Get Loud!

Today is the official start of Mental Health Awareness week, #GETLOUD.

Mental Health Week is an annual national event that takes place during the first week in May to encourage people from all walks of life to learn, talk, reflect and engage with others on all issues relating to mental health (CMHA.ca). 

You’re encouraged to spread the word on social media using the hashtag #GETLOUD; share your story, and wear green to show your support! (Did you know that the colour green was once used to label the “insane.”) You can find events going on this week here.

To celebrate this week, I organized a workshop at my library on Self-Compassion: If you have ever felt you were inadequate or a failure, you are not alone. These feelings can lead to depression, anxiety and self-loathing. Join presenter from the MDABC as she explains how our thinking is faulty in these modern times, and how it leads to so much pain for all of us. Discover how we can liberate ourselves from some of our pain. 

I’m also active on social media, sharing resources and GETTING LOUD. Oh, and my nails are painted green for the week!

What are you doing this week?

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I’m Still Alive

I have neglected this blog for quite awhile, sorry readers! I am still alive and sticking with recovery, learning more and more everyday. Many things have changed since my last post, which I will address in subsequent posts, as they require more attention. For instance, you must try l-theanine! More on that later!

I started a new job in October! Although it has brought along a lot of stress and challenges, I can finally say that I have reached my career goal and am working as a “real” librarian! That’s something to celebrate!

Current Psych Meds: Latuda– trying to slightly decrease this med so I have the energy/motivation to run again, but it really has been a life-saver; Topamax– really great at taking away the extreme mood swings, and it doesn’t make me as cognitively impaired as I thought it did; Divalproex/Valproic Acid– I apologize to this lovely drug for bashing it in my previous entry. I got scared of the potential weight gain but really, this drug is amazing. There’s a reason that it’s a “first-liner” and can bring even highly manic people down from the highest highs- it’s works. I’m taking the smallest dose possible and it’s turning the volume down on the overstimulating world very nicely. (I’m not manic; this is an integration issue.) I’m no longer extremely irritable nor am I punching walls for no reason other than a loud motorcycle driving by, and lastly, Klonopin– I’ve almost weaned off this drug. It’s great for anxiety/panic but can be highly addictive.

That’s my quick update for now…

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Back on Dopamax

I mean, Topamax, hence the lack of blogging.

I quit Valproic Acid after ten days and a two pound weight gain. I know, know, two measly pounds is nothing when it comes to psych meds, but I figured that if I was already starting to gain, despite eating so little and so healthy, I was bound to gain in the long run. Also, my long past with an eating disorder didn’t help the situation, as I’m still deathly afraid of “fat pills,” and from the research I’ve read on Valproic Acid, it definitely is a risky med when it comes to weight gain.

So, I quit Valproic Acid, remained stable solely on Latuda until November, and then could not stop crying for the life of me. Antidepressants are no longer an option, so I opted to go back on Topamax. The crying stopped immediately, which was great, but so did some others things, such as blogging. I completely stopped writing once I went back on Topamax- there is a real reason they call it Dopamax! I’d sit in front of my laptop and get ready to write, as usual, but, as hard as this is to describe, when I’d look into my mind for writing material, my mind would be empty and filled with “fluff” instead. That’s what Topamax feels like- your brain is full of fluff. It’s beneficial in that it removed the unnecessary, over-exaggerated emotions and I could realize that there was nothing, in fact, to cry about; however, it really interferes with basic cognitive functioning. I remember how easy writing use to be; the words would flow with ease and I’d have endless things to say. Now writing a simple blog entry is a real challenge, and that’s coming from someone who has a master’s degree and used to write 20-page essays in grad school with ease!

I miss my functional brain 😦

So, there lies the rub: I’ve become much more stable on Latuda and Topamax, to where I’m ready to move forward with my life now. My current job is not challenging enough so I’m starting to look elsewhere. However; I question whether I can actually perform at a challenging job on this current medication. I’m starting to learn how to compensate for the Topamax-induced-stupidity (I’m blogging again!) but it’s such a challenge.

My options at the moments are 1) to just go for it- start applying for jobs, stick with the medication, and hope that I can compensate enough, 2) wean off meds- I’m not sure if this is even feasible at this time, especially since my psychologist recommends that I stay on meds for two years before considering discontinuing, or 3) consider switching meds yet again, which would mean I’d have to hold off on job hunting until I got stabilized on a new med.

I have done some research and studies suggest that Topamax has much more adverse effects on cognition than other anticonvulsants, such as Lamictal. I have yet to try Lamictal, so that could be an option.

Here are some studies I looked at:

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Eating Disorder Awareness Week

February 1-7 is Eating Disorder Awareness Week in Canada. The Provincial Eatingpurple-pedaw-wristband2-300x243 Disorders Awareness (PEDAW) campaign promotes awareness of eating disorders (prevention, treatment, and resources) and works to help individuals attain a healthy body image and lifestyle. On Friday, February 6th make sure to wear purple to show your support and check out some local structures that will be turning purple for the day!

I struggled with eating disorders and disordered eating for over a decade, so this cause hits home. I plan on decking myself out in purple attire for the day… will you join me?

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Today’s Meditation

The Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

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Vamoose Valproic Acid!

I vowed to give Valproic Acid (VPA) a proper trial- at least two full weeks before I decided whether or not to continue with it, but I quit! I cannot stand it any longer.

 I have to hand it to VPA, however; it is a really great anti-manic drug. It brought me down from the clouds quickly, even on a low dose. It definitely has its place. The plan was to switch from Latuda to VPA, as my main mood stabilizer; however, I felt better solely on Latuda. I’ll just have to work harder to fight the antipsychotic induced apathy/anhedonia.
How did I feel on VPA? Tired is an understatement. I usually sleep 7 or 8 hours a night but I was sleeping 11 or 12 and still felt fatigued. This is a huge problem because I work on-call and receive phone calls in the evening for work assisgnments. I couldn’t stay up  late enough so I missed out on a lot of work opportunities, which I can’t afford.
At the same time as feeling weak/fatigued I also felt extremely nervous. My heart was constantly racing and my whole body would tremble before work. Socializing? As if. I’d even panic at Value Village being surrounded by people. As for weight, I initially lost 2lbs. but now I’ve gained that back, plus more. It’s definitely a “fat” pill as the research indicates. Despite eliminating sugar from my diet, eating mostly vegetables, exercising daily, and eating approximately 1100-1500 calories a day, I gained a pound- I know, a whole pound #firstworldproblems- but if I continued on this drug, I could for see major weight gain despite all my efforts. That’s a deal breaker right there.

So here I am again, that annoying, non-compliant psych patient refusing to take her meds. I am still on Latuda though, so hopefully that’ll keep things stable enough.

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Weight Changes and Fashion Woes

Weight fluctuations often go hand and hand with medication changes. Not only is it depressing to feel your once baggy pants cling to you, it’s also expensive buying a whole new wardrobe! I now have a wardrobe of skinny “Wellbutrin/Topamax” clothes, and I currently need a new (temporary) antipsychotic/”Depabloat” wardrobe. I long to wear my skinny jeans, but alas they are too tight at the moment, and the feeling of them smooshing my thighs completely ruins my day.

I haven’t been well enough to work full-time lately, so I don’t have the resources to buy loads of expensive new pants. Enter ♥ Value Village ♥ This store is a saving grace for those going through the “temporary med changes/weight fluctuation” situation! I ended up buying two pairs of very nice “fat” jeans for only $18! I felt an immediate sense of relief wearing pants that were on the roomy side, and not having to stress to find something to wear for work. I highly recommend checking out your local Value Village if you’re in desperate need of new clothes (and no, unfortunately, I’m not getting paid to write this.)

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