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.