Tag Archives: mental health

Medication

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vitamins-521365_640So, a friend who deals with depression and anxiety was wanting to compare our medication history and how different meds have had such different affects on the two of us (as you can imagine, this is a common conversation between experienced mental health patients and family members of mental health patients). I figured that since I took the time to type it out in one place, I may as well share it here. I’m leaving out plenty of stories, but this hits the basics. And humor hits the spot and is the spoonful of sugar for psyche outpatients. (I still haven’t been an inpatient….I really hope that I never have to.)  And to those reading this who may need some of these meds someday, remember that our bodies are all *very* different. I was in the very small minority with some of my reactions to these medications. You can’t give up from having one or two bad experiences. Fortunately, I started out with good experiences. But the right meds will be helpful. And don’t *even* think that I would have been okay without medication. I know it’s not the same for everyone, though. But that’s a tale for another day. And I appreciate the concern of friends and family members who freaked out as I was (and still am) going through this. Not that I want them to continue to freak out…I just appreciate those who studied the meds I was on and were concerned.

***PLEASE NOTE: I am not trained or qualified to diagnose or give medical advice on any type of psychological or psychiatric condition.*** The purpose of this blog is simply for me to share my experiences.

To my friend “Gabby”:

Effexor has been amazing for me. I’ve been on it for about 10 years now, I think? It replaced a few years on Paxil. I noticed an immediate difference. It’s still helping me, even though it’s been that long, but the doctor’s had to add the Prazosin and Klonopin and Ambien. He wanted to add more anti-anxiety drugs, but the other two we tried gave me horrible side-effects, and I think we’re down to a place where I can’t do several categories of drugs for various reasons: one category gives me Parkinson’s Disease symptoms (which would become permanent), one category lowers blood pressure and I already have low blood pressure. I think Klonopin is one of those, but the “safest,” and it hasn’t lowered it in the few months I’ve been on it.

Yes, Neurontin helped me get to sleep. Prozac actually made me sleepy (I think I was one of 5% on that one) so I took both at night. If my anxiety/insomnia gets bad enough, though, not much will put me to sleep. I think that’s why they gave me the Ativan at the hospital. It did the trick. The “retrograde amnesia” was rather amusing. They were going to have me stay the night, but my “home teachers” from church (one was my bishop) came to pick me up and the hospital felt comfortable letting me go with them. Most of my shaking had stopped and I’d managed several hours of sleep. They took me to the In N Out drive thru on the way home because I was starving. The last thing I remembered was entering the drive thru. The next thing I remembered was waking up in the morning. My roommate thought it was pretty funny (we need a sense of humor about these things.) I mean….what a tragedy. I got to eat In N Out and I didn’t get to remember it? I still don’t remember any of it. So I called my home teacher and he said that the hospital had warned them that I would end up forgetting things. Maybe it was a higher than normal dose? And I called the hospital to ask if I’d ever remember it….they laughed and said that it was normal and that most likely I wouldn’t ever remember. Such a tragedy.
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Worst medication experiences for me: Zyprexa (made me gain 60 pounds in six weeks. Yup. I went from 127 to almost 190. They took me off it and I lost most of it in 6 months. 127 was too low for me.) It was too bad because I felt the least anxiety on that med that I have since I was a child. But I was *starving* ALL the time. I was very, very strange. Abilify made me gain weight, too.
Other bad medication experience (the worst) was Geodon. It helped my energy level and made my sleep schedule almost normal. After about 7 months on it, though, the Parkinson’s Disease symptoms started. I could do hardly anything with my hands. Signing my name was stressful. Somehow my psychiatrist didn’t pick up on it, and I’m not one to always know that something is a problem. I thought they were side effects I’d have to live with. It affected my eyesight and I needed glasses to read. One of my legs bent and turned inward as I walked. I had developed a facial twitch (which I hadn’t noticed) and TMJ. My arms twisted in and out, too. My father in law and ex-husband (my former father in law has Parkinson’s) were the first to think something was really wrong. I saw my parents for the first time in several monthsand my step mom flipped out at the changes she saw and called my doctor and insisted they see me right then. Getting things done fearlessly is definitely one of her strengths. I had to see a neurologist for a year, and I couldn’t drive for a year. The shaking went away and my eyesight back to normal, but the neurologist was disgusted and said that it would have become permanent. I really appreciated him and his help.

My doctor here tried two other meds recently, both which gave me problems. Seroquel gave me bad flashbacks as I was falling asleep, and I was starting to have problems with my eyesight again. I can’t remember the name of the other one, but I was depressed. That’s when I asked if I could try a sleep medication. (See two entries ago for more on that).

I cannot wait to try some holistic remedies when (hopefully not if) I get my disability back pay, if I get approved for disability. It’s supposed to happen any time now.

 

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Conquering the Volleyball Fear, Part 2

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I talked a little bit about learning to overcome one of my fears (volleyball) here.  I’ll also repeat why I’m doing it here:

So, when it comes to PTSD and anxiety, doing things that you’re afraid of can be very healing overall. The tricky part? It needs to be scary enough, but not too scary. The whole “need not run faster than you have strength” still applies. (Mosiah 4:27)

Last week went a lot better. I paced myself and I didn’t come even close to being disoriented. I even had fun playing, and went and played a couple more games on and off throughout the night. This “pacing yourself” applies to just about everything in life, apparently. But if I start to get dizzy or have other issues that won’t go away by relaxation techniques (breathing, self-talk), and someone says “but we really need players,” I will make the wise choice and sit down anyway.

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Volleyball-Induced Panic

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This is just a harmless, cheerful-looking volleyball, ready for play. In theory. I think that’s even how I see it, but if I have to be in front of that net, with people all around me, those people (and especially that ball) fill me with dread.

There are plenty of things I am good at: school, music, socializing, French, getting to know new people. But when it comes to sports, the ones I love to participate in are swimming, running (if it weren’t for my knees), hiking, and capture the flag. Capture the flag can involve spying and subterfuge. The rest do not involve a ball. Why it is that I have good coordination on the piano and not with a ball, I’m not sure. Oh, and the big exception: soccer is fun. That involves my leg muscles and my feet. Completely different. And football? I have a hard time watching it, but I actually like to play it. Tackling people can be fun. Growing up, though, volleyball was the sport I feared the most at school.

When I worked at the Grand Canyon one summer between years at college, we used to play huge games of volleyball with all the employees. A couple of patient guys decided to help out those of us who really struggled. The motto that they had us repeat? “The ball….is your friend.” (It’s not the same without the dramatic pause in the middle.) I actually made a lot of progress that summer. I haven’t had much of a desire to play since, though, but I love to watch others play.

So, when it comes to PTSD and anxiety, doing things that you’re afraid of can be very healing overall. The tricky part? It needs to be scary enough, but not too scary. The whole “need not run faster than you have strength” still applies. (Mosiah 4:27)

I’ve been going to our single’s group’s “volleyball and board game” night one and off for a couple of years now. Yes, I’ve been invited to join in with the volleyball game many times. I finally decided last week that maybe I should give it a try. People were mostly just warming up. I didn’t stay in very long, but I was proud of myself. Then this past week, I decided to try again. I stayed in longer. But then they “really needed people,” so I stayed in even longer. For several games. Those of you who have never experienced this kind of anxiety may not understand this, but I could feel my anxiety level getting higher. I kept thinking (how many times have I been through this?) that if I breathed in and breathed out and tried not to panic, I’d be okay. But I’d stayed in too long. I’ts not like the kind of panic that you can hold off for a while, or make feel better: it takes over, completely. I was telling myself that I was fine, but I was intermittently forgetting where I was and what I was doing. It’s disorientation at its finest. It only lasted a split second each time, but it wasn’t good. The game ended, and I was sitting out in the hall trying to get my bearings back.

I had fun, but I need to honor the limits that I know work. When I first was dealing with these high levels of anxiety, it seemed like it took forever for me to figure out what those limits were and to learn how to stand by them to both myself and others. I guess while I’m trying to heal, it’s not much different.

The people I was playing volleyball with were all extremely supportive and kind, so it had nothing to do with that. And I have not given up: I’ll just honor my limits better.

You mean I’m not okay? Self awareness…

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Today was one of those days. I really needed to mail a package to my daughter. I thought, “If I just get dressed and get going, I should be okay, right? Then I’ll be so happy that I got this done.” So I got ready and got on the bus with my package, got off at the right stop, and made it to the Post Office. The weather was nice for this time of year. I really wasn’t doing so well, though. I’m still not 100% sure what’s bothering me, though. I thought I was doing okay. I don’t know how we people with anxiety (or depression) manage to convince ourselves that we’re all right when we’re not. For me, it usually comes after a day when people who aren’t around me and aware (or sometimes who are, but not usually) are wondering when I’m going to get something done.

So the man at the post office is helping me out, and the first thing he says to me is: “Are you okay!?” “Um, yeah.”
A minute later: “Are you sure you’re okay, because you’re really worrying me. Are you really okay?”
Me (embarrassed, there’s a line behind me): *sigh* “Yes, I have an anxiety disorder. I’ll be all right.”
Then as I leave, he says, “You take care, okay?”

So, I decide that I’ll feel better after I eat something. I get my food and sit down and check for a phone call I’m waiting for. The girl working there comes up to me, “Are you okay?”  (This time I’m flummoxed. I really think that I *look* okay, but obviously I’m not hiding it well.)  I realize my head is in my hands. “I’m fine, thanks,” as I quickly resume eating.

After eating, I’m still not feeling great. I sat there for a while, savoring a song that I really like that is playing. I had planned on walking a few blocks north to the Dollar Tree, but I realize on my way to the bus stop that all I want to do is go home.

I much prefer the days where I get dressed and get out and feel invigorated, even if my energy level may or may not be where I’d like it to be: not these days where I’m in denial because I’m tired of not getting things done.

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“You Seem So Capable….”

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superman-295328_640This is something I’ve heard more than once. Frankly, it’s something that frequently goes through my head, so I understand where it’s coming from.

In my inexpert non-doctor but “I live with myself every day” opinion, these seem to be my biggest issues with being able to work:

  1. I can’t guarantee that I can be somewhere at any specific time
  2. I deal with debilitating fatigue
  3. When you see me, I’m *usually* at my best
  4. I still don’t understand all of my “triggers” or where they come from, so I have a lot to work on
  5. When bombarded with unexpected or expected triggers that take over quickly in an unexpected way, my mind just “shuts off.”
  6. I have both a “genetic tremor” that, when combined with the shaking from the anxiety, kind of freaks out employers. They want me to go to the doctor to get it “fixed.”

 

Things that throw people seems to be that

  • I usually have higher than average abilities socially (with some quirks thrown in, but who doesn’t have that…)
  • I have (supposedly) a high I.Q.
  • I have a lot of people skills, writing skills, networking skills, etc.

However, I also need a lot of sleep. My son asked a really good question of me one time when he said, “But if you work out, will you eventually work through the fatigue and build up more resistance and be able to sleep less?”  I wish this were the case. I’ve been dealing with the fatigue for twenty years now. Sometimes I can do more than others. Somehow it seems tied to my anxiety. I can walk 3-5 miles several days a week and I’m just fine. If I try to up the amount of just about anything I do, though, and I keep pushing it, my ability to endure doesn’t increase.  Instead, my body “crashes.” The most common thing that happens in that case is that I end up sleeping for about 30 hours, and you couldn’t wake me up if you wanted to or if I wanted to. If there was a fire in the building and someone didn’t carry me out or lead me by the hand, I’d probably die. It’s just a fact, not asking anyone to feel sorry for me.

When my son (now 17 years old) was an infant, I experienced extreme sleep deprivation. I was put on anti-depressants after that, and changed my diet quite a bit (I went gluten-free before he was born) and slowly gained more stamina. When my daughter was born four years later, I was doing a lot better, but it wasn’t hard to tell that I didn’t have the stamina that other moms had. I either felt like I needed to go to bed around 6pm, or I felt “wired” like I just needed a few hours to myself after everyone else was asleep. I was also so tired that I would forget to eat enough during the day, so just before bed I’d be shoveling in food during a time when I didn’t need to worry if everyone else was getting enough.

I didn’t take my kids many places, compared to the the other moms we knew in the graduate student family housing where we lived. If I started to think, “hey, maybe I am normal….” I’d have either friends or random strangers ask me if I was okay. The general consensus of the other moms was that I always seemed more tired than other moms. I supposed that, coming from other moms of small children, that was saying something.

I think that, more than anything, the way my mind will just “turn off” is the scariest symptom I have. I look normal (I think) when it happens, but if people try to talk to me, I can’t speak back. It can take a lot of effort to remember what is going on around me.

I think the mind turning off started towards the end of my marriage. I don’t mean to be negative towards my ex-husband, who has made a lot of progress and is a good dad and provider and (thankfully) remarried several years ago. He was in graduate school, trying to finish a PhD., and at least three or four years before that had just gotten tired of my anxiety issues. I had had several doctors and therapists tell me that I needed more time to relax, or things would get worse. He didn’t like that because he wasn’t sure how we’d accomplish it. He often took the kids to school, took them to the grocery store with him, or to visit his parents. But towards the end of the marriage and during the divorce, I could be completely wiped out, and he’d just leave. My kids watched a lot of t.v. and movies. More and more I had difficulties sleeping, no matter how tired I was. I felt like a zombie. I wanted to talk about other things we could do, maybe talk to people at church for ideas, and I was seeing a psychiatrist at a Post-Partum Clinic who after a year or two had me transfer to the Anxiety Clinic.

There was a lot more to it, but probably not worth sharing. I asked him if maybe the kids and I could go live with his parents, but he didn’t want that. My psychiatrist there (and the ones where I’ve lived since) said that I already had PTSD at that point, but that my marriage had made it a lot worse. The anxiety seems to have started when I was about 9 or 10 years old. It’s a very long story how I figured out that part.

LDS links on Mental Illness: President Packer

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Jesus shows compassion and heals the man who has been waiting in vain at the pool of Bethesda.

Jesus shows compassion and heals the man who has been waiting in vain at the pool of Bethesda.

President Packer, of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (then Elder Packer) gave this classic talk in 1991 entitled “The Moving of the Water.” I quote only a portion, but you can read the rest here or I will place the video at the bottom of the post. (Video currently only available via this link)

 

There has always been in all of humanity a sprinkling of those who are described in the scriptures as the blind, the halt, the lame, the deaf, the withered, the dumb, the impotent folk. We refer to them as having learning or communication disorders, as the hearing or visually impaired, as those with motor or orthopedic limitations. We speak of intellectual or emotional impairment, of retardation, and mental illness. Some suffer from a combination of these, and all of them cannot function without some help.

I speak to the families of those who, at birth or as the result of accident or disease, must live with an impaired body or mind. I desire to bring comfort to those to whom the words handicapped or disability have very personal meaning.

I must first, and with emphasis, clarify this point: It is natural for parents with handicapped children to ask themselves, “What did we do wrong?” The idea that all suffering is somehow the direct result of sin has been taught since ancient times. It is false doctrine. That notion was even accepted by some of the early disciples until the Lord corrected them.

“As Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

“And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

“Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:1–3.)

There is little room for feelings of guilt in connection with handicaps. Some handicaps may result from carelessness or abuse, and some through addiction of parents. But most of them do not. Afflictions come to the innocent.

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The very purpose for which the world was created, and man introduced to live upon it, requires that the laws of nature operate in cold disregard for human feelings. We must work out our salvation without expecting the laws of nature to be exempted for us. Natural law is, on rare occasions, suspended in a miracle. But mostly our handicapped, like the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, wait endlessly for the moving of the water.

 

The Moving of the Waters

Sacrament Water Spills, and other shaky things

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“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

 

Before I begin, there is no sin (that I’m aware of) in accidentally spilling the water from your sacrament cup in the LDS Church (more commonly known as the Mormon Church). (Yes, I’m Mormon.) But when I was already feeling anxious, and clutching my multi-colored “Koosh” ball as a “mindfulness” technique most of the rest of the time, finding out that my tremors had gotten bad enough that I couldn’t hold the tiny clear plastic cup of sacramental water without causing a mini earthquake and spilling 10-15 water droplets all over my dress and hands mortified me. Me, the one who is not usually concerned with what other people think in so many areas of my life after over 20 years of dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, severe anxiety, severe fatigue, and depression in some form or another. The spilled water ran down my fingers and chin as I managed to place at least half the water from the small cup into my mouth and down my throat, at which point I placed the empty cup back in the tray, felt the small feeling of peace that comes back to be every now and then these past weeks where my anxiety level has risen a great deal, (ups and downs) and keeps me from falling headlong tumbling with my hands covering my eyes and other sensitive parts into a big, dark, deep black pit lined with who knows what.

It’s the friends I’ve know who have also dealt with mental health issues, both more and less severe than mine, who help keep me feeling sane and reminded that I’m not “odd,” just sick. In other ways, I may enjoy the “odd” appellation. I haven’t quite embraced it in this sense.

It’s the circles I’ve been in in various places I’ve lived who are accepting and even rather open that some of them deal with depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder, or have a family member with schizophrenia: or other “less accepted” or “less well known” trials in general. As if we’re empowered to be able to say, “I can’t do certain things anymore. I need help. How can I get through this again?”

But I remember this oft quoted phrase in mental health circles: “Your current survival rate of getting through hard times is 100%.”

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