Sunday, 29 July 2012

Insight 10: Fainting Spells Caused by Quetiapine

The worst side effect that I get from Quetiapine is fainting spells.
I was prescribed with 250mg of Quetiapine about one and a half years ago. It’s the strongest hypnotic drug that I’ve taken and that’s coming from someone who has used and abused a multitude of sleeping pills. I take it after dinner and within 45 minutes I will yawn continuously. After an hour I’ll be fast asleep and I can sleep up to 16 hours when I was on that dosage.
Once I was reading the newspapers on the floor and I stood up to switch on the fan. My vision turned to complete darkness and I felt like I was going to faint. Then my heart started pounding rapidly and I was really afraid because there was nobody at home. Fortunately I didn’t pass out but it was a frightful experience. The thing is that I’ve never fainted before and I don’t have a low blood pressure.
Then there was a time when I had a can of Coke during dinner. I took Quetiapine after that and I watched TV on my couch. When I stood up to go to bed I felt like fainting yet again.
My doctor has reduced the dosage to 125mg about three months ago because he felt that I was sleeping way too much. I started having bouts of insomnia where I would get up at 1 or 2 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep after that.
About 4 weeks ago I felt extremely tired, took my pills and watched TV. I felt hungry so I stood up and walked towards the fridge. All I could see was blackness and I really thought that was it - I’m going to faint. Luckily I didn’t so I ditched the idea of having a snack and went straight to bed.
I spoke to my doctor 2 days ago about this. He told me that one of the side effects of Quetiapine is that it could cause a person’s blood pressure to fall. Even a 125mg dosage could make a patient faint. His advice is to avoid sudden changes in body movement after taking Quetiapine.
In other words, try to get up slowly from the couch or the floor once you’ve taken Quetiapine.
Photo credit

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Insight 09: Lunatic for Hire

I’ve been looking for a job for 2 months now but to no avail. I’ve agreed with my doctor to look for a 9-5 job so that I can a regular schedule rather than the round-the-clock creative work that I’m used to. So I decided to apply for a temporary admin position through 6 recruitment agencies but I’ve not heard a word from them. They either think that I’m overqualified, don’t have the relevant admin experience or I’m crazy, which they’re right in all accounts.
I have more than a decade of experience in advertising. I worked in one of the largest multinational agencies and later moved on to startup my own video production house. It took me 3 years to build its credentials up to the point of having clients that kept me busy 24/7.
I had my share of mania and depression throughout that time. When I’m manic I’ll be screaming down the highway with my mobile phone in one hand whilst I’m negotiating budgets and schedules with a producer. On the flipside I was so depressed that I was frowning throughout a shoot that had very hot models in it. Chatting them up and trying to get them into bed was the furthest thing on my mind. I wanted to wrap it up soonest possible so that I could go home, get drunk and sleep.
After 3 years of ups and downs I was exhausted so I decided to close shop. I bummed around for a few months and then rejoined Big Agency. Mania was my constant companion and I became very brash up to the point of smoking weed at the office car park. A colleague could tell that I was stoned so he spoke to my boss about it. My boss asked me for a full medical checkup. I told him that it wasn’t necessary because I’ll ask my psychiatrist to write a letter to him. Bad mistake. After knowing that I had bipolar disorder my boss put me in cold storage. I left the agency without a word.
Then I became a part-time photographer, part-time triathlete and full-time bum for 2 and half years. That’s the issue that I’m facing now; how to explain that huge void in my CV. That problem has grown slightly bigger now that I’ve decided to apply for managerial and directorial positions. It’s not that I don’t have the relevant experience nor the qualifications. It’s about explaining how I’ve been on sabbatical for that long period of time. I’m torn in between telling the truth and fabricating it on paper. I’ll speak with my doctor about it tomorrow.
P.S. I’ll leave you with a photo to that I’ve shot to symbolise how I’ll feel when I get a job.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Where are you Lotte?

Whilst I was tweeting last night I chanced upon @nuttylotte. Her description reads “Bi Polar, Eating Disordered, Self Harmer who has a number of other Mental Health Issues.”
I watched her video blog on YouTube and I was touched by her bravery, honesty and sense of humour.

Her last tweet was on 27th October last year and it reads “Been sectioned, section 3, currently running away from ambulance crew n social worker. Fuck”
If I could pray for you I would but I’m agnostic so all I can do is to wish that you’re OK wherever you are Lotte.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Insight 08: How fast can a slow loris run?

The answer is not very fast, especially when he’s fat!
At the peak of my fitness I could run 32 kilometers without stopping. Unfortunately depression has made me gain 16kgs and robbed my enthusiasm for any form of exercise. When I tried to run again I could only manage 800 meters and I’d run of breath. I felt pathetic and I’d walk home disappointed.
My mood started to pick up lately and I went out for a walk in the park on a daily basis. I didn’t dare to run because I was afraid that I’d feel disappointed again. I’ve also been cutting down my intake of carbohydrates but after a month of this routine I’ve found that I didn’t even manage to lose 1kg.
So I thought what the heck and I’ve been running for the past 4 days. I told myself that I’ll take it easy and I’ll slow down to a walking pace whenever I felt tired. It didn’t matter how fast or how far I could run, as long as I could keep this up on a daily basis it’ll be an achievement.

When I was running this morning the only voices that I’ve heard are from the crickets. It was so serene. I saw a bunch of white flowers that have fallen from the rain last night. I picked one up and smelled it. That’s something that I’ve never done before.
I went home not as a slow loris, but as happy as a clam!
P.S. I’ll leave you with some photos of my favourite park which I’ve shot on black & white film a couple of years ago.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Insight 07: I’ll show you my scars so you won’t have to

I got these scars one and a half years ago. I was majorly depressed, so much so that I mixed a strip of sleeping pills with beer and cycled 40 kilometers. I crashed so many times that I couldn’t even remember where I crashed and which day it happened. I was addicted to the bastardly concoction and it made me so delusional that I got back on my bike day after day.
Before the depression, I was so manic that I thought I was bloody Lance Armstrong himself. I had his sunglasses, helmet, jersey and wristband. If I could’ve afford it, I’d buy the same bike that Lance used. $14,000 would have wiped out my savings so I bought a lower range Trek bike and tried spraying a yellow livery on it. My good friend was concerned and she told me “You’re not him you know…” I told her even if I trained a hundred years I could never be as fit as Lance. I was lying to myself – I wanted to be like him.
Every day I would get up at 4 a.m. and go to my favourite cycling route. As I’ve mentioned it’s 40 kilometers long and that includes a 10 kilometer hill climb. Lance Armstrong was a hill-climbing specialist so I desperately wanted to conquer the hill in the least amount of time possible. I set a target of 30 minutes to get to top and for weeks I couldn’t reach my goal. I’d go home feeling frustrated, have a nap and then go for a 10 kilometer run as I was also training for a full marathon.
All of a sudden I was struck by depression. It was as if someone just switched off the light bulb in my head. I couldn’t comprehend why I was depressed because I had the means to support my rolling-stone lifestyle and I felt closer to my friends than ever before. I thought maybe it’s because I couldn’t conquer that bloody hill so I tried every trick in the book but I still failed. I was exhausted and I started sleeping 8, 10, 12 hours a day.
In the end I slept 16 hours a day and became a recluse. I avoided my friends’ phone calls and I didn’t bother checking my Facebook. Even the thought of walking out of the house was too much for me. Then I started to drink and I hated myself for that because I was a teetotaler for 9 months prior. Beer didn’t pick up mood so I mixed it with sleeping pills and that’s the reason why I have these scars on my legs.
Right now I’m feeling fine and my thoughts are lucid. I’m able to look at the past and finally accept the fact that bipolar disorder is an illness that I can’t beat. I can only learn how to deal with it. Writing this blog has been helpful because I can look back at it and think “Hey, you’re not going to do that again are you?”
I hope you’ve found some insights in this post. Till next time, take care!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

What’s the green thingy I’m wearing?

It’s a ribbon that I’m wearing to show my support for Mental Health Awareness.
When I’m feeling depressed I’d call one my friends and ask him out for drinks. Slumped on the table I’d tell him that I feel really terrible. He’d ask me why. It’s not that I didn’t know why but I didn’t have the will to launch a grand lecture on how the chemical imbalance in my brain causes less serotonin cells to be released etc etc. So I’d just tell him that I’m depressed. He’d ask me why. I’d tell him I just am and I’d just continue to nurse my beer.
I can’t possibly blame my friend for not understanding. He probably thinks that depression is something that everyone goes through. If only he knows about clinical depression…
What about your employer? If you’d tell him that you have cancer he will probably say that he’s very sorry, you can take how many days off on paid leave and maybe the company can fork out some money for your medical expenses. But if you were to tell him that you’re feeling depressed and you can’t come into the office he’d probably say “Depressed my arse! If I don’t see your lazy behind in the office by 10 you’re fired!”
NGOs, policymakers, doctors, medical schools and the media have to work hand in hand to raise mental health awareness to the level where it ends the stigma of mental illnesses. It’s going to be a long and arduous task. But let us take the first step by wearing a green ribbon.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Fundamental 04: Laughter is the best supplementary medicine

It’s been a long time since I’ve laughed so hard.
Let me introduce you to Frank (aka. Diggy) @ADignorantium. Diggy is an American and a fervent player of #HashTagGames. My favourite Diggy anecdotes are:
“Mary Poppin' pills #PsychologyFilms”
“The Girl with the Dragon Palace Menu #LowBudgetSequels
“The Out-of-DownTowners #TouristTrapMovies ...starring Sandy-beach Dennis”
On the other side of the pond is Park Bench @dognabbit. His profile reads “Would-be comedian. Would-be engineer. Not to be confused with a Would-be Wood Bee.” Here are some of my favourite jokes from Park Bench:
“It's so disappointing when you scan your backside on the photocopier, as an office prank, and it automatically selects A3 paper.”
“Think I know why I'm so miserable. My girlfriend's full-cup bra is half empty.”
“Had an plan to sort out my finances this month, and not waste any money on recreational drugs, but it's all gone to pot.”
I’m sure laughter is what a good doctor would have ordered. But I have to warn you of the side-effects which include Twitter addiction and incontrollable hysterics!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Insight 06: I’m not alone!

It’s been exactly 20 days since I’ve started this blog and I’m happy to have found a few people that I can totally relate with.

I met Seaneen Molloy when I googled “bipolar blogs” and her site,, was listed in the top 10 by Psycentral. Seaneen is Northern Irish and a bipolar patient but what I like most about her is her dark humour. Recently she wrote about her father’s death and she designed a postcard which said “Happy Father’s Day! Sorry you’re dead.” I haven’t found another bipolar blogger that has a sense of humour quite like Seaneen’s.

Then I met Charlotte when I searched for “@bipolar” in Twitter. Charlotte is in her 30s and you guessed it, she’s diagnosed with bipolar too. In her blog,, she talks intimately about her life and her posts are well researched. We share a common issue – gaining weight while being prescribed with mood stabilisers which according her, made her lose motivation to exercise. I was once a fitness freak - I ran and cycled so much that I was as thin as a stick. Then I went through a long depression phase where even the thought of leaving my house was too much for me. So I’d put on 16kgs and now I have love handles that nobody loves. I’m glad to have found someone like Charlotte who’s going through the same motions as I am.

I also gained a follower called Pocket Riders via Twitter. Pocket Riders is a charity organisation that offers moral support to those who suffer from mental illness. One day I was feeling sick from loneliness so I thought of going to a tourist bar and talk to strangers. I tweeted Pocket Riders about it but being bipolar I was swinging back and forth on the idea. Finally I decided to go and it’s mainly because I told someone about it so I better come good on decision. When I was at the bar a Pocket Rider tweeted me and said that’s a great idea and asked me if I know where to find them when I need them next. I said “Yeah, right here in my pocket.” They replied “You could have had a dust out in here ;)” I laughed and went back a happy man.

Honestly I still feel miserable from time to time but at least now I’ve some people that I can relate with and also talk to. I’m definitely not alone!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Insight 05: Mania is my muse & my addiction

I had a good session with my doctor last Saturday. He’s happy with how my mood has picked up and how I’ve taken concrete steps to look for a job and to keep myself occupied. It has been a long journey as I was depressed for more than a year.
When I’m depressed I feel numb. When my sisters reach out to me I do not feel their love. When I eat I do not taste. When I speak I do not say anything. When I see a hot chick I do not feel horny. The only time I socialised was in my dreams.
There was one thing that I consistently felt - desperation. I was desperate to get back into a manic phase. Only then I’ll feel comfortable in my own skin because I’ll be productive, entertaining, adventurous – basically feeling on top of the world.
I was hoping that the anti-depressants will do the trick as my doctor has been upping the dosages and trying different brands. But they didn’t so I took matters into my own hands. I tried smoking weed again but it made me sadder and paranoid. I drank beer in the morning but all it gave me was a hangover. Then I went to a few clinics to score sleeping pills, mix them with beer but all it gave me were delusions.
There are some days I do feel a little more upbeat. But when I look into my wallet, there’s no money inside because I haven’t been working for a long time. I look at my car and it’s damaged in so many places. So I’d switch on the TV and lie on the couch. I surrendered to my predicament.
Now my thoughts are more lucid. I realised that even if my doctor was to give me 10 anti-depressants a day, my mood will not change if I don’t make attempts to change the reality. And I can’t get into the manic phase because when I was manic I had a career and the means to lead a rock & roll lifestyle.
So do I want to be manic again? The answer is a half-hearted yes. Because now I realised that mania is not just my muse, it’s also my bitch.