Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A visit to the dark side

As I tell this story I do not know if I am over dramatizing anything or if I am under reacting … So I do not ramble forever I will give the basics at the start. - When I was in college I used speed ... amphetamines. I do not believe I was ever out of control, but I do know I loved the feeling. It helped me stay focused on my classes ... it gave me lots of energy for volleyball and softball ... it let me function for three days with no sleep. This went on for 8 months or so. I liked how they made me feel, but I did notice a behavior difference as I used them more and more. I began to desire the drugs ... the rush ... the feeling of invincibility. I began using the speed when I didn't need the extra energy ... I used it just because I liked it. One day I took a rather large dose ... not an intentional overdose ... and other than the fact that it was an illegal drug, likely not even an unsafe amount. I sat in my car and waited for my softball class. My mind went into a strange frenzied, manic state. It was like I was thinking about everything all at the same time ... soon I was focused on my future ... college ... life in general ... where I was heading. I cannot truly explain what happened next, but I was not in my car any more. I was standing in an emergency room watching a team of doctors and nurses frantically working on a person just brought in by ambulance. I stepped closer to the bed as one doctor kept barking commands. A cold feeling spread through my body. I tried to get a better view of the procedures. By this time I was about three feet away from the action. One of the nurses moved to grab another bag of saline. I could now see the bed ... the patient. It was me. I was pronounced dead five minutes later. I rarely if ever talk about my drug use. It is an incredibly embarrassing period of my life ... but if I had not made that mistake I may not be here today ... or at least not in the same position. Many people who hear of my vision say I was hallucinating ... others think I was seeing the future ... I don't care. It scared me enough to stop using a stimulant other than caffeine to get an energy boost. - I have had many instances in my life that were likely early battles with depression. I do not believe I have ever had a truly manic episode, nor have I lost control of my faculties to any degree where I feared for my own sanity. I have always had a short fuse when it comes to temper, and there has been times when I've found it difficult to not react to whatever had made me angry ... but in the long run I maintained control of my thoughts and my actions. *** August 24, 2013 *** I stepped on the scale as I entered the endocrinologist's office. I had gained weight over the previous three months and I knew it ... and I was embarrassed ... and I didn't want to hear another doctor tell me I needed to concentrate on losing weight. My doctor's first suggestion was bariatric surgery ... ... No ... not an option. He gave me two prescriptions - Phentermine and Topomax. Phentermine is an amphetamine. I was a bit apprehensive because of my earlier experiences ... but it was lower doses and under a doctor's supervision, I would give it a try. Topomax is technically a seizure medication, but many studies have shown it to be useful in treating bipolar disorder and it helps many people lose weight although they are not certain why. The plan was to start me off on a low dose of both medicines to see ho I handled it. If after 2 weeks I was doing alright my doses would increase. Despite the fact that I felt a bit edgy I went to the higher doses. I figured the stress from work and other issues were adding to some of my moodiness. After a month I was so on edge it was starting to affect my job and my home life. I had the doctor lower the amphetamine dose, but not the Topomax. Another 2 weeks passed and I was getting moodier ... not happy / sad moody, but hysterical laughter to near rage moody. I was also starting to have physical tremors in my arms and legs, my memory was almost nonexistent, I was having trouble expressing myself with words and my dyslexic tendencies began to escalate. I stopped taking the Phentermine, but continued the Topomax. The symptoms continued to escalate. My dyslexia was now full blown ... a page of words melted into a garbled mess. I would become manic, frenzied or obsessed for no particular reason and lash out at those who were trying to help me. During these episodes I experienced some unusual sensations. The only way I can think to describe what I felt is this ... Have you ever been near an old electrical transformer? I mean a big one ... or a group of them ... Do you know that loud hum they make? That monotone drone ... endless ... never changing ... never ending ... drowning out everything else near you. That is the noise my brain was making. But I wasn't just hearing it ... I was feeling it ... starting in the back of my head and spreading through my body. The more frenzied I felt the louder the hum ... the louder the hum ... the louder the hum the less control I had. And this is not an excuse for the pain, the hurt feelings or other problems my behavior caused, but I truly was not in control. It wasn't just the fact that I lost control of my actions ... my thoughts ... myself that bothered me. What truly drove me to the brink of madness was the fact that I was seeing through my eyes, I was hearing through my ears, I was feeling with my fingertips, but I wasn't there ... I was merely an observer from a distant location … watching a movie … being a part of some bad story … controlled by some invisible script writer that was bent on my unhappiness. To ad a level of strange to this entire situation that boggled what was left of my mind, every time I endured one of these hysterical moments I would crave salt … not just a little … like teaspoons of salt. I could practically eat salt straight from the shaker. This not only added to my confusion, but it frustrated me beyond words. I was truly scared. I saw no solution, no end ... and it had to end. I was beginning to be fear of what I might do if it didn't. Not that I thought I would injure anyone, or even that I could injure myself ... I just felt I was headed toward a complete meltdown. A complete mental breakdown is never good, but it my case it would likely cost me my career. Once I am deemed unstable the DMV would suspend my driver's certificate ... once my certificate is suspended my instructor's certificate would be revoked ... I would be useless to my company. I tried to think of all the factors that had changed over the past weeks … the past months … I started estrogen and a testosterone blocker … This is not likely the problem as I have been on the same dose for several months without issue. I changed my eating habits … My diet in not unusual. A minor tweak from my usual “healthy eating” plan when I choose to train or try to lose weight. To be safe I began to revert back to more of my less healthy habits. I was not feeling well. Three weeks of some cold or flu that just wiped me out. Possibly being sick while on estrogen had an unexpected side effect. It didn’t seem logical, but … I’ve been under an incredible stress at work and at home. Again, I’ve been under worse stress than this before, but not on estrogen. Could it be a combination of these issues building up. I completely stopped the amphetamine … I was changing my diet back to what my body has been used to … I was on an antibiotic to battle the mystery illness … I was stepping back from all the stress causing situations … … Maybe I was truly just going crazy. *** Sunday, October 6, 2013 *** The frenzy out of control mood had become exponentially worse … practically everything was setting me off. My frustration with myself was also exponentially growing. I seriously doubt anyone near me truly realized how screwed up I really was … actually I do not think I knew how bad I was at the time, either. I had emailed my boss on Saturday to tell her that I was working on my office to make it presentable. She replied with a tongue in cheek comment letting me know I needed to work a bit more. I didn’t take it that way … the humming was getting louder. Later that evening Pam, Sedona, Timmy and I went to my office to straighten up a bit for a visit from a big wig. I wanted to mount a television on my wall as well as a couple posters. One of the posters had a crack on the glass frame. Pam changed the poster I liked in the glass frame with one I didn’t like as much. The entire evening was causing my … ??? … mania, my obsessive mood to worsen. I decided to take the broken glass and frame straight to the dumpster to prevent any unusual accident or injury from happening. As I got to the trash can I balanced the frame on my left arm to open the lid. The sharp point of one of the shards rested against my forearm on, or at least near the radial artery. I could practically see the glass throbbing with every beat of my heart. Time stopped. The humming became louder … and again I was a helpless observer. One thought started running through my mind. “I bet this won’t hurt much.” I do not know how long I stood there … I do not know how many times that thought looped through my head … I do know I couldn’t stop what eventually was going to happen. How long would I have been out by the dumpster before someone came looking for me? Would the glass have cut deep enough to hit the artery? Would it make the noise go away? I have rerun these events over and over and do not know how or why I didn’t let the glass cut me. I just know that I pushed the frame into the trash and ran back to the office. I was beyond scared. I did not tell anyone. I knew I would be locked up to protect myself and I didn’t even know why I was acting the way I was. Maybe I should have … maybe I needed the time away from everything. I was obviously missing something … sequestering myself from the world would not help. The answer was there, but I didn’t see it. Later I was getting ready for bed. Our kitty Little One knocked something off a shelf … I lost it. I didn’t get violent, but I lost control of my emotions, my mind, my words … and again it was more like I was watching a raving lunatic yell at a cat … I felt so out of control … I hated the situation … I hated myself. I ran back to my computer and searched Topomax one more time. I had read the primary side effects several times, but there was nothing about behavioral changes. Despite having difficulty reading and my brain processing very slowly, I eventually made it to the to the bottom of the page … to the very rare, less that 1% of the population type side effects. I was amazed … dumfounded … but a bit relieved: - Excessive thirst - Flu like symptoms - Excessive sweating - Difficulty reading - Difficulty speaking - Chills - Mental disorder with loss of personality or reality - Suicidal thoughts The list was longer, but these were the majority of the symptoms that caused me grief. It meant that maybe I wasn’t actually going crazy … the one drug that was supposedly relatively inert may have caused all these issues. But it didn’t explain the salt cravings. The next day I did a simple search, “Topomax – Hyponatremia” … … Three reports popped up. Apparently an even lower percentage of people who take the drug also suffer from low sodium levels … this would explain my salt cravings. It would also would explain some of the other symptoms that were not listed on the medication site. I stopped taking the Topomax immediately. It may not be completely out of my system yet, but I feel so close to human. I would not wish that feeling of helplessness … that sensation of being alone amongst loved ones … of losing control of every aspect of my thoughts, my actions, my being on anyone. I truly must thank Pam and my manager Maggie for trying to have some patience with me … for being there to help despite not knowing what they were helping me with. My actions and attitude caused much grief and stress.