The Perfect (Medication) Cocktail

click to read DeeDee's bio

click to read DeeDee’s bio

It seems like almost everyone who has been under long-term psychiatric care has embarked on a quest for the Holy Grail: the perfect medication cocktail. And it also seems like a lot of people never find it.

But I’m pleased to discover–my therapist and psych nurse both concur–that I’ve finally found mine. It treats a biological failure to produce enough of a couple critical substances: dopamine and progesterone.

My perfect cocktail includes medicated sinus rinses, nasal spray, a slew of vitamins and supplements, and a couple of prescriptions.

My perfect cocktail includes sinus treatments, a slew of vitamins and supplements, a couple of psychoactive drugs, low-dose naltrexone, and progesterone (not pictured).

I’ve known for years that dopamine was to blame for my mood and attention issues because only dopaminergic drugs ever helped. But there’s no “dopamine deficiency disorder” in the DSM, so they’ve labeled me with ADHD and Major Depressive Disorder. Although Wellbutrin XL and Adderall XR is a bad combo for most people–it makes them anxious, wired, and twitchy–it’s exactly what I need. Continue reading

Miss Diagnoses

DeeDee newAnyone who has ever looked up a “serious mental illness” like bipolar disorder has been smacked in the face with dire warnings and frightening statistics about misdiagnosis. If you google my lifelong companion ADD, you’ll see lots and lots of dire warnings and hand-wringing about overdiagnosis. But you won’t run into are dire warnings, frightening statistics, and hand-wringing about repeated, compounded misdiagnoses.

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Fat and Crazy

DeeDee newI’ve got nothing against being fat, or being crazy. I’ve been both, and I know that there are a million, zillion causes for packing on the pounds or losing your marbles. It’s not always due to factors under our control, but more often than not, lifestyle choices are a significant factor.

I’ve come to suspect that being fat was a major part of what made me crazy–or at least made it much worse. Well, not the ADHD – that’s been a lifelong struggle and there’s a super-obvious genetic link. Continue reading

You Can’t Win at the Insurance Game

DeeDee newI am extraordinarily lucky: I have complete coverage health insurance. That means all therapy, lab tests, prescriptions, and other services – even chiropractic – are covered 100%. It sounds too good to be true, right?

It is.

The catch is that it’s a high deductible plan, and while my husband’s employer pays the bulk of the $11K deductible, we pay about $2K. Continue reading

Mental Illness By Way of Hormones

DeeDee newThat I have a mood disorder goes unquestioned; the true nature and biological aspects of cause are up in the air. Besides the usual childhood traumas and genetic influences, it looks like hormones are in part to blame. Don’t start any hating about stigmatizing women’s normal, natural cycle, because I’m not talking about a normal experience.

I’m talking about a set of oversensitive physiological responses to and/or chronic imbalances of basic hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The kind of sensitivity to adrenaline, for example, that means I can’t have medications containing epinephrine (aka adrenaline, often found in injectable local anesthetics, to reduce bleeding) because it immediately sends me into shock. Continue reading

Goals Are For Losers

DeeDee newTime flies, fun or not. A week, a month, a year simply…vanishes. I graduated a year ago, and it has taken most of that year to recover enough to think about next steps. Another job search, and probably moving. Continuing efforts to improve my health. Things like that.

But then my therapist (a.k.a. Hippie Dude) started asking about long-term goals, after discussing the issue of career choices for ages and getting nowhere. So goals might help, right? I gave it a try despite my doubts and made lists of “goals” for various part of my life. Continue reading

Writing a Safety Plan

DeeDee newWhen I started creating a Wellness Journal awhile back, I found I didn’t have some of the “required” ingredients on hand, including a Safety Plan and a Wellness Plan. Fortunately, plans can be developed as needed, right?

I started with a little research and quickly learned that there are a number of different contracts and plans meant to improve accountability and interventions in mental health crisis situations. Continue reading

When Do I Make the Call?

DeeDee newEveryone tells me I hold out too long. I don’t ask for help often enough or soon enough. I tell them that I don’t know when to ask; they don’t seem to understand.

I’m learning to recognize when things are going awry and when what I’m feeling should be considered “unacceptable” because it’s suffering, not pain. I’ve accepted, at least at an intellectual level, that everyone needs help sometimes, including me. That’s been no easy task. Continue reading

Medication Sensitivity: It’s In Your Genes

DeeDee newIn October I had genetic testing to evaluate medication sensitivities. This sort of testing only looks at a few specific parts of your DNA, the bits known to affect the way you metabolize a lot of medications, including most psychoactive drugs. It’s usually covered by insurance when prescribed – even for MediCare, as a matter of fact. There are a number of different testing providers and test structures; I had a full panel test against several classes of drugs.

I had hoped to get this testing since I heard about it. I’m fed up with constantly experimenting with drugs at the cost of my stability and productivity. Continue reading

The Real Deal Versus Generics in Psychoactive Meds

DeeDee newRecently the FDA announced that Teva’s generic version of Wellbutrin XL (budeprion) was not in fact an equivalent medication, pulling it from the market. This is sort of a landmark thing; all kinds of authorities of various sorts (doctors, pharmacists, regulators, hobos) will insist that generics and brand name medications are the “same.” They are not. They are the same in some respects, but can be meaningfully different in other respects. I’m not going to go into those details at the moment, however, because I’ll go off on a rant and I do have another point to make. Continue reading

Social Rhythm Therapy

DeeDee newInterpersonal and social rhythm therapy (ISRT) is a type of behavioral therapy designed specifically for bipolar disorder. As Wikipedia tells us, it’s:

used to treat the disruption in circadian rhythms that is related to bipolar disorder. ISRT provides a biopsychosocial model for bipolar disorder and recognizes that the illness cannot be fully treated with medication alone, although it is biologically based. It postulates that stressful events, disruptions in circadian rhythms and personal relationships, and conflicts arising out of difficulty in social adjustment often lead to relapses.

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A Pictorial History of My Bipolar Meds

DeeDee newMedications are a major part of managing many mental illnesses, but something the general population has a hard time understanding. I’m not even talking about the issues of stigma, accepting “meds for life”, or side effects. I’m just talking about the process of finding the right cocktail to function as normally as possible. It’s hard to grasp without a good example, so here’s the history of my meds over the last two years (keeping in mind that I’ve been on psych meds for over 20 years!) Continue reading