Re-evaluating the Past; Wellbutrin Revisited

Ten years ago, my seventeen year old initial manic/psychotic trip largely fueled by fluvoxamine (an SSRI antidepressant) that landed me in the hospital pushed me through something of a revolving door and I left the hospital on another newer, shinier antidepressant; Wellbutrin.

When I started taking Wellbutrin, it didn’t have a generic counterpart (bupropion, the generic formula, wasn’t approved until 2008 and my hospitalization had been in 2003) and as a teenager I didn’t know the first thing about psychiatric anything. I’m sure I couldn’t tell you that wellbutrin/bupropion is different from most antidepressants, or why, or why I needed to take it with an anticonvulsant.

My present psychiatrist has been very wary about prescribing me an antidepressant in any form, and after attempting to give me an SSRI (in conjunction with lithium) to ward off a bout of severe, suicidal depression three years ago my mood shot through the roof so fast I could barely contain myself. It was immediately apparent that route wouldn’t work, but in the back of my mind I kept the thought of wellbutrin on file for another, perhaps equally distressing, rainy day.

You see, they say the past is clearest in hind-sight, but even then… the last year and a half I spent in high school (the time I spent taking wellbutrin) is an odd blur of experiences and behaviors. After all, who is to say if my late-night escapades in black robes and black angel wings standing in the road waiting to scare the crap out of motorists was a product of (mild?) mania or simply the warped mind of a teenager confined to an island aching to amuse oneself?

While I did do some rather questionable things while taking this drug; I feel confident in saying I don’t remember any of the psychotic sorts of symptoms I’d had six months to a year earlier cropping up. I don’t recall plotting to kill anyone, and though there may have been some genuine flickering moments of mania (again, it is hard to say as these moments may have just been a product of my bizarre sense of humor) I feel safe in saying I felt free of the depression and oppressive obsessing thoughts that had completely engulfed me a year earlier.

Did I feel a lessening of my anxiety and depression because of the drug? At this point that is debatable. I remember remarking to someone that though I felt more free while taking it, I also felt much slower (which doesn’t seem like something I would say if I was manic).

My change in attitude at that time could have come from anything, my newfound recognition that, as a senior, I would be able to leave soon (enabling me to see the light at the end of the tunnel) or the fact that my upperclassmen had departed, leaving me without the majority of the people who had enabled my obsessing.

I admit, I’ve spent ten years thinking about all this, and every time a friend of mine with bipolar disorder has told me they are taking wellbutrin/buproprion I am thrust into a pace of contemplation. After all, the last 13 mediations I’ve tried haven’t helped… and there is a chance (though a blurry one) that this one drug may have helped me in the past.

A little over a week ago while my mood has been dragging at rock bottom, when my psychiatrist suggested trying an antidepressant again (for lack of any other options while he tries to sort out the ECT situation) I piped up and suggested bupropion. Frankly, it is the only antidepressant I’ve tried that didn’t give me a horrible time, and my history with it is thus:

it either helped me, or did pretty much nothing. 

While nearly all the drugs I’ve tried at this point have done nothing, it feels nice to roll the dice and expect one of two (reasonable) outcomes. I am not expecting to swell up into a balloon until I burst, or get some kind of killer rash, or start twitching uncontrollably. I was able to tolerate this drug ten years ago, all I can do is hope I can tolerate it now.

So I am starting this week with Wellbutrin, Revisited. 

Of everything I’ve tried, this is the one I am the most curious about, simply because my seventeen year old self didn’t have the knowledge to be able to put its effects into words. Now, ten years later with a much larger vocabulary, I am hoping I can finally make an educated conclusion.

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7 responses to “Re-evaluating the Past; Wellbutrin Revisited

  1. Every med works differently for everyone, but SSRI AND SSRNI did not work for me cause they either made me suicidal at too low a dose or super manic at too high (apparently common in bipolar patients) I was put on wellbutrin in December and it has worked wonders for me! I hope it does the same for you!

  2. Wellbutrin has always seemed to be the “safe” anti-depressant for me. Like you say, it either works well or does nothing at all and that is better than causing me to go off the deep end 😉

  3. Pingback: Wellbutrin, The Yellow Wallpaper, Purging, Suicide, and Stigma in Church: Mental Health Monday | A Way With Words

  4. We are hearing a lot about Omega fish oils and exercise. What do you think about au natural?

    • This is a tricky question, and while I spent eight years going the strictly sleep/diet/exercise route there were certainly plusses and minuses to the whole experience. At this point I really believe people should try different treatment options and stick to what works best for them because many of us have significantly different symptoms (or severity of symptoms)… there isn’t one “right” option that works for everyone. Personally, I like to think of psychiatric medications as a last resort, but my symptoms have become significantly worse the last four or five years (like beginning to experience psychosis on a regular basis). Now that I’ve reached the point where my actions (brought on by psychosis) are not only putting myself at risk but also those around me I find it necessary to try new forms of treatment to try to curb those symptoms -something I haven’t been effective at doing on my own.

      I find that most people I’ve spoken to who attempt to treat mental health issues don’t have a “long game” plan. Most of the time is spent focusing on immediate symptoms and how to improve them, and this is one of the reasons I wanted to explore options that might be less volatile to my overall health over a longer period of time (less volatile than, say, lithium on my kidneys). While I think finding ways to cope (whatever they are) is important, it is also important to look at the big picture and how our treatment options will effect our overall health in the long haul.

      So… yes! I think trying natural medicine or a more strict sleep/diet/exercise regimen is something that can really help some people, and opting to try those kinds of things before breaking out the “big guns” is a reasonable way to approach improving one’s mental health.

      Having said that, I feel inclined to note that there are people on both sides (natural health vs. psychiatric pharmaceuticals) who wildly stigmatize the other by proclaiming that their method is the one true method to improve your health! I think we could all learn a lot by considering that some forms of treatment don’t work for people (as I am quickly realizing with my venture into the land of psych drugs), and attempting anything should be celebrated and considered a step forward when someone is making an effort to improve their mental health. Thanks!

  5. I hope it goes well this second time around on Wellbutrin. Like you, antidepressants and dexamphetamine fuelled my mania/psychosis and I now know that I need to stay away from them. It still astounds me how hit and miss finding the right medication is. Finding the right combination of medications creates even more problems.

  6. Lithium was that way for me so I am trying another drug again and hope for the best. My symptoms seem to be getting worse, especially if I miss almost any sleep.

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