Side effect? Or symptom of something more dangerous

(still no internet, I wrote this over the weekend)

It was my 6 month follow-up with my doc since starting Lamotrigine. I’ve noticed an overall improvement in my mood, but have also taken note of some unusual side effects. I listed off those I could remember because I had written them down but forgotten to bring the list.

He listened to me carefully with his listening face (a frowning brow and squinting eyes) and said “Hmmmm, I think you are being poisoned”. Say wha?? Poisoned? By who? How? I’m a recluse! I don’t know anyone who would have access to poison me. Then he followed that comment up with “….and it seems you may be showing signs of early renal failure….” WHAT.THE.FUCK. In Leslie’s words – what the everlasting fuck!! Apparently its my trusty side-kick, Lithium that’s to blame. I was in denial. Renal denial! I tried to throw Lamotrigine under the bus, but being a Specialised Psychiatrist and all, he won the argument. Lithium. The one drug that was my magic cure, my elixir against the evils of bipolar. I’m disgusted. After all the rejection I’ve gone through of late, now Lithium is rejecting me too. Unacceptable.

So I ran screaming to the pathology labs upstairs where I was, as always, butchered by someone who hates their job. An anxious wait followed for the results. I coaxed my kidneys through this crisis with a high water intake and very little sleep ‘cos I kept having to get up to pee. Results came in. Great news – kidneys are fine. Bad news – a high level of Lithium toxicity. It seems it is I that is rejecting Lithium. Sorry old pal, it was good while it lasted. The plan – reduce Lithium by half and increase the Lamotrigine to whatever I dunno my attention span only lasts 3 seconds. I’ll have to read the prescription again…. and then I’ll forget and have to read it again ….. and then I’ll forget and have to read it again but will have forgotten where I put it ….and then …. you know the drill right?

The moral of this story is that although you may believe something is just a side effect (from Lamotrigine), it could very well be a symptom of something a lot more severe. Don’t bury your head in the sand like I did. Be honest with yourself, be true to yourself and contact your doc. Sometimes, they really do know best.

If you’re interested to know what my symptoms of Lithium toxicity were, here is what I remember telling him:
-confusion and memory loss so bad it was affecting my ability to do my job. I call it stoooopid, but it had a fancy name – a decline in cognitive ability
-bad hand tremor. Paying cash at the grocery store and scattering the money everywhere; can’t open car door/front door first, second even third time round ‘cos keep dropping the keys; can no longer write anything even close to legible; can’t text, fingers don’t land where they’re supposed to; can’t chop onions without causing grievous bodily harm
-vision become significantly worse
-a noticable increase in anxiety, like ITS A TEN – RED ALERT – WHERE’S THE BROWN PAPER BAG! directly after taking evening meds, of which Lithium was one. I kept thinking it was the move or a side effect from Lamotrigine
-lost of balance (my adventurous yoga spill which caused sciatica)
-very dark urine for, like, months – I know this is a dangerous one, but I chose to do the ostrich thing. The thought of having to go through another round of ‘try-this try-that’ sickened me so I wanted to ignore the problem. But now I have to do the ‘try-this try-that’ anyway, so the joke’s on me.
-and then a symptom only he could pick up…. a mask-like face, a dead face void of expression. And I thought to myself “juuust great, not only am I fat and bipolar, but I’m also stoooopid and have no expression. Beautiful Life, just beautiful!”

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28 comments

  1. Man this shit is hard but I’m so glad that the both of you caught this before your kidneys went to shit which would only added more stress and struggle to your plate. And it really does drive home how important it is to tell them everything in the way of changes: physical, mental, and emotional – good or bad – so they know what our meds and bodies are doing with each other. I honestly don’t think I would have made the connection on my own either.

    I hope you recover quickly and that you get on a good, new treatment plan that works for you soon. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry to hear but I’m glad the doc figured it out. Hope you can find another med that works. For flushing toxins, look into lecithin. I haven’t done my homework (no linkdump) , but maybe you’ll find something helpful. It’s just in the back of my mind somewhere I once read about.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yikes! Thank you for sharing this. When in doubt it’s always a good idea to stay away from self-diagnosis and get it checked out. Be well, my friend xx

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m so worried about you sweetie. You take good care of yourself and follow Dr. orders to get better. I hope you find something quickly to take that will help you. Thank you for telling us the symptoms, I will be praying for you.Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry to hear about this. Thankfully no kidney damage. But sucks that you gotta try something else to replace the lithium. I hope it won’t be too painful of an experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1122989/ valproic acid (semisodium valproate, divalproex)
      http://www.healingwell.com/community/?f=13&m=339904 (the discussion thread is interesting)
      http://www.livestrong.com/article/196746-alternatives-to-lithium-carbonate/ (discusses some potential side effects and chemical alternatives)
      http://www.naturalnews.com/028751_bipolar_disorder_remedies.html (some potentially helpful foods and natural supplements)
      http://blogs.psychcentral.com/bipolar/2008/09/alternative-and-complementary-treatments-for-bipolar-disorder/ (another link offering potenially helpful foods, natural supplements and herbs)
      and since I saw the word “herbs” I looked at marijuana and the studies are divided on this.
      http://www.healthline.com/health/bipolar-disorder/marijuana-and-bipolar#Symptoms2
      On the one hand it can reduce nausea and induce a mellow state for some, on the other hand it increases appetite, and depending on the strength of the dose, may cause other mental issues or cause the existing symptoms to worsen.
      https://www.recoveryranch.com/articles/mental-health-articles/marijuana-worsens-symptoms-of-bipolar-disorder/
      I even looked at poppy tea and because it might kill you, I don’t recommend it.
      I confess I’ll have to read and reread the following before it will be coherent:
      http://www.livestrong.com/article/164861-what-are-the-causes-of-low-serotonin-levels/ but it recommends tryptophan (it’s in turkey and some other foods, and I really like turkey.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Geez, this must have taken you forever to put together. I really appreciate it, Deon. I’ll have to go and visit a friend to hijack her internet over the weekend and have a good read. Poppy tea sounds right up my alley. Speaking for myself, I endorse anything that can kill me *lights a smoke while driving into oncoming traffic*

        Liked by 1 person

      2. oh, God please, no. Unless we sip some ginger root tea together and the oncoming traffic is your feet driving you into my arms. I thought I’d look at stuff that is natural, that’s why I looked at the drugs in their original form- poppies, quinine, marijuana, etc. I don’t give a shit about the smoke, I still want a hug. And a piece of pie b/c it’s 3:14AM and I’m awake.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Pie may be the best therapy in the known universe. My favorite is cherry, but I like apple, blueberry, strawberry rhubarb, peach, custard, butterscotch (but only the home made kind, not the crap in the little box), key lime, pecan, (better with bourbon and chocolate), pumpkin… That list goes on and on. Guilty pleasure confession: I like the frozen chocolate pie with whipped cream and chocolate shavings on it (Marie Callender’s). Come on over, I’ll bake us up something. What’s your favorite pie?

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Wow Deon! I really appreciate the time and effort you’ve gone to for me. Thank you so much! 🙂 Of course its a linkdump… it’s a DEON linkdump. Painkills2 and I were just talking about our insomnia yesterday and wondering whether we may be vampires. So I’m definitely interested in the garlic aspect 😉 Thank you Deon, you’re a sweetheart

      Liked by 1 person

      1. hahahaha, yeah I get the verses, as being symbolic, but that’s creepy as hell in translation. If you weren’t a) there to see it, or b) reading in the context of Jesus offering the broken unleavened bread and the third cup of wine out of 4 at the Jewish Seder feast right before his crucifixion, you’d be creeped out with misunderstanding. Sounds like a vampire to me. (where’s the halo wearing vampire emoji?) 😀 I noticed that people were confused even back then when he said it, and some quit following, because it sounded pretty nutty out of context. Jesus meant that we commemorate his sacrifice and also if necessary suffer for following him.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. And I will say it…what the everlasting fuck! I’m so sorry. The thought of lithium toxicity is never far from my mind. I hope that the effects go away and you aren’t left with anything horrible. And I hope the uptick in the lamotrigine covers the lithium gap. Please keep us posted!!! And Damn Deon did do some good work there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know! Didn’t he. Yes…. everlasting 😀 I’ll never forget your phrase lol! I know I always worry and keep track of eating/drinking etc. I am having some unpleasant withdrawal side effects but they will go away. My mind is feeling a little bit sharper, much to my relief. I have to wait to get the increased lamotrigine until the end of the month, otherwise I pay cash. So I just have to hang tight ’til then. Thanks for your support Leslie ❤

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Hello my friend
    Who prescribed the Lithium? Has your Doc run labs every three to four months at most to see what level your Lithium levels are. I’ve taken Lithium not quite 40 years, it is a may stay for many mental illnesses and has been used by mental health doctor for 50 yrs.? Yes, there are possible side effects with many psych drugs. I think six or seven of my Lyme drugs have the potential to have an effect, including mild side effects. Your doctor sounds like an ass in saying you are being poisoned when you’re in high anxiety state. In the big picture a large % of drugs can effect lithium or Lithium can effect them. When I started with Psych 20 years ago, he had to adjust Lithium several times, I’m treatment resistant which means most drugs don’t work as well on me. I did monthly labs for the longest time. I’ve been at 450 mg for as long as can remember and never had a low or high test. My Lyme doctor even test Lithium because it can change how several of my Lyme drugs work.
    If you read enough information from unqualified sources you can be convinced of anything. The first action anytime you feel off is call the doctor. When you want to find anything and everything about the causes and effects of any drug, go to FDA.gov, it will show every adverse event since they started tracking, what type of event, any warnings, specific details of the warning, they break it down to manufactures, there are probably at least six companies making the generic, look at each company to see if they have been cited by the FDA. The first or second thing is READ The Patient Instructions on how to take the info. This is printed by the manufacturer and will have info about clinical trials, more info than you care to read. But Clinical trial info that is very important is in a specific trial, how many dropped out, at which stage, usually for side effects, all the data patients never read. The side effects they list is the side effects interested in at different % of mg. If you see a large number of people who dropped out at the same side effect as you, there is a piece of info, not all.
    Every drug, drug store for you child, sinus any thing you take has a side effect.This will help you understand the info doctors don’t take the time to explain. We have to do with every medicine, we can’t rely on that crappy form the pharmacy gives you.
    You know I care deeply for you and is why I’m writing what comes to mind to help you. The bottom line, your current doctor is responsible for taking lab levels on a consistent basis. It doesn’t matter if he didn’t write RX or not. You want all your medication for mental illness written by one doctor, one less chance for an error. I know you have put blame on Lithium for many issues with body, it many be true, it’ not Lithium, it’s a doctor that needs a malpractice suit to get them to wake up.
    I will give the best advice I can, don’t rush to push Lithium aside, it’s considered the most stable even after 50? years of use. I’ve taken Depikote? many be misspelled. before my current doctor, I reached toxic levels many times, no testing? or doctor didn’t do I don’t know. I would get this horrible metal taste in meds and he would just lower hoping it worked. It might make sense to read up on the other drugs used instead of Lithium, you may fall in love with Lithium. When studying other drugs also pay attention to average weight gain. I know you struggle with weight and it’s a life long challenge with mental illness meds. I gained 25 pounds with Depekote, I could have accepted if the drug worked.
    You can email msandorm@verizon.net anytime.
    Another point you can’t forget when giving information or getting information about side effects. Every body is different and may not ever encounter the same side effects. Let them go research and come to their own conclusion.
    When I want all the information about a medications, I stress go to the agency who is responsible to the whole process with medications.
    Keep us posted and rip someone a new one over the lack of testing.
    🙂
    M

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for that website, that’s a great reference. I do bloods every 6 months. I’ve been on 800mg lithium for the longest time. Doc has been wanting to reduce lithium for a while but I’ve resisted. I have tested high levels in the past but I refuse to give up lithium because it has worked wonders for me. He has now lowered my dose to 400mg so we’ll see how that works. I’m always scouring the internet looking at side effect etc. Its my first go-to when given a new med, so I know what to expect. Thank you for caring and taking the time to share your knowledge that is experience based. And thanks for looking out for me ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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