looking for stories of meds or alterna-meds that helped you in ur brain
January 19, 2014 3:19 PM   Subscribe

hello world. I am having a pretty terrible time with my brain. Since lobotomies didn't end well, really, I am looking around for other options. Certainly I should get right on top of exercising, and meditating, yes.. I agree.. working on that.. do not think meds are the whole answer.. but hope that they sort of be a little crack in this whole moras, which might enable me to be able to.. do all the other things (eg exercise, meditate, take care of myself, be easier for others to be around, and for me to be around, etc.) ok.. more below the fold

I thought it would be good to query the hive mind and see if anyone had anything similar to my brain funk , and if they did, if there was a particular med or two that especially helped them. I know this isn't a very scientific approach, as all bodies are different and etc etc.. but sometimes *believing* a med can work is a huge part of it working (ie, if you don't, you might give up on taking it and on suffering through the side effects.. so you gotta believe, ya know?)

So here's what I'm struggling with..
I don't have the "obvious" sort of OCD, where you check door locks and the oven x times before leaving the house, etc, but I do have a lot of compulsive and obsessive behaviors. They seem to have compulsive qualities, probably could fit under generalized anxiety disorder, but..

Some examples:

-I move chairs in coffee shops until I have found just the right chair to table height ratio. I am trying to give myself some exposure therapy lately and just deal with too high tables. depending on my mood sometimes i can manage, but other times I become hyper conscious of discomfort and tiny pains, feel like i am sinking, etc, and give up.

-I have to bring everything with me into .. well, you name - it if i am working, I'll carry 20 pounds of stuff into the library or coffee shop just so i can have every single possible thing i might possibly need

-I can't just close tabs, I have to bookmark everyone. but i can't just bookmark them in one place, I have to bookmark them on my browser and in gmarks. before google reader went the way of the dodo, if it was a blog, i had to bookmark it in two places, and add it to google reader.

-I am extremely anxious about forgetting things, so I tend to drag them with me in the car. If I repack, my car can accommodate 1 passenger, but that's about it, the rest is full of stuff.

-if I am going away from my home for several days, which I have a lot lately, it can take me between 3-5 hours to pack.. I have to bring everything in case I have time to work on anything. Then the packing process involves a lot of steps, like looking at each piece of paper. Walking around the room and not being able to find things, getting anxious about not being able to find things, looking for a piece of paper, forgetting what i was doing, remembering what i was doing, writing "find x" and some other items on the piece of paper. This looks like ADD but I think it might as much be anxiety. I get so anxious about losing things , or about a lost thing, that I have physiological symptoms.

-huge amount of anxiety around starting work. Right now I am doing very self directed work from home and a lot of it is not very straightforward. I have a huge backlog because of procrastination. starting is very difficult because it seems like "not enough." The absence of co-workers around means I try to read the how-tos they have written for different tasks. They are not very straightforward or thoroughly written, so often I have questions. But I can spend 5-10 minutes phrasing a question in email or IM. Often, I get overwhelmed by worry that I am asking the wrong question and give up. Other times i do ask, but due to shame about not already knowing (see "behind on work"; feel in-the-dog-house and guilty about this), by the time i ask, I have spent half an hour trying to figure it out myself (sometimes it can't be figured with out more info..)

-have become completely aversive to writing email (unless it's someone i've known a long time who has a simple question), and checking it. Haven't really used facebook since 2010, for many reasons - I can take 10 minutes to reply to a comment, I get overwhelmed by emotions (often negative ones involving regret) looking at people, even on a good (not emotionally all over the place) day I can lose hours to procrastination on there, so I stopped going, mostly.

-even text messages (the kind that require an urgent response), if they involve decision making, take me 10-20 minutes to reply to.

-i generally over think everything. I over edit and obsess and start and don't finish forum posts, so .. i'm not going to edit this one too much. and it's too long. you , reader, are a PEACH, for bearing with.

-decision making is almost impossible. I am wracked with anxiety that whatever I choose, will be the wrong thing. One looming decision requires looking for an apartment a few states away. I am so worried about finding the perfect place, I have spent easily an entire months rent in driving there to look at places, and still have not chosen.

-The compulsions around stuff and needing it near by (or needing not to get rid of it -- I have a couple of storage units), and the obsessive quality of the indecision, seem a little ocd.

-probably even without all the anxiety and depression I would still be a "highly sensitive person" .. I experience a lot of mood liability and it is exhausting. I am able to hide it to a certain extant but in intimate relationships it gets hard. My anxiety and constant doubting of my own perspective make it very hard to know what's happing in emotionally charged interpersonal relationships -- am I over reacting? yes! I'm always over-reacting. it must always be me! wait. it can't alwayyyyys be me, it's just mostly me. wait, why can't i wait 5 seconds before reacting? why am i so irritable? wtf is wrong with me? ahhhhhhhhhh. (those 5 seconds are another thing I am hoping a med could help, even if it just helps for a minute and then wears off, the minute might allow me to get some other tools and systems better in place.) The highly sensitive stuff might be related to some things that went down when I was a kid.. which is to say.. maybe more P-little-t-SD.

-I could go on an on. I don't think it is only OCD. It seems like all these things.. I think it is more like OCD + atypical depression + anxiety. Many have told me it is ADD but I think most of those symptoms and deficits in executive function (which i definitely have!) can be attributed to persistant depression and anxiety. This has been going on a loooong time, to varying degrees and with varying levels of severity, but if neuro plasticity works in both directions, well.. there are some brain things that need to be undone/redone, neuroplastic-wise. I just need to find some kind of a crack or way in to having slightly less intense emotions and anxiety...

In a certain way, the diagnosis doesn't matter so much. I am just here hoping for stories of what has worked for people. I can't tolerate zoloft, but a friend told me it worked for her for about 6 months.. she was able to write papers, and be with people with mmuuuuchhh less social anxiety, she stopped worrying about leaving the stove on. She got a bit better, stopped taking it. tried it again a few years later and it didn't work at all.

What have I tried already? a heap of SSRIs. none at a super maxed out dose. off an on for 15 years. I never really thought they were doing much of anything. Then recently, after not being on one for a while, I went back on prozac and really felt the apathetic/indifferent thing at 20mg starting dose. now I'm slowly titrating up at 5 mg intervals of prozac, but to be honest.. i don't have a huge amount of hope for it, given that it, and it's brethren, in the past, were never anything I even noticed making a difference. AND given that this last time I tried it the fatigue and apathy / indifference stuff freaked me right out.

Also I have been on stimulants. They help, sometimes (this post brought to you by adderall-- can you tell by how many sentences it has?! ) , and when they do, it has been, on a few occasions, great (wow! this is what it feels like to be normal!? to answer 6 emails in a row!?)

They are fickle friends, though... I notice personality changes I dont like. And, they seem very very quickly to stop working (I guess I develop tolerance) to help me concentrate, and instead just leave me with faster anxious thoughts, headaches, and then WOW crash .. really big crash as they wear off, and a feeling of total depletion after taking them for a few days and then not taking them. I have tried IR and XR... dexedrine, ritalin, adderal.

So what I haven't tried is mood stabalizers, anti-psychotics, anti-elleptics .. if any mefites related to the above symptoms, did you get any recovery from some combination? I don't mean TOTAL recovery -- I truly think that is more complicated -- but a little crack that let some light in that helped you find your way to better habits (exercise, meditation, having enough space between action and reaction to use dbt or cbt stuff. Did supplements help (i've just started a bunch but i'll leave that story out for now because this is insanely long) help? Psylocybin? etc..

A million thanks if you've stayed with me this far, and in advance a million more thanks for sharing your thoughts/ stories / experiences. really.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You need to find a good psychiatrist and present all this information to them. If you're taking these medications without a prescription, find a psychiatrist immediately to start sorting all this out. If you're taking these medications on a prescription from someone who is not a psychiatrist, then find a psychiatrist soon to start sorting all this out.

If you're taking this medication on a prescription from a psychiatrist and you don't feel comfortable asking any of these questions, then find a new psychiatrist.

I realize that not all psychiatric symptoms can be totally controlled by psychiatric medication, and that many times patients need to try a bunch of different things, but I'm a bit concerned by the way you seem to be in control of not only which medications you want to try but even which classes of medication.
posted by jaguar at 3:52 PM on January 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Seconding the psychiatrist. There's a lot of anxiety obviously revolving around all this that appears to be making things worse, and might possibly be confusing the issues. Get thee to an MD that can help you figure these things out.

And work on that exercise and meditation that you know is going to help. When I follow through with this, it works every. damn. time. Otherwise, I just am shooting myself in the foot to rely solely on my meds.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:14 PM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

ADD and depression/anxiety are good friends. Adderall also has the known effect of increasing anxiety, which can be in some ways ameliorated by taking it with something like Inderal.

I'm concerned as well, though, that it sounds like you're handling these medications yourself. Yes, I'm aware there are ways to get them without a doctor, but if you've got serious ongoing issues, you shouldn't even be trusting prescriptions from a GP, you should be seeing an actual psychiatrist. Among other things, if you have signs of anxiety problems, you should be seeing a doctor who tells you about these interactions ahead of time and warns you of what to expect, etc. (And if Adderall is making you that wired, you should not be taking that much Adderall--you've gone past the sweet spot if there was one.)

But more than that, I think that it sounds like you've got the sort of problems that need a therapist. Not forever, just the sort of arrangement where you go once a week or every other--make a commitment to it for three months or six, it takes a bit to start really seeing an impact. Medications can help fix your brain but they cannot fix your thinking. One is generally not useful without the other. If you are recovering from past trauma, no matter how big a deal you think it is, this is doubly, triply true.
posted by Sequence at 4:36 PM on January 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't have the "obvious" sort of OCD

Oh hon.

You are so thoroughly in "see a doctor, like, yesterday" territory.

Given the wild variety of drugs you say you've been trying, with no mention of any oversight or of any actual diagnosis other than random self-applied (and occasionally self-contradictory) labels, I'm going to go waaaay out on a limb and assume that you're getting these extralegally, or else from a doctor who is so completely irresponsible that you may as well just be buying them on the street.

You need to see a doctor. A real doctor, not just a "here are some pills" doctor, one who will first make a diagnosis of what's going on with you, prescribe appropriate meds for that diagnosis, and will track your response to them and make adjustments as needed.

And be honest with that doctor about what you've been taking, and how much, and how often, and for how long. You've mentioned so many different meds of such different types (and in a pattern of abuse, not of responsible use -- wired and buzzed leading to big crash is exactly what NOT to do with Adderall) that it's virtually certain they're contributing to your current issues, if not causing them outright. Psychiatric meds are not "try a handful at random (or at the suggestion of random internet people) and see what happens".

See a real psychiatric doctor. Yesterday if not sooner.
posted by ook at 4:50 PM on January 19, 2014 [10 favorites]

It seems you are looking for the magic pill that will make it easier for you to exercise, meditate, practise good sleep hygiene, overcome your anxiety and generally just kick you in the butt to get moving. I don't think there is such a pil. Medication can be a huge help in addition to all the things you should be doing to look after yourself. I agree you need a psychiatrist to help manage your meds in a professional way, and a therapist to help you with coping skills and holding you accountable to yourself in doing all the other parts of keeping yourself healthy and stable. Good luck, it is a long, slow road but it will pay off in a healthier, happier life of your choosing.
posted by saucysault at 4:55 PM on January 19, 2014

nthing the psychiatrist. You need one right now. Print out this post and take it with you to your first session.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:12 PM on January 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't see any mention of having tried any benzodiazepines in your list of failed medications? When I was at my worst in paralyzing anxiety, 1mg/night of clonazepam (Klonopin) was a miracle drug for me.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:17 PM on January 19, 2014

I was going to suggest clonazepam too. I take 1mg at night. It makes all the difference in the world for my anxiety.
posted by JujuB at 6:34 PM on January 19, 2014

Rigorous exercise is supposed to help with attention, anxiety, and depression, so if you can get yourself to do it, that would hit the trifecta.

Have you had full bloodwork? If you're low on things like vitamin d3, vitamin b12, your brain will feel better with supplementation. If your thyroid is off, that will also have mood symptoms.

What is your perception of your sleep? Are you sleepy during the day? If you've got an diagnosed sleep disorder, that creates anxiety as well. Once again, you'll need to see a doctor to screen for whether or not a sleep study is appropriate.
posted by blue suede stockings at 7:50 PM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

doh! I didn't say I was seeing Dr.s.. Apologies for that, and your keystrokes. It's really good advice, tho - so good in fact that I'm already following it !

Thank goodness. I've actually been worrying about you since I saw the question.

Have you been evaluated for Bipolar Disorder? It often goes undiagnosed because people with the disorder find the periods of depression bothering, but either don't notice or don't want to report periods of mania or hypomania. Given that you say you haven't been on mood stabilizers, anti-epileptics, or anti-psychotics, I'm assuming you either haven't been evaluated for mania/hypomania or else it's been ruled out, but your anxiety, your phrasing of the question, and your immediate worry that you'll be "indifferent" on SSRIs make me wonder if Bipolar Disorder is in play. If you and your psychiatrist haven't talked about it in the past, I would suggest bringing it up with them.
posted by jaguar at 8:14 PM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

My understanding is that clonazepam works better as a preventative (something you take a regular dose of every day) than as a reactive drug to a particular episode of anxiety (Xanax is better for the latter).

The best way I found to prevent Adderall crashes was to take half the dose more frequently with food. I couldn't afford the extended release but taking half an immediate release pill with a snack every 3 hours produced an extended release type effect.

Set recurring daily alarms on your phones to remind you when to take your meds. I think not skipping doses and taking them at regular intervals could help even you out a lot, based on my own experience of initially taking meds only when I remembered vs. later taking them on a rigid schedule once I'd set up a system of reminders.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:19 PM on January 19, 2014

Phew! Very relieved to hear that you are seeing doctors -- sorry I drew the wrong conclusion, but to write that many words and not mention that fact, plus the "this post brought to you by me being on drugs!" style of writing, plus the I-assume-joking mention of psilocybin, you maybe understand how I got there...?

I think this question would best be addressed to your doctor, then, not us. We could throw out dartboard guesses here but that's all they're going to be, and I'm not sure more armchair diagnoses are really going to be helpful to you.

One thing that helped my doctor and I narrow down the appropriate meds for me was gathering as much hard data as possible. Instead of going to my appointment with a vague "I feel better I guess," I had a printout of the scale-of-1-to-10-how-am-I-feeling-right-now records I'd been keeping three times a day, so we could really see the effects (or lack thereof) of any given drug; it really cut down on the whole trial-and-error thing (which I agree can be very frustrating.) Something like that, plus actively engaging with your doctor when you feel something isn't working or a diagnosis doesn't seem to fit (such as the ADD thing) might be helpful for you.
posted by ook at 5:29 AM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I certainly didn't mean to imply anything horrible. People with ADD have a strong habit of acquiring some kind of chemical support in any way they can even when they don't have access to doctors, because otherwise functioning is so difficult. Like, we're much more inclined to become smokers. (I'm not a smoker and I self-medicated with nicotine patches when I had deadlines. I don't really recommend this, they're expensive.) Some people don't see the doctor as being particularly important as long as they've got what they need, but it is--and I'm glad you've got one!

But yeah, you probably do need to tweak doses at the very least. I agree with Jacqueline: You can mimic the extended release by taking halves an hour apart or something. Even beyond that, the great thing about the IR is that it is totally okay to take half a pill, generally, if that makes you feel better. I reiterate that the tone of this post does indicate that your dosage is a bit high but I've had those days myself. And reiterating: Get them to give you an Inderal scrip to try with it. It's non-addictive and all it really does is take the anxiety-producing edge off the stimulant. My first pdoc did not tell me about this option and it has been amazingly good for me. If you do that and it still feels like suck, yeah, probably time to give up the stimulants.

As far as already seeing a therapist, you might just need a different therapist. I had to go through several before I found someone who really helped. CBT has been very important to me, but YMMV.
posted by Sequence at 6:40 AM on January 20, 2014

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