Psych Meds & the Kristin Experiment.


I am a science experiment.

"Here's a medication: it might make you wish you were dead, but it could also save your life; here, go ahead, try it."

I feel like it's my only option, so I'm a sucker for every suggestion my doctors ignorantly make.

It's all a gamble, a risk, a process of trial & error.

Twenty-five medications later, I am left feeling more empty & hopeless than ever before. Not even heavy psychiatric medications can fix me... Will this battle never end?

"Getting a definitive diagnosis meant there had to be a cure, right? Hope: what a misleading drug in itself."

Hope has let me down more than once. Time & time again, medications worsen my symptoms, doctors move away or quit on me, mental hospitals turn me away... It's a never-ending merry-go-round of dead ends.

The amount of medications, misdiagnoses, & doctors the girl in the video experienced in seven years is still fewer than what I've experienced in two years. I've seen dozens of mental health professionals, been on dozens of medications, & tried therapy repeatedly without any luck of positive results.

My last blog post regarding psychiatric medication concluded with a psychiatrist from Aspen Pointe cutting me off from services. There was no real reason, & my petition against it was ignored for three months. It baffles me that people who invest their entire lives & careers into helping people through mental illness can just give up so easily & drop a patient because they feel like it. I felt abandoned, hopeless, & rejected.

After that, I began the hunt for a new psychiatrist. I lucked out & got an opening at Springbok Health. I met with a doctor there for a couple months. We tried Remeron, an antidepressant; Abilify, an antipsychotic; & Clonazepam & Clonidine, both sedatives. Nothing helped. Nothing worked. I gave up on medications, deciding to self-medicate since it proved more fruitful.

My Current Doctor & Medications

That doctor moved away & I was given a new one. This doctor seemed more hopeful about being able to help me, which revived some hope within me. He put me on Temazepam, a benzodiazepine sedative for insomnia; Prazosin, a blood pressure medication to somehow calm my nightmares; Adderall, a stimulant for ADHD that can also treat depression, which I had been on before; & Propranolol, a beta-blocker used to treat anxiety that I'd also been on before.

Beginning the medications was a rough couple of weeks. I was sick every day & could feel the new chemicals coursing through my brain. But once my body adapted to the change, beneficial results were revealed.

The Temazepam, a benzodiazepine sedative for insomnia, helped me have a full night's sleep & "reset" me: if I was having a bad day, it didn't carry over to the next day because I got solid enough sleep to re-ground & stabilize me. Sleep is extremely important for mood stability. Getting less sleep or a rough night's sleep causes my symptoms to be far worse than when I get a solid night's sleep. A good night's rest can easily be the deciding factor between a mentally good or bad day.

But, like most medications, there are side effects. Sometimes I experience severe derealization. Derealization is basically a symptom of severe anxiety where one disconnects from reality & life feels almost surreal--like it's not real, it's not really happen. It's a huge disconnect from the moment, from life, from one's self, from reality & everything in it. Derealization is a “disturbing sense of being ‘separate from oneself,’ observing oneself as if from outside, feeling like a robot or automaton” (article published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 2005). As blogger Kate Gould put it, “derealization is a change in an individual’s experience of the world around them. Derealization is best explained as a dream-like state, where nothing feels real, as though everything is an illusion. For all I know, I may wake up at any moment; an intangible, swimmy quality lays over everything like a veil, making everything unfamiliar, much like the same feeling that persists in a dream.” This sums it up well. It's an extremely uncomfortable, frightening, confusing experience. I hate it, & there's nothing I've yet discovered to remedy it & ground me in reality & stabilize me.

If I don't experience derealization, it's still difficult to wake up, the land between dreams & reality being very murky & indistinguishable.

Prazosin is a blood pressure medication that's been known to stop nightmares from happening. It seemed to help relieve my nightmares, but not every night. It's better than nothing, I've concluded. I tried sleeping without it for a week & the nightmares worsened, so I got back on it & I've stuck with it.

Unfortunately, my nightmares still persist, & when I awaken it's extremely difficult to snap out of it & shake the uncomfortable darkness. It lingers with me during the entire morning, & occasionally the darkness remains throughout the whole day; these are some of the toughest days because I don't even know why I'm fighting the darkness. It should leave me when I awaken & am back in my real life, but it doesn't.

I was originally told that Latuda is a mood stabilizer, but it's actually an antipsychotic. I have no idea why my doctor was dishonest with me about it, but it upsets me greatly. I used to research every medication I was on, but the doctors grew irritated with my concerns from research I'd done & suggested I stop digging so deep & just try one medication at a time; so I stopped researching. Now I've been on this medication that I didn't even know what it was until months after I started it. That's sketchy & makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Regardless, it's done nothing noticeable. Perhaps it's minimized my psychosis, but I really have no way of knowing. It certainly did nothing for my mood, which was the only thing I monitored with it since I believed it was a mood stabilizer.

The Propranolol, a beta-blocker used to treat anxiety, stopped working. We upped the dosage. If I take it only occasionally, it does its job slightly, but it no longer works on a daily basis. My doctor is afraid of increasing the dosage because it could lower my blood pressure, which is already at the lower end of the spectrum. Typically I manage my anxiety with coping skills, which are also only sometimes effective.

The Adderall, a stimulant for ADHD, became an intriguing game of trial & error to determine the proper dosage. I began at 5 mg of instant release. (There are two types: instant release & extended release. With each type there are a variety of milligram dosages.) Over time & several different attempts to figure out a proper dosage, we settled with 30 mg/ day spaced out over time: I take 10 mg extended release when I first wake up, 5 mg instant release a couple hours later (late morning), 10 mg extended release a couple hours later (early afternoon), & my final 5 mg instant release dosage a couple hours after that (midday, usually around 3 PM). This seems to be working alright.

Even though Adderall has helped relieved some depression & other symptoms & it helps me get on my feet during the day, there are still side effects. I experience a tight chest with never-ending chest pains & shortness of breath. I can't take it later in the day (after 4 PM) because it decreases my appetite, causing me to be unable to eat without smoking marijuana; it causes extreme irritability (like, it becomes outrageous & irrational & too much to bear); & it makes it more difficult to go to bed that evening. My doctor remains unconcerned by these side effects, as the benefits of Adderall seem to outweigh the negatives of it.

We tried Vyvanse, another stimulant used to treat ADHD, to see if it could potentially replace the Adderall & have fewer side effects. The outcome was absolutely horrible. I experienced severe derealization & was so dizzy I could barely see straight. Needless to say, I stopped it immediately (only took it for one day) & will not be trying it again. I'll be sticking with the Adderall for the time being.

What's Next?

Although it's not every single day like it was before, I still experience debilitating depression & crippling anxiety, along with the occasional PTSD outbreaks. Thankfully, psychosis has subsided for now. I almost miss it because it's so much more interesting to deal with than depression, anxiety, & PTSD episodes. During psychosis, survival seems more black & white. What I need to do is clear to me: survive. But with depression, anxiety, & PTSD episodes, life continues. It doesn't pause. & I'm stuck trying to manage the darkness while also being an adult. All these symptoms make life feel unbearable & unmanageable.

A mood stabilizer is a combination of anticonvulsants that have proven effective in treating mood disorders, such as Bipolar Disorder. A good next step for me could be finding a good mood stabilizer because mood is such a dominant issue for me, but there aren't a lot of options out there. The two main ones I've already tried: Lamotrigine did absolutely nothing for me, even at the maximum dosage that's FDA approved; Lithium landed me in the emergency room because the side effects got so severe yet my doctor had instructed me to stick with it.

For mood stabilizers, Carbamazepine is an option, as is Valproate, but they are more appropriate for a Bipolar Disorder type I diagnosis, which I do not have. Oxcarbazepine interacts poorly with Latuda, so I would need to stop that medication most likely to try it. Topiramate, Valproic acid, & Gabapentin are also options, but I know very little about them.

The route my doctor will most likely suggest is trying to add an antidepressant to my medication regiment. I've tried four antidepressants in the past & they either did nothing or severely made my condition worse for one to five miserable days. We'll wait & see what my doctor suggests.

Conclusion

As the video earlier says, "There are no rights & wrongs when it comes to feeling & mood. They just exist; we just feel. It's the choices on how we constructively deal with those feelings that define us... I cannot hold myself accountable for what happens with my depression & anxiety. That, I don't have control over. But I can hold myself accountable for the strength of trying."

I am not defined by this battle but by how I respond to it. How I handle & manage this struggle will define who I am & how strong, wise, insightful, mature & responsible I can be. How I tackle & embrace these issues will definitely determine my character & my identity. I am proud of myself for consistently & persistently doing everything in my power to increase my knowledge & awareness, & for applying myself towards treatment & recovery in every way I can. Thus far, the journey has been nothing but pain & disappointment, but I am still here, standing my ground & continuing to fight towards improvement with everything in me. I pray the journey grows easier & that answers are found, but I am prepared for whatever life may throw my way next.