Meds and Your Body

Last Updated: 6 Aug 2018
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I never gave much thought to my body in any sense, medications or otherwise, certainly not in the first decade since being diagnosed. It has been during this second, last decade that I have finally, slowly opened my eyes. Labeled “pro-medication” (thankfully meds solve my chemical malady) I encourage people to be aware, rather than ignore, and read, rather than toss the literature. This was not always my stance.

I used to throw caution to the wind. “Ignorance is bliss” was my mantra for nearly half my life. It certainly beat the reality of what was going on. Now, though, I cannot afford to and constantly assess how my body, not simply my mind, feels.

Bipolar-Depression-2While some meds are fantastic, some are okay and still others may cause some major problems in our bodies. Our families and friends may quiet us down for fear we’ll go off our meds. “God no!” they think. “Not another trip to the hospital!” You can see the fear in their eyes as they beg and plead we stay on “X” medication, when we merely opened up a discussion about side effects.

Geez. Next time I’ll remember to talk only to my psychiatrist!

Has this ever happened to you?

When my psychiatrist puts me on a new medication I ask if there are any high-risk side effects, ones that could be severe or life-threatening. Of course he warns me of those anyway, but adds casually that only a few in a thousand could cause death and to call him if I see a rash, for example. Or, to watch for so-in-so effect. That’s fine, works for me doc! I scan the literature and that’s all I need to know. (Personally, I am more worried about becoming psychosomatic due to reading the literature!)

bipolar-help-partner-help-youThe bottom line is every medication has some side effect, the question is can I live with it? If I don’t notice it, apparently I can. Weight gain, for example, I can tolerate to an extent. Massive weight gain, as in thirty to forty pounds in a short period, I cannot, but have. This has happened several times in the past eight years and once was to try a mood stabilizer when no other was working. That one was life or death!

The other was a few years ago when I experienced the worst patch of depression I had in a decade. I mean patch as in months, not the year and a half abyss of death I survived in 2003 and 2004. That wasn’t in the same stratosphere. This was a bad few months and drug “Blob” was the only anti-depressant I had not tried in many years, a highly effective new one at that, and my psychiatrist duly warned me.

When you’re borderline suicidal though, curtain “A” gain weight, versus curtain “B” get suicidal and possibly die isn’t a tough decision. “I’ll take curtain ‘A’ Bob, for thirty pounds.”

Thirty pounds later (or was it thirty-five?) depression had packed a suitcase and today I still have no idea if it was because I found a job or if that med saved me. I do know once I was over the hump, I quickly sought other options.

Today, as always, if I experience a feeling, sensation, side effect(s) or anything that seems out of the ordinary, I do investigate. My partner always does. In fact, she reads the literature right away when she starts a new medication because she is extra sensitive to them. We are built differently…well of course we are!

 

What is the worst side effect you have ever experienced? Did you give it up or stick with it?

www.wendykwilliamson.com @bipolarwendy www.twobipolarchicks.com @2bipolarchicks

 

 

About the author
Wendy Williamson had her first manic episode while studying at Virginia Tech, eight weeks before graduation. It was then she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type I. After being downsized from corporate America, Wendy wrote her memoir of honesty and hope entitled I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar. She co-wrote her second book: Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival: Tips for Living With Bipolar Disorder with author Honora Rose. Wendy writes for BPHope.com and The The Huffington Post. She has written for: BP Magazine, Bipolar Disorder for Dummies: 2nd Edition and The Two River Times. Her book has been reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly and National Alliance on Mental Illness’ The Advocate. Wendy is the founder of The Red Bank Writers Group and has been interviewed on over forty radio stations worldwide. Catch up with Wendy on Twitter and at her website.
18 Comments
  1. I was on Lithium and had insatiable thirst 24 hours a day, but it worked. I couldn’t handle the constant thirst and running to the bathroom, so I got on Depakote, which also stabilized my mood, but made me gain 80 pounds. I can’t remember everything I was on, but it’s been a lot. Now I’m off of mood stabilizers and on a low dose of Latuda and Geodon. My psychiatrist is so great. As I improved and made lifestyle changes, she was willing to taper me off some meds. I make good sleep, regular exercise, and healthy diet a priority. And regular exercise with a phenomenal personal trainer has made such a difference in my mood stability Since committing to a manageable workout routine in November (30 mins 3 times a week) I have rarely had to use Trazodone for sleep. I’ve lost 50 lbs and want to lose 40 more. I now often wake up before my alarm and make breakfast a priority. I may get down to only one med, and I’m optimistic about it, but realize there could come a time when I need more. I’m also regularly seeing a chiropractor and acupuncturist to help with back pain that kept me sedentary for so long. My mom has been a rock for me and I’m so blessed to have her stability. Life is so good and not a manic kind of good. A genuine peace even when things aren’t going my way. I’m just so grateful that I feel like a capable and valuable human being, and that my bipolar diagnosis no longer defines who I am. It is only a small part of me, as long as I make taking care of myself a priority. For a decade after my diagnosis, I felt like a victim of my disease. Something changed a year ago. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was 32 and felt 65. My friends were married and starting families and I was the heaviest I had ever been. In high school I was a fairly decent athlete. It’s not about the number on the scale, but I knew I needed to treat myself better. I started telling myself positive affirmations, and if I couldn’t be positive, I found somebody who was uplifting. I cut off toxic people in my life and got down to a core group of support. I tried. To be a positive influence in other’s lives. Being defined by my diagnosis became less and less, and I was becoming a whole person. I see a therapist regularly to see if the problems that pop up are “normal” or need more attention. I feel like I’m getting my life back and can function like an adult now. I thought that would never be possible. And most importantly, I believe that my Higher Power wants me to have a full life. I don’t try to escape from painful experiences anymore. I walk through them with the help of others. I wish each of you many blessings and that the right people show up in your life to cheer you on. Medication is so challenging and requires so much patience to get right. Good luck luck and Godspeed.

  2. All drugs have side effects, what is important is to have a good relationship with your doctor so that you can advocate for yourself and not be miserable for long lengths of time. I was on lithium for 25 years ,successfully except for the tremors, when out of the blue I became toxic and ended up in the ICU for 4 days and had to have dialysis. No fun. It took awhile to settle on another mood stabilizer, but after 15 pounds in 15 months I said enough is enough. Luckily, we found something else that works.
    After 25 years on meds, I’ve found that certain docs like certain meds and sometimes you have to press for alternatives. Also, many side effects are related to too high a dose. Remember too, that side effects are real effects, they just aren’t the effects the docs are looking for. Good luck all. Don’t settle for misery, though sometimes we do when the illness is powerful, but look to better times.

  3. I do something very holistic to protect my liver. It’s from the health readings of ARE, the Association for Research and Enlightenment out of Virginia Beach and Phoenix. It’s a Castor Oil soaked flannel sheet with a heating pad over it. I do it as recommended twice a week when I’m reading the paper. I think it’s gross but my liver and kidney functions is great and my immune system (which gets tested every month for Clozapine), is thru the roof. You would not believe how high my White Blood Cell Count is. It’s on the top side of within normal limits. This remedy brings blood to the organ without asking it to metabolize one more med. It takes the load off. Edgar Cayce Readings. This was also recommened for other immune, inflammatory and skin conditions, which he considered immune reactions. I am trying to stay healthy because my life is better than it’s ever been.

  4. I was put on many that caused me to gain up to 40lbs in less than a month. Lithium toxicity. Steven Johnsons from Lamictal . Given too high a dose of seroquel in the hospital that lead to me almost choking on my own saliva and tongue. When I started on effexor it caused so much anxiety I needed to take regular doses of klonopin. And something I was on ?? Have been on so much caused tardives dyskinesia which was the absolute worst. Being off balance many many falls. One recently resulting in a fracture in my foot. The worst I have now is problems w memory. Balance and blurry vision. But I guess I have to live w that.

    1. Lithium toxicity was causing kidney failure.

      Weight gain and balance problems are part of my life now.

  5. I’m not sure of med effects to tell the truth. I have no memory, I’ve gained 30+ pounds, my balance isn’t good. But all these I can attribute to other things like: not paying attention, eating too much and moving too little, I’ve had surgery on my right foot. I don’t let my self realize other things as drug effects. I only take lactimal,throzine,zoloft, neurotinin. I’m going to ask for topomax to help with the weight gain. If love to read the author’s books. May help with lots of things.

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