Medicated Madness | Nicole Lyons #DCfC

I am honoured to present my next guest, Nicole Lyons.  Nicole gives us insight as to why we have to be our own advocates in mental health and what can happen if we aren’t vigilant and active in our treatment plans.

Medicated Madness

I have spent my entire life swinging between gloriously terrifying highs and drowning in the darkest lows. It has been stunning and horrifying, exhausting to feel my way through life. I had often envied, for a moment, those people who lived their lives by logic and reason. I found them strange and fascinating, zombie-like, living their lives void of emotion, until I was among them. I used to believe that there was nothing worse than feeling the all-consuming weight of depression, until I could no longer feel anything at all.

Medication is supposed to, in theory, help you live a better, healthier life. Unfortunately, happiness doesn’t usually play a big factor in that theory, at least not in my case. My doctor’s concern laid only in making sure I was not suicidal or believing that the Universe was channelling through me. If she had those two things under control, then she was good to go.  My psychiatrist was a medication specialist and hell-bent on stopping my cycles of mania and depression. It was common practice for her to adjust my medications, “tinkering” she called it, every two weeks. At this time, she had me swallowing 17 pills a day in order to reach her idea of stability, and this is what stability looked like:

Lithium. The “gold standard” in bipolar management was prescribed to me at such a high dose that it gave me tremors and tics. I could no longer feed myself, and I even started lactating, strange considering I hadn’t had a uterus in seven years. I had to stop driving because the 2200 mgs of lithium I swallowed every single day caused my vision to fail, which scared the shit out of everyone when I almost drove off a cliff. The irony here is that had I have driven off the cliff, my death would have most likely been declared a suicide because of my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, when in fact the lithium was prescribed to stop that sort of thing.

Olanzapine gave me akathisia so bad that I thought I was dying. I was alone when it happened and I can only recall flashes of memory. I was writhing in agony, trying to get to my phone to call my then ex. I ended up on the floor of my shower with three chipped teeth and a cut over my left eyebrow. I honestly cannot tell you if I was knocked unconscious, which alleviated the akathisia, or if it just stopped. I just do not remember.

“I do not remember” became my anthem, my go-to phrase in most situations. Time really had no meaning to me, and if it did, I could not comprehend it. I called these next four months “the lost months” as they were filled with risperidone, Seroquel, Klonopin, loxapine, Lamictal, trazodone, Topamax, Ativan, and the kicker, zopiclone. All of these drugs, and more, were administered under a supervised setting in a psychiatric hospital. I was there for just about a month and a half this particular stint, and I can’t recall a single moment. My failure to recollect had nothing to do with my illness, and everything to do with the medications prescribed to me by psychiatrists. These highly educated doctors who have a duty to work for their patients, to the best of their ability, assisting with improving quality of life. Apparently quality of life is subjective.

Fast forward six months and I had gained 45 pounds from the antipsychotics and had experienced more mood swings, shifts, and suicidal ideation than I ever had in my entire life. I developed an anxiety disorder that I never suffered from before I was put on anti-anxiety benzos, and I also had a peak in rage issues that can now be traced back to Seroquel. But, the worst part is that I was now fully and completely hooked on sleeping pills. I just couldn’t sleep without them. The nurses would wake me up in the hospital to take them, they were, after all, ordered by the doctor and I was in no shape to object. Now the problems really began when my body built up a resistance to them because I’d been on them for well over the two-week period that is recommended. So what is the doctor’s move here? Do we wean Nicole off of the sleep meds? Of course not, if Nicole doesn’t sleep, she will go manic! Up the dose of zopiclone, let’s go to 15mgs now. And like a good little patient, I took them.

For the next year I bounced through every antipsychotic and stabilizer that you could think of. I no longer had my cycles or swings instead I had reached stability, according to my psychiatrist. She was pleased. I was no longer a functioning human being. I was an emotionless zombie who now hitched a ride as a passenger in my own life. I felt nothing.

Medicated-Madness-DCfC

It was summer when my daughter showed me a family picture she had drawn. We were all there―her dad, her sister, our pets, and everyone was so bright and colourful. There were rainbows and flowers and love all clouded together in a waxy Crayola masterpiece. Off to the side of the colourful loving family was a black shrouded faceless figure with a gnarled hand that had a thin colored bracelet on it’s sickly looking arm, “Who’s that, Baby?” I asked her. It was such a horrible image to see violating this beautiful picture, “That’s you, Mama,” she smiled up at me, gave me a kiss and took off to play. I jumped off all of my meds that very same day. Two days later I was in the hospital due to seizures.

My psychiatrist at the time chastised me, as did the ER doctor and my GP. I could have died they said. What they didn’t get was that it would have been a relief at that moment. Their idea of stability and keeping my demons at bay was to shut me off like a light switch. As long as I wasn’t delusional, their job was done. No one cared about what my life was like being shut off. No one cared that my kids didn’t have a mom that could function. No one cared that I had started to develop tics from all of these meds and their side effects. No one cared, as long as I wasn’t too high or too low. That was the goal. Who cares about my life and the lives of the people who have to care for me? Just don’t let her go up.

That was four years ago. I’m much better now because I refuse to take the meds they want me to take. I take two stabilizers; one causes a rash so severe that I have to be put on cortisone cream so it doesn’t spread. I am on a SSRI that I can only take in conjunction with the stabilizers or else I become manic, but it causes restless limbs so bad that I am also prescribed a pill for Parkinson’s disease to counteract that. The Parkinson’s pill gives me nausea so bad that I am now prescribed a thick liquid to drink every morning; it’s the same stuff that cancer patients drink when going through chemo. Oh, and the sleeping pills, we’re up to 22.5 mgs of those a night. I’m probably going to have to go to detox to get off this buffet.

People think that depression, delusion, or psychosis is a scary thing. Yeah, it can be, but the most terrifying thing of all is feeling absolutely nothing at all. I have been on the ground, swallowed in a sea of melancholy, and I have reached stunningly horrifying peaks, but never have I felt so awful as when I felt nothing at all.

In a world where doctors are more likely to shut you off than listen to you, sometimes the “cure” is worse than the disease. I agree that there needs to be a balance, but numbing a person by throwing them into a medicated haze is not a solution. I will take my chances with feelings and intensity, living a life of uncertainty, rather than living a joyless existence. I can handle the swings as long as I can feel my way through them. I am so over, “Your meds need time to work.” I have given up years of my life waiting for these meds to work and the times I have been at my best were when I was the least medicated. I don’t want to give up another second of my life trying to find something to please a bunch of doctors who really could care less. I’m losing precious moments of a life that I actually want to live.

A life filled with emotions and ideas and intensity and flashes of brilliance is okay because to me―stability is not being med-compliant and decreasing the episodes. I have bipolar disorder, the episodes will happen regardless of if I am on meds or not on meds. But if I do as they want me to, without a doubt I will turn back into that black shroud in my daughter’s picture. It does not have to be treated this way anymore. This same cycle of med tweaks and changes every month has shown nothing but failures over the past four years, culminating in a body that is reliant on sleeping pills as if it were heroin. To me, stability is learning how to ride the lows and harness the highs, with as little fallout from the in-between.


Medicated-MadnessNicole is the mother to two sassy and brilliant daughters. She is a fierce mental health advocate and volunteers her time with a Canadian NPO that focuses on suicide prevention. She is the creator of The Lithium Chronicles and a columnist on Psych Central. She is a hippie at heart and believes that the world can be changed by one small random act of kindness at a time.

Connect with Nicole on:
TLC BlogTLC Facebook PageNicole WritesTwitter


Each piece in this series will be linked on my page Depression: Catalyst for Change and the hashtag #DCfC will be used when sharing on any/all social media.  We will also use the hashtags #MHA #breakthesilence and #hope.  Please help us advocate for better understanding of mental illness and those affected.   Share the pieces in this series on every platform you have at your disposal. Splash them across the internet. Spread the word. Join your voice with ours as we combat the stigmas surrounding these issues – together, we can make change happen.Fight With Us

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24 thoughts on “Medicated Madness | Nicole Lyons #DCfC

  1. As one who has been following your journey for a while now, including your struggle with that psychiatrist, I have to say this is your best summary to date in prose of your battle to be alive with your illness. Thank you Nicole and A for this. rebloging

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. I’m so sorry, it doesn’t sound like you had a good psychiatrist is she was putting you on that many medications all at once. I have tried many of those but thankfully, we’ve gone through them and crossed them off in a more orderly way. I have ended up on clozapine. It’s rough starting out but has worked the best. You take it at night and it very much helps with sleep, falling and staying asleep. Im not maniac though just depressive. Best of luck in your journey. I have learned as I’m sure you have, one needs to advocate for themselves, hard to do with so many meds make you even worse I imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mandi,

      No, my psychiatrist and I didn’t see eye to eye at all, actually I ended our client/therapist relationship last summer and am now under the care of my GP, who is amazing. We’ve cut the sleeping pills in half and are easing the wean off of those. We work together. Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good grief, good grief, good grief! I can’t believe how much they buggered around with your entire world while they tried to make it into their version of acceptable! SO glad you took your options back and have found a way which (largely) works for you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was around 16 or 17 years old, but I had been seeing a psychiatrist for a couple of years before that who prescribed Zoloft for me. I kept telling her that I didn’t think the Zoloft was working for me and her response was to keep upping the dosage over and over again.
    And then I ended up being arrested and sent to the hospital by the police in the small town that I grew up in. Turns out that people with bipolar disorder should never be prescribed Zoloft and that all of the poor judgment and impulsiveness that led to my arrest was because of the Zoloft feeding my mania and depression.
    My psychiatrist decided it was best if she no longer saw me after that.
    What followed was a bunch of different doctors prescribing a bunch of different medications. I was prescribed one medication to deal with one of my mental illnesses (bipolar disorder, panic disorder, anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive tendencies) and then would have to be prescribed another to deal with the fact that that medication made one of my other issues worse. The medications that I can remember being on are Zoloft, Depakote, Trazodone, Lithium, and Paxil. There were probably a few more in there, and there probably would have been more after the Paxil but I lost my health insurance and moved across the country while on Paxil. I had to stop taking it cold turkey and ended up going through withdrawals which included electric shock sensations every time I moved for days.
    That was about 12 years ago and I have been off medication since. Partially because I was without insurance for most of that time and partially because I’m not sure I want to get back on the medication rollercoaster. I’ve had to set up my life in a way that works for me in order to try and keep myself as stable as I can, and while most people would see the way I live my life as a failure (homemaker, don’t socialise a lot, (I’m an introvert anyway) no driver’s license, (we don’t own a car anyway) very rarely go anywhere without my husband) I’m far more happy and stable now than I ever was while medicated. If my illnesses ever spiral out of my control though I won’t hesitate to seek help. I just hope that help is actual help though.

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    • Oh, and speaking of being an introvert, the goal of all of my doctors was to medicate me into being an extrovert. They saw all the things that make me an introvert as things to be fixed. I didn’t have this realisation until years later, and I wonder if things would have gone better if they had focused on actual problems instead of trying to change what makes me me…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am really sorry that this has been your experience with treating your bipolar disorder. It is beyond scary to say the least. I have bipolar disorder and I have been on a lot of medications too but I cannot say that I’ve have any of these severe reactions like you’ve written about here. I thank my lucky stars that I have an amazing psychiatrist who actually listens to me when I have a complaint whether it is big or small and he respects my wishes when I choose to stop a med. I think that makes the world of a difference in anyone’s care. I am furious that you have gone through what you’ve gone through. That is neglect on the doctor’s part – abuse. It makes me sick. There are SO MANY OPTIONS out there. SO MANY.
    I’m just so sorry. I don’t even know what else to say.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Kimberly you have no idea how happy it makes me to read this. I am thrilled that you have a wonderful psych. I am now under the care of my GP, he’s known me since I was 13 years old, and we’ve been able to lessen the meds drastically. We’re certain I’m med sensitive and possibly resistant as well, but we have found an easier road now. Thank you for reading.

      Like

  6. This is an interesting post.

    Were you ever referred to a psychotherapist to help you to work through the trauma of being diagnosed with a chronic and highly stigmatized illness?

    Were you ever referred to a therapist to rule out PTSD as a factor?

    There is a biochemical component to bi-polar illness but there is an emotional dimension as well; and emotions trigger physiological responses.

    Liked by 1 person

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