Missing Medication: Withdrawal and Side Effects



It’s been around four months now that my psychiatrist has been telling my GP that I don’t need to see her every time I need a new prescription. It’s a situation that has been causing me a great deal of stress as it is nigh on impossible to see my doctor before I run out of medication. The first time I mentioned this to my psych he told me he had met with the doctors at a couple of GP surgeries to discuss this exact problem. My doctor has appeared to ignore this suggestion. The last time I went to see my psych he demanded in the update letter about my appointment that I should be given a repeat prescription, and that my GP and I should instead schedule regular ‘check ups’ to discuss how I was feeling and to discuss blood test results, if needed. It appears this information has not sunk in and my frustration with my doctor has manifested into full blown anger.

So inevitably, I ran out before I had a chance to see my doctor – any doctor – at the surgery. In the end I missed four days of aripiprazole and two days of lamotrigine. I must admit that missing so many days was partly my fault; at one point I simply gave up. Withdrawal is dreadful. I started experiencing tremors that became increasingly obvious. The tremors I could handle, I’ve had them before and I’ve only ever seen them as a mild irritation. I became utterly exhausted, with every task seemingly impossible. It felt like a bout of flu, actually worse than the flu. I somehow, as I often do in these situations, manage to carry on, much to the detriment to my overall health. There were times where I could barely keep my eyes open, and even now my eyes and head are pulsing with a haze of tiredness that refuses to dissipate. Then it gets a tad confusing. I’ve started taking the meds again and now I can’t distinguish what were just withdrawal symptoms and which are side effects; they seem to have overlapped. Now I still feel exhausted, but also nauseous, that has lead to bouts of vomiting. I can barely eat and I’m feeling constantly worn out with a large dollop of sickness to top it all off. And I can’t sleep, what has left me feeling so desperate I was shouting at myself at 3 in the morning. I just want to sleep and wake up feeling refreshed; not feeling that I’m going to throw up. So let me explain how this all came about.

A huge annoyance is how difficult it is to arrange an appointment to begin with. I’m fed up with tiresome phone calls to an engaged line, that then rings endlessly once I’ve got through. The problem is the surgery I’m registered with is ridiculously over subscribed, to the point where they are no longer taking on new patients. If I don’t ring at exactly 8 on a Monday morning I won’t get an appointment. There have been times when I’ve been sat waiting for the engaged tone to finally end, only to speak to a receptionist who informs me all appointments have now been booked for that day. I have to ring back on a Wednesday, or a Friday, or even the next week, where I might, just might, manage to see a doctor. It feels like I’ve entered a lottery each time I make the dreaded phone call.

Last time I managed to see my GP I told her about the problems I’d been having booking in. She was very sympathetic and to my surprise, was able to arrange an appointment to see her in four weeks time, there and then. However this meant I would receive my medication a few days before I ran out. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, I was just so pleased I wouldn’t have to deal with the stress of arranging to see her. She cancelled the appointment. I was furious. Marching up to the receptionist, trying to keep my cool, I demanded to see a doctor the next day, this was an emergency I said. I was told in explicit terms that it was not an emergency, or even a priority and I would have to ring them tomorrow. The next day, no appointments available. Christmas was looming and I was becoming increasingly desperate. The doctor I eventually saw was fantastic, and I intend to ask to see this GP instead of the one I’m registered with. What really upsets me is how dangerous this practice is. What if my mood (that has recently been more on the manic side) had made me decide that I just wouldn’t bother taking the meds anymore. What if this had caused an intense mania, a psychotic episode or a bout of severe depression?

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