“The good, the bad and the ugly”

So back to Zyprexa (Olanzapine) – my friend in getting me stabilized but whilst still my worst enemy…this antipsychotic caused constipation. To combat this side effect, I got smart the second time I was put on Zyprexa,  I drank prune juice and ate lots of apples for its fiber content to help my digestive system along. Nowadays, I use 5 mg lactulose syrup, nightly, to help me stay regular because Abilify also tends to slow down the digestive tract. Yes, I just did discuss “shit!” But only in an effort to help those who may have similar problems to mine. So, stay healthy by eating your fruits.

Zyprexa, also had the tendency to knock me out meaning that I slept from around 9PM until 9AM the next morning and that was only on 5 mg. The only good thing I can say about Zyprexa, is that it did not seem to affect my cognitive functioning much as I was able to pass Astronomy on it, and that was a pretty difficult class. I am working on my Associate’s degree in Science of Business, online, with Columbia Southern University.

Haldol, another drug that is infamous in the treatment of psychotic disorders, depending on whose perspective you take, the doctors’ or the patient, is a drug that works great in treating and preventing psychosis, but for the patient, well at least me in this case, it made me feel like a zombie. Haldol is one of the older antipsychotics, so doctors prefer to use it because it is evidenced that it works. I wasn’t much aware of the side effects of this drug when I was put on it because I was still experiencing psychosis; During my third psychotic episode, I was experiencing delusions, a symptom of schizophrenia.

So while I was institutionalized, a nurse whispered in my ear that “I would get out of there (St.Maarten Mental Health Foundation) a lot faster if I took an injection form of the drugs”. Though, I hate injections, I decided to go with the advice and get a needle clapped in my buttocks with Clopixol (zuclopenthixol). This was while I was still on Zyprexa and Promethazine. Eventually, I came off Zyprexa in April of 2015 without gaining anymore weight because I exercised and ate healthy after learning from my previous experience on this medication. I came off Promethazine too, after having gotten sick in October of 2014. Promethazine is an antihistamine drug used as a counteractive drug to the extrapyramidal side effects of antipsychotics. As far as I knew, I didn’t have any allergies at the moment, I was only “allergic” to antipsychotics…so why was I on an antihistamine drug? It’s also used as a weak antipsychotic.

So you can imagine that I felt over drugged at that time.  I was on 200mg of Clopixol injections, every 4 weeks for 7 months and the remainder of the year 2015, I was switched to Fluanxol (flupentixol), which is purportedly less sedative than Clopixol, though I couldn’t tell much difference between the two. Clopixol, just like Fluanxol, is a typical antipsychotic from the thioxanthene class, therefore from the older generation of antipsychotic medications which blocks dopamine – the happy chemical in your brains which, when you’ve got too much of it,  it causes psychosis :-(.

I am now on Abilify, since August 2015 and will have to be on it for another year, minimally, if I don’t relapse, according to my psychiatrist. So it will be another year of fighting the fatigue that comes along with this medication, although, this medication is the better of the lot. It is an antipsychotic from the atypical class of antipsychotics, meaning the second generation of antipsychotics. And, the fun thing  about this medication is that, according to Steve Balt (n.d. ),

it doesn’t block dopamine (specifically, dopamine D2) or serotonin (specifically, 5-HT1A) receptors.  Rather, it’s a partial agonist at those receptors.  It can activate those receptors, but not to the full biological effect.  In lay terms, then, it can both enhance dopamine and serotonin signaling where those transmitters are deficient, and inhibit signaling where they’re in excess. (para 4)

Steve Balt is a Medical Doctor in the field of psychiatry, who writes a blog, but has also suffered and is in recovery from severe mental illness. So you see, there are those of us that can function, and function on a  high level in main stream society. Therefore, I say, there are those “sticking it to stigma” on a daily basis, so there is hope.

 References

Balt, S. (n.d.). How Abilify Works and Why It Matters. Retrieved from http://thoughtbroadcast.com/2011/09/13/how-abilify-works-and-why-it-matters/

 

“Taste the rainbow”

of antipsychotics that is…

From the very beginning that I got introduced to antipsychotics, I had a strong dislike for them. Though, they are what keeps psychosis from rearing its ugly head. Risperdal was the first antipsychotic I was on. This produced muscle rigidity in me. So essentially muscle rigidity is when all your muscles become stiff and you are walking like a zombie, that is, in slow motion. It became so difficult for me when the Risperdal reached its therapeutic dose level, because it takes some time for these drugs to reach a certain level in your system, that I could not even wash my own hair because I had difficulty raising my arms. My body felt heavy to me. I had to rely on someone else to get my  hair washed and combed. This was like a month after my first psychotic episode happened.

I thought I could beat the side effects of the medication by drinking Lucozade, an energy drink made of glucose and caffeine but once the medication levelled out in my system, there was no way to fight its effects. Caffeine just doesn’t cut the side effects. Little did I know, at that time, that there was an antidote to the muscle rigidity side effect of the medication – an anti-Parkinson drug called Akineton. I was only put on Akineton when I came to Sint Maarten in October of 2004, after having seen a doctor at the Turning Point foundation, a drug rehabilitation center on Sint Maarten.

At that time, I was also on a mood stabilizer called Depakote so that I wouldn’t suffer from the highs and lows of bipolar disorder more commonly known as manic depression.  This was because the attending psychiatrist in Trinidad had thought it was a manic episode that I had experienced. Really, what’s the difference between a manic and a psychotic episode? Maybe, that’s a question I should ask in my next “shrink” session.

So, that was my first experience with antipsychotics. Muscle rigidity wasn’t the only side effect that I had to deal with while on Risperdal. I had to deal with weight gain and the fact that I looked like I had eaten a pumpkin because I had that tell-tale sign, that you’re on an anti-psychotic – the swollen look. That meant I had to deal with questions. Questions, I wasn’t ready to answer. The first question I encountered was at the airport in Sint Maarten upon my arrival from Trinidad:” what the hell  happened to you?” “Well, I had a nervous breakdown.” I answered. That’s the best I could explain it at that time. I was embarrassed that my own brain had a defect and would take me so far from reality into a world of fantasy.

From Risperdal, Seroquel, Haldol, Zyprexa, Clopixol, Fluanxol to Abilify, not forgetting the antihistamine Promethazine and the benzodiazepines like Valium and Klonopin and the anti-depressants like Paxil, Effexor and, the ever popular Prozac – these are the drugs I’ve tried and each one has its own set of side effects. The benzodiazepines are the holy grail of psychiatric drugs. If you aren’t sleeping well and suffering from anxiety, these drugs will do the trick. So, Klonopin was my best friend in my last psychotic episode. Did they have to reduce it? If only my insomnia could’ve been solved by Klonopin alone. That would’ve been ideal.

The second time I had a brief psychotic break was on November 21st 2013. That time I got to try Seroquel which knocked me out for a few days or maybe that was the added Valium. All I know, is that I was put on Zyprexa for a period of 3 months, after that initial dose of Seroquel… first 15 mg, then 10 mg, then 5 mg, each for a month. I didn’t think about what or when I was eating on Zyprexa so I ate any time that I felt hungry which was often. I didn’t eat fruits or healthy snacks… I ate sugary snacks because that’s what my body craved on Zyprexa. I remember it was around Christmas time and my neighbor brought over a pumpkin cake , well, I ate nearly the whole cake by myself. So you can imagine, that I gained weight. I went from a size 6 to a size 8 in less then 3 months. So, Zyprexa wasn’t for me either. I hated it! Because it messed with my body image. The sooner I could get off of it, the better. I made a full recovery in regards to cognitive functioning and after a brief work reintegration period, I returned to my normal work duties on February 24th 2014 until my nightmare started in October of 2014. I relapsed.

The picture is a selfie I took with the “swollen look” when I was institutionalized in November of 2014.

To be continued…

Peace. Angelita