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.


Waking up

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.

You are tuned into Imaginary FM

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.

An escape hatch at the base of my neck…?

Last night when I opened my pill box and emptied out ‘Friday’, I realised I was a pill short. The 45mg mirtazapine (/Remeron) was missing, and there wasn’t one in either of the Saturday or Sunday boxes. Actually, I haven’t taken it all week. My reaction: hey, maybe that’s why I feel so miserable!

Can you smell the desperation?

It is an interesting accident though. The withdrawals don’t seem too bad, despite the high dose. What’s even more interesting is that I credited mirtazapine for helping me sleep, but I’ve done just as well without it. Maybe that’s because I believed I was taking it. Ugh I hate psychology sometimes.

I had a night out with some old friends, and during the routine of photo-taking and teasing I found myself secretly wanting to go home, and curl up. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends, but sometimes it’s so hard to go out and try and be the old me that they’re expecting. And yeah I know you shouldn’t have to pretend around friends, but I don’t think I could stand the concerned looks and awkward questions. I want the easy, ‘blander’ life.

Again I find myself really battling against the old destructive urges. There’s just so much hate floating around; self-hate, life-hate. I hate myself even writing that sentence, it just reeks of self-pity.

I told Dr T I don’t want to be in my head anymore, and I think he thought I was joking. I really wasn’t.

I get it. I won’t argue.

Nope, I’m not dead. Not physically at least. No, MQ lives on, in all her depressive glory.

Okay, enough with the dramatics.

It seems to me that my life always seems to end up being about ‘getting through the day’. Regardless of the highs and the lows, this seems to be the baseline. I try not to think, unless someone has asked me a question, or it’s work related. I use bathroom breaks to reassure myself with whispers that ‘I’m okay’.

I can’t do anything about nighttime, when the dreams settle in. They’re always pressured. It always feels sad, and heavy, and serious. They taunt me with old fears; airplanes and roller-coasters and clocks counting down. My family is in danger, my therapist wants me dead, and the world is about to end. Every night. It’s exhausting.

The diagnosis is the same: depression or dysthymia. The pills are the same: fluoxetine, lithium, mirtazapine, propranolol. I still have the same therapist, but as time goes on (we’re pushing something like four years now), I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m too…broken. Too twisted out of shape. It’s not normal, not typical, and not fixable.

The old temptations are the same, but dampened with work and home life responsibilities. I have the tools, but I don’t use them. I wish I would. Even though I have to live everyday with my scars and be conscious of them around my colleagues etc, the thought of new marks, new injuries, sometimes seems so right.

I’m not asking to be happy any more. I accept that just isn’t my lot in life.

But it could be easier. Please.


Mentally Stable

Newsflash: MQ has graduated from psych land! Or in other words, I’ve finally been discharged from the psychiatric hospital (outpatient).

Mentally Questionable has become a little less ‘Mentally Questionable’, and more stable.

It was weird walking out of there for what was hopefully the last time on Thursday. Unsurprisingly that place is full of memories; the rooms of the day-hospital that opened my eyes to other patients and problems, the clinic where I let them jack me up with ketamine, the wall that moved when my CPN quit, the crisis team…etc etc.

And I don’t need any of it any more.

After two years of experimenting with all sorts of drugs, my awesome psychiatrist found the right combo to keep me moving, and keep me safe. Applause for her, and applause for:

  • 60mg fluoxetine
  • 600mg lithium
  • 45mg mirtazapine
  • 80/160mg propranolol

She suggested I continue taking these for at least the next two years, and then if I’m feeling stable come down very, very slowly, one drug at a time. I was hoping not to be on lithium for that long (I’ve already been on it a year, and I know it can be damaging long-term), but perhaps I’ll review in a year’s time and see how I’m doing.

Now I’m off the psych books, the main sources of change for me have to be therapy, and obviously myself. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m certainly not brimming with confidence. But I’ll deal with that later. For now, I’m just going to celebrate a significant step in the right direction 🙂

Ditching Lithium

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:

  1. I’ve never been a-okay with the idea of taking lithium long term given what it can do to your insides.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. Possible withdrawals
  2. I’m on it for safety reasons. Enough said.
  3. 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.