Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ten Worst Side Effects (Part 1)

Although I had intended to write a post about "negative self-talk," I'm tired and decided to post instead about side effects from medication. It seems like a number of people are having difficulties these days, and I thought you might be entertained. The following is an excerpt from my eBook, Bipolar Depression Unplugged: A Survivor Speaks Out.

FYI...After a few comments from readers, I decided I needed to add a caveat, part of which I explained in my response to PJ. From the moment I began taking medication, I was sick almost every day for six years with the worst imaginable side effects. (And once I stopped taking it, it took almost four more years for my brain to heal itself.)

I believe there are three ways to deal with adversity. First, I could rant and rage and spew forth my misery--which has never made me feel better and certainly wouldn't have been pleasant for my husband, son, and the people I care about. Second, I could write serious pieces about how I'm feeling--which I do in my journals when I need to. Third, I could poke fun at my situation, and use humor as a method of healing.

During periods of adversity, my sense of humor has always been my saving grace. However, it only works for me when it is coupled with a game plan for finding ways of resolving problems, and a willingness to engage in a wide variety of other wellness activities.

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Ten Worst Side Effects
During the next 18 months, I alternated between depression and hypomania, and Silas (my psychiatrist) recommended the following medications in different combinations and dosages: Ativan, Effexor‚ Depakote, Lithium‚ Descipramine‚ Imipramine, Klonopin, Tegretol‚ Verapamil‚ Wellbutrin‚ and Zoloft. They call this cocktailing medication, surely a bad choice of words when 60 percent of manic-depressives abuse drugs and/or alcohol.

The only way I could bear this dreadful ordeal was through humor. To entertain myself‚ I compiled a David Letterman list of the ten worst side effects. I must admit that I didn’t include sexual dysfunction because it seems like such a personal disclosure, but suffice it to say that many psychiatric medications affect your sex drive. Having revealed that, here is my list in reverse order:

10. Vomiting. This symptom can be thought of as morning sickness for the mentally ill. Many antidepressants cause nausea and/or vomiting (in which case you should call your doctor). The drag is that it doesn’t go away after the first trimester.

9. Dry mouth. At the worst stages, I felt like I was walking around with a tampon in my mouth.

8. Flatulence. I never knew this word until I read it years ago in The World According to Garp by John Irving. But let me tell you that a farting woman is far worse than a farting dog.

7. Constipation. It used to be that every morning after I ate breakfast, read the sports section of the newspaper, and had a cup of coffee, I would have a bowel movement. I always thought that my regularity was caused by my disgust at the bad behavior of professional athletes who are getting paid so much money that it makes me “shit.” Once I started taking medication, I was lucky if I had a bowel movement every five days. (Yes, I know there is medication for irregularity but enough is enough!)

6. Sleeping Problems. The only people who worry more about sleep than manic-depressives are new parents and narcoleptics.

(to be continued)
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P.J. said...

Those side effects are horrible, but for some reason I had to chuckle!! Your explanations are funny!

Marie said...

I have experienced some of these awful side affects at one time or another during my experience with medication. This is why I made a choice to discontinue medication as a course of treatment.

Wellness Writer said...

Because of medication side effects, I was sick almost every day for six years. And it truly was horrible.

However, I found that if I dealt with my situation with humor, it made it tolerable. Otherwise I would have been sad and angry.

And I truly believe it was my sense of humor that saved me.


Wellness Writer said...

Yes, it's why I discontinued most medication as well. And, of course, it was easy for me to come to this realization since the medication wasn't effective for me.


Immi said...

You definitely handle the humor part well! Those are definitely spot on for a Top 10 list. I cracked up about the tampon in the mouth description. None of these side effects are fun, but many of them are funny if we can let ourselves see it.

Wellness Writer said...

Glad you enjoyed this. When I was so sick, I decided it was better to laugh about all of the awful side effects than to cry! So, I amused myself by writing this.