The Side Effects

It’s a Matter of Perspective

Photo Credit: Amberleigh Storms

The house was filled with bees and they were closing in on us, more and more they were covering the walls and buzzing about midair. My son and I were swatting them. We were swinging our arms as we moved closer to each other in hope of clearing an open and safe space, but we failed. I dropped my ceramic coffee mug, the one he made for me when he was in the sixth grade. It’s my favorite one, but it shattered when it hit the floor. That was it. We were now utterly engulfed in bees.

“I looked it up in the dream dictionary and the bees signify all my hard work will pay off,” I said.

“The dreams are a side effect of the medication,” Kathy, my therapist told me.

“They are so vivid and detailed. Sometimes they wake me and I spring from my bed. I’m considering starting a dream journal. Do you think that’s obsessive?”

“Do you think it’s obsessive?” She asked.

“Well, at this point I think it’d be like trying solve the unsolved mysteries of the universe,” I responded.

Bipolar Disorder takes a great deal of effort to maintain on a daily basis. I would never be able to do it on my own. I utilize my resources such as medication, therapy, setting daily goals and working toward them, coping skills and listening to my body. You’d be surprised what your body can tell you:

When I feel tired it’s time to rest.
When I feel depressed it’s time to be active.
When I feel anxious it’s time to walk.
When I feel isolated it’s time to leave the house.
When my muscles feel sore it’s time to move my body.
When my body feels weak it’s time to build strength.
When I feel nauseous it’s time to eat better.
When I feel lonely it’s time to reach out for support.
When my body feels overwhelmed with rage it’s time to take a step back.
When I feel manic it’s time to turn negative energy into positive results.

I’m currently taking Lamictal, Lexapro and Klonopin. Medication has been one of the most effective treatments for me, but anyone that takes psych meds knows just how much the side effects can be a drag. I’ve compiled a list of side effects I experience from the medication. I’d like to believe it’s a matter of perspective.

Let’s start with the vivid dreaming. I’ve had a lot cool dreams. I’ve dreamed about things I never would have thought of on my own or most likely without medication. I feel it’s opened my mind, expanded my horizons and has contributed to my creativity. This includes the nights I wake up in panic because I’m freaked out. In my defense, no one wants to see themselves be swallowed whole by bats.

Next up, gaining weight. Why do people complain about this side effect? Okay, in a sense I get it. I just bought pants in November a size larger than before and here we are in February and now I can’t button those anymore.

At first I thought, dear lord I’m getting chunky. How is this possible? I exercise every day. Then I realized I’m looking at it all wrong. In actuality, I can eat whatever I want and be as lazy as I want because clearly I’m going to gain weight regardless. Might as well live it up.

I’ve always had the bad habit of binge eating, or emotional eating, or whatever you prefer to call it. The psych meds have undoubtedly cured me of that self -destructive behavior. Now I’m too nauseous to eat anything.

My boobs are huge. That’s right, the weight gain has increased the size of my breast. I have a small frame and this is the biggest they’ve ever been. I can’t complain.

As long as I can remember I’ve had difficulty sleeping. I’ve never had a problem falling asleep. Staying asleep for more than a couple of hours has been the challenge for me. The mania wakes me up and fills me with a surge of energy. I’m surprised lack of sleep hasn’t caused me to lose my shit.

Since I’ve started taking the meds I’ve had no problems sleeping, in the middle of the day, four hours, six hours, eight hours at a time and right through the alarm clock beep, beep, beeping away. Just the other day my 16 year old son tried waking for dinner. He put three cats on top of my head and I still didn’t get up. I heard him say, “And now for the grand finale,” and then the weight tripled. I slept for another hour after that.

The depression has lifted quite a bit. I still feel it but not nearly to the extent I did before. The same as not feeling love, anger, frustration, happiness, joy or any normal human emotion to the extent I did before. The positive of this is that nothing fazes me. I no longer experience stress. It bounces off of me as if I were a rubber ball.

Mania has always caused me to make irrational and impulsive decisions based on what was happening in the current moment. It was never anything dangerous. More like, driving myself to be an over achiever, DIY everything I got my hands on and multitasking to the point where I thought I would explode. The medication has helped get a grip on it and I’ve saved a considerable amount of money on craft supplies. Also, since I’m sleeping all day I’m not achieving or multitasking anything so that behavior has been corrected as well.

The mania also caused a great deal of rage. It would fill me up, way down deep in my soul, then boil and consume me. For the most part that’s no longer an issue. Now I feel thoroughly desensitized. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m more rational. No, no. Instead I just don’t care. Not even Trump pisses me off anymore.

Now, medication is never a cure all, and some days I still feel depressed or manic but it’s more like a day here or a day there. It’s no longer months at a time. There are side effects to the medications. Plenty of them, but it’s worth it to feel a bit more balance.

If I were to compare how I feel now to how I felt before I started taking the medication, the side effects are just a matter of perspective.

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