One of my meds is amytriptyline. I take it to prevent migraines.
I’ve always had migraines with my period (not that I knew they were migraines until relatively recently) and when I was pregnant for the second time I had pregnancy migraines. It took a long time to get them diagnosed because they were mostly expressed through an aura that was pretty much 24/7. So basically my vision was blurry, and I had a lot of headaches. Along with a lot of other pregnancy awfulness.
Pictured: The up side of that pregnancy.
The migraines continued after pregnancy, still every day, still mostly aura (but plenty of pain, too—and if I was in pain it usually went for three days straight) until I finally saw a neurologist. They mentioned that, among other things, I had some non-permanent brain damage (as I suspected, at that point – I’d had migraines every day for over two and a half years and definitely felt like something was wrong with my brain that wasn’t “just” mental illness or absent-mindedness or baby brain). The first med we tried didn’t work, and amytriptyline was only an option if I was NOT taking zoloft so I went through a really nasty period of getting off zoloft (for anxiety/depression) so I could try amytriptyline.
Fortunately, it worked—and at a relatively low dose, too. Amytriptyline is also sometimes prescribed for anxiety, but sadly it didn’t help me (so I now take pristiq for the mental stuff).
The early days on amytriptyline were super trippy. For the first week I’d get up in the morning too doped-up to walk straight. It got less silly after a bit, and I started taking the pills with dinner instead of when I went to bed.
Nowadays I still get aura relatively often—generally towards the end of a long day—and the occasional migraine (the aura is a warning; I take painkillers and chocolate and try to avoid physical and mental stress in order to head off the pain before it settles in).
Solving my migraines was a really big step toward functionality, but amytriptyline has some pretty intense side effects.
Firstly, I need to be careful of other meds containing serotonin (so I don’t take too much, get serotonin syndrome, and maybe die).
Secondly, it dries out my eyes. I now use eye drops every single day, but my eyes still water a whole bunch. I can’t wear eye makeup, and more importantly my eyes are in danger of going kablooey due to diabetes.
Thirdly, I sleep. A lot. I typically go to sleep around 11pm and get up at 7am (for those of you who don’t like counting, that’s eight hours each night) and also nap for around ten hours every week. Some nights I go to bed as early as 7pm, and sleep a full ten or twelve hours in a row. Then quite often have a nap the next afternoon. I used to be a night owl, but now I’m usually pretty wrecked in the evenings.
Since I started taking amytriptyline, three things happened:
My writing output dropped, and has never recovered. I still write more than most humans, though.
I can eat chocolate after dinner. This I like.
TJ sleeps less than I do, which SUCKS because I get almost no Chris-and-me-watching-TV down time.
It’s always super easy to get to sleep. Except every so often, generally when (like tonight) I take the tablet much later than usual, when I feel wildly awake. When that happens, I get up and watch TV or read a book until I feel tired enough to try again.
And that’s why I wrote this blog entry. At 2am.
One of the to-do lists I wrote recently was a medical one. There’s a lot of stuff on that list. I’m currently on a waiting list to see the neurologist again (I think the waiting list is about a year) and talk about other pill options. I don’t mind waiting because I know things might get worse before they get better. My mental state is fragile at best.
It’s clear I still have issues with migraines. It’s also clear that my brain damage hasn’t healed in the two years since I started taking amytriptyline (suggesting that the low-level migraines I’m still getting may be preventing my healing).
There is a very simple test for brain damage: I try to walk using ‘fairy steps’ – with each step, I touch the heel of the new foot to the toe of the previous foot. I’m now able to do it, but only if I use my arms to help me balance. If I keep my hands clasped together, I fall over. The physical lack of balance is nice and measurable, but I don’t know the effect this brain damage has on my writing or my ability to socialise. I’ve always been bad with names, but I’m really REALLY bad now. I also switch nouns (eg “Put the carrots in the laundry[fridge] please.”) and presumably my conversation isn’t as sparkling as it could be.
I used to be quite fond of my brain. Mental illness really doesn’t help with that, but brain damage is a whole new kettle of brains. Fish. Fish brains.
You know what I mean.