To Die or to Abilify: The Abilification of Lisa B.

The Smurfs
Cover of The Smurfs

It is a full day on my usually empty dance ticket. I, Lisa, professional mental health seeker, have the joy of seeing both my therapist and my shrink. Rolling out of bed, nicking my legs shaving, and dressing in my new Family Dollar ensemble, I get to my therapy session at 10 am.  As I suck on a starlight mint, we go over my myriad of  “issues.”

“I went to see an art house film called The Smurfs in 3-D this past weekend, and went to the library before the film. This was the first film I ever saw in 3-D and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” I say as my therapist inspects the little book she caught me reading while I waited for her.  She admits to never having seen a 3-D flick, and I praise the medium, that one can almost catch a bird flying out of  the screen. “Though I don’t think The Smurfs would be your cup of tea.”  I then bemoan the cruel truth that kids’ movies would be great except that kids actually come too.

“What is your comfort level standing in a line at the movie theater?”

“Well,” I answer,” not bad really. Crowds don’t bother me, individual interaction does. I can even ask for movie tickets, as long as I have the money so the person will have a reason to tolerate me.” I show her my latest acquisitions in my quest to get all the McDonald’s Smurf Happy Meal toys, the Baker and Brainy (I happened to have them stuffed into the labyrinth that is my purse). I then tell her that I’m too childish, too child-like, but the therapist likes who I am because she’s known me since I was 15 and because she gets money to like me -but honestly, I think she likes me anyway.

“It’s normal to be enthused about something you collect. My mom collected a particular pattern of carnival glass and was very excited when she found a piece at a secondhand shop,” my therapist assures me.


“I have to see the psychiatrist today. I’m not looking forward to it.”

At some point in the session, my therapist says, “but you feel comfortable talking to me, right?”

“Yes, but you don’t poke me with a fork.” One therapist thought I was sexually abused and my psychiatrist feels I have the ways of an “abuse victim.” Once my psychiatrist threw out there one time that maybe I had Aspberger’s syndrome since my social anxiety wasn’t getting better and it’s a struggle to look people in the eye (I’m very self-conscious).

“I’d have to research it more,” I remember the psychiatrist saying. “But I have a lot of empathy. I thought they didn’t,” was my defense. I did not show how upset  I was to have a new diagnosis until I was outside and started crying and fussing at my mother. (No one thinks I have Aspberger’s, though, and the psychiatrist never mentioned it again, so it must have been a passing fancy for her too. Let’s just face it, Shrink, I’m f****d and you can randomly flip through your DSM IV and  diagnose me with whatever is on the page, but there  ain’t no fixing me, not really. But with that cheery thought, let’s continue ).

“I’m thinking about asking her about Abilify,” I tell my therapist. “She’s talked a couple of times of putting me on an antipsychotic in the hopes it would help with the OCD and everything, but I’ve been afraid of getting tardive dyskinesia.   Do you have any patients on it with OCD?”

My therapist is looking  far into her memory and comes up with 75% of the folks she saw with OCD who are chomping on the Abilify say it helped them, 25% said no it didn’t, and if she remembers right, 10% got off due to side effects.

I imagine people who’ve been on Haldol for years, the excessive drool foaming from their mouths. I imagine lactating. But have mercy on me, I’m so tired of not being what I yearn for the most: Ideal.  Everyday I feel I’m not doing things just right and some days it throws me into a rage.  I take three times as long as anyone else to do anything.  I’m  more depressed than I was and I feel as though I have few redeeming qualities. I begin to hope that my shrink knows that I will dramatically change from my lifetime membership at “Camp Clucky.”

Yes, yes, Lisa. We get you suck, life sucks, everything sucks. Blah, blah, boo-hoo. Get on with the story.

My mother and I are having a spot of lunch and I’m trying to look up Abilify just to make sure I want to try this, but my mobile phone’s battery dies on me.  I try to recall the latestAbilify commercial.  Cartoon woman literally weighed down by her depression and falling into the “hole” of the depression. Then her kindly looking doctor helps her out of the hole and prescribes her Abilify.  Some side effects, what  were they? Happy family having a picnic. Happy. “Resulting in coma or death.” What? I don’t remember, must’ve been really rare. Still at happy picnic, even Depression Hole sits nearby. Everyone is at the picnic having such a nice time. I want to be at that picnic, so perfect! “Depression used to define me, then I added  Abilify.”  Ah, how nice. I’ll just ask my doctor all about it.

When I’m in Dr. Shrink’s office, I have my $3.00 ready to throw at the receptionist before she can ask, because I always get the sense she thinks I’ll run off without paying.  It’s the rule of the house, yes, but I can’t help see it as a slight towards all psychiatric cases (power to the people!). I don’t think the receptionist likes my mother and I much. I can imagine her thinking “Sod it all, here comes that rubbish. If I wanted to deal with folks on the dole, I’d have stayed in Merry Old England, wouldn’t I?” Even before Dr. Shrink took Medicaid, though, and I had to somehow hack up $75.00 for my 15 minutes, I don’t believe the receptionist liked us much. It may be in my head, and I don’t seem much different from the others in the waiting room: they mainly look depressed, maybe a couple now and then look mildly apes**t. I’ve been with a friend to Mental Health before and they  look worse and more interesting. I remember some young woman, obviously in a manic state, talking on her cell, “Friday night I tried to kill myself but they gave me some lithium and I feelsoo much better now!”  I wonder if everyone is still getting help since our genius state thought it was a good idea to close the county mental health and the mental hospital to “privatize it.”

I tell Dr. Shrink my decision. She tells me to avoid grapefruit juice (which I already do since I am on Luvox) and to watch for slowed down movements, that tardive dyskinesiawon’t happen suddenly if it happens at all. Two milligrams, not a big dose at al,l and come back at the end of the month( to see if I’m still alive). Ok, great I can do this!

This might fix me.

Or not. Twenty minutes after taking my first cockroach shaped and colored Abilify stuff starts to happen. I am me but I don’t feel like I’m really here. So I’m not at the picnic yet I guess. My thoughts are my thoughts but I feel strangely like I’m not thinking. OK weird. I rush to look at the guide that comes with my prescription then augment it with the internet. Sometime during all of this I start feeling angry, really angry. Smack myself angry, yay!

 Apparently on Abilify, I could develop diabetes, go into a coma, and croak, but hey, I won’t be depressed anymore! Since I’m already fat and haven’t checked my blood sugar in ages, I’m not a happy fat camper.

Stay out of the sun and don’t get overheated…What the frostbite? Am I going to turn into a gremlin?

Weight gain! Do I need to say why I might not like this?

Abilify and Wellbutrin should be used with caution because it might lower one’s seizure threshold. Well that would be a different experience! Might lower my immunity…that should be a hit with someone deathly afraid of going to the doctor.


I try to sleep. I can’t, just as I fall asleep, I feel like I can’t swallow and jerk back awake. I sleep an hour to fly awake and feel angry. Repeat this 2 or 3 times in the night. It feels great! 

The next 48 hours are interesting. I’m angry at everything and when my best friend annoys me by what I perceive as lectures instead of swallowing it, I tell her off over and over. I can’t help myself! Freedom such as the ability to tell off your best friend over stupid stuff is not a freedom a social phobe like me wants.

Today I returned to my psychiatrist. “I’m doing OK, but I had to stop the Abilify. After one dose I knew I couldn’t take it. If I had done thorough research I wouldn’t have tried it anyway because I’m afraid of getting diabetes.”

“Yes well,”Dr. Shrink replies, “if you look on the internet, getting diabetes from Abilifyseems as common as getting the jitters.”

True, but I feel I should be more concerned due to the fact I’m overweight.”

Later I visit with my professor from college, the one who I named my oldest cat after in tribute. The college  is only a couple of blocks from my psychiatrist’s office. We talk various things and then I talk about how awful I sometimes was when on meds that opened my mouth so that I’d say whatever I wanted back when I was in his science classes.

“Don’t ever feel sorry about the things you say unless you hurt someone’s feelings, and I don’t remember you ever being mean to anyone.”

“Well no, but I’d say anything and I cringe at the thought now.”

(Flashback: pointing at a faux skeleton in class and saying, “Look he’s got a boner!” Flashback: among the things I inherited from my grandmother, one was her old lady bright red lipstick. My reply to the comments I got when I wore it, “Hey, this was a really popular color in the 1940s.” I was shy then too, but accepted as the oddity that I was and I’ve always liked making people laugh. In many classes I was near silent anyway, but not my science teacher’s class. It’s a pity he isn’t my real father)

You learn to have patience says my professor at some point in our conversation. ” I guess you have had worse than me as long as you’ve been doing this,” I stammer.

“At least you aren’t an ax murderer. That would be worse.”

“Have you actually had murderers in your classes?”

“Two of them. One the cops chased into the mountains and he was killed.”

Well golly.

So the Abiify didn’t help me become the person I want to be, not close, but, the moral of this story is, no matter what I do, hey, at least I’m not an ax murderer!

PS: Abilify has helped many people, it could help you too. Sometimes the risk is worth the gain. As my pharmacist said, “Line 100 people up, and two would have the same reaction as you did.” Besides, my body’s wired different anyway. I was the 1/10000 of Paxil patients who lost her period on Paxil (happened on Effexor too!). Soon as I stopped, flowed like the red sea. With that, I bid you adieu. 

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17 thoughts on “To Die or to Abilify: The Abilification of Lisa B.

  1. I haven't trie Abilify, but I feel like the LAST thing mental health patients need is a drug name that rhymes with "Vilify." Every time I see the commercial that is all I can think about–what a stupid name! But if it helps, who cares what it's called? And, well, who cares what it's called if it doesn't help?


    • I know, it is a dumb name, but I suppose they're hoping you think of "able' or "ability." It's great to have you comment, thanks and please come bsck soon!


  2. It's tough, Lisa. These meds are pretty much trial and error. Some of them truly produce miracles for some people and others really screw them up further and cause a multitude of other problems which, in my experience, docs seem to take casually. It's not their bodies and brains that are being messed with! I don't mean to imply they are arbitrarily evil or unconcerned, but only that they deal with a larger population (A patient's focus is on herself) and they sort of take an average in their heads, I think. Maybe they believe it's a trade-off and patients have to choose Door 1 or Door 2 in this whole crapshoot….For example…Psychosis, or diabetes, maybe loss of limbs, possible heart attack, stroke??

    Part Two to Follow


    • My drugs take the edge off at least. My psychiatrist sees me for 15 minutes every 3 months, but I'm afraid of doctors, so I'd rather stay where I'm at. My therapist, however, helps me immensely. She gets more out of me than anyone and I fel extremely comfortable with her, especially since she knew me for a little while when I was a teen. I wouldn't trade her for any other therapist.
      Hope things are going well for you, I really appreciate your insight always!


  3. Part Two__Someone I know recently tried Abilify too and had a terrible response within one day also. ____I think a lot of docs have been brainwashed into believing these meds are direct gifts from above and that they no longer have to do any work to help patients. When you deal with tough cases and are surrounded by other people's sometimes insoluable problems, it takes a lot out of your zest for life. It must be hard not to get at least a little detached (objective?) and a little callous perhaps. I don't excuse this, but am only pointing it out. Personally, I don't recommend dealing with shrinks who only prescribe and who don't do therapy too. It is hard to locate them but I think when a doctor has more of a relationship with you and knows you as a person, he or she is not as likely to be as casual about throwing the prescriptions about you.____If you think they are helping you, that's great, but if you have been seeing the same practitioners for years and years and nothing has changed at all, maybe it's time for another opinion..a fresh set of eyes and ears?____Wishing you happier, less anxious days ahead.__


    • Chuck E. Cheese and Toys 'r US too. That mouse makes a good pizza and a doll collector likes to reflect on the dolls in a shop. Thanks!


    • Great to see you, Abby! Luvox has been the best side-effects wise (I started having real trouble when I did 400mg, which is 100mg over the recommended max). I don't think I'll ever find the exact combo that will take away my compulsions, but at least it takes the edge off. Thanks!


  4. Brain chem is soooo tricky, and we know so little about it compared to mending bones and sewing up soft tissue. I thought the convo with the perfesser was indeed comedy gold. I laughed so hard my eyes watered. You have a great attitude. Keep trying on the meds. Some combination works for nearly every one, at least to the point of lessening symptoms. It does take a number of attempts.


    • You laughed so hard you cried? That's a compliment that makes me feel even better than the animated Abilify broad! If I don't start feeling worse, i'm going to stick to 200 mg of Luvox and 150 mg of Wellbutrin because lately I've become more focused on writing. The lousier my mental state, the better I write…but I am feeling pretty good today. Thank you so much for reading!


  5. A therapist whose never even been to a 3D movie? What can she tell you about the important things of life? :o)

    When you are depressed you want to take or do anything which might promise an improvement. I've had shock treatment twice. Allowing someone to make you have epileptic fits by applying electrodes to your head, with accompanying long term memory loss, is pretty desperate. Sometimes these things help, but drug companies will always present their products in the best light. Scientific tests still come out from time to time saying that even the best anti-depressants are only marginally better than placebos. But if we don't believe in our own ability to get better, a placebo can be a huge help.

    Depression originates in our thinking. The job of changing unhelpful habits of thought through cognitive therapy is a slow process, but it does mean that you are in control not some chemical.

    Desensitisation is very important when it comes to perfectionism and worries about offending people. If you go out in public with food stains on your clothes and make inappropriate jokes to friends, relatives and strangers, you may at first feel self-concious and anxious. But, in time, you find that all those "you're a freak" expressions can't hurt you, and they can be amusing. I'm an expert at both these things, so I should know. :oP


    • Hey Aussie!
      one thing I'm good at is food stains. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves, I wear my food on my clothes. I wish I wasn't good at that.
      Yes, desensitation is best in most things OCD. I hope suffering through shock treatment made you feel better. In some ways I'm doing better, but I often feel hopeless. Now that I've lowered the Luvox, I have a lot more creativity. Woohoo!


  6. I'd never heard of Abilify (what a curious name for a drug) and it's been years since I've needed to take anti-deppression medicines (though it looks like I could do with taking spelling medicines at the moment) anyway – a fact I'm very grateful for. I think you just have to do what feels right for you at any time. The last antidepressant drug I was prescribed f*cked me up badly – got rid of my ability to visualise (which is horrible for an artist) and I couldn't remember dreams, which I had always used to help me, and it also lost me about two thirds of my vocabulary. I stupidly stayed on it for eighteen months and really I should have come off it as soon as the damage started occurring.


  7. I think that taking in Abilify would help you on your problem even though it has some adverse effects like diabetes. I think that Abilify really help a lot of people who have been diagnosed like you. I think that you should be more patient in taking drugs and be more interactive with your psychiatrist.


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