Quetiapine and me

Quetiapine and me

This blog is going to be a warts and all expose of my life. I am not going to favour any particular topic, and I will not shy away from addressing some of the more embarrassing aspects of what Bipolar has done to me; or rather things I have done because I am Bipolar. But without Quetiapine / Seroquel I would not have had the need to start a blog – I would have been given a diagnosis, prescribed some pills to sort me out and that would be it. Life back to normal (there’s that bloody thing “normal” again!).

That’s not entirely true, I would have started to write a blog regardless because I have found very few bipolar blogs written by men. Not necessarily for men – just by men. I had very little reference with which I could start to understand how my life might need to change now I understood what was wrong with me. I like writing, so naturally at some point I would have started this. The Quetiapine has just accelerated things.

Don’t think me stupid either as I did find some reference material – I watched everything the amazing Stephen Fry has had to say on the matter. There is loads of content on the web from this genius of a man. I should use better words than ‘amazing’ and ‘genius’ when relating to Stephen Fry, however, given I don’t talk like him it would be a little weird to try and write like him. If being bipolar did make everyone more like Stephen Fry the world would be a fascinating place, but I’m not sure if he’d like it that much. I had watched his documentaries on the topic before I found out I was bipolar and they were fascinating. To be honest, Stephen Fry could produce a documentary on the mating habits of the Amazonian frog Allobates femoralis and I’d probably watch it for at least seven or eight minutes before turning off. Had it been anyone else I wouldn’t have given it a chance.

I had watched his documentaries before, in part because of the mystery illness that my mother suffered from: “Your mother is not well again” my late father used to say. Of course I knew she wasn’t well at times – she’d be screaming the house down and throwing everything around the kitchen. For the record my mother is remarkably well these days and to the best of my knowledge only suffers from agitated depression and anxiety, but I only found that out recently and not back in the nineties / noughties when she was really unwell and it was taboo for my father to tell me exactly what was wrong with her.

I do have a habit of going off topic I’m afraid so you’ll have to put up with that.

So I would have written this blog regardless and if it turns out to be one percent as interesting as the output of Mr Fry then bloody marvellous.

Back to Quetiapine. This is what I was prescribed by my psychiatrist when my then current state of mind, combined with my recent behavioural confessions led her to identify a clear and present episode of hypomania. Had I heard of what Bipolar was? Of course I had heard of Bipolar – Stephen Fry has it and so did Carrie Mathison in Homeland. Those were my only people of reference. One was a character in a brilliant fictional TV series, and the other was a wonderful character of a man who is often on TV. I did however understand mental health because of my mother. And daughter. And son. And cousin. Each for different reasons. There are quite a few ‘ands’, so there was a strong chance I had been painted with one of the many faces of mental health. So what did I know about bipolar? I knew Stephen Fry was funny and incredibly intelligent, but also that he had tried to take his own life and often had bouts where he thought himself to be an absolute $%&t. Carrie Mathison was fictional, but having thought of some of my own behaviour over time, the scripting of her part included many aspects of bipolar that I could draw parallels to. The whole being a rogue CIA agent thing I have nothing in common with, and she has way more balls than me.

I would be taking a stepped level of Quetiapine (or Seroquel giving it the brand name) until I reached 400mg per day on slow release. Everything was fine until I hit 400mg and then I just slowed to a crawl. Physically and mentally.

In the months prior to having my crash (i.e. when I was all over the place), I had been doing loads of exercise and had gone from 14 stone 3lbs (lockdown weight) down to 12 stone 3lbs. I was really bloody proud of this. I had set up a mini-gym at home and was going to start running shorter distance road races again and was training really hard.

The real reason I had been training hard was because my mind was going at a million miles an hour, as was my body, and I needed to wear it out. It had been working very well and I was chuffed with myself. But I was going to come off the rails at some point. And I did. I’ll get to that in another post, but let’s just leave it here that I crashed.

The doctor said the pills would sort me out, but that many people put on weight with this particular drug. She wasn’t bloody joking. I’d cut out drinking as that is stupid when you are all over the place, but god did I have a sweet tooth. And I developed a passion for pizza (already had that – it just got worse) and burgers and anything else fattening. Well food in general. Any time. Any place. Don’t even start on me about chocolate..

I watched my waistline head the Michelin Man route and it pissed me off. There was no way that I’d let bipolar make me physically unfit as well as having mental health issues.

So today, for the first time since November, I dragged my arse onto the rowing machine and managed 5k. It was at half the pace of normal, but I managed some exercise right in the face of Quetiapine. It felt good.

Quetiapine has done so much for me. It has:

  • Calmed me down: This happened day one which was weird. There is probably a big part of this that can be explained by understanding there was an explanation for my ups and downs of behaviour, but it did genuinely take my foot off my accelerator pedal and let me take the day at a normal pace
  • Stopped me thinking bad shit: I have not just stopped thinking bad shit, but have stopped thinking about pretty much anything at all. I’ve not quite gone completely brain dead; but I am very chilled most of the time now (I still have loads of agitated periods and some of the other shit that I used to go through – just not as much)
  • Turned me into a sloth:
    • It takes me about 90 minutes to get out of bed
    • I don’t function until about 10:30am every morning
    • After I take meds about 8pm, I am good for nothing after a couple of hours
    • I can only manage one thought at a time now rather than 10 or more
  • Allowed me to become fat
  • Made it difficult to speak properly: I am stumbling on words, have a dry mouth and sometimes sound a little slurred

Now taking into account the above, I was becoming more than a little worried that I’d die of obesity or diabetes in the next 10 years if I carried on the same trajectory, but I don’t want to do that.

So I am taking things into my own hands because I am incredibly stubborn.

I had entered a 10k race in London before my latest episode. This is the London Winter Run on the 13th of February and I am still going to do it. Why?

  • My father died from cancer in November and the run is for Cancer Research
  • This is going to be the official kick off day for my future health regime (and a big part of this blog)
  • I won’t let Bipolar ruin my life, so even if I have to do it very slowly, I’ll bloody make my way around the course

I will also do it because I have a family that I love and I want to be here for as long as I can for them. I am not kidding myself, I am 51 and have a 7 year old son, so there is every change my boy will be youngish when I pass away. There are some things you can’t beat in life, in particular mother nature, but if I can stack the odds in my favour by laughing in the face of my medication and getting superbly fit, there’s every chance my son will be sitting down and chatting to me in 40 years time.

If I can beat the sluggishness of Quetiapine, I don’t see why being bipolar will ruin my life in any way. I am optimistic enough that now I understand why I am like I am, I can lead an amazing life. I sure as hell have an amazing family around me to help me get there.

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