As I mentioned in my previous post I am considering taking lithium again. This was not my idea, in fact it comes way down on my list of ideas somewhere after “stick pins in my eyes”, “swim in a crocodile infested pond”, “go to a Miranda Hart gig” “listen to Demi Lovato”, “eat offal”, “take up card making as a hobby”….you get the picture.
Lithium is the idea of my Awesome Psychiatrist, a gentleman I was very lucky to be referred to and even luckier that he found me “interesting” enough for him to continue reviewing my diagnosis (diagnoses?) and treatment. It is not surprising that in light of recent events he thinks it might be time to try and introduce some sort of chemical stability into my chaotic life.
I trust the Awesome Psychiatrists completely, I did instantly, I have no idea why, I usually make mental health professionals work very hard indeed to earn my trust. The Awesome Psychiatrist is very skilled and very experienced he is a “designated national specialist” according to one website, I’m not actually sure what this means but he’s a nice guy, very funny, gives me tea during appointments and laughs at my jokes, all good qualities as far as I’m concerned.
In spite of this I am still in a quandary over taking lithium again, for reasons I will explain, some perfectly rational, some possibly less rational but no less pertinent for me.
I have taken many psychotropic medications in the past, so many I’m not sure if I can remember them all but I will try- bearing in mind I only came to the attention of the psychiatric profession (this time around) in January 2010 this is quite a list-
I took propranolol in an attempt to counter the tremor lithium gave me- it made me almost blind
I was also once prescribed Risperidone for about 20 minutes but never took it
These drugs were in various dosages, in various combinations at various times, I stopped taking anything on the 19th of January 2011. I started taking Agomelatine on the 16th of March and stopped taking it some 8 weeks ago for reasons that will probably soon become clear. I could write a blog post on each one and the reasons I hated it but this post is about lithium.
So I’ll start with the rational reasons I don’t want to take lithium again.
Lithium has many nasty physical side-effects; in my experience it causes agonising leg cramps, nausea, dizziness, constant fatigue, headaches, disabling whole body tremor, constant thirst, an insatiable hunger and accompanying rapid, uncontrollable weight gain. I don’t cope well with physical ailments, I tend to ignore most physical symptoms, preferring to ignore the fact I actually have a body at all. Feeling ill all the time forces me to acknowledge I have a body that is more than just somewhere to apply pyjamas. It makes me very uncomfortable. When I look back at diaries or blog posts I am reminded of just how dreadful I felt whilst taking medication. I accept I was over medicated, poorly medicated and poorly monitored but I have no confidence this won’t happen again. I would be mad to volunteer to make myself physically ill again.
Drug-induced weight-gain is tortuous, for anybody, for someone who likes to be in control of food as much as I do it’s even worse. I have managed to crawl to quite a sound footing in terms of eating disorder recovery, most days I eat three proper meals a day, snacks in between and have managed to make it through a whole month without any self-induced vomiting. No mean feat for someone who appeared hell-bent on starving herself to death a short time ago. I remember the incredible lithium hunger so well, I would be drop-down-dead starving almost all day, it never went away. I can’t help but think introducing a drug that messes with my metabolism would be self-sabotage at this stage.
Lithium is a mood-stabiliser, yes it helps prevent extremes of mood but it also has a tendency to cancel out all the ones in between as well. I functioned on lithium but I was without thoughts, ideas, feelings or reactions. I was empty; I am in danger of straying into the less rational reasons for not taking lithium so I will direct you to this post written by a much loved friend on the subject, she explains it better than I ever could.
So those are my experience-based, rational, understandable reasons for being reluctant to take lithium again. If I have the words and the courage I will try and explain the other reasons. I would appreciate anyone reading to let me know that they nodded and said “uh-huh” throughout this next bit as opposed to laughing aloud or further questioning my sanity, I have awareness that my beliefs are a little skew-whiff but this does not stop me believing them.
I often joke about being “poisoned by the medical profession” in fact during my first consultation with the Awesome Psychiatrist I made him promise not to poison me, I make it sound funny- I am deadly serious. I believe the medical profession want to poison me and make me something/somebody I am not. This belief has some basis in fact, after my diagnosis there was a tendency to attach pathological labels to all my past behaviour. All the things I did, all the things I achieved were painted with bipolar, taken away from me, turned in to symptoms as opposed to qualities. I believe that the psychiatric profession do not like me being who I am (or perhaps rather who I can be when not hooped-up on mentalism?) I am tempted to self-censor here as I know that what I’m about to say merely supports my diagnosis but I will go ahead. The psychiatric profession want me to be the same as everyone else, they want me to conform, be normal, be boring. I haven’t quite made up my mind if “they” (ie- everyone else other than me in the whole world) feel envious, threatened or just don’t like me, either way I know they want to drug the Zoë out of me.
The way I feel about this is paradoxical to my general feelings of self-loathing and I can’t really explain that other than perhaps by referring to that shameful symptom of bipolar- grandiosity. It is my understanding that grandiosity is a symptom of a manic state though and high or low I feel exactly the same way about lithium and exactly the same way about what “they” want to do to me. Even when I am crushingly low I would rather be dead than take lithium.
Simply thinking about taking lithium again makes me panic, it gives me the fear I shake and sweat, my heart races and I start scurrying around inside my own head. I have got as far as allowing the Awesome Psychiatrist to start the process, I am still in control, at this stage I have no intention of taking it.
I believe that in voluntarily taking those tablets I would essentially be killing a part of me. This sounds like a standard case of “missing the highs” and maybe it is, it feels much scarier and final than that though.
Lithium mutes the Zoë in me, it leaves behind a fat, trembling body inhabited by functioning parts, things get done but we don’t “do stuff” (“stuff” being a handy catch-all word to describe the stuff Zoë does). Having re-read that (very long) sentence I am aware I am possibly making little sense, except perhaps to myself. It’s 3am I should probably stop and have a milky drink.
I don’t know what to do about this situation, I clearly cannot continue the way I am, I am just not safe- in either mood state and I accept that I am unwell (though I am willing to argue as to just how unwell I am). However I know that if I take lithium, the author of this blog will die and I suspect she’ll take the twitter account holder with her, I will still exist in some form but I won’t be living.