I had a psychiatric appointment with an ARNP about two weeks ago. We discussed all the meds I’ve been on before for depression and bipolar disorder. I explained my reactions to each med – tardive dyskinesia from Haldol, weight gain from Lithium, bruxism (teeth gnashing) from Abilify, vertigo from Latuda, dry mouth from Seroquel, etc – to meds which had zero effect (Sinequan, Risperdal). After about two hours, we came to the conclusion that my symptoms (extreme mood swings) were basically kept at bay just by me avoiding my biggest trigger – people. To be fair, one pill does seem to work well with me – Prazosin. Prazosin (Minipres) is an anti-hypertensive; off-label, it’s used to treat sleep disorders in people with PTSD. It really does keep my vivid dreams and nightmares to a minimum and has reduced the ridiculous amount of sleep paralyses I’m prone to. The fact that it’s also an anti-hypertensive is beneficial since I do suffer from high blood pressure. So my pill for bipolar disorder is avoidance. Seems to be working fine so far.
Yawn. I don’t know if I can get used to this. Let’s see. I’m 56 years old. In a sense, I’ve been to hell and back. I’ve suffered a stroke. I’ve been a drug addict. I’ve been homeless for years. I’ve been stabbed (left forearm) and shot (left shin). I’ve had my life threatened by a crazy drug dealer in L.A. and have hanged out with the worse people in the worst places in NY, Nashville, LA and Seattle. I’ve owned many musical instruments over the years which I eventually sold to pawn shops for a pittance. Did I mention I’ve been homeless in Rhode Island, NY, Nashville, LA and Seattle? I’ve been hospitalized for psychotic breaks and am now diagnosed as being autistic, diabetic, and suffering from PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, obstructive sleep apnea and gouty arthritis. Yes, I have abandonment issues and I’ve made one serious suicide attempt which landed me in a now-defunct psychiatric hospital (Creedmor) for two months. I’ve also been a tortured, miserable nurse for about 30 years and have had my share of near-death experiences driving a cab in snowy weather. Hell, I wanted to end it all when I became ultra-dehydrated and weak from riding my old, clothes-laden bike for two days (about 100 miles) in the hot sun from White Plains, NY to Saugerties, NY. Through it all, I somehow managed to study Jainism, play in bands, record a few albums, drive around the country, and write and publish some novels, screenplays, audio books, short stories, and so on.
Then, two days ago, everything stopped.
I’m complacent now. Thanks to SSDI, I don ‘t have to worry about food or a place to live. As a matter of fact, I’m in my dream home – an adult community in a safe, quiet, artistic, progressive town on the waterfront. I have good doctors and, even though I don’t have a car anymore, the bus service is pretty adequate around here. And even though I should, I don’t get out as much as I’d like – except to the food bank every week – because I have a big ass ROKU TV and Android TV to entertain me, as well as two computers (including this one month old, spanking brand new HP), a new 88-note semi-weighted keyboard, new audio monitors, and enough audio creation software, music, movies and games to keep me busy for the next 20 years or so. So what have I been doing for the past two days? Sleeping.
Maybe I miss the days when danger was just a few steps down the way, when, at any given moment, the police could suddenly roll up on me as they’ve done several times in NY, LA and Seattle. Maybe I miss freezing to near death in my car and then being forced against my will to do crazy things like break into a bank, a church, an abandoned building, or a police station. Maybe I miss the decrepit, dangerous, dark crack houses dotting the thorniest places from coast to coast. Sigh. I do miss ambling about naked in public parks and supermarkets, but that was my bipolar talking, not me. As it stands, technically, I don’t have to write books or music to try to make a living anymore; I’m already there. I suppose I can just get wasted every day and watch the world go by. Somehow, that doesn’t seem to be too thrilling, though. I hope all this complacency is just my depression, and our rainy/snowy winter weather, talking. If not, I don’t think I could last too long this way.
For a long time, I’ve always thought that psychiatry is a joke, a clownish affair, a profession for buffoons who couldn’t guess their way out of a paper bag. I’ve even blogged about it in the past few months, especially in relation to me. Psychiatry and psychology has failed me; pills don’t help. All they do is infuriate me and perhaps even make me crazier. I’ve also stated that, if I had a serious psychotic break in public, the only way society would know how to deal with it is put me down like a dog.
And then that’s exactly what happened this past week.
I live in the same apartment complex as Charleena Lyles, Charleena was 30 years old with four kids and the fifth on the way. Like me, Charleena was black, homeless, and suffering from mental health. In essence, she was the female version of me. She called the police Sunday morning about a burglary in her house. Words were exchanged, bullets flew, and Charleena died in the presence of three of her kids. The police had the audacity to say the kids were unharmed. Of course they were harmed. They’re psychologically fucked for life, that’s how they were harmed.
Once again, the most vulnerable of this society has been failed. Societies like NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will come along, speak to the press, and say, “This tragedy could’ve been prevent.” Yeah, no shit. Can NAMI prevent it? Or any organizations that claims to assist the mentally ill? Nope. As far as I’m concerned, all they’re doing is picking up a paycheck because, guess what, their advocacy don’t mean squat in the real world. There will be another Charleena tomorrow, only this time she’ll be called Robin.
To appease my psychiatrist, to make her happy, I recently started two meds – Abilify and Prazosin. Abilify is being used for the treatment of depression and bipolar disorder; Prazosin if for my high blood pressure, PTSD and sleep tremors. So far, the side effects I’ve encountered are this: teeth grinding with the Abilify. A few months ago I experienced one frightful moment of syncope which lasted for about 4 to 5 minutes when I was sitting in the Northgate Mall. I’m not sure if the Prazosin I had started around that time was the blame for that one, but according to literature I’ve encountered, it can cause it. Side effects suck. They really do. Makes it seem like taking the pills are a waste of time. I’ll have to seriously think about whether I want to continue them or not, or end up one of the statistics in the chart posted above.