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The Binge Eating Treatment That Made Me Psychotic

Vyvanse isn’t for everyone.

When my doctor first told me about Vyvanse, I was pretty excited to hear that there was a pill that could potentially help with both Binge Eating Disorder and the racing, disorganized thoughts that were causing me a great deal of anxiety.

Unlike the antipsychotics and mood stabilizers I was used to, Vyvanse would better target the ADHD symptoms that my doctor was hesitant to diagnose. “We can come up with a more accurate diagnosis after we see how you respond to the medication,” he said, coolly dispelling my hesitance to try something new.

My doctor was honest and forthcoming with transparency about the fact that there may be some side effects, so I immediately went online to the manufacturer’s website for more details. Since I didn’t have any heart problems and wasn’t planning on becoming pregnant, I wasn’t too worried about the warnings prominently featured on the website.

It sounded like Vyvanse would be different from the medicine I was typically prescribed, and needless to say I was very excited to try something completely different.

I’d never had my eating disorder addressed by my psychiatrist, and after months of taking medicine that made me gain weight, I seriously appreciated the gesture. As soon as I left the office, I went to the pharmacy, picked up my new prescription, and popped one of the capsules in my mouth.

My first week of taking Vyvanse was truly magical. My urge to binge was instantly crushed, and I felt as though my traditionally unstable mood was generally more positive. While I disliked the dramatic crash that came about once the treatment wore off every evening, I appreciated what it did for me during the mornings and afternoons.

I wasn’t hungry in the slightest. Forget about bingeing — I could barely feel anything when I looked at food. I didn’t crave the sugar and salt that I’d heavily relied on for emotional support before. Even without much to eat, I had enormous levels of drive and energy.

There wasn’t much to be excited about during a time where I was telemarketing from home for a paycheck and hadn’t left my one-bedroom home in weeks because of the pandemic. With my new medication, the complacency of this sedentary lifestyle became more bearable.

A few days into the second week, things started to get a little bit strange. Even though I was sitting on the couch making 40 phone calls an hour (and barely moving except to stretch once in a while), my heart rate was occasionally spiking as high as 180 beats per minute. I kept a vigilant watch over this symptom, but it didn’t start to worry me until the shortness of breath came along with it.

Once my heart began pounding out of my chest and I began gasping for seemingly no reason, my anxiety took over with sensational attacks that were peppered throughout the day. I immediately told my doctor about this and he referred me to a cardiologist, urging me to stay on the medicine and see what its long-term effects would be.

Because of the pandemic, I learned I’d have to wait three months to see a cardiologist within my health insurance network. In the meantime, I kept taking Vyvanse, but somewhere in the middle of the third week, I began experiencing psychosis. (Psychosis is simply the medical term for a loss of contact with reality).

It started when I began clearing my throat every few seconds. No matter what I did, it felt like there was a frog in my throat and I constantly found myself pushing out a dry, scratchy cough that had no mucus or signs of respiratory illness. My throat literally itched, and it was putting me on edge as my job was to speak to people on the phone all day. The unbearable obsession was giving me stress headaches, and out of fear of the virus, I began taking my temperature once every couple of hours.

Everything seemed to collapse one Monday morning when I began to think hysterical thoughts about illness.

“I can’t breathe,” I said to my boyfriend, who was at home on furlough because of the pandemic. “I think my throat is closing.”

“Your throat isn’t closing, Heather.”

“I might be allergic to something.”

“Your throat isn’t closing.”

Reluctantly, I logged into the call center application for work and began dutifully dialing away. While I made my phone calls, my eyes remained glued to my cell phone as I typed my symptoms into Google and began what turned into hours of reading on WebMD.

My throat itched, my head hurt, my heart was having palpitations, and I couldn’t breathe right. There was a horrible sense of dread surrounding my thoughts, and I became fixated on death. I believed strongly in several scenarios of demise — that I’d faint and crack my head open, that I’d stop breathing, that I’d have an embolism — and during the hour of scheduled break in the middle of the day I begged my boyfriend to take me to the emergency room.

No matter how much I tried to convince my man that I was dying, he kept telling me I was anxious and that I just needed to do some breathing exercises with him. To oblige him, I pretended to breathe along as he peacefully counted to ten, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I cried hysterically, lamenting that this was my last day on earth and that surely he was crazy for failing to see it coming.

As soon as my workday was finished, my boyfriend catered to my fears and drove me to the closest walk-in clinic. They tested me for Coronavirus and I subsequently had a severe panic attack when faced with the minor inconvenience of discomfort that the nose swab gave. Over all, the clinician said that my symptoms seemed unremarkable and most likely mirrored that of anxiety, and I went back home utterly defeated.

Aside from hurt pride, I felt completely normal again in the blink of an eye. As soon as the Vyvanse wore off, I realized that my throat didn’t actually itch, I could breathe just fine, and I wasn’t going to die. I called my doctor right then and there and we immediately decided that I needed to stop taking the medication.

While I enjoyed the fluttering high that this medication gave me, it wasn’t worth it. As soon as I stopped taking it, I started experiencing withdrawal and the whole experience was not worthwhile because of the severity of this and because of the psychosis it was pushing me into.

For a friend of mine who suffers from ADHD, Vyvanse is her holy grail medication and has really improved her quality of life. She doesn’t have Borderline Personality Disorder or PTSD like I do, so she doesn’t report the nasty complications that I faced. It’s really important to her in living a happy and productive lifestyle, and I know that lots of people greatly benefit from stimulant medications like Vyvanse.

I’m glad that I tried Vyvanse, but I’m also happy that I got away from it when I did and that nothing fatal or deeply threatening happened to me as a consequence of taking it. It’s important to be open to trying new things on our mental health journeys, and that we remember through hardship that we’re doing these things in the name of getting better.

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I write about all kinds of human experiences big and small.

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