Thursday, April 24, 2014


let's talk about my drug dependency.

i've been hearing a lot these days about benzos and how bad it is for people to become dependent on them.

i am dependent on not one but two classes of sedatives. this is not a matter of choice for me.

here's the short version: i have a severe bipolar illness. i prefer the term manic-depression (as does kay redfield jamison), but bipolar is what they're calling it these days.

long ago if you carried that diagnosis, it was kind of a death sentence on your career and your relationships, sometimes on you.

because there was no good treatment prior to sometime around 1972, doctors were less apt to diagnose it. chances are if you carried the diagnosis, you had already gone off the rails once at least.

then along came lithium.

lithium is cheap and effective, but it can have some bad side effects. i took it right up until my body stopped metabolizing it, and i got lithium poisoning at doses way below the therapeutic window which everyone said wasn't possible, but when your lab work comes back at panic levels, people have to rethink what's possible.

i had to stop taking it.

and then there was depakote.

depakote is a miracle drug. it was better than lithium, and it's not terribly expensive. it has relatively few side effects. "so THIS" i thought, "is what normal people must feel like."

i took depakote for two and a half years before i developed an allergy to it. it was such a good drug that we tried every formulation of it and did an allergy challenge test.

the allergist told me that if i kept taking it, one of those doses was going to be the LAST dose.

years passed. meds changed. i tried what there was. some were marginally effective. i developed intolerances or allergies to all of them.

what that leaves me is very careful management of my sleep and eating and stress levels. sometimes this means that with care and diligence i'm ok for months, and sometimes it means i can't even go to the grocery store.

which brings me back to the sleep thing.

sometimes i can sleep just fine all by myself. sometimes the crazy comes and sits on me in the night and i get hours of horrid dream hallucinations where my brain speeds up and doesn't clean itself out and i'm headed into a death spiral and the bad thing is i can't tell ahead of time which kind of night it's going to be before i get there so i take two classes of sedatives - one to slow me down, and one to knock me out- that nearly guarantee at least four hours of uninterrupted sleep.

it's not as nice as sleep that isn't drug-heavy, but i can depend on it mostly and eating and sleeping regularly are things i have to do or else there are serious consequences.

i can handle regular eating on my own.

but one of the things the illness does is it screws with your sleep.

i am thinking about it a lot this morning because i had to pull the sedatives for two nights running on account of having had anesthesia yesterday. the second night is never as bad as the first, and plus with the fasting you can't even have a cookie to get your head on straight so while i am now two nights without sleep, i was only ONE night without food and water also, so i feel very much improved today.

the worst thing about it yesterday was knowing that i wasn't done with sleeplessness yet.

but today i am allowed to eat and tonight i can resume my meds and in a couple of days i'll be good as new.


Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

i'm back and playing catch up. Aesthesia? surgery? I must get to reading all the things I missed while away.
I hope you get a lot of good sleep tonight!!

cookie said...


Kristin @ Going Country said...

That sounds like a delicate dance, indeed. Fingers crossed for good sleep and good food . . .


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