Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lamictal 300 mgs, Abilify 5 mgs: Sunlight, Heat, and Exercis

Brain meds can mess up your body in all kinds of ways you might never think of.  For instance, both lamictal and abilify can screw with your body's ability to handle sunlight and overheating.  The side-effect warnings on abilfy even caution you against heavy exercise.

And yet, when you have a mood disorder, your pdoc is always pestering you about exercise.  Exercise improves mood -- it's a proven fact.  I know that if I don't engage in regular heavy exercise, my mood, my energy level, and my attention span all suffer.

So here I am, on lamictal.  The little drug sheet warns you about susceptibility to sunburn, and some people find they're prone to heat stroke when taking it; and indeed, when I first started on it, I found that I could get a non-trivial sunburn even while wearing my 60 SPF sunblock (n.b.: I'm of Irish descent, living in Northern California, and can get a mild sunburn in 15 minutes even on a cloudy day).  But I had no problem exercising on lamictal whatsoever.

Enter abilify.  Right away I notice that I'm more easily fatigued while exercising.  Then I notice that my skin gets hot much sooner than it should, given my activity level.  Then I notice that I'm not sweating anywhere near as much as I should be.  So I'm basically overheating, which explains the fatigue.

Overheating while exercising is a pretty bad thing, but I can't afford to give up heavy exercise.  I need it to keep my mood, energy levels, and attention span stable.  Right now I have a shoulder injury that's kept me from lifting weights, and believe me I can feel its impact.

What to do?

I've tried to fill in the gaps by running, but when I overheat I get tired and can't exercise like I want to.  Then I had a revelation.  If the problem is that I don't sweat, the effect is that I don't get the evaporative cooling that sweat provides.  If I replace the evaporative cooling, I can get the benefits of sweat without actually sweating.

So I run on a treadmill and always have a water bottle nearby.  When I need to, I splash water on my face.  It helps enormously.  I cool off and don't tire as quickly.  A spray bottle would work even better, if I could remember to bring one.

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