I’m coming off the Lamotrigine. I’ve really had it decided for a while now. The question is when, not if. I haven’t exactly had a lot of support for doing this. And there are not a lot of people whose opinions I fully trust anyway. Meds are a tricky subject when it comes to mental illness and people have strong views on them. Those opinions are hard to get past and I really want somebody to view my use of meds through the lens of me.
So I spoke to the person I trust to give his unvarnished opinion without being biased either way, and the person who knows me best in the whole world – my dad. Obviously he does have a biased opinion, he loves me and worries about me and he loves and worries about hubby. But he knows how to get to the root of my thoughts and motivations.
I know my motives are blurry. Part of me wonders if I was really ill in the first place. It’s easy to forget, for memories to become blurred. It’s easy to belittle any distress or suffering I experienced because I’m surrounded by friends online with far more severe conditions than mine. It’s easy to blame any mental fucked-upness on the meds, I’ve been on about fifteen in three years, who wouldn’t have been screwed over by that? And it’s hard to attribute my current stability with confidence on the Lamotrigine – what if I would have got better anyway? It’s a slow acting drug, it took nine months for it to become effective, how on earth can it be given all the credit?
Those questions are definitely in the background of my mind, but after talking to my dad I have realised I have two main reasons for getting off this drug: Weight and flatness. Weight first. I’ve gained five stone since I started Lamotrigine. I don’t care how many people tell me it is weight neutral, I steadily gained weight from the moment I started it. Two weeks before I took the first pill, I had a bridesmaid dress fitting. Throughout the next eight months I had to tell my friend three times that I needed a bigger size. The last time was a nightmare, the company only had one left in stock! I have lost some weight recently, probably through stress, and I know I should be exercising purely for my fitness levels and to give my flippy-out heart a helping hand, but there’s this voice in my head whispering all the time… why should I be on a fat-making drug when I’m not sure I even need it anyway?
So now we come onto the flatness. I want my spark back. I’m not saying I want my highs back, although I do miss them. That’s why a lot of people tell me not to come off meds. That’s so Bipolar! is generally the refrain. When I got hauled in for an appointment with a nurse at the beginning of the year she looked at me suspiciously – Are you still on your meds? Are you planning on staying on your meds? We have to check, you know, people with Bipolar are renowned for coming off them.
But it’s not that. I am just sick of being flattened out. I’m noticing it more and more. There could be a whole bunch of stuff to blame – I’m really tired most of the time, I’m fed up of studying, it’s monsoon season in the UK. But maybe it’s the meds, and I want off to know either way.
So why now? Why am I feeling such an urge to come off now? It’s the dissertation, of course it is. I want to be able to give my all, I want to not be slow. If I come off now I could have some spark back by the time I take three weeks off work to write the damn thing. I can’t stand the thought of regretting anything about this degree. I want to know I’ve done absolutely everything in my power to achieve the best I can. And I can’t get it out of my head that this medication is standing in the way of that, like a fence I can’t climb over.
There’s a big risk, of course there is. My dad asked me about that yesterday. If things go tits up what is the chance of regaining stability quickly? I don’t know the answer to that, I really don’t. Hopefully if I catch it early enough then I’ll be back on track before too long. If I left it then I could be in deeper shit. But there’s no guarantee. And it’s bad timing if things do go tits up. Don’t want to screw the dissertation over, do I. Also, new job. Let’s not make a mess of that. So yeah, I should wait. It was always the plan to wait. Get the MA out of the way, wait for the inevitable anti-climactic crash after to pass and then wean myself off. I don’t want to wait though, I feel a strong sense that I have to get off now.
Dad’s advice: Get in contact with my GP. I trust her and she trusts me. She’s part time so I often have to wait ages for an appointment but maybe I could email her and get her views that way. Don’t do anything until I have that advice. Then reassess after I’ve spoken to her.
Right-oh. No binning any tablets just yet then. I guess the main thing to realise is that my motivations, my thoughts and my memories are fuzzy. I’m not someone who discounts the value of meds. I don’t believe that people should come off them whenever they feel like it, sometimes that is downright irresponsible, not just for them but for those that love them. But maybe, after a sustained period of stability, it is possible to try and go it alone. And I doubt there’s ever going to be a perfect time to do that, or that I will ever have completely pure motives for coming to this decision. I usually trust my gut instincts but for now I’m not going to act on them rashly. GP first. Decision later.