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Blogathon for Tricia, Hour 3: Pills (or, In which I do not have time to Photoshop this shit picture)

January 9th, 2010 (06:33 am)

Every night I take thirteen pills to keep me alive and sane. Here they are:

Pills for bipolar disorder. They break down as follows:

  • The two big white ones are 500-milligram tablets of Depakote, which is my primary mood stabilizer and which helps control my seizure disorder.
  • The two smooth white ones at the top are melatonin, which is one of several things I need to sleep these days.
  • The two long, bright yellow ones immediately below that are Alteril, an over-the-counter combination of valerian, tryptophan, melatonin, and a bunch of other herbs that I don't think actually do much of anything. This is another thing I need to sleep.
  • The bright blue pill under those is three milligrams of Lunesta, my third sleep medication, which hasn't been working lately. That's a bad thing. I have to call my doctor.
  • The big yellow gelly tablets are EPA fish oil, lemon-flavored so as to prevent fishy burps. They help stabilize my moods and knock down my cholesterol, which my other meds tend to kick up.
  • The white scored pill is 100 milligrams of Lamictal, another mood stabilizer. 4 srs.
  • The smaller light yellow pill is 100 milligrams of Zoloft, the antidepressant I've been on since eleventh grade.
  • The green pill is an iron tablet, which is supposed to be helping curb the menorrhagia that sends my moods rollercoastering and leaves me wearing a diaper for twenty days of the month because I bleed too much for any tampon or pad known to mankind. I think it's helping maybe a little. My last period was only twelve or fifteen days, anyway, and my moods have been okay.
  • The tiny little pink chip underneath the Zoloft is one-sixteenth of a 25-mg tablet of Seroquel, a neuroleptic antipsychotic that knocks my skull off if I take more than one-sixteenth of a tablet of it. I mean that stuff is hardcore. We're talking aphasic!Kylie if I take what most people consider to be a full dose of that. But my one-sixteenth of a tablet works okay for me and keeps my thoughts from spinning out of control. So it's good.

Sometimes I think that those pills contain the sum total of who I am now. I'll tell you one thing, the girl you know from this blog would not be here if those pills didn't exist.

It's a scary thought. I mean, I really like my life right now. I love my wife beyond words, and our marriage is stable and happy. I love my job and I feel that I do good work. I like the way I think, I'm pretty okay with the way I interact with people, I like being able to go places and do things and generally function like most people do. I'm all right, you know? It's my life, and it happens to be a good one.

It happens to be a good life because it is the year 2010 and I am a middle-class citizen living in a first-world country and I have access to good health insurance. Let's break this down:

-If I did not have access to good health insurance, I would be desperately trying to find free clinics and doctors with truly accommodating sliding scales. I can guarantee you I wouldn't be on the solid medication regime I listed above; even with the health insurance and plethora of options that I have, it's taken me years to get this stable. I'd be scared and unstable and losing hope fast, if I hadn't lost it already. I certainly wouldn't have the job I have and I probably wouldn't have the marriage I have either. Because I have a functional birth family to fall back on -- something a lot of people don't have, as well -- I'd probably be living with my parents, which wouldn't make anybody happy. I imagine I'd stagnate there for a long, long time, waiting for social changes that I'm not seeing on the horizon right now.

-If I lived in a third-world country, I would probably have no access to medical treatment for my illness at all. I might have committed suicide by now, or had a variety of very bad things happen to me due to my general vulnerability. I did a little bit of reading once on the treatment of mental illness in certain parts of Africa; it's about as bad as you would expect, and I had to stop reading the book because a.) it was scary and depressing and b.) the author (a white Western psychiatrist who basically went to treat patients at this African mental hospital as a research study) was condescending and consistently violated patients' confidentiality, apparently in the belief that poor crazy Africans don't mind if you publish identifying details of their mental illness for the delectation of a gawking American public.

-If I lived thirty to fifty years ago in America, I would likely go through life in a stupefied daze due to high doses of early antipsychotics like Thorazine. I don't think I would have been lobotomized but who the hell knows.

-If I lived sixty to a hundred years ago in America or the UK, I would likely be institutionalized in a psychiatric facility and subjected to a variety of abusive "treatments", such as early Not Good At All versions of electroshock therapy, hypothermia-inducing cold-water dunks, and frequent and/or long-term restraints.

I wouldn't be a writer -- not of anything comprehensible anyway. I wouldn't be going out to New Year's parties or karaoke nights with friends. I wouldn't be doing much of anything with my body. I'd be too trapped in my mind.

I used to feel cursed by my mental illness. Now that my treatment plan is set and I'm as stable as I can ever see myself being, I don't feel cursed. Right now, I feel incredibly blessed.

I wish that on a global scale, there weren't so damned few of us who are blessed this way.

This is the hour three post of my blogathon for my aunt Tricia, who is dying of end-stage ovarian cancer and whose family is being hit with a whole lot of bills that they can't afford alone as a result. Donations can be made at the link given above. A number of topics are still unclaimed and can be bought for $5 or more.

And you are all going to laugh your asses off at this, but I will not have a PayPal button until a few hours from now, because λ was the one who set that up and figured out how to do it and she forgot to email the instructions to me before she went to bed. If you want to donate right now, you can PayPal money to psychesmaia at yahoo dot com the labor-intensive way. Otherwise I'll edit this post and all others to show the button when λ wakes up in three or four hours.


Posted by: law_nerd (law_nerd)
Posted at: January 9th, 2010 03:35 pm (UTC)

Hmmm... went through several years with a psych doctor who couldn't quite make her mind up whether I had some form of bipolar or (just) PTSD and depression. At various times tried Depakote, Lamictal, Topamax and Valium -- (sequentially not in combinations) along with SSRIs.

And, yes, you're right. We who have access to reasonably good (mental) health-care are incredibly fortunate. It can be easy (especially as a Canadian) to take it for granted. I try not to.

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