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.
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.
The last few days have felt horrendous, but they’ve been worth it. I forced myself to keep reading my old journals, and cringing aside, something stirred inside me. I know who I am. Where my head is. I know I’ve been sleep walking through the last two years, hiding from anything that might cause anxiety. I chose blissful ignorance, the easy life, avoiding problems by not actually doing anything.
Today I wrote a new journal entry, and it felt like clasping hands with an old friend.
I told Dr T that I can’t coast through the six months of therapy we have left to work with. I’ve been going to him for five years now and I STILL struggle to be open with him despite the trust we’ve built – I don’t think I’ll ever have that level of trust again, so if I don’t somehow beat my depression now I’m really scared I never will. And he listened. Asked the things I wished he wouldn’t. It’s hard, harder than running 5k, but it’s right. Now the low mood has a twist of hope, and that makes it bearable.
Therapy isn’t the only arena of change – I’ve decided it’s time to lose the lithium. I’m not bipolar – I’m on lithium to boost the fluoxetine – so I don’t think it’s a dangerous move. For now I’ve gone from 700mg to 600 – I don’t know if I have the patience to go this slowly. Surely the withdrawals if I go cold turkey can’t be worse than they were for venlafaxine?
If anyone reading this has come off lithium, I’d be very interested to hear your experience.
A couple of days ago I received a letter in the post from my GP surgery, asking for me to come in for a blood test (lithium related). I had it done this morning, and the nurse told me to ring in a few days to get the results…except, I’m not sure I care. And if I don’t care, why on earth did I bother to have the test?
The lithium clearly isn’t killing me. I doubt I’d really mind if it was, so it doesn’t matter if my lithium blood level is too high. And I can’t tolerate a greater dose, so there’s not much I can do if the level comes in too low.
I had the test because the letter told me to. I’m just a sheep. Do this MQ. Okay, sure. Just don’t ask me to feign interest.
One day I’m going to reach the point where my vein is damaged-beyond-use from all the tests and the donations. Then I’ll regret this.
It’s a sorry state of affairs when someone is nice to you and your brain goes WARNING WARNING DON’T GET ATTACHED. That said, part of me is grateful for that warning, like I’ve just subverted a threat. A friendly woman (who I’ve known a little while) was caring towards me, and it becomes an attack. Stupid brain.
I’ve been reading through some of my old posts here, and current me seems pretty similar to old me so there’s a lot of solidarity high-fiving going on. In particular I’m drawn to that post I wrote when my old care-coordinator finally understood why I was suicidal (‘A strange kind of closure‘) – because I didn’t look forward to anything – and that’s something I said to Dr T yesterday.
Life is just endless cycles of stress. Get anxious about A, go through A, get anxious about B…etc etc. Even holidays make me stressed, so I don’t have any, which probably makes me ill.
I don’t expect to find a job I truly and thoroughly enjoy. Why should I? My one true, lifelong passion, to write science fiction, is over before it began; my creativity died long ago. I’m not interested in relationships.
I’m here because I have duties, to people like my parents, and I’m here because of the meds; the lithium dampens the suicide ideation, and the mirtazapine knocks me out so at least I can be unconscious if I’m not at work. Literally, I wake up, go to work, come home, and take the mirtazapine as soon as it’s socially acceptable for me to do so (I have housemates). I kill any time in-between with Tetris (I may not be cool, but I do have quick reflexes).
Is this a life at all?
As the title suggests, I’m considering ditching lithium, today onwards. I’m not bipolar, but I’m on 600mg lithium daily as an add on to fluoxetine and mirtazapine in treating depression.
Three reasons for dropping lithium:
- I’ve never been a-okay with the idea of taking lithium long term given what it can do to your insides.
- Lithium dulls my brain (and the brains of many other people, according to ye olde internet). I would like to try my non-dulled brain again.
- I’ve read some accounts about people stopping lithium that are quite…intriguing. For example, people having repressed memories returning.
There’s also a time constraint pushing me to try this now – I start a new job in a couple of weeks, and even stopping taking lithium today it’ll take five days for it to wash out of my system. If coming off it turns out to be bad, I have time to recognise this and add lithium back into the med cocktail with minimum impact on work.
Reasons not to ditch lithium:
- Possible withdrawals
- I’m on it for safety reasons. Enough said.
- I don’t know what will happen.
If anyone reading this has experience or knows anything about quickly cutting lithium out, I’d be keen to hear. I’m not consulting a doc, because a doc would say don’t, at least not this quickly. But I’m running out of time here.
Today is a dark day. Not dark because anything terrible has happened, but dark because I can see the darkness. Dr T made a casual comment in therapy today about how the world might seem like a joyless and heavy place, and it hit me afterwards that that was spot on for me. I don’t look forward to anything. I start to doubt the concepts of happiness, and love. Creativity. It all melts down to obligation and pressure, with no real ‘win’.
I thought about sitting down and drawing out a mind map of what the world looks and feels like through the eyes of MQ, but my instincts warned me not to. Outlining all the reasons I don’t enjoy living (now and/or in the forseeable future) could be dangerous, and I could do without that given its the time of year when support networks (docs, therapists) tend to be away on holiday.
I’ll come out and say it: I don’t feel all that safe at the moment, because the theme of overdosing has emerged again recently. When I started taking lithium, I had to stop taking ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) which had always been a bit of a lifesaver for me, so my doc started giving me prescriptions for tramadol. These prescriptions started at a time when I was rebuilding my overdose stash after the last lot was confiscated (after I ODed), and I got in the habit of asking for more tramadol every time I went to collect my lithium. I deliberately hardly ever took those pills, even when I REALLY needed pain relief, because I was dedicated to piling up this stash *in case I needed it*.
A year or so later, circumstances have changed slightly, and I can take ibuprofen, so now I have absolutely no excuse to ask for tramadol. But I will keep asking for it. I know I will. I’ll just feel more guilty about it.
(Yes, I know I should hand all the boxes over to a pharmacist or someone, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I’ve collected boxes of tramadol for months, and I can’t let it go. My brain just tells me I might need it.)
I never claimed to be intelligent…