If you have a mental illness and choose to use medication as one of your resources (which I enthusiastically endorse), you know about the dreaded med changes. They come with the territory really, because no two brains are alike and the chemicals in mine differ than the chemicals in yours so figuring out the best chemicals (meds) to introduce is simply a game of trial and error. Your psychiatrist takes his best educated guess.
If you follow this blog you know that I have been struggling for months with anxiety – more so than I usually do. Panic attacks, horrific thoughts, obsessive compulsion spikes – it hasn’t been fun.
I take Prozac for my anxiety and depression (in addition to other meds including mood stabilizers, which are very important for a bipolar patient to take when taking antidepressants). I also take Klonopin – a benzo, and I take Neurontin, both for anxiety. But all that wasn’t enough so we tried adding another antidepressant – Effexor XR. I had terrible side effects and the doc and I agreed to taper off of that after a two month trial.
What to do next? My psychiatrist decided to put me on Prestiq, another new antidepressant. We gave it a month but as I began to show signs of mania, we stopped that one too.
I think my psychiatrist has abandoned the idea of another antidepressant and I am glad because besides nasty side effects – they did nothing for me.
So where am I know? The anxiety was still there, doubling up on an antidepressant or not, so we decided to up the Klonopin and Neurontin. Something to know about me is that it is very hard to treat my brain. At one point I was labeled “treatment resistant.” I once had a psychiatrist tell me that if he put my meds in a 6’2″ man (I’m 5’3″), he’d be on the floor. I am now on the max does of Neurontin and a high dose of Klonopin.
Another recent change has been in the way I take my Saphris, an atypical anti-psychotic. For years I have taken both 10 mg tabs at night because they knock me out. But my psych doc told me that it is not as effective as spacing them out and that he really wanted me to try to do that. Oh my goodness. Mornings are awful. In the past couple of weeks I have learned to try to take the pill at around 6, when my boyfriend leaves for work, then go back to bed for a few hours. If I have plans anytime before noon, I take two the night before and avoid taking one in the morning as I would not trust myself to drive in my foggy state.
For months I have been in a constant flux of med changes, each new drug or dosage or time taken comes with its own side effects. But lately I am just pretty tired the first half of the day, which is a drag because that is when I am most creative. But with this fatigue comes a lifting of anxiety. I take my meds as scheduled and so far, so good. I’ve only been on this new regiment for less than two weeks, so time will tell how well it works.
I just want you to know that if you are struggling with a med change, I feel you. It’s rough. Hang in there and give the meds a chance to work, a bit for your body to adjust, and if after a month or two you are still experiencing major side effects it is time to talk to the doc. There are a lot of meds out there, I know, I’ve tried many of them. I’ve been at this over 6 years and still we need to make adjustments. It is the nature of treating mental illness.