Thursday, June 19, 2008

Staying Healthy & Sane with Minimal Meds

I've gotten several emails recently where people asked how easy or hard it's been to reduce my bipolar meds. So I wanted to share what I think has made the difference for me.

There was a period after my last manic/psychotic episode that I was on a whole slew of drugs: zyprexa, depakote, paxil, ambien, klonopin and lamictal. And honestly with all the meds I felt like a zombie. For a while that was OK because at least I was sane and stable. But the mental stability for me came at a price. When I went on Depakote & Zyprexa I gained 55 pounds in 3 months going from a size 4 to a 14. I had no energy and would actually sleep 12 hours a day. I would have to take 2 naps a day just to function. The final straw for me was when my hair started falling out (every morning I'd find clumps of hair on my pillow and in the shower). So I may have been stable but I was overweight, tired and felt like I'd be bald soon. (The hair loss was a side effect of Depakote - but it didn't get bad until I was on it for about a year but I was at a high dose - 3500mg a day (I was on Lamictal so the dosage for depakote has to increase because of the interaction between the two).

Because I didn't want to remain on so much medication I talked with my doctor about slowly reducing. First to go was the zyprexa then the paxil (which I had severe with drawl from and it took me 6 months to get down from 80mg to nothing) next the depakote. And then the ambien was switched to Sonata as needed and the klonopin was changed to as needed. And my Lamictal was increased to 400 a day.

In the meantime I focused on the other things I could do to help maintain stability.

1. Omega3 - I religiously take these at the suggestion of my psychiatrist. Studies have shown that Omega3 are beneficial for treatment of bipolar. Not to mention that there are also studies that show it is beneficial when pregnant!

2. Exercise - Exercise is key for me. Whenever I stop my regular exercise routine my mood shifts and I start to feel like I could slide into depression. I've had a lot of stressful things happen in the last two weeks and I haven't been to the gym. Today my husband said he's drag me there if I didn't get back because he could already tell a difference in me -- I'm getting irritable and more moody.

3. Healthy Eating. I really believe that what you put into your body affects you. The documentary Supersize Me showed that eating junk can make you depressed, fat and hurt your liver. So I avoid fast food - I maybe eat it twice a month. I'm a vegetarian so I really focus on getting the right mix of nutrients and being a vegetarian means I don't typically like to eat out because of limited food choices.

4. Supplements - In addition to the Omega3's I religiously take a multi-vitamin (prenatal a few months before getting pregnant) prior to that Centrum. I also take extra Vitamin D (a deficiency has been shown to contribute to depression), extra Calcium, B-Complex (labeled for stress) and additional folic acid. When I was pregnant I was taking about 2-3 mg (they recommend u to 5 mg for women taking AED during pregnancy. Regular pregnant women take less than 1mg typical prenatals have around 800mcg.) Since I'm breastfeeding now I also take extra Iron, grapefruit seed extract and caprylic acid (good if you'd had issues with thrush). Altogether it is a big handful of pills. But I think that the supplements really help especially the Omega.

5. Sunshine - I try to get at least 15 minutes outdoors a day. Sunlight helps your Vitamin D levels which helps you feel well more Sunny. :-) That's why light is recommended for people suffering from Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Does anyone else have non-medicine strategies for staying healthy? If you don't want to post a comment - email me at bipolarpregnancy @ gmail.com
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