The Seroquel Withdrawal Blues

Let me tell you a little story

(da da da da dum)

About the Seroquel blues

(da da da da dum)

Those pills are mighty powerful stuff

and they’ll make you constantly snooze

(da da da da dum)

Seroquel was my blessing and my curse

And ever since I said bye bye

(da da da da dum)

I’ve been sufferin’ the Seroquel blues

The withdrawals been making me cry

(da da da da dum)

———————————————————————————————-

(We meant to practice this a lot more for your sake, but, uh, obviously we didn’t. I can’t believe Lucy didn’t howl in protest. My apologies.)

Out of all the bipolar meds I’ve taken, the effects of the controversial antipsychotic Seroquel have been twofold. This drug has been my true blessing and also a total pain in the ass.

(A pain in the brain is more like it!)

I could easily write a 2000-word post about quetiapine (the generic form of Seroquel), but I’ll spare you and write around 1000 words as I have my memoir Birth of a New Brain to write. 

In 2013 my psychiatrist prescribed quetiapine for my hideous, agitated insomnia that hit me out of nowhere.  I filled my prescription but I kept putting off taking my first pill because I was scared of the potential side effects. It wasn’t likely that my head would fall off after taking quetiapine, and I probably wouldn’t start speaking in tongues, but I was plain-old-spooked.

Well, I finally became so desperate that I took the quetiapine and it totally helped me, so much so that I will never tell anyone not to try this stuff if they’re seriously considering it.

Yes, I had major daytime grogginess and yes, that sucked, but suffering with that side effect was worth it since I finally got my all-important sleep. 

My other side effects were weight gain (15 pounds since Fall, 2013) and some late night hunger. Since I worked out every day the “Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan way”* I wasn’t too worried about an extra fifteen pounds. As a former certified personal trainer, I knew I could lose the weight safely when I simply committed to improving my diet.

Extra adipose tissue a.k.a. blubber has been something I was able to live with for the time being. Quetiapine also caused me to have trippy, vivid and disturbing dreams – not nightmares, exactly, but not feel-good/warm fuzzy dreams either.

I also believe that Seroquel may have triggered a weird phenomenon that lasted about nine months. I felt totally inspired to write regularly, and I blogged almost every day. I fell in love with writing all over again.

I remained responsible. I took care of the girls, and I didn’t alarm my husband by writing at all hours of the night as I did when I was hypomanic/manic and hypergraphic. (My hypergraphia will be explained in my book!) 😉

Every morning I woke up, I got the kids dressed and fed, and I drove them to school. I returned home to write for a few hours without fail. I wasn’t manic, but it definitely seemed like my brain was firing unusually, that’s for sure. I can’t think of another explanation for why this sudden burst of writing happened because the only thing I did differently was add quetiapine.

My psychiatrist didn’t think the medication caused any kind of mania either.  I don’t know. Could this have been a seasonal affective disorder of some kind? Maybe. But when I reduced my quetiapine dosage, my daily writing compulsion and my highly creative juices dwindled.  I was still creative and I still wrote, but my need to write was nowhere nearly as intense as it was before.  My intuition was that I had to reduce the (relatively) high dosage of 100 mg/night of quetiapine and not stay at 100mg for the sake of my writing habit and drive. 

So with my psychiatrist’s blessing, over the past year I tapered down to 25 mg a night of Seroquel. Even though 25 mg sounds tiny, it’s not! I’ve still felt groggy during the day, and I wanted to see if I could sleep without relying upon Seroquel.  I don’t know how people can open an eye at 800/mg a day of this stuff – that just shows how different we all are.

It turns out that I can sleep on my own once more!  Hurrah! I’ve been off quetiapine for over three weeks.  However, if I need to take it again I won’t hesitate. I added a $9 magnesium supplement (manufactured by Source Naturals, a reputable company located in my town) and it seems to help me with sleep too. I’ve used lavender essential oil off and on, which is safe and it always helps me (a least a little bit) when it comes to insomnia.

I’ve read that it can take weeks or months for a quetiapine withdrawal period to run its course. I’m not allowing myself to surf endlessly on the internet about it because God knows I’ve done that before, and in this case I think it’s a total waste of time.

What matters most is that each day I feel a little better. I can sense the Seroquel withdrawal blues slowly dissipating.  I’m more alert and my freaky dreams are gone. My “Seroquel belly” is even shrinking a tiny bit.

I’ll have more to report on the withdrawal front next Thursday or Friday. If you’re tapering off a med or suffering some withdrawal blues of your own, good luck and feel free to vent your heart away here.

Until then, take care, and thanks for reading!  

XOXO

Dyane

* Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan’s International Society for Bipolar Disorders webinar that (sorry to get all Tony Robbins on you ) totally changed my life!  Exercise Treatment for Mood Disorders: A Neurobioloigcal Rational

http://isbd.org/education/webinar-series

Dr. Alsuwaidan’s brief post. This article contains simple “exercise for mood” guidelines I follow religiously every day.

View at Medium.com

My husband was so convinced that my Alsuwaidan routine has helped my mood that when my exercise machine broke, he went out to Sears that same day (despite being swamped with work) and he got me a better machine. (I know I’m lucky!)

Yes, I could’ve gone walking or hiking or jumped rope or walked up and down the stairs, but he knew how much I loved using my elliptical. I believe my Schwinn is worth its weight in gold. Or chocolate.

Missing My Blogging Pals Soooooo Much!

Lucy & Dy Xmas

 Dyane and Lucy on Christmas Day, Alpine Valley

 Hello my friends!

I’m thinking of you while we’re in beautiful, snowy Alpine Valley. We’re staying in a small cabin called “The Munchkin” (the place lives up to its name!) with no internet connection. For those of you aware of my ‘net addiction, this is a definite challenge. I’m publishing this post at a “hot spot” in the Alpine Meadows parking lot – brrrrr!  It’s more like a freezing-cold spot.

What I miss the most about the internet is my daily dose of reading your blogs! I went from an hour a day, keeping current with your posts, to nothing. I remind myself that I can catch up when I return home. I’ve also been Facebook-free and Twitter-less, which has been much easier than I expected. I check email every few days as I’m expecting some work-related messages, but I stay online under five minutes instead of my usual….oh, I’m too embarrassed to tell you!

When it comes to changing schedules, even during a vacation, I get nervous about how my mood will be affected. Having a predictable schedule over the past sixteen months has been good for me. Up here without any concrete plans set in place, I’ve had anxiety in the mornings, which sucks. But thank God depression hasn’t struck; this is significant. I’ve been depressed in this idyllic area before, which shows that depression doesn’t care where you are or what the circumstances may be – it can descend when you least expect it.

A powerful tool that’s keeping my bipolar depression at bay is following the guidelines of my exercise hero, the psychiatrist Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan

(For specific details about what to do and why to do it, please read Dr. Alsuwaidan’s brief blog article at:

http://kuwaitmood.com/exercise-mood-part-iii-from-science-to-action/

– please read it before the New Year! I don’t want to sound like a cult member, but this brilliant psychiatrist’s advice, which he follows himself, can change your life for the better!)

Each day I’ve walked on the steep, icy Alpine Valley roads for thirty minutes as recommended by Dr. Alsuwaidan. Yesterday a moderate snowstorm hit the area as I took off on my walk, and yes, I hesitated going, but the snow wasn’t falling that hard! I could always turn back. I’ve seen freaky athletes running on these treacherous icy roads, so if they can run, I can walk. I wore good cold weather gear, and I went my merry way. It was actually fun to walk in the freshly fallen snow, a gorgeous, peaceful sight! Every day that I’m able to stick to my exercise routine I feel that I accomplished something positive. Moreover, I feel more grounded, and alert.

Yesterday I took the girls ice skating at Northstar’s rink while Craig hiked with Lucy in the snow. I noticed a couple of pre-teens clutching their i-Phones on the rink. They stared at their phones instead of ahead of them. Talk about not being present for the experience! I felt sorry for them. There was also the danger factor, as some speedy skaters circled the rink who gave me the impression that they wouldn’t care that much about colliding with a tween glued to her phone. I don’t have a fancy phone but even if I did, I’d put it away on that rink. I had my two girls to protect as well as myself!

Taking a break from staring at my computer screen to keep track of Facebook status updates and tweets is resoundingly healthy for me. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve derived an enormous amount of pleasure, education (yes!) and more from social media. I had simply gotten too enmeshed in it. When I get home, I plan to reduce the amount of time I spend online once and for all because I’ve proved to myself that I can do it without spontaneously combusting.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Solstice, Kwanza, Hanukkah or whatever holiday you celebrate. I’ll post next year (next weekend, ha ha) to let you know if I’ve suffered internet withdrawal symptoms yet. I’ll reply to any comments made here and on my previous post after I go home. In the meantime, take good care of yourself.!

Love,

Dyane

p.s.   If you haven’t had a chance to read my December International Bipolar Foundation blog post about my different take on exercise you can find it here:

 http://www.ibpf.org/blog/different-take-exercise-and-why-i-want-you-join-me

p.p.s. I can’t help but lovingly nag/encourage you to start doing 30 minutes a day of exercise, especially if you have bipolar disorder. It’s my A.C.E.-certified personal trainer background emerging once again. If your depression is so bad that the idea of exercise makes you want to hurl, please put this info. in the back of your head for when you start feeling a little better.   If you can try to do 5 minutes (read Dr. Alsuwaidan’s blog post first about what/how to work out) and then build up from there, I’ll send you a little gift!

 p. p.p.s Visit the link copied below at my friend Kitt’s blog to listen to Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan’s International Society for Bipolar Disorders-sponsored webinar. It’s about eating chocolate to lose weight and gain muscle – just kidding! – it’s about exercise for mood disorders with the focus on bipolar. 

I can’t stand listening to webinars, but this one is worth taking the time! The second half is especially convincing as to why you should aim to work out for mood – listen for the part about using exercise as a “panacea” for bipolar disorder….

http://kittomalley.com/2014/12/05/exercise-treatment-for-mood-disorders/

Avi and Ril

Rilla & Avi a.k.a. my munchkins in the Munchkin House

LucyAvi

Avi & Lucy loving the snow!

(It’s nine-month-old Lucy’s first time in the snow and she’s having a blast!)

 

When Your Child Knows More Than You Do

imagesThis week is Spring Break, the ideal time for my girls to sleep in late while I enjoy some quiet time each morning. But Murphy’s Law kicked in, and today my nine-year-old sprung out of bed ready to run a marathon just a few minutes after I woke up.

I am never as grounded and patient with my children when I don’t complete my dawn routine, which is nothing fancy – just meds, coffee, yogurt, surfing the internet and writing a little bit.  When Avonlea was raring to go at 6:00 a.m., she found me groggy and somewhat grouchy.

She brought out her collection of yarn.  I yawned at her, clutching my giant mug of Peet’s coffee with a death grip.  I watched her dazedly as she excitedly started to “fork knit” a chain of the soft lavender yarn.

“Can I teach you how to fork knit, Mommy?” she implored.

On other days I would have said no, citing that I needed that time to get ready, or that I wasn’t awake enough. But the eager tone of her voice swayed me this time around.  Never mind that I am not a crafty mom at all, never mind that I wasn’t interested in any kind of knitting and knew I never would be in this lifetime.

I wanted to make her happy.  After a big sip of coffee, I was all hers.

I was humbled and impressed by her knitting prowess.  She made the technique look unbelievably easy, but I struggled and I could barely follow her simple instructions.  Avonlea was patient with me and she chuckled over the fact that her mom couldn’t get the hang of a simple fork knit.  At least I had given fork knitting an honest try, and she was satisfied with my effort.  I also got a huge kick out of my daughter being my teacher instead of the other way around.

I looked at her differently afterwards.  For a long time I have been in denial about how my little girl is no longer truly little anymore.  I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that this young child is her own person. Frankly I’ve been infantilizing her.  For the most part, I am still treating her as if she is still my eight-pound, drooling, big-eyed, adorable baby.  By doing this to Avonlea, I am not allowing her to fully blossom, and if I keep this pattern up she will resent me and I believe she will regress in her behavior.

Like multitudes of nine-year-olds, Avonlea is becoming more capable and savvier every day.  Craig and I have to be very careful about what we say in front of her as she picks up on every word.  She’s so full of questions that we lovingly tease her that she’d make a great lawyer.  Aside from fork knitting, she has also become an expert at using the “Rainbow Loom” (making bracelets, rings and more out of tiny rubber bands – it’s the current rage) and she’s a mean cupcake baker and mathematician.

Of course there’s one thing that I hope my daughter will never know more about than I do…

Not long ago Avonlea asked me if she’d “get” bipolar.  It was hard for me to answer her, but I knew she’d want the truth.  I told her, “Yes, there is a chance you could have bipolar disorder, but there’s also a good chance you won’t have it.”  (The National Institute of Mental Health reports a 15-30% chance of a child having bipolar if one parent has the disorder.)

Then I told her something that my father, who had bipolar disorder, told me when I asked him if I’d get bipolar disorder.  I said to Avonlea, “Researchers all over the world are working very hard to find a cure for bipolar disorder.  There is a chance that could happen, but if they don’t find a cure, we will get you any help you need.” She has been satisfied with that answer, for now.

While we have these years together I hope and pray to all the powers that be that she doesn’t suffer with bipolar disorder.   I am connected with organizations including the International Bipolar Foundation, the International Society for Bipolar Disorders, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, CREST BD, the UCLA Mood Disorders Research Program, and the University if Michigan’s Prechter Foundation.  (I know there are other great organizations out there, but that list is plenty to keep me busy with for now!)  I stay in contact with them to keep posted about advancements in bipolar disorder research, especially related to onset in children and adolescents.

I am happy to always know more than Avonlea about bipolar disorder.  I dream of this disorder being cured, of the stigma toward mental illness melting away and becoming a moot point, and of being able to spend my energy on other topics aside from bipolar disorder.  I dream of Avonlea asking me if she’ll get bipolar disorder and my answering her, without any doubt in my mind, “No.”

Photo on 2014-01-28 at 11.35 #2