Finding the right medication is often a balancing act between how well it works and how many side effects you can take. While I’m aware that I have to live with some effects – there’s no such thing as a quick fix in psychiatry after all – I’m still holding out hope that I can find medication that works and doesn’t pile weight on me, or zonk me out all the time, or give me such bad memory loss I’m blanking on my personal details. I’ve been through quite a few now and I’m really hoping that this current one is the one that sticks.
I started on Zeldox in December last year. I had been on it before, and it was a disaster because my doctor put me on 40mg straight away and I was violently ill for weeks. This time we started with me taking 20 mg to start with, with my psychiatrist aiming to have me settled on 100mg.
I talked about my experiences getting on the new medication regime in the rehab diaries, but the complications with my medication didn’t end once I left hospital. There have been side effects that only became problematic later.
So, back to the end of my hospital stay. I’ve just been discharged and I’m taking 80mg of Zeldox – 20 mg in the morning, and 60 mg at night. I persisted with the daytime dose for about three months but midday drowsiness was a persistant problem, and is a problem for me for any antipsychotic medication I’ve taken.
I’d take the pill at about nine a.m. I’d feel great for a couple of hours, then start feeling a bit seedy around midday. Generally I couldn’t get through the day without a midday nap. For those eight hours between the nap and night meds however I can’t deny I felt fantastic.
I put the problem to my psychiatrist in an appointment scheduled when I would normally be napping. She agreed that I appeared over medicated, and put a stop to the morning Zeldox. But, would I mind trying to take all of it at night?
So I did. Still on 80mg of Zeldox but all at night. While I was much more animated during the day, and could go places without worrying about crashing suddenly in public, not taking the drug during the day did see my productivity go down. I had trouble focusing, I was restless, and just generally more anxious.
Then came something that every happily medicated person with bipolar disorder dreads: I stopped sleeping.
Generally when this happens it’s time to change up the meds but I was not prepared to give up on Zeldox just yet because….well, I’d been losing a lot of weight on it. That might sound petty but I’m willing to hold onto any drug that doesn’t push me in the other direction.
I went back to my doctor and told her what was happening – and had her despair over my continued weight loss – and she agreed that we should persist with Zeldox for now. While my weight loss has been bothering her, I previously gained 20kg in a couple of months thanks to other antipsychotic drugs. She’s very mindful of not putting me on anything likely to repeat that.
So to fix the sleeping and other positive anxious symptoms she decided to jump from 80mg to 120mg of the Zeldox. She told me to try taking 40 in the morning and 80 at night, but to switch to all at night if the daytime dose was knocking me out.
That worked – for a week or so. Eventually my sleeping became problematic again, and taking 40mg during the day was making me drowsy. Though again, in the afternoons I was feeling fantastic. But life isn’t forgiving of a need for a siesta so I started taking it all at night. I still wasn’t sleeping, and my anxiety symptoms returned during the day.
So at my most recent appointment she told me to jump 40 mg again so that I was taking the maximum allowable dose, 160 mg a day. Because I do seem to do better when I take it during the day she told me to split it 80 mg at night, 80 mg in the morning and to persist with this for a while just to see if we couldn’t make it work.
I tried to make it work. Taking 80mg of a sedating antipsychotic as soon as I got up had me feeling like I had been hit by a train for the first half of the day (and of course feeling fantastic the second half.) I persisted for a few weeks but it just didn’t get better. I tried setting an alarm for 4 am to take it, hoping to be able to sleep the sedation off before I had to be anywhere but it still lasted until about 11 am. It was so strong that if I had to be anywhere before that time, I had to get someone else to drive me.
So now I’m back to taking it all at night. I have been sleeping fine, still a little drowsy in the mornings but not scary sedated. While my mood might be more stable on a daytime dose of the antipsychotic it looks like taking something at that time just isn’t realistic. I can’t deal with the sedation.
I wish I could be one of those people who gets on a particular dose of medication and stays on that dose for years but medicating me is like a game of jenga – carefully building a complex structure and taking pieces away, hoping the whole thing doesn’t collapse. Which it inevitably does.