Knock, Knock. Who’s There? Oh It’s You, Seroquel. 

I said I’d keep everyone posted on my recent decision to come off of Seroquel. (As you recall, I was dealing with weight gain side effects.)

Well I’ve been completely off for 2 weeks (after weaning down for 2 weeks) and it’s been a struggle. My moods are all over the place, I’m certainly not sleeping, and it’s put a strain on my family. My wife has endured additional stress and we have been fighting more. I feel badly about it, and of course I also wish she could be more supportive of my decision. But when it comes down to it, our long-time agreement has been in order for this marriage to work, I must stay on meds. 

When it comes down to it, I am excited about losing 5lbs. The scale hasn’t budged in so long, and this gave me hope. But I’ve weighed out my situation (no pun intended..) and have decided to go back on the Seroquel. I gave it a try, but I can’t help that my illness requires certain medications. I admit I feel defeated. But I also know this is just me being responsible. 

Thanks for listening to my saga. I know many of you have experienced Seroquel side effects and I thank you for sharing your experiences with me. Best of wellness to all of you. 

  

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Take a Chance with the Side Effect Dance

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I know I’ve written about side effects in the past, and this is one topic we all seem to be on the same page about. Side effects suck! My latest endeavor has been trying to lose weight. Over the last year, I have put on a bit of weight, and am having a more difficult time than usual in getting rid of it. I examined my timeline of events- I went on my current cocktail of Lithium, Abilify, and Seroquel about a year and a half ago. And then last fall/winter my wife was pregnant and I know I can attribute some of my tummy to joining her in prego eating. Okay, between those two variables, I put on about 30 pounds. I realize to some, this doesn’t seem extreme. However, I am only 5’1″ and I have a petite frame. None of my clothes fit. I feel uncomfortable. The CDC rates my BMI as overweight. Yeah it’s time to take action.

I gave up sweets and other junk food. I stopped drinking soda. I don’t eat red meat, and I adopted a strict regimen of vegetables and fruits and lean protein. Nothing fried enters my mouth. I exercise. After a few months of this lifestyle change, I dropped barely 5 pounds. I couldn’t believe that my weight was hardly moving despite my efforts. I was really discouraged and trying not to become depressed.

This is when I decided to go further, and research my medications. I learned that two of the three meds I’m on have a tendency to contribute to weight issues. These weight issues include gaining of weight, and/or difficulty in losing excess pounds. Immediately I flashed back to about 12 years ago when I was an inpatient in the psych hospital, and I had gained a good 30 pounds within a month’s time. But that time Depakote was the culprit. I never want to go back to that feeling again. So I knew at that moment I had to consult with my psychiatrist. I hate the way I look. I’m tired of feeling bloated. If I can’t look good, then I don’t feel good.

I decided to ask him about alternatives to Seroquel. This was scary because the Seroquel really does seem to be a miracle drug for me. I figured the Seroquel had to be the problem child since I am on a medium to high dose. I am on a very low dose of Abilify so I didn’t think it was contributing as much. When I went to my last appointment, I expressed my concerns and explained the efforts I have been trying. He asked me to honestly tell him which of the two helps me more. Of course his question presented a battle internally for me- my own self-fueled convictions say “Seroquel makes you fattest”- but I knew the truth, and that was Seroquel helps me the most. Nights when I don’t take it, I cannot sleep and the next few days I’m completely thrown off. If I skip Abilify, I barely notice. I was honest with him. Clearly this resulted in his decision to wean me off of Abilify, and continue my Seroquel.  He even informed me that Abilify is actually more prominent in weight issues than Seroquel, even at a low dose. He also mentioned that Zyprexa (which I had been on in the past) is not a good alternative to Seroquel when weight is a concern because it’s even worse thatn the other two.  He said to continue what I have been doing in regards to eating and exercise, and in a couple of months I should notice a difference in my weight.

So, it has been a week. I’m watching what I eat and weighing myself. I came off the Abilify pretty smoothly. At this point we shall see. I’ll keep posted. If anyone has any stories of weight gain as a side effect, please share!

 

Running Amok with Both Feet on the Ground

I tried to write yesterday on my train ride home, but my hangover wouldn’t allow it. Other than that, Chicago was really fun and it was great to see my friend. I got over my risky sense of adventure and complied with my medications. Well, that, and my friend apparently took notes from my wife, and insisted on med checks each morning and night. In a way it is kind of nice to have a friend respect my bipolar, and care enough to not let me get off balance. Personally, I also think she was afraid if I did become manic or do something regrettable, my wife would never be comfortable with me visiting her again. But that’s just speculation.

As you recall from my last post, I was teetering on the edge of mania. The excited flutters were on speed, and I was feeling more alive than ever. It was interesting to have such a sense of freedom away from home. My wife tends to be pretty strict on me because of my bipolar. I certainly don’t regard her as controlling or bossy, so don’t think that. But she helps me stay on track, refrain from heavy intoxication, and avoid over-stimulation, which leads to episodes. Traveling alone out of state for four days is definitely a situation that stimulates. Activities we partook in included attending an epic Tegan and Sara concert (my obsession), shopping in Boystown, chowing on sushi, playing downtown, and having a few beers. I was careful to not over-indulge. I was careful to not test boundary limits with my friend. I was careful to call home when I could. I was careful to spend wisely. Slow and steady.

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I did experience an incredible surge of energy while on my trip. The feeling literally led me to be really physical and run amok in the park downtown. I know for a fact my friend thinks I’m crazy. And I love it.

Linda is the name of the elderly liberal I made friends with on the train ride home. I’m not sure, but I think she could be a lesbian. She was a joy to converse with, in between book and iPod sessions, for those six hours. I even hugged her after I helped her with her luggage upon her departure.

It is nice to be home. I missed my wife and my son. I appreciate that she is comfortable with me having adventures. I know she understands how bored I can get. If I am not given playtime, I end up finding it. And that usually means finding trouble.

Thanks for following my little story. It was a bit of an accomplishment to remain balanced this week.

Maybe Baby? Should I Consider a Bipolar Pregnancy?

I need some input on this one. My wife and I have been seriously discussing the notion of having my bipolar highness carry our second child. Yes, I’m aware this sounds presumptuous, considering our first won’t even be here until December, but it is well known that a great deal of preparation must go into a bipolar pregnancy. Because we are getting older, and because we want our brood to grow up close in age, it’s wise to consider all factors ahead of time. Not to mention that we are indeed, a lesbian couple with limited resources (ahem, readily available man ingredients), and the mere truth that there is a higher percentage of difficulty in getting pregnant via IUI or IVF. So, we are doing our research and talking openly. The process of fertilization aside, what we both feel most concerning is my bipolar disorder. This is the weighing factor. She supports me if I decide I want to do it, but she is wise to be cautious.  I’m scared and unsure, as well as confident I could do it if I really wanted. I go back and forth on the subject all the time. So I’ve decided to weigh it out here. Help me pick apart my bipolar pregnancy anxieties.
 
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I would have to come off of or significantly reduce my medications during pre-pregnancy.
As we learned with this current pregnancy, when going through intrauterine insemination (IUI), the months leading up to the actual insemination must be treated as carefully as if you were already pregnant. This is because the body is going through preparations, which may include fertility drugs, in order to promote healthy ovulation. What does this mean for the bipolar end? Well, it means weaning off of medications that could potentially be dangerous for a developing fetus. Mood stabilizers such as Lithium, or anti-convulsants, are known to cause severe birth defects. Other classes of medications include antipsychotics, which should be avoided due to lack of research, and tranquilizers or sedatives, which should be avoided, especially in the first trimester, also due to increased risk of congenital malformations.  Now, I know some researchers say certain things are alright to be on in low doses, but you have to remember it’s a timely and costly venture for us gay chicks to get knocked up. Why in the world would I dare to risk anything potentially hazardous to unborn baby? Why would anyone, really?
 
I would have to remain off of meds for several months during pregnancy.
Okay, you already know why I’d have to come off of medication. Common sense says I’d have to stay off for the duration of the 38-40 weeks of carrying the baby. And unless I decide not to breastfeed, I will have to remain off during the nursing months as well. My head spins a little further and I imagine life not on meds… To begin, what’s different already is that we’d have a little one around. I’d have to maintain parenting an almost two-year old, while my hormones are changing in ways I cannot even imagine, all while being off of the medication I rely on for stability. I would have to try not to destroy my marriage, become hopelessly depressed, fly away on a manic spree, or worse yet- develop psychosis. I’m not really sure what they do with a pregnant person in the mental hospital when you can’t consume the drugs. I can, however, imagine the manic version of nesting and it sounds quite colorful indeed!    
 
It’s scary to not be in control of potentially changing moods under the influence of hormonal changes.
The last thing I would want to do is jeopardize my family. My beautiful wife will be giving birth to our son in just two short months, and already I love him more than I imagined I ever could. We certainly want to add on to our family and I consider my role in doing just that. I think about what I contribute now. I work a steady job, I do my share to keep the house clean and put together, I take care of our many loving pets, and I try my best to be a good wife. I’m able to play these roles because I am on a strict medication regimen, I am in touch with my triggers, my body, and my mind. Have I had major episodes that were beyond my control? Absolutely. And yes, they impaired each of these roles significantly. Now, if I were carrying a baby, off of medication, I wonder how I would be affected by the many hormonal changes that come along with pregnancy. I would need to have prepared some coping techniques for when things seem out of control. Part of my preparation would be to have an outlet, where I could put my energy in the case of a trigger, to help steer me back on track. Maintaining some area of control would be imperative, not only for me, but for the growing baby, and my family as well. 
 
The heart-wrenching feeling that I could be passing my bipolar to my baby. And knowing it.
While no exact gene can be determined as of yet, researchers have found that a child with a parent diagnosed with bipolar disorder, can be somewhere around 50% more likely to also have bipolar disorder or some other psychiatric illness. Whoa. Ok let’s be real for a minute. No parent would ever want their child to have to suffer from any type of illness, medical or psychiatric. So part of me feels like I would knowingly be putting this baby at risk for developing bipolar. Is that irrational? (Is it bad that I can’t tell if it’s irrational?) Maybe my anxieties are taking a toll, but I want to be a good mother. And I know that starts at pre-conception. That baby would have an increased risk of developing bipolar growing in me, as opposed to a safer route, and having my wife carry all of our babies. (Which I’m totally okay with too- she is ADORABLE pregnant!) 
 
Postpartum instability and re-entering the drug sphere.
Say I do manage to get through pregnancy and childbirth, med-free, family still likes me, etc. Okay, now the hormones take a whole new shift postpartum, often causing changes in mood. Some women fall into a depression, others become incessantly irritable or have crying spells. I may or may not have these issues, but it’s good to be aware of the flood of hormones. Now, judging from my own illness, my past, what has and hasn’t worked for me, I will be going back on medication. The thoughts in my mind, however, include What if my old meds don’t work for me anymore? Do I have to start over? I don’t want to go through trial and error while caring for a newborn, Is it okay to not breast feed?  I guess there are probably a million more things that will take over my brain if I did go through the process, but each of these are important questions to be answered. 
 
In a way, it is selfish of me to carry a child.
Perhaps I’m over thinking, but on one hand, I look at hetero couples, with a man and a woman, and I think there is only one womb, only one of them can carry a baby. If the woman in that relationship has bipolar disorder, then do they have a bigger dilemma than us? Would it be selfish of me to want to carry a child when my relationship has another perfectly good womb in which plant a seed? This is one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever been faced with. And while I don’t need to know today, I eventually need to make my decision. My wife is very understanding either way, and is in no way pressuring me, which I truly appreciate. She is, also, more than happy to carry again. Part of my brain looks at the cautions and repercussions involved with me taking on pregnancy. Then, a teensy part of my mixed up brain realizes that other bipolar moms have accomplished this remarkable task and came out of it better than ever.
 
If anyone has gone through this or if you have any any advice, thoughts, anything- I’d really like some input!