A little over 6 months ago, I suffered a terrifying mental breakdown and was rushed to the ER. I then spent a few days on the psych ward. Many readers have asked how I’ve been doing since. It’s been a little quiet around here, but that’s mostly due to burnout and not any sort of relapse. I’m doing quite well, actually.
While I was in the hospital, they recommended a medication called Latuda for my bipolar depression. It’s supposed to treat all the major symptoms, plus studies show it works well on things like hallucinations. I didn’t realize how often I hallucinated until I started taking it, because they weren’t visual hallucinations.
I used to have constant music playing in the background, like a radio was on at some distance so far you couldn’t really make out the words or even the major melody. My brain was in a constant place of filling in the gaps of what those songs were, trying to make out the instruments used, and even focused on trying to ignore it. I typically heard music when in crowds, in the quiet as I fell asleep, or when the dishwasher was running. It was worse, or at least louder, when I was manic, but it wasn’t until the music stopped completely that I realized it was there when I was depressed, too.
The first time I took Latuda, I slept for the first time in 9 days. I mean, I really slept. They had to wake me up for breakfast the next morning. I woke up feeling like a million bucks. I was out of bed in minutes instead of laying there for an hour, willing myself out of bed and into the real world. I felt ready for the day, and there was a clarity. There was also quiet. The music had stopped.
The music was particularly bad in my room when I first arrived at the hospital. The machinery of the hospital HVAC motors sat on the roof just outside my window. It was a constant, loud whirring. This is the sort of sound that my brain would usually interpret as music. The first night there, it was hard to tell whether it was violins or electric guitars or both. The first morning after taking Latuda, I heard nothing. I didn’t think much of it until the day wore on and I was aware of the silence. It was a little unnerving at first.
By the time I went home, everything inside my mind had shifted a bit. It was like when the eye doctor flips lenses and suddenly you can see the big E with such crystal clarity, you wonder why you didn’t see it that way all along. I felt I could think in 3-D, that there was so much room for myself in my mind. My own thoughts rang out without a hint of cloudiness. The sense I had a dementor following me around was gone. I felt strangely alone, and strangely at home, as though this is the way it’s always supposed to have been.
I’m not sure if any of these metaphors are making sense. It’s hard to describe something indescribable. All I know is that Latuda gave me a new lease on life, and I have changed everything about my life to make sure I take it every night.
Latuda isn’t without its drawbacks. For starters, it’s expensive. It’s one of those medicines that is far more pricey in the United States than, say Canada. In researching it after I got home, I stumbled on /r/bipolar on Reddit. There, some US patients described jumping through hoops to get Latuda from up north. It’s so expensive, our insurance company didn’t want to cover it at first. The dose I take right now is more than $90 per pill.
Carrie fought hard with the insurance company to get it covered. Luckily, I was transferred to a grant-funded outpatient transition program after my hospital stay. In this program, nurse practitioners, under the supervision of a psychiatrist, work in tandem with social workers to fill the care gap caused by a lack of psychiatrists in my city. They had samples on hand to hold me over. They then worked hard to convince the insurance company this medication is necessary. Our insurance is pretty good, but it still came out to $85 per month. Luckily, there’s a manufacturer coupon for Latuda that makes your co-pay only $15 per month for the first year.
The other major down side of Latuda is the risk of side effects. Most complaints I’ve heard involve severe nausea and vomiting, although that can lessen with time. There’s also a risk of muscle twitches. I experience spasms in my eyelids more often these days. There’s akathisia, which I mildly experience not long after taking it. It can have effects on sex drive, but that’s not well-researched or reported the way it is with SSRI antidepressants. Finally, Latuda can make you very sleepy. This is the case for me. I need to take it at night before bed. I know I need to also say it doesn’t work the same for everyone, too, since someone is bound to pop up and say it’s not great. I’m just talking about my experience in this highly personal post.
Latuda is also most effective when taken with food. I mean 350 calories or more. Since I have to take it at night before bed, that’s changed my diet somewhat, and I’m still figuring things out. I know one of the main reasons they prescribed it to me is there’s less risk of random hunger and cravings while on it, which often happens with this class of drug. Since I’m already a large person, they didn’t want me getting fatter. Unfortunately, the need to take Latuda with food is backfiring.
While I’m less down on myself and I have less panic attacks, I’m still anxious. We’re treating the anxiety separate. The anxiety feels different. I’ve had a bit of a crisis of faith, if I’m honest. It turns out when I thought I was hearing from God, it was actually my mental illness. That’s been hard to deal with, and perhaps I’ll write more about that another time. Anxiety has had me wondering what happens when you die if there is no God, if I was wrong all along. It’s been hard to sleep at night sometimes. I used to long for death, and assumed I deserved any pain that came from it. Now I fear both. I’m not done living yet. In fact, it feels as though I’ve just started.
Despite the side effects, I wouldn’t trade what life is like today for what it used to be. My friends have described it as a total change in demeanor. They say I’m not as angry or ranty as I used to be. They say I’m more personable. They say I let others get words in edgewise, since I don’t feel the need to nervously dominate conversation. I don’t interrupt people as badly as I used to when I have a sudden idea. My kids have noticed a difference, and are less afraid of upsetting mom. Oldest, who is 16, can’t upset me and push my buttons when he wants to. Carrie and I are navigating this change as a couple, since they are no longer in caretaker mode. We’ve had more conflict as I stand up to be more self sufficient. It’s affected our sex life, though.
I’m also left with a bit of a mess. In 2014 and 2015, I started to take on several large, long-term commitments. Today I have my home party business, a website for that with a blog, an advice column, a sex coaching business with private clients, I do workshops publicly and privately, I home school Youngest, and I run this blog. Each of these things is a full time commitment, and I’m unable to fully give myself to any of them. It’s resulted in some pretty severe burnout lately.
To be honest, I think I may quit sex toy parties. That’s a topic for another post, though.
You all, as readers, give me a reason to keep going here. Your comments, your follows, your shares, and especially your purchases through my affiliates make this blog an income generator. You, as readers, make it so I can afford my medicine. I’m going to keep reviewing, to keep doing what I’m doing here. It’s fun, I love the sex blogging community, and you’ve all been so great through all of this.