My blog is about the scenic, stressful, spectacular life (and everything screwy in between) of a
California girl turned expat transplanted to the land down under: North Queensland, Australia.

November 15, 2010

My month…so far.

I decided to post a reality check today because it has been a while since I’ve blogged about life and what not. This month I’ve been more up and down than a roller coaster with my moods.

The last time I talked about seeing a shrink was about three weeks ago, here. I didn’t really like the guy-I think the main reason is because when I was trying to tell him my history with depression, he interrupted me and said “we don’t need to get in to the past”. Um, what? Don’t you need to know why I’m here and why I’m constantly having to see a therapist at least once a year? Plus he seemed…bored. I mean, bipolar isn’t thrilling or anything, but maybe you can act like you’re interested in what I have to say? Other than your friends or family, a psychologist is someone you have to basically pour your heart out to-your secrets, your fears, your struggles. If you don’t mesh well with them it’s really hard to have the drive to go back to them.

I saw the therapist again on the 30th, and I still felt uncomfortable. He tells me “when you get a bad thought, I want you to visualize the thought; then I want you to say ‘thank you brain’ and push the thought out of your head”. Um, if I could do that Doc I wouldn’t be paying you $80 a freaking visit, okay? After the psychologist we were off to Townsville to see my first visit with the psychiatrist. He was amazing. He sat with me and J for two hours just talking. Talking about us, our history, my history, why we’re back in Australia, my medication history…everything the psychologist should be asking.

He wrote out a huge game plan for the next six weeks regarding switching over drugs and keeping a mood diary (isn’t that what blogging’s for?). He explained that antidepressants tend to have a shelf life in the body. What may work perfectly for a year may putter out until you get no benefit from it anymore. I’ve told him the last year I have basically lost the will to live, and I gain no pleasure from anything anymore. He defined it as anhedonia, which is “an inability to experience pleasurable emotions from normally pleasurable life events such as eating, exercise, social interaction or sexual activities” (I love Wiki so much). It’s very common for bipolar people to experience this, and it has to do with the chemicals in your brain that “reward” you not functioning properly. I’ve been in this episode for so long that I almost feel like the chemicals in my brain that keep you upbeat and happy have finally dried up for good. Seriously. And if I don’t have happiness, passion, enthusiasm, motivation, anything, then what’s the point?

The psychiatrist switched me over from Elavil (a run-of-the-mill antidepressant) to Pristiq, a fairly new antidepressant. He also wants me to stop taking Lamictal-which is an off label mood stabilizer-when it runs out and switch to Seroquel. We’re talking about the big guns here, people. You know how, say, when you hear someone’s an alcoholic you feel one way, but when you hear someone’s a heroin addict it’s like a whole new level of addiction? Well, Seroquel is heroin. Not literally. It’s an antipsychotic. I read that and thought, WTF? I’m not psychotic! I’m sad!!! It’s uses are for the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, mania, all the big-time mood disorders. It also has such a tranquilizing effect that it’s now being used as a recreational drug, apparently. My sad brain says gimme gimme gimme if it’s going to make me feel better but my rational brain says am I that far gone that I need an antipsychotic? It’s really that bad, folks. Don’t let the happy nature of my writing fool you-I write to let things out, and I write because it does make me feel better. I’m also a good person, so I hope my kindness and compassion come out on paper. I’m not some emo that always wants to write about how shit their life is.

So two weeks ago I started the Pristiq-a half a pill. The first few days I was really jittery and tense, which is a standard side effect from antidepressants. That week I also gained a gnarly head cold, so I was feeling the ill effects of that more than I was any medicine-related ones. At the end of the week I was throwing up, miserable with a migraine, and having a hard time sleeping. Again, not really blaming it on the depression or the medicine. This past Thursday I was awake at 4am, sitting on the edge of my bed and sobbing into a tissue so I wouldn’t wake my husband up.Why? I don’t know. The usual reasons. When J woke up I told him all I want to do is go home. He told me with his work and just starting school again we couldn’t go back to the States just now and I told him no. I need to go home. Alone. Without going into a lot of detail we understood that this didn’t mean the end of us, that it would only be temporary, but I told him that if I leave, I don’t think I’d be coming back to Australia.

I called Qantas to change my ticket and the only days they had available to leave were December 1 and January 13. December 1? You mean I’d be able to spend Christmas at home, with my family? I’d also miss our 2-year wedding anniversary which lands on December 7. We sat down with the family and they agreed that me going home may be the right thing to do, and that it was our decision. I went into the bedroom alone to cry and try and figure out what to do. That night after crying as much as humanly possible I told the family I wouldn’t be leaving in December. That we made a decision to come over and this needs to be the first time in my life where I actually make a decision and stick with it, like a grown up.

Over the weekend things have been okay. I struggled with another headache from crying too much and Friday I was up all night so sick I couldn’t even get my eyes to focus. Saturday mum took J and I to a school fete (more on that in a couple days). That night I made a decision to go off my medications. All of them. Fully. Much to the disapproval of my husband (and I’m assuming my mom when she reads this-hi mom). I need to clean out my system. I need to just be ME for a while. Anyone who doesn’t have depression may not know what I’m talking about, but it pretty much means I need to give my brain a break. Give it some time to hopefully repair (if that’s even possible). I’m making sure in the morning to take fish oil supplements, multi-vitamins and minerals so my body isn’t depleted. I’m also tapering the Lamictal to half a dose since I’ve been on it so long and don’t want any wicked withdrawal side effects (which can be truly worse than the depression itself). My husband is monitoring me, and after two days I feel fine. Not like happy or cured or anything, I mean I’m not wacky or losing it. I’ll keep you posted.

One thing I’d like to ask my readers…I started my bipolar blog in May of this year so I could cope and hopefully get crap off my chest that bothers me in regards to depression and anxiety. I started this blog as a way to cope with the massive change of moving to a new country. My thoughts all along were to keep them separate, as I assumed I’d get people who could identify with depression on one blog and expats and travellers to Australia on this blog. Now I know I have a wonderful, colourful collection of readers who come from all parts of the world, who just enjoy reading what I write (for which I’m eternally grateful). Would any of you have a problem with me merging the two? I mean, it’s getting harder and harder to keep the two apart as kind of a yin and a yang. If that is okay I would like to move some of my bipolar blog posts over here (they are more like stories and anecdotes, not poems about the endless abyss or anything). I’d love your opinion.

You know what’s funny? It stopped raining today after a weekend of crazy rain. As I started typing it began to pour. Australia weather is all or nothing, I swear. It doesn’t just start to sprinkle and eventually gets harder and harder-it’s like out of nowhere the sky opens up and pisses down rain (my husband’s favourite expression). And I love it. Rain calms me. Makes me happy. Happy.


  1. Merge away! Please be careful with going off your meds. Sometimes the symptoms can hit you were you least expect it!


  2. Sweetie, you do what feels right about the blogs. I think merging them is a great idea. Help us understand some of what you deal with everyday.
    Only reason I have two is that one is simply for stories, fiction.
    I am really glad you have decided to stick it out here in Aus.

  3. Wow. This was intense. I felt sad reading it. Merge the two blogs. I can't speak for everyone, but I want to hear about you and all of you. Not just your happy/funny side. I hope everything gets better and I am glad you decided to stick to your decision just because I think if you went home, you'd be in the same position because you'd miss hubby. But that's just me. I'm no expert.

  4. Good for you for staying. Whether that decision sticks or not, it was a brave and bold one to make and I really hope it makes you being there feel more on YOUR terms.

    Also, I vote for the merge. I like to know everything. :)

  5. Hed my darling Aussie daughter...You can do whatever makes the most sense for your blog. You know I just did the same thing and I'm glad. Way too much work. I didn't think I'd be popular when I started them.

    Please be very careful and ween yourself slowly off the meds. I've known others who just stopped and literally caused havoc on their familes. Your new guy sounds great. The way a doctor should be. I've been on Elavil for nerve pain in my thigh and that crap makes you want to sleep forever. No wonder you were so tired. That mixed with other stuff is potent!!! Please be careful and see your doctor at the first sign of any kind of irrational behavior or temper outbursts. I support you. Love ya for your strength. Your US East Coast Mom.

  6. Thanks all for the merging comments. I think I'll slowly add some posts and go from there.

    As for the medicine, I am making sure I'm really self-aware this week in regards to how I'm feeling-and I'm checking in with my hubs as well. Thanks guys <3

  7. Well if you need Seroqueil then that's that. My brother is Autistic and bipolar and is on Lithium and Seroquil and my god it has changed him for the better so much.

    I understand the needing a break part and wanting to come home. But you have come so far with your husband, you need to stay strong. Maybe if you do come back to California, you can give me a call and I can help you talk it out.

  8. I am say merge away! I would happily visit both of your blogs but as CB pointed out - they are both who you are so why not have them in one place.

    I won't presume to make any suggestions regarding your medication - as I am not a doctor and regardless of other's experiences - you are unique unto yourself - I would just hope that whatever you do it is with a doctor's care to keep you safe.

    Hugs darling. I hope you have a good week.

  9. I am new to you so you must forgive me for being unaware of your other blog, but now that I know, I will be checking in.

    Some seven years ago, I was diagnosed with being Obsessive Compulsive with Anxiety. It is a package deal from what I have been told & read. I have been on Zoloft for the O.C.D. and Ativan for anxiety. Please be careful going cold turkey. I did the same thing a few years back and after a few month's of being off meds, the "O" came back with vengence, and along with it came it's little buddy anxiety. My wife is Bi-Polar and with doc's recommendation, she has weened down to only one med and in her case, it has been a change for the better. I pray that this will also be your experience. Thanks for being so open. I am going to tell my wife of your blog because she is fighting the same fight that you are. If you get a chance, check out

  10. Please be careful Hed!! Going off cold turkey can be bad, wean off, please!!! Hugs girl, I hope things get better and I am proud of you for staying. ;)