Why I Can’t Take Chantix to Quit Smoking

Several of my doctors are really pushing me to quit smoking. I know – intellectually – that I do need to quit. The problem is, in 1999 I quit for three years and never got to the point where I was comfortable. I wanted to smoke every single day of those three years. Finally I couldn’t stand it any more and started up again.

This dramatic failure – and the fact that I really enjoy smoking – are two huge factors playing against my even making another attempt.

Still, I was willing to try bupropion (generic version of the antidepressant Wellbutrin and the anti-smoking aid Zyban). This was a major disaster.

I do have e-cigarettes, but they aren’t satisfying (maybe I bought the wrong brand?). Then they died, I couldn’t find the charger, and it took weeks for the company to send me a new one (promised in 3 days). That kind of killed my interest in using them.

My ashtray at the end of the day

My ashtray at the end of the day

But I smoke a lot: at least 2 packs a day. I have developed wheezing when I lie down. I really don’t want COPD, and I was told that smoking could have contributed to the attack of ischemic colitis I had a few years back (which could have been fatal, though I didn’t know it at the time).

There’s one more drug that has a very good record in helping people quit smoking: Chantix. But my doctors refuse to prescribe it because of my bipolar II disorder, and I agree with them. My current meds’ control over my BP and anxiety is precarious enough without adding a drug known to cause problems to people with mental illnesses. Continue reading

Bipolar Medications, Weight Gain, and Shame: A Confession

In the late 1980s I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and given Elavil (amitriptyline) to help me sleep. I had been found to have inadequate delta sleep (deep, restful sleep) in a sleep study, and it was thought (maybe still is) that poor sleep and fibromyalgia were related.

The first morning after I took Elavil I nearly wept for joy. It was the first good night’s sleep I’d had in 20 years.

One problem with that drug is that you have to keep jacking up the dose to get the same effect. The other is that it packs on the weight. I went from 135 to 165 pounds, and people were asking me if I was pregnant.

In 1992 I decided I couldn’t stand the extra weight any more and stopped taking Elavil. The weight started to peel off. Then, in December, my sweetheart of 11 years died suddenly, just a month after we finally got engaged. I lost a total of 40 pounds, down to 125.



Now, I looked great at 135, and not bad at all at 125, even though I was 5’10” tall, as I’m extremely small-boned. But in 1994 I had a depressive breakdown and was put on Prozac, which was still pretty new then.

By 1997 I had gained 20 pounds and I did not look good.

In 1999 I was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder and began to play musical chairs with meds. More and more weight gain, till I got up to 170. Here’s my medication history from my first psychiatric medications until 2003:

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Now I Know Why I’m Wobbly

It's all in my left ear

It’s all in my left ear

It isn’t ataxia at all. The reason I can’t keep my balance, even though I don’t get dizzy, is “vestibular dysfunction” in my left inner ear.

Even though my worst fall was precipitated by being dizzy from meds, it’s possible I wouldn’t have fallen if I hadn’t turned out the light, leaving the room in pitch darkness. You can compensate for poor balance with your eyes, to some degree.

And that’s what the physical therapy for this balance disorder does. Combining visual cues with a wobbly platform, the exercises retrain your damaged inner ear – somehow. They tell me that six weeks of twice-a-week therapy should be sufficient. Continue reading