Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Being drug free and bipolar

Today marks 14 days off my medication. I've noticed several changes:

First, I've dropped a shocking eight pounds in two weeks. Most of that was probably due to water retention from the excessive amounts of food I was eating because of the med's effect on my appetite. However, my eating disorder says hello and wants to let you know that this piece of information is very important to him. My urges to binge are almost completely gone. My appetite is back to normal, I have not restricted, ED is pouting. I did have one binge, but it was not from medication-induced excessive appetite. Unfortunately someone I'm close to was in a motorboating accident this weekend. Though he escaped with minor injuries, the accident was very bad and could have been tragic. I completely freaked. But I know the med was not why I binged. He's well, and I'm calm again.

I've tried supplements to keep my mood lifted and stable. That's all good except that when my mood drops, it's bad. Really, really bad. Thoughts of wanting to end it all flitted in and out of my brain. I've been able to beat them down instantly, but this was still too scary. 

It's a lifeblood-sucking low that reminds me of the dementors in Harry Potter. I sank to this low during four days of the last 12. My therapist was right: it is very hard to be bipolar and not be medicated. But that's what you get when you get rid of an eating disorder. I'm finally feeling my emotions because I don't numb them out with food anymore. The depressive spell was scary. It made me admit that I do need the medication.

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to the psychiatrist we go...

It's been hard to digest all of the side effects I had on the meds so I made this table for my psychiatrist.

click to make it big enough to read

The meds highlighted in yellow I discontinued because of the weight gain. In light of this we decided to try me back on wellbutrin at the dose where I was stable for over a year. It was only when I started on the double dose that I got a rash. The rash was just dose-sensitive and I am only slightly itchy. It's nothing Claritin can't handle. It hasn't ever turned to anaphylaxis (trouble breathing, hives all over, you know, the kind of allergy people get from peanuts) so my doc thinks this is the best choice for me right now. Unfortunately it's still not enough, my mood is still depressed -- but I don't have fleeting thoughts about wanting to die anymore.

As for my weight, ED and I may be making peace soon. I trust my body on Wellbutrin. My weight was extremely stable while I was on it -- I only wavered 1/2 pound up and down during a three-month monitoring period. I think I can sit back and just eat my damn food and I know that my body will find its place. While I didn't know it the first time I was on this med, I can see now that I looked pretty dang hot at my stable wellbutrin weight.

There's another word for hotness in my book: recovery. I'm finally able to appreciate my body. All of the weight I've gained has made me re-evaluate and appreciate what I had. It may not be the weight ED wants me to be, but I was stable and I wasn't letting food rule my life.

I'm feeling hopeful. Then again, I'm bipolar, so we'll see how long that lasts!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I found the source of my hunger!

It's the med. I have no doubts.

Yesterday I was even hungrier than I was over the weekend. By 11 am I'd consumed a bagel with cream cheese, two lattes, two mini pieces of chocolate, a handful of dates and an Italian wrap sandwich and I felt like I hadn't eaten enough. It was absurd. I called my psychiatrist and he told me to stop taking the medication.

In some ways I'm crushed. This was the ninth medication we've tried me on for depression / bipolar disorder. It actually worked and was one of the few that did. But at the same time, it has been wonderful to wake up today, eat a single slice of cold pizza for breakfast, and discover that two hours have passed and I am not the least bit hungry.

What now?

My pdoc wants me to wait a few more days to get the medication completely out of my system. From there, do I wait until my weight drops back down before starting the new med? I hopped on the scale this morning and discovered that five additional pounds went on in the last week because of all of the overeating, officially putting me at my highest weight ever. Do I risk going even higher on a new med? Do I tough it out?

I'm leaning towards toughing it out. Giving myself a couple months to get re-acquainted with my hunger-fullness signals will help me better spot any weight and hunger-related problems with the last med. I also plan to only give a medication a 3-4 week trial period. In the past, I've gone as long as nine months before I put my foot down about medication side effects, hoping I could tolerate them.

In the meantime, I will be supplementing my diet with 1200 mg of omega 3 acids in the form of krill oil, and 15 billion colony units of probiotics daily. I will add in acupuncture if necessary. I have found acupuncture to be helpful for the treatment of depression in the past, and looking like a pincushion is pretty funny to me!
There is some evidence in the literature that the high levels of omega 3 acids and probiotics help with depression as well. At the very least none of it will do any harm. I will continue to keep the sugar substitutes out of my diet as they are not helping me understand my fullness signals.

On the plus side, I love my acupuncturist and will be happy to see her again!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hungry, thrill-seeking girl with a death grip

At least, according to the Wall Street Journal, that's what I am.

I spent the weekend sailing but this wasn't your average sailboat race. These 100+ year-old sailboats called log canoes hang people ten feet above the water on planks to keep from tipping over. Why? Because there's a ton of sail and hardly anything under the boat to counterbalance it. The end result? Two hours of exhilaration (read: sheer terror) that you're about to capsize or get whacked by a huge piece of wood while flying through the water at fantastic speeds. This video from the Wall Street Journal gives you a pretty good idea of what my experience on the log canoe Noddy was like.

Log Canoe Racing Thrills on Chesapeake Bay by WSJ_Live

I sailed one two-hour race. It was incredible exercise sliding in and out of the boards. But alas, my 'death grip' wasn't deathly enough and I fell off my board while we were tearing through the water at a good 10mph. The boat didn't stop; I got thrown a line and pulled in while it kept going at those ten miles per hour. But we finished -- upright! -- and this was apparently the first time The Noddy had finished a race all year. They called me their 'lucky charm.' They also called me their newest heavyweight.

It was a joke. You see, as a boardman on these boats it's best to be on the heavy side. While I hate the fact that I weigh 155 pounds and I feel enormous, they wanted someone heavier than me to help keep the boat upright. But no one else volunteered so I was it and apparently I was enough. But they still made fun of the fact that they wished I had weighed more, because it would've made the job of keeping the boat upright easier.

They. Wished. I. Weighed. More. 

It's very strange to think that these people had no problem with my weight; I was told for years by my family that I was overweight and therefore unhealthy, fat, ugly, and unloveable. Often in more words, though. This weekend gave me a rare moment of self-acceptance and validation. My 155 pounds helped us to our first finished race all season.

It also gave me one hell of an appetite. I had trouble getting full after both Saturday's race and after sailing my usual small boats on today. I keep telling myself that it's just the insane amounts exercise I got sailing. I didn't binge and I let myself eat. I let myself have a 200-empty-calorie hard cider after the race instead of a diet soda. It was hard for me but ultimately okay because those 155 pounds of an awful lot of muscle needed fuel.

I still worry about my hunger, hoping it's the exercise and not the med. I'm taking a day off tomorrow to rest. Hopefully my appetite will calm down. But in all it was a great, exhilarating weekend.  Oh, and I got to see a river dolphin just as we crossed the start line :o) 

p.s. For those of you who were wondering how I got into this, in the video you'll see the red-shirted "Silver Heel" crew capsizing. What you can't see is my aunt getting dunked in the water as she crewed that boat.

Friday, August 7, 2015

No sugar substiutes challenge days 2 and 3

Life always throws curveballs at just the wrong time.

I've  got an eating disorder, which means my emotions rule my eating. If I want to find out whether my med is causing my binges, ideally I need to have a period of very calm, emotionally-stable days.

No such luck!

Yesterday my eating went pretty well. I was shocked how long a normal-sized breakfast of a bagel and cream cheese kept me satisfied. I half ran/half walked the 3k loop around campus at lunch. And then I found out that my project leader is leaving work.

I'm super-sensitive to changes in leadership at work. I've had an abusive boss before and I'm terrified of having to work for another one. Immediately I turned into

And I had visions of getting kicked off of the project, living with an abusive replacement for the next year until she returns (she'll be on temporary assignment), being terrified that we'll be losing her permanently...oh, yeah. Truly ridiculous.

But I took care of myself. I went out to dinner, let myself have a stiff drink, a healthy salad, and a protein-rich entree. I then went and put an hour in on the ice rink. I came home feeling calm and like I handled the situation well. No binge, right?

And then came home and baked my stress away. And of course, woke up at 2 am with a case of the munchies, and proceeded to eat the treats I made. In a reasonable quantity, but still. 2 am. Me. Food. Not good.

Today I've been ravenously hungry. Maybe this is because I put in a double workout yesterday. I didn't do it to punish myself. I love skating, I like running. I needed the stress relief. But today I've been fighting off bingeing since the morning. I had to run a major meeting that lasted six hours today; and in the middle of all of this I realized that I lost my cell phone. I can't find it. Anywhere.

Needless to say, I'm stressed about stuff that I'm blowing way out of proportion. I had a protein-heavy dinner  but I still wanted to eat way beyond being full. I've been eating every two hours. Is it the med? Is it the stress? I vow not to binge, but damn, why can't I stop thinking about food? I haven't had any stevia, and I kept my caffeine intake minimal. I don't know. I need to keep going. I will keep going. And perhaps take another anxiety pill.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Day 1: No artificial sweeteners/no stevia challenge

Trigger warning: weights and food consumption

Yesterday's no aspartame/no splenda/no stevia challenge went very well. I also happened to fall asleep before taking my medication. I paid the price for it; I was suicidal during the morning before I cycling back up to being normal. However, with the medication out of my system it did give me my hunger and fullness cues back completely. It was incredibly refreshing. I didn't realize how out-of-touch I had been with my body, either from the sweeteners or the med. I ate four times yesterday, mostly at a normal speed for me, and I ate normal quantities. I found that using a food and mood log very helpful. 

It was hard to get through the afternoon without a diet soda, but I had tea with a teaspoon of sugar in it. It's amazing how my eating disorder leads me to eat enormous quantities of food sometimes, but freaks out about a teaspoon of sugar. The good news: I survived. Bad news: I realized just how dependent on the meds I am. 


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Fat and happy, or skinny and depressed?

It's a choice I'm worried I'm going to have to make. Trigger warning for eating disorder behavior and weight discussion.

I've been through 14 different medications since I started treatment back in 2011. Each one has had some major problem: two gave me violent tremors, one I was allergic to, two others made me sleep all the time, one made me drunk, two others put 20 pounds on me in four months....

Did I mention I have an eating disorder?

Six weeks ago I elected to go back on medication for my bipolar disorder. This was because I realized that although I was losing the weight I'd put on from the Seroquel, I was fighting a daily battle against the part of me that thought it was a good idea to jump out my 10th story window. This obviously was not an option. Back on the meds I went.

I was put on something called Saphris. I noticed that in two weeks I gained ten pounds and I was bingeing almost constantly. When I was off the med I was only bingeing once a month. The doctor dropped me down to the pediatric dose. I am down to bingeing once a week but I am eating myself out of house and home the rest of the time. Some of this may be that I skate three times a week and sail once a week. I am very athletic, more so than ever before. But I'm bingeing, still, far too often.

I am in a position now where I need to quickly figure out whether it is the med that is making me continue to binge once a week. The med works brilliantly and I desperately do not want to quit it. But I still don't know what's going on with the eating disorder. I have an idea though.
I think this stuff is to blame.

You see, I've never been able to shake the artificial / sugar replacers from my diet. It's part of the eating disorder that still lingers. Yet when I looked back at the last two weeks I've only binged twice. What happened the night before each of these binges? I had a beverage sweetened with stevia.

So I'm going to do a little challenge for myself. I want to see if it's really the stevia messing up my recovery, or whether it's just the med that's making me binge. So if you'll put up with ten days of posts on my progress, hopefully I'll have an answer about whether I have to choose between a med that makes me binge, or whether I can finally be happy and not have to worry about out-of-control eating. So that's it. No stevia, no diet sodas, no aspartame, no splenda. Nothing for ten days. Will I notice a change? Today is day 1. Here we go.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Net worth update: Month 1

This month was my first month of recording my finances. I've been separating myself financially since we split in April and it's taken me a while to get back on my feet. My goal for this month was to build up my emergency fund. This took priority over debt repayment. And it looks like I did pretty well.

Start: 7/8/20157/13/20157/20/20158/1/2015Month's ChangeYear's Change
Car loan (3.45%)(21,682.00)(21,691.21)(21,691.21)(21,325.73)356.27356.27
Paypal (0%)(200.00)(200.00)(180.00)(170.00)30.0030.00
Credit card (0%)(3,000.00)(2,975.00)(2,975.00)(2,975.00)25.0025.00
Student loan 1 (2.65%)(1,510.81)(1,510.81)(1,510.81)(1,510.81)0.000.00
Student loan 2 (2.65%)(4,845.64)(4,845.64)(4,845.64)(4,845.64)0.000.00
Car value14,232.0014,232.0014,232.0014,
Car insurance jar0.
Skis jar0.000.000.0027.6027.6027.60


My net worth went up by $1966.00 this month! That's an absurd sum, given that my entire budget after I pay the mortgage is $2500/month. Some of it was good saving. This past week I only spent $300. But mostly it came from cashing in my Health Savings Account refunds. I put all of that money towards my savings account. I don't expect to have this much of a bump again. I expect to be able to save $150 or so per week, or $600-$700 a month. There were also no disasters this month, and that's good.

Looking forward to another good month next month.