The number one relationship in my life is with my medication. I sometimes struggle with the fact that I will be taking various meds for the rest of my life to manage my condition but that’s the choice I, my family and my medical team made in lieu of being hospitalized.
At 9.30am and 9.30pm I take my daily meds of:
750mg Lithium – mood stabilizer
200mg Topamax – anticonvulsant
50mg Seroquel – antipsychotic
OPTIONAL WHEN REQUIRED
5mg Diazepam – anxiety
10mg Temazepam – insomnia
Plus other health aids like vitamins, contraception etc…. So on an average day I could be taking between 15-20 pills (depending on my emotional state).
If I even miss one day or one dose of the fabulous concoction above, it could potentially trigger a manic episode.
Like all medication there are side effects and because I’ve been taking them daily and some of these for 6 years they are by far from fun.
The Lithium is probably the worst, it causes dehydration so I’m constantly thirsty and have dry mouth. I drink twice as much as the average person, about 6-8L per day which means trips to the toilet all the time. I get up about 3 – 4 times during the night to drink, which interrupts my sleep, which of course having Bipolar sleep is so crucial, so this is a nightmare.
Lithium – causes severe weight gain, I’ve put on about 20kg + as it affects your liver and thyroid – another AWESOME side affect lol. I try to eat healthy and exercise as it can help greatly with managing my condition, but sadly the weight won’t budge because my body doesn’t function as well as what it used to.
As a woman I’ve struggled with body issues, because of this and have considered stopping taking Lithium many times, almost to the detriment of my mental health and future wellbeing. I actually experienced a case of cyber bullying about my weight a few years ago. It was horrible and soul destroying knowing that even as an adult in my 30’s I could experience such brutality as a result I had no control over. If only they knew I don’t look like this by choice. I once was a sexy minx, but this illness and medication has destroyed my body… it makes me so sad… a lot. But my mental health is more important than my physical appearance. I realise that now.
Lithium also causes toxicity so I have to get blood tests regularly to check my levels, this also enables my GP to make sure my dosage is right.
Topamax – the only real side effect I’ve had from this is tingling in my face and hands, this feels like pins and needles. It’s very frustrating when you’re trying to function with the basics like making meals, get dressed and of course typing or using the phone. Luckily this doesn’t last much longer than an hour.
Seroquel – This has probably the most visually obvious side effects and the main reason why I have to juggle my evening social events around it. Because of it’s affects on me, I make sure that I don’t let anyone other than family and my partner see me on it and I only take it at home before bed.
Drowsiness is one way to describe it, a junkie on heroin is another. I’m unable to walk and unable to talk properly, it’s quite distressing to see.
It’s a fine line, having to deal with these side effects to keep a functioning existence, with these medications allowing me to manage my Bipolar. Before I started the meds I was a mess, living a chaotic troubled life, completely out of control, confused, manic and incredibly frustrated. But now, because of these drugs (and the therapy and everything else I work hard at) that’s all gone…. Mostly. I can’t control everything, stress is a major trigger thought, so I try to live a peaceful life away from stressful people.
The episodes are still there, but are certainly not as intense, and don’t last as long, but it’s a daily battle.
But I have to take them everyday, twice a day, and sometimes it’s hard to remember to take them at 9.30am every morning and 9.30pm every night, still even now after 6 years.
Life doesn’t always make it easy. I’ve tried so many different things to help me, It’s not always convenient to carry around so many different pill bottles in your hand bag, and they don’t all fit in clutches lol. Alarms on my phone work well, a container on my keyring has worked in the past (I always have my keys with me) and a necklace with a pendant my mum gave me has enough room for a day’s dose.
All these things I need to cater for in case I’m in a position where I can’t get home to get my medication or I’m in a position where I need to get my anxiety medication.
So as I take my morning meds this Saturday and think about my day and what I’m going to be doing, I put some extra Diazepam in my various secret spots in my handbag and hope that I don’t need them.