When you first envisage taking medication, you tend make an assumption that you'll feel better. Intellectually I know there are medications that obviously make you poorly in the journey to wellness, like cancer drugs, Hepatitis C medication, strong anti-biotics. So I'm unsure as to why I naively believed that mental health drugs wouldn't be as bad. They used to tell me that medication is only a small part of recovery - what they didn't tell me is that as well as fighting the madness, I'd also have to spend an enormous amount of time managing the side effects of the drugs they've given me.
My anti depressant isn't too bad, but it still makes things happen that shouldn't, like feeling like you want to wee but can't. But my anti-psychotic is a whole different animal. Although its not officially a sedative, I do feel like I've been hit over the head with a badger as I may have mentioned before. A lovely lady in the mental health fat club, told me to take it 12 hours before I wanted to get up, otherwise I'd be gurning and gouching like a smack head for the fist 5 hours of the day. And she was right. Let me talk you through my day of side effects.
I wake up, usually because someone is yelling in my ear (Kids) or pulling the quilt off me to try and arouse me from the cloying and deep darkness in which I am pulled down like quicksand. As I mill about the house trying to kick start my mind, I feel my head bobbing like a nodding dog, and my eyes sinking back into my head and closing of their own accord. Caffeine. I need caffeine.Lots and lots of caffeine. Strong pot of filter coffee on, HUGE bowl of cereal ready to shove in my face. I am permanently ravenous. The feeling of griping in your tummy when you've not eaten for ages - that is how my tummy is the whole time. It doesn't matter how much I eat, its never enough. I'll come back to this. I also mustn't sit down or I will go back to sleep whilst the children happily destroy the house. Its happend to me on a Sunday morning. I've been watching the news and obviously fallen back to sleep. I've been startled back into the land of the living by a shriek and screaming as my 2 naked sons slip and crash to the floor in the tiled kitchen, because they've poured 2 whole bottles of hand soap across the entire space in an attempt to "Clean it". So, I open windows, walk about, stand outside and try to force my body and mind into action.
My mind, once electric and accelerated beyond the norm, now plods from one thought to the next in snail mode. Most mornings I forget something that I am supposed to do. Forget to take dinner money to school; forget to take sunhat; forget to fill in form for trip; forget glasses; I've had to learn how to be less reliable than I used to be because now, its impossible to do it all and do it right, and do it on time. Ask anyone close to me about the anal time keeper I am - Not anymore. Being late has started to re-enter my life, and I hate it as I'm OCD, and in not doing it right, and not being on time, anxiety and intrusive thinking are triggered and that takes a whole set of other skills to manage.
Meetings at work are hard too. Concentration is particularly difficult as I tend to "Zone out" and then return from the misty annals of the plastic mind, slightly befuddled and hoping people haven't noticed. I'm unsure as to whether or not I actually look vacant or just feel vacant. Sitting still brings it's own issues as now I have a distinct twitch. Its usually my hands, and I may be gesticulating to push home and important point in a discussion, and my leopard print Biro flies across the room, now a missile in my hands. More recently, bright orange nail polish has flown across the carpet, Jackson Pollack-esque style and won't come out! I feel it in my legs at bed time too when I am drifting off, and as well as the little flick of the foot, I seem to let out a weird, "ooh" noise as it happens. I'm terrified I'm only one spasm away from the tongue flicking, shuffling, loonalike person of the late Victorian asylums!!
Managing the daily, never ending hunger is an all consuming nightmare (Excuse the pun). I try to battle the muffin top with exercise, portion control and healthy eating and when I say battle, I spend half the time thinking about food, a quarter of the time looking at food and trying not to eat it, and the final quarter eating it and feeling bad as I know I'm more than likely eating too much. Its completely demoralising. I could play a mantra in my head that reads something along the lines of, "Beauty comes from within, I am a woman of intelligence and substance - I accept myself exactly as I am." Yeah right - vanity is an insidious creature that constantly tells you are aren't working hard enough, looking thin enough, and if you carry on the way you are you will look like "The Rolly Pollys". And once the food goes in, it won't come out without assistance. I have a dry mouth the whole time too and I worry that I'll get that weird white deposit around the corners of my mouth the people get when they've been talking for too long without a drink. I still have weird dreams too, usually along the line of being abandoned or being in a relationship with Noel Gallagher. Quite frankly I don't know which is worst.
But is it all worth it. Do I actually feel better or not? Can I live with the symptoms that need micro management on a daily basis? To be honest, I'm really not sure. I've accidentally missed taking my tablets before, and I had withdrawal like a Junkie - I was like the bloke from trainspotting grabbing his twisting gut, sweating and groaning. Apparently it'd be a week like that if I just stopped taking it. But do I feel "Happy" and less manic? The answer to that is most of the time. The problem I've had over the last 6 months is my illness keeps pushing through the medication. The Milligram amounts keep creeping up to reign in the cycling mood and we're getting to a point where the levels are probably too high, and I'd end up being a zombie. I'm having a review with my psychiatrist soon to, "Talk about my options." Don't think about "One flew over the cuckoos nest".
What I keep having to weigh up it the balance of wellness with side effects. I have to try and maintain some kind of normality, but I'm doing so many things I feel like I haven't got the time or the energy to do more, or take different medication, or come off this one and try that one. In amongst all of this I'm also trying to be a parent, a wife, a sister, a work colleague, a decent human being. Its really hard work and although I'm hugely better than I was, I wonder if this is as good as its going to get, because if it is, I'm still not sure if it's good enough.And if its not, what is there left. I expect I'll have to try and figure that one out. And it not going away. Not ever.