Withdrawing.

Another night of feeling invalidated, feeling alone. Sure, have another one of my cigarettes. Tell me all about your plans for the future. A friend of a friend comes to the table, reluctant to sit down (later I learn about his transphobic and homophobic nature, it’s no wonder he didn’t want to sit with us, we probably reek of queerness). My friend starts to introduce us to him and I interrupt by blurting, half-drunk, “He doesn’t care” and am I wrong?

My mood fluctuated from cackling in the passenger seat of my best friend’s car about how we didn’t even want to go to this stupid thing to sulking, slumped, drinking a two-dollar Shock Top and smoking a Seneca, texting my best friend, “Sorry, I’m depressed.”

And then the sex talk begins and I just want to smash that beer glass into my face.

I’m mad at everyone and I have no right to be. I’m just crashing back and forth and the rage from my disorder is erupting within me at random points. Something as small as a facial expression or the positioning of a limb or how this new guy sounds like every other boring fucking white kid on the planet is enough to trigger me.

Two beers down and I’m drunk, in part due to exhaustion, in part due to an empty stomach. We get up to leave. My friend (who we came to see at this shitty sports bar) asks, pleadingly, pathetically, “You can’t stay for five more minutes?” and I growl back, “No.”

Let’s fast forward to the next night. Riled up yet devoid of all energy–how it’s possible, I’m not sure. I binge eat and go from dancing on my patio to The Weeknd to sitting on my bed (with this terrible pain in my neck), totally exhausted but resisting sleep, listening to Radiohead. What a turn of events.

I have plans for tomorrow morning but I’m honestly not sure if I’ll be able to wake up in time. Waking up has been a struggle.

Also, those deep feelings of sexual repulsion have still been happening to me. I thought they would subside, but I guess not. But that’s just another thing for the people around me to not take seriously.

Should I stay for five more minutes?

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Consume(d)

I have been terribly absent from this blog, and for those of you who actually read my posts, I’m egotistical enough to say that I hope you have missed me. I think my absence is just a product of apathy. In general, over the past five or so months I’ve been at a loss for words. I haven’t been writing–not on here, not on my own time, and getting myself to sit down and write papers for school has been a struggle.

It’s been a stressful few weeks, to say the least.

It’s been a stressful semester.

I need to find a new job. The reason as to why is very stupid. The hiring manager neglected to tell me that colored hair (and my hair is blue, okay) is a dress code violation and won’t be tolerated. So after over a week of working there, I was told to get rid of it, basically. Well, I’m stubborn, and not easily persuaded by minimum wage, so no, I’m not going to chop my hair off to satisfy The Man. Therefore, the hunt for yet another new job begins. I have not told my parents about this yet because it’s shameful.

Ever since I received the assignment to create a radio play for my poetry class, a dark cloud of anxiety has been floating above my brain. I finally got to record and edit it, so it’s done, but today I have to present it, and I don’t know how to utilize technology so I’m not sure how I’ll do it. I have three research papers to write, all due on my birthday. I still have six books to read in the next five weeks.

I’m just very overwhelmed and very tired. I had a good day yesterday–I got through my Scholar’s Day reader’s theater presentation and had the support of my father and my best friend. Bennett and I went to breakfast, then I took her to her first bar. Later, as we went outside my house to smoke, I felt myself crumbling. I just started crying and apologizing, subsequently, profusely. I feel attacked and overthrown by my mental illness and I feel alone in the battle. I have no therapist or psychiatrist anymore, and the medications I’m on are doing absolutely nothing. No matter what my friends say, I feel like I can’t talk to them about my state of mental health, and anyway, to be honest, they’re not entirely all that helpful. There’s something about a mental health professional that’s just…more useful. Not that I don’t love my friends, because I do, and I’m grateful they are willing to listen. I just don’t feel welcome to speak of such things. Because they can’t help me. And I haven’t told my family how poorly I’ve been doing because it’s shameful.

All of this morning I’ve been having anxiety attacks. It’s, without much doubt, a combination of stress, PMS, and depression. I don’t feel safe in my own mind and in my own body. I want to tell my dad, but I won’t because it’s shameful.

Right now I’m just holed up in the library, looking for new jobs, feeling like shit, and wanting a cigarette or to just die, really, because dying would be the ultimate relief from this storm that’s raging inside my skull.

-Zara

Email to Psychiatrist

“Hi there.

I know you said I should feel free to email, though I still feel odd about it, but I’ve been having a particularly rough time lately so I thought I would reach out.
On Thursday I had a breakdown. I guess I was due for one. It started in the early afternoon, when I was in my last class. I felt so irritated and stressed. We were reading a play aloud and I felt so angry and like I might cry. I kept digging my nails into my hand. One of my peers commented, after class, how I looked upset. I got to my car and cried a little. When I got home I didn’t know what to do, since I felt the entire thing escalating, so I just laid in bed, but that didn’t help. I felt myself losing control more and more and in my frenzy I harmed myself, purposefully, then went outside and sobbed for a long time, feeling ashamed and alone. My best friend asked if I wanted her to come over, to which I didn’t respond. I eventually went to bed and slept for twelve hours, which just gave me a piercing headache. When I did end up seeing my best friend, she didn’t even ask how I was feeling. I felt slighted. I feel very isolated these days. If I can’t talk to her about my feelings, then who can I talk to? I’m realizing just how helpful our sessions were. I know I need to look for another doctor but it seems like a chore.
My mental health has deteriorated, yet again, as it always seems to. School is incredibly stressful this semester, mostly, I’m sure, due to my lack of good mental health. I feel overwhelmed and unmotivated. I’m getting mostly B’s when I should be getting A’s and this flaw is stressing me out even more. I’m putting immense pressure on myself but am unable to live up to it. I also very recently lost my job, as my company did some downsizing, so there’s another stressor for me to deal with.
I have absolutely no one to talk to about all of this and I don’t know what to do to help myself.
Anyway. Thanks.
-Zara”

Drug Information

This is a piece I wrote for my nonfiction class back at MCC, titled “Drug Information”. It’s a list of just some of the medications I’ve been on over the years and their official uses and side effects intertwined with my own experiences. Thanks for reading. –Zara

Abilify (Aripiprazole): Used to treat mood disorders as well as depression. You will be handed multiple sample packets of this to try alongside your other mood stabilizer. Your psychiatrist won’t tell you that it’s also an antipsychotic, which is probably why you don’t have success with it. It claims to improve concentration, however, you will just feel restless and irritable. You will tap your foot much more often than you already do.

Deplin (l-methylfolate): Technically a medical food, this is used in patients with low red blood cell folate. This will be added on to your Lamictal prescription, although Deplin should not be mixed with Lamictal or other anticonvulsants, as they can interfere with its effects. It can, however, be added onto an antidepressant, but remember, antidepressants are not good for your mental disorder. No common side effects of Deplin have been reported, so if you do experience anything out of the ordinary, such as an allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately. You were wrong to be prescribed Deplin and you will be taken off it quickly.

Effexor (Venlafaxine): This is an antidepressant. You’re not supposed to take antidepressants, but you’re 15 and you listen to your psychiatrist blindly. Some young people have suicidal thoughts while taking Effexor, and you will be one of them. You will feel agitated and irritable, impulsive, hostile, and your thoughts will be cloudy. You will carve the inside of your forearm with a razor while taking Effexor and you will be hospitalized; don’t worry though, everything will go back to normal sooner than you think.

Gabapentin (Neurontin):  An anticonvulsant, originally developed to treat epilepsy, and is currently also used to relieve neuropathic pain and restless leg syndrome, also used to treat bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders. You will take this after stopping Lamictal, but it will be unsuccessful as well. Side effects include weight gain, dizziness, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, swelling of hands and feet, and blurred vision. Less common, and more serious, side effects include flu-like symptoms, jaundice, loss of appetite, stomach pain, shortness of breath, chest pain, confusion, and vomiting, so beware.

Klonopin (Clonazepam): A very popular benzodiazapine. This does help to subside your anxiety, but certainly not enough, as you constantly live in a state of panic. Speaking of panic, it will not help you with your panic attacks, as it takes up to an hour for this medication to kick in. It’s almost useless, but no doctor will prescribe you Xanax, so you’ll have to deal with it. Remember to get your blood tests done to make sure your liver is still intact. You really shouldn’t drink while taking Klonopin, since it can be fatal, but you will anyway.

Lamictal (Lamotrigine): One of the many anticonvulsants you will be prescribed. It also, supposedly, treats mood episodes in adults with bipolar disorder. You will be on this medication for years and experience no positive difference, but you will be too afraid and too exhausted to switch to anything new. You may experience thoughts of suicide – ironic, isn’t it?

Lithium: A natural element which is supposed to affect mania (too bad you hardly ever experience hypomania). Despite this, you’re willing to try anything at this point, and you’ve heard of great success stories from people with bipolar disorder taking Lithium. Who cares if it destroys your kidneys? You’ve moved past that. Lithium will make you nauseous, cause your hands and feet to tingle incessantly, and screw up your digestive system, but it will pass. You already have a small bladder, but be sure to drink plenty of water while taking this medication. Also remember to go for your bi-weekly blood tests.

Tegretol (Carbamazepine): Another anticonvulsant, but it is supposed to help with bipolar disorder too. You will experience hardly any adverse side effects when starting Tegretol, which is surprising. You will feel much better around 800 mg. You will be exercising regularly, eating right, and generally feeling hopeful about the future. You will be amazed. But this will end, and you will sink back into a deep depressive state. You will gain all the weight you lost back. You will stop engaging in healthy activities. You will make poor choices. You will feel suicidal. It will be as if you did a complete 180. Your psychiatrist will continue to raise to dosage in attempt to help you, but this will cause a toxic reaction, so you will request to stop taking Tegretol. Weaning off this will be a bitch, too, just to warn you.

Topamax (Topiramate): An anticonvulsant primarily used to control epilepsy as well as prevent migraines. It’s also approved for weight loss, which is your main incentive for willingly trying it, but again, it too will be unsuccessful. It is used to treat bipolar disorder, yet there is no evidence to support its use in bipolar disorder. However, if you do become an alcoholic (and you’re well on your way), good news! It’s successful as a treatment for alcoholism. Common side effects of Topamax include dizziness, weight loss (you won’t lose any noticeable weight, though – too bad), nausea, fatigue, numbness in the arms and legs, and stomach pain.

Trileptal (Oxcarbazepine): An anticonvulsant also used to treat bipolar disorder, and another medication you will have no success with. Common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, headache, weakness, balance problems, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, indigestion, tremors, and vision problems. Do not drink alcohol while taking Trileptal. Call your doctor right away if you experience changes in mood (shouldn’t it change your mood, though? Well, it doesn’t anyway), suicidal thoughts, signs of inflammation, liver problems, or severe skin reactions. Trileptal can decrease the sodium in your body and cause a life-threatening reaction, so be on the look out. During the sample period of a year, the FDA reported 50 deaths directly related to Trileptal. Tread lightly.

 

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Eight

Something I struggle with:
My mental illness, as many of you already know.
I was diagnosed as having bipolar type two quite young, so young, in fact, that for a long time I doubted my diagnosis. But as time has gone on and psychiatrists have come and gone and research has been done, I realize it’s accurate.
I’ve been through many medications, some listed in a nonfiction piece I wrote which I think I’ll post. I’ve been on many that did nothing, many that worsened my condition, and a couple that helped for short while.
I struggle with things others may take for granted. I have to take medications every day and deal with their subsequent side effects. It’s a long process of never-ending trial and error. My moods shift abruptly and when I’m very depressed, I don’t feel like doing anything and it’s obvious. My illness is unique to me. I cry more easily than others, am extremely quick to anger, and once in a while, experience complete mental breakdowns, some more serious than others. I’ve dealt with self destructive behavior for nearly nine years, including cutting, binge drinking, and drug use.

My generalized anxiety and panic disorders also contribute to the way I deal with the world and how I experience life. Sometimes simply going into a public place seems daunting, and I quickly evacuate after entering. I never know when another panic attack will happen and despite how many times I’ve experienced the attacks, it’s never any less frightening.

So many people struggle with some kind of mental illness, and I’m thankful for those of us who attempt to help others and also break the stigma in society. It’s tough to live in a world which doesn’t like to acknowledge such issues exist. Some people tell us we’re wrong, we’re being dramatic, to just get over ourselves. If only it were that simple.

At least we can struggle together.

–Zara

Medication Update

I’ve lost track of how many updates I’ve done, but as for the Latuda and Lithium combination, it’s been six days of 750mg of Lithium combined with 60mg of Latuda. I went from 10 to 20 to 40 combined with my full dose of 900mg of Lithium over about a month.

Here are the Latuda side effects:

  • dizziness, fainting, fast or pounding heartbeats;
  • agitation, hostility, confusion, thoughts about hurting yourself;
  • seizure (convulsions);
  • fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, sores in your mouth and throat;
  • high blood sugar (increased thirst, increased urination, hunger, dry mouth, fruity breath odor, drowsiness, dry skin, blurred vision, weight loss);
  • very stiff (rigid) muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, feeling like you might pass out;
  • trouble swallowing; or
  • twitching or uncontrollable movements of your eyes, lips, tongue, face, arms, or legs.
  • drowsiness;
  • feeling restless;
  • nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, loss of appetite;
  • blurred vision;
  • weight gain;
  • breast swelling or discharge;
  • missed menstrual periods; or
  • decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm.

I haven’t noticed much in terms of side effects, actually, nothing at all, aside from nausea, which I also experienced while very slowly increasing my dose of Lithium. Maybe I’m susceptible to nausea. I did notice that I’ve vomited twice in the past month or so after drinking. I rarely vomit from drinking. The last time, aside from late November, was April of 2014. So the nausea is not my favorite. It’s just plain uncomfortable. I’m also worried about gaining (more) weight, so I hope that “loss of appetite” side effect kicks in at some point.

Nevertheless, the last time I saw my psychiatrist, he said I seem to be doing better. It’s hard for me to tell sometimes. I’m still depressed and feel a lack of motivation in terms of eating better and exercising. The lack of daylight doesn’t help, nor does the exhaustion that comes from work and school and driving so much. But I have been somewhat motivated when it comes to my writing. I went on a big submission kick, started a new short fiction piece, wrote a few poems, and have been more active on here. The passive suicidal thoughts are mostly gone. I have my worries, but I don’t feel overly stressed about them. I haven’t cried in a while. Today I realized it’s been about three months since I had a panic attack, which is really, really good.

I hope the good continues and the bad continues to dwindle. I’d like to start being more physically active, despite it being winter. I’d like to continue being active with my writing. I hope my mood stays where it is, or better yet, improves. I have some home. Some.

–Zara

Latuda

After seeing my psychiatrist today (what an even that was), he said we should stop the Lithium (I’ve been taking 900mg for a few months now). He was open to the idea of an add-on at first (I suggested Tegretol, as I’ve had positive effects with it in the past), but once he asked about the side effects of Lithium I experience (nausea, terrible acne, stomach issues), he said we stop just get rid of it. He gave me some sample packets of Latuda, 20mg each.

I have some reading to do on it before I take any of it, but if anyone has had any experience with it, particularly in conjunction with any form of bipolar disorder, let me know.

Z