Medication Side Effects

I have been taking psychiatric medication since 2010. I was on anti-depressants until 2016 and have been on anti-psychotics since 2011. I took a break from all my medication except Lithium in 2016 for almost a year and managed to lose 35KG in weight.

The anti-depressants I have tried are Escitalopram, Cymbalta, Desvenlafaxine, Mirtazapine and Venlafaxine. The anti-psychotics I have tried are Olanzapine, Risperidone, Ziprasidone, Abilify, Asenapine, Haloperidol, Quetiapine and presently Paliperidone via a 4 weekly injection. In all, including Lithium (a mood stabiliser) I have tried 14 different psychiatric medications. They have all had significant side effects.

I never found anti-depressants do anything for me. They didn’t relieve my depressions. So after the ECT in 2015 I stopped taking them. After the ECT I haven’t attempted to take my own life. My common method was overdose. I think the experience of ECT and the summer of being in hospital definitely got me out of the worst depths of depression. Though I regularly have moments where I think of suicide (it’s my situation) and even this year I heard voices telling me to kill myself. The latter was a new experience for me and was very frightening. I think I have just learned to live with myself and the reality I inhabit.

The principal side effects of anti-psychotic medication for me is drowsiness, lethargy and weight gain. Some people mistake that in me as laziness or being feckless. I really struggle to wake up most mornings due to my medication. I’ve learnt to best cope with it by having Alexa turn my bedroom light on and play music in the morning. I struggle to get up but I’m getting better at it. Though sometimes I fail and any plan I had in the morning gets cancelled. I think I can keep it up as long as every morning isn’t an appointment or rush to do something. I need lots of days off.

My concentration isn’t particularly great in the morning and it takes me time to focus. I find my concentration improves as the day goes on. I take various doses of Promethazine at night to get me to sleep. It also relieves agitation. I have noticed in recent years if I don’t get sleep I can experience delusions and mania. Thats when I end up in hospital.

The biggest challenge is the weight gain from anti-psychotics. They make me more hungry (Olanzapine was particularly bad for this) and they definitely slow my metabolism down. I used to be a slim young man but became obese. In 2016, I stopped all my medications except Lithium and took up running losing 35KG in weight. I was back on them in 2017 and my weight steadily climbed despite training to run marathons. Eventually the dose got high again so I stopped running and am now almost as big as I was before I started running in 2016. I don’t entirely believe it was just a lower dose of Quetiapine that allowed me to run marathons in 2019 – I believe it what the gift of Grace from God. God wanted to show me his power was perfect in weakness. I ultimately became a Christian.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9, New Testament, Holy Bible

I have experienced severe Akathesia on some anti-psychotic particularly Haloperidol. I couldn’t remain still and had to keep pacing. It’s an experience of inner restlessness. I feel some restlessness on the medication I am on today but I find rest helps. It’s like it combines with my Autistic traits of struggling of being around people. I find I feel restlessness more intently around people. I need to be home and start relaxing. Perhaps thats a symptom of anxiety as well. I have also experienced sexual side effects but I’m choosing not to talk about that one.

The medications give me a dry mouth and I think due to the Lithium (it’s a salt) I need to remain hydrated. Sometimes I have noticed my hands can tremor but usually it’s worse when I am dehydrated. I have experienced headaches and dizziness but I’m unsure if that is the medication or the fact I suffer from high blood pressure which is managed.

I started anti-psychotics in 2011 when the Psychiatrist believed I was experiencing paranoia. The severe anxiety was on the verge of that in any case. It’s only after these medications I have experienced delusions, mania and recently this year voices. I initially reported depression and anxiety. I wasn’t diagnosed Autistic until 2019 and Schizoaffective Disorder in 2012.

I don’t know the answer. Doctors believe in medication. I think they’re right that sudden discontinuation can make my symptoms worse though I’m not convinced in the long term (I would need to recuperate in hospital off them but then I’m sectioned and back on them). I’m not so sure about medication anymore but the barriers in front of me suggest I may as well continue taking them, live with the side effects and accept the benefits (social security) I’m entitled to.

If they stop or cut the benefits I will stop the medication and pray for God’s mercy. I can’t be employed with these medications – I’m too fat and tired. I have limited energy. They are in effect tranquillisers. If I had 18 months to come clean from them with support then I’m open to new possibilities. Though I’m still Autistic in any case which won’t change. This is the prison from which I live.