Tag Archives: Antidepressants

Issues Surrounding Psychiatric Medication

Yesterday, Lydia of On The Borderline wrote an interesting piece on the stigma surrounding psychiatric medications and opioids for chronic pain. Today, I am going to add my own two cents to the conversation on meds.

Like Lydia says, many people, including patients, fear that psychiatric medications will change the person taking them, turning them into a zombie. I must say there is some truth to this. However, it’s hard to tell whether the medication is at fault or it’s the person’s illness. For example, as regular readers know, I spent a long time in a psychiatric hospital, including on a long-term care unit. Most people there have severee, treatment-resistant schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Most people who fall into this category were indeed heavily sedated and could be seen as “zombies”. However, the term “zombie” is a rather derogatory term for any human being, mentally ill or not.

When I started medication in 2007, I was indeed afraid of the antipsychotic I got prescribed turning me into a “zombie”. I was on a low dose of an atypical antipsychotic (which seem less sedative than classic antipsychotics) and it didn’t sedate me that much. It did keep me somewhat calmer than I was without medication, though I still felt pretty much as miserable.

This brings me to another issue that I touched upon in my comment on Lydia’s post: medications aren’t there for behavioral management. Okay, that may not be entirely true, in that severely aggressive people may benefit from medication for behavioral management if nothing else works. However, it’s a last resort and care must be taken to assess whether the patient actually feels better or they’re just too drugged up to make their feelings known. In this sense I, being a former long-term psychiatric hospital patient given medication for behavior control, have a different perspective to Lydia. She, after all, seemed to assume in her post that it’s stigma that keeps people from taking medications that could make them feel better.

Not that this didn’t happen in my own case, but in a different respect. I was taught in my years in inpatient psychiatric treatment, that medication is pure behavior control and how I felt didn’t matter. This not only got me to take medications I feel I didn’t need, but it also kept me from getting medications I did need. This is the case with my antidepressant. I was finally diagnosed with recurrent, moderate major depression in 2017 when I sought a second opinion on my diagnosis. I’ve probably been suffering depression off and on since at least age ten, but it was masked by my challenging behavior. Because I with good reason didn’t expect anyone to care about my mood if it wans’t bothering the staff, I was never treated for depression while in the hospital. Finally, earlier this year, I got a psychiatrist’s appointment to discuss my mood and was prescribed a higher dose of my antidepressant. (I had already been put on an antidepressant several years earlier, but don’t ask me why.) It seems to be working now.

What I’ve Been Up To Lately

I’ve been meaning to write a lot lately, but I didn’t. All that I started on were random ramblings that I didn’t finish. Today, I’m writing down these random ramblings in a kind of list, in hopes of finally finishing this post.

First, I had movement therpay on Tuesday. It was good in some ways but not good in a sense too. I dissociated a lot. Like the last time I had movement therapy, a part of me came out. This is good, in that it allowed me to express myself in a way I otherwise can’t. However, since my parts are not fully accepted by my mental health team, I’m not sure whether I’ll be taken out of movement therapy for it “not helping”.

Second, on Tuesday evening, my mother sent me and my sister a text message that she and my father were at my paternal grandma’s. She is being kept asleep for pain control and will soon die. This is terribly sad. I mean, yes, she’s 94 and in a lot of pain in addition to having long suffered significant cognitive decline. However, I cherish my grandma greatly. She was an official witness at my wedding in 2011. This was in th eearly stages of her cognitive decline, when she was still just able enough to fulfill this role. I am so glad I had her for this role, as I didn’t have the greatest relationship with my parents or sister at the time, so didn’t want to ask them.

Third, I started at yet another increased dose of citalopram last Monday. I told my psychiatrist on Friday what I’d written down here and she concluded that the medication is helping some but not enough, so she increased it to 40mg a day.

Fourth, yesterday I reached the recomended daily step goal of 10,000 steps despite the hot weather. This is only the second time since I bought my Fitbit activity tracker last February.

Fifth, I’ve been reading some good books lately. I finally finshed Angels with Dirty Faces by Casey Watson, a collection of five previously published mini eBooks. I may post a review soon. On Tuesday, I bought my first Kindle eBook. I wasn’t 100% sure whether it’d work with my screen reader, since it wasn’t mentioned explicitly that it would, but it did. It’s What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew by the Autism Women’s Network. So far, I’m really enjoying this book.

Increase in My Antidepressant Dose: Is It Working?

Tomorrow, I will see my psychiatrist for a medication review. Last month, the dose of my citalopram, an SSRI antidepressant, was increased. Do I truly feel it helps?

When I started on the higher dose of citalopram, I had no idea what to expect. I’d originally been prescribed this medication in September of 2010 and had never had its effecacy evaluated. I seem to remember I was put on citalopram after the dose of my Abilify had been increased twice in a few months’ time and I was still very irritable. Abilify is an atypical antipsychotic commonly used for irritability and emotional dysregulation of all kinds. Citalopram is primarily used for depression and anxiety, but it can also help with emotional dysregulation, or so I seem to remember my psychiatrist having said.

Even before I started on my higher dose of citalopram, my mood started to lift a little, possibly because of anticipation. Once I started on the higher dose, my mood remained relatively good for a short time. Things were looking up in the day activities department, so that also helped.

One thing I have clearly been noticing, is that I’m more active. I have less need for sleep during the day. I am also a little more motivated and inspired to get things done. Though I obviously did’t complete the #AtoZChallenge, I did write far more regularly on this blog last month than i’d done in almost two years before.

Another positive that I’ve noticed is that I am more able to keep myself from engaging in self-destructive behavior. I do still have urges, but I’m more able to reach out for help first.

Though these are all very positive changes, I must say that if I’m truly honest, my depressed mood is still the same if not worse. Same for my irritability. I still experience this feeling as though a heavy weight is on my shoulders. I still get agitated very easily. I still experience suicidal thoughts.

Then again, these are most likely more symptoms of emotional regulation issues rather than major depression. Unfortunately, there’s no medication that targets these specifically. I won’t have my first appointment with my new treatment coordinator till the 17th, and I assume we won’t be diving back into dialetical behavior therapy right then. I try to use the skills I’m learning through self-help groups and apps, but it’s all rather hard.

Rays of Sunlight – April 2018

It’s been months since I last posted a list of things I’ve liked and loved, otherwise known as my Rays of Sunlight post. In fact, it’s been over a year, although I did post some positive posts more recently.

April 2018 was really a mixed bag. I’ve been struggling a lot, but there were also lots of positives. Today, I’m sharing these positives.

1. The beautiful weather. Today is a cloudy day, but last week, I was actually able to wear a skirt for the first time this year. It was over 25 degrees Celsius and sunny. I loved it!

2. My mood improving. I mentioned this in my gratitude post as part of the #AtoZChallenge already. Now that I’ve been on the increased dose of my antidepressant for over three weeks, I think I can sincerely say it’s helping some. I am not over the moon happy, but then again I didn’t believe I’d be. Instead, I feel calmer and a little more able to handle stressors such as my husband being home late from work. It’s still hard, but I’m less likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors. Yesterday, for example, hubby wasn’t home till 8:30PM and I felt quite stressed. However, instead of doing something self-destructive, I called the on-call nurse at the mental hospital.

3. Cuddling with my stuffed animals. I have five stuffed animals in our bed. Until recently, I didn’t know how to arrange them cofortably and still have space for myself and my husband to sleep. Now I seem to have figured it out. I love to cuddle with my stuffies just before going to sleep.

4. Nice wax melt scents. I rediscovered my wax melts on Wednesday. I don’t know which I have in my warmer right now, as I opened it when my husband was at work so couldn’t ask him to read the packaging. I love the scent though.

5. Beautiful music. Thanks to My Inner MishMash, I rediscovered Cara Dillon. She is an Irish singer and I just love her music. It’s so relaxing.

6. Kindle. On Saturday, I had a meltdown because Adobe Digial Editions, which I use for reading eBooks from Kobo, was once again crashing on an eBook I had just bought. I tried out Kindle with some free eBooks then. Amazon only accepts credit cards as payment, which I don’t have, but my husband has said I can use his if I can make Kindle work. With my version of JAWS, my main screen reader software, it isn’t working that well, but with NVDA, a free screen reader, it is. Kindle also works on the iPhone. I am loving the free children’s stories I downloaded. I may write a full review soon.

A Cornish Mum

Grateful: Three Things I’m Grateful For Right Now #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day 7 in the #AoZChallenge. For my letter G post, I once again chose a prompt from the 397 journal writing prompts and ideas. This prompt is “Grateful”. Today, I am listing some things I am grateful for right now.

1. Sunny weather. Today marked the first warm day of the year with the temperature rising to about 21 degrees Celsius. I love the sunshine, even though I don’t usually go outside on my own. That being said, my husband put an enclosure in my room in which I can put our cat Barry for a while should I want to sit in the garden. Barry in fact loves his enclosure and lies in it a lot even though I haven’t yet put him in there.

Today, my husband and I drove to Kleve across the German border to go for a walk and eat some croissants. My husband used to live there for a year about eight or nine years ago. It was interesting to see how much the city had changed.

2. Nice food. I ate some lovely food today. Croissants are one of my favorite types of bread. Once we got home, my husband microwaved a bapao for me. By this time, it was already almost 6PM, so we decided not to have a full dinner. Instead, we drove to the supermarket and bought a salad. Mine was Mexican chicken and it was great.

3. My mood improving. I’m telling myself it cannot yet be the increase in my antidepressant dose, but my mood is definitely better than it used to be. It helps that I have something to commit to, ie. the #AtoZChallenge. However, with my depressed mood of the past few months, I wouldn’t have been able to stay committed. It’s not easy now either, but it’s doable.

Other than the fact that I’m more active, I’m also generally more positive. My irritability is still the same, but I’m having a more upbeat outlook on life. For example, two weeks ago I was pretty sure I couldn’t cope with independent living at all. Now I am looking at the prospect of possibly moving out of area, which might get me less care, with a relatively positive attitude.

What are you grateful for right now?

Changes

This week has been rather eventful and yet, nothing really did happen. A lot of changes are on the horizon for me, yet nothing has really changed yet.

First, I found out a few weeks ago that next week, my primary day activities staff will be leaving the day center. It is great for her, as she’ll embark on a new and challenging path in her career. For me though, it’s quite hard. Some of my other staff and family have been askign whether I mind at all, since I’ve been struggling at day activities and she was the one who filed the incident report that led to my day activities hours being cut. Yes, I do mind, since despite this, I like this staff a lot.

Then on Thursday, I found out that my CPN is leaving too. It’s also to embark on a new and challenging path in her career, but it’s sad nonetheless. My CPN and I have had quite a few misunderstandings over the ten months so far that we’ve worked together. However, I’ve noticed that I did make progress. It seems odd, since both my husband and my psychiatrist have been commenting on how I didn’t get far on the DBT course yet and it’s apparently my CPN’s fautl. Apparently, she should be limiting my bringing up only indirectly related topics.

I know the nurse practitioner who will be replacing her already from my intake interview last year. It is a slight disadvantage that he’s male, but other than that, I think I could get along with him just fine. However, it’s still a bit stressful that so many people are leaving at the same time. After all, my nurse will also be taken off my case. We’re not yet 100% sure who will be replacing her.

On Friday, I had a meeting with my psychiatrist. We discussed my progress on the DBT course, my medication and I mentioned I’ve been rather depressed lately. I did say it’s been going on for half a year already, so if I can hold it together for that long, it must not be that bad. She ignored this comment and proposed to increase the dose of my citalopram from 20 to 30mg. It’s a bit scary, since I’ve been on 20mg ever since 2010 with no med review whatsoever and I didn’t even know why I’d been prescribed it. IN this sense, I like it that my psychiatrist did ask to see me in a month’s time for an evaluation. I really do hope the med increase will help with mood improvement.

Considering Getting a Psychiatrist’s Appointment on My Depressed Mood

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with my community psychiatric nurse (CPN). Part of our appointment will likely be about where to go from here regarding day activities. My CPN already E-mailed me that she’d contacted the Center for Consultation and Expertise. They will hopefully take on my case and help me and my staff assess my needs. That will hopefully help us find a new place or get me the right support at my current place.

I also intend to ask her to get me an appointment with my psychiatrist. I feel too embarrassed to schedule one through the secretary. It’s been 3 1/2 months since my last appointment, so in that sense I could request one just for a catch-up. However, I want to discuss something specific with the psychiatrist and I feel incredibly ashamed of it. I’m finally coming to the conclusion that my depression symptoms are getting worse and to a point where I don’t know how to handle them anymore.

I was more or less by chance diagnosed with major depression last year. This came to light when I had my autism-related independent assessment. I had to fill out a screening tool for depression as part of the intake procedure. I scored as severe on that one. I was then evaluated further and was diagnosed with recurrent moderate depression. Because this was an independent assessment, my psychiatrist isn’t affiliated with this hospital and doesn’t need to take over the diagnosis. I don’t know whether she has.

I do take an antidepressant and have since 2010. Same medication, same dose all these years with no med review whatsoever. I don’t even know for sure why I was put on this medication, except that my Abilify (an antipsychotic) had been increased twice in a few months and I was still irritable.

This is the main reason I feel embarrassed about asking my psychiatrist to evaluate my mood. I mean, irritability bothers other people and ttat’s always been the main reason I was in care. Like, in 2007, when I was admitted to the mental hospital, it was really because of suicidal ideation but my staff always said it was because I’d been having public meltdowns.

I don’t know whether I truly believe that psychiatry’s job is to keep people, or me specifically, from being a pain in other people’s asses. I don’t think it should be. However, I’m rather afraid that my psychiatrist thinks so at least in my case. I’m not exactly sure why, as so far she’s been pretty understanding. I guess they may be left over feelings from all these years being treated like a cumbersome waste of resources.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

#Depression: What It Feels Like to Me

I have had experience with low moods since I was a child. Nonetheless, until a few months ago, I was never diagnosed with depression. During the last round of diagnostic revisions, my psychologst decided to diagnose me with depressive disorder NOS along with dependent personality disorder and borderline personality disorder traits. I am not sure I agree and my psychologist admitted at first that it was more her needing to give me a diagnosis on axis I to warrant me staying in the institution than my actually needing treatment for this.

Today, Aspiecat described what depression is like for her. I could relate to some of these experiences, but nto others. I am going to describe what it’s like to be depressed for me.

Let me first say that low moods are my default. I am pretty sure that dysthymia, ie. chronic but mild depression, is a more useful diagnosis for me than depressive disorder NOS. Apparently though my psychologist doesn’t feel I meet the criteria for that. Really not remembering a prolonged time when I did not feel low makes me wonder whether I’m truly depressed or just pessimistic. I know that depression and optimism do not mutually exclude one another, but I tend to gravitate more towards the negative than the positive.

Then there is the state, as opposed to the trait, of being depressed. Like Aspiecat, I experience two forms of depression: the first in which I feel numb and inert and the second in which I mostly feel despair, sadness and often anger. The former tends to last longer and be harder to overcome. During this state, I sleep more than usual, eat irregularly but usually more than normal, am slower than usual and generally unmotivated. I don’t usually experience the extremest of dark thoughts in this state. Rather, I worry and feel a bit anxious. I may experience suicidal ideation during this state, though it’s rarer than when I’m in my state of despair. I am also less likely to act destructively, unless you count binge eating. When I do experience suicidal ideation in this state, it’s more of a logical, thought-based kind focused on self-hate rather than an active wish to die. I just can’t be arsed to care about life.

In the state of what Aspiecat refers to as meltdown, I, like her, experience all kinds of negative emotions. I think I may be somewhat alexithymic (unable to read my own emotions) too. I often express my emotions as anger when I’m in this state anyway, even though I think I experience many other emotions. I am more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and to engage in destructive behaviors in this state. I am usually agitated rather than slow.

Unlike Aspiecat, I prefer the state of despair to the state of numbness and inertia. There are several reasons for this, one of which may just be the fact that I’m currently numb and not liking it. Any emotion seems better than this state of inertia now. I however also feel that my despair is more actionable, because it tends to be more situational.

Other people also tend to understand my state of meltdown more than my state of inertia. They see me lying in bed all day as a choice, whereas when I’m in meltdown, they see my despair. They may not accept my agitation in this state, but at least they notice that I’m not doing well. My medication also tends to help with this state more than with numbness. I do take an antidepressant in addition to an antipsychotic, but I’m not so sure it helps with my low moods. The antipsychotic and maybe the antidepressant too do take the edge off of my agitation.

Unfortunately though, people see my state of despair as more needing treatment than my state of numbness. This may be because I don’t tend to respond well to psychotherapy and medication-wise, there is simply more to be done against agitation. I take a high dose of an antipsychotic on a daily basis. I also have a low-potency neuroleptic, an anti-anxiety benzodiazepine and a sleeping pill (also a benzo) as PRN medications. All of these can be seen as depressants. Like I said, I do take an antidepressant too, though in a low dose. I am not so sure it works, but then again it isn’t a great medication for the kind of atypical depression I experience. By this I mean that it isn’t shown to be too effective with depression that is characterized by inertia, eating and sleeping too much and general anhedonia (numbness). This kind of depression is particularly hard to treat.

Because other people are more bothered by my meltdowns than by my state of anhedonia, I also feel they tend to want me to be numb rather than agitated. I mean, of course they don’t actively want me to be numb, but they see it as less of a problem, because it causes little disruption to others. I go along with this and have never asked for more help, medication-wise or otherwise, with my inertia-based depression. I am not so sure that I should.

M – #AtoZChallenge on Mental Health

Welcome to the letter M post in my #AtoZChallenge on mental health. We’re finally halfway through the challenge. It’s proving pretty hard for me. Particularly, I’m finding it hard to comment on others’ posts regulalry. Sorry about that. This letter was an easy one.

Medication

Medications are usually believed to be an essential part of treatment for severely mentally ill people. The most common psychiatric medications used are antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilizers and benzodiazepines. I will discuss benzodiazepines separately.

Practically everyone on a long-term inpatient unit takes an antipsychotic. It seems every psychiatrist has their favorite medication of first chooice, though a large number of patients take clozapine. This is not the antipsychotic of first choice, since it can cause potentially fatal side effects, but many people on long-term units are treatment-resistant. Other well-known antipsychotics are aripiprazole (Abilify), risperidone (Risperdal), olanzapine (Zyprexa) and quetiapine (Seroquel).

Commonly-used antidepressants include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil) and citalopram (Celexa). These belong to the newer class of antidepressants, called SSRIs. Venlafaxine (Efexor) is an example of an even newer class, called SNRIs. It isn’t as commonly used though. (Efexor in partiuclar was heavily promoted by big pharma in like 2008 but it seems it’s not the wonder drug originally thought.) When people have treatment-resistant depression, they may get older antidepressants (tricyclics of MAOIs) or an antipsychotic (particularly Abilify) may be added. Mood stabilizers are primarily for people with bipolar disorder. Lithium is th most well-knwon mood stabilizer, but anticonvulsants (originally intended for people with epilepsy) are becoming more and more commonly used.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is one of the recently hyped-up treatments for mental health problems. There are mindfulness workbooks for everything from depression to bulimia to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Mindfulness can be a great part of psychotherapy, but of course it isn’t for everyone.

Movement Therapy

Movement therapy utilizes exercise, yoga or other movement-based techniques in the treatment of mental illness. Exercise can alleviate depression and anxiety. Relaxation techniques are also used in movement therapy. Often, a movement therapy session consists of first doing an exercise and then talking it through with the therapist. Movement therapy can be done both in group and individual settings. I have experience with both and it’s been a help in channeling my irritability..

Music Therapy

Like movement therapy, music therapy is a form of non-verbal therapy for mental illness. I have never had music therapy, because it wasn’t offered at my old institution, and I get the impression that most people here use it to learn to play an instrument. For some though, merely listening to music can be healing and may be part of music therapy.

Then and Now: A Timeline of My Mental Health

It is often hard to see how far we’ve come on our journeys in life until we look back at where we came from. I am no exception to this. I tend to feel that I’m not improving in my coping with my mental health issues. There’s still this hurricane in my mind, after all. It is also hard because, whenever I seem to improve in my behavior, people’s expectations rise even higher. To shed light on the positive changes I’ve made on my journey through life with mental illness, today I will write a timeline of events related to my mental health.

2007: I was hospitalized on the acute ward on November 3 of this year. I was not allowed to leave the ward without someone accompanying me. For the first few days, I even had to have a nurse accompany me. After those first few days, any adult could accompany me, but they had to sometimes assure the nurses I was safe with them.

2008: I started out the year with a setback: I was given a seclusion plan, which meant I could be secluded if I was a burden to other patients or staff. By early February, however, my privileges were finally extended so that I could go off the ward unaccompanied for fifteen minutes. By early March, my privileges were quite suddenly extended to four hours of unaccompanied time off the ward, which is the maximum you could get at that unit. If you had this privilege, you could ask for extended leave if you had a reason for it. My seclusion plan was also lifted, only to be reintroduced again by June. Fortunately, I never had to actually be secluded, but the nurses frequently used it as a threat. The plan was lifted again in September, but only so that I could be moved to the resocialization unit.

2009: I transferred to the resocialization unit in March of 2009. I did mostly okay until September, when I had a major meltdown which elicited another patient’s aggression. The possibility of moving me to the locked ward for a few hours if I acted out was introduced into my treatment plan.

2010: I was sent to the locked unit for the first time. This did lead the staff to consider medication, and I agreed. I started on a low dose of Abilify, an antipsychotic, in late February. It had to be increased to a moderate dose by the summer and by September, Celexa, an antidepressant, was added. Both helped calm my anxiety and irritability. In November of this year, I was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder and PTSD.

2011: I was on the waiting list for an autism-specialized group home and went there to stay over for a week-end in October of 2011. Unfortunately, the group home had changed its target population and there was too little support by the time I stayed over there. I didn’t end up going.

2012: I started planning to live with my husband by this time, originally pretty much solely because I didn’t have any suitable alterantive. I don’t mean this to insult my husband, but I didn’t feel I should be burdening him with care duties if at all possible. We moved into our aparetmetn by December. Meanwhile, I was trying to get treatment for my DID/PTSD.

2013: I had an intake interview with a psychiatrist who thought she could treat my DID/PTSD. She ultimately ended up turning me down. It had nothing to do with me, but she was too busy with her physician duties. I moved to my current institution, where i was soon diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I started schema-focused therapy, but this had little effect. My Abilify also got increased some more.

2014: I continued to struggle, but for the most part was quite stable. My Abilify had to be increased one last time in late 2014 (I am now at the highest dose). I did improve in my behavior and got a more cooperative relationship with my staff. I spent a few times in seclusion, but always voluntarily.

2015: I decided I wanted to live with my husband for real this time. We have been making arrangements, though it’s been slow-going. We will be moving to the tiny village sometime in December, so concrete arrangements cannot be made till then. I have been trying to get a med review for a few months now. Though my mind is still very unquiet, particulalry as my discharge out of the institution draws closer, I don’t tend to act out as much as I used to. I was in seclusion for a while last Monday, but before then it’d been over six months.

As I look back, I see that sometimes I take steps back and sometimes I take leaps forward, but in general, I’m moving up. I’ve never had to be moved back to a more restrictive unit, though I’ve sometimes wanted it. My medication did have to be increased a lot, but I don’t see that as entirely negative.

I am linking up with the 1-word blog challenge hosted by Lisa and Janine. The word choices for today are THEN and BREAK.