Shortly after Christmas the time had come to refill my Lamictal prescription. I stared at the bottle with one pill remaining, picked it up and put it in my kitchen drawer. That one pill in the bottle is still in the kitchen drawer several weeks later.
I had been slowly tapering off the medication for a few months for a variety of reasons. One being, it’s too damn expensive. But most importantly, I had hit a plateau. Typical of every single medication I’ve taken for my mental illness over the last 15-20 years. And I’ve taken a lot of them. I must admit, of all the medications I’ve been prescribed, Lamictal was by far the best. The side effects were minimal. No weight gain. No fear of diabetes. I wasn’t sleeping 12-16 hours a day. I wasn’t a zombie. It seemed to be working and I believe it did for about 18 months. And then, bam, that damn plateau. I was truly disappointed this time. I thought I had found a medication would continue to work. I was ok taking that pill the rest of my life. Instead, slowly, I began to experience symptoms more frequently…anxiety, depression, fear, mania and more depression. And then the frustration set in. Anger directed towards the pharmaceutical companies. Knowing all too well, most of these companies don’t want to see us well, they want us sick. Their medications (most of which they know little about) work temporarily, if at all, in most cases. And that is not good enough.
The day after I put that bottle in the kitchen drawer, I began taking a Whole Foods multi-vitamin and 1000mg of Flax Oil every morning. When time permits, I will do the research and look into other alternative options as well. And when money permits, I will return to acupuncture.
Coming off the Lamictal has not been easy. Nasty withdrawal symptoms, mostly, I have been severely agitated. Every single little thing bothers me. Tons of anxiety, etc.
Since coming off the Lamictal, I lost my health insurance. I’ve been insured my entire life. My premiums have nearly doubled since 2004 and I find it unacceptable. I didn’t have the $744.00 to pay the bill. And *poof* just like that, I became one of the 47 million uninsured Americans. I’m trying to switch to a catastrophic plan with the same company but it’s not easy dealing with the lovely insurance folks. On the bright side, I no longer have to worry about ridiculously high psychiatrist bills and medications. Something that has nearly sent me into bankruptcy several times over the years, even with insurance.
Surprisingly when I uttered the words “I went off my meds” to my parents, they didn’t freak out. I was certain they would because any mention of it in the past has caused serious concern. And I must admit, I’ve always been that person that believed whole-heartedly I would be medicated my entire life. I believed (and still do) a mental illness is like any other illness and should be treated as such. However, I have decided after almost two decades of numerous failed medications to go another route. I will travel the “alternative” path and see where it leads me. Maybe my parents have more faith in me than I thought. Maybe they believe I’m strong enough to fight this battle. Maybe they see what I see and that is: After a certain length of time, on any medication, I no longer feel the effects of said medication. It has happened time and time again. The doctor’s solution has always been the same, try something new or up the dosage. I can’t imagine what my father would do if his high blood pressure medication suddenly stopped working. Which leads me to….
I watched “The Medicated Child” on Frontline last week and hope to soon discuss the show. The segment that troubled me more than anything involved Dr. Patrick Bacon. A doctor who suggested to the parents of his 4 year old bipolar patient, DJ Koontz, adding Xanax to his large cocktail of medications for the anxiety he feels before he goes to school. This suggestion surprisingly came after DJ’s parents learned of Rebecca Riley’s death and asked Dr. Bacon if there was “anything not medication related that we need to be doing for DJ”? Throughout the segment Dr. Bacon used words like “experiment” and “gamble”.
Frankly, I am tired. Tired of playing the guinea pig role for the last twenty years while others profit off me