Hi, my name is Ruth and I have been diagnosed with Bipolar type 2. Today I am coming off my meds. Beginning coming off my meds.
I’ve been enjoying a lazy Saturday sitting on my sofa reading the Guardian. I just finished an article called Daughters of Africa. It’s about a woman who started out writing a blog about African women’s experience of sex. What a topic! It gave me an idea that I could publish my thoughts about what’s going on for me right now, which is that I’m feeling empowered because I’m coming off my meds. Without consulting my doctor!
In fairness to me, I did call my Support Worker — a nurse called Sarah. But it being Friday, and with her not in the office, it didn’t work out. The receptionist didn’t seem too concerned about the state of my soul. She didn’t even ask me if I wanted to leave a message. As I simply could not go another day with my liquid lobotomy going on, I just went for it — last night, before bed, I omitted my Olanzapine.
Today, I actually feel alive again. I feel myself again, and I wasn’t on a very high dose either. If I had taken the 5mg of Olanzapine with my 100mg of Lamotrigine before bed, I wouldn’t be writing this blog for one thing. I’d probably be asleep and it’s only 13.27.
Last night, it took me a while longer to get to sleep without the meds. I lay in bed thinking about what a life without psychiatric medication could be.
I should say that I’m not someone who, as a rule, disagrees with meds. I used to work in a hospital, in a women’s acute ward (before getting my own diagnosis) and I saw the positive results of what meds can achieve. I’d grow up with parents who rejected all forms of western medicine and so I had this real (unexamined) fear of it. But working at the Maudsley, I had to think again. It did seem a bit of a price to pay, but a lot of those women, really needed those meds. Since that time, I’ve never been exactly anti prescribed medication.
I’m also a recovering alcoholic, and there’s a real, probably in some cases justified, skepticism about the value of psychiatric medication in AA, for people who are addicted to alcohol. Liquid alcohol, it’s called in the “Big Book”. Not everyone judges of course, but there is a real atmosphere of fear around it floating about in the meetings I have attended (for thirty years now).
Since I started engaging with the medication (rather than psychotherapy) side of the mental health world, I haven’t been stridently ambivalent. I’ve taken the Lamotrigine, for example, steadily for a couple of years. I had a suicide attempt you see, so I had to take the matter seriously. I’ve also been on an anti depressant called Duloxetine on and off for the past couple of years.
Duloxetine is one of the few anti-depressants that is supposed to be OK if you’re Bipolar. When I lived in London (I’m now living in Wales) and saw a different community team, and there was a bright red note on my ‘Patient Journey’ file that said: do not give this patient anti-depressants. I’d had a manic episode one time after they’d been prescribed, so that made my consultant adamant for me never to have them again. Even when I’d begged and pleaded.
Of course, I have been a little bit ambivalent. Olanzapine, especially on a high dose, has the side effect of near constant hunger. I hate gaining weight and am probably a bit eating disordered. So for me, this is a real draw-back. With the Lamotrigine, I think it’s just a bit of a muffler over lived reality. Duloxetine even more so. A while ago I was in a really painful relationship, and without any pain relief, it was practically unbearable.
Another side effect for me was that I lost the drive to write. To a degree with all the meds, but an anti-psychotic made writing like entering a swamp. This was A REAL loss. Writing with a cup, or cups, of tea was/is one of my greatest pleasures. I have written novels, years of journaling, poems, life stories and never lost my passion for writing, until I had to take prescribed medication.
I think all these meds do relieve pain. Sometimes, of course, that’s a blessing we’re in dire need of. Why suffer if you don’t have to? But perhaps, when life eases up a bit and things are steadier, why not try life neat?
I know from my time at the Maudsley that I could be making a classic mistake: life is better so we stop taking the meds. Thus begins another trip to the psyche ward. But I’m willing to give it a go because frankly, life has become unbearable on the meds. Especially the anti-psychotic.
I don’t know if I’ll go the whole hog. Judging by today’s out-put I may not need to — I’m enjoying writing again! I’ll see how it goes, and I’ll tell you how it goes. Any feedback would be much appreciated.