Oh, just livin' the Bipolar life

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I just finished my usual Sunday night routine. I filled my pill case. I have one of those really big ones- the granny pill cases, I call them. The print telling me "SUN, MON, TUE..." is very large. Easy, pop-open tabs. Giant compartments. Grand assortment of meds filling them. After getting married and changing my insurance to Tricare, I've refilled all of them by now. It feels like I take new medicine every week. Between the changing colors of my birth control to indicate a different week, the antibiotic I have for an infection, Lunesta, and the 2 generics I'm on, it really does feel like a new medley.

Here's something you may not know about generics. Let's take lamotrigine (brand name Lamictal). I've always been on the generic but it changes frequently. Last month it was blue and diamond shaped, this month it is white, round and a big divide down the middle. Every pharmacy stocks the generic from a different company, and if they run out, they may not order from the same company again. Taking generics of mood stabilizers or antidepressants (head meds, you could say) is very risky business. It's not at all like taking Advil versus the Target brand. You have to tread carefully when getting on all of this in the first place. Each pill has side effects and studies are done (for YEARS) on each brand, giving a careful listing of them when the drug is released to the public. But a generic of a head med is not the same. It can have completely different side effects. This is what really gets my goat when I go to the pharmacy. It's less the pharmacy and more the insurance. The insurance company obviously wants to pay the least amount of money, so generics are favored. The problem is that you can get very dicey results if you switch rapidly from a brand to generic- they are not the same thing. Not at all.

I'm sorry, but I need to vent. I am currently taking about 425 milligrams of medication every night, not including my antibiotic. Here are all of my side effects: blurred or double vision, constipation, diarrhea (hehe from the same pill!), dizziness, decreased coordination, drowsiness, headache, nausea, painful menstrual periods, runny or stuffy nose, stomach upset and pain, tiredness, trouble sleeping, vomiting, weakness, and weight loss. Did I say all? Whoops, those are just for the lamotirigine! I can also have from my other meds consitpation, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, increased appetite, joint pain, light-headedness, stomach upset, stuffy nose, tiredness, weight gain, anxiety, decrease in sexual desire, difficulty with coordination, dizziness (again!), dry mouth, headache, indigestion (taking these meds is not good for the stomach, trust me), nervousness, vomiting, unpleasant taste, cough, increased saliva production, loss of coordination, tiredness. Isn't that all fun?

A few days ago a flight attendant went on a "rant" while giving the general instructions to passengers. Apparently she said some things about crashing and 9/11 and other things that caused so much discomfort to passengers that two of them had to subdue her. She was then taken to a hospital. It came out that she was Bipolar and hadn't taken her medication that day.

Oh, where do I begin?! Shall I talk about how I just want to hang my head because mental disorders, my mental disorder, to be specific, just took another nose dive in the public ratings? Can I talk about how my skin gets really hot and my hair stands on end when I hear a phrase like "they should make people like that take their meds." "Danger to society" starts rolling around. Do I shrug and agree that, yeah, she should have been on her medicine while working? Then, my friends, where does it end? Because while I agree that ranting about planes crashing really shouldn't be done by flight attendants before takeoff to passengers, neither you nor I have any sort of authority to say that being Bipolar was a part of that or that she should have to take her medicine. The list of side effects I gave you should tell you that I put quite a bit of myself at risk every day in order to control my brain.

Have I mentioned that I keep losing weight? Yep. I'm 120 soaking wet and 5'9". That makes my BMI 17.7. Underweight. Very much so. A size 2 in pants is generally a little loose. I'm eating more fat and more protein, but it doesn't seem to be doing much. I have extremely low blood pressure- normally a great thing, not so great when you factor it in with everything else. So I'm sorry guys, but I can't agree that anyone should have to stay on their medication, no matter their job. I put this medicine in voluntarily and sometimes the effects are enough to make me wonder if it's worth it. In the end, I know it is. I know what it's like to not have them. Even being on them isn't a sure bet that I'll be fine (see blog post from a few days ago).

But most days I deal with it. I try and eat more, I deal with going to bed very late, I do the laundry, I make dinner, and I live my life. Just remember when you think of yourself or anyone else that I'm on a calculated group of medications that took years to figure out. Pumping someone full of something isn't going to help them necessarily. I will also be the first to advocate and have people remember that the adverse effects of being on these head meds can be life threatening and if you feel like you are going to harm yourself or someone else, you stop taking them and go see your doctor immediately. ER if you need to. Medicine can be great and wonderful and it can also be the bane of your existence. If you are Bipolar/Depressed/etc, I can offer this advice. A. Work carefully and honestly with your doctor- if it doesn't feel right, try something else. Be honest about your side effects- even if you think they aren't related, they might be. B. Tell your doctor if you want to stop taking it- and why. The flip side of that is to stop immediately if you feel like it could do irreparable harm and then go to the doctor. C. Have faith. It will work out eventually.

So that's my soap box for the night. Have a good one, and I'm going to go find something to eat...

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