Sunday, June 10, 2012

Why anti-depressants might be depressing

Sometimes anti-depressants don't work.

Many anti-depressant drugs can potentially make a young person suicidal, as we discovered 26 years ago when my fourteen year old daughter was prescribed a psychiatric medication. She had no history of histrionics, hostility or suicidal thoughts until then. The horrific side effects lasted the two weeks she was on the medicine and resumed many years later when she started taking anti-anxiety pills as an adult.

She tried to quit the medication when she became pregnant but she experienced intense withdrawal and instead of kicking, her unborn child trembled and shook inside her when she skipped her dose.

She suffers guilt now, wondering if something is wrong with her son each time television commercials invite women who took the same drugs while pregnant to join a class action suit.

My husband's doctor recommended he take "happy pills," My husband thought the matter resolved when he said, "I feel happy enough, thank you." The doctor gave him several prescriptions at once and Jerry was unaware that one was for an anti-depressant. He began sleeping 22 hours out of 24.

"I thought I slept so much because I was dying," he said two months later when he learned he'd been on an anti-depressant and discontinued it

Potential effects on the unborn, teenagers and the elderly are recognized now.

According to an article in the Associated Press last year, the number of people taking psychiatric drugs has increased so much that in 2010, one of four women take such medication in a year, most of them 45 or older.

Physicians rarely advise patients if a psychiatric drug is habit forming, addictive, or permanent. They don't say "This medication I prescribe for you is a controlled substance so you  will have to visit me monthly for refills. It's also a street drug sold in dark alleys."

Patients are often unaware of the cost of their medication until they lose their insurance or Medicare/Medicaid coverage -- a bad time to discover a family member has an addiction or "chemical dependency" for drugs that can cost $600 a month or more. Stopping such medication suddenly can lead to the development or worsening of mental problems and seizures possibly leading to death. The warnings are printed on the prescription insert and magazine ads in teeny, tiny print, except for the warning of the financial impact if insurance changes.

People should not reject medication their doctor prescribes, especially if it works for them.

I just wish my family and I knew what we were getting into before we got stuck.

Although psychiatric medication works for lots of people, it didn't work for my daughter or my husband.

We should have searched the internet, read the prescription inserts and recognized when the bad symptoms started, less, not more medication was needed.

Maybe, as some doctors suspect, she has brain damage from concussions in the past, or from seizures she had at birth. Maybe the medicine has made her ill or an illness prevents the medication from helping her, other than keeping her in a twitching, restless zombie state most of the time.

When she started medication, she had just graduated from college, she had many friends and some were famous, she had one single core personality that many of us loved, she had a contract with a recording studio to write lyrics. She developed anxiety. She took a pill. She got depressed. She took another pill. She became outrageous and uninhibited. She was given another pill. She had seizures. She was given another pill. She lost touch with reality. She took another pill. Now she appears to be dying and nothing about her looks or sounds normal. She fluctuates between anger and dependency, defiance and compliance, restlessness and inertia.

I wish we'd read the fine print before we signed my daughter's life away. Maybe we could have reversed her condition before it got this painful for her and so complex for us.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

When a caretaker can't take care part III

While my knee heals, I am finding out how well my life functions despite being unable to keep up with my domestic chores and obligations.

Sheets were not washed for three weeks, but no one cared except me. 

My husband learned how to run the vacuum cleaner, and my daughter was as kind and caring to me as I had  been to her during her surgeries and illnesses. 

Daughter, husband and grandson were shocked when there were no clean socks or underwear in their closets and drawers. Now they are  grateful. They praise me like children in detergent commercials, marveling at "the feel, the touch of cotton" and my skill at discovering and defeating stains.

I couldn't shop, so my husband tried to, discovering that bread no longer costs eighty cents a loaf or green peppers, three for a dollar. He was so overwhelmed by the size of the grocery store and the cost of the produce, he came home with only a bag of candy and sodas for his dinner. 

I didn't argue about his diabetes or nutrition. Two hours later when he was hungry again, he went to a fast food restaurant for a hamburger and fries and he liked that so much, he started eating all his meals at fast-food restaurants. The old me would have scolded about his high cholesterol and high blood sugar but I was too sick to argue and within a few days of feeding himself, he was sick, too. He has new respect for the cost and nutrition of a tomato or casserole, as well as the effort and expense I put into all those meals he said he didn't want to eat before I took my hiatus from cooking.

At first my grandson was pleased he did not have to come to my house for dinner and to do homework. He began playing outdoors until dark, eating leftovers, watching a lot of television and guessing at his math and science questions. Then he failed the first math test of his life and his grades fell, just a month before the semester ended. He fell asleep on the drive to school. 

He told me to scold him about schedules and homework, and thanked me for scolding him in the past. He is angry with his mother for being ill and she is hurt by what she perceives as his rejection.

My daughter grows thinner, shaking more with chills and tremors. She's gotten the run-around from the insurance company, her doctor and the hospital so the tests she needed "tomorrow" cannot even be scheduled, a week later.

Jenny and I speak in a hit-and-run fashion about misunderstandings from the past and her fears for the future. When a memory or fear upsets her, she bolts.

It's very difficult, letting go. But I think being sick has shown me that I never really had a hold.  


Sunday, June 3, 2012

When a caretaker can't take care - part II

I take care of my sick husband, sick daughter, and my amazing grandson, but in April I lost ability to walk and then treatments on my bad knee kept me sick in bed for days.

 Injections of a gel to provide a cushion to stop bones from rubbing and chipping left my knee numb and made walking a greater challenge.

It turned out I was allergic to the iodine used to sterilize the injection site on my knee. I spent most of three weeks in bed or on the couch, curled up with a lap top or my Nook.

Becoming incapacitated is a caregiver's worse fear, but something wonderful happened.

I couldn't manage driving my daughter to her monthly doctor visit. He thought her new complaints were psychiatric when it started six months ago. He diagnosed her weight loss as anorexia, her headaches, dizziness and tremors as anxiety. He thought she wore a winter coat even as temperatures soared to get attention and accused her of daily tanning bed use to account for her discolored skin when in fact she never sought a tan from sun or artificially. 

He dismissed her complaints. He said, "If you feel that badly, you shouldn't be driving. Do you really feel that badly? I could have your drivers license suspended." She does not own a car and rarely drives my car, but she loves having a license. Meanwhile, she kept shrinking, sleeping more and more, and being increasingly restless.

Such dismissals by physicians are not uncommon when a patient comes in with a label of "psych patient" or has a history of concussions and seizures.

While I was too sick to deal with yet another confrontation with her doctor, the caseworkers who provide her home care and give her medication decided to take her to her medical clinic. Normally people see residents at her clinic, but perhaps because of her caseworkers' concerns about the symptoms, she saw a physician who oversees the residents and was given a referral for a brain scan, to see an ophthalmologist, and for extensive blood tests.

A friend took her to the hospital for the tests, because I was still not feeling well. As sometimes happens, after an hour long wait she was informed that the insurance company hadn't been contacted by the doctor's office so the insurance company could pre-approve the tests and now their offices were closed.

I would have been angry about the mix-up in light of the urgency, and then mad at myself for being upset over something we encounter fairly frequently when tests are ordered. Waking up from a nap to hear about it wasn't upsetting at all, because Jennifer said, "The important thing is someone will try to find out what's wrong with me, and I'm not sick as a sign of being crazy. It's something they can fix when they find out what it is!" 

I'm relieved for the help received when I found myself helpless.