Med Change part II

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a med change. I promised you an update, so here it is: The beginning has been rough.

In this change, I had to completely stop taking the old medication before I could even begin taking the new one. What’s more, the new one has to be increased to full dose extremely slowly, taking a couple of months. The result of this is that I am very nearly off of my mood stabilizer. I still get some mood stabilization from another med that I take, but the mood stabilizer itself is at such a low dose, I can hardly tell.

Initially, I was a bit manic and said some nasty things to a friend. I then collapsed into a depression about my sins and found it hard to move out of bed at all. I also noted that my sleeping schedule actually stabilized, but it stabilized in reverse. I am awake at night and asleep during the day. I somehow managed to get to church and go to confession on Tuesday, and that helped greatly. My spiritual father gave me great advice on how to get through and for the first time in a week, I felt normal. I, of course, then went back into mania. There I’ve been, ever since, and I’m trying to get some normality back. This isn’t over. This doesn’t make the med change a bad idea yet. This means that these things are hard. If I’m lucky, this is the hard part in the process of finding more stability than I’ve had in years. I’m pushing through.

So how do I push through? I can’t just let myself be tossed like the surf of the sea in all this. If I were to do that, I could destroy a lot of things. No, I must fight for stability. One thing I’ve been doing is going for walks. I mentioned walking recently and my mania has helped me to do this more regularly. I’ve been getting a lot of exercise which helps calm me down.

Another strategy is using the mania for good things. Mania isn’t ideal, but it’s not all bad. I got around to paying some bills that I hadn’t been dealing with and that felt good. Due to clicking buttons in the wrong order, I got a $30 fee at my bank for over-payment coverage even though I had the money. Due to my manic energy, I felt up to calling the bank and asking for forgiveness on that fee, since I did actually have the money. They were nice and reversed the fee. That may not have happened were I not manic.

Prayer. Prayer is very necessary for all times, but especially times like these. I’ve taken time to step before my icon corner and pour my heart out to God. When I go on walks, I generally pray. Often, the Jesus Prayer fills my head while I’m walking and that can be a good thing. I’ve also begged God for holiness rather than comfort. That’s a very dangerous prayer, but produces amazing blessings.

These times can be very hard, but there are ways through them. When I was depressed and could hardly get out of bed, I still did get out of bed. I met my mother for lunch and I went to church. Those were both monumental tasks, but I did them. I knew that Church would bring me closer to the God Who saves, and it is indeed doing that.

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A Medication Change

In a previous post, I wrote that one should be extremely careful about changing medications when they are working for him. One of the dangers is that sometimes quitting a medication that is working permanently changes how one’s body responds to that med. Sometimes, a medication does not help when restarting it, despite having worked before. That is a great danger and is possibly part of the reason I have suffered this past year.

A couple years ago, I agitated for my doctor to remove one of my medications that I felt I didn’t need. I had reason to think this as a previous doctor had started me on it entirely because it fit his style of treatment rather than because I needed it. I had always wanted to get back off of that particular medication, but when I did, things went badly for me. Ever since the med change that took me off this medication, I have felt less stable. Having Bipolar Disorder, I find that my moods move back and forth between manic and depressed, despite having been stable earlier. My current doctor and I made some other changes back and forth, and I am now on the same medications I was on when I was doing fairly well, but I’m still not stable like I was before. It appears that having stopped the medication has permanently stopped it from working for me.

I should mention that there is a lot we don’t know about medications. Often times, we’re more guessing at what they do than knowing. At best, we have a general idea. What we do know is that they have excellent results much of the time. We also know that the side effects can be devastating. I am probably a good deal heavier than I would be without medications, which is bad. I’m not explosive with rage and suicidal thoughts which is good. Overall, the balancing of my mood is worth the weight gain, and recently, through exercise, I’ve been able to keep my weight stable anyway.

But like I mentioned, I am not as stable as I was, so I spoke with my doctor today and requested that we try a different mood stabilizer. My doctor recommended a different medication which may help based on my symptoms and other medical knowledge at her disposal. I hope it works. All I can do is hope, for now.

When trying a new medication, there is little we can do to ensure it works. In the end, trying a new medication is basically a roll of the dice. Sometimes it goes very very badly. But other times, it can bring someone back to normality after years of pain. We don’t yet have the technology to know ahead of trying it whether a medication will work. We dream of having the ability to do a blood test and having information from that to know what meds will work. For now, it’s harder than that.

I suppose this could be seen as a scary time. I, however, look at it as an exciting time. This new medication may bring me back to a place of stability that I haven’t seen in two years. That would be better than I can possibly describe. Some look at taking meds as a form of slavery or pain. I suppose that is one viewpoint, but I look at it as a possible way to have freedom back. The freedom to do as I choose, rather than being dragged around by a roller coaster of mood swings. This is a good thing.

I will keep you updated on whether this goes well for me. To know, fully well, if it works right for me will take a couple of months, but I should have some idea, at least,  within a week or two.

Go For a Walk

I imagine my friends either get tired of this or just laugh at me, but pretty much any time I talk to any of my friends, I ask them if they would like to go for a walk. I like walking more than my dog does. Once I was on a walk with my dog and she gave up walking and sat down, not to be moved. It took forever to get back home, since she’s not much for being carried, and then I wanted to go back out to get as much of a walk as I wanted.

Why do I love walking so much? Well, it’s good for you. I want to share in this post all the ways going for a walk is good for you. The most obvious way is that it is often easier to connect with God in nature. That may not be true for everyone, but it is true for me. I find the outdoors to be beautiful. There is a park in my neighborhood that none of my neighbors seem to care about, so I have it pretty much all to myself. It barely qualifies as an actual park. Basically, there is a small area where the city could have built a road, but didn’t. This left some extra undeveloped land. They chopped down some of the trees and mow the lawn there, but otherwise the city ignores it as much as the neighborhood does. I walk to that park even in the winter sometimes and sit and pray. During the summer, there are so many trees on all sides of the meadow that there is basically green in every direction. I love green.

Why else do I walk? I walk for the exercise. Toward the end of high school, I started gaining a lot of weight due to the medications I take for my mental illness. This was very hard on my self esteem, but I knew I could do something about it with exercise. It helped. I’m still not at the weight I would like to be at, but I’m not huge either. I give walking the credit for that. I struggle to control my eating because I don’t like cooking and because my medications cause me to crave food even when I’m not hungry. But nothing stops me from walking.

There are more reasons for walking. Exercise is actually an antidepressant. In fact there have been studies that show it is as effective as taking an antidepressant drug. So if you’re feeling very depressed and want to avoid meds, try walking every day. Or, perhaps you do take medications and you still feel down. Walk as much as you can! You may not need an increase in meds. I know it’s a lot easier said than done to start moving when very depressed, but once you actually start, it gets way easier.

What else is good about walking? If you walk with friends, it’s a great time for conversation. I’m the sort of person who loves a good conversation. That’s all I really need when I’m with friends. Going for a walk leaves me with time to talk with my friends. I often talk about things I love such as church or books or video games. This is a lot of fun. In addition, conversation is likely to be more positive because as already mentioned, we’re getting an antidepressant effect.

So how should you walk? Try to walk at a good clip. I’ve read that there are three speeds of walking to look for. One is slow enough that you can talk or sing. The next step up, you can talk but you cannot sing. At full speed of walking you can’t talk either. Often the best way to walk is to go fast enough that you cannot sing, but you can talk. Another strategy I heard is that you want to have your heart rate elevated for at least 20 minutes a day. If you can, 30 minutes a day is better. Check this link for information on how to find a proper elevated heart rate. You want to exercise 5 days a week if you can, so you do get some days off. Also, As much as I love walking, I don’t exercise enough as it is. I’m still working on improving on it.

“But walking can be boring!” So go with a friend. Start a walking group, or better yet, check the internet and see if there already is a walking group in your area. You can meet some friends that way. Even if you have no one to walk with, some time alone with your thoughts isn’t always bad. If you’re a Christian like me or other religious person you always have prayer. Earlier today, I was on a walk and noticed some angry and embarrassing thoughts, so I practiced my coping skills in dealing with them and returning to a calm stable state. I practiced skills in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which reminds me that I should probably write about some of those later. They’re amazing.

If you still struggle to go for a walk, get a dog. Then you have to walk. Only an irresponsible dog owner fails to walk his dog, and the dog will let him know by misbehaving. It’s hard to say no to the little guys anyway. (or big guys. I once walked a dog that weighed as much as I did).