Daily Archives: February 15, 2014

Top 5 Side Effects of Psychotropic Medication

Life after ECT. Much different, but better

This is my success story.. I hope others can share the same.

I’ve said it many times. ECT saved my life. In 2008, I went into a horrible episode of depression I couldn’t get out of, a crash from mania. I was in college, up north, and crashed, hard. I stopped eating, I lost a good deal of weight, and I was struggling to survive. I was SI’ing once a day, at least, and living in residence with one other person in a 6 bedroom apartment. We never really talked, she wasn’t there much.. Because “old res” wasn’t so full as “new res” a lot of people lived like we did, only a couple of people in the 6 bedroom apartments. So fortunately, we had our own bathrooms, we never saw each other in the kitchen, we stayed out of each others way.


My pdoc, 4 hours away, suggested ECT, and I said no, I wanted to try an MAOI. Everything else had pooped out. So I washed out the effexor in my system, and tried Parnate. No change. I got more depressed. I started dropping classes, and withdrew, tearfully, from that college, never to go back. Thinking about it upsets me, and I never want to go back. I had my first psychotic break there a year before, and then that. So I won’t go back there, even though they’re the only ones that offer that program. Fuck it. Not going back. Too many bad memories.





The college I’ll never return to.

I was immediately hospitalized. For months I waited for the referral to the hospital doing the ECT. I got it. They tried me on different meds, and eventually my pdoc there, Dr Br (my GP is Dr B) and I brought up ECT. After a physical and tests on my heart (as I had tachycardia from Cymbalta at one point, bad, just an EKG, echo and Holter monitor) they did ECT. One session bilateral, the rest unilateral. The ECT doc ,I forget his name, had assessed me for hours before the physicals and stuff. They did the ECT, which was rather anticlimatic. There was no pain except a mild headache after. I only took tylenol for it, and they’d let me sleep all day. I was treated twice a week. The ECT nurse that took us to the general hospital (as this was a strictly psychiatric one) by cab or the hospital van, was outgoing, friendly, and let us bum smokes off her, since we were told to leave possessions at the hospital.


No, I’m not the sexy man getting an echo :*(

It wasn’t a negative experience. The staff at the General was always very nice. They kept a lot of students away, set up an IV, took us to Recovery, around 5am, and we’d watch the TV until it was our turn. My one roommate had just finished ECT and raved about how much it helped her, how gentle the nurses were with the IV. She was practically catatonic and bed ridden before the ECT. After, she was joining our other roommate and I in the art room and painting beautiful flowers, attending groups, and eating. I had thought she was physically disabled, but she was a lovely woman. She made me feel much better about it, and she and my other roommate, after my treatments, when I was wiped from the anaesthesia and muscle relaxants, they’d bring me food (food wasn’t on trays there, it was buffet style, and I gained my weight back on my own, no doctors telling me to) and snacks, and hang out with me. By supper I’d be raring to go, I’d eat in the dining room, a bit foggy still.




An ECT procedure. Not me.

The procedure I don’t remember. There’d be a mask over my face, warm blankets on me, the anaesthesiologist would tell me he was putting me under, I didn’t feel anything from it, and I’d wake up and we’d have a some juice, muffins and a smoke while waiting for our escort, and go back. I wouldn’t officially meet with my pdoc those days, but he’d check on me in my room and if I was awake, talk a bit, if I was asleep, he’d let me sleep. They treated us well there. Best treatment at that hospital I’ve ever had.



After 6 sessions, it was stopped, and my meds were reduced, and restarted. I was taking about 1/4 of the pills a day as before, and still am. The depression was gone. I was discharged after my assessment was done, August 1, 2008. After the ECT was discontinued, I was able to attend groups, go to the gym in the hospital and even play baseball outside on the night’s they had it. I can still hit, but I suck at everything else. I kept my weight up, they diagnosed me, they discharged me with the plan to my pdoc in my city, and 2 weeks later, I was working part time at a Tim Horton’s in my city.



A view from above of the hospital I stayed at. Huge grounds. Nice place.

After that I moved out of my parents, a few months later, and up north a bit to a friends. Things didn’t go well, and 8 months later I was back with my parents. It was during the summer, so I applied to college and got in for Computer Engineering. I hadn’t had a true depressive episode, only situational: like when my beloved grandma passed away that summer. I almost ended up admitted to the hospital, but they recommended I see a therapist. I found one on a sliding scale and talked about my grief. It helped. I got accepted to college and started in the January semester in Computer Engineering Technician, one of the more difficult programs.



Long story short, even though I failed a course (I underestimated the course and put too much work into others and not enough into that one, oops) and graduated a year late, almost dropping out a few times, I made it through college with one stay at Safebed’s, the alternative to a psychiatric hospital, with only counsellors on staff. I saw my pdoc twice in my week there. I had the Mirena IUD, which caused a lot of problems, at the time, so I had that removed. Things changed a lot without it, the mood swings, for one. I react badly to hormones it seems. My aunt, who isn’t MI, had the same mood swings with the Mirena and had to have it removed, too. It took a lot of fighting to get rid of it!


This stupid thing caused so many problems!

For school, I didn’t find it any different than before ECT. I didn’t do a lot of studying at home, and I pulled good grades. My memory wasn’t affected. I graduated with a B+ average because of one bad grade in a class, and I had a good counsellor at the college during my time there. He busted my ass. He was nice, but he wouldn’t let me get away with anything. He was always on me for not working hard enough. I did what I had to do to get decent grades. I was about in the middle of my class, and graduation day, I got a lot of congrats from my professors and a few letters of recommendation. I even, when I came back to redo my class, got offered a job as a peer tutor for 2 classes, which I took! Graduation day was pretty cool. Only 15 people in my course graduated, we started with 50.



Me, on graduation day, right before I shaved my hair into a mohawk. I didn’t do it before to please my mom. Then I added a few more piercings. I wanted to look good for her. 🙂

I didn’t get a job straight out of college, but I moved out of my parents, found a boyfriend, and had a lot of friends. I’ve had my ups and downs, but the highs aren’t as high, the low’s aren’t as low, nowhere near to that horrible episode up north when I had nothing in front of me, where I thought I was letting everyone down and had nowhere to turn. I haven’t really worked since college, but I have the diploma. I’ve done odd jobs, I do computer programming and some repairs, and I help my mom out because she’s in the same field. I just suck at networking (the class I failed and retook, fortunately, with a different prof. Oh, I failed it by 2%. If I had failed it by 1%, I would have grade appealed and graduated in 2011, not 2012).



Part of why I hate networking.

I still struggle. If I needed ECT, I’d do it again. Right now, I’m doing well. I’m hoping I can work part time this summer, if my pdoc approves it, so I can save some money for the future. I’m thinking about college for pharmacy technician. ECT for me was a lifesaver ,my last resort, and it helped a LOT. Times around it are fuzzy, I wouldn’t do it during school, I would have taken a leave of absence, but it did help a helluva lot more than the constant med switching did.


I had a nurse ,when I was IP last March, go “They don’t do ECT on bipolar patients!”. What a derp. I said “Bipolar people do get depressed, you know” and she goes “Yes they do” and walks off. I do tell people IRL. Some think its scary, traumatic, inhumane. I tell them of my experience, they say, “I never would have known.” I say, “Well, you do now.” One old college buddy says my nickname should have been “Gr33nm1l3″ (the horrible movie with the electric chair, horrible joke, but we have that kind of sense of humour, I laughed, sorry if it offends) because its “so much more 31337 (hacker talk for elite) than “San”.




I hate the death penalty

But it was there when I needed it. I’m glad they still use it. It saved my life, and eventually, I hope, I’ll live a more normal life. I know my life will never be normal, I’ve accepted that.



That’s what I call a juice junky!

 I’m doing well. Not at 100% yet, probably never going to hit it, but going up. If it weren’t for ECT, I doubt I’d be here. I think my dice have rolled pretty well.


The Awkward Dimension

Fuck sunlight.

Once again, I was up at 5am before my alarm went off, so I slithered out of bed, and dressed myself in the ol' workout outfit. It was as if the moon was calling to me again. I was unmedicated as of yet, apart from the previous night's whopping leftover dose of seroquel.

Today I tried the same escape plan as yesterday, only when I got to the starbucks at 5.30, it was closed. I was too early! So I went back home, messed around quietly for a while, then went back out, where I managed to get a picture of the fuzzy moon. I had a sudden realization while slowly walking home that I felt good outside in the dark, empty streets. I can't say I feel good any place else. Not even bed. I actually looked forward to having to come home, and do the trip all over again, knowing it would be by moonlight again. It was worth the overpriced baked goodies just to be outside in the dark again, free, alone, and listening to music.

While I was thinking of turning away from home and walking off into the dark, I started to think am I just  supposed to be nocturnal? Would that be a quick fix - to get on a nocturnal schedule? Years ago, when my
mania was at its greatest and best, I was not really sleeping at all, but definitely wide awake during the night, and loving looking out the window at the night sky. I know it's not supposed to be "normal" to be nocturnal, but what the fuck? What about "normal" people that work graveyard shifts and live in the dark? Is that not living a sort of nocturnal life? Is that so bad? Could it be a cure? Would it destroy what's left of my marriage? Since my spouse has been laid off, I've been missing my alone time, especially my morning alone time, so I'm getting up earlier and earlier and going to bed earlier and earlier.

I'm living in the "Awkward Dimension"! I don't know how to live! I don't want to live as if I have an 8-5 job! I don't necessarily want to live by someone else's schedule. Is that a crime? Is that selfish or is that something that might give me a little more sane time in the dark?

I don't think that SAD lamp is for me, and since my spouse bought it, I think he's going to be pissed and disappointed that I can't use it. Truthfully, it begins to make me feel like my skin is going to burn off, I get irritated as hell, anxious, jumpy, heart palpitations... He is probably the one that can really use it. I can't stand outside light coming in the room. He demands it. He should be trying out the SAD lamp. Hopefully he won't get pissed when I suggest it. I know he likes a room lit up. Unlike me.

 "Valentine is done..."

I can't say I was really sad yesterday, even though I had no valentine, no flowers or chocolates, no words or physical expressions of love or affection. We didn't even leave the apartment, apart from my moonlight escape. I just felt empty, except for making sure my daughter knew that I loved her. I wanted to make sure that she knew I was thinking about her. I hoped to death that she was happy. We were in contact, so that was way cool.

I'm suddenly reminded of PiL: The Flowers of Romance


I know the last post I did for V-Day was a Debbie Downer of a song to some, maybe even most, but I feel it actually gives me strength in my aloneness (not loneliness), and it's just so lovely sounding, with velvety vocals. I love it. I imagine being tall, cloaked in a long, heavy royal blue velvet cloak, standing almost like a statue, safe, and separating myself from the pain, or chaos, or humans that surround me that I can never really relate to. On very rare occasion, my eyes might tear up, but I won't let them fall.

Here in the Awkward Dimension, the Yardbirds: Over Under Sideways Down.  Groovy, man. Groovy.

Now as I try to wait patiently for my big dose of seroquel, let nausea take me down for a couple of hours.
tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock etc... Go crazy.

Why do you stay on meds? (Poll)

I stay on meds because the withdrawal would be too extreme. Kidding aside, so I can stay stable, and have a chance at functioning later on.

Can’t stop unintentionally losing weight.. Most people would love this!

I have the opposite problem to most.

I take Topamax, 200mg (just upped from 150mg). So I take 50mg in the morning and 150mg at night.. I also take Piportil (a depot shot, similar to Prolixin, but isn’t available in the US due to patents and stuff). It really helps. Clonazepam (0.5mg am, 1mg pm and rarely PRN) Lexapro (40mg am), Ritalin (20mg am, 20mg in the afternoon) and Artane for side effects (2.5mg am, 2.5mg pm). I am also a light (half pack a day) smoker, menthol cigarettes.


Smooth. I know people think menthol is gross, but it’s the only thing I smoke.

I’ve lost 40lbs since October. I was slightly overweight. I used to suffer from EDNOS, and I’m not engaging in any eating disordered behaviours. When I’m hungry, I eat, when I’m not, I don’t. I drink a lot of water, but also juices. Right now I’m drinking real orange juice. I stay away from pop (soda) because topamax makes it taste funny. I spent three days at my ex-bf’s, I don’t exercise a lot, I horseback ride once or twice a week and always eat a LOT after, coz its cold out and I’m just ravenous, and I’m still losing weight. It’s concerning me because I’m going towards a lower weight and I want to stay around my “set weight”, give or take 5lbs.


Fully clothed, after eating

I eat what I want, and that includes chips and salsa, which I always have in the house, normal chips (fried, generally), french fries, meatballs, soups and stews (I love ‘em). I usually eat oatmeal for breakfast or cereal.. at my bf’s we were making omelette’s with real cheese (I only had 2 eggs in mine, but we put lots of cheese and hot dog pieces in it), pasta, we’d go to McDonalds, and I lost weight. I’m not stressed out. I eat a lot of subs from Subway, I love close to one, and I don’t go for the “lighter” options.. my mom can also eat anything and not gain weight, but I’m still losing!


YECH. Except my vomit is less rainbow and tastes worse.

I hate Ensure.. I had to drink that crap when I broke my jaw in 2002. It nauseates me.. coz 8 weeks of drinking it, and milkshakes and UGH, you kinda get an aversion to it. I see my GP on the 28th for my Piportil shot, blood work because I’m expressing my concerns about the keep-losing-weight thing. Could it be my thyroid. He’ll probably check everything off for blood work, weigh me.. he is always right on what needs to be done.. I don’t deny myself of foods I want, but I just don’t want to eat sometimes, or I’ll crave something, go and get it or make it, and then just eat a bit of it.


Me, for sure. And my mom.

I love eating. I love food. But if you took me to All You Can Eat Sushi, I’d barely touch a thing. They said the weight loss from Topamax would stop around my set weight, but 110lbs isn’t my set weight, 120 is. People keep commenting “Oh my god, you’ve lost so much weight. How’d you do it!”. My blood pressure has been in the normal-a bit low, range. I don’t get dizzy standing up, sometimes I get a bit dizzy the day of or after the injection because I get a bit sedated for a day or two, but it goes away and I’m back to almost baseline.


I used to be able to eat the whole thing.. mmm

I hate complaining about something so many people wish they could do – lose weight without trying, but when I weigh myself (a couple times a week, not obsessively) and it goes down I’m like “Oh, shit! Dr B is gonna kick my ass” (well, he already sticks needles in it!)

feb15evildocNah, Dr B’s way too nice

I’ve actually lost 27% of my body weight. Take that Biggest Loser.

I’m cycling again

I am cycling again.  We have lowered my dose of Lithium again to try to get rid of the tardive dyskinesia, dry mouth, metallic taste, and bitter tongue.  Those problems are better but not gone.  Problem is, I am cycling.  I have been manic for a few days...obsessively tackling the mess and clutter that has accumulated over the months and years of depression and denial.  Note, I think Abilify can make you feel like you are doing better than you really are.

So, I am manic, for now.  I am up at 5:30 am making my to-do list.  When I am going in four directions at once, the children make me sit and listen to music or do nothing for a while...which is painful because there is so much that needs to be done.

I have no life.  I am a human doing.  And depression will come soon enough.  I am overdrawn and it is only the 15th of the month.  The sewer has backed up into the basement.  My only joy is feeding the birds and I am out of seeds.

I am searching for new coping skills.  I have cleaned off my overflowing book shelf and isolated a dozen or more books of inspiration.  I have moved my chair over by the shelf and read random selections in the morning and at night.  I have downloaded a long series of stretching and strengthening exercises for my core and hips hoping that that will bolster my commitment to walk...and my dream to run.  And I watch the snow, waiting for Spring.

At least I am desperate to feel better.  A month or so ago I was considering the alternative.

Reality Check

If ever I needed some healing energies—and I certainly do—I got them today.

I didn’t realize until last night’s blog entry drew a bucketful of concerned responses that things really were as bad as they felt. Laced with profanities and full of anger, it was the kind of post that tends to alarm my readers, and with good reason: I am not myself when I’m in a mixed state, and that is exactly what this is. It’s far from the worst one I’ve ever experienced, but it’s still a dangerous mood and it doesn’t help that I’ve been so upset with myself for getting sick again.

Enter Dr. Awesomesauce. After two years in his care, I continue to be amazed at how good he really is at his job, and how lucky I was to get him when I needed a mental health professional. He is perhaps the only person alive who can plant a boot in my backside without putting me on the defensive (and he uses that to shameless advantage), and today, I got a reality check when I told him how disappointed I was with myself. “Why can’t I go more than a couple of months without having this thing bite me in the ass?” I lamented.

“My dear, sweet M___” (he uses terms of endearment as a buffer whenever he has to say something he knows I won’t like) “you unfortunately have an illness that is going to keep coming back, over and over again, even if you’re taking your meds and sleeping and taking care of yourself the way you’re supposed to. You can do absolutely everything right but you are still going to get sick. It’s inevitable. Accept it. And PLEASE stop beating yourself up about something that’s not your fault.”

This is not the first time he has had to say this, or something like it. Being angry with myself is my default position, and it happens every single time I have a mood episode. I keep thinking that if I would just do things a little better, I could avoid the next one. It’s almost like having an abusive relationship with myself: if only I’d gone to bed earlier instead of watching the Olympics…..if only I weren’t so reluctant to take my PRNs when I need them…..if only I were a better person…..maybe I wouldn’t have to deal with this so much.

There was so much more to the session that it would take several pages to tell it all, including a hilarious story about trying to use his tractor as a snowplow to clear the driveway then getting stuck two-thirds of the way through the job with a blown tire and blocking the entire driveway in the bargain. There were also some comedic bits about kangaroos, Purgatory, my epic clumsiness, and how crocodile meat tastes just like chicken (now there’s a conversation that deserves its own post), but I digress.

The bottom line is I am loved and I have GOT to stop seeing myself as “weak” for having a condition that I know (at least on an intellectual level) has nothing to do with my character. Actually, that’s been the take-home message for the past several appointments; I just need to internalize it and take ownership of it. And that’s hard for someone who was brought up in a family where no one (supposedly) had mental illness or a drinking or drug problem. I’m the only one who’s ever been formally diagnosed, and believe me, it gets lonely sometimes.

But then there are days like today, when I’m reminded that there is warmth and light and love, and that I have the most awesome support system ever assembled in the history of the world. I am blessed indeed.


For Those of Us That Are With Someone, But Feel So Alone

[REMASTERED] Walker Brothers

The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore

For us folks that are not alone, that are in a relationship, but feel so alone, like me.