Why I Love My Medication? Bipolar Disorder and All of the Excuses.
Voices and Hallucinations
I remember following an intensive course about anti-psychotic medication along with five other participants. For a whole year, two times a week I went on my bike to this group of people I didn't understand.
They were all about ten years younger than I was. Just seventeen and most of them were diagnosed with Schizophrenia. I was the only Bipolar around but I've had three psychoses and therefore belonged to this group of people, based on having had a similar experience.
We all heard voices once, or still. We all felt paranoid once, or still. We all smelled things only we could smell and we all had our hallucinations at some point. The guy sitting next to me used to curse out loud. One of his voices bullied him all day long.
My psychoses were triggered by my maniacal episodes and for refusing to take any medication, to calm my brain down. Their psychoses were triggered because they had been smoking hash years in a row, while damaging their brains and ruining their futures.
I just did not understand why healthy young people would choose to be so stupid, whereas I didn’t have any choice, never did any drugs but was cursed all the same with Bipolar Disorder and the wonders of its nature. No drugs, no alcohol, no heavy partying and yet here I was, surrounded by a group of people who didn’t even care.
I remember how eager I was at the time, to learn about my specific medication. About the side effects, the dangers and what they could actually do to help me stabilize my brain. I learned not to look in the mirror at night, after taking my daily medication around bedtime.
My dark self image might transform into something else due to the side effects of my meds. Like taking paracetamol to ease your headache, yet headache can be a side effect of that same paracetamol. Quite an important lesson it was, to know I could hallucinate heavily the first few hours, unless I ignored mirrors and stopped staring into the darkness of my room.
Overwhelmed by All the Input
I learned how well I can handle any impression, noticed by one of the five senses we have. My meds put this kind of filter in my brain, enabling me to process sounds of a busy shopping mall, an airport or a big square filled with terraces and people. I can go out for a drink and dance in a bar with flickering lights and loud music without feeling overwhelmed by all the input.
Sometimes when I’m tired I find it harder to concentrate on a story my friend is telling, I can’t handle the sound of a TV next to a radio on low volume and I hear the high beep of a television as an unstoppable annoying sound.
Fatigue makes me more sensitive to distracting factors like a door that keeps opening, a group of noisy people behind me in the bus or a crowd of people I can’t seem to get through. It not only distracts me but it seriously annoys me, for it takes me so much energy to process what I can’t seem to do quickly enough.
Try Three Weeks Without Sleep
Without my meds I would wake up every day as if I started out with six Red Bull bottles. Anxious, alert, hyperactive and totally restless. That’s why I literally jumped out of bed when being maniacal, wondering how come I felt so dam energetic. It was the pure adrenaline running through my veins, making me skip three weeks of sleep. Three weeks without sleep! That’s where I got psychotic on top of all the rest of my madness.
Thank God, I found medication that obliges me to wake up very slowly. I bump into walls, I drop things if I don’t concentrate on my grip of a simple spoon and it takes me two hours every day, to get my body and mind into full action.
It’s the coma I wake up from. That’s how I call it. After taking my meds I slowly feel how they shut down my system. Apart from breathing and my beating heart I enter into a state of total relaxation. My muscles feel weak as jelly and I always struggle to find my bathroom door. I can hardly move my body, let alone walk to the toilet but I never wet myself even though I came close to it now and then.
Accepting your Medication Isn't Easy
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Quality of Life
‘Lucky for me it only took me six years to find the right cocktail of medication.’ Lithium was an absolute horror to me, just like Risperdal and the anti-depressants I tried. The bad side effects were always in the way of ‘living a normal life’ while maintaining a certain quality.
Lithium made me fat. 30 Kilo’s more than my slim-waist-55 kilo’s. My head looked like it had exploded, my ass was the size of my mother’s and all of a sudden, guys didn't look anymore. I was congratulated several times for being pregnant. ‘That’s why you look so healthy!’
Moreover it made me feel nonexistent. I was stable for sure but I felt num and disconnected from myself. From the world. I wasn’t sad or angry anymore, nor was I happy or satisfied by that same sun, shining down on me. It felt like having a filter in my head, working a little bit too well.
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Depression took a hold of me, for seeing a woman I didn’t know. Who was that person looking like a Michelin doll on a truck? Was she still there? Somewhere inside? Then finally after six long years I managed to convince my psychiatrist in changing his mind. Lithuim was changed to Tegretol (Carbamazepine) and Risperdal was changed to Seroquel (Quetiapine)
I had to promise my psychiatrist I would turn back to the original medication if the change would affect my recent stability in any negative way. I told him, of course mister psychiatrist but I knew from the start I would never ever do so. He always said I could better be a little depressed from seeing a body I didn't recognize than getting maniacal again. "Avoid any new maniacal or psychotic episode in your life because the fourth time it might kill you."
The reason for him saying this was not to scare me. He simply explained to me that the heart has a certain limit. When you are very psychotic, every process in your body gets into overdrive. Your heart starts pounding too fast from all the anxiety in your brains. Moreover, brainscells will die from the extreme activity you are exposed to and recovering from a deep psychotic episode will take more effort every time you end up losing control.
That's why some people stay psychotic for the rest of their lives, 'wake up to reality' every now and then and end up in a mental hospital....forever. Personally, that to me would be my worst fear. At the same time it is my deepest motivation to stay on my meds and keep on reinforcing my stability.
Medication and Excuses
Like most of you know, Bipolar Disorder is a serious mental illness that cannot be cured. Forget it! It's in your genes and you will have to deal with it whether you want to or not. You will find yourself battling against it, like I did, for as long as you can, until you realize it ain't gonna work that way.
Whatever excuse you might have for not taking your meds, Bipolar Disorder is going to be your new best friend for as long as you live. You don't like the taste of your pills? I don't either. You want children but now it's complicated? Yes it is. You think you can stop your meds because you're doing so well? Try stopping and you'll see why you need your meds in the first place.
Be stubborn like me and waste your time on mental hospitals, taking your pills whenever you feel like it and wondering all along why life is so f*cking unfair. Feel sorry for yourself for as long as you need to and lose those few friends you still have left.
Patience is a rare thing in life and you will need a lot of it, next to a good therapist, an intensive course of anti-psychotic medication and a whole lot more of suffering along the way. No it's not going to be easy but I assure you no one will ever guarantee you, it will be.
A Successful Immigrant
So why do I love my medication? Here goes:
- I'm still alive!
- I feel fit after waking up for real.
- Side effects don't bother me because there aren't that many bad ones.
- I can increase the dose when necessary and avoid any dangerous episode when there is a lot of stress going on in my life. (Of course I discuss this with my psychiatrist)
- It made me lose the 30 kilo's I had before. (Seroquel makes you feel satisfied after eating smaller portions and I went back to gym)
- I gained a lot of self esteem after losing all the extra kilo's.
- With more self esteem I felt stronger as a person.
- Next to my new girl power I began to challenge myself.
- I started travelling on my own and felt a new sort of control.
- Controlling myself on these small trips inspired me to take bigger steps.
- The fear of losing it again, completely vanished from my life.
- Self confidence, happiness and staying on track, reinforced my stability year after year.
- With this solid ground, I dared taking on the biggest challenge of all.
- I moved from Holland to Spain and started my life from scratch.
- In less than three years I can call myself a successful immigrant.
- Knowing I can start my life from scratch, made me stronger than I could ever imagine because this is where I learned to be flexible and to me this is a very important skill to develop in life in order to maintain my stability.
Did it come easy? No. Did it take a long time? F*ck yes! But I can look back onto ten years of real stability, no episodes and an amazing quality of life!
In my hand luggage I always carry the same basic things. A toothbrush, lip gloss, my passport and my meds. Those wonderful candies that gave my life meaning, after a decade full of pain, shame and stubbornness in my twenties.
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