Sunday 5th July – 2.18pm At the start of this process I would never have thought I would be here 4 or more months later still struggling to get my medication sorted. I guess had I know that I may have thought twice about changing. I’m not trying to put anyone off as I genuinely believe this change will be the best for me in the future but the path has not been easy. I have suffered with more side effects than I had ever experienced with previous medication changes or alterations. I think part of that is because my body has never come across an SNRI before (I have always been on some kind of SSRI when choosing to medicate, since I was first prescribed something for my anxiety, depression and self harm at age 18) but I think this journey has also brought up a fuck ton of other medical shit for me that until now I had just been copimg with rather than actively working to remedy. My IBS has been off the charts for months now causing all kinds of nasty symptoms including cramps, pain, bloating, weight gain, violent spells of vomiting, not to mention all the number two stuff I will avoid getting into for the delicate eye holes of those who may be reading this thing. The best advice has not come from the cavalcade of doctors and specialists we have paid a hefty amount to advise me. It has come from friends, and people who have suffered with the same issues. They have told me what has helped them personally, a resource that has been invaluable over the past few months. I guess what I’m saying is that even if I feel most days as thought my blog is of no real help to anyone, that I fear I am talking into the vacuum like, black hole that is the internet, that I am only really reaching the close friends of mine who are kind enough to patronize my attempts of witty writing banter, if one other person is unsure about what they are experiencing and comes across my blog when they are in need of some patient information then I feel that this is a valid use of my time. Don’t get me wrong I want more than anything to be writing best selling books about this shit, possible about actual shit, but my experience has told me the best advice is advice from someone who has been through it already. This is even more valid when dealing with conditions like IBS and anxiety about which the medical profession know a disturbingly small amount. And thus my medication journey will continue, like a prospectors long journey to gold country but with less syphilis and better dental health. I have successfully changed from a capsule to a pill form, which sounds like an insignificant detail but when dealing with comorbid disorders which fight each other at every turn, discovering that the gel cap is making you feel nauseated for hours every morning and finding a way to remedy that is a huge win for my life and general enjoyment of existence. My hopefully final journey on this Star Trek esk, when will it ever fucking end continuation of sequels is to work out the most effective dosage for my SNRI’s. I started on 37.5mg and dosed up to my current 75mg but while I have found that my ability to differentiate between the anxiety thoughts and my own “Lucy” thoughts is back in order on this dosage, my body isn’t behaving so well. My anxiety causes me to endure a variety of physical ailments which are the side effect of my psychological goings on. Lately, the moment a stressor is introduced my body has been going totally fucking haywire with heart palpitations, indigestion and crazy catastrophizing which makes my head hurt, feel nauseated and spinny. A normal conversation including a slight disagreement, a meeting with a manager or dealing with someone who is a bit vague and hard to pin down is causing my body to (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ (table flip for those who don’t speak internet) and spaz out for the rest of the day or week. I am used to a certain amount of physical symptoms when it comes to my anxiety for example; I tire very easily (if I get less than 8 hours sleep I am literally a waste of a human skin sack) I get nauseated for seemingly no reason, I suffer from migraines when tired, dehydrated or over exerted and if I get really nervous I have to shit, like a million times, plus so many more wonders. Pretty much anxiety isn’t just in your mind, it is all over your body like some kind of bubonic rash whenever you need it not to be. So I am hoping an increase in my SNRI medication will lessen my symptoms, allow me to hold a decent conversation again, let me leave the house for anything other than work or basic errands and take other people’s terrible driving with better humour (the last one may never happen, drugs can only do so much). I am moving up from 1x 75mg to 1x75mg plus 1×37.5mg but I may end up on a flat rate of 150mg per day in the coming weeks, we will see. This is not a great post and the level of guilt I have about neglecting my blog is pretty high right now but in my current state of mind anything beyond this is a real stretch. If only modern medicine were simple like oh I don’t know rocket science.
Monday 22nd June – 12.45 pm, lunch time ish
Aha! You thought I was done with all this medication malarkey? Well, by now I thought I would be too. Alas it has been a long spewy road. A road I am yet to Christopher Columbus the end of.
What I have discovered is that the process of choosing and matching medications to your personal biology does stop with putting pill in mouth, water then swallowing, particularly if like me, you are currently on a bunch of different medications. Guess what?! They don’t necessarily play nice in your tum tum together. One thing that has come in handy has been my own knowledge of my body, what ‘right’ feels like and consequently what ‘very wrong’ feels like too. I know that the gel caps on the brand name velafaxine did not make my belly happy and after approx. 10 weeks on them I decided to change over the the generic brand pill form in hopes of lessening my nausea.
I have learned that the original dosage you are put on is so necessary the dosage you will end up with. I was trepanned on to the SNRI on a half dose of 37.5mg up to 75mg a day currently but though I can feel that the medication is doing it’s job and allowing me the ability to differentiate between my anxiety (Bruce) and my own Lucy thoughts, it is not dampening my bodies physical reaction to stress and frustration. At times when I would usually feel a mild amount of frustration or annoyance my body is throwing it’s self directly into the throes of full on panic without a stitch of foreplay. I have gone from fine to heart racing, crying, shaking, twitching and gut wrenching mess faster than a Bugatti Veyron can make it too 100 m/h.
To this I say fuck you body and all your incorrect chemical signalling. My plan is to ask to have my dosage adjusted at my next appointment and after some interweb research I have discovered that any dosage between 75-200mg is acceptable for agoraphobia and generalised anxiety so I don’t feel too bad about asking to step up to 100 or 125 if need be. These are all things that can be looked at and possibly reduced when my health is more stable and my guts are better.
My final lesson was one I didn’t expect. On my previous drugs (SSRIs) if I missed a dose due to illness or forgetfulness it wasn’t a big deal, the effect was limited if at all perceivable. Earlier this week I was struggling with a nasty migraine and I slept 22 out of the 24 hours which made up Monday. I only managed to drink juice, eat a few muesli bars and down all the painkilling, sleep helping drugs I need when I’m deep in the hole of migraine misery. By Tuesday I felt a bit better migraine wise but mentally like I was moments away from asylum incarceration. I burst into tears because I felt so very very sad for no reason other than my physical pain. Turns out people say missing a dosage of venlafaxine is a no no and will besiege upon you such varied miseries and plummet you into the depths of Satan’s foot rot, emotionally speaking.
So I won’t be doing that again 🙂
Monday 25th May – 12.45pm
I have put off writing the final update for my medication change diary for nearly a month now. The whole time I was adding to this mental/digital box of information I was thinking I would be able to round up my experience with a neat ribboned package and present my findings. I guess the librarian in me loses this time as I am struggling to find or feel a real end point in my illness trajectory.
The weeks of nausea and unmanageable anxiety have lessened without a doubt but I have not been given the wonderful upspring of feel-good endorphins, health, well being and general life competency that I had hoped for. Also it looks like the change to venlafaxine hasn’t helped with my weight either, sigh.
I can report that I am feeling better than when I first switched. I think the levels of medication in my system are now up to the point where I can function and define anxiety thought over Lucy thoughts again. That is one of the main lessons learned over this medical trial; the medication helps me draw a line between ‘Lucy’ and ‘Bruce’ (the name I give to my anxiety, man I really need to sort my shit and write the blog about my anxiety naming scheme. It is pure genius)
The issues I continue to face can be put down to a tangled yarn basket of factors.
1. I am generally pretty fucking unwell a lot of the time. I am still unsure as to why exactly that is or what exactly is wrong with me. I’m paying plenty of my boyfriend’s hard earned teacher money to an important South African man to test me for obscure diseases and conditions in another attempt to work out why I’m so broken. Perhaps it’s Lupus? This isn’t an episode of House after all. Though I wish Hugh Laurie would turn up and tell me what is broken in my body and how I can fix it. Then perhaps he could sing me some old time blue grass. Dreams.
2. The conditions I do know I have come and go like a shit novelty train ride. They go nowhere, turn around and come back to show up again to the chagrin of everyone watching. My IBS is a daily annoyance which I often cannot explain, the anxiety and agoraphobia cause their own set of physical symptoms many of which seem to be similar to my other conditions symptoms ie nausea, bad guts in general, exhaustion, cramps, pain, swelling/inflammation, shooting pains, migraines, weight gain etc.
3. The many many medications I take are helping with the symptoms of what ever it is but not the cause. I have a drug for ever symptom, sometimes two but though they get me through the day (most of the time) they don’t stop the pain/illness coming back the next day.
4. The gel caps on the venlafaxine make me feel sick if I take them on an empty stomach meaning if I want to take them with my other meds I have to do it like a hobo junky but replacing heroin with golden syrup.
5. Illness gets in the way of the things I want to do. Currently I have about 40 ideas for blog posts, research, articles and submissions but I have about 1 day in 5 that I feel decent enough to get much done and the rest of the time it’s a struggle. Being sick is as boring and frustrating as teen fiction novels. These medication posts are bookmarks in the sand where I later plan to build something fabulous, when I have the energy and focus to do it properly.
Monday 27th April – 1.15pm
I have been putting off writing this post for a few days now because I don’t want to anger the medication Gods and have sods law wreak havoc on my broken little body.
But I have to admit, I am starting to feel better. The nausea I had been experiencing leveled out to some nasty indigestion (the kind where you burp and sick in your mouth, unpleasant but not accompanied by the waves of rolling sea sickness I had been experiencing) and seem to have now stopped almost entirely. The general mist of anxiety in every situation seems to have leveled up to just my usual amount of anxiety and over thinking, the amount I was experiencing before I began the medication change. I am imagining the little Venlafaxine Vikings storming my neurotransmitters, making a shield wall and blocking all my good chemicals from dispersing, draining out my pores to be washed down the drain with other grime and sweat, wasted before they could fortify my sanity.
I’m hoping this has a building effect and continues to improve my level of general comfort and peace over the next week or so. Tomorrow, Tuesday 28th, marks three weeks since I started the new meds which is the time frame I was given by Elspeth for feeling better. I can say with only a small amount of trepidation that I am feeling less like a previously untraveled Victorian on a ship during a weeks terrible mid-ocean storm while suffering from an inner ear infection and a nasty case dropsy. Long may it continue. I hope soon to be able to make it to work or to the supermarket without any rumblings of anxiety welling from the depths of my loins. I don’t hope to be fixed, only maintained, managed.
Friday 17th April – 8.37pm or there abouts
I now have a week and a half of venlafaxine whirling about in my veins trying it’s best to find a place to settle. I’m hoping it will soon find a dock and bore it’s way into my addled mind and sooth off the spiky edges of my anxiety and agoraphobia.
Today was more of the same; bouts of nausea, twitching and a heightened level of anxiety. I did manage to get my Friday toilet post done and have started mentally knocking together a new post about guilt and how it rules my life but is really just a big pile of shit.
Something I forgot to mention, which I will now for future prosperity, is that another side effect of the drug change is hives. I have them on my back. About 4-5 in total and not too bad. I guess if I were the kind of person who got hives frequently then I would have likely got a much worse case. But as it is, I have the kind of blood mosquitoes and fleas don’t like so I rarely get bitten. It sounds like I’m bragging but in the context of the situation, when I started to get an itchy back I thought perhaps I had just been mauled by some amourous bug only to remember it is neither the time of year nor am I prone to such irritations. So it definitely wasn’t mozzies and since we had flea bombed the entire house only a few days earlier I knew it couldn’t have been fleas. Even our darling long haired cat-child couldn’t have brought so many bugs back inside that fast.
So hives. Fun! Another symptom from the list I can check off having experienced. By comparison it’s one of the less onerous of my current symptoms but I still thought it was good practice to mention every side effect.
On the good side of things, I ate pizza and some ice cream so the world really isn’t such a bad place right now. Even a hurricane of medical and mental misadventure can’t take away (one of) my true love; food.
Thursday April 16th – 10.30 am ish
Yesterday was a pretty bad day physically and brain-wise (anxiety, agoraphobia, panic attacks, the whole crew showing up). I’ve been struggling with headaches and nausea for a week or so which I was putting down to my IBS playing up and getting my period. Thankfully after having a chat with the lovely Elspeth (renowned fashion photographer and all-round good bitch) I realised in a moment of face-palming clarity that all my symptoms are just the side effects of starting on the Exfexor XR (venlafaxine or SNRI medication). The waves of nausea which seem to hit me after I have had anything to eat or drink had been really starting to worry me. I thought perhaps I was getting proper sick and my current stress/anxiety were taking a further toll on my general health. I’ve been doing a good amount of throwing up as well, not too much but sometimes the nausea gets too much and I end up crotched over the loo for far longer than I would like. After a very nice Japanese meal on Tuesday night I had a sudden full body feeling like all my digestive organs had gone hard and stopped working. I couldn’t work out what was wrong with me or what my body was in danger of doing but the fear that my whole body was off on a jaunt all of it’s own device was over whelming. I took some codeine and managed to struggle home, though during that journey I had to tell our guest to stop making me laugh so much because it a) hurt my whole crazy distended insides, and b) made me feel like I was going to piss my pants. Thank god I have such an understanding boyfriend or I would have had to ask to be left on the side of the road to stumble home which seemed a better option at the height of my panic than the 10 minute car ride I had to endure.
In addition to those unpalatable physical symptoms I have been experiencing some pretty horrid mental symptoms as well. Yesterday morning on my drive into work I felt so totally overwhelmed with life and existence in general I thought I was actually losing my mind. I didn’t see how in that state of mind I would be able to continue with my life as I wanted to lead it and had visions of being locked away in a lunatic asylum until I could more effectively gauge the level of danger I may be in more correctly. On the whole it was really fucking unpleasant.
After my chat with Elspeth, which began with my over emotional plee….
She told me that it took her 3 weeks to start to feel better but after that it was totally worth it.
My relief on hearing there was an end point to my crazy over the top brain was like ice cream music to my ears. So I only have 1 & 1/2 weeks left of this bullshit until I start to feel human again and start to see the benefits. Just knowing that all the feelings and bullshit I’m suffering through right now are down to something specific and that it will stop soon makes it feel achievable.
Today I am still feeling crappy but nowhere near the level of falling from the side of the planet I felt yesterday. My brain is racing like a greyhound on steroids after ever guilt trip bunny, every unpleasant conversation and ever negative thought my addled brain can come up with. I woke up at 4am this morning and worried about something stupid and had a pointless argument with myself for about half an hour before I managed to get back to sleep, a definite sign my body is not resting even when I’m asleep.
A normal, though unpleasant, email conversation I had to endure yesterday had me shaking all over for at least an hour. Today I have continued to deal with the same situation but managed to retain at least a bit of my composure and just cross my fingers that it will all be over soon.
So to try and wrap it up; I thought the shit bit would be coming off my old drugs but how wrong I was. This bit right here *points finger in own general direction* is the shit bit. I wasn’t even thinking that the symptoms I should really have been looking out for were to do with these meds but turns out they are. Vomiting is not fun or a good way to lose weight. Having other people to talk to about how shit this is and having them tell me they went through it too has made all the difference hence reinstating my belief that writing up this process is a good thing.
If I can help make one other person going through it feel a bit better because they knew I when through it too then well that’s a damn good thing and makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside with do-gooder-iness.
I have to stop now because typing is making me feel sick.
Sunday 12th April – 7.30pm
I’ve been told far too many times that I should be less hard on myself. Less critical of my abilities, achievements and productivity. I am four days into my new medication regime but due to the half dose and the limited level which has had the chance to build up in my body, the medication is no match for the behemoth that is “time of the month” anxiety. My body is now a battle field of pre-migraine, nausea, gloopy gut, hemorrhaging and emotional spastication.
All in all I feel shit. I swear every time I get my period my body flips the fuck out and declares all out war on my whole body. My body seems to just get super fucked off that I don’t have a baby in me. I treat the symptoms but otherwise I don’t seem to have much of a handle on it even after this many years.
With this in mind you’d think I would be able to let myself relax, perhaps focus more on getting better, resting and taking care of myself? You’d be wrong. The more sick I get be it period issues, IBS or anxiety the worse I am at giving myself a break. I put so much pressure on myself and adopt such pressure from others that it becomes a spiral of sickness. I know I am making myself sicker but there isn’t a whole lot I can do about it.
This weekend has been that kind of spiral; a big ball of getting fuck all done and feeling really angry about it to the point of making myself feel physically sick because I think I’m wasting my precious time.
I’m hoping that as the new medication builds up in my blood stream I might be able to lessen the pressure internally and hope to get to some sort of balance back. Or at least be able to stop crying about things like how much I love my cat or how terribly I will miss my boyfriend when he leaves the house for the afternoon.