The Best of Days

Dear Internet,

Happy Saturnalia.

I did not get to sleep last night until way after 2AM. Woke up, however, within minutes of the alarm going off at 6:45AM and did not feel like I could burrow under my covers for days. I actually felt alert for the first time in months (probably years). The first dose of the day went in at 7:55AM as I was heading out to see my therapist, the second dose at 8:25AM during my session and the final dose at 8:55AM as I was leaving.

I noticed the ramp up, which was affected by how concentrated my talking became during the session. I felt manic as I made my way towards work, and I was so focusedly intent by the time I got to work, my director wondered what the hell was going on. Of course, I told her because I can only see the positive side of these benefits as I go through it.

But the focus is not as crystaline as I want it to be. It’s like taking a picture in Instagram, and applying some g-d awful filter on it to make it distorted. You know that there is a sharp image under there, somewhere, but the fuzziness  makes it hard to decipher. I know some people crave that fuzziness, for sometimes the world is ugly and the sharpness often hurts, but when I’ve been living in the fuzz for so long, and I know NOW that clarity can be reached, I am desperate to grab onto it.

I called my medicating doctor and walk him through my weekend. He opts to swap me off the Ritalin and to put me on Concerta, which is a time release instead of dosing up several times a day. He’s also suggested I get off caffeine.

(I mean, first they take my cheese, now my coffee — how is this to be BORN??)

I spent most of my day doing mindless tasks that were things that were not important but had to be done. There was a rhythm as I moved through these tasks and I found that once I just started, I could finish each small item and move on to the next.

There was no panic today, but mania came hard at around 3PM. I found myself all over the place, both in my head and on my work space. I was able to pull it back enough to finish what I had to finish before I left for winter break. The last thing sent, at 5:02PM, was the network topography map that was due today. What I found different is that I was not panicked, “THIS NEEDS TO BE DONE NOW,” but more of a “Okay, this needs to be done. I’m almost finished. A few more steps and then it will be complete.”

On my way to meet up with a girlfriend for dinner, I stopped by the medicating doctor’s office for my new script and found msyelf in heavy 5PM traffic. I opted to take a road I was pretty sure would put me in the right path rather than attempt to backtrack through my previous path. It was a struggle to keep driving, for even though I knew logically that road intersected with a known road that would take me to my final destination, slight panic kept bubbling under the surface. Do I keep going and be a few minutes late or do I turn around and be even later? Why was this so hard?

Dinner was lovely, as always, and I recounted to her a tl;dr version of the last few days. I felt my concentration and focus was still on par with the earlier ebbs, but I found myself flowing as well. Time was running out. The Concerta will hopefully stabilize this.

Dinner, then picked up my new script, then on the phone with a very interesting conversation in that I gave sex advice on various topics from how to choose a condom, to what type of protection was best for when the moment was right, and dispelling a few myths often perpetuated amongst the masses.

TheHusband, who has been on his vacation starting late last week, was resting when I arrived. And that’s when the panic flared in full force. For apparently there is a heavy blizzard conditions coming our way, which may not hit us for a few more days. We’re leaving to go up north tomorrow and that area will be hit worse then here in GR. And that’s when my brain started to fall apart. I could not make TheHusband understand my concern for my own brain was all over the place. I was not thinking, “Okay, we’ll go up and see how bad it is and come home before it hits.” I was thinking, “WE ARE GOING TO STARVE AND BE TRAPPED FOR DAYS IN A CABIN WITH NO FURNITURE.” I  felt like the more I tried to bring myself down, mentally from that stat of flight, the more agitated I verbally got with TheHusband. Finally, things started to come together and we agreed on a reasonable plan: Check weather in the morning, adjust our time as needed.

The insomnia from the last few days, due to the Ritalin despite being taken early in the morning, found me asleep  far afte 2AM  (which used to be my favorite witching hour, and in many ways, it still is) and I woke up each day with only four – five hours of sleep. I started yawning during dinner and I find that I am tired, but my mind is back to being fixated on the possibly but not quite snowpocalypse of 2012. That no one is predicting except in my own head.

Caffeine is now gone from my diet since it competes with the same receptors as the drugs, which I’m fine with really. This morning I was up and at ’em and didn’t need coffee to clear the fuzz from my brain as I usually do. I”m moving the Klonopin dose from morning to night to help with the sleeping. When my  damn ankle is finally healed (and that is another story), I am hoping exercise will be drug for the anxiety and the sleep. I want to be better and depending on drugs to keep me whole. (Except for the ADHD drugs. A++. Will use again.)

We have Internet up at the cabin and I hope to continue writing while I’m up there, but do not be alarmed if no posts are forthcoming until I get back, but I will be taking plenty of pictures.

(That is, if Abominable doesn’t get us first.)

x0x0,
Lisa