Benzos As a “Bandaid” for Serious Mental Illness: My Experiences

Earlier today, Ashley of Mental Health @ Home wrote an interesting article about the role of benzodiazepines in mental health treatment. While benzos can be useful as short-term treatment or PRN medication for panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety or insomnia, they are often used as a go-to “bandaid” med for all kinds of mental health conditions. And by “bandaid”, I don’t just mean short-term.

The first benzodiazepine I was prescribed, was the sleeping pill temazepam (Restoril) by my GP in 2006. I was suffering with significant insomnia, but really I was suffering with what I now know is a combination of the onset of autistic burnout and my dissociative shell cracking, if that makes sense. I was given ten pills to use over the course of a month at least. I took six weeks to use them up and refused to get a refill even though my staff at the independence training home nagged me about it.

Then, once in the psychiatric hospital a year later, I used a number of different benzos, one after the other, mostly for sleep too. I however also got put on oxazepam (Serax) as a PRN medication for my agitation. Whenever I took it, I’d become hazy, fall asleep for an hour or so and wake up just as agitated as I was before or more so.

At the time though, I was seen as just autistic if that at all. More so, I was seen as a manipulative, challenging pain in the neck of the nursing staff. It hadn’t been come to the surface yet that I was a trauma survivor and, if it had, no-one cared.

Benzos can cause dissociation to worsen in people with dissociative disorders. Indeed, I find that I do become more fuzzy and I really don’t like it. Benzos can also cause people with borderline personality disorder to become more irritable or impulsive. While I personally haven’t noticed I become particularly aggressive on benzos, like I mentioned above, after the first effects wear off, I do notice I become at least as irritable as I was before taking the medication. I used to attribute this to the fact that the reason for my agitation wasn’t solved by my taking a pill.

After all, one thing that Ashley doesn’t cover is the fact that people with severe mental illness who get prescribed benzos as bandaids for agitation, may very well have good reason to be agitated. I found that often the nursing staff in the mental hospital weren’t following my care plan or my crisis prevention plan at all and, when I got irritable as a result, I was quickly directed to take my Serax.

All this took place in 2007 or 2008, before I was diagnosed with DID or PTSD or BPD for that matter. Once diagnosed with these, I still ended up with a prescription for lorazepam (Ativan) though. In fact, I at one point took it at a relatively high dose of 3mg per day for several months. Thankfully, my withdrawal symptoms once quitting cold turkey due to a miscommunication with my psychiatrist, were physical only and I was able to go back on it and taper slowly soon enough.

Currently, I do have a prescription for lorazepam as a tranquilizer for when I have a dental procedure. Now that I am thinking about all the things I read in Ashley’s article, as well as what I’ve been discussing with my psychiatrist recently about my fear of losing control, I’m not even sure I’m going to take the medication when the time comes to have dental work done. Which, I hope, isn’t anytime soon.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (February 6, 2022)

Hi everyone on this rainy, windy Sunday afternoon. I’m really regretting having started the landing page for #Write28Days rather than just having linked up some archive of the tag or something, as today I’m already a day behind and it looks weird to add posts to my landing page again now. Okay, maybe that’s just my autistic brain acting up. Anyway, this afternoon I’m joining #WeekendCoffeeShare. If I feel so inclined, I’m going to add another post on my #Write28Days topic tonight, but again I won’t promise I will.

I’ve just had my afternoon coffee. I’m supposed to have a serving of fruit with that. Since the supermarket delivered 5kg of pears yesterday, the staff badly wanted me to eat a pear. Thing is, I’m not a fan. Besides, it’s not my problem either the supermarket got the order wrong or my staff mistyped it in the system. They should have been five pears, not 5kg. Anyway, I chose a banana, but if you all would like a pear (or two) with your coffee, tea or soft drink, we’ve got loads! Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d share some more details than I did yesterday about my psychiatrist’s appointment on Tuesday. First, we decided to decrease my topiramate (Topamax) dose again to 25mg morning and 25mg evening, because the other 25mg I was taking in the evening was only giving me side effects and no positive effects. We also discussed my fear of letting go of my sense of control particularly in the evening and at night when getting ready for sleep. This means that traditional anti-anxiety medications or sleeping pills are pretty much out of the question for me, since they’d cause me to get drowsy and hence by definition lose a bit of control. Then, I’d fight the effect of those pills and get even more anxious. The psychiatrist instead prescribed me pregabalin (Lyrica). This, like topiramate, is originally an anticonvulsant, but it also works for anxiety. I would be starting with one 75mg tablet on Saturday early evening (around 5PM, when we have dinner here).

The psychiatrist also recommended that my nurse practitioner talk to the mental health agency’s psychologist to see if she can offer me ideas for coping with the anxiety. My nurse practitioner is also going to discuss this with my care facility’s behavior specialist.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that, indeed, I started on my decreased topiramate dosage on Tuesday right away. I slept great my first night and originally thought maybe this was the solution after all. It wasn’t to be though, as the next day I was right back to being sleepless and anxious.

Then yesterday I was anxiously awaiting starting my pregabalin at 5PM only to find out first that the staff thought it was put in the med system for 8PM. Then, once they took a closer look, they found out the pharmacy had put it in there for 8AM and the morning staff had indeed given it to me. I’d apparently taken it without noticing. No side effects so far, but this really is quite stupid, as there’s a reason I should be taking it early in the evening. I E-mailed my nurse practitioner, who will hopefully get back to me tomorrow. By the way, I also noticed I got a capsule rather than a tablet. The dosage is right, thankfully.

If we were having coffee, I would share that, yesterday, I decided to order soft pastels to use with my polymer clay. They should be getting here any moment, as thanks to my Select membership with Bol.com, I can have stuff delivered for free any day of the week.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I asked about sealing my polymer clay creations if I’d used acrylic paint or soft pastels on them. I particularly commented that I don’t want to use resin for this, as it’s rather risky with the UV or fumes of the two-component epoxy. Thankfully, I was reassured that sealing isn’t really necessary and, if it is, I can use other products than resin, such as floorboard protector or liquid clay.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that, due to the high winds, my husband didn’t visit today. He didn’t want to risk driving on the highway in his small Daihatsu Cuore, particularly near Lobith, where they’d issued a weather warning. Better luck next week!

How have you been?

Most Relaxed When I Am Slightly Distressed?

I had a meeting with my nurse practitioner today to discuss my topiramate. Like I mentioned last Sunday, the increased dosage isn’t doing what it should. I was experiencing slight tingling in my hands and feet and, more annoyingly, increased drowsiness. Moreover, the medication wasn’t working for my hypervigilance; if anything, it was making it worse. The slight tingling in my hands and feet has decreased to the point of almost disappearing over the past few days. The drowsiness has not. Neither has the hypervigilance.

A theory I came up with recently, in a conversation with the care facility’s behavior specialist, is that my ideal level of alertness is really slight distress. In terms of the care facility’s signaling plan, phase 1 rather than 0 is really when I’m most relaxed. The reason, in fact, is that relaxation scares the crap out of me because it includes a sense of loss of control.

I am reminded in this respect of my last surgery as a child, when I was eight-years-old. I clearly remember going under the anesthesia – I had refused a tranquilizer to calm me beforehand – and I also vividly remember keeping on talking, even when my speech became slurred, up till the moment the anesthetic knocked me out. I was deathly afraid of letting go of my control.

I am also reminded of my fear of going to sleep, which goes back to early childhood. It may in part be related to my trauma-related symptoms, because of course my traumas started as early as infancy. However, I wonder whether this is also somehow related to the fear of losing control.

I once heard that benzodiazepine tranquilizers are no good for people with borderline personality disorder, precisely because the anti-anxiety effect causes aggression in them. I am not sure whether my current diagnosis includes BPD or not, but something similar might be going on with me. I don’t generally become aggressive when I’m under the influence of tranquilizers. However, as my nurse practitioner said, this thing does show that alertness and distress are not some linear thing on a scale from -2 to 3 (on my care facility’s signaling plan) in real life.

The bottom line is that we don’t yet know what to do about my topiramate. We’ve so far decided to wait another week or two to see if, since the drowsiness should decrease with time, this will cause the positive effects to start becoming noticeable. If not, we may go back to my old dosage, but I’m not yet sure what to do about my PRN quetiapine then. After all, we upped my topiramate in hopes that I could do without quetiapine then. Right now, I’ve felt like I would’ve needed a PRN medication quite regularly, but I’m trying to suck it up for now. That’s pretty hard. I’ve had a few almost-sleepless nights over the past week and am pretty anxious most evenings. But yeah, I’m muddling through. Thankfully, my nurse practitioner did give me an extra appointment next week to check in on the meds.

Moaning About My Meds

It’s 8:30PM and I’m probably going to bed before 10PM tonight. Since upping my topiramate (Topamax) a week ago, I’ve been more sleepy earlier at night and consequently going to bed sometimes by as early as 9PM or even earlier. Unfortunately, the quality of my sleep doesn’t seem to be better.

Last night, I had a horrible dream in which my staff were chattering among themselves and all the while I was trying to get their attention because I was anxious, but to no avail. That’s how I’ve been feeling ever since upping my medication: I am still anxious, but too drowsy to react to it. In fact, I’m not even 100% sure my experience last night was completely in my dreams, because, when I awoke, I couldn’t get to the level of alertness necessary to press the call button.

I don’t really mind the drowsiness as much. Or the tingling in my fingers and toes, which I’ve started to experience since increasing my topiramate dosage too. But the medication does have to work for my hypervigilance. And hypervigilance is not just an outer reactivity, or is it?

My assigned home staff did say yesterday that she judges from the staff’s reporting that I’m calmer, because I come calling out for help less at the times I’m not having my one-on-one. That comment triggered me intensely, because it made me think I’m supposed to take my topiramate so that I don’t ask for help outside of my assigned support hours. I’m reminded of my psychiatrist’s comment about meds as a “chemical nurse” again, something I now don’t see as quite as validating a statement.

This evening, I did E-mail my nurse practitioner my concerns. Of course, the topiramate’s positive effects might still need time to kick in, but if they don’t, I’d rather go back to my old dose. Which, of course, means we will need to find me a different PRN medication or something for when I go into crisis. It also means we’ll need to postpone my aripiprazole (Abilify) taper. Honestly though, I don’t really care about those.

A Productive Appointment With My Psychiatrist

I had an appointment with my psychiatrist today. Last week, I had already raised some issues relating to my medication with my nurse practitioner and asked to see the psychiatrist about them.

Among other things, I finally dared to ask for them to consider lowering my aripiprazole (Abilify) dose. I have been on this antipsychotic for nearly twelve years and on my current dose of 30mg, which is the max dose, for about five or six of those years. I have had the wish to lower my dosage for years, but was always asked to wait for a while to stabilize. Now that my one-on-one has been approved for the coming two years and I’m relatively stable, I thought further waiting would be senseless.

My psychiatrist today proposed to lower my dosage in steps of 5mg each, while remaining on a new dosage for three months. She claims that the first two weeks, I won’t see any effects of the lowering of my dosage so any change in behavior doesn’t count as a sign that my dose needs to be upped again. When I wrote in a Facebook group about my lowering my aripiprazole, I was met with surprise at the slow taper. Indeed, I’m not sure where my psychiatrist got the idea from that the first two weeks don’t count, since aripiprazole has a half-life of about 72 hours, not two weeks. However, since I don’t suffer with any major side effects, I don’t see why the slow taper would be bad.

My psychiatrist said that we won’t have a goal dosage in mind, so we’ll keep tapering until it’s no longer the right thing. Yes, even if this means I can do without aripiprazole altogether eventually. I was a little shocked when she mentioned the possibility that I might not need my aripiprazole at all at one point. Of course, given the slow taper, this will take like 18 months or so, but I don’t mind.

I won’t start my taper until next month, because first we decided to increase my topiramate (Topamax) by yet another 25mg in the evening. Then I’ll be taking 50mg in the evening and 25mg in the morning. This is still a pretty low dosage even for trauma-related symptoms. It is hoped that, by doing this, we’ll help reduce my night-time anxiety even more and I won’t need my PRN quetiapine (Seroquel) anymore. After all, that wasn’t helping with my anxiety really. I originally got my quetiapine when I was still experiencing a lot of overload-related irritability. Now it’s more anxiety and PTSD that’s causing me to feel strong distress, so topiramate may be a better fit. Of course, topiramate is a daily medication, but if it can prevent me experiencing significant distress, I’m willing to try it.

I do feel a little weird, in that I was always taught that medication isn’t a substitute for coping skills or support and at the same time that it’s either one or the other. I mean, even Dutch care funding regulations at least used to say that if someone was medicated for something, they no longer qualified for support in this particular area. My psychiatrist today called medication a “chemical nurse”, in that a nurse’s role is to help calm you down when in crisis and that’s what meds do too. Now that I have the best human support I can get, I think it’s time to figure out the best medication I can get too.

Lastly, we discussed my getting medication specifically in prep for dental treatment. I explained that, after getting seven cavities filled without anesthetic many years ago, I have pretty bad anxiety but it shows itself in freezing. We decided I could take lorazepam (Ativan) 2.5mg the morning before the procedure and then when leaving (the surgery is about a 45-minute drive away), I could take another 1mg. The psychiatrist said I could skip the 1mg if I was feeling really drowsy, but my staff said the dentist can deal with me even if I am.

Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with the results of this appointment. My nurse practitioner should have sent the prescription for the increased topiramate to the pharmacy and that should be filled next week.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (July 9, 2021)

Hi everyone on this partly sunny and warm Friday evening. I’m joining #WeekendCoffeeShare. I’m afraid it isn’t time for our evening coffee for another hour yet, but I can offer you a glass of water or of course make you a Senseo coffee in my own coffee maker. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, firstly I’d share about the topiramate. Yay, I finally started it and yay for no side effects! That being said, I’m not noticing any positive effects either as of yet and my nurse practitioner said it’ll be four to six weeks before we’ll increase my dosage. That disappointed me a bit, given that the max dosage for PTSD symptoms is six times what I take now, so it’ll take at least six months to get to that level and then if we decide this medication isn’t for me after all, six more months to get back off. Maybe I’m wrong here, since I’ve never had a medication not work on me at all before. I’ll discuss all this with my nurse practitioner when I next see him. Of course, here’s hoping the medication will start working in a few weeks.

Next, if we were having coffee, I’d share that I’ve experienced an increase in motivation lately. This has been going on for a few weeks already, but I’m noticing it might stick around longer now. Usually, it only lasts for a week or so and then diminishes again.

I have not been as crafty this past week as I was last week, but still I’ve not been disappointed with my level of activity.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I talked with the care facility’s behavior specialist yesterday. We decided to let the moving care homes issue rest for a bit, but get back to it in about two months’ time. I really do hope we can work on making my life in my current care facility better, as she’s right that every place has its positive and negative sides.

If we were having coffee, I’d moan about the rapid increase in COVID cases here in the Netherlands. We’re due to get another press conference from the prime minister at 7PM. I’m not expecting any measures that will affect me directly, but still, it sucks.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I’ve been spending quite a bit of money on my hobbies lately. I ordered several new essential oils, including the Roman chamomile I mentioned on Wednesday, as well as a full liter bottle of sweet almond oil. I also ordered a kitchen scale. Not a talking one, as they’re too expensive for my liking. I’m hoping all my supplies will arrive either tomorrow or next Monday.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d tell you I’m loving looking at sites for bath and body recipes. I already created a pink grapefruit and lemon massage oil. Since both essential oils are phototoxic, I took extra care to dilute them properly and so far, so good. I used the oil on my hands yesterday and am absolutely fine despite the sunshine now.

How have you been?

Nurse Practitioner’s Appt This Afternoon

I had a brief meeting with my nurse practitioner this afternoon. Even though it was only half an hour, we discussed a lot of things. First we made concrete plans for me to start the topiramate. Like I said before, I would need to be on the injectible birth control for two weeks before I could start it. That would be next Thursday, but I proposed I won’t start with the topiramate until the Sunday after that, July 4. That way, I won’t be just starting out when I go to Lobith on July 3. This was okay with my nurse practitioner and he’d make sure the pharmacy would get it ready on time.

Next, we discussed my bloodwork results. In the part that measures metabolic health, nothing worrisome was found. I asked about my kidney function and first my nurse practitioner said that unless your estimated GFR is below 60, it’s no reason to worry yet. Mine was 81. He checked my previous lab results. My estimated GFR was 71 in 2019 and 82 in 2020, so there’s not a clear decrease either.

He also complimented me on my cholesterol level, which was completely normal. Of course, there is only so much you can do about high cholesterol, but apparently I’m doing what I need to. It probably helps that I don’t drink and try to eat a relatively healthy diet.

Then the other page showed my blood level for my antipsychotic aripiprazole and its active metabolite. These were quite high. This means that side effects may outweigh the effectivness of the medication. While I don’t experience any major side effects, we will try to lower my aripiprazole dose in the not-too-distant future. That’s been a long-time wish for me anyway.

Then we got to discuss my crisis last week and my conversations with my husband. My husband had suggested I might have dependent personality disorder and I eventually thought he was right. Of course, in my mind, this led to all kinds of additional conclusions that my husband hadn’t mentioned, like my not having trauma-related issues and my not even being autistic and my being one giant manipulator.

My nurse practitioner said that DPD rarely if ever goes alone and that he wonders whether it even is a valid diagnosis. It is according to DSM-5, of course. He added that this is one of the most negative diagnoses to give someone. My nurse practitioner obviously didn’t mean my husband, as he didn’t really try to diagnose me at all, just wanted to give me food for thought. We will further discuss my issues with dependency in the future.

Overall, it was a good appt. As my nurse practitioner hadn’t read the E-mails we (meaning my inner people) had sent him over the weekend, we didn’t go into those specifically. Those E-mails had included a lot of self-loathing and self-doubt, including about our possible DID. I did explain about the dependency issue, like I said above. He also made sure I’m no longer in actual crisis. I confirmed this. This means I no longer need more frequent contact with the mental health team than I normally have.

An Unbelievably Good Psychiatrist’s Appt Yesterday

Yesterday, I didn’t blog, because I was overwhelmed and frustrated all evening. The frustration is a topic for another time. My overwhelm was mostly positive in a way, in that I’d had a psychiatrist’s appointment in the morning and was overcome with disbelief at how understanding she was. That in turn triggered feelings of disbelief at my current life situation in general, which triggered memories of trauma.

I’d seen this psychiatrist once before, last December. Then, she had switched my PRN medication from lorazepam to quetiapine. Now was the time to discuss whether this was the right medication for me. I wasn’t sure to begin with. I explained truthfully that, while the medication helps somewhat with my oversensitivity to stimuli like noise, it doesn’t help with the anxiety and PTSD symptoms. I didn’t mention PTSD as such, but I did mention that my basic level of arousal is already pretty high. She asked me to describe how I moved from my baseline, which I explained was already a five on a 1-10 scale, to a level ten. I explained that I move very quickly and, once I’m at a ten, I’m too overwhelmed and unable to process stuff to take a quetiapine. Then, when I recover slightly to, say, a level eight, I can take the medication and it helps me get back to my baseline level of five.

I can’t remember how we got talking about it, but I assume my nurse practitioner already told her some things about my anxiety. I mean, we got talking about my fear of going to sleep, which I up to that point had hardly realized was maybe an actual fear of going to sleep because of nightmares. Until this point, I’d always assumed it was some form of fear of abandonment, as the night staff isn’t in my home all the time.

The psychiatrist pretty quickly got to her suggestion, which is adding a low dose of topiramate (Topamax) to my daily medications. I had heard of this medication before and a person I know online, had gotten it at his own request to help with PTSD-related nightmares. This person got it only for a few nights when he had to endure a triggering situation though. Besides, I don’t have nightmares every night. So before I agreed to it, I asked the psychiatrist to explain what it would do. She said it’s normally prescribed for epilepsy or migraine, but low doses are also found to be effective for trauma-related symptoms. She explained that some people love this medication and some hate it due to its side effects. At first, I’ll get one 25mg tablet to be taken at night. I’ll notice any side effects I’m going to get within the first several days and can then stop right away if they’re too unpleasant. If I tolerate this medication, the dose can be upped, in which case I’ll need to take the medication twice daily. The highest dose she usually goes to for PTSD is 150mg a day. She said that it should help with nightmares, but also could be helpful in preventing me getting triggered and having flashbacks often during the day.

I loved how understanding she was of my symptoms. I can’t even remember having said that I experience flashbacks, but I quite often do indeed. She said that, though I can continue to take my PRN quetiapine, that one dulls me a bit, while the topiramate should actually make me less susceptible to flashbacks. It reminds me of an explanation of the different effects of antipsychotics vs. anticonvulsants in helping with sensory overreactivity that I once read. It said something like, imagine overload is hearing a hated radio channel at top volume in your head. Both antipsychotics and anticonvulsants change the channel, but while antipsychotics give you headphones, anticonvulsants actually lower the volume of the radio. Of course, I will continue to take my daily antipsychotic (aripiprazole) and antidepressant (citalopram).

A possibly not-so-undesirable side effect of topiramate is decreased appetite. Other than that, side effects include drowsiness, sleepiness, double vision and tingling in the hands or feet. That last one, particularly if it’s going to effect my fingers, sounds annoying, but I’ll get to experience that if it happens.

Since my nurse practitioner will have to talk to my care facility’s physician before the medication can actually be started, I don’t expect this to happen till sometime next week. It’s also been decided I will start this when a trusted staff is on shift.

Now this did get me into an excited yet overloaded state yesterday evening. I mean, seriously, how can it be that someone truly understands? It baffles me but I’m so relieved.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (April 18, 2021)

Hello everyone and welcome to my #WeekendCoffeeShare post for this week. I just had my afternoon coffee. I think there’s still some left, or you can have a tea, fizzy drink or water. We alsso have custard cupcakes if you want one. They’re delicious! Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you about your weather. Ours has been steadily improving over the past week. On Monday, we still had a bit of ice rain, but the rest of the week, it’s not rained much. Today, we have some sunshine and temperatures of about 16°C during the day. It’s still close to freezing at night though.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that, on Wednesday, I had a good talk with my community psychiatric nurse. I was able to express some of my anxiety. Then again, Thursday night I ended up in a bit of a crisis again. I tried to reach my CPN on Friday. Unfortunately, by the time she called me at 5:30PM, there was little she could do for me.

Tomorrow, I’ll meet with my nurse practitioner again. I’m considering asking him about my medication, both my daily meds and my PRN tranquilizer. While the PRN med, the atypical antipsychotic quetiapine (Seroquel), works okay for reducing sensory overload, I’m experiencing increasing anxiety, particularly at night. I don’t blame the quetiapine, but I’d really like something to help with this.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I had quite a scary experience yesterday. I was walking outside in the sunshine and suddenly completely blinded. Of course, it is only to be expected that I’ll eventually lose my light perception too, but it’s still scary. My staff interestingly did understand my panic about being blinded. Most people probably won’t, since to a sighted or even partially sighted person, I’m pretty much totally blind.

I also had a pretty nasty headache, so I’m wondering whether I might have experienced a spike in eye pressure. My staff is going to inquire about getting my eye pressure checked by an ophthalmologist. I’ve heard, after all, that glaucoma needs to be treated even in blind people.

This experience did motivate me to finally inquire about getting a pair of NoIR sunglasses again. I had them in the past, but cannot find them in my size at the most well-known low vision shop. My staff E-mailed the occupational therapist about it. For now, another staff gave me a pair of regular sunglasses.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I got a new roller tip for my white cane on Friday too. I now have a marshmallow tip, which I think works better than the large ball tip I used to have.

If we were having coffee, I’d share how happy I am with all the engagement on my blog. It’s truly heartwarming to see how many people are touched by my posts.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d tell you that my husband and I went for a walk in the “wolf woods”, as he calls the woods between Raalte and the nearby theme park. A wolf was found in the theme park a few weeks ago. Thankfully, we didn’t spot it.

How have you been?

A Really Validating Psychiatrist’s Appt

Today, we had our first appointment with the psychiatrist from the local mental health team. To my surprise, our nurse practitioner came to get us out of the waiting room. He attended the appt too though and looking back, it was really good.

I started to explain that our PRN lorazepam hardly worked at all. The psychiatrist seemed to think that’s a bit odd. We ultimately came to the conclusion that it does do something but the anxiolytic effect causes more emotions to surface.

The psychiatrist then started to talk about the “pieces”, as we call ourselves when talking to mental health professionals. She asked whether I’d ever been in touch with people with similar experiences. This utterly surprised me, as our nurse practitioner had said comparing our experience with others’ is useless. I felt able to share that I’d Googled my symptoms and come across dissociation and had met other people with similar symptoms that way. I did say I don’t really want a diagnosis.

The psychiatrist asked whether each of us experiences the effects of medication differently. Thankfully not, but some are more willing to take medication and to let it work than others. She explained that the mind is stronger than a pill, so if we don’t want to calm down, no medication can make us.

She ended up prescribing us a low dose of quetiapine (Seroquel). This is an antipsychotic when used at higher doses (like in the 100s of mg) but has a greater calming effect when prescribed at lower doses. She told me she had learned how this works – why its calming effect is greater at lower doses -, but had forgotten. I said I’d find out about it someday and let her know.

At one point, I started zoning out. The psychiatrist as well as the care staff who attended, noticed. I honestly had no idea other people, let alone virtual strangers like the psychiatrist, could tell if I didn’t say I was feeling out of it. The psychiatrist told me it’s a coping mechanism and fighting it will only make it last longer. I will work with my nurse practitioner on ways of coping with it when alone.

I also mentioned compulsively looking up things that trigger us online. Like, I now remember yesterday someone was reading a newspaper story about Russian opposition leader Navalny’s poisoning. Then one of the littles got triggered into thinking someone had put poison in her underwear too. The same happens on a more severe scale with us compulsively looking at other places to live. Our nurse practitioner said he’s definitely going to remember this for our upcoming appts.

Looking back, I’m so glad we had this appointment and also so glad our nurse practitioner attended too. He had seemed a bit dismissive when we had an appointment on Thursday, but we were able to express that via E-mail too.

Clarissa