Thursday, November 15, 2007

Please, Sir, I Want Some More...Seroquel. And No, I Don't Drink. Really.

I was gobsmacked at the response to the Blog Resurrection. Here I'm thinking that I'm being rather self-indulgent and possibly borderline whiney about doing Swing Time again.

Maybe not. Right now, I'm not the best judge of whether I'm "normal" (or Abby Normal, as we say in my family, with credit to Mel Brooks).

Thanks to Matthew for telling me about the new Crazy Meds link. As you can see, I've been redesigning the blog (easier to read, no?) and I'll be putting the old resource links back up. And Ann, you were so right to let Martin's family know what the deal was.

Guzzle. Ralph. Thump.
Well, one thing I've discovered in my psychiatric travels is that manic depressives are often alcoholics. Self-medicating, dontcha know. Recently, when seeing the crisis intervention pdoc, he gave me a sideways look when I told him that I don't drink. I don't. Here's why.

I had a short but seriously heavy guzzle season back in the mid '90s, when I was a hot-shit NYC editor with a big, fat ego, and I managed to drink my way through many Chelsea bars with my drinking pal, Steve, another editor.

And then after finding myself puking in the Hoboken train station at 1 a.m. one too many times, I stopped drinking altogether. Because yeah, it runs in the family, that alcoholism thing. I was one step away from it, no question.

Previously to that little incident, I was addicted to Oxycodone, due to a painful cervical disk condition. My Dr. Feelgood was an orthopedist who later lost his license to practice medicine because he loved to write prescriptions that were at best questionable. I remember that the first time he examined me, he asked me this: "What kind of drugs do you like?"

Well, what did I know? So he got me hooked on Oxy. Now, mind you, this was in the early '90s, when the Oxy problem was not publicized, and all of us addicts had little trouble getting snockered. Boy, I loved the high I got. It acted in lieu of the psychotropic medication I should have been taking.

So the neck gets better--but now I'm craving the Oxy, its splendiferous high that makes the psychic pain, anxiety, and mania calm down. So I keep telling him it hurts and he keeps giving me happiness and sunshine in pill form. And if I ran out and couldn't get to the office, he very kindly put the Rx in an envelope and taped it to the office door. Because you know, these drugs can't be called in to your local CVS.

I finally realized that I was addicted. And went cold turkey. A nightmare, about which I never spoke about. Not to friends, not to family. I did it alone.

And then it was the alcohol, which happened about four years later. You would think, having been on Oxy and then having to kick it, I would have avoided drinking. Who says addicts are smart people?

The final chapter--hospitalization in 1995, with a diagnosis of bipolar II. It's been changed to bipolar I but I'm not sure that means shit. Take your pick. And during that hospitalization, the pdocs put me into an AA meeting because they didn't believe me when I said I didn't drink. I stood up in the meeting and said, "My name is Marilyn and I'm bipolar. And I don't belong here because I'm not an alcoholic." Since then, I've met several recovering alcoholics who suggested that maybe I did belong there. Because having kicked one addiction made me ripe for another.

I suspect that having an addictive personality and being bipolar go hand in hand. Hey, it's cheap and easy to drink to medicate. These days, I've wised up. And get myself to a pdoc rather than immerse myself in something far more dangerous than taking Seroquel and Lamictal.


Becky in Iowa :O) said...

I'm glad you are posting here again. While I'm not bi-polar I do have issues. I've tried the whole therapy thing but I swear she didn't want to talk about the big issues. She was more interested in my memory problems than why I have a mini breakdown each time I have to go into new situations. I've been off meds for about 2 years but I'm tempted now that I've got insurance again to find a new doc. We shall see what will be.

Sarah said...

I hear what you are saying about the fine line between helping and informing and being self-indulgent when writing about your mental health issues.

I am not downplaying the danger of addictions, other substances, or not taking necessary medications. I have serious safety concerns about psychotropic medications. I am especially concerned with the effects of staying on them long term. I have not come across much information detailing the possible troubles one might face from taking these substances for years on end. The most I have read is that long-term use of certain medications may result in hemorrhoids and cavities due to constipation and dry mouth. While those are as unpleasant enough, I believe there is much more. Still, we take what we can get so that we might live long enough to face whatever plagues us from taking the medications that could save our lives today. The risks and shortcomings of the medications emphasize to me the need to do all of the other work to manage mental health issues. Sometimes the only medications that ever worked for someone are pulled from the market due to safety issues or cannot be prescribed because they cause life-threatening health problems.

Krista said...

I do not drink. Ever. Because when I do, I get ripped. And I love it! I do smoke cigarettes, which is another addiction that is so hard to kick. There are times when the baby is screaming and I can't breathe from all the pressure that I actually think, "well...if I go outside the smoke won't hurt him..." Then I snap back to reality and realize this is my problem, not his. I do wish I could smoke during therapy though. I catch myself grinding my teeth and holding my breath, certainly not very productive with a "don't you dare swallow it down" therapist. I absolutely agree that mental and emotional issues are hand in hand with addiction, and probably the reason my entire family are either alcoholics or teetotalers.

Kristen said...

I had one pdoc (to borrow your vocab) tell me that I'm bipolar II, but I'm more inclined to believe that I'm simply depressed. As in, prone to long bouts of depression. If I'm cycling, I really feel cheated because I don't remember ever having an energetic "high"...just shades of what I perceive as norm mixed with shades of blues and sads. Even the times when I'm able to get out and exercise on a regular basis are like swimming upstream: I don't feel energetic. I'm a sad person on a bicycle. So if I really am Bipolar II, I've got the longest and most subtle cycles, ever.

Nonetheless, I was put on Lamictal, and I took it for roughly 16 weeks with absolutely no change. This time around, I went to my regular doctor and asked for Zoloft, and it's helping a hundred times more. All I wanted was to not cry everyday, so getting what I wanted is beautiful.

I don't feel that I've found the right balance of medication and therapy (or even a solid diagnosis) yet. I'm still open to the possibility of Bipolar II, and since I've got loads of free time I'm doing research and paying attention to how I feel. Until I can afford all kinds of doctor visits, I'm not sure what else a person can do.

So while I'm skeptical about my own diagnosis, I really feel empowered by your attitude toward getting the right care for mental health issues. Thanks for just being you.

momtat92 said...

Hey! Glad I found you. I'm a BP 2 also and I'm an obsessed knitter (which is how I found you). Had a similar experience with the drinking back in college. I was a weekend beer binge drinker and you can ask my dh. Every weekend I would spend the evening drinking myself to oblivion and then spending the late night over a dorm garbage can puking. Quite a lovely pic, huh? Don't quite know why I quit, except my senior year of nursing school didn't leave much room for the frat party scene and I got away from it. That's when I started to realize that I've got a "switch" in my head that turns on at a certain level of ETOH that says "More, More, More!!!!" and won't shut up! Oh, and yeah, alcohololism runs deep in my family too.

So, now I only drink sparingly and only at home with dh.

And I got my bipolar diagnosis 2 years ago. I take Effexor for the crippling depression, Topamax to stabilize my moods and Ativan to shut my brain off at night so I can sleep.

Thanks for sharing with us!

torKNITtoh said...

Dear Marilyn,
I'm glad you started this blog up again. Thank you for that.
While I've had some minor issues of my own in the past, what I am asking for is guidance in helping someone with a mental disorder. A co-worker of mine (that I care about!) is having some severe problems. I'm not in the health business. She was diagnosed with Depression many years ago. At this point, I'm not sure if it is even the right diagnosis. And things have just fallen apart very quickly over the past few weeks. What can I do to help? I don't know where to begin, but I am very worried about her and care very deeply. Any advice would be appreciated.
Sue--in Kannsass