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)

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(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.

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Dreams, Toxic “Friends” & Facebook Freedom!

What DreamsWhat Dreams May Come

I love this image so!

The first time I saw the 1998 film What Dreams May Come I didn’t connect with it although it starred some actors I adored including Robin Williams, Annabella Sciorra and Cuba Gooding Jr. Then, many years later, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and my beloved father died.  Those two momentous events were responsible for my change of heart regarding this film. After I gave What Dreams May Come a second chance, I fell head-over-heels in love with the story (which concerns mental illness, death and the afterlife), the acting, and its magical, state-of-the-art “painterly” special effects which won an Academy Award.

It was directed by the acclaimed New Zealander Vincent Ward. Some of you know I have a New Zealand obsession, so I appreciated having him at the helm.

I’ve cried every time I’ve seen What Dreams May Come since my 2nd viewing, and despite its triggering subject matter (depression/mental hospitalization/suicide) the movie gives me hope!

I love the image of a joyful Annabella Sciorra shaking off a crimson cloth in Switzerland. The scene plays a special role in the film, and thinking of it evokes a sense of wild abandon in me…of freedom from life’s worries, i.e.

Freedom from stupid-ass Facebook rejections!

Last Friday I published my post about how I felt being unfriended on Facebook in a very unfriendly fashion. I felt SO good after receiving such great feedback from followers. (Thank you!!!) I let that Facebook incident go for the most part, and I only thought of it a little bit. I carried on. With two young girls, a husband, two hyper Houdini-hamsters, and Miss Lucy the Canine Wonder (and tapering off Seroquel – more on that in my next post) I had enough on my plate…

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. It’s not my favorite day – it feels like a contrived holiday, unlike the best holiday of the year: Halloween. 😉 Through a serendiptous series of events I found out I had been unfriended on Facebook AGAIN!  But instead of the Unfriender living thousands of miles away from me, this time I was unfriended by a neighbor living one mile away. I had always been kind to her, just as I had behaved with the fellow I wrote about last week.  

Long story short: my unfriendly neighbor has clinical depression, trauma, and some deep-seated personality disorders. Her unfriending me had much more to do with her issues than to do with who I was as a person, or with anything I had done. Despite my knowing all that, something in me snapped harder than it did last week.

Once again I thought,

F*CK THIS SH*T!!!!

One can’t get through life without rejection. We all know that. As much as I’ve loved using Facebook, yesterday it was clear it had become a channel for weird, toxic rejection. Two unfriendings in one week, even if they were not bosom buddies, was too much for this ultra-sensitive soul. Plus I have a book I need to focus on completing, which is all the more reason for me take a Facebook vacation. 

Last night I knew what I needed to do. I took a paltry thirty seconds and deactivated my Facebook account. It was a bittersweet moment, but it felt very empowering as well. I’m not sure how long this break will be, but I already feel more free! I have more time to write. It just feels healthy all around.

At least now there’s one less way for me to be triggered by those who don’t want me in their lives. As my seven-year-old girl told me while we played SmashBall last night, “They’re missing out on a opportunity, Mommy! You’re wonderful! I love you!” 

I love that kid.

Here’s the trailer of  What Dreams May Come – I can’t resist including it here after my glowing plug!

Goin’ Back Up after The Dreads Arrive

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This morning I’m writing old-school style, with a pen and a college-ruled notebook.  It’s foreign to write this way, which feels bittersweet.  I’ve become so used to using my laptop for writing that I haven’t used a pen in ages.   I’ve only touched a pen or pencil to jot down birthday card greetings, return addresses on bills (alas, I don’t have those nifty address labels!) and grocery lists.

I’m not handwriting today for its romantic element.  To my intense frustration, I’ve been blocked from using our shared computers, but I don’t feel up to making a fuss over it.  I want this morning to be as calm as possible because I woke up in a big ‘ol funk.  At 5:00 a.m. the precocious Lucy, now a thirteen-week-old bundle of energy, woke me up, raring to go on a puppy ultra-marathon.  My husband Craig also rose early and he made enough noise in leaving our room that I couldn’t get back to sleep.  

While hiding my head in my pillow, a heavy-duty case of what I call The Dreads fell upon me.

The Dreads are a first-cousin of depression and, like The Black Dog, consist of mental and physical fatigue, plus a looming dread of the day to come.  As I sat there in bed I was too wiped out to get up to start the day.  Ironically, when I’ve been hit with The Dreads,  once I’ve gotten out of bed and had my first cup of coffee, The Dreads slowly but surely vanish like a vampire caught in daylight.  That’s the difference between depression and The Dreads – a couple hours. But they still suck.

When I finally crawled out of bed at 7:00 a.m., I remembered I had cut down my Seroquel the night before.  I went from 100mg to 50 mg.  As I hadn’t had The Dreads hit me this intensely for a while, I wondered if there could be any connection between the medication drop and my distressing mental state.   

Of course it could just be a coincidence or my paranoia about how this med reduction affected me, or it could be both things!  But just in case it really is the Seroquel reduction, I’m going to resume my 100mg of Seroquel tonight and remain at that amount for the rest of the summer.

I’ve already found out that ever since my kids got out of school, our days have been too unstructured for my mental well-being.  I think I need a more regular daily schedule in order for me to feel confident about changing my medication dosage.  In any case, I can definitely live with my Seroquel-related grogginess for the next two months.  

My friend Becca Moore, the author and founder of the new website the Bipolar Parenting Project, wrote a great post on routine in her Psych Central Bipolar Parenting column.  Here’s the link:  

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/bipolar-parenting/2014/06/routines-and-structure/

Maybe if I improve other habits that mess up my energy level, such as my sugar-infused diet, that could help with the grogginess.  Also, if I attempt to go to sleep and wake up at regular times like I did when the girls were in school, that would help with kicking The Dreads’ butt and with my grogginess too.

When the girls’ school closed for summer break, I stopped using my Sunbox therapeutic bright light every morning, which I did for a minimum of a half hour.  I didn’t think the light was making a significant difference in terms of keeping the nasty Dreads away, but maybe it has helped me more than I thought.  I’m going to make a point of using my Sunbox on a daily basis once again.  It’s really easy to do this as I can write, surf the net or read in front of it.  And, of course, eat while using it.  (Hopefully not too much double chocolate Talenti gelato!!)

On the brighter side, it helps me to notice that I’ve improved on my “all or nothing thinking” that I’ve done for so long.  In the past, I would have felt that I failed my one-day-long Seroquel taper.  I would have thought horrible things such as “You f*cking loser!” and “You’ll never be able to lower your Seroquel!”  Now, I think differently, and my self-flagellation is thankfully gone.  I’m able to think about all of this more rationally, and I’ll look to the fall as a better time to try again.  That’s pretty cool!

I can’t expect every day to be sunshine and rainbows.  (Can I?)  Well, I know a couple people who actually do feel strongly that way, and I admire them for their attitude, but I’m not there yet.  

In the meantime, I’m going to carry on with my self-care routine the rest of this afternoon. That consists of working out, paying attention to my kids and husband, and trying my best not to eat too much ice cream.  (It’s sooooo good this time of year, though.)

I’ll take Lucy for a stroll on our “Death Road” in which I pray she doesn’t have diarrhea like she did yesterday.  (Oh yes, I practice the fine art of T.M.I.)  I’m so glad The Dreads disappeared because after suffering with bipolar depression, any glimpse of those awful feelings is scary as hell.  

I’ll be around here in Blogville this Friday, and I’ll let you know how my Seroquel increase goes.

Wishing you sunshine, rainbows, gelato ( if you like it) and most importantly, not a whisper of The Dreads EVER! :))

xoxox

Dyane

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Adventures in Seroquel Tapering for the Groggy Blogger and more…

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T.G.I.M.? Thank God  it’s Monday?  I think not!  Mondays are usually the toughest day of the week for me, but maybe this one will be different.  At least I don’t have to rush the kids to school, and that’s a big plus for this groggy blogger.  More on my grogginess follows in this post; oh yes, it’s a primary theme, although get ready – other topics will be discussed and an exam given at the end. 😉

I’m thankful to have a more leisurely pace in our household this week.  There was a steady buzz of frenetic activity over the past five days.  Between having my two young girls out of school, hosting family from out-of-town, and adjusting to our super-energetic puppy’s needs, last week was challenging and at times even heartbreaking.  One day was plain-old-Nightmare On Elm Street Part VI, but blogging about that awful day really helped me.  After I received wonderful comments of support in this blog, I was able to move on with my day better than I would have done in the past.

Now, as I type this post, there is a beautiful sort of quiet in the room.  I hear the sounds of cars and motorcycles off in the distance, for we live directly above a scenic mountain highway, but at this point the traffic sounds akin to a rushing stream.  For the next hour it’s just me and Lucy puppy, who is nibbling contentedly on a puppy chew.  My husband took the girls to swim at the community pool, and I’m so, so grateful to have this solitude.

Most of us bloggers need to have quiet time away from other noisy humans – you don’t realize how vital this alone time is until it’s gone!  If I want to write anything except maybe a grocery list, I must have quiet.  I wish with all my heart that I could be like the author Madeleine L’Engle, who was able to write well with all kinds of distractions.  She wrote backstage on Broadway when she worked as a character actress, she scribbled on trains, journaled in hotel lobbies, etc. Unfortunately, I can’t write if my two kids are around unless I have headphones on, and that usually hasn’t worked out for me.

Along the lines of writing and solitude, a few minutes ago I watched an interesting, brief YouTube video of the writer John Irving.  I’ve never read his work, but I’ve heard about this famous writer for many years.  The video is called “How to Tell if You’re A Writer”, and Irving validated certain points for me regarding writing in general.  It was an inspiring minute & twenty seconds, and it’s definitely worth the time to watch if you’re a writer!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYvOSrgvCrk

Meanwhile, in exciting medication management news, last night I dropped down from 100mg/night to 50 mg of Seroquel (quetiapine).  Seroquel has been a godsend to me.  When I had a terrible, bizarre type of agitated insomnia last fall, my psychiatrist prescribed Seroquel.  I was completely skeptical that it would help me, but I was desperate to get some sleep.  Not to sound like a drama queen, but from past experience I knew if I didn’t sleep, I’d wind up back in the hospital.  So I started taking the Seroquel and I was profoundly relieved to find that it worked very well.  The only side effect that has bugged me is mild-to-moderate daytime grogginess until noon or so.

I’ve been meaning to drop from 100mg to 50 mg of Seroquel for literally months now.  My psychiatrist was totally on board with my decision.  However, I procrastinated tapering because I felt paranoid that changing my dose would throw off the wonderful, antidepressant effect of the lithium and Parnate (MAOI) I’ve been taking since last fall.  I voiced my concern with my psychiatrist and he told me that it was highly unlikely that my reducing Seroquel would bring on depression. I trust this man literally with my life, so I decided to go for it.

The 50% reduction has worked well so far; I slept well last night, but it has been less than twenty-four hours since I changed my dose! Only time will tell if this adjustment is effective for me in the long run.  My fingers and toes and eyeballs are crossed that it works just fine.

One good omen is that today I only had one cup of coffee instead of my usual three (sometimes even more – yes, I admit it!) hefty-sized mugs.  I’ve been drinking all this coffee because I love the taste, but also the large amount of caffeine has cut my grogginess down a bit. What amazes me is that I didn’t even realize that I drank 2/3 less of my usual amount of coffee until just now, 2:30 p.m., so that’s an encouraging sign!

The past week has been different for me in other ways in terms of my daily routine.  I’ve cut down my Facebook notifications & “following” option (which I still don’t totally understand, I’m embarrassed to tell you!) Lately I’ve only wished to keep track of the doings and likings etc. of people I’m actively involved with.  I’ve reduced my Twitter surfing too.   (Did you know that you can “mute” people on Twitter?  If you don’t, write me a comment and I’ll explain it! 😉  Or someone else can explain it…and I bet they’ll do a better job of it.)

Changing my social media habits frees up more time for me to be with my family, read other blogs, read books, write, and play with Lucy Puppy. And, ahem, to watch my trashy television shows.  I don’t want to stop being on social media – no way! I’ve written this before and I’ll write it again –  I’ve been using Facebook & Twitter too much.  It’s going to take me all summer to figure out a happier medium between online fun, mundane real-life responsibilities, and real-life fun!  At least I have hope I can work out a better balance of virtual and real-life activity.

Finally, I can’t thank you enough for reading this blog.  It’s a joy to know that I have loyal readers who I consider to be kindred spirits. The other day I hopped on another blogger’s post and I noticed there were 162 comments made within a day.  At first my heart sank, and I seethed in emerald green jealousy.  But then I realized that if I was that mega-blogger, there would be no way I could ever reply to all those comments.  Moreover, I probably wouldn’t read them all unless I was on speed or something, and the lovely give & take between blogger and followers would be non-existent.  At least for me.

At any rate my point is I’m glad for your comments, and I read every one.  Sometimes I take more time than I’d like to reply to you, but I promise I will.  I love having you, my followers, and I wish each of you a fulfilling blogging experience and a great day –  you deserve it!

All my best to you!

Dyane

 

 

Lonely In Your Nightmare

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I had another “white night” last night.  This time I awoke at 2:00 a.m.  I had a vivid nightmare about my Mom dying that shook me to the core.  It was so bad that I was tempted to call her in the middle of the night to see if she was okay, but I held back.  (She’s fine; I just got off the phone with her this morning, although I didn’t want to freak her out so I kept my mouth shut about my dream.)  At 2:20 a.m. I took 50 mg of quetiapine (Seroquel) so I’m fighting a case of the mega-groggies this morning.  

I don’t understand why our brains torment us with nightmares.  I guess the “glass half-full” way to look at my nightmare was that it made me want to be nicer to my Mom and appreciate her while she’s still here!  So that’s definitely a good thing.  Still, it was such an awful dream that I’m sure a few new wrinkles formed on my forehead.

I’m now motivated to do a few things to help with the insomnia.  I absolutely need to get lavender essential oil. High-quality lavender oil definitely helps me relax, albeit in a subtle way, for both insomnia and anxiety.  I used to work at a school (College of the Botanical Healing Arts/COBHA) that trained essential oil practitioners, so I know a bit about essential oils.  At COBHA I used to have access to essential oils for sale right next to my work station.  I could purchase one anytime and at a discount.  But now, when I run out of a bottle I get lazy and cheapskatey and I don’t buy it again until I’m fairly desperate, like now!  I live in a valley chock full of health food stores.  However, I loathe going into those stores because I get easily overwhelmed by all the tempting merchandise.  Even if I’m shopping for just one item I freak out!  That’s why I can’t handle going to Costco anymore. So that’s plan #1

Plan #2 is for me to watch a little more EFT info. on YouTube.  There are tons of choices, but today I’m trying out a Nick Ortner introduction to tapping clip that can be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJMV3EohDCg

This morning I emailed my psychiatrist to see what he thought about EFT and he wrote, I’ve had no experience with it, am curious, but always skeptical of “the latest healing miracle”.  If it provides more than placebo response, it will last…otherwise it will become another fad.  I’ll be interested in your experience…”

Hmm!  

I also reached out to my Facebook network to see if anyone there had experience with this mysterious-sounding EFT, and I got comments that ranged from the intriguing:

“There is some good evidence in trauma psychology with tapping.”

To the slightly meh: “Yes, I used to do it. Hmmm. It might work for some people. Doesn’t hurt to try.”

Plus two remarks that made me chuckle: “I thought it was stupid. but you never know what might work for you until you try it (keeping an open mind, but not so open my brains fall out.)” and

“some people love EFT…I needed a lot more then tapping..”

So I’ll let you know how it goes with EFT.  I have no expectations, but I do have a “Why not?” attitude which might very well work in my favor.  I won’t know unless I give it a fair try.  

Perhaps by now you’re wondering why I’ve selected the Duran Duran “Rio” cover photo and the shot of the boys in their heyday?  I simply could not write about nightmares without referencing one of my all-time favorite pop songs. “Lonely In Your Nightmare”, the haunting song from the classic “Rio” album, is etched in my brain.  

I loooooove the song and I’ve probably listened to it 5000 times.     I used to listen to it every night on my Walkman (remember those, children of the 70’s?) just before going to sleep.  Actually I’d listen to it several times each night.  It soothed me and yes, I had a crush on Simon LeBon, what more can I say?  I loved how he crooned “You’re lonely in your nightmare, let me in.”  It was just so romantic!  

Recently while reading the New York Times bestseller “In The Pleasure Groove – Love, Death and Duran Duran”, I discovered that author John Taylor played fretless bass in “Lonely In Your Nightmare”, which made it sound all the more alluring and soporific.  

I know that Duran Duran doesn’t have a whole lot to do with EFT, insomnia or lavender oil, but no matter.  It’s fun to include them here.  Maybe I should listen to that song tonight before I go to sleep – maybe it has the power to prevent nightmares like the horror show I experienced last night!!  

If you want to give the song a listen, & see the official video, please visit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdagLj8WJrs

Rock on, my friends!  May 80’s music never die! 😉  And, as always, thanks for reading. 

Dyane

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