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mental health bannerOne of the many delightful things those of us living with mental illnesses get to deal with is medication, or medicationS. My doc has always referred to this combination of meds as a cocktail, and I’ve heard that term used by many others. Unlike your typical margarita, a mental health med cocktail will normally be made up of a group of meds that work together to manage a person’s symptoms. The trick is finding the right combination.

Since being diagnosed almost 10 years ago, I’ve taken a whole host of medications. Some did nothing, some did things entirely too well even at the lowest dose, some didn’t interact with the core meds right, one left me with a really rotten ass facial tic, and one damn near killed me. Good times.

The thing that I find fascinating is how two people who have very similar or even the same Dx will end up on different – successful – cocktails. This is always, in my experience, due to the different ways the symptoms of the illness manifest. Let me see if I can illustrate this using Josh and myself.

We both have Bipolar Disorder type 2. I have an additional Dx of Borderline Personality Disorder, he has an additional Dx of Attention Deficit Disorder. We both have trouble sleeping. We both have highly addictive personalities.

I don’t remember back to the very beginning of my freshly diagnosed days that well. (too much booze and too many pills will do that to you) I remember being tried on a different anti-depressant while in the hospital and getting extremely suicidal. I think I was put on Lithium pretty early. I also remember having been on Seroquel, Topomax, Abilify, Geodon, Klonopin, Xanax, and Lamictal. There are almost certainly some that I don’t remember.

  • Seroquel turned me into a fucking zombie and is in the same chemical family as Geodon which produced a side effect called Tardive Dyskinesia. It’s rotten. That’s where the facial tic came from. No more of either of those, or any of the other meds in that family.
  • Topomax made anything carbonated taste like sewer water. That was it.
  • Abilify stopped working after awhile, though I think it was supposed to help with the mood stabilization.
  • Klonopin was entirely too addictive, as was Xanax. They were both prescribed for anxiety, something I have a lot of trouble with.
  • Lamictal damn near killed me. It was supposed to end up as a replacement for Lithium. Sadly, I started to develop Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. Nothing quite like hives in your mucous membranes – all of them.

Lithium has been my constant companion through all of this. Additionally right now I take Depakote, Gabapentin, Melatonin, and Benadryl. I know – Melatonin and Benadryl are not strictly psych meds, but they’re essential for knocking my ass out every night.

Josh was diagnosed earlier this year. He takes Seroquel XR for the Bipolar and Adderall XR for the ADD. To handle his sleep issues he takes Ambien. That’s it. Right now his symptoms are well controlled with just that.

The Adderall goes in first thing in the morning and is pretty much what gets him moving. He also drinks roughly 3 quarts of coffee before noon. Yes, he does vibrate.

The Seroquel goes in with dinner and makes him act a little drunk. The Ambien goes in around 9:30 and, in combination with the Seroquel, produces wicked munchies right before passing out. The Ambien also makes him act drunk since it works on the same reactors in the brain that alcohol does.

Am I a little jealous? You bet your ass I am. But my body chemistry is so incredibly fucked up that it’s really nothing short of a miracle that anything works for me.