Side Effects

I didn’t receive my official diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder until 2012.  I wasn’t even aware that I had rapid cycling Bipolar II Disorder until some time last year.  Prior to that, I had been diagnosed with depression as early as 20.  It would come and go, as episodes normally do, and there were years where I went without medication. 

When I started my treatment for Bipolar II Disorder, one of the medications I was put on was Lamictal.  Lamictal is a mood stabilizer and is also utilized to treat seizures.  For the last eight years, and the countless antidepressants I have been on, Lamictal has been the only constant.  One day, out of sheer curiosity, I decided to look up the side effects of Lamictal only to be horrified at the fact that a lot of people suffered memory loss.  My memory has never been stellar, and I do know there are times where I completely lose my train of thought – thanks ADHD, but I also forget words.  I’ll pause in the middle of my sentences, close my eyes in desperate search of the word I know I want to use, and almost always seem to fail to find it.  I don’t only close my eyes when I’m writing, I do this in face-to-face conversations as well.  I then have to go about finding a substitute word that doesn’t quite convey the message in the way I intended it but was the only word I could find at the time. 

Yesterday, during my original edit of Social Distancing and Romantic Relationships, I wanted to reference a conversation I had with my mother.  Unfortunately, I could only remember the gist and no matter how many times I wrote it, I knew it was wrong.  I cut the paragraph out entirely because it wasn’t honest and I’m not here to write fables. 

My memory loss with Lamictal is concerning but I’ve never brought it up to my psychiatrist.  Mainly, because I’m still able to function on a daily basis and also because I’m done being a guinea pig. 

I’m also on Pristiq, the sister to Effexor.  Effexor and I have had a love-hate relationship over the years.  It works well but over time, my body seems to reject it in the form of excruciating migraines.  I never had an issue with Pristiq when I was first prescribed it but it was name brand only and my health insurance wouldn’t cover it.  After about a year or so, and hundreds of dollars out of pocket later, I asked to be put back on Effexor.  Around two years into my second time with Effexor I began experiencing migraines again.  I found out Pristiq now had a generic version and I asked to go back.  Unfortunately,  while Pristiq works for me it also has horrible withdrawal symptoms that I experience if I’m even just an hour late.  You read that right, an hour

I have learned that in order for Pristiq to be effective for me without experiencing withdrawal symptoms, I must take it first thing in the morning. If I take it in the afternoon, it seems to go through my body faster and taking it again in 24 hours is almost impossible.  I’ll begin to get dizzy around hour 22 with hot flashes, nausea, and an inability to move my eyes around without feeling as though they’re lagging.  Yes, lagging – a total delay in my ability to continue to see even though I know my eyes have moved.

So why am I still on Pristiq?  Because my medication does work for me.  I am more stable than I have been in years.  So the side effects aren’t pretty but they’re manageable and I’m still thriving.

Side effects can be pretty scary so I know and completely understand why so many people are opposed to being on any type of medication.  But for me?  Being on medication has allowed me a sense of stability I haven’t experienced in years.  I’m thriving in ways where I felt limited before.  Every day I’m still learning and paying attention to what my medication does to my body and adjusting the course along the way.  I’m transparent with my psychiatrist when a new issue arises and he always offers me suggestions…many I choose not to take and say, “Let’s reevaluate this in 30 days before I make that decision.”  News flash – those suggestions always end up being just that.

I still experience what I call “hiccups” where my depression does peak its head around the corner to remind me it’s still there.  But my rapid cycling between depression and hypomania is nonexistent.  That’s why I continue to take my medication – the pros outweigh the cons for me.  But what works for me, won’t work for everyone else.  I’ve found something that works at 99.9% efficacy – for me. Why subject myself to, as I called it earlier, being a guinea pig and trying to find a new combination just because that 0.1% is ugly?

I wrote this post because of how I struggled the other day.  But it’s important to note that I’m happy (most days), I’m thriving, and I’ve achieved the goals even my psychiatrist is happy with.  The grass isn’t always greener on the other side and if it is…it’s fertilized with bullshit.

Until next time…Love, Peace, and Chicken Grease ❤


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