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Hello! I'm a writer from central New York who has bipolar disorder. Among other topics, I write about mental illness and writing. I have short stories published in Lynx Eye, Lost Coast Review, The Outrider Review, Sliver of Stone Magazine, The Mondegreen, The Linnet's Wings, Cobalt Review, Breath & Shadow, The Round Up, Postscripts to Darkness, Masque & Spectacle, and several other journals. I have a poem in The Poeming Pigeon, essays about mental illness in The Ram Boutique and Amygdala Literary Magazine, and an essay in Parts Unbound: Narratives of Mental Illness & Health, a book that was published by Lime Hawk Literary Arts Collective. My story "Santa Lucia" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I've written three novels entitled Purple Loosestrife, Hoping It Might Be So, and Dark and Bright, all of which are as yet unpublished. I'm working on a memoir about my experiences with bipolar disorder. I have a B.A. in English from SUNY Buffalo and an M.A. in English from SUNY College at Brockport. I hope you enjoy your visit to my blog!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Troubling Side Effect

The medication I take for my bipolar disorder works wonders for me. After many years, my doctor and I have found a good mix. However, the downside of medication is side effects. I've been fortunate to not suffer from many side effects from the meds I take. But one side effect has emerged with one medication and I'm not sure what's going to happen because of it.

The medication is Abilify, an atypical antipsychotic, and the side effect is a slight trembling in my lower lip at random moments throughout the day. I feel the trembling on the inside of my mouth--I don't believe anyone would be able to detect it from the outside. It isn't painful or even irritating. It's just what it is--a trembling.

This is a cause for concern because of a disorder called tardive dyskinesia. According to the website MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, "Tardive dyskinesia is a disorder that involves involuntary movements. Most commonly, the movements affect the lower face. Tardive means delayed and dyskinesia means abnormal movement... Tardive dyskinesia is a serious side effect that occurs when you take medications called neuroleptics. Most often, it occurs when you take the medication for many months or years." The site continues to list symptoms of tardive dyskinesia:
  • Facial grimacing
  • Finger movement
  • Jaw swinging
  • Repetitive chewing
  • Tongue thrusting
The prognosis for the disorder is as follows: "If diagnosed early, the condition may be reversed by stopping the drug that caused the symptoms. Even if the drug is stopped, the involuntary movements may become permanent, and in some cases, may become worse."

The concern is that this lip trembling I'm experiencing is the beginning of tardive dyskinesia. My doctor checked for other signs of it and found that I have an ever so slight tremor on one side of my tongue and muscle rigidity. The problem is that the drug that's the culprit in this situation, Abilify, works extremely well for me in all other respects.

So what should we do? To begin with, my doctor has lowered my Abilify dosage from 30 mg a day to 25 mg a day. So far, so good. She also has me taking 400 iu of vitamin E twice a day, which is a way to boost antioxidants in my body that can help with this side effect. The vitamin E, for the most part, seems to be working.

There is a possibility, however, that I may have to go off of Abilify. And I don't know if I'll be able to take a different aytpical antipsychotic. This medication helps with obsessional thinking, paranoia, dark thoughts, and delusional thinking. Without it, I fear that these things will rise up and potentially become problematic. My doctor is excellent, though, and I feel confident that she'll be able to come up with alternatives so that I don't experience these negative emotions and ways of thinking.

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