Your Brain on Psych Meds? Part II

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This is Part II of a series about how drugs for mental illness affect my brain. For Part I, click here.

Throughout my struggle with mental illness and my experimentation with medication, I’ve noticed that it’s very difficult to find detailed information about how different drugs affect different people. There’s lots of info about people experiencing the more uncommon, severe side effects, but very little chronicling of the day-to-day changes in mood, or information about how long things take to work.

Once again, everyone’s different, so psychiatrists will never tell you “this is when you’ll begin experiencing results.” And that’s perfectly fine. But I’ve found that just knowing a handful of other people have had a similar experience to me calms me down significantly, and allows me to weather the rough process of adjusting to a new medication. So without further ado, here is some information on how my experience as a patient under the care of a psychiatrist taking Sertraline (a common Zoloft substitute), and Lamotrigine (a generic form of Lamictal) has been.

This is an update about ten months after I began taking Sertraline, and about four months after I started taking Lamotrigine.

I’m still about 5’3″, still have two X chromosomes, and am about 140lbs. I take 50mg of generic Zoloft, continuous birth control for suppression of my period, and ~17.5mg Lamotrigine, which is a mood stabilizer.

I’ve added a drug but aside from that nothing much has changed in my Zoloft Journey. I haven’t changed or upped my dose, and I’ve continued to experience the same symptoms–slight difficulty sleeping, reduced sex drive, a few more headaches. Otherwise, smooth sailing.

I read a lot when I was first starting on Zoloft about it suddenly not working for people anymore, and that scared me. So I’m happy to report that after ten months, it’s still working just fine.

Lamotrigine has been more of a mixed bag for me. The initial mood-stablizing was wonderful. I cannot remember the last time I didn’t have wild mood swings. Unfortunately, it came with some serious sleep side-effects and even more sex drive suppression. However, I sleep well enough, and I can still have orgasms, so the side effects are manageable.

The effects of Lamotrigine that I found unbearable started occurring about a month after I started the drug. It had just leveled me out too much. I started noticing that although I wasn’t feeling as anxious or irritable, I also wasn’t really ever feeling very happy. It continued to get worse until a few weeks after I moved to Vermont I realized I wasn’t capable of feeling joy anymore. I had gotten a check in the mail for an article I’d written for a blog–making me a PAID FREELANCER, something that should have sent me over the moon with joy–and felt only vaguely pleased. I decided to lower my dose. Unfortunately, there is a severe shortage of psychiatrists in Vermont,  so I began to wean myself off Lamotrigine without direct supervision by a psychiatrist. I have both a therapist and a primary care provider as a backup in case something went wrong, but this was still a dangerous thing to do. It is not safe to make changes to your medication without consulting your doctor. However, I know that people do it anyway, so I wanted to share what happened with me.

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Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue

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Tonight the editors and community of Disrupting Dinner Parties wait for the outcome to be announced by the grand jury on whether or not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Michael Brown Jr. to death while Michael was unarmed.  While we wait, remember that we live in an era in which all of us, no matter how physically far we are from what is happening, can act as witnesses.  This is a responsibility that we must take seriously in the coming days and weeks.  Your decision, our decision, to closely watch and speak up about the actions police take toward protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, can help keep people safe.

DDP is of course not a breaking news station: we encourage you to continue monitoring your chosen news sources in order to stay informed.  However, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that this subject is on the minds of our community this evening as we hope for justice.  We intend this open thread to be a safe place for our community to express your thoughts and feelings about the news once it does break, whatever the outcome may be.

Update: We are deeply saddened and outraged to note that the grand jury has chosen to not bring charges against Darren Wilson.

 

 

Speaking Up

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cw: harassment, rape mention

I’ll never forget the first time I decided to stand up against street harrassment.

It started on the metro platform. She looked about my age, late teens or early twenties. She was alone. I saw him sidle up to her, heard him shout a comment about the shape of her ass. She scooted away and gripped her bag more closely. When the train came, he followed her on. I was sitting in the first row of seats; they were standing at the front of the car. He asked her if she had a boyfriend. She turned away, tried to pretend he wasn’t there despite him standing right against her back. He told her he wanted to take her home, started listing the things he’d do. She looked pleadingly at the other passengers. They avoided her eyes.

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Imagine this but in a dim, crowded train full of people pretending it’s not happening.

 

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Open Thread: Where should feminism be in 15 years?

Let’s get reflective this Wednesday.

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Here in 2014, being trans is still considered a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association.* Women face threats of death, rape, and mass shootings for having opinions about video games. 33 states (counting DC) have legalized same sex marriage, while 16 have banned it. Four states have a domestic workers’ bill of rights. Beyonce and Benedict Cumberbatch are avowed feminists. I am getting tired of listing things…

As we head toward our next calendar year, let’s take a moment before the turkey- and/or sugar-comas kick in to think about what we’re building toward in our future:

Where do we want feminism to be in fifteen years?

What do we want to have changed about the world? What do we want to have changed about ourselves as a movement? Please speak up in the comments below!

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Pop Culture’s Portrayal of Love Is Killing Us

Because it’s the holiday season, I’ve been thinking about one of my favorite movies of recent years, Best Man Holiday, the sequel to the 1999 film Best Man, which highlights the many complexities of love and trust among friends.

Halfway through the movie, the boyfriend of Jordan Armstrong, a successful black career woman, confides in her, saying, “Believe me, your whole strong, independent, Olivia Pope thing is very sexy, but sometimes you act like you don’t need me.”

Without skipping a beat, Jordan responds, somewhat incredulously: “I don’t.”

Jordan & Brian from Best Man Holiday

Jordan & her boyfriend Brian from Best Man Holiday

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Dealing with Bipolar Disorder

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Guest post by Paul.

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Hello! I’ve got bipolar disorder. Whew, feels good to admit that publicly!

I’ve encountered many people who misunderstand bipolar disorder. They seem to think patients have a sane/crazy switch for their emotions, like a Jekyll and Hyde roulette wheel that’s spun every few minutes. But that usually isn’t the case. These kinds of misrepresentations fuel stigma and prevent people from getting the treatment they need.

The only remedy’s the truth: the awful, sometimes bloody truth. I suffer from Type II Bipolar Disorder, which is characterized by hypomanic and depressive episodes. Here’s an overview of how I experience these altered states and how they affect my life.

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Hashtag Alert: #FeministPrincessBride

If the world is getting you down, pop over to Twitter and check out #FeministPrincessBride.

It all started off when Time put the word “feminist” in their “Which Word Should Be Banned in 2015?” list.

We're telling Time to take it up with Queen B

We’re telling Time to take it up with Queen B

One woman, Anne Thériault, took Time to task for it:

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Take the Red Pill: Teaching the Biology of Sex

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Morpheus offers the pills in the MatrixThis is the third part of a series about the complex biological realities of sex. Though the posts build on one another, each can be understood alone.

I recently had the opportunity to teach about the complexities of biological sex in humans (essentially, the content of my post The Truth Behind the Biology of Sex) as a workshop for college-age kids. I was nervous as I prepared to teach this workshop, in a way that I have never felt before while teaching. I felt like I was repaying a debt to the people who taught me valuable lessons about the complex realities of sex and gender, like Kiki, the transgender woman who first opened my eyes to how arbitrary the definitions of male and female really are.

I was also nervous because it wasn’t like the other times I’ve taught STEM topics, where I can just laugh and gently correct misconceptions about evolution or chemical elements. Every ignorant comment about sex, every refusal to learn the complicated truth in favor of comforting patriarchal lies, would fall on me like a blow. When it comes to the biology of sex, it gets personal.

I set the stage with some standard gender justice practices, asking my audience for their preferred names and personal pronouns. Then I said, “In this class, we are going to say words like ‘breasts’ and ‘testes’, so if you’re going to giggle about that, get it out of your system now.” Nobody giggled. But even with that opening, it still took a lot of encouragement to get the kids to talk about sexual anatomy.

I opened with small-group discussions of what it means to be male or female, and wrote their answers on the board. They pointed out the differences between sex and gender, that gender is psychological and sociological while sex is biological. My goal for the class was to point out how psychology and society impose ideologies and categories to the biology that don’t exist naturally.

The students also gave answers like “sex chromosomes.” When I got that answer, I said, “Who here has two X chromosomes? Raise your hand.”

Most of my female students raised their hands.

“How do you know?” I said. “Have you had a karyotype? Has someone looked at your chromosomes under a microscope?”

Blank stares. I said, “Then do you really know for sure? You might change your mind by the end of this class.”

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USU Shooting Threat: This Isn’t A Game

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This is a guest post by Nadine Santoro. Originally published in “the paper.”

If you received an anonymous email threatening “the deadliest school shooting in American history” unless a feminist speaker scheduled to visit your university cancelled her trip, do you think it’s a message you would take lightly? The Utah State University staff certainly seemed to. Feminist video game critic Anita Sarkeesian was scheduled to speak about the portrayal of women in video games at USU on October 15th, 2014, until the university received this threat.

“If you do not cancel her talk, a Montreal Massacre style attack will be carried out against the attendees, as well as students and staff at the nearby Women’s Center,” the message warned. “I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs.” The writer signed the email under the pseudonym of Marc Lepine, a shooter who took the lives of 14 women in 1989 at École Polytechnique in Montreal before committing suicide. Lepine’s suicide note explained how he “decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined [his] life, to their maker.”

Like the real Marc Lepine, the alleged USU student behind this threat directs his anger towards feminism in a graphically violent way. Continue reading

Pillow Princess: Navigating Queer Spaces and Unpacking Assumptions

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This is a guest post by Ms. Boss Femme.

photo of pillows

Every so often, maybe at a happy hour or a house party, someone will pick up my hand, examine my fingers, and exclaim “Oh wow, you have straight girl nails! How does that work?” I usually laugh awkwardly and change the subject. I also occasionally find myself part of a group conversation about, say, how to avoid lockjaw and  tongue tiredness during a long session of cunnilingus. In these situations I try to be inconspicuously quiet, sometimes nodding in agreement to pieces of advice that sound right.

The truth is, in my current relationship, which happens to be with a masculine-of-center woman, there’s no reason for my nails to be super short because I don’t stick my fingers anywhere particularly delicate. And I can’t contribute any lessons learned from going down on her because… I don’t. I am the one who gets the finger action. I am the one who tires tongues. I am the receptive partner, and according to some definitions, I am a “Pillow Princess”.

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