The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: So, Erm, I Came Off My Quetiapine

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I’m writing this mainly for my own reference and because, apparently, I’m not the only one coming off quetiapine this week.

I’ve been noticing the more quetiapine I take, the more nasty the side-effects have been becoming. Aside from the weight gain (boo), the biggest one is my brain. My memory, my ability to function. It’s not sedation, it’s not brain fog, it’s someone going through my head and randomly chopping out bits or pulling entire pages right out my grey matter.

This is problematic, not personally, but from a writing perspective. I can’t remember much about my own books, who a character is, what colour their eyes were, names and places. Yes, I should have a concordance of this stuff but hush.

Now I don’t taper. I am, at heart, masochistic and somewhat impatient so I cold turkey things. This isn’t, I admit, the smartest move or the first time I’ve done this but I’d rather have a few days/weeks of feeling shit than months of halving pills and lowering doses. Bollocks to that. Granted my GP probably won’t approve (and while I’ve not consulted her, I have spoken to several pharmacists who’ve given me an idea of withdrawal symptoms, apparently being on Biquelle XL, as a form of quetiapine, should make it easier though I thought it was just a brand name). Worse case, it’ll be three months, best case it’s already out of my system.

So, stuff I’ve noticed:

  • My memory is still shit. Maybe the damage is permanent? I hope not. It’s not what I have to do, it’s what I have to buy or where I’ve been.
  • I had one morning of intense nausea without needing to be sick, exacerbated by an extreme hypersensitivity to smell. Like everything made me feel ill, from bars of chocolate on a stand to that damn burger place up near Morrisons on Riverside. When I don’t want dinner then my friends know there’s really something wrong with me. On the upside, when I did eat, no problems. Also, I’ve actually been enjoying food more though having someone else cook has helped.
  • I had some flu-like symptoms but they passed in a couple of days
  • My IBS has cleared up, though I’m still having some issues with constipation. I don’t think it’s my diet though, I’d had lots of proper meals and vegetables this week.
  • There have been some weird vision things, like changes in light perception and flashes but I’m blind so able to cope easily enough.
  • I’m a lot calmer and when I’m not, I take my valium like a good girl.
  • I want to come off my sleeping tablets but I also want to sleep. One thing at once.
  • Alcohol is really making me ill. I had two pints and felt like shit. My internal thermostat stopped working and I just shivered. No more for me for now.
  • My concentration has improved. We went to see Independence Day: Resurgence on Monday and I couldn’t concentrate, so I talk. By Wednesday, when we went to see The Secret Life of Pets, I was engrossed. I don’t know, maybe it was just a better movie?
  • I’m being more talkative to Uni and she, sensing I’m off, is being uber-clingy. I love my dog and we’re being much more physically demonstrative. Also, I have this running dialogue with her which seems to help, even if she doesn’t answer back.
  • I’m making a conscious effort to eat (more healthily and actual meals). Yesterday I had to be somewhere at noon, so we went and shopped then went specifically to the pub for breakfast (and met Mhairi by a total fluke of two seconds later and would have missed each other). My appetite is definitely better and my cravings have become more manageable.
  • I’m able to deal, both with things and people. I’m not as irritable or paranoid. I’m more rational and if there’s a problem, I actively try to fix it, including ringing people. On my phone. Fuck me …
  • I found myself not worrying about time management for the first time in ages (which also included giving Uni a change to have a roll on some nice grass/an ice cream for me). Normally I obsess over buses and hate missing them, even when I know, logistically, I just can’t catch certain ones due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • I’ve been more active, watering the garden, walking and being willing to do stuff.
  • I’m not sleeping as much … and I’m waking up stupidly early, like before I need to as opposed to when my alarm goes off. Though much of that could be down to the recent weather/stupid humidity. Plus quetiapine is a sedative so not having it in my system is, of course, going to not make me as sleepy.
  • I am not manic. I’m level and okay. I’m a tad worried about withdrawal but I also know if I sleep, I’ll be okay. Sleep, for me, is a key trigger for my episodes. Or at least it helps me have an idea of my mental state. Too little sleep and I start to become more manic, too much and well, the opposite.
  • I have people on speed dial who know what I’m doing and will be there for me if things go bad.

Some of this might be psychological or psychosomatic but it feels real then it is, at least to me. Uni is there if I need support and having her definately makes me feel like I can face things, situations or people. I also have a small but amazing batch of friends. I’m trying to be kind to myself, if I’m tired, I go to bed. If I want to watch a movie or go home, I will. Heck, I was also asked if I wanted to do something and rather than panic and madly rearrange my schedule, I simply expressed interest but explained the timing wasn’t good (very short notice) and could I do x in a few months’ time?

Just to be sure, my diary is clear until Wednesday to the point where I don’t need to go out if I don’t want to. I also know, if I feel ill, I can just chill out. Tuesday is my big do-stuff day (the boiler needs servicing, the dog food is due and I’m having a new dryer delivered) but none of it requires me to go anywhere. I’m booked for Zumba on Tuesday but if, like Thursday, I feel sick, I’ll simply cancel. I’m also seeing my GP on Wednesday so at least she can be made aware of what I’m doing.

So yeah … I’m alive, it’s good, hopefully the weight will start to go down as well as I try to eat real food. Plus it’ll be nice to have some time to give my system a break, not a detox (I’m still on valium and zopidem) but I’m hoping I feel better (and I do have some quetiapine in the house, should I need to go back on it).

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