Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Oh Ativan, How I Miss You; Clonopin, How I Hate You

I was a dumbass and let myself run out of Ativan.  I've been without it for two nights, and for two nights I haven't slept at all well.

Oddly, I've been able to get to sleep.  I just can't stay asleep.  I wake up every hour and a half (apparently, this corresponds to sleep cycles), feeling anxious, coming out of what feels sort of like but not quite an anxiety-tinged dream.  It's as if I'm obsessing and ruminating in my sleep in a way that I don't actually do when I'm awake (thanks, Abilify!)

When I was first prescribed Ativan a few years ago, my doctor told me that it wasn't a sleep medication per se.  It's a make-your-brain-shut-up medication.  It's supposed to quiet those thoughts that keep us from falling asleep.  These are usually anxious thoughts, but in my case they can be everything from anxious or depressive thoughts, to thoughts about my next art project, to thoughts about the space program.

Ativan is a benzodiazapene, which means that your body will build up a tolerance to it.  Maybe this is rebound anxiety from suddenly having my 1.5 mgs of Ativan cut off.   I just wish to gods that I'd been on top of the refill.  My meds supposedly shipped last Friday, so it's been four business days and I should have them tomorrow at the latest. 

For now, I'm at the point where I might have to try clonopin again or risk something seriously weird happening to my brain.  Clonopin made me feel ill after just two nights at .25 mgs (I was prescribed .5 mgs).  I managed to cut my half pill in half last time -- I wonder if I can cut my quarter pill in half again?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lamictal 300 mgs: Side Effect #3 -- Digestion Issues

The third post in my series of the most bothersome side effects of lamictal concerns the third largest tag in my list of side effects: GI issues.  GI issues with brain meds are pretty common.  Ever med I've ever been on has warned of nausea, for instance, but I never had this problem.  And for the first couple months of titration, and then only after titrating up to a higher dose, but it always went away after a few days.

Then I went up to 150 mgs.

In general, I'm not prone to digestive problems.  I've thrown up only twice since I was ten or twelve years old.  I can eat just about anything without getting heartburn, stomachache, or nausea.  But at 150 mgs, I found myself gassy, bloated, and constipated -- to the point where I bought a huge bag of prunes.  Not that they helped much.

Monday, December 26, 2011

How to Interview a Therapist (Individual Therapy)

I came across a great post yesterday about how to "interview" a therapist.  It's called "How to Interview Your Therapist: Ten Tips".  It's at a great little blog I discovered called The Separate Room.

Choosing a therapist is not all about asking questions, it's also about how to check in with yourself to make sure you're comfortable with the therapist before starting therapy.  It's a must read for anyone who's looking for a therapist.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas, Lamictal Community!

You may wonder why a Unitarian Universalist Pagan celebrates Christmas.  There are actually a lot of reasons. 

The first is that I see it as a continuation of Solstice festivities.  Many Christmas traditions derive from earlier Pagan traditions.  Like the tree.  And the gift-giving.  The all night vigil that has become midnight services.  Christmas, like Hanukkah, is at its core about light in darkness.  Hope and miracles.  Lamp oil that lasts for eight days instead of one.  A child born in a barn, but born healthy (and mom comes through herself with flying colors).

The second is that it was always an important holiday in my family.  In spite of our severe dysfunction, my mother managed to impose a truce on the household, and my father didn't yell at us for nearly a whole week.  My mother was really into the decorations, the music, the presents; in her own dysfunctional family, her father dressed up as Santa every Christmas to hand out the gifts he himself had wrapped with great care.

The third is the music.  Oh, the music.  Whether the music is a grand oratorio like the Messiah or the Weihnachts-Oratorium, or folk songs like The Coventry Carol,  it's some of the most beautiful music out there.  The metaphors are often fascinating as well.  Mary, wandering through a barren wood and causing flowers to spring up where nothing has grown for seven years.  The cherry tree bowing down to her.  Mary as a "rose of virtue".  These metaphors refer to her powers as a goddess-like being, her power as a pregnant woman.  

This is a tough time of year for people with mood disorders.  May all of you find the light in this time of darkness.  Have yourselves a merry little Christmas, y'all.

Lamictal 300 mgs: Side Effect #2 -- Decreased Appetite, Weird Cravings

Lamictal and Appetite:

Continuing my series of the most noticeable side effects of lamictal, today's topic is loss of appetite.  I've written 15 posts about this.  I've found it to be less disruptive than the sleep issues, but at least those could be addressed with my blue light.  Loss of appetite is far more persistent.

I started having problems with my appetite on July 19th.  It's come and gone over the months, but mostly they've come and stayed.  Right now, thanks to the Abilify, they've camped out on my lawn.

The appetite problems manifest primarily as difficulty eating breakfast.  Not only am I not hungry,but food seems completely unappealing.  My usual breakfast, which I've enjoyed for a few years now -- yogurt with dark cocoa stirred into it, a gluten-free carb (either bread or a waffle), and some salad greens -- often seems yucky to me.  Breakfast often sits there for four or five hours as I slowly pick at it.

When I do eat breakfast in a somewhat normal fashion, it's because I'm eating dinner foods.  Specifically, salty, fatty dinner foods.  Green chile and cheese tamales from the farmers market.  Weird omelets.

By 3:30 or 4, I'm ravenous.  Unfortunately, this is my depressive time, and my breakfast problems haven't helped my mood any.  On the other hand, I'm hungry enough that I to make up my calories in the afternoon and evening, so at least I'm getting enough of them.

Since this problem was beginning to abate after I'd been on 150 mgs for a month, I suspect it will disappear again once I stop taking Abilify.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Clonopin .25 mgs: This Med Is No Joke

I was having trouble sleeping a few weeks ago, so my pdoc wanted to try me on something that actually makes you sleep.  Ativan (lorazepam is the generic) doesn't actually put you to sleep as such; it just makes your brain stop chattering or ruminating, so you're more relaxed, making it possible for your body to fall asleep.

So I tried it.  My scrip was for .5 mgs, but since I didn't know its effects I cut the 1 mg pill in half, and then in half again (have I mentioned how much I love having a pill cutter?) and took .25.  The next day I was a bit groggy.  "Well", I thought to myself, "sometimes these things go away after the second day.  I'll try it again tonight."

The next day I was exhausted, dizzy, and generally felt ill.  When I made my weekly farmers' market run I felt like I had to put all my mental effort into driving safely, and even then I think was taking a risk.  I had to bail on a friend's party, and we had to put off getting our Yule tree until the next day.

There are people who can take Clonopin (clonazepam) with no ill effects whatsoever.  Mo at milligrams takes it for anxiety.  A friend of mine also took it for anxiety, but only when she absolutely had to, because it put her down for a nap every time.  I learned that I am not one of these people.

Happy Solstice, Seasonal Depressives! We made it.

Today I wanted to wish all of you a happy shortest day and longest night.  The sun us is as far as it's going to get from the Northern Hemisphere.  It's all uphill from here.

Of course, for many people there are blizzards and snowstorms to come, and cabin fever, and the grey-brown misery that is February.  You know, I think the only thing I like about California's non-seasons is that February, though often gray at least part of the time, is always green.

We'll still need our sunlamps.  We'll still need to be gentle with ourselves and vigilant about self-care.  But the sun is returning, and bringing with it mood and sanity.

I wish you all the happiest of Solstices.  Remember -- axial tilt is the reason for the season!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Choosing an SAD Therapy Lamp: New Article on Squidoo

Yesterday I finished an review of light therapy devices I wrote on Squidoo.  I really enjoy the Squidoo community and I don't write there enough.  I figured that since I've been learning so very much about different therapy lamps for seasonal depression, I should share my experiences, and my frustrations, with the world.  The article goes into more depth than I have in this blog.

Please check it out!

A Day Without Blue Light Therapy is a Day Without End

After some trial and error with light therapy, I've finally settled on a pattern of using blue light in the morning and my sun lamp in the afternoon.  It's done a lot for my delayed sleep phase.  Since starting the blue light in the morning, I've been waking up around 9 am and falling asleep around 1 am. 

Then, this morning, something came up.  I skipped the blue light.  For just one day.  How much can it matter, right?

You will notice that the time stamp on this message is 3:30 am.  I believe I've answered the question.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Weekly Gratitude: Rats. Yes, really.

This week I'm expressing my gratitude for rats.

Yup.  Rats.

Not the rats that ate my car a five years ago.*  Not the rats that tried to live in my walls two years ago.   Nor do I refer to the kind of rats that carry the plague and grow to the size of small racoons.

(At this point I feel compelled to remark that my rat problems are not a result of living in squalor.  I don't.  I live in a major city in CA, which has no winters to that would kill some of them.  They like my yard because my neighbor has an apple tree that feeds them.)

No, I am not talking about vermin.  I'm talking about lab rats.

I'm talking about the rats who run mazes and endure water tests to teach us about mammalian (and thus human) cognition.  The ones whose bodies are used to test our psych drugs for animal safety.  The ones whose lives are sacrificed, and their brains sliced up and examined, so that researchers can see first-hand the physical and chemical changes wrought by meds or other stimuli.  

Because of these rats, neuropsychiatry is learning more and more about the physical differences that lead to brain dysfunction.  Because of these rats, I have medications that enable me to be a functional person.    Mad gratitude to the rats!

*OK, they only chewed the rubber insulation off the wiring, but saying that "they ate my car" is way funnier.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gottman Institute Comes Through (WAS Frustration with "Gottman Certified" Marriage Counselors)

This post originally was about my frustrating experience with the Gottman institute regarding our incompetent marriage counselor.  He had been misrepresented by his clinic director as having "advanced training and certification" in the Gottman method of couples counseling, when in fact he had neither.  In order to seek redress from this situation, we needed a letter from the Gottman institute stating that fact.

Due to star-crossed emails, as well as a manager being out of the country, I didn't receive any communication from the Gottman Institute regarding this matter.  After what seemed like no communication, I got peeved, and ranted about it where I rant about everything -- this blog. 

This morning, I did receive an email promising the letter we need.  It turns out that the Gottman folks sent us an email, but gmail ate it (it's been doing that lately).   They restated the offer to help us find a real Gottman therapist, and better yet, the chain of command is getting involved.

I thus retract my rant.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Abilify 2 mgs: Holy Clumsiness, Batman

I've written about the Lamictal Stupids before, and how Abilify seems to make them that much worse.  Did I also mention that Abilify makes me really damn clumsy? 

Yesterday I broke the last of our entry-level Reidel bordeaux glasses.  We used to have two.  Now we have none.

Care to guess when I broke the other one?  It was last year.  Shortly after starting my winter course of Abilify.

The glasses were a gift.  They were our favorite wine glasses.  They suited our shared taste for red wines, and they're suited well to a lot of California reds.  Before you go thinking that we're affluent wine snobs, we're not -- our "house red" is a five dollar bottle of cabernet or shiraz or whatever else Trader Joe's has for five dollars.  We loved those glasses so much because they made cheap wines taste like NOT cheap wine.

Of course, you may have guessed that if you read last week's post about how I gave myself a third degree burn on my forearm while taking pizza out of the oven.  I've burned myself with the oven before; occasionally I graze my hand or arm on the oven rack, resulting in a small, minor burn. Never before have I actually made contact with the metal that lines the oven.  Never before have I gotten a burn that's an inch long.  Let alone one that's scabbed over, and that doesn't even hurt -- that last bit indicates nerve damage.  Yay!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Is Depression Interfering With Your Potential? This May Help.

I've bitched about a lot of things in this blog.  One of them is the feeling that my life has not turned out the way it was supposed to.  I'm a smart, talented person.  I coulda been somebody!  I coulda been a contender! 

This comic, from the inestimable xkcd, made me feel a bit better about that:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Weekly Gratitude: My Cats, and Cats In General

Fair Warning: I love cats.  I've loved cats for as long as I can remember.  I am a cat person.  In this post, I gush about my own cats at length.  If you're a crazy cat person, read on.  If you're not, this post may make you roll your eyes at the sentimentality of cat people and go talk baby talk to your poodle, Fifi.

This week I'm giving gratititude for my cats.

There are a lot of things I love about my cats.  They're both incredibly well-behaved, with never a litter box problem from either one of them.  They don't shred the furniture.  They don't bite or scratch.  For that matter, neither one of them has even so much as hissed at me in the 16 years we've lived together.  They really are great cats.

I really, truly enjoy my cats' personalities.  They differ dramatically from each other, and complement each other perfectly.  First, there's Piglet, a mellow, affectionate, 16 lb Maine Coon mix.  If I want a cat in my lap, I can just pick her up and put her there, and she'll start purring like a motorboat.  For that matter, she likes being picked up and held on her back like a baby (most cats hate this), and purrs like a motorboat the whole time.  My husband can position her on his chest and fall asleep with his arm around her, and she'll stay there for hours ... purring like a motorboat.  She even allows herself to be used as a pillow.  Did I mention she purrs like a motorboat?

Fortunately, Piglet is so mellow that she doesn't mind being bossed by our other, much smaller cat.  CC is a 9 lb blue tabby.  If she even looks at Piglet in a certain way, Piglet will make a long detour to go around her.  If both cats were dominant personalities their relationship would be a real problem.  But Piglet is happy to back off when CC gets obstreperous.  The cats aren't friends, but they live in peaceful, mutual tolerance.

As for CC can be affectionate, but it's always on her own terms.  She expects obedience from her human minions.  The back door is opened when she asks (she trained me to open it when she rings a bell on a scratchy toy that hangs from the doorknob).  She demands a certain amount of play time every day.  She's sparing in her affection, but if she wants some lap time, she simply takes over my lap.  If she doesn't want cuddle time, there will be no cuddle time.  Until she wants cuddle time again.  Which is usually at 3 in the morning.  Because CC -- disdainful, independent CC -- actually sleeps snuggled in the crook of my arm, and purrs all night long.  (Though possibly this is simply due to amusement; my partner and I frequently wake up to find that we've somehow been crammed onto his half of the bed, and CC is in the exact middle.  CC weights 9 lbs, remember.  My partner and I weigh about 330 combined.)

It's a lot of fun to have one cat you can always count on for some love, and another cat you can tell great stories about.

My cats do have one thing in common.  They both take care of me when I need it.  When my mood begins to crash, Piglet butts her head against my legs until I start petting her.  She crawls into my lap and rests her head against my chest.  CC normally hates to be picked up, but when I start crying, she rubs against my legs and yells at me until I pick her up.  My cats soothe me.  They remind me that I am not my failures.  When I'm feeling useless, they remind me that they depend on me for survival. I feed them and love them and take care of them, that's good enough for them.  I'm good enough for them.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lamictal Stupids, Abilify Stupids, and a Third Degree Burn

The "lamictal stupids" are a reasonably well-known side effect of that med.  As for Abilify, it's a partial dopamine antagonist, so I guess it's not surprising that it has its own stupids.  But what happens when you add them together?

You get something that a friend of mine once called "not just stupid, but STOOPID".

My crowning Abilify achievement from last year was leaving my keys in my front door.  I live in a not-great neighborhood of a major city.  Thank the gods a decent person rand my doorbell to let me know: "that could be really dangerous!" he said.  Yes, I know.  That's why I've never done it before.

Since starting Abilify this year, I don't think I've remembered to lock my car even once.  Then I left my backpack (where I keep my wallet) in my car with the door wide open as I went to put away a shopping cart. 

The crowning achievement for this year: burning myself on the inside of the oven as I was reheating some pizza  (Abilify also seems to interfere with my ability to know where my hands are).  Then I forgot about it.  Later that night a noticed a classmate looking at my forearm, where there seemed to be a bad scrape with a bruise.  "That's weird," I thought.  I went home and tried to figure out what I'd hit my forearm on.  Then I forgot about it.

Two days later, the scab came off.  And I realized that it wasn't a bruise, or a scrape.  It was a godsdamn third degree burn.  Then I remembered burning myself reaching for the pizza. 

Now, between being a Girl Scout, and then a lifeguard, and then a Girl Scout camp counselor, and then a Girl Scout troop leader, I've been certified in first aid for at least half my life.  I damn well know what a third degree burn looks like.  And yet, it took two days for it to dawn on me that I was looking at a third degree burn.  Of course, for the prior two days, I was not caring for the burn at all.  I was waiting for the "scrape" to heal.

Now I'm doing the neosporin thing, and trying to keep it protected.  But I suspect this will leave a permanent scar.

Thanks, Abilify.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How to Celebrate a Psychoversary

A glass of red wine, and the Hallelujah Chorus played nice and loud.  Then played again, only singing along this time.  In a pretty half-assed way, to be sure, because I was sight-reading and not all of it is easy.

Nonetheless, singing Hallelujah.

Happy First Psychoversary to Me!

I've made it past the one-year mark of my first (and worst) psychotic episode!

I know that I've been doing better this year -- no delusions in October that get progressively worse through November -- but I've nonetheless been very apprehensive about early December.  That's when it all hit the fan last year.  That's when I had to start covering things in foil.  That's when I went on Abilify for the first time.  And it wasn't as an "add-on treatment for depression", and it wasn't as a mood stabilizer like this year.  It was an antipsychotic.  I was taking it to control my psychotic delusions.

I've still been moody as hell.  The lamictal has helped a lot, though clearly not enough; As I've titrated up, my mood has risen and stabilized, only to fall and destabilize as the sunlight decreases.  But I haven't had a single delusion.

I received my diagnosis of psychotic depression one year ago today.  Passing this milestone feels huge to me, like I can begin hoping for a full recovery.  I feel like I deserve to celebrate!  Any ideas how one celebrates a psychoversary?  Please, please share in the comments.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Phillips GoLite BLU, and How to Use It.

A few weeks ago, when I was particularly frustrated my life revolving around my sun lamp (oh I do crack myself up sometimes), my partner got me a Phillips GoLite BLU Plus.  It's battery rechargeable, has a clock and a timer ... generally more portable and convenient than my sunlamp.

The point: Follow the directions.  If you have trouble falling asleep at night, use it in the morning.  If you have trouble staying up at night, use it in the afternoon.
I decided to ignore the directions.  I figured that since my mood slumps between 4 and 8 pm, that's the time I should use the blue light.  It helped, insofar as it freed me up from my desk long enough to lift weights, do my SPCA shift, make dinner, that sort of thing. 

I now think that  using it in the afternoon was perhaps ... unwise.

Blue light is a tricky thing.  It can help with seasonal depression, but it's not necessarily a good thing for bipolar disorder (and whatever my disorder "really" is, it acts a lot like bipolar in some ways).  Folks with bipolar can be tipped into hypomania or mania if they get too much blue light.  For that matter, anyone using too much light therapy can experience headaches, nausea, and irritability.

And if you use it too late in the afternoon, you'll have trouble falling asleep.  Remember my delayed sleep phase?  Course you do.  I emphatically do not need help staying awake at night.

The upshot is that yesterday I used the damn thing for an hour in the morning.  This morning I woke up on my own at eight frakking thirty  Yeah.  8:30.  Me.

I had a bit of trouble falling asleep last night, but when I slept I slept well.  The sleep issue could well be due to the Adderall I took in the morning to alleviate my crazy mood.  I'm writing in front of it right now, so we'll see how it goes in the coming days.

I wrote yesterday about my mood lability over the past few weeks.  My pdoc and I had tried to address it with an Adderall booster in the afternoon -- it made my afternoon depression go away, but it also messed with my sleep.  Then I tried taking the Adderall booster in the morning.  It still helped, but not as much, and it still messed with my sleep.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lamictal 300 mgs: Plus 2 mgs Abilify, minus 5 mgs Adderall

The short version: my mood has been all over the place for the last week and a half.  My pdoc had two options.  Number 1: Go back on 12.5 mgs of Zoloft, which would numb me out a bit, and shouldn't give me SSRI problems because they'd be tempered by the lamictal.  Or, number 2: go back on Abilify for the short term at a very low dose; I'd still feel my feelings, but I won't be reduced to tears over stupid shit.

In other words, the lamictal is helping a lot with the depression, but it's not stabilizing my mood as much as it needs to, and it needs help.

We decided to try Abilify first. We know from past experience that it will work immediately.  I also think it's important to feel my feelings; I just need not to be completely overwhelmed by them.  I feel pretty good about this.  I can start it tomorrow and stop crying like an emo kid.

We're also removing the Adderall from my cocktail.  After two weeks it's clear that while it does help my mood, it doesn't help enough.  It also wreaks havoc with my sleep.   Unless I can be sure to squeeze in some seriously vigorous exercise, and I can't always do that, and messed up sleep equals messed up mood.

A few words about my mood lately.  At some times I'm feeling really good, almost too good, and for no particular reason.  Then if I'm triggered (or sometimes when I'm not), I crash and crash hard.  I start sobbing and simply can't talk myself down, let alone stop, for several hours.  When I finally do, I last about ten minutes before I start sobbing again.

What do I mean when I say "stupid shit"?  Well, let me tell you about the day after Thanksgiving.  We like to cook our own small turkey, because we like to do things with the leftovers.  But, unbeknownst to us, the turkey was partially frozen.  It probably was up against the side of the refrigerator case or something.  Anyway, it took all afternoon to cook (way too long for a 12 lb turkey, so I was already crying about that).  Then we cut into it, half of it was raw.

The rational side of my brain, and my husband, told me that this wasn't my fault, and that we could just use the turkey for stock, so it wouldn't be a total loss.

The crazy part of my brain was in tears because I'd wasted all day and my husband was sick so he couldn't help me cook so we hadn't spent time together and he was leaving the country the next day AND I RUINED THE HOLIDAY!

Don't even ask what happened when he returned from his trip and didn't immediately give me a hug.

I can't be crying so much that it interferes with my life.  And with my husband probably also being depressed, I can't be triggering that feedback loop where does something without knowing it will upset me, and then I start crying, and then he feels bad for upsetting me ... and gets stressed ... and I feel bad for stressing him out, so I cry more ... and he withdraws from me emotionally ... so I get more upset ... and the cycle begins anew.

To wrap up: Abilify.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Weekly Gratitude: My Coping Skills, and Three Things I Like About Myself

I've decided to turn this week's Gratitude Post into an exercise from my Mood Action Plan.  Last August, my MCBT class was assigned to make a list of three things we like about ourselves.  Things that we probably forget when we get depressed. 

This post feels awkward to write in some ways.  Depression is inextricably twined with negative self-image -- that's the whole point of this exercise -- but the way we're brought up makes it even harder.  Naming what we like about ourselves feels so much like bragging, like arrogance; and every six year old knows that nobody likes a bragger.

Women especially are socialized to play down their own abilities and give credit to others.  We're much better at telling other people they're awesome than appreciating our own awesomeness.  But, again, that's the whole point of doing this.  To remember that we're awesome, even when we don't feel awesome.  To hang on to three things we like about ourselves, no matter how hard our illness tries makes use forget them.

In my case, the problem is not really that I forget that I have traits that I like. I just get to feeling like they don't (and will never) do me a damn bit of good.  So I decided to change the terms of the assignment: I would look at how these traits do me plenty of good, because they're the ones that I use to cope with my mental illness.

I am grateful for my sense of humor, my creativity, and my curiosity. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lamictal 300 mgs: Side Effect #1 -- Disturbed Sleep

A lot of people find my blog by searching on specific side effects of lamictal (or lamotrigine). This is nothing of a surprise.  On the one hand, doctors (and patients) like lamictal because for most people, the side effect profile is pretty low.  On the other hand, the side effects people do experience can be pretty weird.  These range from the deadly Stevens-Johnson rash to insomnia to weird muscle changes.  I can only tell you that lamictal, more than any other brain drug I've been on (and believe me I've been on plenty, feels like its rewired my whole nervous system.

To help out the the folks who are looking for side effect information, I've decided to do a series about the ones that have have been the most significant for me as I've titrated up from 25 mgs to 300 mgs of this medication.  I'll be working my way from the most troublesome and persistent side effects to to those that have been less difficult.  I'll note which ones the side effects were temporary or seem to be permanent.  I'll also note the dosages at which the side effects appeared or abated.

For today's post, we'll talk about the side effect that tops my tag cloud:

Side Effect #1 (Temporary): Lamictal and Disturbed Sleep

The most common sleep disturbance with lamictal is insomnia, but I experienced delayed sleep phase instead.  I could get my eight hours in, as long as I was wiling to get them in between the hours of 3 am and 11 pm.

For several months, there was absolutely nothing I could do to change this. It didn't matter if  I'd gotten only 5 hours of sleep the night before.  It didn't matter how much exercise I'd had that day.  I tried going to bed at midnight, turning off all the lights, taking deep breaths to relax ... and the weird thing is, I was relaxed.  No racing, niggling, anxious thoughts.  I was very tired and completely relaxed -- I just couldn't sleep.  I've read that this is somewhat uncommon, but can be characteristic of "lamictal insomnia".

When I started using my sunlamp in the fall the delayed sleep phase started to abate (which makes sense once I thought about it).  I can now usually fall asleep around 1 am and wake up easily -- without my alarm clock -- at 9:16.  Why 9:16?  I have no idea.  But I set my alarm clock anyway just to be safe.  When Spring comes and I don't use my lamp anymore ... who knows.

This was a pretty obnoxious side effect, because it meant my schedule was completely different from that of the normal, grown-up world.  On the plus side, I had no trouble waking up at 9 or 10 when I had to -- on the negative, I was not getting anywhere near enough sleep on these nights.  Lack of sleep is bad for mood disorders.  My mood was much, much better than it would have been without the lamictal, but I still hope this one is temporary.

For the next post in my Lamictal Side Effects series, read Post #2: Decreased Appetite

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Oh Yeah, My Mood Action Plan

My experience the other night made me remember that I'd created a Mood Action Plan back in the day.  I've printed it up and posted it above my desk/studio table.  I've already acted on some of them -- namely those that deal with my daily mood crashes:
  • Troughs or crashes in mood between the times of 4 and 8 pm become more frequent
  • Troughs or crashes in mood between the times of 4 and 8 pm become worse (tearfulness, paranoia about relationships, pessimism running to despair)
  • Troughs or crashes in mood lengthen beyond the 4 to 8 pm range
All three of these symptoms are occurring, a fact to which I have alerted my pdoc (which was action number 1 on my Plan). We're trying an Adderall booster in the early afternoon, but it's proving to be problematic for my sleep if I don't get in some vigorous exercise during the day.  And I do mean "vigorous". It has to be weight training -- going for a run don't cut it.