Thursday, November 12, 2009

shaky times

My perceptual problems have returned recently. It started a few weeks ago. I'd hear a voice here or there. I'd hear someone using doublespeak and sending secret messages. I'd shrug it off and hope that it wouldn't get worse. I was going off Seroquel - one of the two medications that caused me to gain 100 pounds between 2005 and 2008. I wanted to be off of it, and my last ARNP plus my current one agreed that I didn't seem to need to be on so. much. medication. I am, after all, practically a walking pharmaceutical company. I should have tattoos from Eli Lilly and friends all over my body and charge them for the display.

Unfortunately, it seems that going off Seroquel caused me to begin going off reality too. I fell into a completely horrific state two days ago, and being that I'm not sure who reads this blog anymore, I'm really rather wary about discussing it here. Past psychosis is easier to admit to than current psychosis is. But the whole point of this blog was always to tell the truth about this illness and how it affects me (and others). So I'll tell you a bit about what happened.

I'd been going to a gym, as part of my weight loss regimen for a few months. I was walking an hour and then doing light weights or bicycling for 20 minutes or a half hour after that. This was something I worked up to for many months. I have Fibromyalgia and exercise does not exactly come easily to me. I used to be incapable of walking for ten minutes. But gradually I went from a few minutes to 60 minutes. This has helped me to lose the 46 pounds I've gotten rid of since April, and I'm really happy about that.

Anyway, back to the gym. My sister-in-law let me use her gym card because she had an expensive membership that she never used, and it was about to expire. She gave it to me, and even though it has her name on it, I went ahead and used it. Nobody questioned me about anything. I had no requirement to prove who I was. And to be honest, I felt only slightly guilty about the inherent dishonesty in this behavior, because after all, it was paid for and no one else was getting any use out of it.

Then came the time when the membership needed to be renewed. After working out 4-5 times a week there for months, I knew that I need to continue doing so if I was going to continue losing weight. So I got talked into the whole rigmarole sales pitch, and just renewed it. I said my real name was not my sister-in-law's name but my own. Nobody seemed to care that my name was different. They went ahead and gave me the forms to fill out. I filled them out, gave my check, and end of story. Almost.

Two days ago, I went to the gym and was told immediately that the person who renewed my membership forgot to have me fill out a credit form. The perky gym sales chick assured me they weren't going to actually check my credit, they just needed information in case I didn't pay my bill each month, so they could track me down. That's when I got nervous. I looked at the form. They wanted my birthdate and my social security number. While it was easy to explain away a different address and phone number (which I didn't have to explain since nobody ever asked about it) than the ones my sister-in-law had, I thought in a panic, "how am I going to explain that I have a different birthdate and social security number??" I began to freak out. But, not really knowing what else to do, I went ahead and filled out the form. After all, I had already signed a year-long contract with this place for which I'm sure they were going to hold me liable regardless of what my birthday turned out to be.

I went on the treadmill, and started my usual walk, but was becoming more and more certain that the perky sales chicks were going to call the perky police, and I was going to the slammer. I thought about this more and more. Then I saw it. A police car. It was parked right outside with its lights on, waiting for me. It was really there (I swear I did not hallucinate the police car, but think what you want about that), and I was terrified. I fled into the locker room. My cell phone rang. It was a bill collector calling, supposedly, about a medical debt I had. I didn't think it was really a bill collector, though. I knew it was the police. There was no back entrance to sneak out of. I was shaking. I was absolutely convinced I was going to jail.

This went on for a while. I left, and walked towards my car waiting the entire time for the squad car to pull up beside me. It didn't. I got in the car and figured I'd wear my seat belt so I wouldn't get charged for an extra crime by not wearing one. I started driving and crying hysterically at the same time. (Note: bad idea). I was sobbing about how I didn't want to go to jail, and I could barely breathe. I thought about running, but didn't know where I could go that the police wouldn't be able to find me. In the midst of the sobbing, I called my Mom. She didn't know what I was saying, because when you can't breathe, you can't talk too well. My sister got on the phone. Eventually she understood what was happening. "Why would the police be after you?" she asked. I explained. "When did you start thinking this?". Hmmm..there's a clue that I'm not being believed. I began screaming about how I was not imagining this and I was not hallucinating and I was not crazy again, and on and on.

Eventually, my mom and my sister got me to pull the car over because I should probably not be driving if I can't breathe or think. I did. Then my sister be gain questioning me, "What other things have been going on? What happened yesterday? Something happened yesterday too, didn't it?" I explain I didn't want to go to the hospital but more importantly I didn't want to go to jail. I couldn't stop the hysterical crying and shortness of breath. Finally, my sister asked what the dosage was on my Seroquel back when it was, like, actually working and I said it was 800. "Go home and take 800 of Seroquel and your other meds and call me back after you've done that." This was wise advice, I see in retrospect. At the time, I couldn't make sense of anything, so I just did as told.

I ended up on the floor of my bathroom, sitting on the yellow mat, holding a stuffed rabbit I've had since I was two years old, with my cat Spooky watching me from her spot beside me. I thought the police would maybe not find me there, I guess. None of my thoughts were making much sense. I was waiting for them to arrive at any moment. I heard sirens. These were not hallucinations. In my neighborhood you hear a lot of police sirens. It's not the best neighborhood when it comes to crime, and I also live relatively close to a police department. So, exactly like other times when I've been paranoid, I heard the sirens and they made me even more distressed than I already was.

This went on and on, until, finally, the meds kicked in and I fell asleep. The next day I woke up with a mild fear of the police coming, but nothing as bad as the night before. Hence, I felt more calm than the night before, and less afraid. But not completely unafraid. I had an appointment with my ARNP already scheduled for that day, which was the main reason my mom and my sister probably didn't call the police to send me to the hospital. My therapist had noticed that I was having more problems since the Seroquel was decreased, and recommended I get it raised again. So that is what I did. I explained that the police were following me - though I realized maybe they really weren't - and that I couldn't stand the thought of gaining more weight after I had tried so hard to lose weight. She claimed she would "monitor" me closely so that I wouldn't gain more weight, but I've heard that before enough times to know it's a load of bullcrap. I was not thrilled to admit to it, but I knew I needed to go back on the Seroquel because I couldn't live through another night of terror like the night before.

So I'm back on 800 mgs again. I'm exhausted, sluggish, groggy, and hungry. The side effects of this drug really suck. But I don't know what else to do, and apparently, neither does the ARNP. Such is life with Schizoaffective Disorder.So that's what has been happening lately. Hopefully these episodes will cease, but I can never be sure of that.

I am still afraid to go back to the gym.


  1. Oh my gosh Jen...I am so so sorry that you have gone through all of this. You really handled it all pretty good even though a scary situation for you. Calling your mom and sister was the right thing to do and I am glad that you got good advice. Hang in there.
    Your TN friend. Janet

  2. Hi Jen, I think you did the right thing too in raising your medication. That's what I do when I veer into psychotic symptoms. It might be just temporarily...or it might be for a while; it's hard to judge. Don't worry about weight gain right now, just take care of yourself.

    I respect you for being honest and sharing your story. Don't let it get you too down. I really do believe that you've gotten past the worst of your illness. Look at this episode as an indication that you just need a med adjustment and nothing much more than that.


  3. Jen,
    That sounds terrifying, and I've had episodes like that before, so I truly understand how intense and horrifying they can be.

    I'm glad you are alright. I'm taking Seroquel too, at a dose of 600mg a day. When I have an episode like that, it goes up to 1000mg/day. They seem to help me too.

  4. When does an over-reaction cross the line to become, as you put it, "off reality"? It sounds terrifying, what you went through, but it also sounds like an extreme version of what many people experience when their worries "get the best of them" as the saying goes. If I fail to pay my income taxes, for instance, I might worry day and night about going to jail although the actual likelihood of any jail time is minuscule. Does my obsession with the possibility of jail time mean I'm sick or something else?

  5. I'm sorry to hear that it wasn't the best of days you had.
    It was a very frank account, sometimes I find it therapeutic to write about what has happened in the day regardless of how hard it may be.
    I hope the seroquel helped you anyway.
    It was a really good step to go to the gym.
    You took the right steps sometimes admitting you need a bit of help and calling someone is the hardest step I think.



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