My Story With Medication

Let’s talk about drugs. First and foremost:

  1. I AM NOT A DOCTOR NOR DO I CLAIM TO BE A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL.
  2. EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT WHAT DID NOT WORK FOR ME MAY WORK PERFECTLY FOR YOU AND VICE VERSA.
  3. MEDICATIONS TAKE PATIENCE, DO YOU REALIZE HOW RARE IT IS FOR SOMEONE TO HAVE A MENTAL ILLNESS, BE PRESCRIBED ONE MEDICATION, AND HAVE IT WORK PERFECTLY?!
  4. THERE IS NO MAGIC CURE FOR MENTAL ILLNESS, IT’S A FUCKING BITCH AND TAKES A LOT OF WORK. SO BE PATIENT AND LOVE YOURSELF.

I apologize for yelling. You have to understand that it is highly likely that if you walk the path of prescription medication you will most likely not find what works for you the first, second, or maybe even the third time. Be patient with yourself, and know when something isn’t right, it may be time to go back to the drawing board. I’ve been prescribed twelve different medications, and have finally found what works for me.

Although it’s a lot of fun to talk about illegal substances and the subsequent stories that result because of said drug use, I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air. Wait no…that took a turn. I would like to talk to you about my experience with prescription drugs. No, I’m not an expert, and everyone is different, but this is my story. Oh and let me issue a trigger warning, some of the stuff I talk about I was very addicted to so it may be difficult to read for those who are going through addiction / are in recovery.

The drugs I have been prescribed since I was 16:

  • Fluoxetine: More commonly known as Prozac. Fluoxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), used to treat Major Depressive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Panic Disorder. The way this medication works is still NOT FULLY UNDERSTOOD
  • Alprazolam: a benzodiazepine, more commonly known as: Xanax, bars, footballs, bricks, and zags. Used for the “treatment” of severe anxiety and panic disorders. Highly addictive.
  • Escitalopram: AKA: Lexapro. Another SSRI used for treating depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Venlafaxine XR: AKA: Effexor. This is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, so it’s classified as SNRI. Used to treat all the same shit as above.
  • Vyvanse: A central nervous system stimulant. Call it what you want, this is speed, it is “legal” speed. My best friend, and worst fucking enemy.
  • Olanzapine: Good old Zyprexa. Made of pure hellfire and brimstone, Zyprexa is an atypical antipsychotic, most commonly used to treat schizophrenia. NO, I am not schizophrenic; it’s a long story for another time. 
  • Bupropion XL: AKA: Wellbutrin. Depression / Anxiety (okay you get it)
  • Gabapentin: An anti-epileptic medication. People take this if they are prone to seizures, or if you were like me and didn’t trust your mailman because he was stealing your mail. I was extremely paranoid at this point in my life. This is used for “treatment resistant cases of anxiety and depression”
  • Pregabalin: Also called Lyrica (what a beautiful name for such a fucking stupid drug). Used to treat fibromyalgia. How pregabalin works IS NOT UNDERSTOOD. How the fuck is this a recurring theme? How are chemists just like “well we’re not sure how but it helps with anxiety…and back pain”, well guess what Brenda, it doesn’t.
  • Inderal: Or Used to treat tremors, heart pain (angina (hehe)), heart rhythm disorders, or used to prevent heart attacks. Basically, I was taking this in the hopes that it wouldn’t feel like I was dying whenever my anxiety would spike.
  • Modafanil: AKA Provigil. A drug that promotes wakefulness. Used to treat excessive sleepiness or NARCOLEPSY. I was taking this because the side effects from the other drugs were so intense that it felt like I had just taken horse tranquilizers, but we’ll talk about Ketamine at a later date. (No I wasn’t taking them at the same time, give me some credibility Jesus Christ)

Do you notice how ridiculous the drugs started getting? My psychiatrist was absolutely wonderful, but now looking back I can see how he was running out of treatment options. I mean…taking drugs used to treat: Schizophrenia, Epilepsy, Fibromyalgia, heart attacks and Narcolepsy in the hopes that it would reduce my panic attacks and depression is a tad bit, oh I don’t know, desperate? I think his next prescription may have just been lobotomy. By the way, at the height of my prescription drug use, I was taking five medications every day.

So I’m not going to go through each of these drugs and tell you what worked and what gave me horrible diarrhea (or were just terrible in general). I could, but it would literally be a 30-page thesis, and I don’t want to write that just as much as you don’t want to read it. What I am going to do is tell you warning signs for when some of these medications side effects were too much, or when they had run their course (i.e. my body decided to build up a tolerance and was unable to receive any benefits from the meds).

Let’s start with what it feels like to be blunted. This was my first experience with medication. For years I refused to take medication of any kind because prescription drugs were only for “crazy” people. But, after bi-weekly therapy appointments did nothing to keep depressive thoughts from rapping on my window at night, I decided I had to try something. I was sixteen, and the medication was Prozac. Please let me reiterate, I am not demonizing any of these medications, these are my experiences with them. Prozac was great for a while, it totally took away my thoughts of suicide and other depressive tendencies…and then it took away everything. This is what it means to be blunted. I felt no sadness, but I also forgot joy, happiness, excitement, and fear, basically anything that made me feel human. Call me crazy, but I would rather feel the lows and feel the highs than nothing at all. It’s actually this feeling that led me to run my car off the road, but that’s a story for another time.

I was prescribed benzodiazepines when I was 19 as a freshman at University. The drug I was given was Xanax. I was in love with Xanax. That may sound like a joke, but I view my past with addictive drugs like a relationship (Sort of a common theme amongst addicts). The beginning is beautiful, so full of hope, so promising, that finally, this was what you were always looking for, this will heal you. But soon the love you once felt from the drug isn’t enough and you need more, you’ll do anything you can to go back to the beginning, but now you’re trapped.

Some people can rely on Benzos from time to time to get them through really stressful times in their life, but for me it was between timid to Timbuktu. That’s a Kurt Vonnegut reference. In his book Sirens of Titan he explains that in small dictionaries every word between “timid” and “Timbuktu” has to do with time. Basically I was using Xanax all the fucking time. The thing with Benzos that you have to be watchful of is something I refer to as walking dead. I wish I had someone to tell me this before I started taking Xanax, because now I have very limited memory of my freshman year of college. Here was my routine:

  1. Wake up, take a bar of Xanax (2mg) and chug a Rockstar energy drink
  2. Go to class, have absolutely no ability to comprehend what was happening.
  3. Come back to my dorm and pass out for an hour
  4. Wake up, take another bar, chug another energy drink
  5. Grab some food at the cafeteria, chat with Brenda about how crazy it was that Professor Barbados was found naked in his office of the art department.
    1. Of course…this never actually happened, but at this point in my life it was difficult to differentiate the difference between what I had dreamt and reality.
  6. Go to class, and think to myself that I have lost the ability to understand human speech, only to realize I’m in French class.
  7. Come back to the dorm; take another half to a full bar, and drink a double espresso, before going to tennis practice. That’s right…I was on my university’s Varsity tennis team. Working out for three hours when you’re on that high of a dosage of Benzos feels sort of like a video game lag. Like, you go through the motions because you’ve done it so many times before so it’s engrained in your muscle memory, but your body feels like its been dunked into a vat of molasses.
  8. Go eat some sort of food, come back to the dorm, and pass out.
  9. Repeat

In the beginning, Xanax was my saving grace. I was finally able to go and do things! I was thrilled to not be afraid of EVERYTHING anymore! Things were great…until they were shit. I wasn’t human anymore. I guess 6-8 milligrams of Xanax will do that to you. I was running on autopilot, and had lost most of my cognitive ability, most of what made me, me. If you are taking benzos and you start to feel your memory slipping, realities becoming blurry, and that you’re a shell of your former self, please please please tell someone you need help.

I will write a full blog post on my experience with central nervous stimulants (and with Olanzapine, because trust me they deserve their own posts). I have some friends with actual ADD or ADHD who truly need and benefit from Adderrall, Vyvanse, Ritalin, whatever the fuck it is…I on the other hand was not one of these people. I manipulated the system and got a prescription for Vyvanse to help me in school. If you are thinking of doing this…don’t. Please, I am actually begging you…please don’t do it.

I’ve been prescribed a few different Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. And for me, they worked…for a while. I started feeling better, and then I went right back to how I was feeling before, or things escalated and I started to have really intense and invasive thoughts of suicide and self-harm. You know yourself better than any doctor will, if you feel like something is not right, the medication is not working the way it is supposed to, talk with whoever prescribed it to you. Sooner is always better.

For me, the number one complaint I had with medications was fatigue. I was always exhausted. Even when I was sober from benzodiazepines, even when I was taking stimulants (legal and illegal ones), I still felt like I weighed as much as a brown bear on a unicycle, and I was the unicycle. I like being active, I like getting shit done, so you can understand why it was so disheartening for me to sleep for twelve hours a day and still need to take a nap at some point. But here’s a secret, if you’re dealing with something similar, always feeling drained, there are options. If your doctor tells you “that’s just a side effect, make sure you get enough rest”, get a new fucking doctor. For years I would complain about fatigue and how debilitating it was, and I would hear the same calculated response “that’s normal with this drug.” Do not settle, everyone is different and reacts to medications differently. If you are patient, and your psychiatrist is willing to listen and work with you, you will find a treatment that makes you feel immensely better.

I know this because I’m proof of it. I’ve been on some sort of prescription since I was 16, and I still am. The difference is now I have boundless energy and my anxiety and depression is being managed (through medication, as well as multiple other treatment options like therapy and meditation). I mean I know I’m crazy, but now it’s in a “he’s a bit odd” sort of way and less so “nurse get me the injection” sort of way. I’m not going to tell you what I’m on now because this works for me, and you have to figure out what works for you. I know how frustrating it can feel, to feel completely powerless to the next prescription your psychiatrist will write for you in the hopes that this is the one, the one that finally makes you feel better. But trust me, it’s out there, and you won’t have to be on it forever.

Best of luck, and if you need anything, any sort of advice, feel free to send me a message. I’m always here to listen.

Much love & many adventures,

Wolfe