When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar, I was put on meds of course, and they sucked. Bad.
I have tried different ones here and there but have remained pretty much pharmaceutically medicated free. I will admit that part of this was because the last couple years I had no insurance and the cost of meds was way too much for me to sustain on a monthly basis, but a big part of it too, was by choice.
I have a thing about thinking society is entirely over-medicated, seeing as how you can get a pill for just about anything these days and how so many people rely on popping a Xanax or Ativan or valium at the first little sign of anxiety.
The outcome of this over-medicating, in my mind, is a gazillion people who no longer have any coping skills for the normal things in life (stress, anxiety etc) and a whole new generation believing they are messed in the head because they have normal life reactions (stress, anxiety etc) and never learned any way to cope except popping pills.
God forbid they run out and have to deal on their own.
I sometimes joke that the real zombie apocalypse is coming in the form of the emotionally dead, over-medicated masses who walk around just not giving much of a f*** about anything because they can’t.
People don’t do anything about what is going on in the world today because they don’t, no, can’t, care about what is going on in the world today.
Deep feeling, strong emotions and anything that causes us to feel or think on a deep level, are avoided and pills take away all the pain, mental or physical, of living. What used to be just the daily trappings of living, the ups and downs, stress and discomfort are now most likely considered dysfunctional and hey there is a pill for that and ever other thing too.
I could go into the comparison of pharmaceutical intervention to religion as a new way control the masses but that may come across as a little paranoid and not really the point today anyways. So I won’t go there.
Do not mistake my opinion to be one of completely anti-medication, I am not. For people with serious mental illness and dysfunction, the right meds can be life changing and may make the difference between functioning daily or not well at all. For those without mental illness there are situational experiences that medication can be helpful and situations where it is necessary, no doubt.
It is important though, at least it was for me, to not only know what I was being medicated for but how it affected me, how the meds were supposed to work, and to learn other coping skills besides the medications, before relying on medications to fix the problem.
After nearly 5 years without regular medication, I learned all kinds of coping skills, mostly I learned the ups and downs and ins and outs of being bipolar, how it affected me and I felt everything I did and thought, day in day out.
It was exhausting, but one thing I can say for sure is I felt alive. Even in the dumps of depression, I felt alive and present.. sometimes painfully so, but for the most part, and with a lot of help from some people who love me just how I am, I learned to muddle through.
I tried to defy the odds. I wanted to be different. I wanted to prove ..something, I am not sure what exactly.
I wanted to help others learn to live with their particular brand of mentalness, alive and present. I have learned through writing about and sharing my experience being bipolar, the life experiences of someone with bipolar disorder are not so different from the life experiences of someone without, with the exception of intensity no doubt. If I could do it, maybe it would give hope to others.
Sure I was all over the place, sure I changed my mind from one day to the next, and finally even from morning to afternoon. Sure I had big plans and big dreams one minute that a minute later didn’t interest me anymore and changed to something else entirely, but I learned how to deal with even those things.
Yes, there were days I longed for relief in the form of a pill. As time went on, I found I could endure more before I felt that longing for relief but I also found that when I reached that point, it was at the point I exhausted every other coping skill I learned and could not stand the feel of my own skin anymore.
Studies have shown bipolar is a progressive disease. The longer it goes untreated the harder it is to treat becoming more resistant to medication. It affects cognitive function and people with bipolar have a life expectancy significantly less than the general population for some obvious and some not so obvious reasons.
I could site these studies if I had hours to go back and find them all but I am hoping you will just take my word for it that i have read them, seen them and even lived them. I can attest to the fact it can get worse and it does get harder to manage without some kind of help.
Without going into a lot, or much of any, detail of how it finally was beyond any form of coping I knew, I finally gave in (gave up?) and went to the hospital in September.
I am back on meds.
The first week out of the hospital and on meds I was amazingly productive, energetic, happy and more than anything, relieved.
If I had written this the first week out of the hospital, I would have told you I was an idiot to have gone un-medicated so long. (which no matter how I feel at the moment is probably still true to a point.)
I would have recommended to anyone who asked, to get on meds right away.
I would have sworn meds saved me.
The first week out of the hospital I was manic and the meds had nothing, nothing at all, to do with me feeling so good, except the placebo effect and whatever tripped me into a manic state. The big red flag should have been the sleeping pill that could have tranquilized a horse, did nothing for me, and I am not nearly the size of a horse. Just saying.
Knowing I was on meds, stopped me from seeing the signs I had learned so well to pick up on, numbed me to the reality of what was really going on. And all that before they even had a chance to kick in.
What goes up must come down, and down I came. That too I attributed to the meds. Weird logic but I am on meds so why wouldn’t it be the meds stopped working? Again I missed the obvious.
I was at the point I wanted instant gratification, immediate relief, with no patience left, I had waited, and tried and dealt, long enough.
It doesn’t work like that. They take a while to kick in, a longer while to ascertain whether the particular cocktail is the right one and what the right doses are.
Where does that leave me now? Still waiting.
My friend Red, (The M3 Blog) whom I affectionately refer to as the bipolar whisperer, once suggested to me that perhaps bipolar was how I coped with the world. It made sense to me, so much so that I wonder if I have handicapped myself to some degree.
My world has gone a little gray, the highs and lows are still there but not in the extreme and rapidly changing landscape of before.
I feel blah compared to before but not necessarily unhappy.
I miss the creative spurts and the fast flight of ideas, the need to create and express. I miss writing and drawing and seeing everything in either bright and brilliant hues or deep dark shades of color.
It’s like learning to walk, or talk or breath all over again.
I am in a holding pattern of wait and see. Wondering if this is how my life will be from now on, or if the next appointment I get a change in dose or type of med will propel me back to recognizing who I am and allow me to trust myself with other people and with what I want to do with my life again.
I am scared I have lost a vital part if myself, a common and often expressed feeling of those who are bipolar and learning to cope while medicated after being not, but willing to see if it is just a passing phase and it will all come back.
I am accustomed to passing phases and moving in and out of life changes, I think I can wait this one out although it is taking way too much time for my liking.
I am still not anti- medication, nor am I pro-medication although I am willing to admit, now that the medication had a chance to truly make a difference, there are good things about it.
This time I am committed to staying the course although I am not sure if it is the meds, or the fear of what I am told will happen if I just stop taking it after so many months. Who cares why. It is what it is.
Maybe because I realized this morning I forgot to order my refills in time and if I was going to stop taking them, since I am out for a day or so, now would be the time.
Or because I realized no matter how trapped I felt on the extreme roller coaster ride of bipolar sometimes, having to remember things like ordering refills on time keeps me trapped in the mundane existence I am in now all the time, and I wanted to see if I could express that.
Like I did before.
5 thoughts on “Revelations of the Medicinal Sort”
Lizzie, I had wondered if you just were taking a break from writing because of busyness, or just ‘life’…. I am sad to learn that you were in hospital but it seems like you now have a realization of what your needs are… Belated ‘Merry Christmas’ and a very healthy and blessed New Year.. Diane
You are such a butterfly. I know where you have been in your absence, part by word and part by inaction. I call this your caterpillar suit because, at least to me, this is the part where you are locked in a chrysalis waiting to spread your wings in the colorful flurry everyone who knows you knows as Lizzie proper.
Like everything else in your world, taking it as it comes is different from the ups and downs which irritate others to the point of wanting an escape pill. You know I would prefer to be flogged than take them, and you also know there are days not taking them is the same as flogging. Proverbially, damned if you do… Yes, a big part of the pills is divorcing yourself from the devil may care attitude which forgets to order refills. It is still a coping mechanism. In the grand scheme of things, I have never found a true coping mechanism which was anything shy of trading one addiction for another. By that token, meds are merely a choice of poison. At the end of the day, only you can judge the taste in your mouth as palatable.
At the end of every day, I will still be here loving you for whatever suit you wear, even if it is your birthday one.
Lizzie, milady papillon,
All too true, all of it…. and, all too close to home, for me, right now, though in a slightly different scenario…. At this point, anything I’d say would sound much like a long repeat of your post, so, I won’t go there; I’ll merely say, you did well, writing it….very well….
Red’s last two lines also say exactly what I feel, so, ditto on that…(and, thanks, Red…for this, and other considerations…)
Stay strong… be happy, whenever you can…
Ned, aka, gigoid
Dear Lizzie – I completely understand. Epilepsy is often treated with bipolar meds, so I’ve been on quite a few of the same meds you’ve likely been on and the zombie feeling is the exact same reason I weaned myself off.
I loved what you said here, “I sometimes joke that the real zombie apocalypse is coming in the form of the emotionally dead, over-medicated masses who walk around just not giving much of a f*** about anything because they can’t.”
I wish I had some great wonderful advice for you, I hope you find your way though and learn to work through the grey.
All the best!
I read your posts & the other things you share quite often. I have never read a book (& I read a lot) or listened to anyone I’ve admired, learned from & laughed & cried about/with as I have reading your posts. I hate, but take meds because I’m sure (every other day)_ that if I stop again (again!) I will find myself suicidal again. Last time I planned & thought obsessively about it for 6 months. It took me that long to tie up things I felt I needed to before getting the hell out of continual negativity. I “normally” had periods of no longer than a month, 2 @ most of depression…but like you mentioned, it is a progressive disease & I’m now 58. I felt I’d tried as hard as I could & was so tired of waking up every day. the day before I was set to board the unknown, a serious of odd & unusual things happened. The end result of which was the police escorting me to the ambulance. Same as you, 7 days later I was full blown busting out manic. I also questioned the cause of improvement Was it being back on meds OR?? Shock to my psyche? Lack of sleep, (3 days in the hall on acute watch, scary people like me.. ranting & talking to God. + the lights where always on) But I had a moment of extreme feeling realization that the moment was so beautiful, (a friend came & we played our guitars 4 other pt.s) & that I would not have or ever be able to experience that simple joy, if I’d succeeded.
My Neurontin, Lamectil & Effexor don’t keep me completely out of manic nor depressive states, or I would probably quit them..I’ve been medicated to the point of numb & will only go so far down that rd. I miss the long periods of energy & urgency. To create, explore, live a large, extreme life, feel my emotions so acutely, see & experience other reality’s that “normal”. So I take my meds & limit my triggers, the last 4 years now. I hardly ever dwell on the terminal exit any more. I still don’t trust myself with people or what I want to do next week, let alone my life. When I get into a hypo? manic state I feel so good I always think, this time it will be different. I get into relationships. Romantic & make new friends. But the time always comes that I cant’ respond, talk on the phone, let alone go be with them. Or, they experience my agitated/ want to slap everyone, my go, go hurry, your so slow!, ect. stages. I’ve sort of given up on everything but being able to stay present , acceptance, the few people that can accept me & love me, animals, wonders of nature… AND just the occasional run of extreme energy, wanting to do all the things that I have passion for but hardly ever do except when I’m “up”. . I am grateful for these times. I try & moderate/calm myself, a skill I’ve learned to stay out of the no fly (upside down & out of gas) zone. I still find myself pushing to keep the high going. Feed it, run to keep up! After 50 years, the crash is familiar, I know it will pass & though don’t think it true at the time, remind myself it’s worth it to me, to feel so bad, to feel so good. Hard, cause I’m sure when I’m down that the good wasn’t real? Was only “in my mind” is that funny & ridiculous or what?:))
Do you take donations, for your time, for gratitude? Do you have sponsors that pay you? Your site has given me at lest as much as the counselor I see occasionally I sure enjoy your site more. I’d be happy to send some $ to sponsor the time & energy it takes to host this site.
Again, sorry to send this novel, no, self biography. I know nothing makes a difference when your in that place, but I bet I’m one of one hindered that read you & feel as I do, so grateful to have found such an amazing person, that lets us take in all , ALL the great stuff on here. Tx.
PS ever thought about how great it would be to only take meds the days we need them??! If it’d be possible to change our dosage/ meds/ according to mood fluctuation? I’ve got a bit of a pattern to the madness figured out, & know how long it take for the meds to kick in but a voice in my head says…that’s nut’s, or is it?
Sorry to go on so about myself, I don’t have anyone in my life that understands what I’ve been talking about, except you. That’s not true.
I guess I just want to share my feelings with you because I am blown away by your wisdom, talent, compassion, the amazing amount of things you create & give yourself to.
PS In my opinion, your spirit’s shining right through those meds. Don’t seem zombie-ish or sheeple-ish @ all. ( I come here a lot, but 99% of time, don’t comment)