Daily Archives: March 19, 2017

Johnna Stahl’s Blog Memorial

Memorial for Johnna Stahl, aka painkills2 of All Things Chronic, is happening NOW. Click on the original post and stop by to read, watch, and listen to tributes to our dear Johnna, and to leave one of your own, if you wish.

Life of an El Paso Woman

Hi everyone. Today we celebrate our fellow blogger and friend Johnna Stahl’s life. Johnna’s loved ones held a memorial for her Friday in Houston. Johnna’s sister, Mary shared this beautiful video of Johnna’s photography and memorial with me. She asked me to share it with the blogging community. Please feel free to share any memories you have of Johnna aka painkills2 from the All Things Chronic blog in the comments. Feel free to also share poems, quotes, music and/or general comments. Johnna will be missed by many.

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I’m so glad I had the pleasure of meeting her last July in Albuquerque. She was very nice and fun to talk to in person and via e-mail. Johnna was a huge supporter of my blog and writing career. She encouraged me to start writing my book and continue freelance writing after a five-year break. Although I haven’t finished the book yet, I intend to finish it later this year or in early…

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Why You Don’t Need to Know What Meds I’m On

I have actually written quite a bit about the meds I’m on.

I’ve done a whole saga on Abilify – about its price and how impossible it is to get without decent insurance.

I’ve written about how various meds have caused me embarrassing memory lapses.

I’ve written about all the different categories of drugs I have taken, and how long it was before my psychiatrist and I found a “cocktail” that actually works for me.

I’ve written about how it feels when you’re running out of your pills.

I’ve written about how close to electroshock I came when none of the meds seemed to be working.

I’ve written about the side effects I have and haven’t had, and the stupid way psychotropics are advertised to consumers, and natural treatment vs. psychotropics, and animals that take psychiatric meds, and crimes that are blamed on psychiatric meds, and needing a new psychiatrist to prescribe them, and whether psychotropics affect creativity, and being embarrassed when someone at the pharmacy recognized me when I was picking up my meds.

But what I’m not going to tell you is exactly which meds I’m on and what the dosages are. You don’t need to know that.

Here’s why.

I see a lot of comments and questions in online support groups telling what meds a person is on, and asking if anyone else is on the same medication, and what their dose is, and what side effects they have, and whether they should stop taking them or take a different one or a different dosage.

You’d think I have something useful to say. After taking psychotropics in every category you can think of (except lithium), usually multiple drugs at the same time in various combinations, I know a lot about how drugs affect me.

Me.

Yes, we are all the same in having bipolar disorder. But we are not all the same in how we have it.

I have mild to deep depressions, occasional hypomania, which sometimes comes out as anxiety, rapid (or maybe ultrarapid) cycling, and a couple of complete breakdowns. I have never been hospitalized.

But that’s just me.

You may have more dysthymia, more manic episodes, four or fewer cycles a year, no anxiety, or any other combination.

My medications are ones that relieve my depression, calm my anxiety, level my moods, and allow me to sleep. That may not be what you need. And even if you do have the same symptoms, at the same severity, my drug regimen still may not be right for you.

Bipolar disorder, you see, is all about brain biochemistry. And no one knows exactly how their own – or anyone else’s – brain chemistry works. What are my levels of serotonin? dopamine? norepinephrine? I have no clue. My psychiatrist has no clue either. And neither of us has any clue about your brain chemistry.

When I started seeing all the requests for drug information on the support group boards, I was tempted to answer. I even did once or twice. But I found I had only a few things to say that could be helpful. And those apply to anyone and everyone. So here’s the advice I can give:

  1. Stay on your meds. Even if you think they’re not working, they may just be not working yet.
  2. Stay on your meds; I mean it. Stopping your meds without advice from your doctor can be dangerous.
  3. Stay on your dosages. Do not change your own dosage. That’s your doctor’s job. She or he will likely want to ease down the dosage and ease upward on another drug if you’re changing medications. Ask your doctor if you think you need to change dosages.
  4. If you can’t find or get to a psychiatrist, your Primary Care Physician may be able to prescribe your meds. But keep looking for a psychiatrist. They have more training in the specifics of psychotropics.
  5. You can track your side effects, but then report them to your doctor. She or he should have advised you about any really dangerous ones to watch out for.
  6. If you have questions about your medication and can’t see your doctor, ask your pharmacist. She or he may be able to answer some questions about side effects and drug interactions. But not dosages.

Filed under: Mental Health

Madness

However much I improve, however much I remain stable, I’m still balancing on the edge of madness. So much so that I feel, even with a smile on my face, that balance could be tilted and into the mire I slip.

There’s no doubt I’m so much better now than I was all my life until the climb began a couple of years ago. While therapy did little except drag up tons of old stuff (childhood issues, physical and psychological abuse) that was then left to fester un-dealt with, the meds – currently 550mg Quetiapine, 20mg fluoxetine – have clipped the ends of my mood swings. There’s been no obvious hypomania for quite a while now, no deep low. My sleep is still almost as bad as ever and decades have passed since I slept right through the night – if indeed I ever did so.

Anxiety is always there to some degree; it’s the main symptom of my ultradian bipolar that hangs around stubbornly poking a long stick at me. The OCD, while a nuisance and often unpleasant, is mild and I can handle it.

I’ve had to live with this my whole life – I don’t just have bipolar, I am it – and as the saying goes, I’ve survived every bad day I’ve ever had. I’m still here.

But I’m still doggedly hanging onto sanity. Those claws could slip any moment making me fall into madness.

I call it (but only to myself) the other one. That other me sharing my body but lurking in the shadows rather than being out here with Me. The one in the mirror sometimes. Dissociation is something else I’ve always had; I can remember it in existence as a child. I’m uncertain whether the other one wants to choose madness. I think we always opt for survival, and bipolar suicidal ideation I believe to be little about actually wanting to die but rather, wanting to be free. To be whole, to be well. Whatever that is.

On the edge of madness, 24/7. Fighting a range of battles, physical and psychic. It’s quite the balancing act. Sanity is winning a struggle against ‘inner demons’ or the other one. Always teetering, always throwing one’s weight in the direction of self.

 


Who Do I Care For, Really?

I spend way too much emotional and physical energy toward the care of others, aside from myself. Why do I care so much, too much? No doubt due to my upbringing, to my relationship to my parents – trying to please, to…