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Here because I can't go it alone anymore....


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Hello, I've happened upon this board a number of times in the past months, and I feel like it's a place I can hopefully be free to be honest and yet anonymous. Me in a quick nutshell: I'm 41, a mom, divorced last summer because I went lesbo (or in more "proper" terms, finally came out, both to myself and to the world), I have the most amazing girlfriend to whom I have to give huge props to for putting up with me, don't know if I'd have the strength to deal with what I put her through.

Basically I've joined here because I've been struggling alone with mental health stuff since at least my teens (though there were some oddities about me in childhood too). Anyway, right up front, I know the members here aren't mental health professionals, I know you can't give me medical advice that I can take as anything but an opinion, but I need to just start somewhere. I have a huge distrust of doctors and medication, when I try to deal with this stuff I can tend to get paralyzed with indecision and not know where to begin, and it would really just help me if I could just put this out there and maybe get feedback from people who can relate.

Anyway, since my teens I've been (at various times) impulsive, angry and acting out, been through bouts of dark depression (though mine never was the kind that makes you want to sleep, instead I pace, cry, scream, "freak out", mope, want to die, and pace some more), had periods of anxiety and paranoia, and have done some crazy and stupid things, which looking back I'm lucky I survived (things like living on the streets, hitchiking alone, taking scary risks). I've also had periods of feeling super driven and inspired and creative, and in these periods I've made huge life changing decisions (like picking up and moving to another state to go to an expensive music school within a month of hearing that it existed, opening up a clothing store within a month of having the grand idea to do so, funding these expeditions with student loans and credit cards, then giving up when the stress overwhelms me and I'm no longer inspired....). I've never developed a career or even been able to hold down a minimum wage job for longer than six months, I usually end up not being able to handle the pressure or stress of a job, or I quit because I'm off making another huge change in my life. Through all these years I've had a string of "reasons" I tell myself to explain the way I am, such as I did too many psychedelics when I was a teen, I'm just "creative, individualistic, independant and eccentric", I'm lazy and spoiled (to explain why I've never worked steadily), I'm a Gemini (you know, highly changeable), and in the really dark times, that life is just hard, it just needs to be suffered through, and depression is just a fact of life. When I was married and went through more extreme depression, rage fits and wanting to die, I blamed my husband and my marraige. I always believed that it was best to deal with my depression on my own and without meds, that I could use positive thinking or natural remedies to pull me out, and that if I decided to use meds it was a sign of weakness.

It's just in the past year that I'm starting to face that it all may emanate from an imbalance in me, and facing that means facing my fears of all that entails. It started with the highly volatile and emotional time of my divorce and coming out. Long story short, I caved in and asked a dr for Wellbutrin (didn't want the sexual side effects of SSRI's), was given a month's worth and told to get a script from a psychiatrist, so I made an appt with the only one who didn't have a long waiting list. I filled out a questionaire which I swear sounded like it was assessing depression and/or bipolar symptoms, but it turns out it was for ADHD, and the test determined I had it! So I was put on Wellbutrin and Vyvanse last April, and since then have had the most extreme mood swings of my life (I can be feeling really super good, and hours later just feel rage, anxiety and paranoia just burning in me, or just be crying or super irritable, then feel positive and motivated. I break up with my girlfriend all the time, either because I think we're doomed, or I feel so guilty about the way I act and think she'd be better off with someone who didn't have these issues, though it's not really breaking up because she lives with me and she refuses to take the bait). I was given different prescriptions for mood stabilizers, but most of them scared me once I researched them so I didn't try them. I did try Lamictal for about 6 weeks and actually think I started to feel calm and balanced, but I got some little red rashy bumps and freaked out and stopped taking it. Finally this last appt he said I couldn't be on the Wellbutrin anymore and gave me a prescription for both Topomax and Carbitrol and told me to choose which to take. I've been off the Wellbutrin for about two weeks, I feared a huge crash but don't yet notice much of a difference, still having mood changes but a bit less extreme. I wanted to get the Wellbutrin out of my system before I tried a mood stabilizer. Also want to see if I could do without having to try one. I know the Vyvanse is contributing to the mood swings, but in the times that it's not causing extreme anxiety and freak outs, I'm functioning at a higher level than without it, achieving those allusive highs that I could sometimes get with the right mixture of inspired mood and caffeine.

Update: I wrote the above about six days ago, and since then have gone through perhaps one of my lowest, most close to being done with it all kind of depressions ever, so maybe the Wellbutrin WAS keeping me out of that extreme. About five nights ago I was just one huge ball of all kinds of bad feelings, I downed some shots of Tequila, and honestly while I'm sitting here trying to remember how it all happened, I have no idea, but I ended up in a rage which ended with me throwing a shot glass at my girlfriend (I was NOT drunk, I didn't even feel the alcohol), and she went and locked herself in the bathroom (this really isn't me, I'm not abusive). It was the middle of the night and cold, but I went outside and sat on the sidewalk and just cried for a long time. Then I came back in and picked up a chunk of broken glass, I really wanted to use it on myself (not to off myself, just because of the feelings in my body, I really had to hurt something), but instead I scratched the shit out of the coffee table and the top of my laptop. Earlier that night I had decided to start taking the Lamictal again that I have left over from before, I took just 12.5 mg because I want to go really slow with upping the dose, this is my 5th day on that dose........

Ughhhh.......

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Lamictal can cause lots of rashes that are not "the rash." If you get a rash again, ask a doctor to look at it. I can't remember how long I have been on Lamictal. It is kind of a blur. But it has been less than a year. I have several small patches of rash, especially around my knees and hip joints, but they are really only noticeable to me. My husband is on lamictal for seizures, and has worse rashes than I do on his shins, but again, they are not "the rash."

It doesn't sound like the Wellbutrin was right for you. Lamictal is a mood stabilizer, but it also tends to be a mood elevator. To be honest, I don't know what Vynase is.

As you know, I am a lay person; why does your p-doc think you only have ADHD? It sounds a lot to me like you are bipolar. They can be comorbid, so it isn't like you have to be one or the other.

There are people on these boards who have seen a lot more stuff than I, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

Anyway, welcome to CBs. Sorry you are feeling shitty. Your girlfriend sounds like a keeper, don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

And I know you know this, but drinking is not a good idea right now. It doesn't mean you will never be able to enjoy a drink again, but now it is just going to make you harder to treat.

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Sounds like you've been through some tough times, hope you're soon feeling better.

Based on what you wrote, I think you need to get back in to see your pdoc as soon as possible. Out of control rage isn't normal, and some of the other impulsive things you've described are classic markers for bipolar. If your pdoc thinks you only have ADHD, you might want to get a second opinion.

Most of the people on this site readily support the use of psych meds, because we have all found out through (usually terrible) experience, that we can't function without them. I think I can say that no one here would choose to have a mental illness, or need to take meds to treat it, but those are the cold hard facts.

I know you said you distrust doctors and meds, but I know that if I didn't take my meds I would have killed myself a long time ago. They haven't changed my basic personality traits, and I still feel like I'm "me", but I've also survived some paralyzing depressions, and have learned what to watch out for if I do start sliding towards the abyss. I have a career, but in the last 9 years, I've been off work for 4.5 years because of debilitating depression, which I coyly explain to prospective employers by saying that I was caring for an ill family member. I just don't mention that the family member was me.

The other cold hard truth about psychotropic meds is that it usually takes some time and some trial and error before you find the mix that's right for you. It's also very common to take a combination of meds, as you'll see in many members' signatures. But you'll feel so much better after your moods are sorted out.

Welcome to the boards, there are a lot of great and intelligent people here with all sorts of experiences. There is also a lot of good information pinned at the beginning of each forum topic that you may find useful. Good luck to you.

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Thank you both for responding and getting through my long post. Vyvanse is an ADHD medication, so basically in the amphetamine class. The thing about the pdoc I go to is I pretty much think he's quacky. He doesn't always remember who I am or what I'm taking, everytime I'm there I leave with a few new scripts (many I don't fill), and other people I know who have gone to him somehow miraculously are diagnosed with ADHD too! The only "test" I was given was for ADHD, and it seems pretty hard to NOT end up looking like you have it, as many of the questions had to do with things that to me sound more like depression or bipolar too, questions that range from feeling down and depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, hyper, talking fast, etc. Without officially saying he things I'm bipolar, he just keeps saying I need to be on mood stabilizers, and that the Welbutrin isn't right for me. On any given day the Vyvanse is either going to make me feel really good and motivated, or really super anxious, paranoid, angry and overwhelmed. It's definately a million times worse the second half of my monthly cycle, so for a long time before I took any meds, I knew I had depression, through perhaps PMDD, and the side of me that was impulsive/hyper/creative, I thought that was the "normal" side of me, I loved when I was naturally inspired like that. It's just since starting meds that these mood extremes have become so much more extreme, not only more extreme feelings, but changing so quickly too. I don't know if it's the medicine that's doing it or if it's bringing out something that's already in me. As for the rage, I've always had fits of destructive rage and a quick temper since I was a teenager, it's just that this was the first time it was towards my girlfriend.

As for counselors and psychologists/psychiatrists, it's basically that in the last maybe 5 years I've told four different ones that I often have feelings of wanting to die (not necessarily kill myself, just wish I could die), and it just didn't seem to be a big deal, so it either made me think it's pretty normal or they don't really care. And then there's my quacky pdoc. So the trick is how to find someone good, I definately want/need to see someone, my last counselor I saw a few times last year suggested I find a psychologist/psychiatrist who work together for therapy/meds. I'm on my ex husband's insurance for about four more months, and I made a list of all the female psychologists and psychiatrists that take my insurance, but there are at least 50 names! That's where I get stuck. How to other people choose therapists?

In terms of drinking, you're right, I should know better because if you're already feeling bad, it makes you feel worse, but on the other hand, when I feel depressed, I feel the urge to drink. In probably the last four years of my marraige, I drank nightly in order to get sleepy, and also because I couldn't have sex with my ex unless I drank alcohol (now I know why! I was so pleasantly surprised that I didn't/don't need to be buzzed to get turned on with my girlfriend!). When I'm the mopey kind of depressed it's ok, but when I'm the rage and anxious kind of depressed, I really gotta not go there......

Today I feel really good and motivated!

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If you think your pdoc is a quack, you should find another pdoc. If it seems that some of his other patients are dx'ed with ADD, it's probably true because along with depression and bipolar, it's one of the most common psychiatric disorders. It's also more socially acceptable as a diagnosis so people may be more likely to talk about it than other dx's they may have received.

I don't know where you're located, but if you're in the U.S., it's very rare these days to find a psychiatrist who also does therapy. Most pdocs concentrate on medication management and leave the talk therapy to the psychologists. Because pdocs only do medication management, typical follow-up visits only last about 10 minutes - sad but true. The initial visit should last at least an hour so the pdoc can do a thorough interview to make a preliminary dx and prescribe meds. There really aren't any 'tests' per se to dx mental illness, although there are some standard rating scales and screening questionnaires.

Your pdoc should be able to explain what they think your dx is and what they think your treatment should be, and if you're not taking the prescriptions you've been given, then you need to tell your pdoc that also, so that they can talk to you and so can both agree on your treatment plan. Try to remember that a diagnosis is just a guide for what the treatment should be, so don't let yourself get hung up on a label. If your pdoc thinks you need to be on a mood stabilizer, then the pdoc clearly thinks it's something other than ADHD, as mood stabilizers really aren't a treatment for ADHD. He may never "officially" commit to a diagnosis of bipolar, but will use it as a guide to develop your treatment plan.

I know you said that you don't trust doctors and meds, but also that you're about 40 and have been suffering for years. It's possible to get better and stabilized with meds as many people here like myself can attest to. Can someone else to accompany you to your next appointment to hear what the doctor has to say and to make you feel more comfortable with the whole situation?

As far as finding a good pdoc (or any doc, for that matter), it's hit or miss. You might ask for a referral from your regular doctor. Otherwise it gets down to appointment availability, location, etc. Having a mental illness of any flavor sucks, but having one and not getting treatment sucks a lot worse. I hope you find the right med combination soon so you'll feel better and not be on the roller coaster so much.

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Thank you so much, everything you say makes so much sense. Maybe my pdoc is not quackish if his ways are normalish for pdocs, which is like you say, 10 minute appts, trying new meds when I tell him what's going on (I do tell him what I am and am not taking), and focusing on dealing with the symptoms (major mood swings) instead of trying to zero in on a diagnosis. And really, it probably doesn't matter what's wrong with me as long as I can feel better! I'm throwing my resistance of meds to the wind for now because each time I go low it's more and more scary. My highs are much less anxiety ridden now that the Wellbutrin is out of me, but the lows are lower. So I'm taking Lamictal and just started the Topomax too, and instead of drinking alcohol at night to bring me down (never good these days), I'm taking Xanax earlier in the evening instead of right before bed, that's helping me feel calm and relaxed without the vicious side effects of alcohol. Hopefully these meds will work without too awful side effects. Anyway, thank you again!

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...focusing on dealing with the symptoms (major mood swings) instead of trying to zero in on a diagnosis. And really, it probably doesn't matter what's wrong with me as long as I can feel better!

You've found the key - if your mood swings are bad enough that you need medication, it really doesn't matter about the diagnosis. The diagnosis is a guide, and a code for the insurance company billing.

And please don't beat yourself up because you need meds. There's nothing to be ashamed of, and there's no one to blame, it's just something you have to deal with to maintain your health. Society has unfortunately attached a huge stigma to mental illness, but it's best to ignore what you hear from friends and in the media, and listen to your doctor. Some of my closest friends still think that at some point now that I'm "better" I should be able to give up my meds. If they weren't lifelong friends and wonderful in other ways, I would drop them. As it is, we have agreed to a truce and basically don't talk about the specifics of my treatment. I am lucky to also have some close friends who have educated themselves about my illness and that I feel comfortable talking about the gory details with.

While you're getting your cocktail sorted out, it's also good to remember that most side effects are short-lived and go away after a few days or weeks. I had terrible headaches as I titrated up on Lamictal, but they lasted about a week each time, and I haven't had any since.

This is a great place to come for support and information about what you're going through, so hang in there, it does get better once you're stable.

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