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.
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. The Adderall forces my body to produce a little more dopamine , the Wellbutrin makes it last longer, and presto! My brain works as expected when it has the right fuel. It’s extraordinarily liberating.
Countless hours scouring the Internet and medical literature suggests my genes are at fault; due to just a couple mutations, I don’t make much dopamine at all. The same goes for progesterone, which has a powerful effect on mood. Now that I take extra progesterone 10 days of the month, I only have a day or two of mild irritability and ennui, instead of two weeks of gut-wrenching depression and anxiety. My ovarian cysts are also vanishing.
I’m also taking low-dose naltrexone, the final ingredient for making it all work. How LDN interacts with hormones and mood isn’t entirely clear; but regardless of how it works, it works. Without the naltrexone, when I’m taking progesterone while under stress, the progesterone is “stolen” to make cortisol, leading to increased heart rate and canceling out the benefits of progesterone, leaving me with mood swings and a lot of physical pain. But with the naltrexone, those problems disappear again, so it seems to be a critical ingredient for my cocktail.
Depending on how you count, it took me either 23 years or 2.5 years to get here, plus numerous doctors, many of whom made things worse instead of better. Most importantly, it took genetic testing, which helped me avoid years of guinea-pig-like experimentation.
For awhile I had hoped to reduce the number of meds I rely upon. I take quite a handful a daily basis when adding in vitamins and supplements, plus stuff to manage chronic sinusitis. But having gotten to a stable state–by which I mean my mood charts barely show a blip but I can unquestionably feel the full range of emotions and at the appropriate times–I’m really OK with taking a lot of meds. Evolution should have selected my genes right out of the pool, but here I am anyway; since it seems to be the only solution, I might as well enjoy better living through chemistry.
© DeeDee and A Canvas Of The Minds 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to DeeDee and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.