Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How Am I Doing On My New Medication?

I was diagnosed with Bipolar II on October 30, 2014.  Within a week I was on a mood stabilizer.  My primary reason for this post is to examine how that's working for me. 

However, that's not the only major change recently, so I offer this background on my health and meds.  While I have no way of knowing for sure what treatment caused what effect, my gut tells me.  So I will tell you what my gut says (knowing I could be completely incorrect).

Each morning I take:
  • A multivitamin for women over fifty - even though I am forty-five, because the complete hysterectomy and oophorectomy I had last year put me into instant menopause
  • Vitamin D - because I don't get nearly enough sunshine and it can help with depression, especially during the winter (which it feels like we didn't even have here in Utah, oh well)
  • Estrogen - because I am in menopause an estimated ten years early and my doctor wants to protect my bones and I don't like the idea of breaking a hip when I fall
  • Gabapentin - which is often prescribed for anxiety, but that's not why I take it; sometimes my skin hurts for no reason, and gabapentin can help with neuropathic pain; I've been on it since April of 2014, I think;  does it work?  I'm not sure; my skin was hurting a lot over the last week; it feels like a first degree burn, but there is no discoloration and I haven't been burned; I'm going to talk to the doctor about getting off this one at my next physical
  • Lamictal - the mood stabilizer I've been on since the first week of November, 2014; the reason for this post
Each afternoon I take:
  • Gabapentin
  • Vitamin D
  • Omeprazole - a proton pump inhibitor that I take for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); otherwise I often have stomach acid that comes up my throat and makes it so I have a chronic cough, chronic sore throat, chronic hoarse voice, and so I can't sleep; without this medication it will often wake me with a burning in my throat that can't be soothed
Each evening I take:
  • Gabapentin
  • Melatonin - because I don't sleep well, like at all; I need all the help I can get, but everything else I've tried leaves me super groggy the next day; and melatonin is what our bodies naturally produce to induce sleep
  • Armour Thyroid - which is pig thyroid glands "dried and powdered for therapeutic use" (according to Wikipedia); I take this because I have hypothyroidism, which means my thyroid doesn't do it's job very well anymore; I used to take a synthetic thyroid medication but never felt better on it; I found out about this through a thyroid health group on facebook; I had to fight my doctor for it because it isn't as consistent a dose as synthetic, but I have felt better on it; I started this in April of 2014
(I also have Xanax that I take for occasional anxiety and Meclizine that I take for occasional dizziness and nausea associated with my headaches.)

So as you can see, I have gone through many health changes over the last year.  How would I compare where I am now to where I was a year ago?  I am better.  Much better.

I do not have the constant, intense pelvic pain I had before my hysterectomy.  I have more energy on the new thyroid meds, although still subpar for sure; I can get out of bed and do things more often than before.  I don't go through intense PMDD/PMS every month; my moods are more in flow with what's actually happening in my life instead of attacking me out of nowhere.

But, most significantly, I haven't had any episodes of severe depression since I started the mood stabilizer.  I was initially put on it to control the hypomanic episodes that can come because of Bipolar II.  Those were hard to give up.  They were days of extra energy, lots of extra energy, when I didn't need sleep and could get lots done - all the stuff I didn't have the energy to do most days.  When I first met with my psychiatrist I asked her why I would want to give those up when they're so great.  She told me they cause brain damage.  Oh.  Okay.  I'll give them up.

As I researched Lamictal I read that it can often have the side effect of also helping depression.  I held a tiny spark of hope that this would happen, but not much.  I've tried so many meds for depression over the years and had so much therapy, but none of it took away the depression for good.  The meds didn't work at all or made me suicidal.  And the therapy could sometimes get me through a tough moment if my appointment happened to hit during an episode.  But usually the black dog (as depression is referred to by those who suffer) would just come out of nowhere and pin me to the ground.  And I just tried to survive until he let me up again.  I couldn't fight him off.  I just had to wait until he was done with me and moved on.

Since I have been on the Lamictal I have not been pinned to the ground by the black dog.  Not once.  He's chewed on my leg on several occasions, but I haven't gone completely dark at all.  There was one time when I'd say he knocked me to the ground pretty hard, but that was situational, and I recovered from it much more quickly than I normally would have.

So here's the deal.  And I hate to say it for fear of jinxing it.  But I believe the Lamictal is helping with my depression.  For real.  And it's kind of amazing.

Just as my psychiatrist said it should work, I have ups and downs, but they aren't as high or as deep as they were before.

And there's still a part of me waiting for it to come back and hit me in the head.  I've sometimes gone through long periods without depression before, only to be dragged down again; what if this is just one of those?  Depression has been a part of my life since I was a teenager.  The idea that it could finally be under control is something that's difficult for me to wrap my brain around.  I feel like it's an "I feel better so far, but we'll see how it plays out" thing.

And there's a part of me that doesn't want it to completely work.  Depression is part of my self-definition.  It's part of who I am.  If it works, I will have to learn to be me all over again.


Unknown said...

Very cool. Yay you! Sympathize with not wanting to give up hypomania. Sympathize with preferring brain cells. Sympathize with joy at not seeing the Grim. Sympathize with waiting for the other shoe to drop (glad to have gotten past that one this year). Just a thought: I have floating neuralgias based on the day of the week or which moon is in which house or the whims of Leviathan or whatever. Today it's shingles (minus the rash, but still painful). Strengthening my immune system helps. Perhaps that's a therapy to replace gabapentin?

Marnae said...

I have a friend who tried gabapentin and became suicidal and got off it real quick. She has changed doctors and has been told she should try lyrica. I guess it's the same type of stuff but with less of a chance of suicial side effects and better change to manage her pain.

Suffering from depression and migraines is enough for me. Thank you, Robin, for sharing your struggles. It gives me hope that we will make it.