8 Months Sober

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As of today I’ve gone 8 months without a drink. Whaaaaaaaaattt?!?!

So I’m really excited about my update this month, because I’ve been feeling much BETTER and I’ve learned a lot from some reading I’ve done lately.

I think the warmer weather and sunshine is definitely helping me out. But I also think that the last few months were really hard because I was experiencing the withdrawal symptoms of Seroquel. I’ve been on Seroquel for years and recently switched to a new medication, Latuda. Throughout that process my NP was slowly weaning me off of Seroquel. I recently read “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy” by Dr. David Burns, who is one of the pioneers of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) movement. Burns discusses medications such as Seroquel and I also did a lot of reading online about it.

You know how I mentioned last month that I felt stupid and couldn’t quite grasp things as well as I used to? This type of “brain fog” is a withdrawal symptom of Seroquel. I’ve also been feeling a lot more anxious lately. This is another withdrawal symptom. These withdrawal symptoms are finally beginning to subside.

After reading “Feeling Good,” I realized that Seroquel may not be the best medication for me. It’s an antipsychotic, and is typically prescribed to people with schizophrenia, but can also be used to treat bipolar disorder. It is particularly prescribed to patients who suffer from delusions. Another book I’ve been reading recently is called “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness,” by Susannah Cahalan. Cahalan experiences some very extreme psychotic episodes due to an auto-immune disorder that included paranoid delusions. I was surprised to learn that she was given Seroquel to offset these symptoms. Her experiences seemed so much more extreme than anything I’ve experienced mentally.

After doing some more independent reading, I wondered, “Why was I even put on this stuff?” It’s true that I might have bipolar disorder, but I’ve never been delusional. In “Feeling Good,” Dr. Burns did not recommend this type of medication unless it was absolutely necessary, due to the small risk of potentially long term, irreversible effects such as tardive dyskinesia. He also stated that while withdrawing from psychiatric medication, your brain can sometimes take months to “reset” itself to the way it normally operates. So it seems my brain is in the process of “resetting.”

Greg has told me that even though it has been hard, he has liked the effect that decreasing Seroquel has had on me. He recalled that whenever I took Seroquel in the evenings (particularly when I was on the non-extended release pills), the “light would go right out of your eyes.”

And I LIKED Seroquel. Because it made me numb. It turned my brain off. And it made life so, so easy.

But it wasn’t enough. It will never be enough.

Now I realize that I may have been overmedicated for years. This last month I have slowly come out of the brain fog. My mind is sharper, and I’ve been reading more than ever (an activity I grew up loving and gave up out of the “laziness” of depression and overmedication).

I’m still on 200 mg of Seroquel, which is much less than the 600 mg I used to be on. I have decided that I will continue to withdraw from Seroquel (even though it may totally suck), and will continue taking Latuda at the dosage I’m taking now (40 mg – an average dosage). I may opt for an anti-anxiety to help me with the withdrawal symptoms.

But someday, I hope to completely rid myself of medication.

I finally made it into a therapist this past month (after a several months-long waiting list). I really like her so far and think she can help me. I also think that continuing to educate myself on cognitive behavioral therapy and other approaches will help.

CBT basically encourages you to change your thinking in order to change your feelings. You must challenge your negative thoughts and fight back. One thought that I struggle with in particular is: “I am stupid.” I have always been so self-conscious of my intellect for whatever reason. So now, whenever I think I am stupid, I fight the thought. I pose, “If I was so stupid, I wouldn’t have finished all these books this month.” “If I was so stupid, I wouldn’t be pursuing knowledge the way that I am.” That’s just one example of how I’m trying to change my thinking.

I’m also taking more time to get outside and appreciate nature. I’m not alone in that the outdoors are healing for me.

I also haven’t struggled as much with alcohol cravings this past month and my “cheating” dreams have decreased.

So… good things! Thanks to everyone for the support and love. It’s a long process, but I think I’m on my way to being well again.

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