Anxiety · Medication · OCD · Updates

The thorazine shuffle

There were three psych meds that I’d heard of before psych meds became my reality. Three psych meds that I’d come across in movies or the papers or books. Three psych meds that sounded Big and Scary and for the ‘Real Crazies’. Reserved for the corridor shufflers, the droolers, the hand tremblers. I continued to come across these three drugs after my own struggles with mental illness began, and they have always scared the absolute shit out of me.

I laughed when I was told I was going on lithium and said ‘I don’t need to be on lithium!’ I cried whenever I was told I was starting haloperidol and said ‘I don’t fucking need haloperiodol!”. My head jerked forward in that way it does when your eyes quite literally pop out of your head when you hear something shocking when I googled chorpromazine and discovered that my psychiatrist had just prescribed me thorazine. Had I not been in the work canteen, I would have said ‘I REALLY don’t fucking need to be on thorazine!’

I mentioned before that I was taken off buspirone for anxiety when I was in hospital, to ‘streamline’ my medication (‘ah yes, good idea’, nods the psychiatrist I saw yesterday, though still to this day I don’t know what ‘streamlining’ my medication is supposed to mean). When I saw my new OP consultant in May, he suggested restarting an anxiety medication. I said I was fine for now, that I wanted to try without it. Again, at my last OP review, I was offered to restart something for anxiety, and again, I said I was doing ok for now.

Fast forward a month. I talked about this a bit in my last post, but the past month or so my anxiety has shot through the roof, and after a chat with my mum and CPN, we all felt with the whole moving-country-in-6-weeks and starting uni thing, getting back on something now is a Good Idea.

So my CPN made a quick phonecall Tuesday morning, and ta-da! I have an OP psych appointment for Thursday. Just like that. (She’s good).

I twirl my tangle and my psych flicks through my file to find his notes from las time and after a few ice breaker questions, I bring up the anxiety. We talk options. I don’t see why I can’t just restart the buspirone, given that it helped, and be done with it. But it doesn’t seem to cross his mind to do so. He suggests, aripiprazole, quetiapine, diazepam. All of which I’ve been on before, the first doing nothing for me at all, the second doing nothing for anxiety, and the third being, well, a benzo, and not something I want to become dependant on. I suggest buspirone. He tells me aripiprazole is basically the same thing, same chemicals, why not go back on it? Or why not just try the buspirone…

He says the other options are something tailored for GAD, like pregabalin, but first we need to determine whether I have generalised anxiety, or if I am anxious because actually, I have OCD. So we explore this a little. See, I can be anxious without the OCD traits, and I can be anxious about lots of things- the OP psych explaining it as generalised because I have facets of the different anxiety disorders all mooshed together. Plus, the OCD bits get worse when the anxiety gets worse. But I remember the OCD traits before ever being aware of anxiety. So who knows really. I don’t really care what it is, or why, and when my psych sighs and says ‘what are we going to do’, I say, as I always do when asked this, ‘just switch my brain off please’.

So he suggests chlorpromazine. No, it won’t make me fat. Is being alert important to you? Yes. Ok, that’s fine. 25mg, three, up to 4 times a day. Take it as you need, play with the dose. It might cause a little stiffness, a little shaking, make you gain a pound or two at most. You’ll know after a few doses if you’re tolerating it well. If not, let me know and we can try something else. Trial and error, until we get it right. See, he explains, it’s not just anxiety, my brain is ‘overloaded’, there’s a lot of stuff happening, too much going on. Damn right!

So that is that. I am dubious. Really and truly, I just don’t understand why we couldn’t just stick with the buspirone. But ho-hum, I am not a psychiatrist. So here we go. Back at work I google it. Eyes pop from their sockets and I am panicked and want to burst into tears. Thorazine. How utterly unnecessary, and how absolutely terrifying. I just want my brain to calm down a little, my thoughts to slow, stop tripping over each other and tangling themselves in that big black scribble in my brain. I still however, would like to function, would like to be able to think to some degree, for my thoughts to still move a little. I am more dubious now- a heavy duty antipsychotic for a bit of anxiety? Plus, as it turns out, the pharmacist has flagged up that it actually interacts with lithium, and was reluctant to fill it at all.


Still though, I am glad that he took me seriously. Up until very recently, anxiety has always been brushed to the side, never acknowledged as an issue in its own right, and waved away as something that would go away when the depressions did, when uni finished, when the quetiapine kicked in, despite the fact I’ve been anxious for far longer than I’d been depressed (or as it turns out, bipolar). But now that my mood is stable, both he and the consultant are recognising that it’s still There, that it’s not ‘gone away’, and it’s something the consultant wants addressed when my care is transferred to my new trust.

So anyway, here we go. Anxious about my anxiety meds, but I’ll try give them a go. So if in a few days time I find myself doing the thorazine shuffle, I will be lifting the phone as fast as my trembling hands will let me to ask for something else, asap!

Ps. If anyone has any experience of taking thorazine and lithium together, please let me know as I’m rly nervous about if it’s safe after the stuff I’ve quickly looked at online!


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