Archive for the ‘pills’ Tag

The Bipolar Perspective: Can You Afford to be Bipolar?   1 comment

FINANCING YOUR MEDS

When I heard the final tally I got kind of light headed and grabbed a walker from an old man to steady myself. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

I had walked into Walgreen’s Pharmacy a month ago and ordered refills for the cocktail of medications I take for Bipolar II. Topamax and Seroquel alone ripped into me for one-thousand dollars EACH for a monthly supply. I suddenly realized I was priced out of the Bipolar Market and had to find a disease with more reasonably priced medications. Or, find a bank that will finance my pills at a decent interest rate.

NO DOGS OR PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS ALLOWED

I left my job on May first in search of greener pastures, or ones that at least weren’t littered with as much dog shit. With it I lost my health insurance. Then I accepted a job as a private contractor, which meant I’d have to get my own insurance. And with mention of a pre-existing illness, insurance companies squeal and run away like little girls to hide behind the golf-bags of their lobbyists in Washington.

As a matter of fact, if you do get coverage, you get treated to a deductible in the thousands, and they do not cover prescriptions or any doctor’s care for one year if related to your pre-existing condition. It’s like buying auto insurance that doesn’t cover body work on your car for the first year if it has a pre-existing dent. Yet you pay through the hairy nostrils for it.

GO ONLINE AND HAVE IT RINGING OFF THE HOOK

Really want to get taken to the cleaners for carelessly being born Bipolar? Request information about insurance coverage online. Your phone won’t stop ringing for forty-eight hours straight with pitch-men and women trying to sell you coverage from companies of which you’ve never heard.

Can you imagine presenting a “Three Stooges Insurance” card to your dermatologist? The doctor has the melanoma half hanging off your rear-end in a bloody fleshy mess, and the receptionist suddenly yells in “Doctor, he’s got “Stooge Coverage!” Suddenly you are handed the scalpel, a mirror and instructions for how to finish up the rest of the surgery on your own. “Moe, Larry and Curly’s” policy only covers the first slice.

ALL ABOARD!

I finally decided to go with a company who offered a good prescription discount card, although it was not part of or administered by “their” plan. They were very careful to make this crystal clear. Everything else was even more ambiguous. In fact, nothing appeared part of the coverage except major medical and dental. And there were so many different providers mixed up in this policy I didn’t know who I was actually being insured by. It actually felt like more of a gang rape.

And the only thing the prescription discount card was good for is picking food out of your teeth. It had a million codes and membership numbers on it. And when the pharmacist called to get my discounts, I was not even in the system. And they had no idea who to call to get me in. And my new “un-sure company” wanted nothing to do with this “outside” prescription plan.

Funny thing is my “agent,” who is probably not that smart if she is working for these-second-story-men, called to let me know my ID cards were in the mail. I told her I had ten days to rescind and I wanted to do so. She said she’d call me back and then vanished like “Casper the Un-Friendly Insurance Ghost.”

SWITCHING TO A MORE AFFORDABLE DISEASE

So in the mean-time, I have cut back on some medications and eliminated others. Now I feel depressed, which is making it hard to concentrate on my new job. And I can only afford to buy a few pills at a time, as I can’t pony up thousands of dollars at once each month.

I have finally come to terms with the fact that I can not afford to be Bipolar anymore and will have to stop. I’ll just have to cease taking my medications and deal with the self-destructive mania and severe depression like a man, if the intense withdraw symptoms don’t kill me first. I’ll simply tell myself to “snap out of it.” And maybe the hopelessness and obsessive compulsive disorder will go away, kind of like a bad cold.

Actually, I heard the medications for Shingles are pretty reasonably priced. Maybe I’ll switch diagnosis. A little physical pain might be nice for a change.

It’s hard to believe every single insurance company and pharmaceutical manufacturer can be so cold-blooded and gaping-mouth-profit-hungry that they are leaving people who truly need their medications to survive unable to afford them. And now the only thing to do is find a way to survive until Obamacare in January 2014 takes affect.

AFFORDABLE AND PORTABLE

I like Obamacare. The president is giving the big insurance and drug companies a major kick in the balls for being greedy and cold-hearted. And, he’ll make it possible for people to get insurance without being penalized for having a pre-existing illness. Did I stress this will be affordable insurance as well?

It’s also portable insurance, which means if you change jobs your insurance goes with you. You’re not out on your own trying to cobble something together with Scotch tape and bailing wire until you can find a new job with full coverage.

PRICED OUT OF YOUR OWN ILLNESS

You’re Bipolar. A treatment is out there. But you can’t have it because it costs too much. We are not talking about a heart transplant. We are talking about getting pills from the fucking drugstore.

Moreover, many of these uninsured people with pre-existing conditions like Bipolar Illness requiring expensive medications are not all poor or destitute by any means. Bipolar professionals, teachers, craftspeople, etc. making good money still can’t manage to lay out thousands of dollars a month for medications. Being priced out of your illness can happen to anyone.

BE VIGILANT

So I leave you with this.. If you are Bipolar trying to get health insurance and are caught up in the pre-existing condition quagmire of insurance company irresponsibility, call your doctor and tell them the situation. He or she might have samples. Also, some local municipalities have programs to help you afford your medications or get them at no-charge. Public hospitals may have similar accommodations. And, I’ve heard there are several pharmaceutical manufacturer web sites that help people in these situations, although I don’t know enough about them to make a recommendation.

DOGS FLYING PLANES

Health insurance providers know nothing about medicine, yet they take control of your treatment, or lack there-of. It’s like letting a dog fly an airplane full of passengers. The only thing they understand is getting fed, so you know you’re in trouble no matter where you’re seated. Consequently, if you are planning on being Bipolar, you might want to wait until after you are insured.

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What’s Your Bag?   Leave a comment

First I take the Baggie, the same one I’ve used for at least six years, out of its hiding place in my sock drawer, and put it on my dresser.  Filled to the brim with plastic prescription bottles, they’ve punched wholes through the material greatly limiting its days of functionality.

Like Pigpen’s blanket, the thought of getting rid of it upsets me. That Zip Lock and I have come such a long way together.  The end of a marriage.  A divorce.  A year being single.  An engagement.  Now a broken engagement and I’m alone again.  Maybe the Baggie is actually bad luck?  No.  It couldn’t be.  Not my Baggie.

Next I count out all the pills I need from the various bottles.  I used to use one of those daily dose containers like the elderly, but I was too lazy to keep refilling them at the end of the week.  Then I count the pills to make sure I have the right amount.  Nine in the morning, seven at night.  I also make sure they are in the right denominations.  Two 250mg Effexor, One 100mg Lamictal and so on.

Finally I put them in my cupped hand, go to the bathroom sink, get a mouth full of water and gulp them down.  Then I inspect my hand and the surrounding area to make sure none of them went astray, slipped from my fingers or shot out a nostril.  Now I’m finally free to spend the rest of the day or evening ruminating over whether I took my pills or not and if so were they in the right quantities?

This has been the ritual for the past twenty-four years of my life.  And if I miss a “feeding” I definitely feel it.  Light headedness, trouble focusing, nausea, anxiety…

If you’re Bipolar medication can be a touchy subject.  For me it’s the only thing that stands between a life of relative normalcy and being curled up in a ball on the floor begging to be put to sleep like an animal.  I just can’t stand the depression.   The fragility of my life at times can be very unnerving.  I can’t go anywhere or do anything without my beat up Baggie of psychotropic libations designed to manipulate my dopamine and norfenefrine for the best possible reception.

Some people with Bipolar Disorder have chosen not to go the medication route for a number of reasons.  People don’t want to give up the manic highs.  Others don’t want to gain ten or twenty pounds.  There are even some who feel taking medication is an official confirmation of mental illness and they’d prefer not to wear the blue ribbon.  And in this day and age of only eating raw foods and free range massaged jicama, others do not want to introduce anything man-made into their bodies.  This includes medication that may make them less annoying individuals around mealtime.

I think all reasons for or not taking medication for Bipolar Disorder are justified.  Even if someone is very unstable, as long as they are not hurting themselves or anyone else, they should decide what to put in their bodies.  Especially when it alters their moods.

What does bother me are those with Bipolar Disorder forever searching for their capsule in a pill bottle of bright and shining armor.  They want the ultimate drug that never lets them feel sad and always exist in a perpetual state of “I can’t wipe this grin off my face.”   Maybe they had taken a drug at some point in their lives that briefly made the feel that way.  Or, they once mistook a manic cycle for a drug’s efficacy.  Whatever they felt that one time, they want it back and believe the right drug or combination thereof is out there.  They refuse to stop experimenting until they reclaim the crown of perpetual happiness which is rightfully theirs and inexplicably escaped them.    And, they snuff-out psychiatrists like spent cigarette butts until they find one willing to indulge their personal quest to find the matzoh.

We all know you can never go back home.  And people still looking for the old hood are never going to find the same satisfaction.  But as a fellow Bipolar in complete disorder, I can definitely understand the chase and why some of us can’t stop.   It’s like settling for a Casio when you once wore a Rolex.  They both tell time, but the Rolex made you feel like you weren’t really a prep cook at McDonald’s.

One time a friend came to visit me in San Francisco.  She is Bipolar as well.  I was in her hotel room as she unpacked and pulled out a similar beat up Zip Lock Baggie as I had tucked away in my sock drawer, only filled with her pills.  It made me feel really good and warm inside.  Not because we were both stuck in the same Bipolar boat.  But, because I thought about how many of us must be out there with our beaten up Zip Lock Baggies taking our psychotropic medications day in and day out each with our own little rituals.

We all may not know each other.  If we did we would probably never think to talk about it.  However it’s like coming from the same ancestral heritage.  You know as individuals with Bipolar Disorder we have certain traditions.  Jews wear Yamakas.  Hindus wear Turbans.  And Bipolars have a special bag for their pills.

Medication and Mixed Marriages   Leave a comment

I should have been happy, but she was driving me insane.  I almost had to ask my psychiatrist to add a sixth medication to my cocktail so I wouldn’t strangle my wife.  “Did you take your pills?  When did you take them?  Are you sure you took the right dose?  Lets double-check.”  At one point she even took to counting my pills out for me.  My word meant nothing.

You see, I was in a mixed marriage.  I am Bipolar II but the woman I married was sane.  However, after watching me suffer through two severe depressions ending in hospitalizations, several bouts with exhaustive mania, which usually included me buying a new car, a Swiss watch, jewelry, or all of the above, she became vigilant about me taking my medications.  To her this was the only thing she could do to ward off future episodes.  One time she even got the pills and walked them over to me like she was giving a dog a biscuit.  I was waiting for her to ask me to lift up my tongue proving I swallowed them like in the mental ward.

My wife had never experienced even a friendship with someone who was mentally ill until she met me.  And after we married I had my first major depressive episode, in which I overdosed on Lorazepam and washed them down with half a bottle of Seagrams Seven.  She was really rattled.  Watching the EMT’s accompanied by the San Francisco Police come into our apartment and load her semi-conscious husband into a waiting ambulance definitely made an impression on her.

Racially mixed marriages are easier even if you come from two different cultures.  You can experience each other’s heritage by eating favorite ethnic foods, listening to each other’s music, meeting the parents, seeing where you each grew up and getting to know one another’s friends.  But in this kind of mixed marriage, if you have Bipolar Disease, you can’t expect your sane spouse to climb into your head to experience your own private hell, have them take your medications so they can share the joys of shaky hands dumping hot coffee in their lap, have them cozy up to a schizophrenic roommate in a locked mental ward so they can see where you sometimes hang out and let them experience a manic episode culminating in a wild shopping spree, maxing out their credit cards putting themselves on the fast track to bankruptcy.

For this reason I think the chances of this type of mixed marriage working out are tenuous at best.  Lets say you are the sane one, and your spouse has Bipolar Disease.  At a certain point you are going to think they are lazy for sleeping too much.  And they are not much fun because they feel most comfortable at home away from noisy crowded restaurants and bars.  Plus they’re a total party-pooper because when the evening medication kicks in around ten PM, they are ready for bed.  Worst of all, they never want to have sex because their medication has sucked the horny right out of them.  I ask you, even if you know it’s the Bipolar Disease talking, how long can you put up with this type of in-patient lifestyle?  I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t say it would be difficult for me, even knowing what I know about Bipolar Disease.

My wife ended up asking for a divorce.  She said my Bipolar Disease wasn’t a factor, but I know it was.  I was hypomanic.  I couldn’t stand to be touched. I was self-medicating with alcohol and doing most of it outside the home in various neighborhood bars.  This is also when I first started my quarterly purchase of a new car.  And, I wasn’t keeping my wife informed regarding my medications.  Her involvement in my illness was no longer welcome.  I could not live in her world of vigilance and who in their right mind would want to live in mine of drunken insanity?

I often wonder what it would be like if two bipolar people tied the knot? No longer would it be a mixed marriage.  However, I can see it either turning out to be a wonderful understanding, loving relationship, or two people fighting like hillbillies in West Virginia over a pot of three-day old rabbit stew.  On one hand they can comfort one another because they know exactly what he or she is going through.  However, being on the receiving end of a manic episode, severe depression, bouts of agoraphobia, time-consuming OCD or whatever else your mate might have bundled in their bipolar profile, might be quite menacing.  Even if you have Bipolar Disease yourself, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can take it from somebody else.  Especially if you are making more progress than your spouse in recovery.  Then you might even harbor unwarranted feelings of anger, as if they are just living a life of slack.  You could inadvertently become a Bipolar Snob creating a hierarchy within the disease.

I am not suggesting people with Bipolar Disorder give up on the idea of mixed marriage.  I think it’s the people who make the marriage work, not simply a non-afflicted partner’s ability to tune out the scary stuff.  It’s more important that they face their partner’s bipolar idiosyncrasies and possible breakdowns with an aire of calmness.  My fiancee (I still hate that pretentious word) is not bipolar, but when I hit a rough patch she is the picture of cool.  She makes sure I am safe, provides comfort and allows me to ride it out.

My advice is when entering into a mixed marriage or serious relationship, make sure the non-afflicted partner knows and understands Bipolar Disease and how it manifests in your particular situation.  Prepare them for how to handle a bout of depression or mania.  Then if and when it happens, they won’t be surprised and will already have an appropriate plan of support.

I once dated a girl and we were really starting to like each other.  She told me her criteria for getting serious with a guy is that he lived on his own and had no mental issues.  I stood up from the couch and handed her her coat.  “Well, I guess we’re not going to work out because I’m bipolar.”  It really pissed me off because it’s a disease, not an acquired trait or born out of a personality flaw.

She must have really liked me because she gave me a pass.  But I never could get her comment out of my mind.  And I knew anything I did would be under close scrutiny for being a product of my mental illness.  So, it turned out I was not comfortable dating her.  So the last thing I will say is that when embarking on a mixed relationship or marriage, save yourself some heartache and find out how the object of your desire feels about mental illness before you get too serious.  You could save yourself a miserable trip down Bipolar Break-up Lane, where relationship are only as strong as your medication.