Monday, June 08, 2009

Topamax anyone?

The first time I heard about Topamax was when I was “officially” diagnosed with Bipolar Type 1. It was at the same time that I first heard about Lamictal. Upon diagnosis, the P Doc considered subscribing either Lamictal or Topamax both originally anti-epileptics that had been discovered to work wonders for BiPolar sufferers. She opted for Lamictal as Topamax apparently had stronger anti-depressant properties and, as such, a danger existed that it could precipitate a mania (yummy!).

I’ve done really well on Lamictal for the past 3 years. How much can be attributed to Lamictal, and how much to adjusting my own mindset upon diagnosis (a cathartic force never to be under-estimated), will never be known for sure.

The only side-effect that seemed to correlate with my Lamictal intake was a bad tremor in my hands. In all honesty I have never had rock-steady hands, but the last 3 years have been markedly worse. Like so bad that I’m scared of drinking coffee in a coffee shop lest I spill all over the place. Like so bad that Miss L recently said “Sheesh Dad, you REALLY shake badly.”

The real sting for me is that I am very passionate about photography. And as a depressed individual you have to guard your few passions with…well….passion. As fate would have it, the second worst thing that a photographer can have is unsteady hands (the first thing being blindness). But sensibility prevailed and I stuck with the Lamictal realizing that a steady head was far more important than a steady hand. I often complained to P Doc though, and she gave me some beta-blockers – Inderal – which is meant to calm the body in important situations, often used by top violin and piano players before big concerts. Didn’t do much for me. And I take photos pretty much everyday, so that’s really not a long-term solution.

All the while the shaking got worse. The fear that I had early onset Parkinson’s Disease continually plagued me. Eventually about 18 months ago, I made an appointment to see a Neurologist. She gave me the full work-over, knee tapping, walking in straight lines etc. etc. Verdict – No Parkinsons, just a mild familial Essential Tremor. And then, as she sat at her desk finishing the notes in my newly opened file, she pronounced that the best thing for me to take would be Topamax.

But I didn’t.

To be continued/…


  1. WillBeFine08 June, 2009

    At the start of the summer of 2006 I took Lamictal for a period of 6 months. I stopped as my prescription had run out and access to a repeat wasn't convenient as I had moved home.

    I went cold turkey with the effect that I slumped into a deep hole within weeks and subsequently went on a dangerous high. I have not taken Lamictal since. I have not noticed any adverse depression and have only experienced a week long high recently, which Lamictal is not meant to prevent anyway.

    I am fully behind the principles of self-awareness and knowledgeable insight into the condition and the state of your own mind. Cognitive therapy plays a major role in this process. Simply put, each person has to take responsibility for his/her own condition.

  2. I've tried topamax twice in the past ten years. It will be interesting to read the rest of your story

  3. Thank you for reading and following my therapy blog. The past seven or eight months have been the worst period of my depression and I have been walking this black dog for 25 years. It's good to know that people are reading. Recently I have been in a dark place and you sound like you are there too. What seems to work for me is to not fight it - be numb and accept where it takes you. I guess that advice is not for everyone but I found that the more I fought it the harder I crashed.
    Best wishes.

  4. Anonymous28 June, 2009

    I'm so curious to see if you like topamax. Like Jennifer I've been on it twice in recent years with mixed feelings about it. Topamax is different from every other medication for bipolar disorder because its side effects are totally different. I got so skinny the first time I took it I had to stop taking it - it was like cocaine without the high. Weird other effects for me included tingling fingers and toes (cold hands and feet), dry eyes... also my memory was fuzzy around word recall. That sucked a bit. I felt a bit daft. I kind of recommend taking a low dose until you get used to the side effects. True about the alcohol though - I used to drink way too much to dampen my manias (way too manic much of the time) - and topamax makes me not want to drink most of the time. So my doctor put me back on it. And I lost another 12 pounds. Go figure...


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