Saturday, June 13, 2009

My Love/Hate Relationship with Drugs

Do you remember when Tom Cruise came out against Brooke Shields for taking medications for her post-partum depression? He said mental illness could be cured with vitamins. I thought he was a wacko. I thought everyone was seriously misinformed who didn't realize that mental illness was a serious physical condition that required serious drugs. And now here I am on the vitamins bandwagon! Life is funny.

Back when I lived in San Francisco I ran across a journalist who was against antidepressants because people were taking them for minor complaints, and they were losing their capacity to feel deep emotions. He felt that the ability to feel the darker emotions was essential to him as a writer, for example. I felt that he was totally missing the experience of those like me with serious mental illness, who had a surfeit of darker emotions. I felt, and I knew others who felt the same, that psychiatric medications had saved my life.

But life is full of irony. Once I was a little more stable, taking Risperdal, I was out of the woods as far as major depression was concerned, but I was dissatisfied. I was still feeling depressed, and I started to suspect that I was missing the fun and good feelings of my hypomanias. Such a typically bipolar thing to think. People with bipolar disorder are notorious for non-compliance on their medications for just this reason. I wanted to take less Risperdal, not stop it completely, just to open the window for a little hypomania now and then. But what happened instead is that I got more depressed and more fatigued than when I was taking it.

And then I got even more depressed, and we added Wellbutrin to the mix, and eventually Celexa. We raised the dose of Risperdal even higher. Now I wasn't depressed, but I still wasn't satisfied. I got interested in the positive psychology self help movement that is going on today, but for the life of me I couldn't muster a happy feeling. I started hearing that the psychiatric medications do indeed do that -- they inhibit the happy feelings along with the sad ones. Good grief, that journalist was right!

So for the past two years I've been trying to find ways to go off my medications. I tried other natural remedies. St. John's Wort hadn't helped me before my breakdown, so I didn't try that again. I phased out Celexa and added tryptophan, that worked successfully. SAMe was a big disaster, the stomach pain I had from that was tremendous. I tried bioidentical hormone replacement, thinking my mood problems could be hormonally related. I felt good on that for 6 weeks and then the migraines started. The migraines wiped out any benefit from the hormone replacement, so I had to give it up. Encouraged by my success with the tryptophan I tried lowering my dose of Risperdal again, but just a small reduction of that left me listless and more depressed. Just after that attempt I heard about Truehope.

Now I am taking way less Risperdal, in two days I will be done with Wellbutrin all together, and I feel better than I did before I started the Truehope Empowerplus. Can happy feelings be far behind? I hope not.