Trying new meds, as I am right now, brings on a really important question – how do I know if my meds are “working”?
It’s a tangle of definitions…I mean what do I mean by “working”? What’s my range for “acceptable”? Do I care about any “side effects” I may be experiencing (that aren’t dangerous ones)? If it works, do I want to keep taking it indefinitely?
So far, I would say my Abilify/Vyvanse/nortriptyline combo is working really well for me. My mood is improved 100%. But I’m not cranky, I’m not euphoric, I’m not emotionally flat. I truly feel like “me”. The me I’ve known for 39 years now. I feel like the me that I am when my personality is not obscured by a loss of mental health. The creative me, the quirky me, the kind me. I have real emotions. I feel happy mostly, because that’s who I think I am at my core (people often comment that my creative work is always very happy and colorful looking and I think that creative work can tell you a lot about a person). But I can still cry because of Santa Claus and everything he represents – totally normal behavior for me.
I’m just a very thinly disguised emotional pile of mush in this heart that I barely obscure behind a pile of sarcasm and logic. I can cry about anything. Don’t even get me started about choruses of singing children – okay fine I already started. My husband is a music teacher, and sitting through his student concerts means a guaranteed cry for me because the middle school chorus slays me every time. I mean they’re adorable – and I used to be one of those chorus kids. They’re going through so much, they’re at a terrible age, and they all look so uncomfortable in their own skin. Then they sing songs like Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” and that’s it…tears. Picture it, a gaggle of sweet little 5th-8th graders, vehemently belting out “if you don’t love me now, you will NEVER LOVE ME AGAIN” in their mid-adolescent voices. It’s really special and I mean that in the most sincere of ways. Maleficent almost killed me a few times the other day too, lol. You see, I’ve always loved that character and used to be a little obsessed with Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent is kind of my hero. So yeah. It’s nice to be back to mushy ol’ me. Thanks, MEDS.
I always like to get outside feedback from other people too, people who know me well, about medication changes – at work people have noticed that I’m “in a much better mood”. My husband and mother know me pretty darn well and indeed, they concur that I seem to be myself, just in a much better mood, and more able to get things done. The kids notice – I’m just plain more fun to be around and do activities with – and more likely to want to do activities – when I’m not feeling terrible.
Side effects – time will tell if I have any medical side effects that need to be addressed, or which may make it necessary for me to stop taking any of these medications. Use of Abilify does require monitoring of important things…like cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels. I naturally have very low “bad” cholesterol and high “good” cholesterol, and low blood sugar, so it will be interesting to see if these are impacted.
Another issue that I wouldn’t call a side-effect, but which does put a kink in my style: I can’t drink any alcohol at all while using Abilify. I tried a little bit, actually, probably about an ounce of wine and uh…THAT WAS A BAD IDEA. I felt weird, I got all flushed, inanimate objects looked like they were moving. Um, NO THANKS. Do I want to feel better or is wine really that important? Would I rather have my sanity or have a margarita? Bartender, could you make me a Shirley Temple please? THANKS. Priorities are important to establish in a situation like this. My highest priority is mental health.
The Vyvanse seems to be at a good level for me – I don’t feel anxious, or pressured. I feel slightly compelled to “do” stuff but during my work day, that’s a great problem. It seems to further help to calm my thinking. I’m less distracted. It elevates my heart rate slightly but not in a problematic way. And hey, to be quite honest – it makes ya poop, and I like that. The nortriptyline can be slightly constipating. Ha, sorry, TMI I’m sure but if you’re a regular reader, I know you can take it (sorry, new people who just found me and didn’t know that I overshare).
My mood chart – a tool I’ve been using for a few months now to track my moods – reflects that since I’ve been taking this meds combo, my moods have been great.
So I personally feel like the meds are working – people around me don’t seem to have any concerns and are enjoying me much more – and my mood chart is in agreement. I also use this blog as a tool for reference when I’m trying to gauge medication effectiveness. I know me…and I know when my writing is reflecting a problem 🙂 I also, of course, record my “data” here, so that I can refer back to it. Let’s consider this round “recorded”…and as I continue to take these meds, I’ll keep tracking things on my mood chart and checking in with people around me.
And eating ham sandwiches. Ham sandwiches are really important. But that’s all the time, not just when I’m trying new meds.