I’m down to 150mg Quetiapine! This is how it went…

Pills150mg Quetiapine (aka Seroquel) per night

Do you see that? One-hundred and fifty milligrams. It’s taken me three years to get here. In case you don’t remember, here’s a brief recap of my journey:

2011

I started at 400mg with a whole host of uncomfortable symptoms, like having my heart beat so loudly half an hour after taking the drug I thought I might have a heart attack (and no, it wasn’t a panic attack), and involuntary muscle spasms and twitches throughout my body that promoted concern of Tardive Dyskinesia. Needless to say, my psychiatrists were supportive of reducing my medication. I ended the year at 300mg.

2012

Twenty-twelve started with a bang. I reduced my medication to 275mg and came off my contraceptive pill – this was a big mistake. As soon as I did that my mood was all over the place. I started rapid cycling, got that under control by going back on the pill and upping back up to 300mg of Quetiapine, and then had a hypomanic episode that ended with a brief depression. Then I found out my partner had cheated on me and all hell broke loose. The rest of the year was basically jumping from one panic attack to another, intermingled with severe anxiety and Misery. Sigh. I ended year on 200mg Quetipine.

2013

The anxiety continued until about mid-year when I was too physically ill to sustain that level of intensity. I was worn out. Quit life and lay in bed for about six months, because I was really, really ill (physically). I was probably depressed but not in a “bipolar” kind of way. In a “my life is shit” kind of way. Later in the year I started on steroids and a miracle happened, I started to get better (oh so slowly). I even felt happiness with increasing frequency. Boy that felt weird.

2014 So Far…

Has been fabulous, in comparison to how bad things were during the previous two years. I’m still not right physically but I’m getting better all the time and I feel happy more often than I feel miserable. I’m on a health kick too. Eating a wholefood, vegetarian diet, learning how to do mindfulness, walking and doing yoga most days. Finally, recovery seems possible, even if it’s only a blip on the horizon. And, I’m now on 150mg. Getting here was easier than I thought. I’ve had no obvious side effects from the reduction and my mood and energy levels increase the further I go down. I’m so close to 100, so close to finally getting off this drug and seeing if I can stay off it. Woohoo!

If you could sum up the last three years in a few words, what would you say?

P.S I still only go down in 6.25mg increments once or twice a week. Plus, my writing will be remaining sporadic, I’m working on a new project 🙂

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Reducing Quetiapine: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I started The Bipolar Project with the intention of tracking my reduction of Quetiapine Fumarate (aka Seroquel). Since reducing the drug in 2011 there have been various issues that have prevented me from reducing at a steady rate throughout the past two years. In fact, in 2012 I didn’t reduce it at all.  Some of these issues have been Bipolar related but most have been completely unrelated circumstances that impacted on my emotional health, left me stressed out and miserable and my life just a little too chaotic to embark on a medication free life.

Slow and steady

If you’ve been with me from the start, I was initially on 400mg. I managed to reduce that by 125mg throughout 2011. When I stopped my contraceptive pill and my mood went haywire, I upped it back to 300mg and left it there for over a year. I started reducing again about four months ago and am now down to 206.25mg nightly. This quick reduction had minimal effect on my mood (apart from taking me a bit longer to fall asleep and feeling a little more tired the next day).  When I reduced it a couple of nights ago I noticed I was a little more irritable for two days afterward.

When I first started I had a number of rules: no alcohol, regular sleep pattern, exercise vigorously and regularly, only reduce by 6.25mg at a time. At the time, exercise was a major mood stabiliser for me and I noticed resistance exercise, like lifting weights, was better for my mood than just cardio.

Now, I’m too unwell to do vigorous exercise and resistance exercises are pretty much out of the question. Surprisingly, that doesn’t seem to have negatively impacted on my mood during the reduction. But I’m still exercising (I walk and do yoga pretty much every day – less than 30 minutes all up), but not the way I used to (spin classes, weights, long horse riding sessions, full length yoga classes).

There haven’t been as many positive effects this time around but these are probably being masked by my poor physical health. I’m so fatigued all the time that if being on less Quetiapine is making me less tired and improving my concentration, then I just don’t notice it.

I’ve slowed down the reduction again because I noticed I was getting pretty emotional, probably because I was extremely anxious and moderately depressed. Again, these seem like pretty normal responses given the events of the past year but ultimately, if my mood is unstable, it doesn’t matter what’s causing it – the reduction must be slowed down. Within the next week or so I plan to bring it down to 200mg and leave it there for a few weeks.

If you’re on psychiatric medications and have tried reducing or stopping your drug, what have you experienced?

Bipolar and Me: A brief history

In the past I have been diagnosed with and/or treated for Social Phobia, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

I was first treated for severe depression when I was 14 years old. In actual fact I had suffered from both depression and some level of mania prior to this.

I wanted to be a Clinical Psychologist before I knew I had psychological problems.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in April 2008 after seeing one clinical psychologist and two psychiatrists.

My official diagnosis is Bipolar I featuring rapid cycling and mixed moods.

Initially, I paid little attention to my diagnosis, had no intention of taking medication and believed I was only showing symptoms because I had read about Bipolar Disorder in one of my textbooks. Later, I believed a brain tumour was responsible.

I know these days people tend to refer to rapid cycling as ultra, or ultradian or some variant of this. I don’t know specific terms because I actually don’t care. Personally, I find it a bit annoying when people specify they are a rapid cycler, or an ultra-ultra rapid cycler. Usually it’s done in a manner which implies “if you don’t cycle as rapidly as me, then things aren’t as bad for you”.  I think that’s bullshit. So, I have had rapid cycling in the past, and it has been really really fast, and it has slowed down over time, and then sped up again. That’s all you really need to know.

I’ve never been hospitalised. It was suggested, and I should have been but the fact I wasn’t was entirely because of the next point.

I am exceptionally good at hiding my symptoms even when severely unwell.

I haven’t had a pure mania since 2008.

I once turned up the emergency department and told them to admit me. I was forced to wait alone for a ridiculous length of time. Given the rapid cycling I mentioned earlier, my mood changed and I seduced a man and left the hospital. My parents were not phoned. No one ever tried to find me.

Even when I was delusional and losing touch with reality, even my best friend thought I was “pretty much okay”.

I started taking Quetiapine at 6.25mg per night. It took me two years to get to 400mg.  This meant my recovery was long and drawn out, but the drug was well tolerated and my adherence exceptional.

I only decided to take medication because I thought I had contracted Genital Herpes (I hadn’t).

I am incredibly loyal. Even when completely manic, I slept with anyone except my friends’ boyfriends; even when they tried it on with me.

I have never purposefully not taken my medication. I forgot once or twice after a night out, and so just took it in the morning instead.

I went to four different high schools.

I have never attempted suicide.

I like writing a blog about having Bipolar Disorder, but I don’t know why.

I have no professional interest in Bipolar Disorder. I used to think I should but I’m just not interested.

I don’t  say “I’m Bipolar” because I’m not. I have this disorder. It doesn’t have me.