I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2003, after wrecking my personal and professional life, for reasons of which I had no idea, and engaging in behavior which although it seemed reasonable at the time to me, made absolutely no sense, like going 4-5 days straight without sleeping, and constantly engaging in arguments with everyone I knew, in my family and in my professional life. What then began was a series of bad medications, administered by what I can only consider to have been incompetent and mediocre professionals.
First, I took Depakote. It certainly brought me down to earth. Unfortunately, it also had too strong a sedative effect and I would walk around empty-headed, without a thought. I was unable to function well professionally. I used to fall asleep behind the wheel of my car, and I remember crossing streets in New York City, where I work, without even looking before stepping out. I was sure I was going to be killed, but I just didn’t seem able to do anything about it. I was unhappy with the doctor who was treating me, so I went for a consultation with another psychiatrist, who told me that the dose I was taking was too low and that it really needed to be higher. When I questioned how I would be able to function, I’ll never forget his response. He told me that while I would have some loss of quality in my life, it would in the end be better for me. Really? I later found out that he ran a psych ward at a hospital in North Jersey, so I immediately understood his
“drug them up” philosophy. Not for me, thanks.
Next I switched to the mental health clinical services of a large local hospital, where I thought I would find experience and a better outcome. My next drug prescribed was Risperdal. Totally ineffective for my bipolar, although it did have one noticeable effect. It made me motion sick. Now I would get dizzy riding the train back and forth to work, and in an unforgettable experience, we took our children to an IMAX movie in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on summer vacation. It was about a trip across the country by plane, and the movie made me physically ill. I turned white and had to leave the theater to avoid throwing up. So much for Risperdal. The doctor left that hospital and I had a new practitioner. We decided to try Abilify. What a mistake. Abilify gave me restless leg syndrome and it was
absolutely driving me crazy. I couldn’t sit still. I would walk to my office from Penn Station – about an hour walk, stay a short time and walk back. I couldn’t sit still. Nighttime was even worse. Difficult to sleep and in constant fear that the feeling would never go away. What kind of cure is that? That medication was worse than the illness.
Next, a switch to Lamotrigine, which I stayed on for years. It seemed to work, but it wasn’t that great and once again, incredible side effects. First, it would put me to sleep, day and night. Once again, sometime dozing off behind the wheel. It didn’t matter how much sleep I got, it would put me out. I would be sitting on the train or on the New York City subway with a book or magazine in my hand and all of a sudden I would just doze off and drop it on the floor. Embarrassing and frustrating. When we would go anywhere that was dark and quiet, I would immediately fall asleep. I fell asleep through years of school concerts – both of my kids played in the orchestra. They were always mad at me, and my wife was always smacking me to wake up – didn’t I care? It was my own children playing…and what must other people think? Just the friendly effects of Lamotrigine. I slept through every movie I ever went to. I also lost a part-time job as a substitute teacher – I had to show a video…the room was dark and quiet…and I dozed off.
They didn’t ask me back after that.
Even worse about Lamotrigine was that it caused me short-term memory problems, every day. I teach adult education classes, so I’m on my feet talking all day. I would frequently forget things I wanted to say, as I was teaching. Very frustrating. I’d make little jokes about it, but it wasn’t funny to me. When I parked at the train station every day I would have to remember a 4-digit numbered parking space and walk about 50 yards over to the machines to buy a daily parking permit. On that drug it was very difficult for me to remember the numbers. A blowing breeze or the least distraction and I couldn’t remember them, or I’d transpose them. I got several tickets for not paying for parking, because I put in the wrong space number. I actually had to go to Court once with my receipt to fight the ticket and after that I put a pad of paper and a pen in my car to write the spot number down. That problem ended when I stopped taking Lamotrigine. I never got a ticket again and like everyone else, I can walk 50 yards and remember a 4-digit number.
About a year ago I finally left that miserable hospital’s care, came to Dr. Keyser and started taking Lithium. I noticed a change within several days. Minimal side effects, and a clear head. I felt like I was 10 years younger. I can drive and not fear falling asleep behind the wheel. I can teach all day and I rarely forget things I was about to say. I’d had so many bad drug experiences, so many times where the treatment was worse than my illness that I almost didn’t want to try Lithium. But I’m glad I did. Clearly a case where the old original is so much better than the evil concoctions that pass for medication that most bipolar patients are forced to take.
I feel that I pretty much have no limits to my professional and personal life.