I took an atypical antipsychotic medication that makes you feel numb when I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1999. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type and tried a mood stabilizer that my doctor allowed the antipsychotic dosage to be decreased. Finally, I felt like myself again.
Was It Depression or the Side Effects of a Medication that Makes You Feel Numb?
When I say the medication made me feel numb, I mean inwardly—the sensation felt a lot like depression. At first, the reaction very well could have been partially depression. I had just left my dream school, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), because it had turned into more like a nightmare as my first psychotic episode took hold. Two problematic roommates and spiraling paranoia soon turned my world delusional.
I had wanted to go to RISD since I was a sophomore in high school. I made it there and flourished my freshman year. It all fell apart the next year and that did make me depressed, even though I was speedily accepted at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) with a merit scholarship. The SAIC turned out to be the real dream school, though I didn’t know that at the beginning of the first spell of medication and that unsettling numbness.
When Medications Make You Feel Numb and Rob You of Your Spark
I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in 2002 and, by then, I realized SAIC was the place for me. It became clear the numbness wasn’t depression at all. I simply felt I had no spark. This manifested in all sorts of ways—even in the way I dressed. Before the symptoms of schizophrenia triggered, I had a very quirky, funky style of my own–darkly goth dresses and vintage hippie outfits filled the closet. But jeans and tops were all I could manage with my illness. Of course, part of the change in the way I dressed resulted from the weight gain caused by the antipsychotic medication.
Finally, at the beginning of getting my MFA at Columbia College Chicago, enough was enough. I got a second opinion from an esteemed psychopharmacologist who asked me if my psychosis was accompanied by mood swings. I said yes—in fact, I’d been having extreme mood swings since I was 11. She finally figured out my diagnosis, bless her. I had schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. A mood stabilizer helped a lot and my dosage of the antipsychotic was decreased— no more numbness.
I was back to my old self. I didn’t just sit there like a motionless log when I went out with my friends. I laughed again. I was again overflowing with stories and anecdotes. I wanted to do things other than sleep all the time.
My medication had made me feel numb, but with the adjustment, my spark came back.