Just Lamotrigine

… yeah. I didn’t take the trazodone Wednesday night, nor Thursday, nor last night. And I’m doing better. I feel like I’ve woken up from a bad dream. And speaking of dreams, I’m back to my usual anxiety dreams – which I KNOW are dreams once I wake up. So much better.

My anxiety is kinda overwhelming tho. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to feel like this. I have a thing I need to be not only present at but act in a professional capacity. I think I can deal with it, but I’d wanted to go to a cultural event at my local library – no pressure there, just show up have fun and leave. But I was kinda freaking out about it – especially the leaving and getting to my later commitment on time part – so I guess I’m not gonna go. It’s just easier that way. There will be other opportunities … right?

*sigh*

I’m kinda doubting whether I’ll ever be able to find and maintain gainful employment.

I don’t want to stay on just lamotrigine, and either way I’ve been thinking for a while that it would be good to increase my dose slightly. I’m debating whether I should ask to go back on fluvoxamine or clonazepam. The former was a rocky start, but I got used to it and I think staying on it might’ve been good for me. The latter … I don’t think I ever had any problems with it – I don’t remember any. It helped with my anxiety. It’s not the safest med in the world but you know what, fuck it. I’d rather be functional while I’m alive than live longer.

Something tells me getting my prescriber to agree to this won’t be easy. I’m writing her a letter in hopes that will prevent me from ‘acting irrationally’ at our next appointment.

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Quit Playing Games with My Brain

Disclaimer: Anytime I write about medications, I’m sharing my own thoughts and experiences. This is NOT medical advice.

I had a rough time on the fluvoxamine maleate, at least initially. September was a stressful month anyway, though. So, it’s kinda hard to determine whether the problems I faced were a response to stress, a reaction to my meds, or some combination. All I know is I started occasionally mispronouncing words that normally I’d have no problem pronouncing correctly. I had to stop most of my Green Party activity because I was getting too overwhelmed. And I was suicidal.

I visited with Banji the first weekend in October and felt much, much better by the end of it. But I’d already told my prescriber about being unhappy with the fluvoxamine, and she’d already switched me to a new medication. Almost reluctantly, I weaned myself off fluvoxamine this past weekend and started taking trazodone.

The only things I’m happy about on trazodone are that 1) I’ve stopped mispronouncing words, and more importantly 2) I had the good sense to make sure I wouldn’t be driving for 5 hours on a new med!

Since I started taking trazodone Sunday night, I’ve had weird, vivid, disturbing dreams that it’s taken me a while to realize (once awake) were dreams. I’m having a harder time falling asleep, in part because the occasional involuntary muscle movements are becoming more frequent. I feel like I’m having trouble staying asleep, but that could be because my sleep cycle is shifted later than it should be. I feel groggy and tired. I’m anxious and having trouble concentrating and following conversations. On Monday while driving I couldn’t see the sign for the place we were going until we were practically there. When people gave me directions I heard “right” and thought “left” until the last moment. When I speak I’m too aware of my mouth movements and I feel like I’m listening to someone else.

When I told Ron about this stuff, ze said, “If you feel like your brain is broken, the trazodone is doing its job. It’s a hospital med used to shut down the brain of a patient who is psychotic and make them sleep. As an outpatient, if you are not psychotic, you have no business taking those meds.”

Ze urged me to find a new prescriber. I … I can’t. Not like this. And even if I were 100% on top of everything, I’d probably have to make my first appointment at least a couple months in advance. And that’s assuming the places I called even had mental health prescribers available – most are already overwhelmed with too many clients.

IF I remember our conversation correctly, my prescriber said I could try this med for a few days and stop taking it if I didn’t like it. I’m sure I remember her telling me I don’t have to wait a whole month, and I don’t think she said I should call before stopping. But I’ve been thinking for a while that I’d rather take just the lamotrigine if that’s what it takes. Maybe all I need is another slight increase, I’m on a pretty low dose.

Being on clonazepam wasn’t perfect, and I know there can be risks – particularly addiction. I feel like my sleep was more satisfying on the fluvoxamine. But I miss the way my brain worked on clonazepam. I rarely felt anxious – that’s probably the most important thing. I might’ve felt depressed, but I was functional. I knew I could do what I needed or wanted, and when I tried I would usually succeed. Now …

Thoughts on the Las Vegas Massacre

From what I’ve seen, the dominant narrative about the perpetrator of the recent shooting in Las Vegas is that he probably had a gambling addiction, might’ve been badly in debt, kept to himself, and didn’t really settle down anywhere. Notable, IMO, is the insistence that “he didn’t have any political or religious affiliation.” And of course there’s the “lone wolf” narrative – all very typical, sweep it under the rug, nothing to see here, just another shooting in the US. Argue amongst yourselves over gun control.

Oh and we’re not saying it was mental illness, but the whole narrative kinda implies it. Just saying…

I don’t buy it. Something about this whole scenario doesn’t feel right. There’s something we’re not being told.

Assembling an arsenal, sneaking it into a casino hotel room, that just so happens to overlook a country music festival … All that takes planning. I don’t believe he “snapped” – it must’ve been premeditated. Why would someone put time, energy, and resources into planning something like this? I don’t know, but usually it has something to do with bigotry.

And I’ve never heard of someone with an actual, professionally diagnosed mental illness doing something like this. When people are in crisis they may withdraw from social groups and activities, they may act in ways people consider strange, they may hurt themselves, and/or they may (rarely) pose a threat to someone else. They don’t open fire on hundreds of people.

I’ve probably said this before but I’ll say it again, we need to figure out why white men keep perpetrating unspeakable acts of violence. And we need to do something to stop it. Yes, now, before people forget about it or get swept up in the next atrocity. There’s something going seriously wrong in the US with how people think, how they treat each other, how they respond to tragedy. Everybody’s angry – and rightfully so – but the anger isn’t being used appropriately. We’re all at each other’s throats, or bonding in our hatred of someone or something, and white men are committing murder with impunity.

We need to stop it. Now.

Good Bye Clonazepam

I took my last dose of Clonazepam today. I’d been thinking for a while that it might make more sense to stop taking it than to fill the new prescription and drag out another month of taking these half-doses, which don’t do the job but still run the risk of interactions and side effects. I called my prescriber to make sure that would be okay, and she gave the go-ahead. So starting tomorrow I’ll just be taking Lamotrigine, Fluvoxamine Maleate, and the supplements I’ve found helpful: omega 3, vitamin D, and a vitamin B complex.

So far I haven’t noticed any ill effects from the Fluvaxamine, so I guess that’s a good sign. I don’t really feel like it’s kicked in yet; I hope it does soon because I’ve been … well … I’ve spent the last 3 days inside playing Skyrim all day. Today I kept getting interrupted and feeling too overwhelmed to do anything useful, so more Skyrim. Mostly because of politics, drama, and financial issues that I don’t really feel like getting into right now … though … I dunno, other folks are venting to me, and I don’t know who I can talk to about it so … whatever.

New Prescriber, New Meds

I had my second appointment with my new prescriber last week. At our first appointment, she told me she’s not a fan of one of my medications, Clonazepam, and said she wants to start weaning me off it so I can start taking something else. She wanted to put me on a SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) “to help with both depression and anxiety.” I resisted because I’ve had bad experiences with two different ones. There were no changes to my meds last month.

But this month she reiterated the need to get me off Clonazepam and told me to start cutting the pills in half. She also said there are medications that help with hording and prescribed me one, Fluvoxamine Maleate. It’s a SSRI. I’m torn between not wanting to take it because I’m scared of how it might affect my brain and the rest of my body – and wanting to take it because I can use all the help I can get to deal with this hording.

I talked to Wakana about it and she seemed very concerned about the change in meds, especially since I only just started seeing this prescriber. I’ve been taking half doses of Clonazepam since September 1st; so far I’ve already had two days (Monday and today) when I felt ill enough that it affected my functioning, and almost kept me from following through on important plans. I’ve been feeling down, slightly queasy, less sure of myself, tired, anxious, freezing (as in fight, flight, or freeze), and sometimes twitching – in other words, like crap. I suspected on Monday that I was having withdrawal symptoms; Wakana confirmed it today. I have an important meeting tomorrow at noon, and another Friday evening; I don’t have time to malfunction because of changes to my meds.

I’d say “especially changes that are based on the prescriber’s philosophy rather than the medication’s effects on me,” but it’s a little more complicated than that. Clonazepam can be addictive, it has interactions with a lot of things, and I was questioning how much it’s been helping me. I feel like I need more support vs the depressive symptoms than I’ve been getting from Lamotrigine. (There’s no way I’m going off that, though. It keeps my brain from trying to kill me.) To this prescriber, at least, all signs seem to point to SSRIs. I don’t quite get why she’s so obsessed with them.

I’m starting a new bottle of Lamotrigine tomorrow, so I figure it’s a good time to start taking the Fluvoxamine. But I’m really not sure whether it’s the right choice – especially since Wakana pointed out that I’m already addressing the hording without this med, and we agreed that many of the problems I’m facing can only be addressed by getting Fox to take responsibility as well. What will this stuff do to me?

I don’t know, but Wakana suggested tracking my mood and I think it’s a good idea. I’m not sure exactly how I want to do it though – I’ll probably find an app – and I’m annoyed that I don’t have a way to get a baseline. I’d rather not do one retroactively, I’m already having issues because of one change in meds, and I was having issues before that due to interpersonal drama – in short, there are too many variables to determine whether whatever I’m experiencing has anything to do with a particular medication.

I’m just feeling more and more like I want to be done with everything. That’s not a good sign…

“I am mine before I am anyone else’s”

I’ve been using my bullet journal consistently since I started it on August 8th, and it’s been incredibly helpful. I feel so much more organized, which gives me some sense of control even though things have been really chaotic. (I swear there’s something in the food or water or air or something making everyone act irrationally.)

I like having a structure yet room to play: there’s the future log, monthly calendar, weekly spread, and each day is laid out the same way … but in the middle I can do random artwork or take notes on a topic of interest or whatever else meets my fancy. Per Wakana’s advice, I now have a whole spread dedicated to making my cluttered apartment into a home, right in the middle of this week’s dailies. I can find it easily, though, because I wrote it down with its page numbers in the index.

I’ve also taken a page out of Boho Berry‘s book (pun intended) and started doing a simple daily planner at the top of each day. It’s 2 lines, the AM hours written above the PM hours, with color-coded shading to represent when I’ll sleep, attend meetings/appointments/events, spend time with loved ones, work on tasks, etc. It’s pretty and easy to process and just gives me a calm sense of knowing what to expect on a given day. It also helps me develop and maintain a realistic perspective of how much I’ll be able to do, so I don’t overbook or overwork myself. And if what I end up doing on a given day is completely different from what I’d planned, I can just jot down some notes about it or draw or whatever. No pressure, it’s my bullet journal.

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Bullet Journal Day

I got to spend an awesome weekend with Banji – reconnecting, playing duets, enjoying wonderful food and excellent company, the works. I’d been missing my friends from college and earlier; this was just what I needed to feel whole again.

It seems whenever I hang out with Banji I end up learning about a new arts-related thing they’re doing; this time it was bullet journaling. It’s basically creating a customized planner using a notebook, pen, and ruler; you can add colors, drawings, quotes, anything really. People use bullet journals to keep track of appointments and tasks, make note of things they’re grateful for, track habits they want to develop (e.g. exercising regularly), brainstorm, any number of things. A whole community has emerged around it with people sharing their ideas, layouts, artwork, etc.

Video: How to Bullet Journal

Video: Beginner’s Guide to Bullet Journaling

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with life, and I liked what I saw in various videos, so I decided to give it a try. I ordered a journal with dotted pages; it was supposed to arrive tomorrow, but instead it arrived today!!! So I decided to start setting it up with components I’d learned about from various videos (an index, symbol key, “future log” – kind of like a year at a glance, August calendar, list of appointments & goals for August, and my very first daily to-do list!).

I also did a kind of custom thing: I dumped all the to-dos that have been stressing me out on one side of a spread and got so stressed I felt the need to write “Fuck it all!” at the bottom. But then I re-organized (re-listed) everything into four categories: Personal, Green Party, Academic, and House. Each category has its own color. Separating everything just made me feel so much better; now it makes sense in a way it couldn’t before with everything jumbled together. It inspired me to draw a butterfly – something I definitely hadn’t planned, but I loved getting to draw and color with some awesome colored pencils.

Video: A Dude’s Bullet Journal Walkthrough

I sent Banji a picture of the spread; they told me that it’s Bullet Journal Day – the anniversary of when this officially became A Thing and the website BulletJournal.com went live. How amazingly cool is it that I get to start bullet journaling on the anniversary of its launch – particularly because the primary item I needed to make it happen arrived early?!

I think my favorite part of my journal so far is my August monthly spread. The left page has a typical calendar with appointments filled in, and a note about this past weekend being awesome. The right page is separated into four sections: Personal, Academic, Green Party, and House. Each section has a list of the tasks I want to complete by the end of the month: my goals for the month, you could say. I feel so much more focused now, having it organized like that. I was feeling stressed out about the House category so I added a quote by Agatha Christie: “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” My hope is that will help me re-imagine chores not as a monumental life-stealing task but as smaller opportunities to invite creativity. … Whatever the actual result, I have the name Agatha Christie in my journal now and that makes me happy.

My next favorite part is today’s daily. I blatantly stole the layout from Boho Berry (video), including the adorable little weather indicator in the upper right corner. I added a quote: “You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens” ~ Mandy Hale. It might seem a bit ironic to include a quote like that in a tool for planning, but one of the things I love about bullet journaling is that the journal itself isn’t (or at least doesn’t have to be) planned in advance. It’s a continuous creative work-in-progress – kinda like life.

But my favorite part of today’s daily is that I only listed the specific tasks I intend to complete today. One of the items will “migrate” to tomorrow, but the point is that today I only have to focus on today, and I actually can accomplish the (other) tasks I set for myself today. No worrying about tomorrow. No feeling guilty about the stuff I’ve been procrastinating forever, no being distracted by the things I “should” be doing everyday (those will go in a tracker on a different page, if I decide to do that. Maybe starting next month? That’s the beauty of this system, I can do things differently each day/week/month/etc. as I figure out what works best for me!)

It’s so empowering! I only have a handful of things to focus on today. They’re totally doable. It feels really awesome to check them off; little things I can celebrate. Even the color coding and the little cloud in the corner make me happy.

So, I guess we’ll see how this goes …

Do you bullet journal? What are your thoughts on it? Do you have any tips, designs you want to share, etc? Please share in comments! ❤