General Question

sable's avatar

I was recently diagnosed as bipolar and the idea of taking medication scares me. Has this happened to anyone here or someone you know?

Asked by sable (73 points ) April 11th, 2008 from iPhone

This really new to me.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

44 Answers

jamms's avatar

I knew a guy who was bi-polar. He would go through rapid cycle episodes that were very tramatic for all involved with him. It ruined his marriage and his family. He is now broke, unemployed, and at a loss as to what caused it. When he was off the medicine he lost reality.

My advice to you would be to take your medicine as prescribed, keep loved ones who care for you around, and never change your dosage with out a doctor knowing first.

Bi-polar is a bad disease, but you can lead a very healthy and enjoyable life if you choose to. Follow your doctors advise.

soundedfury's avatar

Are you asking for advice, or looking for someone to describe their experience?

I can tell you that it will take months, if not years, for you to find the right medication for your particular case. Bipolar disorder isn’t a single disorder, so it can take a while to find the right group of meds to help you control the phases.

It is really frightening in the beginning. All drugs have side effects, and psychiatric drugs are notoriously annoying. The thing to remember is that the side effects are typically short-lived and will subside within 2 weeks. If they don’t, it just means you have try something else.

If you trust your psychiatrist, you should be in good hands. If you don’t, I suggest you find someone you do. It’s important that you trust this person, as the effectiveness of the drugs is self-reported. If you don’t accurately and truthfully report how you feel and the effects of the drugs, they will not be able to make sure you are getting the best medication possible for your specific needs.

Living with bipolar disorder is a lot more challenging and frightening than any medication regimen. Learn as much as you can about the disorder. Study it clinically and you will have the basis to help you deal with it, how to know what is part of the disorder and what is not. Because of it’s nature as a mood disorder, drugs alone won’t take care of everything. They just make things more manageable. The hard work is learning how you react and managing that.

It’s not a death sentence. You do not have to live unhappily. Like anything else, you either learn to deal with it and it becomes another part of who you are. If you don’t… yeah, there are horror stories. But you’re asking questions, which leads me to believe you’ll be okay.

delirium's avatar

Yes. Simply put: Take the pills. Don’t skip doses, that’s what causes problems. Its a very important thing to do, though, if you were diagnosed. Its a serious disease, and there’s a good chance that you’ll appreciate the extra support you’ll get from the pills.

And I agree totally with soundedfury. The hardest thing is finding the right meds. That part is the nightmare, after that you can move on with your life to a great degree.

scamp's avatar

@jamms Great advice!

@sable the thought of untreated bi-polar disorder is actually scarier to me than anything a medication can do to you. There are several good medications to help you, and you may need to go through a trial and error period to find the one that’s right for you, but it is well worth the effort. I’ve known several people with this crippling condition, and I have seen what can happen when they don’t take their meds. Combined with a good therapist, you should be able to live a much better life.

This will be an ongoing battle for you, but if you educate yourself about the condition as much as possible, and get the support of caring friends, family and professionals you can do it. Don’t be surprised if people shy away from you at first if you tell them about this. People who don’t understand tend to do that.

A great idea is to start a journal. Jot down your fellings each day. Just write random thoughts to start. Also include how you are feeling and any effects you have when you are trying a medication. It will help you over time to see how well you are progressing. It will aslo help you keep track of what medicine works and which one doesn’t. You may or may not want to share it with your therapist, but you can use it to remind you of things you want to discuss in a session.

There are several intelligent and caring people here at Fluther to give you a hand when you need it also. Keep your chin up. You have a long road ahead of you, but there are a lot of people to help you. Most of all, be good to yourself. Good Luck!

FlutherMother's avatar

A neighbor across the street from me in my NH house had a bipolar child and her husband was diagnosed with it only when they sought help for the issues they were having with their son! Also, I worked at a housing authority a long time ago and saw many who had it and didn’t take their meds. I great answered @soundedfury and just want to add three things:
1. Eat well and take extremely good care of yourself otherwise. – They are finding that proper nutrition and physical care does have a huge impact on diseases. It can only help!
2. Like @sounded said, keep nothing back from your physician. Be very honest about anything you take. Medicene, birth control, illegal drugs, alcohol – all of this can have an impact on you and keeping this a secret can hurt you in the end.
3. Research, research, research. Join support groups, find out as much as you can. Doctors sometimes prescribe what they know and there may be other options he/she haven’t looked at when trying to find your proper dosage. And yes, it was amazing to watch my neighbor while they were adjusting the dosages on both her boys. Alex would come over to play and be hyper one minute then take his meds after lunch and drop off for a long nap. And don’t give up on yourself! Good luck. Our thoughts are with you.

soundedfury's avatar

@scamp – Actually, a lot of support groups and therapists will advise people with bipolar disorder to not tell people about it. Part of it is the stigma of mental illness, but a larger part is that it is simply misunderstood far too much. It’s not an illness that needs to be particularly public, although completely ignoring it or not telling anyone is much worse. Those close to you will understand and you can educate, but telling people outside of your close friends and family is unnecessary. For instance, telling your boss, professor, colleague, etc.

iriemuffin's avatar

My sister is bipolar. I am old school and still call it manic depressive which describes it to a t. Up periods of high enthusiasm and ideas and creativity then bam! The depressive state. It is hard on the person with the illness and their family/friends. She refuses to take meds, they will “change” her, so we are always on the look-out for her. It is a hard life for all involved if you choose to go it without meds. I assume it is a bit better with meds.

soundedfury's avatar

Some people are willing to take the lows because the highs are so exhilarating. This is especially true of bipolar people who are creative, as the highs are the most focused and creative times they will have. There is a strong fear of losing that part of how they define themselves. The drugs can’t take that away, it just changes the environment in which that creative side flourishes.

@iriemuffin – I’m sorry to hear about your sister. It’s bad on the person with bipolar, but it can be much worse on those around them. I wish you the best of luck.

scamp's avatar

@soundedfury I agree. When I was being traeted for depression years ago, I lost some friends because they didn’t understand. I just wanted to caution her that people may not be understanding. If she just got diagnosed, she might tell people what the doctor said and i wanted her to be prepared for possible reactions.

delirium's avatar

SF, you said it again as I was typing. ;)
I agree completely. Medication isn’t going to do horrible things to you. If it does, you can make a decision about it later. A confident medicated decision.

My boyfriends mother is a difficult woman to deal with, she is constantly telling Nate that he doesn’t know who I am because i’m on medication, so he’s dating a ‘drug addict, and not a real person’ (Its notable to mention that I don’t smoke, drink, do any drugs, or participate in any kind of unhealthy lifestyle). That is absolute bullshit that she is spouting. Its ideas people put in to other peoples heads. The people who put those ideas have no experience with being stable on meds. Medication is support to let out who you really are inside. See it that way. Don’t be afraid of it. People might judge, but they’re unworthy if they do.

Kay's avatar

My mom was bipolar and would frequently go off her medicine when she was feeling “better” or she would abuse her medicine and take too much of it and drink a lot. The most important thing you can do is find the right combination of drugs that works for you and keep going to therapy/counseling. But staying on your medicine is probably the most important piece of advice here; even if you start feeling better you still need to stay on it.

iriemuffin's avatar

@soundedfury: thanks! My sister is a painter. She makes beautiful paintings. I worry about suicide more than I should (for her). One attempt over 10 years ago. I am VERY watchful.

bulbatron9's avatar

I AM NOT A DOCTOR, and I don’t believe in any “prescriptions”! If you become dependent on a drug your doctor prescribes, then your are “addicted”! There is no magic pill! These pills today have so many side effects, that before you know it, you’re on something else just to counter-act your other pills. I believe everyone is bipolar to some degree, but the difference is in how people deal with it. If you believe this “medicine” helps, then it helps. The bottom line is that it is all in your head, and the human brain has more healing power than any pill.

“I think you should meditate; instead of medicate!”

Kay's avatar

Bulbatron, that kind of thinking when dealing bipolar or any other serious, life-long mental illness can be EXTREMELY dangerous. Bipolar is chemical, not cognitive or behavioral; therefore medication is the most effective way of treating it. Please do not encourage people to handle these things on their own because medicine can mean the difference between a successful, normal life and one wracked with mental illness and possibly suicide. This is not a simple bout of depression, but a very serious illness that needs treatment.

scamp's avatar

@bulbatron9 I don’t think you fully understand bipolar disorder. Without medication it is a living hell. You cannot meditate it away anymore than you can meditate to cure diabetes.

delirium's avatar

Bulbatron, you don’t understand the disease at all, and really don’t have a right to talk about it like that if you don’t have the disease.

It is a DISEASE. Don’t look at it as anything less serious than HIV. It can, and readily will kill you if you don’t take care of yourself correctly.

I find ignorance like yours frustrating. Its things like that that create the judging atmospheres which lead to so many heartbreaking suicides. Particularly when a kids (note: highschool aged) parents think that way when their daughter or son REALLY needs medication.

You’re reminding me of my boyfriends christian scientist family… and that’s not a good thing.

nikipedia's avatar

@bulbatron9: Thinking like that causes the kind of stigma that prevents people from getting the help they need.

soundedfury's avatar

@bulbatron9 – Do you believe in drugs that treat diabetes? What about allergies?

Mental illness is likely over-diagnosed in this country, but bipolar disorder is hardly one of them. It takes a decade or more for a diagnosis, during which time the person is studied and patterns are noted. It’s not a diagnosis people just jump to. No one wants to be bipolar, and no therapist wishes it on their patients.

Like Kay said, it is chemical and not merely behavioral or cognitive. I’d point you towards scientific analysis, but it seems you’ve already made your mind up.

delirium's avatar

Sable: Do not listen to him. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Do not make life decisions based on stupid stigma. Not accepting medication is a Very dangerous thing to do.

bulbatron9's avatar

Sorry for giving my opinion, and after reading about Bipolar Disorder I understand that “The symptoms of bipolar disorder are thought to be caused by an imbalance of key chemicals in the brain.”

Also, I did state in bold letters that I AM NOT A DOCTOR! Which means don’t listen to me!

iriemuffin's avatar

@bulbatron9 this is one disease that NEEDS medication. If you have a friend or family member suffering from this, you might change that opinion. I’d rather my sister have insomnia, or become infertile or whatever other danger there might be instead of her being DEAD!

gailcalled's avatar

I have had two experiences w. b/p (we also called it “manic-depression). One was my aunt and one a contemporary. When they started to feel better, they stopped the meds and really flipped out…sleeping very little, flying back and forth across the country, stealing credit cards, lying and going on spending binges that were hard to fathom. One bought a new jeep, loaded it up w. merchandise, left it in a parking garage and forgot where.

The other thought it was cute to have her 11 and 9 yr old boys smoke dope with her.

delirium's avatar

When you’re scared about taking meds like that, its VERY easy to listen to something that lets you avoid your fears. Its just necessary to express the inherent danger in doing that.

There are some areas where opinions are Very dangerous if you have no idea what its actually like. This is one of those situations.

Kay's avatar

“It’s on a website! It MUST be true!!”

nikipedia's avatar

@bulbatron9: So if something is caused by chemicals in the brain, you must be able to think your way out of it? Is that what you think about strokes? Parkinson’s Disease? Alzheimer’s Disease? All of those are caused by problems in the brain…....

gailcalled's avatar

Here are reputable sources of info from the National Institute of Health alone.

Bipolar

Google Mayo Clinic, etc for more research – data – studies.

gailcalled's avatar

And ALS, MS, Senile Dementia, Lupus, Porphyria…to keep the list short.

Kay's avatar

Again, just because something is on pharmaceutical company’s website does not make it the preeminent source of info on Bipolar. Taking one website to be truth is dangerous, especially with mental disorders.

Adina1968's avatar

The best thing about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder is that you can now take steps to treat it. Belive me when I tell you that once you and your doctor have arrived at the right combination of medications that it can be life changing. Hang in there because it can take some time to find the right medications. I hope that you do decide to treat your bipolar disorder. I know the prospect of having to take medication for the rest of your life seems scary. However living a life with untreated bipolar disorder is far scarier! Good luck to you! Have faith and things will work out. :-)

sable's avatar

Wow! I really appreciate everyone’s answers! I’m still not sure about all this. What if I can meditate instead of medicate? I’m not sure where to start there though.

nikipedia's avatar

@sable: Ask your doctor about it. Tell him/her your concerns.

delirium's avatar

YOU CAN NOT MEDITATE INSTEAD OF MEDICINE.

It just doesn’t work that way.

Adina1968's avatar

There are two great websites for people who have been diagnosed with or who have bipolar disorder. Defenitly worth checking out! They have forums & message boards and lots of info on bipolar disorder. The great thing is that you can get some insight from poeple who have been diagnosed & are being treated for bipolar disorder.
www.healtyplace.com
www.moodgarden.org
Hope this helps you!

sable's avatar

You are all so wonderful! I can’t thank you enough!!!!

peggylou's avatar

Sable, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about 25 years ago. For many years, I was on Lithium which worked very well. However, every six months, blood tests were necessary to see the lithium level in my blood so that it would not hurt me. Thankfully, about ten or fifteen years ago, Lamictal was prescribed as a mood stabilizer for me to replace Lithium. Lithium had many more side effects and I was so very happy to replace it with Lamictal. It is true that bipolar disorder can really affect your life. Until I was diagnosed, I was trying to medicate myself with alcohol, which REALLY messed me up. I was suicidal at one point because the bipolar made me feel like there was no other solution that I could see. I have never been suicidal since I was diagnosed and have been on medicine. But please know that there are many different levels of bipolar disorder. Although my medication has always been monitored and checked out by my psychiatrist, the changing of medication (which is usually necessary) never was a big deal for me. As I look back, I can see how and when my bipolar disorder had negatively affected my life. Once I became aware how helpful medication could be, I have never looked back. My life became more livable and fulfilling. I simply would never take the chance of stopping medication. It’s kind of the opposite of an alcoholic giving up alcohol—bipolar medication is now simply a thankful part of my life. In my case, I have had good luck with Lamictal for mood stabilization, Seroquel for the manic part, and Zoloft for the depression part. I have a fine psychiatrist who I see every 3 months or more if I am getting too manic or too depressed. It’s fine-tuning the medications, and I have always trusted my psychiatrist to help me with my mood “stabilization.” It certainly can be scary having bipolar disorder, but this will change once you are on medication. Medication is definitely the solution! That’s just a matter of fact! Good luck, and I hope your diagnosis and medication will help you as much as it has helped me over all of these years! DON’T BE AFRAID!!

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Do doctors do any physical tests for bi-polar disorder?
Can people be diagnosed with bi-polar disorder without having suicidal thoughts?

gailcalled's avatar

Bi-polar is usually diagnosed because of huge mood swings; the manic phase is often creative, hyperactive, fast-talking, feelings of invincibility, lack of interest in sleeping much…while the depressed phase is clinical depression, with or w/o thoughts of suicide.

nikipedia's avatar

There are a couple different categories of bipolar disorder that depend on what kinds of manic periods you have. A manic period is defined as a time during which you have: a feeling of elation/euphoria plus three of the following symptoms OR extreme anger/irritability plus four of the following symptoms:

(a) getting involved in too many projects/activities, OR feelings of too much energy
(b) talking significantly more than usual
(c) sleeping significantly less than usual
(d) racing thoughts
(e) reckless behavior (in terms of money, sexual activity, or recklessness)
(f) feelings of being extremely special, unique, talented, or overconfident.

If this persists for a week or longer AND it affects your ability to function, that’s called Bipolar I disorder.

If this persists for four days and it does NOT affect your ability to function, that’s called Bipolar II disorder.

If the above two scenarios do not describe the pattern of behavior, it’s called Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS).

sable's avatar

You all have been so wonderful and helpful! I can’t thank you enough!!!

delirium's avatar

**hug**

Good luck!

scamp's avatar

Just remember, you got some great tips here, but your doctor knows what’s best for you. Take the pointers and info you’ve got from here, and use them to ask your doctor questions. He or she knows your situation much better than any of us do. We can only guess and give generalized answers. I wish you all the best.

499335508crazygrape's avatar

I feel so bad for you and i hope you get healthy and happy real soon i once didnt trust my doctor at all and it turns out that he gave me the wrong medicine so if you have a strong, bad feeling about the medicine either dont take it or ask more about it to you doctor
REALLY hope you feel better!!!!

Violet's avatar

There is no way to sugar coat this: Take your meds, or will forever go up and down with your moods. If you were diabetic, you would take your insulin right? Well you have a mental disorder, you need to get better. Take your meds, at the same time everyday, and don’t every just stop taking them, because if you do, you’ll get terrible withdrawals. Work with your psychiatrist on finding a good combination of meds.

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