Upped Abilify and driving

Things are looking a little brighter for me. I ended up increasing my Abilify yesterday, and I’m very glad I did. When increasing Abilify I tend to notice a quick change in my mood or psychotic symptoms. It is a good fit for me. I’m pleased to say that I am feeling less depressed, more calm and collected, more at peace. I am still feeling depression, but luckily it isn’t at the forefront of my mind and completely controlling my thinking.

Two days ago I was so distraught from severe depression that I felt a need to harm myself. I ended up using one of my coping mechanisms to fight those urges off, and it worked. I didn’t feel the usual sense of relief that I’ve felt in the past when I hurt myself often, but thankfully the coping mechanism worked. I feel grateful and fortunate. I didn’t self-harm. Take that, scumbag brain.

Of course, then there are the lovely side effects of increased Abilify for me. Excessive tiredness, exhaustion – even fatigue makes its presence fully known. I feel out of touch, and quite dissociated. What this means for me: a much slower pace of doing my daily chores, a lack of energy to do much otherwise and therefore a lack of motivation, and then there’s the whole not being able to drive thing.

The tiredness is doable. I’m home, on disability, and I can go easy on myself if required. It frustrates me to not be able to do things at the pace I want, but in the grand scheme of things that’s pretty minor. I haven’t been getting as much done around the house, and for that I feel rather crappy about myself. I’m learning to be fine with it though, I’m doing my best to be ok with it.

Not being able to drive (once again) is getting to me. Due to severe derealization I was unable to drive for over four years. With life appearing quite two-dimensional, you may be able to understand how something like driving in a three-dimensional world could be problematic. Questions such as “how far away from that other vehicle am I?” and “how quickly do I need to slow down/stop before I hit that object?”. Yeah, dissociation makes driving pretty terrifying for me. Aside from the usual anxiety I feel from simply being in a car, I have paranoia that other drivers can hear my thoughts and the trees are listening as well. These things make for distracted vehicle operation. Because of my intense fear of car accidents, it’s safer for me not to drive when I’m dissociated.

The good news is that there’s really nowhere I need to go by myself these days anyway. While the pandemic is ravaging our country, both my therapist and doctor’s office are closed until further notice. I have video appointments with my professionals, and I’m so grateful to be able to interact with them “face-to-face”. My husband has a couple of weekdays off from work now, and he likes to go out on those days – and he loves to drive, fortunately for me.

Even so, I can’t help but feel my sense of independence slipping out from under me once again. I enjoy driving. I like being able to do simple things such as run errands and grocery shop by myself. I was able to drive again for around six or seven months, and it felt great. It had been far too long, in my opinion, of not being able to drive. Now the ability to take myself places is waving goodbye to me yet again.

While this bothers me, I am attempting to practice radical acceptance (as my DBT worksheets call it). DBT has been a blessing in my life, and practicing radical acceptance has been a challenging joy. As I spoke with my therapist this morning, I said something like, ” Life is fine the way it is now.”, and my therapist liked it. I ended up liking it, too, and I think I’m going to use that phrase more while engaging in self talk.

I worry about not being able to decrease my Abilify in the future because of how well I seem to be doing on this higher dose. I’m fairly certain that if I need to keep my medication at this level that there won’t be much driving in my future. In the past, this notion would have devastated me. For some reason, I now see a different side to the story: so what if this becomes my reality? So what if I’m not able to drive much in the future? Isn’t stability more important than being able to take a quick trip to the store? I’m still an adult, I’m still worth while, and most importantly I’m still enough. There’s nothing wrong with not being able to drive, and there are a lot of people who can’t or won’t operate a car for many different reasons. I don’t need to feel ashamed or less than anyone else for not being able to drive.

More than likely, I will be able to decrease my dose again. More than likely, I’ll be able to drive once more while taking a lower dose. History has proven that I’ve been able to function fairly well on a lower dose, even down to about fifteen milligrams. During the several month period, before my recent psychotic episode, I was doing quite well on fifteen milligrams. When the dose was decreased further to ten milligrams, because I felt like I could handle it, life unraveled. Psychosis was a bigger reality again, and it would get worse unless the medication was increased. I can clearly see this correlation. I keep reminding myself (since my husband continues to remind me) that there’s absolutely no shame in being where I’m at right now, mentally speaking.

My therapist also believes that the dissociation I’m experiencing could easily be due to exhaustion from my recent swings. I believe her. From psychosis, to a little bit of normal, to hypomanic, to severe depression, and back to a more normal state. The last few months have been a ride, to say the least. During these struggles, I’ve learned the valuable lesson of being flexible with my Abilify doses but not going too low with it. Medication is a big part of how I remain upright and able to think and do things I love. That’s more than ok.

I know that most people in my life can’t understand why I can’t drive at times. There’s a certain stigma attached to it, I find. “Yeah, but I still don’t get why driving would be a problem..?” is something I’ve gotten a fair amount of. I’ve tried explaining, explaining more, and giving examples and reasons. I know it is definitely a challenge to see why dissociation would cause this, especially if they’ve never experienced dissociation for themselves. It’s tough to imagine perceiving your usual three-dimensional world in 2D. I totally understand that. One of the important things for me to remember is that I shouldn’t allow their judgements to interfere with my well-being – which I have done so very much in the past. I need patience and understanding of myself. That’s going to be hard, but I think I can kind of get there. The bottom line is that my mental health is important, and in the grandness of life driving is not as necessary for me.

Stay insane, friends


7 thoughts on “Upped Abilify and driving

  1. We seem to have a lot in common, as I can usually relate to what you write. Abilify helps me, too, and I also have issues with driving due to derealization! I never thought I’d read someone’s blog and relate to so much. Too bad these aren’t the best things to go through, but it’s comforting to relate, if that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does seem like we have a lot in common. I totally get what you mean by finding comfort in being able to relate. I feel the same. I never thought I would find another living soul who relates to my issues with dissociation and driving. Glad we found each other xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

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