The last few months have been filled with changes. Along with the medication additions and adjustments I’ve made some significant diet changes. In December we moved to a mostly vegan diet. The only dairy I eat is the occasional cup of milk or the few eggs in some of the breads I still make. I switched to a plant-based butter for my baking and cooking which has worked out pretty well. I miss making my eclairs, custards and other rich treats. It’s not really the eating I miss, although that is a factor, it’s the process of baking some of the more delicate recipes. I need to find an official eater for my projects.
One of the reasons I made a diet change was to combat some of the side effects of medication. Over the years I have lost, gained, lost and regained weight. Some of the meds also made my cholesterol and blood pressure go haywire. I’m also constantly worried about what being on all these mood stabilizers is doing to my liver. I have my blood tested every three months to check on liver and if my medication is staying at the proper therapeutic level. It is so frustrating having to deal with the numerous side effects. I often wonder how skinny, and healthy I would be without them. Then I have to remind myself… I might be skinnier, but I wouldn’t be as stable. It has taken me many years to come to terms with the fact that the medication is a necessary piece of my mental health management. When I’m feeling good, I have to remind myself its due to the medication and I need to continue.
When I had my blood work done in July 2019:
cholesterol was 188
We started our vegan diet in December 2019, and I had my blood tested again in February 2020. In just that short amount of time I saw changes.
My cholesterol was 164
It was enough of an improvement that I was able to stop my cholesterol medication. I’m looking forward to my check in July. Hopefully my bloodwork will be even better.
The hardest part of the diet change was giving up fast and premade foods. I LOVE a good hamburger and fries. The first few weeks was really awful. Commercials on TV would drive me crazy. Every single time a pizza commercial came on TV, or a picture of a burger, my brain went nuts. I swear I could smell and taste them through the TV. Ridiculous. I also gave up the very little amount of soda I drank. When I have a migraine the caffeine and the carbonation help with the nausea. The diet change has given me the opportunity to try new foods and spices which has been fun. My cookbook collection has grown, and we found a fun vegan restaurant in town to support. I’ve also lost 18 lbs. Not a huge amount but it’s a start. My partner has lost 30!! It’s crazy. Giving up the dairy has been rough, but the addition of other new foods and spices has kept it interesting. It definitely requires more meal prep and planning. Now I usually make extra and freeze for the days when I don’t want to cook. We’re adjusting and finding some balance.
I have been struggling with some mania the last few months. Extreme agitation/irritation, not sleeping etc. The doctor decided that adding another medication on top of my usual might help. I take Carbamazepine twice a day and have been for many, many years. It usually keeps me pretty even. When I go into a depressive episode, we add a booster. The manic episodes usually reset with a few nights sleep. This manic episode has been a bit stubborn. Very little sleep, increased paranoia, racing thoughts, agitation and irritability. My doctor and I decided to add a dose of Geodon. I had this years ago but couldn’t remember if it worked. We started at 20 mg in the morning with breakfast. For about 3 hours after the dose I was actually able to get a bit of relief from my symptoms. Then came the crash. All of a sudden, I was exhausted and asleep. I mean OUT. Drooling, out to the world for 20-30 min. I never nap. It was weird to just be out. If only this would happen at night. After about a month the sleepy crash went away, and things leveled off. I still got the 2-3 hour of noticeable quiet mind relief, but then it ramped back up. This last week we added an additional 20 mg in afternoon. I can’t believe the improvement. I am able to hold a conversation again. The constant agitation and irritation have subsided. And the days seem for the most part, more productive. It has even forced some of the paranoia and worry away. When I talked to the doctor about my concerns with taking the Geodon in addition to the carbamazepine, he explained how each worked, and how they affect the brain in different ways. The combination is working right. I feel relief and a bit more balanced. I HATE taking my meds. But it is so nice to get a bit of relief. Hopefully it will last.
I’m off to make some hummus and pitta for lunch this week. If you’re going through some new medication changes or are struggling with the current ones…be patient. Medications are trial and error. Keep a journal of what you try and what effects they have on you. This will help you and your doctor better serve your needs. Drugs work differently for everyone. Be your own best advocate. Keep track, be honest, and share how you are feeling. Hang in there and keep baking.