Bipolar Survival in the Face of Antidepressant Failures, AKA known as “Prozac Poopout.”
I’m learning to be grateful for the good days. I wanted to write a book, and hundreds of thousands of words later, I’ve realized that there is enough trauma, drama, courage, recovery, and then again adversity for several books. Some Japanese philosopher said that it’s not about how many times you get knocked down that matter but the number of times you rise to meet your opponent that matters in the end. It sure seems like I’ve had to pull myself together in order to rally an awful lot lately, why not turn it into educational, inspirational, entertainment? Or am I just trying to put out fodder for Schadenfreude? (sp?)
In any event, I want to edit all these writings and have my best friend, and my creative writing group edit it and read it before remotely approaching a literary agent. So I’m going to try to shorten even this piece up from it’s original printing in our South Florida Nami Newsletter. There probably is a URL somewhere, I have asked for one, but the phone calls go unreturned. Life.
The Meat: In the 25 years that I’ve lived with Bipolar Disorder, I’ve had nine antidepressant failures. Amongst Mental Health technicians, doctors, therapists and nurses, this is known as “Prozac Poopout.” In the beginning, My family and I were told that the medications they were prescribing were to be taken for the rest of my life. Someone must have misunderstood that notion, because ten years later, after I had practically forgotten about my rotten brain chemistry, when the Prozac Konked Out, and was left holding the bag.
“What should I do?” I cried out to my general practitioner, who returned my search for a solution with a wide-eyed, mildly panicked look with a sign over her head reading: “This is not my job, not my problem.” You would have thought she was the one with depression/high anxiety. Funny.
The ten year Combo that had worked: Tegretol, Prozac and Prozac occasionally for sleep. Easy to understand that nighttime bipolar check playing White Zombie, the Cure and Nine Inch Nails until midnight might have trouble keying it down in order to sleep while watching Letterman. I drank occasionally, but it didn’t really bother me. One beer at night? No biggie.
Tip one? Don’t see a General Practitioner for psychiatric assistance. You might find yourself upended in a canal, and a psychiatrist can juggle the meds just right to fish you out. Or send you to a hospital in case he can’t. Only he or she can correctly determine.
What I did? I panicked, and turned to self medication, and ran back and forth from the Mexican border, as I always seemed to live nearby. Tijuana? Los Angeles? Arizona Nogales? No problem. Now, with the Cartels a la Mad Men, problem. Big Problem. If you go, you might not come back.
I lost my high flying-career as a music journalist, alt-rock disc jockey and music director. Out the window went confidence, self esteem and any ability to just let things be. Everything had to be ‘fixed,’ and I hate that state of mind. I longed for the days when I had just coasted through ten years of high productivity, a byproduct of bipolar 2 disorder. My husband, who informed me that ‘we all have choices in life,’ chose ‘not to be married to a woman with bipolar disorder.’ He said that ‘he had been warned, advised,’ that it wasn’t a good ‘choice.’ Even I didn’t have any idea how serious this thing could get.
Well, somewhere around that time, Bipolar 2 progressed to Bipolar 1, and that’s just the breaks. The Penalties for missing medication of any kind can progress to distorted thinking, hearing voices, paranoia and hallucinations. I play my medication compliance tight to the chest. I want my moods to be stable.
Over the years I’ve gotten good years here and there with as many as eight different antidepressants, and They’ve all given me a few good years, only to eventually …..just sort of peter out.
This last time, Brintellix only gave me seven months and it caught me off guard when it stopped being effective. My thoughts became unnatural. I considered inpatient confinement but drank for a few weeks instead. I hate to admit it, but the truth is, it sort of bought me some time, about two weeks on and off. I found out that I’m not an alcohoIic, but also that I didn’t want to drink any longer. Alcohol depresses me and is not a good choice. I had been wondering why I didn’t’ fit in at the AA meetings, even though I benefited from the spiritual principles and learned the art of getting through one day at a time. When the days just plain suck, and you worry how long it’s going to stay this way, when the depression seems interminable and becomes cumulative, you just tell yourself, “You only have to get through one day at a time.” Another great saying I learned in AA comes from Bill’s story. I’ve applied it through many depressions up until their end. “How Dark it is Before the Dawn.” I’ve had quite a few days where I’ve told myself these things and awakened to find myself in a brand new day. Antidepressants work like that. You just have to remember that when they aren’t.