My Lithium intake has been cut nearly in half for a week now and the uncontrollable tremors have mostly gone away. My hands still shake occasionally, mostly when I’m holding something, like my camera or a tube of toothpaste. But even that’s rare.
The third-degree self-inflicted burn seems to be healing alright. The part that doesn’t have skin or muscle tissue is getting smaller. It started out about the size of a $2 Canadian coin, with a couple of quarters extending out from the side and bottom.
It’s roughly the size of a slightly warped dime now, and my wrist looks I’ve had a skin graft from a Cardassian (Star Trek reference).
Of course I’m no doctor, so the dark-green, yellowish material in the middle of the scar ring could be anything from gangrene to the caramel they put in the Caramilk bar.
Joking. I’m doing my best to take this whole situation seriously. My psychiatrist noted during our last appointment that whenever I described burning myself to him, I was laughing like I was telling a drinking story from college.
He believes the laughing is me covering up a bunch of things, but mostly that there are underlying anger issues in my life, and he’s right. And they came out extremely violently a few weeks ago, when I was in the middle of a gigantic Lithium overdose.
Or maybe the overdose killed the whatever was guarding the anger door.
The result was one episode when I punched myself as hard as I could in the head four times, another when I punched a playground slide, and then an episode where, in the space of roughly fifteen minutes, I stabbed my forearm thirty-three times with a diabetic testing needle, and finally burned myself with a red hot butter knife… four times in the same spot, five seconds each.
There was a lot of anger involved in that. And maybe it’s all real and ancient and unresolved and lurking. But without the overdose, there would have been no violence.
But there was an overdose, and whatever the Lithium — which was at twice the safe concentration in my blood for at least six weeks — did to my brain, at some point it began to make sense for those acts to happen.
In a lot of ways I’ve spent a lot of time over the past week trying to justify what happened to some of the people around me. Like my psychiatrist.
I still haven’t told my family, including my girlfriend, about the night I stabbed and burned myself. Because I don’t think they’ll understand. I’ve told them both about the overdose, and my theory as to how it happened, but their eyes glazed over and I felt like, inside their heads, they were thinking “there goes Gabriel again with his little pills”.
I’m probably wrong, but if I’m going to tell someone I punched myself in the head as hard as I can, then a week later I gave myself a third-degree burn while I bounced my knee and laughed out loud and thought it was all wickedly cool, I need than to have the context down first.
Most of the context being: it’s not my fucking fault. Nothing that happened during the six weeks my brain was saturated in salt was my fucking fault. Burning a giant hole into my arm made absolute sense while I was doing it, I really was laughing while it was happening.
After it was done I put the knife into the sink and went back to surfing the Internet. But doing that on a Lithium overdose is like someone putting an hallucinogenic into your morning coffee for six weeks. Eventually you’ll do something that feels comfortable and maybe necessary, but to everyone else you’re just fucking a thistle bush.
Which would definitely not be your fault, your responsibility or really needs any more justification than “yeah, my roommate’s a dick”.
So, I’m just having a hard time visualizing telling my mother the third-degree burn on my wrist is self-inflicted due to a salt overdose.
My main problem in all of this, at least one that has popped up again, is my unwillingness to see a doctor when a problem first presents itself.
This is something that goes back decades, but also as recent as last February when I broke my foot and waited almost five weeks before going to the ER for x-rays.
I walked, for more than a month, on a broken foot because it never occurred to me to get a ride to the ER. That’s a special type of dedication.
I started writing this post almost ten days ago. After I reread the part about never seeing a doctor I realized I actually hadn’t seen a doctor regarding the (possibly) third-degree burn on my wrist.
The only person I had talked to about caring for it was the local pharmacist.
So, on October 24, my girlfriend dropped me off at the local hospital. Seven hours later, a doctor told me the scab looked healthy, there was no infection and to expect everything to be fine in another week to ten days.
And, a week later, the scar is virginal pink, and there’s just a touch of a scab left. The scar’s not as intense as I thought it’d be, I think I might be a little disappointed.
Also, in the past week, the shakes are completely gone — give or take. I had an eye exam a few days ago and one of the machines told the nurse I was vibrating. I’m basically back to the fine tremors I had before this whole mess.
I’m still slurring my speech, I’m having a hard time climbing stairs, and I’m still a little foggy, but ninety percent of the crap I went through during the extended overdose has gone away.
I am definitely having problems with my diabetes numbers. During the overdose my numbers spiked up to an average of mid-teens in the morning to high-twenties in the evening. Once we lowered the Lithium dose the numbers dropped back down to six in the morning and mid-teens in the evenings.
But for five days now the numbers are way up. The ER doctor said it could be because of the burn, apparently wounds will spike a diabetics numbers.
But my wound is pink now. I don’t know. There always seems to be something.
As a long time cutter and an even longer time ‘I’m-taking-myself-off-my-meds-because-I-don’t-need-them-anymore-wait-is-everything-zinging-to-you?’ kinda gal, i know the feelings ALL too well. I’ve had people try to describe my cutting to that akin to a ‘sexual’ release, which really freaked me out, because it’s more like.. everything just gets all too much for me and the cuting would clear my head and make me feel REAL at least for a few minutes.. I took myself off of Zyprexa, not weened, just one day STOPPED. Te same day I took myself off of Depacote. Ya know.. I think I’m not a doctor for a reason.. because pulling that stunt right THERE made me feel like I was going flat out insane. please take care of yourself.. if not for YOU, for your little one. Mine is the only reason I don’t cut anymore. I just think of trying to explain the scars to her, and it doesn’t make as much sense.. even in a manic episode.
all my best,
Heather (best what, I’m not sure, but best anyways)
Hello Heather. From what I can remember from way, way back, during the (almost a) year when I was burning myself with cigarettes, there was no sexual component to the act. Mostly, from memory, I was either doing it to punish myself and / or out of some weird sense of boredom.
One of the last things anyone should do, actually the very last thing right before watching Law & Order: SVU, is quit taking the pills we’re prescribed cold turkey. These things significantly alter how our brains work. Stopping will hurt, a lot. But it’s the same going the other way. When I first started the Wellbutrin my doctor gave me a high dose, and several things were broken in my apartment before the dose was finally lowered.
My little son is the reason I’ve started taking the diabetes seriously. After he was borne (almost two-years ago) I started having visions of me in a wheelchair. But I also saw myself with those blade legs… which would be cool.
Thanks a lot for the comment Heather, it was very useful.
I’m glad to learn your burn is healing. The needle stabbing might have introduced bacteria into your flesh, you didn’t sterilize your arm first. I hope you told the Doctor of that needle as well, because it might take time for the bugs to grow. I’m not a doctor, but that’s my worry.
Okay I ‘ll explain getting drunk to you. When you get drunk and do stupid things, you are supposed to be embarrassed, even though it was the alcohol doing the singing and dancing. You are not supposed to want to remember the stupid things you did. This embarrassment is supposed to help you to stop drinking.
Your friends are supposed to laugh at you for what a fool you were, you are supposed to deny it ever happened and hope there are no photographs.
Hi Mark, thanks for your concern, and excellent points all of them. But I was the one taking the photos. And I really like showing them to people. The needle punctures were actually far more painful than the burn. I pretty much turned a 2×3″ section of my wrist into minced meat. But it healed quickly, as many holes as I created they were still small holes.
Honestly, and weirdly, there was never any pain associated with the burn.
The burn itself has healed nicely. There’s a bit of a scab left, but the rest is all a healthy glowing pink. I can’t see myself ever doing anything like this again, mostly because of the number of factors involved — new medication interacting badly with old medication, combined with my genetic unwillingness to see a doctor.
Hey there. Glad to hear that your wound is healing well. I hope that you can get things sorted with your blood sugars soon.
Bummer that it involves so many tests and so forth to maintain levels safely for both your mood and the diabetes.
Could you try working out a routine timeframe that you need to see your doctor (eg 3 months for your Lithium levels) and make a set booking arrangement with yourself and/or the practice? That way you don’t have to work up to going (assuming that you don’t like going) – you just do it on the diary date you set and you do any maintenance type of things while you’re there… (kind of minimise the anticipation/planning loop of the torture wheel)
Thanks Jill. The past three days my morning blood sugar numbers have been close to normal, in the 8 range, but the evening numbers are still high at 16 to 29 (metric, thirty-three is supposed to be when I call the ambulance). At the moment my psychiatrist and I are going appointment by appointment, I see him every two weeks, so that’s when he gives me the paperwork for the Lithium test. I still haven’t seen my “family doctor” about any of this, it’s just too complicated to see him.
A few years ago I was way more committed to the blood work than I have been over the past year. I think it might have something to do with the stress I’ve been accumulating from my girlfriend and our son.
Thanks again for the ideas, and the concern.
I was having a week, and thought I’d check in. Thinking of you.