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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Now and Then on New Years Eve

Yesterday, I made a post about New Years Eve 2010 (that’s not a typo, I really do mean 2010). What I wrote was something I had written in my journal at that time.

The following day, on Saturday 1 January 2011 at 9:47pm I wrote the following…

A New Year is supposed to bring new hope, new promise, an optimisim about a better life, and all I can think is that I don’t want another year of this.

It might as well be self-inflicted. Afterall, it comes from my brain. It is set on pushing me down, pulling me apart, making me no more.

What sort of life is it to be constantly battling your own sanity?

I have spent years of my life wishing I would die, wishing there was something actually wrong with me so that I had a reason to be sad,  a reason to feel nothing, and everything, a reason for my worthlessness, my failure, for being nothing.

Is it normal for a seven year old to fantasise about death, to want death, to plan ways to have it?

I jumped out my window once, but changed my mind half way through. I held on to the ledge, and I have been clinging to it ever since.

Far away, this ship is taking me far away, far away from the memories, of the people who care if I live or die

The starlight, I will be chasing your starlight, until the end of my life. I don’t know if it’s worth it anymore – Muse

On Sunday 1 January 2012 I was still on 275mg Quetiapine, and I didn’t write anything in my journal. I had nothing to write. I had nothing to write because I was happy. I was occupied. I was spending time with The Olympian and some friends. We slept in until the afternoon because we didn’t get to bed until 5am, and we spent the rest of the day relaxing by the lake. I was tired, but I was happy. I couldn’t be bothered doing much, but my mood was stable. It still is.

It’s strange for me. I haven’t been this stable for years. In the past month I have stopped my contraceptive pill, had my birthday, moved myself, The Olympian and my horse across the country back to my home town. I survived Christmas, I went away on holiday with some friends, I partied all night long, and I am fine.

I can’t believe I actually had a good Christmas, and a good New Year. I can’t believe I survived the hormonal changes of removing my contraceptive pill, and the PMS that followed. I can’t believe I stayed up until 5am, that I had a few drinks, that I am okay. I can’t believe it!

It’s not like I plan to go nuts, revert back to eating junk food and drinking and staying up all night long. I told myself I could do it on New Years Eve because I deserved it, because I enjoy it, and I have worked so hard this year. I wouldn’t have done it if I had been unwell.

But my mood was stable, the drug was on hold, and so I decided to loosen my restrictions, and be free.

Just doing it this one time, knowing that it is possible, knowing that all my effort and hard work toward staying well is working – that is all I need to reassure myself that life will not always be about ups and downs, holidays won’t always be ruined by mania’s and mixed moods, my mind won’t always be confused and sick and frightened.

When the next mood change rolls around – which let’s face it, it will – there will always be hope.

I may be chasing starlight until the end of my life, but at least I know that it gets easier. And when I reach it, when I get there, it was most definitely worth the effort.

4 Years of Christmas: This year, I just want to be me.

275mg (and staying there, for now)

It’s a slippery slope, when I begin waking up at 6am.

It’s what I wanted to do all winter, but struggled to, because even though I wasn’t depressed (mostly), I simply function like an 80 year old woman in the winter time.

6am is good – at first. It’s productive and I find I have more of a day. But as summer heightens, and 6am slips backward, to 5:45, then 5:30 and then 5, and it takes me longer to get to sleep and I wake several times through the night, that is when I find I have a problem.

It might be different this year. This year, I might sail through Christmas and New Year with nothing more than a normal level of excitement and fun. I might sleep 7-8 hours per night of unbroken and satisfying sleep. I might be happy and relaxed, with no signs of anxiety or paranoia in sight. I can only hope – and keep doing what I am doing.

But it’s a little hard to argue with the facts. Past occurrences are often the best predictor of future ones, and the last decade of experience, and particularly the last four years   suggest that it might not be all smooth sailing…

2007

Christmas time was the beginning of my major breakdown, as I like to call it. Actually. That’s not entirely true. November brought with it hypomania and that carried on into Christmas. I was abrasive and blunt, enjoying the sound of my own voice and completely and utterly bored by the conversation of anyone who was, well, not me. Interrupted, I was irritable. Questioned, I was irritable. Disagreed with, even more irritable. All I wanted was action, excitement, loud music, lots of drugs, lots of alcohol and incredibly sexy men to seduce. With those goals in mind, I had the best New Year of my life, not ending my partying until 11am the next day. Phew!

I thought at the time my escapes were indicative of a fantastic year ahead. Instead I became completely manic, cycled rapidly between mania and mixed moods, suffered delusions, the odd hallucination, engaged in a ridiculous amount of sex and failed at university.

2008

Christmas time I was mixed. I was abusive and angry, vicious and vindictive. If anyone ever had the right to call me a super-bitch, then this is the time I deserved it. So volatile, I picked a fight with everyone, including my best friend who I belittled for an insane amount of time for having a bruise on her arm – I have no recollection of this. I got drunk, told everyone they bored the hell out of me and rode my horse feverishly around the countryside to get my adrenalin fix (with my very loyal mother trapsing along behind me to make sure I didn’t hurt myself).

December 31st 2008 at 12am I cried when I watched the fireworks. I cried because my year had been the worst in my life. I cried for all that had been, all the confusion, the loss, and the pain. As if somehow this arbitrary marker of time signalled an end to the cycling of my moods.

2009

Mixed. This time I was fraught with anxiety, completely paranoid, and I was having nightmares within nightmares. Every night I spent apart from The Olympian I would dream of something horrific. Maybe a ghost, or someone murdering me, or some sort of monster. I would wake in my bed thinking I was safe. And then out of nowhere, whatever terrifying entity was after me would materialise and attack me again. The cycle repeated, with my breathing louder and louder trying to wake myself up because I was literally paralyzed. When I finally woke up for real, I thought I was still asleep. Horrible.

New Year I fought with my boyfriend and stayed up until 8am crying.

2010

Christmas was okay, but I got too drunk too often.

New Year I developed a mixed mood (I blame the drinking), and a viral infection when I was on holiday with a large number of people I didn’t know very well. On New Years Eve I had The Olympian tell everyone I was sick, and I put myself on a bus and went home. I was asleep when the New Year rolled in, and I didn’t mind.

This Year?

This year has by far been the best for me. I have not had a major episode of illness. Those I have had have been mild and/or short-lived. A week or so here and there of mild hypomania or depression is okay by me. It beats the rapid cycling and disruptive moods of the past four years.  It beats the long drawn out depressions and hard-to-reconcile “highs” of over a decade. I keep saying to myself:

“You’ve come this far”

“You made it through!”

“The less episodes you have, the less likely you will have more

I tell myself these things, and I want to believe them….

But I can feel it in the pit of my stomach; that tingle of excitement, anticipation and destruction; that lump in my throat. My mind is moving too, and it won’t slow down. It’s not racing, but it’s thinking, constantly thinking, and it just won’t stop.

It’s hard for me to believe that I will get through The Peak (December 31st) without even a glimmer of hypomania. I’d be so lucky. I’m much more likely to suffer a mixed mood.

I’m one for being positive, really I am, but how do I trust that everything will be okay when for the whole part of my life that I can remember, it just hasn’t been?

I’m scared.

So, Santa, if you are reading this: This year for Christmas, I just want to be me.