Reaction: Developing Stevens Johnson Syndrome with Lamictal

After receiving a diagnosis of Bipolar 2 disorder in February, I’ve had to completely switch up my medications. I’ve been on varying anti-depressants for a few years as my main course of treatment for my former diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder. These medications do not typically work for people with Bipolar Disorder. A general course of treatment includes mood stabilizers, and the first one I was assigned was Lamictal.

With Lamictal, you have to start at a small dosage and gradually work your way up because there is a very rare chance you can develop a seriously condition known as Stevens Johnson Syndrome which is basically an allergic reaction to the medication.

I didn’t have any issues with this – at first.

I came down with a late spring cold, that I was certain turned into an ear infection because I began experiencing terrible vertigo. I went in to get an antibiotic, but no infection was found. I was given Prednisone for an inner ear inflammation, and sent home none the wiser. PSA: DO NOT TAKE STEROIDS IF YOU’RE BIPOLAR.

I had a  h o r r i f y i n g series of mental breakdowns and panic attacks because of the Prednisone. OH and in addition to my terrible experience with Prednisone, I also weaned off my long time NSRI, Effexor. This caused me to go through a period of withdrawals that someone compared to what a person addicted to a hard recreational drug would experience.

On top of all of that. I unknowingly increased my dosage of Lamictal by 150mg a day. I thought I had 100mg pills in my latest prescription bottle, but alas, they were 150mg. So instead of taking 300mg a day like I was supposed to, I was giving myself 450mg. I didn’t realize it until my husband got my meds one day and brought it to my attention. This heightened my withdrawal symptoms, and caused my vertigo, flu-like, malaise cocktail of symptoms.

I immediately dropped back down to 300mg after this discovery, BUT one day, without thinking, I served myself 450mg by accident.

This caused the worst allergic reaction I’ve ever had. I watched as my thighs and right arm became dotted with purple spots called a petechial rash. Every part of my body itched like I was covered with fire ants. My face, lips, and tongue constantly tingled. I was so dizzy that I could barely walk straight. My right eye became watery, swollen, and very red. My left eye wasn’t much better. My throat was scratchy and sore. I had blisters on the back of my right hand.

I felt awful.

I spent about 3 days like this before I remembered that Lamictal can cause symptoms like this. I contacted my practitioner who diagnosed me with Stevens Johnson Syndrome and advised me to stop taking Lamictal immediately and to load up on Benadryl. She said that normally she would prescribe a steroid for a reaction like this, but since I had such a scary reaction to one, I would just have to rely on antihistamines. If those didn’t work, then I would have to batten down the hatches and take another steroid.

Thankfully, Benadryl helped tremendously. I had to increase my dosage of Latuda since coming off of Lamictal which has since caused ANOTHER reaction that I will talk about tomorrow.

Looking back at what I’ve been through not only since the first of the year, but just over the last month and a half moves me to complete gratefulness because I couldn’t have pulled through this as well as I have without help from God. I’m still in a daily struggle to just move forward, but He gives what I need as I need it.

Have you had bad reactions to any medications you’ve been on?

VERSE OF THE MONTH: JUNE 2017

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At the first of every month, I’m going to begin posting a verse of the month. For June, I’ve chosen Isaiah 60:1.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

June ushers in the second half of the year. The first half of my year has been shadowed with a dark cloud brought on by  a new mental health diagnosis, and the rocky path that comes with changing medications. I’ve found myself in places that were pitch black with hopelessness and despair.

In the previous chapter, Isaiah 59, there is a thick darkness that is described. Darkness is for slumber, worry, and fear. The light is for awakening, and when it comes upon us, we must respond by rising up.

The illuminating glory that comes from the Lord is what washes over you because He has caused His face to shine upon you for both your redemption and for others to see the salvation He has brought to you.

June is my month for rising up, and I believe it is for many of you as well. When the darkness creeps up on you, remind yourself that “your light has come,” and that light will always overcome the darkness.

Happy June, friends!

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Withdrawal: An Unexpected Drug Addiction

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I’ve been radio silent for several days because I’ve felt like hell, and I’ve been catching up on some Zzz’s and spending a little more time with my family.

I want to say that I know nothing about recreational drugs. I’ve went to precisely two parties in college where there were a few people standing outside smoking weed, and those few people didn’t include me. I didn’t even get drunk at any of the college parties that I went to except for the one time I became pretty tipsy after taking a big shot of peppermint schnapps, which I immediately regretted, not because of any convictions but because it set my esophagus on f i r e.

I only know that you can snort cocaine because of the term “booger sugar” (my husband is giggling like a 7th grader as he reads this). I once had a conversation with a friend about some of her friends who got slipped some sort of drug that was laced with something, and I said something to the effect of “Maybe it was laced with LCD.” I quickly remembered (5 minutes later) that it was LSD not LCD.

After stating all of that, you can guess that I’ve never done recreational drugs or even smoked a cigarette (I detest smoking).

However, when it comes to prescription drugs, I can rattle off things about Xanax, Valium, Ativan, anti-depressants, anti-convulsants, hypnotics, and so on. I’m privy to this knowledge because I’ve taken several medications from all of this classes at some point of another.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I was on a medication for several months before it stopped working, and I dropped into a dramatic depressive state. Well, in that last month, I was weaned off of that medication. I did it over the course of two weeks.

This med is called Effexor, and my psyche professional wanted me to come off of it (I was at the max dosage) because it was causing me not to sleep and not to even miss it. Of course, sleep deprivation always catches up to me, and the depression sneaks up from behind me and pulls me under.

After weaning off of the Effexor, I started having horrible physical reactions. My neck stiffened, I had unbearable headaches, nausea that made me throw up, and insane vertigo.

This is when I went to the doctor thinking I had a bad ear infection. I didn’t and was diagnosed with an inner ear inflammation due to allergies. Predisone was prescribed which sent me into a wild manic state followed by a quick and furious drop. It was truly the worst mood shift I’ve EVER had.

The vertigo persisted as did all of the other physical symptoms. My anxiety also shot through the roof because of this. Another doctors visit ended with a referral for an MRI. I didn’t go in for that because I didn’t want to spend the money.

My husband called my psyche practitioner because he was worried about me. She told him that it sounded like withdrawals from the Effexor. She sent in a prescription for the lowest dosage of it to reintroduce into my system.

I also realized that I had been taking 150mg more of one of my mood stabilizers that I was supposed to which also contributed to the horrific side effects.

After sorting out these issues, I’m starting to physically feel better and mentally blunted. My moods were highly unstable, but now they are way more even.

After dealing with all of these withdrawal symptoms, I have an even deeper compassion for those who go through DTs from stronger drugs. What I went through was minimal compared to what they must grow through, yet I felt like I was literally going to die some nights.

The one thing that I’ve been clinging to through the many downs that I’ve experienced over the last few weeks is the verse Psalm 56:3:

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” 

Repeating this over and over in my mind or aloud has slowed my heart rate, slowed the racing thoughts, and stopped the throbbing in my temples.

I one day further in my healing process.

Until next time, friends!

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Just to Clear Things Up

WE DO NOT HAVE A VIOLENT RELATIONSHIP.

Whilst writing my last post, I didn’t fully consider how it may come across to some people as I recorded what happened between my husband and I.

I’ll say this once: WE DO NOT HAVE A VIOLENT RELATIONSHIP.

My husband told me that I wasn’t “going anywhere,” because he didn’t know if he’d see me again if I left.

I’m perfectly free to come and go from our home as I please, so long as I’m not having an extremely low depressive episode – because, ya know, the suicidality can be strong with me during those times.

My reaction was to get away because I didn’t want my family to see me in that awful state, I guess. I don’t fully know what was going through my mind at that point.

All I know is that I was determined to go. That’s why my husband wouldn’t let me past him, that’s why I pathetically swung my purse at him a couple of times (I’m the size of a middle schooler, so there’s that).

He didn’t tackle me, throw me over his shoulder, or body slam me onto our couch.

He just picked me up and sat me down.

That entire interaction probably took place over the course of 35 seconds.

I only write this because some people have been asking him if we’re OK.

WE are fine.

Anyone who knows what it’s like to struggle through mental illness or have a loved one who does more than likely gets it.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, I have been given his love, and it’s been God’s way of tangibly saving my life.

So, to the clear the air, this doesn’t happen (honestly, I don’t think anything like this has ever happened) regularly, we spend a lot of our time laughing, we kiss our kids at least 5,000 times a day, and we generally have a really good time.

I’m not an unstable person 99% of the time.

I was given a medication that has been reported to be incredibly dangerous when mixed with bipolar disorder and mood stabilizers.

I just weaned off a medication that sent me into a full blown manic state on top of all of this.

Sunday had all of the ingredients to produce a perfect storm.

I’m actually feeling tons better.

It took me about two days to get my legs back under me.

I feel like I’m back to normal.

Thanks for your concern, though.

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Falling: from mania to depression

Native as the Mountain Laurel that brushes against my arms, my roots press through years of shed foliage, decaying fungi, and limitless ecosystems to burst through the rock below in search of a fresh water source to replenish and fight off a nasty blight that is trying to penetrate its way into the most fertile part of the soil that surrounds me.

Growing up in the mountains has given me an edge, a rigidity similar to the giant conifers that regally stand guard beneath the often craggy peaks in our range.

On more than one occasion I have had the strength and unquenchable desire to see the world below from the grand peaks towering over me.

I’ve ran several trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains over the years, and the trail I love the most winds up to the top of the highest peak this side of the Mississippi River.

The rocky steps are uncountable, and many parts are painfully steep, caked in mud, and difficult to climb. However, once you get to the top and your breath is taken, the struggle to the top fades as you see some clouds above and below.

The green mountains rolling into blue, while the nipping air kisses your face is a welcome reprieve from the sweat inducing, muscle straining, knee wrenching difficulty from the run up the trail.

Sitting in a rocky cleft, drinking luke warm water, I look down to see an unpigmented, long white feather. The vane was strong as was the hollow quill, and I couldn’t keep from picking it up.

Twirling it in my fingers, I ponder about which bird it may have come from, how people used feathers as embellishments on clothing, and how difficult it must’ve been to use a quill pen.

Holding it between my index finger and thumb in contrast against the mountains below me, an upward gust of wind came and ripped it away. I watch for a moment as it rolls upward into the sky then out of view.

This is my cue to leave as the winds are starting to pick up. I make it down several steep parts with a few more to go. Then it happens.

A root from an overly large oak grabs my Nike, uprooting me face over toes rolling and bouncing me down this last steep descent of this trail.

Crickets chirping in my right ear pushed me to open my eyes as the iron odor of blood oozing from my forehead makes its way down the bridge of my nose.

I try to move my head, but with every micrometer of movement, I could sense the cracks in my skull couldn’t withstand any extra pressure if it was going to hold itself together.

Out of the corner of my eye, falling from twilight sky peaking through tall canopy, as graceful as a dancer, spinning faster and faster and faster until it meets its final resting place on my fractured skull.

That white feather I adored on top of the mountain carried just enough weight on impact to issue the final blow to my cracked cranium, crumbling beneath its soft yet firm beauty.

Sunday’s finale.

____________________

The last two weeks of weaning off one of many failed anti-depressants threw me quickly above the clouds where views are clear and winds effortlessly allow me to soar.

Full blown mania is euphoric.

For those of you who aren’t quite familiar with mania, it’s kind of like having a tired, depressed, and neurotic friend put on a coat and suddenly become the life of the party with rapid conversations, severely increased energy, and impulses to do things that they would never do while in a normal state.

I would never describe myself as a high energy person. I would never describe myself as hyper. I would never describe myself as a fast talker. I would never have impulses to do things that could be potentially hurtful to myself and others…

Except for when I’m manic.

Now that I know what it is, I can call it out and map out my symptoms while realizing what is truly me and what is being caused by my manic state.

I texted my cousin with a funny meme, and the caption “What up, mania!” Because she knows. Gets it.

While the manic state feels great, I know enough about my biological patterns to know that there will be a steep, bloody fall.

After 20 hours of sleep over the course of nearly two weeks (you should get about 112 hours over this amount of time), a bout with a double ear infection/inflammation thing which I was given Prednisone by a very inexperienced and unknowing PA  (I just learned that Prednisone can cause strong symptoms of mania or other complications with people who are on anti-depressants,) and an ever present realization that I still haven’t found any sort of medication to make me feel better; caused the chirping, stridulating voices to circulate in my mind.

“The only things that you’re good at is messing things up.”

“You are ruining your family’s lives.”

“You literally have nothing to offer the world.”

“You are such a screw up, and everyone feels that way.”

“You’re the literal worst.”

Crash.

Scrape.

Land.

One problem as light as a feather caused those beliefs to shatter everything in my mind with a chaotic chorus singing louder by the second.

After making it home from church, I had already chewed down a couple of anti-anxiety meds, and was hoping to just collapse in bed.

My hands were shaking as those aforementioned beliefs echoed in unison. Trying  to open my rice pudding, when my husband came over to hug me and see if I was alright.

“I’m fine. I’m just sorry that I constantly screw up things for everyone. I’m just tired of being a burden and a nuisance – a ruiner. “

Since my husband isn’t a cruel hearted human being, he told that what I was believing wasn’t true and yada yada yada.

The rage flew up inside of me as I came to the realization that I couldn’t think of one thing that I wasn’t destroying in some way or another.

Still struggling to open my rice pudding, the slight frustration from that and the overflowing self-hatred; I could no longer contain myself.

Stomping out of the kitchen, screaming, “I’m so sick of being such a screw up – for messing up EVERYTHING!!!” The rice pudding met the wall in our stairwell with the same force that carried my voice three houses down. I turned and grabbed my purse, swung open the front door nearly unhinging it.

I don’t know where I was going to go, or what I was going to do, but I was leaving.

No keys.

At this point my husband had come out, and I told him that I didn’t have my keys because they were still inside.

I got to the porch and he said that I wasn’t going anywhere. I cracked the door open enough to grab my keys, and turned with the determination to plow through him.

He’s got quite a few inches and pounds on me, but I put up a good fight. He wouldn’t let me get past him even though I was screaming something to the effect of “I’m leaving. I can’t be here anymore.” Oh, and was hitting him over and over again with my purse so he would let me go.

Finally he just picked me up and put me down on the couch where I just laid wailing because of the overflow of pain that was oozing out of me.

The worst part was seeing my kids, sitting at the table with their lunch in front of them, bawling almost as hard as I was.

I started gagging, and had to make it to the bathroom in case I was going to vomit. I laid on the bathroom floor repetitively saying “I’m sorry, babies. Mommy loves you.”

Finally finding the strength to get off the floor, I went to them, wrapped my arms around them and cried: “I’m so sorry. This is not your fault. Mommy loves you more than anything.”

I sobbed repetitively, as they looked down silently with disbelief and terror.

My husband blocking the front door, left me with the option to crawl upstairs. I made it to my bedroom floor where I buried my face deep into the carpet and wept for my children.

Getting mad at God, I sprang to my knees and screamed “Do you even hear me?”

Back on my face I kept saying “My kids don’t deserve this. Please let them forget this. Please don’t let them be screwed up because of me.

Please don’t let them remember me.

There it was.

I didn’t care if I ever got up off that floor and hoped I could just stop breathing. However, I most certainly didn’t want my children to have to have a lifetime of dealing with me and my instability.

My eyes cracked open to see my husband.

With shredded vocal cords, I muttered “Please just take the kids and leave. They can’t be around this.”

My mom whisked the kids away from the disaster, and I only remember my husband getting me in bed and out of the tangled, strangling clothing that were less like a tourniquet than they were a dirty cast pitifully holding my deteriorating body and soul together.

I apparently took some old sleep pills, and fell face over toes to sleep.

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You don’t bounce back in a mere day after losing complete balance and bouncing down from rock to rock to finally rock bottom.

I think it’s only fitting that my 30th post in my 30 POST TRUTH CHALLENGE would be one wrought with pain and injury.

To be honest, I feel like I’m back to day one.

I’ve fallen.

Fallen forward.

Roots ripped and exposed to the cool air.

Fortunately, it’s difficult to completely remove every single root, no matter how tiny, from the ground they’ve broken through.

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Thanks for seeing my journey. For the tears you’ve shed as you relate your own falling downs to mine. For sharing your bleeding hearts and bruised minds, and for allowing me to see that little shine of hope that for some has been buried in the sediment of years of pain and under a steady brook of tears and sweat.

Let’s keep going, shall we?

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To Those Who’ve Supported Me and Shared Their Journey With Me: This is For You.

Thank You​​​​
I’m not a big fan of vlogs (sorry, vloggers), and this is because I communicate best through my keyboard.

However, some things cannot be conveyed through written words. Therefore, I wanted to say a big thank you (be sure to click on the link) to those of you who’ve read my journey, more importantly, shared pieces of your journey with me.

I’ve been incredibly humbled and honored more than I can ever express.

Love you all! 

The Wreckage: Picking Up the Pieces Left By PTSD

I literally feel like my brain was totaled along with my car that day.

PTSD.

Turning onto the interstate for the 1,000th time since I started driving, a blaring noise came from behind.

Slowly, I watched as my friend’s body was thrown up against the side of her door similar to a doll being thrown against a wall as my car was spun to the other side of the road.

Looking behind me, I saw the trunk of my car almost completely in my backseat.

My door was jarred, so I had to climb out of my friend’s door. Neither of us was bleeding. No bones were broken.

However, as soon as my feet hit the ground, rage rose through my ankles to the top of my head. I’m told that I yelled all sorts of nasty things at the girl who hit us.

Her fender barely had a dent.

She got out for a second to retrieve her baby from the backseat.

That same rage rose through my body, erupting with a hateful fury because I couldn’t believe she had driven so poorly with her child in the backseat.

My mom was only a few minutes away, so she came down the hill to meet us.

Quivering, I could neither control my body nor my mouth.

I don’t remember talking to the police, but I do remember refusing a transit to the hospital because I could walk even with trembling legs.

Later that afternoon, my friend and I began to feel the pain from the accident. We couldn’t turn our necks. We had difficulty holding our arms out and gripping things. My entire spine felt like it had been snapped like a whip.

A neck X-ray and some Oxycodone later, we were sent home with nothing more than pain medication.

We were lucky.

Some people don’t survive having their car totaled.

I got a great settlement, and received several thousands of dollars worth of chiropractic care since my spine was slightly curved in more places than one.

Although I had a lot of pain in my neck and back, I got stronger each week.

I moved away for school, taking a summer job before the semester began. I had trouble standing on my feet all day, and noticed that I was becoming obviously irritable with people. I was convinced it was because of my great hatred of retail.

Night time would come, and sleep evaded me.

My mom gave me some St. John’s Wort and melatonin. These things helped a little, but my depression and insomnia became worse. These things, however, weren’t as bad as my anxiety.

I couldn’t ride in a car with someone without coming close to a panic attack. No one stopped fast enough, drove slow enough, turned carefully enough – no one was as good of a driver as I was.

When I drove by myself, I was a constant ball of nerves. Sweat would bead up on my forehead as well as my palms. I was jumpy and hyper-aware of my surroundings.

Worst of all was the rage.

Most people experience road rage from time to time, but I wanted to hunt down any person that drove in a way that was unsatisfactory to my judgement. I wanted to rip them out of their car and wring their necks.

My heart rate was constantly elevated while in traffic, and I broke down, shivering and in tears more than one time upon arriving at home.

I started at the state university that fall. I’ve mentioned that my depression plummeted that first semester along with my grades. I now know that my PTSD was mostly to blame.

PTSD.

Anytime I’ve talked to a counselor or any mental health professional, I’ve told them about my wreck and would say: “Something in my brain literally shifted, and it’s never gotten better.”

I literally feel like my brain was totaled along with my car that day.

PTSD.

I’m still not the same. That wreck was the straw that broke my already fragmented mind unleashing years of pain, years of unprocessed grief, years of denial.

It broke my brain.

PTSD.

Refusing to acknowledge it as such for years, I didn’t want to seem disrespectful to my friends in the military, my friends who were rape survivors, those who were in a wreck that seriously injured them.

It wasn’t until I was talking to a girl who told me about a similar situation that was nearly identical to mine. Her doctor prescribed her anti-depressants and a counselor because he said that she had PTSD. A light clicked for me, and I told my counselor about it, and she agreed.

Something in my brain snapped that day, and it’s been 9 years. I can ride in a car with people. I don’t tell my husband how to drive every time we go somewhere. I don’t yell and scream at crappy drivers, at least while my kids are in the car. I don’t get really nervous driving in heavy traffic.

I still want to throat punch really bad drivers, but I don’t wish death upon them.

The thing that worked the best for me was time.

I still have a staunch fear that I’m going to get a phone call saying that someone I love has been killed in a car crash. I also worry from time to time if I’m going to get in a really bad wreck again.

Any time someone comes to a quick rolling stop at a stop sign, I jump.

 

When I started counseling, I would always say: “I had this problem, but I know other people have had it worse than me.”

That’s a mentality most of us have been taught, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t be grateful for things; but it’s actually not a good way to view your problems.

What you are having trouble processing is real to you, just like what someone else is having to process. Do not feel bad for feeling the way you do and wanting to seek out healing. You are not alone, and your issues matter.

One good thing that has come out of this is that I am acutely aware of my periphery, cars in the distance – things like that. My senses have been sharpened by it. This has helped me more than once. Once when there was a pretty doe who ran out in front of me, I didn’t hit her because I saw her seconds before she leapt .

Had I not had this experience, I would have easily plowed through that animal.

Constantly, scenarios flash through my head, and I consider what I would do. I like to think that I am prepared.

Facing my fears helped to tame my anxiety and traumatic thoughts to subside.

PTSD is a big deal, and I believe that many of you probably have it or have had it but do not know. Think about it. Process it. ASK FOR HELP.

Your experience matters because it is your unique situation to deal with. Consider it, and take action. It is something that you can grow from.

Until next time friend,

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