Mental illness update: new meds

I take SSRIs.  They keep me stable, but there are downsides.  For one, they make me fuzzy and easily distracted.  The best description I’ve ever heard is that it’s like thinking through cotton.  It makes it hard to quickly recall facts, it makes me slower to solve puzzles.  However, the benefit of not being controlled by my depression far outweighs the decrease in cognitive alacrity.

Today I spoke with my doctor about trying a med that will help me focus.  Christina takes Lexapro, the same SSRI that I take.  She combines it with Adderall to mitigate the mental slowness and the dip in motivation many experience when taking SSRIs.  Adderall is part of the stimulant family of treatments along with meds like Ritalin and Dexedrine.  They are far and away the most effective at combating ADD (and other things that cause loss of focus) and have the most research to confirm their effectiveness.

There’s a catch though: they’re all appetite suppressants.  So when I asked my doctor about trying Adderall or something along those lines I was immediately shot down.  You don’t prescribe an anorexic meds that make it harder to eat, it turns out.

Instead I got a prescription for Wellbutrin, which is a fourth-line method of treating attention deficit.  As far as I can tell, there’s one study suggesting it to be affective in adults[1].  In other studies, including much larger studies, Wellbutrin never reached statistical significance in terms of helping adults focus.  What’s more, my mother was once on Wellbutrin (to quit smoking) and was hugely allergic.  What’s more, I asked the pharmacist what the onset time was for Wellbutrin.  She began to tell me when my mood should change, so I asked her when it will begin helping me focus (stimulant meds work almost immediately, whereas saturation meds like Wellbutrin take a couple weeks).  She replied that she’d never heard of Wellbutrin being used for focus, so she had no idea how long it would take to feel those effects.

Awesome.  So I walked away with a med that has not shown itself to be effective at treating the symptoms I reported, that will take at least two weeks to feel out, and to which I have a higher risk of being allergic.  I don’t blame my doctor, I blame this fucking illness that forces me to live without my full use of my cerebral faculties just to stay alive and limits what my doctor can do to help make things better.  It just sucks that I’m taking a long-shot med when there are others that could help me almost instantly.  I just can’t take them because the same sickness for which I take SSRIs prohibits the use of the meds that could eliminate the downsides of the SSRIs.  I’m sure my doctor is doing what she thinks is best, and if this doesn’t work then we’ll try something else.  Even if this is the best way I can live, it’s a vast improvement from the alternative.

I just want my brain back in full.  I know I’ve come a long way, and I’m grateful for how much better life has become, but I still want to try and get closer to normal.  Maybe this will work.  Who knows?

Leave a hug.

 [1] Wilens TE, Haight BR, Horrigan JP, Hudziak JJ, Rosenthal NE, Connor DF, Hampton KD, Richard NE, Modell JG (2005). “Bupropion XL in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a randomized, placebo-controlled study”. Biol. Psychiatry 57 (7): 793–801.

For those of you new to my blog who don’t know about my mental illness, here are some posts to catch you up.

Full disclosure


Chronicles of a sick person

Sick though I am, I hold a cautious hope

Sometimes the monster gets loose

What to do with a malfunctioning brain?

Why the skeptic community must concern itself with mental illness

When normal activities are terrifying

In the care of insanity

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