Friday, November 7, 2008

One Hour and A Few Minutes Later

One day in, and my decision to eschew medication has torn my soul into two distinct halves, one a heaving mess of doubt, dread, and doomsaying; the other, a resolute mass of defiance, daring and DIY. No doctor (or spiritualist) need be to know that a split soul isn't conducive to all-around health.

Understand this: doctors are not your friends. They will be as polite and helpful as is necessary to take your money. The self-help path in the face of bottle after bottle of pills is not a road they will lead you down, not even begrudgingly. Doctors are politicians, selling hope by the milligram, pretending to care about a person other than themselves while all the while operating in the suffocating shadow of their true agenda.

You may recall that my decision was borne of a concern for the monetary and physical effects of long-term use. For the sake of full disclosure, I've been taking 0.25 MG of Risperdal. This is a pittance compared to what I was on before, but it seems to do the same job insofar as it keeps my system "regular".

I am the type of personality who freaks out at the "what if". Even if a side effect occurred in only an average of 1 in every 1,000 persons observed, I am frozen by the fact that, well, it happened. Thus, I avoided pills till I felt I literally had no other option.

April of this year I began to break down. There is simply no other way to put it. Aches and pains travelled throughout my body. Panic attacks became a daily occurrence. The snowball grew and grew until I was unable to go to my job, unable to walk up a flight of stairs without feeling utterly out of sorts, and smashed under the sweat-coated palm of this mysterious ailment. Doctors could not figure it out. They ascertained what it wasn't--lupus, fibromyalgia, heart problem, blood clot, cancer. Their diplomas hung so proud.

Finally, my third trip to the local ER bore fruit. I was questioned by a mental health worker who recommended the hospital's outpatient treatment program. This involved group therapy as a means to confront my sickness (eventually determined to be a sour admixture of bipolar and panic disorders) and then, hopefully, devise a plan to control it.

Around the time I was placed into said program, my physician prescribed Symbyax, a relatively new bipolar treatment that combines olanzapine and fluoxetine. In the three months I wrestled with my baffling foe, I'd gained 30 pounds. I had no clue that olanzapine was also known as Zyprexa, and further, that this Zyprexa was (and is) notorious for the side effect of weight gain.

The outpatient program and subsequent individual therapy sessions--which I am still undergoing--helped immensely. My prodigal life returned. I could work again. I had energy. I could read my Sonic Youth tour journals and not tear up in agonizing envy at that brave, resourceful woman who pursued a dream because she could.

The happiness didn't last.

The Symbyax evened me out, but it also widened an already considerable frame, packing 20 more pounds onto it.

I've heard people say of antipsychotic medication that to be on them is to be "fat and happy" and to be off them, "thin and miserable". That's cute. It's also, in my case, dead fucking wrong.

I insisted on a switch and the Risperdal entered my life. Around this time, I cut red meat out of my diet and joined Golds Gym. It has been a month since. The emotional and physical benefits of these most recent changes were enough to make me question the necessity of pills. I fretted myself useless over the cumulative effects of the pharmaceutical treatment. I flipped the coin and saw the possibility that my body and mind would revert back to their depressed states if I gave up on the pills.

Helpless, I reached out to a pharmacist. I felt my doctor and psychiatrist were in the business of selling me one of several thousand "solutions", so I took my grievances to a middle man, as it were. I was advised not to quit the treatment entirely, but rather to split all my pills in half and take one half a night. I was also told that the low dosage made serious side effects more unlikely
to occur. With this counsel, I made the new decision. To not throw my meds away, but to alter them, and to keep perspective on what is rather than lose sleep over what may never be.

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