Let the conversation begin.
I’m Bryan Tillett. I am diagnosed Bipolar I with severe anxiety and depression. I've struggled with not only mental illness but also with addiction. While one never recovers, I now manage my diseases and mentor for Hope Xchange in our HOPE for Bipolars peer mentoring program. I consider my contributions to the chronicles by our mentoring team as a mini “chronicles of intoxication.” This is my second post in this series in which I share my own personal struggles with both bipolar disorder and addition, a story I have told very few to this degree. I am doing so now to raise not only awareness but also in the memory of all those we have lost to to drug addiction and this killer brain disease, which takes up to 50% of those who die by suicide each year. My first post, My Story Begins As Punching Bag At Age of 10, can be read here.
I Thought My Illness Was Manageable By Consuming Insane Amounts of Alcohol
At this point in the life, I had been drinking insane amounts of alcohol for years, stemming from my early teens. My mental illness was manageable, or so I thought, by consuming as much alcohol as I could until I usually blacked out. My normal week consisted of missing a few classes at college, due to being either too hung over or depressed to get out of the bed. Living at home with my parents made concealing this difficult but I would usually leave the house before they got home from work.
My mood swings were becoming more unstable as my illness progressed without medication. I had recently seen a psychiatrist, but for a variety of reasons, had stopped. The most prominent issue there was the administering of lithium, which caused me intense stomach pains. That, coupled with drinking, made me even sicker.
Side Effects of Medications Wreak Havoc On My Body
After trying seven or eight anti-depressants, I had been prescribed Effexor. Shocking enough that medication was originally an anti-anxiety drug, but didn’t do well enough in trials so they simply made it an anti-depressant because it worked better. Sadly, I had to find out the hard way that not all medications in the psychiatric family are safe, even when taken correctly.
When my doctor switched my meds that last time, I cut back my drinking, and started to get out of my bedroom a bit more often. Having a girlfriend at the time who was always on the move made that easier.
About a month after I started Effexor, I began to have what I thought were heart attacks. I would get this horrific pain in my chest that would bring me to my knees. I went to the hospital countless times, and was never given an explanation as to what was going on. The doctors said it was anxiety and, after some Ativan and bag of fluids, I was out the door.
Mild Heart Attack Leads Me To Total Lost Of Confidence In Healthcare System
This went on for months, until finally I collapsed at a restaurant and was rushed to an urgent care. At the urgent care, the EKG results showed a mild heart. On all the other occasions, I was just shoved out the door, that pesky thing about having mental illness listed on my chart.
At first the doctors didn’t know what to do. They gave me Nitroglycerin which really relaxed me, and after that I had no more pain for the rest the day. For safety reasons, the doctor wanted me to stay overnight. Back then however, I was not the easiest patient. I wanted a cigarette the minute I was the room, let alone five hours later. Many times I just would walk out of the hospital frustrated that doctors could not figure what was wrong with me.
That day I did stick around and they called my psychiatrist and told her what was going on. Her response was, “He is not my problem right now. You treat him and I will see him in two weeks.” This was a psychiatrist talking to an attending physician at a hospital. She was blowing me off.
The doctor came back into the room and stated, “I am 99% sure all this is from your Effexor medication.” I was angry. I had been to four hospitals, some 25 to 30 times, and no one had ever suggested this. He of course suggested I wait and speak with my psychiatrist in two weeks. With somewhat of a wink and a nod, he said, “If you stop the Effexor your depression may come back in a few days or weeks, but if you keep taking it, I think you’re going to keep having these attacks.”
40 Ounces of Old English to “Freedom.” Man Was I A Fool.
That was it. I decided right then, no more pills. I was done with pills, I had tried around 20 plus variations of medications, and never really felt better. Most of the medications came with such horrific side effects, it made me not want to take them. If not that, I felt as though they simply weren’t working.
I checked out of the hospital and arrived at the 7/11 within minutes, buying four 40-oz Old English beers. By the time my girlfriend and I were halfway to my parents’ house I was done with two of them and feeling quite nice. I thought to myself, why can’t I just do this every day? Just have a 40 oz or two and I would be fine. Man was I a fool.
To Be Continued ...
Please note this is just one person’s experience and that everybody reacts to medications differently. Hope Xchange also does not advocate patients stop taking medication without being under the care of a physician.