Bipolar Thoughts

Hard Pass

I have had a hard time staying on top of my medications lately.

And that is to say, I have not been taking them, on purpose.

I want to be off of them. I don’t think I need them. And if I do need them I would rather die anyway. Who wants to be tied to a couple of tiny pills for decades on end?

I am not convinced they work, which was the subject of my blog entitled “Does This Work?”. It is possible that the Lithium has leveled out my mood, maybe it stabilized my life in ways I will never know. But I have still had ups and downs, more than I ever had before my breakdown a few years ago. So what does that mean? If I am not back at that level, then what am I striving for?

The ECT worked like nothing I have ever been on. But, for some reason, maintenance ECT has been ruled out.

Over the holidays I just stopped taking my Latuda. And when I told my psychiatrist that he just asked me how I was doing, and told me that was fine. For him, it is all about Lithium. Lithium is best for bipolar. It manages mania. It suppressed depression. It levels out moods in both directions.

But I have been on Lithium for years now, starting back in 2012. I was taking it regularly when I had my two hospitalizations. It didn’t seem to work, right? I don’t know how I am the only person who expects more of the medication I am pumping into my body.

Here are some of the things I do know that Lithium does to me: it gives me diarrhea, most days of the week, most weeks. It gives me muscle weakness and fatigue. I cannot work out nearly as strenuously as I used to and it isn’t just because I turned 30. It makes me feel dazed, especially if I am doing strenuous activity. That one has a particular impact on certain activities with my wife that neither of us appreciate much. When I first was put on it, I had terrible tremors in my hands. I had no coordination, I couldn’t throw anything at any target with any consistency. It was a mess for a few months. That just went away, which I am happy about, but it really scared me. Frequent urination, which is doubled down by the fact that I take it right before bed with a tall glass of water or juice. Waking three to five times a night to pee is extremely common. My psoriasis is difficult to control, I get acne like you wouldn’t believe, more than I ever had during high school.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the fact that I have put on 40 pounds since I started taking it. Now, I don’t blame all of that on pills. I feel much more hungry, and I have cravings like I never had before, mostly salt (gimme those French fries!), but I could have better self-control. A more accurate way to describe this is that my weight has been all over the place since I started, varying almost 50 pounds from my lowest to where I am right now.

And for good measure I have to have my lithium levels, my liver enzymes, my kidney function checked regularly. And so pretty commonly something is up with one of those and something needs to be adjusted.

I wrote before that I am no longer in a position where I have the time to mess around. My family, my career, my life are all dependent on finding reliable treatment. I think the mental health community as a whole needs to demand more from the practitioners that we work with, from the pharmaceutical companies that medicate us, and ourselves to be as researched and knowledgeable as we can be.

That is the only way we will get the care we need.

Will I go back on Latuda? Probably not. Will I try another drug of this class? It doesn’t seem like my psychiatrist wants to. Since I first drafted this blog I have begun taking my lithium regularly again, but I want something better, because as I currently type this, I am in a pretty serious depression.

I fear that I will tussle with unimpressive results with medications for most of my life. I am hopeful that technologies that are even being tested right now, will become standard effective treatment soon. Until then I’ll keep struggling to stay on my medication, and my doctor will keep giving me that disappointed look.