Therapy Diary: 10 Weeks On Medication

I started medication on June 29, so it’s been exactly 10 weeks on these antipsychotics. It’s been incredibly good. I’ve felt like I can complete goals now, without something blocking my brain or telling me I should feel worthless or like I should give up all the time. The first 6-7 weeks were probably the best, but it’s not like recently has been bad!

Today I saw my doctor about adjusting the medication, and at the end of September I’m doubling my current dose (which is really low) to one that’s a more common amount for treatment.

I’ve felt more stable the past few months than I have in years. I’m sleeping more, my brain isn’t on overdrive half the time, I don’t feel useless the other half of the time. I’m really pleased with how I’ve been progressing—to the point I think I’m better and don’t need the medication. But that’s the medication talking. I feel more normal because of it.

I’m not entirely better—I had a… crisis, I guess, on August 30 that really shook me up because I hadn’t felt like that in months. Then I remembered that the way I felt that afternoon was the way I felt weekly, on average, and I can’t fathom how I survived through it that frequently. And I can understand why something like my crisis is serious and should be taken seriously—like it should have been every other time it happened when I was unmedicated and not in counselling.

These 10 weeks have been great. I’m looking forward to the next few months, how I progress, and all that stuff. I can safely say that getting medication, even without a formal psychiatrist’s diagnosis, has helped me.

Basically, it’s been 10 weeks on medication for bipolar and my doctor said I looked happier, my brother and dad say I’ve been more consistent, and my goal completion is a testament to my emotions.

Therapy Diary: Week 1 On Medication

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

At the end of June, I saw my doctor to get referrals and support systems underway for my mental health. I haven’t seen a professional for my mental health since April 2016, and my mood and motivation were all over the place. I know that I need additional help, so seeing my doctor to get a referral to counselling or psychiatric treatment was necessary.

So, I have the counselling scheduled! Sort of. They need to do an intake appointment, which is on July 31 (far away, I know, but it’s pretty speedy for where I live), and that isn’t even like… the start of counselling. My doctor started getting referrals processed for me to see a psychiatrist for a formal diagnosis of my situation, and gave me a prescription for a low dose of medication to help me out. It has a sedative property to it, which is partly why this specific drug was prescribed: I have awful sleep problems.

It’s been 1 week since I’ve been on the meds and… I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if they’re doing much. I’ve kept a journal to record when I finish eating for the day, when I take the pill, when I feel sleepy, and when I fall asleep. I’ve discovered that the sedation effect comes into play when I take the pill on an empty stomach, or 60 – 90 minutes after eating my last meal. I’m still not getting a balanced amount of sleep—it ranges from 5 hours to 12 hours—but it’s still only the first week.

I’ll admit, I like having the routine of taking a pill at the same time every day. That’s something I liked when I had the birth control pill. Having the routine of taking my medicine, then brushing my teeth and washing my face, helps set me up for bed rather than waiting until it’s bedtime to do those things.

My period started the second day of the medication, and with how my hormones affect me, I’m unsure what’s from the medication and what’s from hormones. I normally have a very good day when my period starts (which is really weird, I know; I’m all happy-go-lucky, then oops, menses!) and am either dissociated or lethargic during my period. I have been a bit lethargic some days—as in, I’ve been sleeping more—so it probably was a combination of the medication and hormones.

Since I’m on literally the lowest dose possible of this medication, there’s also the possibility that it’s not doing anything or I’m not feeling it. I definitely felt it the first day I took it, but it’s hard to know if it’s doing anything if I’m not also experiencing side effects.

There are a lot of side effects, as there are with… anything.

One of the less common ones is experiencing symptoms of infection, such as fever, sore throat, coughing, and I started experiencing that on the 3rd. However, my brother was sick, so I could actually be sick (again!)—in any case, it’s basically gone today.

I’m hopeful that medication will help me, though, even if this one doesn’t. I’d prefer if it did, since I wouldn’t have to switch and try new ones. But I know one of the other side effects is weight gain, and I don’t know what I’ll do if that happens to me. I’ve been trying to lose weight for 4 years. I was weighed when I saw my doctor, and I was back at my highest fucking weight again. Granted, I don’t think I’m carrying as much fat as I was 4 years ago—but I’m still unhappy with my body, and how it looks and feels. I’ve managed some workouts this first week (cardio, strength training), but it’s hard to exercise when the temperature is high. I’m susceptible to heat exhaustion and need to be careful doing any exertion in the summer.

Anyway! This first week has been… okay, I guess? It’s still really early on, and I need to be aware of patterns moreso than immediate changes. I’ve also been reading a lot of forums where people talk about their experiences on this medication, and it feels like I’m in the minority. I don’t feel like a zombie, I don’t have a lot of side effects, and my mood seems fine. But I go through periods of “fine” moods, and then experience highs and lows (AKA bipolar, which is what my doctor and I suspect)—which is why I saw my doctor. I need more balance in my life, and all the yoga, jogging, meditating, journalling, and healthy eating isn’t doing enough. There’s something wrong with my brain, and the medication is for my sick head.

Therapy Diary: Mindfulness

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

When I was in therapy last year, my counsellor told me that the goal for our sessions would be creating mindfulness. There were a number of ways we worked through being aware of my body and my emotions. Because my PTSD is very dissociative, it means there’s a mind-emotion-body disconnect. I often feel “outside” of myself in varying ways. Sometimes I am a floating balloon being held by my body. Sometimes I am a suitcase being dragged. Dissociation is a beast in itself and I wrote a short blog post on it a few months ago. This post acts as a bit of a follow-up.

Along with the exercises we did, such as identifying where an emotion existed in the body and describing it (anger being in my throat, or despair being in my belly—that kind of thing), I use or have used these tools to become more aware and mindful of my entire existence:

  • journalling
  • yoga
  • meditation
  • tarot reading

I don’t journal as much as I used to while I was in therapy. I think this is because I’ve gotten better at being mindful/aware/in-tune/etc. Journalling was a very explicit way of creating awareness of my emotions and my body, and the relationship between the two.

These days, I lean toward yoga, meditation, and tarot reading. The yoga helps with my mind-body connection, with a focus on my body and how it connects within itself. The meditation points me toward the relationship between my mind and body while emphasising my emotions, feelings, and thoughts.

Tarot reading is a new one, though. I grasp onto symbols and metaphors, and that’s all tarot is. I don’t use a classic tarot deck, with Major Arcana and whatnot. Instead, I use regular 52-card playing cards with numbers and suits. There’s an additional layer of abstraction with these cards. The symbols and metaphors come from interpretation of the numbers and the suits. Instead of seeing a moon or a sun, I have to consider my own intuition and understanding for the numbers and suits.

When it comes to the tarot reading, I do a combination of reading cards for in-depth interpretation of a single card, or I do a self-reading with a 3- or 4-card spread. Some spreads require a question to answer, and others are assessment or guidance spreads. I don’t read the cards for prophecy or fortune-telling. I read them so there’s somewhere I can project my worries, concerns, desires, and intuitions.

On the whole, creating mindfulness has been the key to lessening my dissociative states—whether by frequency or intensity. I have been plagued by a constant disconnect between my mind and body because connecting the two was dangerous during my traumatic childhood. There’s been a lot of learning, trial and error, and patience involved. I have to constantly work in order to hinder the PTSD from dictating my life, but I’m finding ways that let me progress.