“Dr. N, I am not saying we should spike the football but I believe we are making progress!” I enthusiastically write.
Dr. N, who is equal parts friend and mentor, has been prescribing medication to me for the last five years. He has been the recipient of countless emails–either extolling or lamenting the latest medication (sometimes in the same week).
My latest love/hate dance: Bupropion aka Wellbutrin. I have been taking Wellbutrin for two plus years. The medication, at times, helps. My mind buzzes–almost preternaturally alert. The words flow when I write my latest stream of consciousness article (whether it be for Psych Central or another online publication). I feel energized–ready to tackle the latest project. There is a confidence in my step.
(On my good days).
Wellbutrin, at times, also hurls me into despair. As the intrusive thoughts batter, my emotions overwhelm. On the worst days, it is impossible to focus; I shudder when I recall the panic attack that nearly leveled me.
Welcome to the ever-complicated world of medication–where the only predictability is a level of unpredictability.
Let me preface my medication lamentations: I am a medication proponent–believing that these little white pills can positively change my brain’s chemistry. If these medications can provide the necessary amount of serotonin (note this is an if–not when–proposition), I will gladly sign on the dotted line.
But when signing on the dotted line, I have discovered that the contract changes ever so slightly: In the unwritten terms and conditions, you will have to endure a litany of unpleasant and disruptive side effects. The laundry list: restlessness, insomnia, irritability, moodiness, lethargy etc.
Handle with care, indeed.
When I started my medication odyssey nearly two decades ago, I naively thought that the process would be straightforward–even easy. My overly optimistic assumption: Medication–almost instantaneously–would cure the distressing thoughts and simmering anxiety. Like most things in life, it has turned out to be a little bit more complicated than my initial premonition.
More than bemoaning medication (which can be a useful treatment tool), this article is meant to illuminate the possibility–and potency–of its all too common side effects. I have endured unexpected (and unwanted) side effects for damn near 20 years. And, for the record, I have tried a laundry list of medications (A if for Abilify; B is for Buspar; C is for Clonazepam). To this day, I am still searching for my medication elixir. Maybe a shot of Wellbutrin and a Rexulti chaser will do the trick?
I can hope.
The hard-earned lesson from two decades of medication trial and error: When starting an SSRI, antidepressant, or benzo (or all of the above), it is critically important to understand that you will be–more likely than not–playing the long game. And, literally, I mean long–as I tinker with my medication to this day (in fact, I emailed Dr. N last week).
As for spiking that proverbial football? Borrowing a football analogy, medication has a way of changing down and distance. While medication might help you escape the depression/anxiety “blitz,” its pesky side effects can sack you too.