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 …

Finding the Right Psychiatrist

I’ve been doing it wrong. I thought I would go see a psychiatrist, and ze would know all about the different medications available and listen to me and figure out what would best help me. I found an organization covered by my insurance and started working with the person they assigned to me. I put random chemicals in my body, who knows what they’ve been doing. It’s so hard to tell whether they’re helping or hurting that I want to rip out my brain!

Wakana’s been ridiculously concerned about me. She asked me to sign a contract saying that if I’m thinking about hurting myself I won’t act on it without talking to her first. She’s basically given me permission to call her any time of day or night. That’s … wow. Frelling huge!

She also expressed an interest in working with Psychiatrist B. I gave her his number (well, the number at the organization that assigned him to me) and when I went to see him on Wednesday I gave him her number. On Friday I asked Wakana if she’d gotten his call.

“We spoke, actually. I thought he was being very arrogant and he wouldn’t talk to me about how you’re doing. He didn’t seem to take your suicidal and self-harm ideation seriously.” (Actually, he interrupted me in the middle of telling him about these sensitive topics to take a phone call from the org.’s billing dept.) “He kept saying it’s a clinic. People just go there for medication. He’s only there two days a week. If anything comes up he tells patients to go to the emergency room.”

Being hit with this reality really hurt. I just want the meds to work their magic and the pain to go away. But my problem isn’t a headache, it’s an extremely complex combination of maladaptive thought and behavioral patterns, disabling physical and emotional symptoms, unbearably stressful situations, and atypical brain chemistry. The medication might be helping the brain chemistry part, or it might not, or it might even be making things worse. I have literally no way of knowing, because how I feel and function on a given day depends on so many other factors that it’s impossible to isolate the effect of the meds (in research-ese: “There are too many confounding variables”). The American Psychiatric Association wasted their time making a new version of the DSM that the National Institute of Mental Health withdrew their support from and has devised no tests that would enable a healthcare provider to objectively observe and measure the effect these psychotropic substances are having on my brain!

That infuriates and terrifies me but now I’m kind of dependent on them. I don’t know. Maybe I could stop taking them and walk away. Maybe whatever effect that had on my brain would end up resulting in my death. I have no idea.

I need to find someone who will take every word I say to zir as seriously as Wakana does, if not even moreso. Someone who knows everything there is to know about every medication and how it interacts with every other. Someone who can juggle what information is available from scientific research with experience treating diverse clients; someone who is willing to try new or atypical approaches and will be responsive to my every symptom and concern throughout the process. I don’t care if you’ve been practicing psychiatry since before Freud was born, this is my body and the only brain I have. I need it to last me a good 70 more years or so. The depression is taking enough of a toll without the meds I’m taking to try and treat the depression fucking things up even more. I’m taking a huge risk; I can’t hit “undo” or “restart.” There is no option to save first, then exit without saving if something goes wrong, reload and try again. There’s just my life. I need whomever I work with to respect that and take it seriously.

Wakana doesn’t seem to think Psychiatrist B is capable of doing that. I was extremely angry with him when he interrupted me in the middle of trying to tell him about the symptoms I couldn’t bring up at our last meeting. It was very hard for me to organize and express my thoughts about what I’ve been experiencing – something that doesn’t lend itself to words to begin with, and that tends to be hindered when I don’t feel emotionally supported by the person I’m trying to share this information with (“lack of rapport”). I don’t know what to make of my body randomly twitching in response to certain sounds, especially if I’m tired or anxious or angry. I never experienced that until the first time I took a SSRI. It’s not like this is an experience people typically talk about; I can’t poll my neighbors or classmates or Facebook friends about “What makes you twitch as though Gimli has his axe embedded in your spine?” Don’t blow me off and tell me “it’s the depression.” If you’re going to say something like that, at least explain what you mean.

I need a psychiatrist who respects that I’m trusting zir with with more than my life. Someone who respects that I’m trusting zir with my Self. My thoughts, emotions, conscious experiences, self-perception, how I interpret and respond to everyone and everything around me. It’s all been affected, and for all I know I’d be a lot better off if I’d never started taking medication.

Rewiring My Brain: Focus on the Positive!

Today I learned a potentially-valuable tip: every day, reflect on 3 good things that happened. According to this article about the ‘Tetris Effect’, over time the brain will learn to focus on and remember more positive experiences, helping one to feel happier. I figure, it certainly can’t hurt, right?

  1. Steph’s Soapbox re-blogged my post: FUDGE THAT!!! – mmm, fudge? don’t mind if I do …. This is the first time one of my posts has been re-blogged; I consider it quite an honor. I put a lot of thought, effort, and planning into that post – and it most certainly paid off! I feel like I’m becoming a better writer every day.

  2. I had a very enjoyable class. We got to talk to the author of one of our textbooks via Skype! He told us a very interesting and engaging story. I felt like I was able to learn a lot from the class, and contribute to it in a meaningful way. I got to enjoy this experience because I persevered in my (eventually successful) attempts to get out the door, even though I was running late. Again, the effort was well worth it.

  3. I had fun playing with my rats! They’re so cute, especially when they put their noses up to mine. 😀