This morning I set out my pills for the week as pictured, and felt a bit depressed looking at them all. I currently take the following:
- Fluoxetine/Prozac – 60mg nightly
- Mirtazapine/Remeron – 45mg nightly
- Propranolol – 160mg slow release
- Pregablin/Lyrica – 150mg nightly, 150mg in the morning
It adds up to a lot of pills, and I wish I wasn’t on this cocktail of chemicals. It’s also frightening to think about what would happen if I suddenly stopped taking them – I’d bet the withdrawals would be horrific.
I decided that I would get the bus into the nearest village today, which would be the first time I’ve used public transport since December. It didn’t happen. As I was getting ready to go, my anxiety climbed too high and I bailed. I’m trying not to be too disappointed in myself, but it is frustrating. As a compromise, I drove to the village instead, and while driving I was looking wishfully at all the people walking past who probably find life 100x easier than I do. Everyone has their own problems, but I doubt most people struggle to leave the house. I did a quick scoot around a supermarket and hurried back to the safety of home.
I really need to overcome this. When the anxiety started in December, I didn’t for a moment imagine it would last this long – I thought a month at most. It’s nearly April now, and I still can’t travel. Don’t get me wrong, things are easier than they were thanks to the pregablin, but I’m miles off normal.
Dosing up on Lyrica is HARD. Today was really difficult. As instructed by my GP, I took 150mg instead of 75mg, and oddly, five hours later I felt incredibly dizzy. I was at work and stood up from my desk to get lunch – suddenly the room was spinning and I couldn’t walk in a straight line. I thought it would wear off, like low blood pressure from standing up too fast, but no such luck.
Fortunately I have a friend at work who snuck me into an empty meeting room – I sat on the floor with my head against the wall and waited in vain for the physical drunkenness to pass. I wasn’t really well enough to be at work, but I also wasn’t in any fit state to drive home. I felt sick, but made myself eat a sandwich to try and settle my stomach – I think it helped a bit. Eventually I felt okay to return to my desk, and I did manage to do a little work. I made it home okay.
The big question is whether or not this is all worth it – I don’t have an answer yet, but early indications are promising. When my anxiety was at it’s worst, I was painfully aware of every minute that passed – it’s not like that now. I can get my head into my work, and concentrate on it solely for a while. If I think about my anxiety it does come back – I still can’t manage public transport, or drive very far, but I have hope that with this bigger dose of Lyrica these things could become possible again.
I didn’t get on well with the Abilify (aripiprazole) – I tried it for four weeks, and I struggled with insomnia the entire time despite already being on 45mg of Remeron (mirtazapine) to help with sleep. You’d think that being exhausted all day would at least mean the anxiety would die down, but no such luck.
I called my GP and we agreed to move on to the next drug – Lyrica (pregablin). I’ve been keen to get started with this one – it’s commonly used to treat anxiety, whereas the Abilify was an antipsychotic. Today is Day 2, and I have to admit the side effects are…interesting. I take it twice a day, and when I got to work yesterday I felt drunk. Mentally I was sharp, but physically I was lurching all over the place; I doubt I could have walked in a straight line. I’m working from home today so I can manage the symptoms from my sofa.
Work/anxiety-wise, yesterday was fantastic. I didn’t vomit. I didn’t panic. And, most impressively for me, I sat through an hour long meeting without having to run out once. It was amazing – I haven’t been able to do that for weeks now. Work are being really supportive – Occupational Health are very keen to do whatever they can to help, and I spoke to my boss who’s letting me work from home once a week and adjust my working hours. Maybe Lyrica is the reason yesterday was so good, but on a general note being in the office is less stressful than it used to be.
I’m keeping everything crossed that this lasts.
Yesterday, I came home from a hard day at work to FINALLY find my psychiatrist referral letter waiting for me on the doormat. ‘An appointment has been made for you to see Dr ABC next Thursday’. Fan-bloomin-tastic!
This afternoon I had a surprise phone call at work – my GP calling. She said she’d had an angry phone call from Dr ABC complaining that I shouldn’t have been referred at all yet – apparently there’s more to try before we need his help – so my appointment was cancelled. Ugh.
The upshot is I’m about to start taking Abilify (aripiprazole). I’m not thrilled at the prospect – I’ve had really bad reactions to antipsychotics in the past, and Abilify isn’t really renowned for helping with anxiety – but I have to give it a go before I can really discard it. Watch this space.
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.
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.
I’m going to try and stick to facts. If I let emotions creep in, I’m scared I’ll freak out.
Short version: I have an uncomfortable suspicion that I’m hearing things.
Longer version: It is probably nothing. I have been feeling kind of ill for the past few days; it’s weird – pain in my abdomen, like a severe stitch in my side that moves and stretches and makes it hurt to breathe.
It comes and it goes. I had to leave work at lunchtime on Friday because the pain was so bad, but it eased off on Saturday and I didn’t think too much of it. It came back today, gradually, until this evening I was having to really concentrate on regular breathing. And then I heard a long conversation that wasn’t actually happening. I apologised to a housemate for the noise another guest was making taking a phone call in their room, and my housemate gave me a long look and said the room has been silent for the last 30 mins. Our guest was asleep.
Okaaaay. Awkward. I went to get ready for bed not long after, and could hear my housemate had the radio on in her bedroom. I was thinking of asking her to turn it down…and stopped myself. I listened really hard by the door, and found silence.
Two or three years ago, I overdosed on all sorts of meds and had a hallucinatory trip. That started with me hearing a radio that wasn’t there, and progressed to loud voices laughing at me in the bathroom, and strangers in my house, while spiders ate the wooden staircase.
I’m not for a moment suggesting I think it’s happening again like that, and I certainly haven’t abused my meds. It just scares me to be hearing these things (and yes, I have verified they’re not real).
I don’t completely trust my senses as it is.