Missing some Zs

A while back I took myself off of lithium and Prozac to reclaim some mental sharpness. That’s left me with mirtazapine (Remeron) and propranolol (Inderal), except I’m slowly having to admit that neither are really doing much for me.

I was put on mirtazapine to boost the Prozac, and I liked it because it helped me sleep – it did such a good job that I stopped abusing over-the-counter sleep meds. But, and that’s a really sad ‘but’, for the last couple of months it’s been getting harder and harder to fall asleep. It’s not that I’m thinking about anything in particular, or that something’s overly worrying me – more that I’m just restless somehow. When I do get to sleep I get locked into these strong dreams that mean I wake up feeling exhausted. Dr T would say that’s good in a way, because it means my brain is processing something. It’s hard to hold onto the positivity when you’re really tired.

It doesn’t help that I’m not very physically well either – I’ve had an infection for a little while now that I can’t seem to throw off, and over time I’ve felt increasingly nauseated, dizzy, and sometimes a bit feverish. MQ, go see your doctor. No. I don’t want to show the infection to anyone, let alone a doc. (And no, not because it’s self harm or anything like that). I know that’s stupid, and childish, but it’s not enough to get me over the line to ask for that help.

I felt so unwell yesterday that I couldn’t go to work. Truth be told, I didn’t really feel a whole lot better today, but it struck me that I could be off work indefinitely if I didn’t toughen up. That won’t work; as ever the world demands money.

I might try and cut down on caffeine, see if that helps with getting to sleep. And I’ve got a bath bomb kicking around somewhere; I could have a long, late bath.



Fading into silence

A couple of days ago, while having a cup of tea with family, my Nan turned to me and said ‘I can’t understand a word you’re saying; you’re so softly spoken’. And my gut reaction was SCORE! Like this comment freed me from all obligations to speak in future. Of course that’s not what it meant; if anything it was a criticism, an instruction to speak louder. But deep down it really pleased me.

My parents are worried when I visit them, I can see it in their faces. I don’t say very much anymore. I actively don’t want to speak – if at all appropriate I’ll nod or shake my head. Conversations are things that happen around me. We went out for a long dinner tonight, and the sum total of my vocal input was giving my order, and saying ‘No, I don’t think the menu has changed since last time‘. Seriously. I could see my Mum trying to draw me in, directing questions at me, but it was like I wasn’t really at the table.

I feel kind of guilty, but at the same time, I can’t help it. If I forced myself to talk more it would feel so false. My Dad is starting to get angry about it – yesterday he asked me if I’d ever tried tofu – I shook my head – and he stared at me angrily until I said ‘No’ out loud. Was it worth it, Dad?

I’m told I look sad. I don’t feel sad.

I don’t feel anything.

‘Hey – doc – I’m not getting any life signs here…’

In a therapy session a few weeks ago, Dr T seemed genuinely surprised when I said I still consider myself to be suffering from depression. At the time, I reeled from it in surprise that we were so out of touch, but actually it raises some important questions about progress.

I DO consider myself depressed. Call it dysthymia again if you want to give it a label. Life isn’t great, or good – the components are there (e.g. a steady job, accommodation), but there’s no real happiness. No joy of living. I wouldn’t say I’m overly sad, or angry, or anything particularly negative. I guess it’s some kind of emotional void. I can tick over like this, and days, then years will pass without comment.

I don’t connect with people. I’ve gradually lost most of my friends, and I don’t find I have the motivation to actively pursue the friendships I have left. I care about my family, some old friends, and some work colleagues, but I don’t go out of my way to see them, and social situations are often a chore.

Therapy is flat again – in the last session I sat there and thought to myself ‘Actually, why are we here, sitting in silence, achieving nothing…maybe I should quit.’ I’m lying. It was the session before last. I cancelled my last session due to lack of motivation to go, with a sprinkling of physical illness.

I could get a different job. Move to a different city, maybe even a different country. Join a dating site and look for love. Try out some new hobbies. Find a bar, pick up some random guy. But what’s the point? The apathy is potent, so why risk rocking this numbing equilibrium I’ve got going on?

To be clear, I’m not asking for help. I have no right to, if I know I don’t have the drive to follow it through. This is more observation than anything else.

A sad salute

Judge me for the subject matter if you want, but I can’t not say this.

Last night I was sat with family watching TV, idly checking Facebook, and a headline caught my eye in the corner of the screen. A name I knew. Chester Bennington dies age 41 in reported suicide.

“Oh my God…oh shit…oh shit..!”

I rarely show much emotion in front of other people, so unsurprisingly my Mum looked at me in alarm, and my aunt sat bolt upright on the edge of her seat. “What is it? Is it terrorists? Is it a bomb?”

And for a second I hated them. “No, it won’t matter to you, someone’s died, not someone you know.” Leave me alone to process this.

“Who is it? Come on, who is it?”

“Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park.” I was heart-breakingly embarrassed as I admit this, like a lot of people are when they feel a connection to a group that everyone else seems to laugh at or put down. So they shout sometimes. So what?

“Oh right…oh, well they were your favourites when you were a teenager, weren’t they? Oh dear. Oh look, it says on my phone this Chester guy did drugs. Oooh, six kids by two different women.”

We’ll put that aside for a minute.

I’ve never seen LP perform live (now I never can), and I’ve never met Chester Bennington, but in the world of celebrities he’s probably the one who means the most to me. His voice is unbelievable. Sometimes hauntingly soft, sometimes furiously loud, sometimes rough and raw, sometimes smooth, measured, and always utterly captivating. Many of Linkin Park’s song lyrics stay with me in one way or another, and I don’t know who in the band wrote them, but I think at least 50% of my attachment comes from Chester’s delivery.

I’ve been an LP fan since I was 11. Hybrid Theory was the first album I found I could sit down and listen to in one go, fully absorbed. I remember as a kid listening to With You on my Walkman in the car, miming along, and I got so swept along by it that my parents had to tell me to shut up because actually I was kind of breathily shouting. LP can do that to you. Hybrid Theory, Meteora, Reanimation, A Thousand Suns and Living Things are my go-to comfort music.

At 19 my mental health started to deteriorate, and singing along with Chester helped me to express feelings I didn’t really understand at the time. Most memorably, there was a time when I ran away from uni, from home, to the coast, with the intention of commiting suicide. I went to a rocky beach in the dark, intending to go and sit in the water until hypothermia took my life (it was Winter), and it occurred to me I could listen to LP while I was waiting. The music brought me back. I walked up and down this beach in the dark, probably a couple of miles in total, and screamed the lyrics into the wind. There was no one else around, no lights, and I could let everything out. I didn’t kill myself. I went back to my hotel, and the next morning I went home.

I’m not being dramatic, or trying to imply that Chester Bennington saved my life, but he and Linkin Park helped me to keep it on that occasion, and have been helping me hold onto sanity for years. I am so, so sad that Chester committed suicide. I’m sorry that he was in enough pain to feel the need to do that. And naturally, I’m so sorry for his wife, his children, his friends, his bandmates, and everyone else who will be mourning this loss. I didn’t know Chester at all and I feel so much pain – I can’t imagine what it’s like for those who did know him.

Here’s hoping he’s found a better place now.

I don’t remember anyone mentioning this when prescribing Prozac…

Having made such great progress taking myself off lithium, I keenly decided Prozac (fluoxetine) was the next to go (after six years, most of it at 60mg a day) – and why not right now?

= mistake. Oh boy.

I went from 60mg daily to 40mg, stayed there for two days, then cut down to 20mg. That was early last week.

On Sunday the nausea kicked in – I thought I’d caught a stomach bug. Except it was more than that. It was like having a cold too with sniffles etc, and maybe flu because my joints ached and it hurt to move. Yesterday the nausea subsided, to be replaced by all-mighty brain-zaps. It feels like there is WAY too much electricity in my brain. Every movement seems exaggerated, like I might fall. I can feel my pulse in my head. I’m sure that I’m physically twitching, although my housemate is assuring me she hasn’t noticed.

Venlafaxine withdrawals were hard for this reason, but they were intense and over in a couple of days. This seems really drawn out, and I can’t keep taking time off work. At the same time, I’m not safe to drive. I’m not really that safe to walk!!

I’ll post again in a few days when hopefully my brain has settled down, but in the mean time I just had to wave a flag to say Prozac withdrawals can be a real *****. I found ‘SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome’ on the interweb, read the symptoms and yelled ‘THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I’M GOING THROUGH.’

Given the really long half life of fluoxetine, I was under the impression it would be really easy to come off, especially if I didn’t go cold turkey. If I had known it could hurt like this, I’m not sure I would have stayed on it for six years.


MQ – Li = ?

Life is hot. Seriously. The UK is in the grip of a heatwave, and it feels like reliving summer holidays to the States. 

The good thing about this is I feel so tired and yuck that I haven’t really noticed any withdrawals from the lithium. As of last night, I’m lithium free! A week or two ago I was going on and on about how it felt like coming alive again, but I’m not sure if that still applies. I don’t feel anything at the moment…except hot!

Last week I had a quick trip to Spain to see an old friend – three seconds after take off it became apparent that monstrous anxiety is still alive and well inside me. I freaked out, convinced with every teeny tiny bump that we could be about to die. Picture someone clutching the seat in front for the entire flight, and trying to hold back from telling air hostesses to eff off when they ask if I’m alright. I felt tears of relief when we landed.

Naturally, I worried about the flight home for the duration of my time in Spain, and when the time came I had a surprise. Once we took off and the bumping around started, I went kind of manic. Manic as in hyper, bouncing around, singing Adele’s ‘Rumour has it’ over and over and over. It was awesome. People kept turning round to stare at me, but when I’m manic I really couldn’t care less. I hadn’t had one of these swings in a year or two so I slowed down the lithium reduction for a couple of days. 

So now I just have to see how it goes. Therapy is as hard as ever, so that’s where I’m expecting to see the difference. I don’t really want things to feel more intense there, but I recognise they probably need to if we’re going to make a difference. 

I wish I felt braver. Time isn’t giving me much choice.

Slow and steady wins the race, but does she have the patience?

Since Wednesday I’ve gone from 700mg lithium daily to 500mg. I haven’t noticed any withdrawals, but I think the flush out takes a good 48h plus, so early days.

Its killing me to go this slowly. Every night when I pop open my pill box I have to fight the urge to remove some more. Get this over with. But the responsibilities of a full time job win over – last time I went cold turkey and had a hard time, I could stay at home and keep out of sight. I can’t now. Especially given the recent…screw up.

On that note it’s been okay at work – I had to talk to a couple of heads of division to explain myself which was a bit nerve racking, but my co-workers have been very supportive and laughed it off like nothing. It’s amazing how quickly the pessimist in me can take over – when I realised my mistake last week I was immediately thinking through the consequences if I resigned, and where else I might look for work. I feel pretty pathetic for crying, but hey, I felt terrible.

I wonder how I’ll feel post-lithium. For me it’s a buffer, numbing everything a little – which was perfect when I was suicidally depressed because it took the heat out of my worst moods. The thought of feeling those achingly bad moods again scares me a little, but I don’t think I’ll be able to forgive myself if I don’t give my all in therapy, now that time is limited. I need to be sharper. I need to feel my anger, sadness, and fear in order for them to pass. I think losing lithium could really help.

I just need to not rush the withdrawal and end up dealing with some stupid med drama that detracts from the real work.