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ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

How well do bipolar medications help at regulating moods?

Asked by ItalianPrincess1217 (10534points) November 15th, 2011 from iPhone

I was diagnosed with bipolar about a year ago by my psychologist but I stopped going to therapy and never followed up on his referral to a psychiatrist. He thought I would greatly benefit from being on medicine (but he couldn’t prescribe any). I was going through a tough time and stopped going to the sessions. I thought maybe I could handle it on my own without medicine. I’ve never been a big fan of taking pills to be “normal”. But I am realizing more and more each day that medication may be my only means to a halfway normal life. I can’t remember the last time I had a calm, normal day. I have meltdowns all the time. I have anger outbursts. My mood swings and ups and downs greatly impact my relationship. Plus I just had a baby and I would never want this illness to come between our bonding. So far it hasn’t. But one day, who knows. My partner has been very patient with me. I’m so thankful for having him in my life. But he doesn’t deserve to be treated this way. The problem is, no matter how hard I try to control my moods, I can’t. When I’m having one of my episodes, the slightest thing sets me off. I can’t live like this anymore. So my question is, will medications improve my moods? Regulate them? I don’t want to be a zombie. But I do want to be happy.

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15 Answers

Judi's avatar

It may take a while to get the right combination that works for you. You have a really tough illness. I am so sorry about your diagnosis.
My daughter and has decided to try to avoid medications but she and her husband have an agreement that if he ever tells her that it’s time to get on meds she will. She is a pretty self aware person and she and her husband have a great relationship where she trusts him if he tells her something she says or does seems more illness related that reality based.
She is doing yoga, taking omega 3’s and trying to avoid processed foods. So far so good. She does take an anxiety med about twice a month when it gets really bad.
Good luck!

wundayatta's avatar

Yes they can help. They can improve your moods. They do not have to make you into a zombie. However, please be prepared for a process of trying drugs. There are 246 different combinations of drugs approved for bipolar disorder, and it can take a while to find a combination that works for you without giving you side effects you hate.

There is no point in accepting a prescription for a drug you don’t like because you won’t take it. You have to be honest with your shrink and tell him or her exactly what your concerns are. If you don’t want to be a zombie (and no one does) then tell him.

There are many different theories of drug prescription, so you need to first find a shrink you can feel comfortable working with. Once you do that, then you can work on getting the right meds. Again, you may not get the right shrink the first time. You may have to visit several before you find one you can work with.

So stick to it. Do not be afraid. You are in control. The medical folk work for you. You don’t have to please them. They have to please you. You can always walk. If you realize that you are in the driver’s seat, things can go much better. Stay in communication with your shrink. Tell them how things are going. This is so they can help you. It is not because they are checking up on you.

I would definitely do this. Good luck!

Aethelflaed's avatar

It works quite well (sometimes at improving overall mood, sometimes at regulating swings), once you find the right meds, but almost never without some side effects. Zombification is one common side effect (I’m totally forgetting the clinical name for that side effect), as are weight gain and a total lack of energy. And, they only work well if you’re actually bipolar, and over 50% of people diagnosed with bipolar are actually misdiagnosed.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Judi That’s exactly how my partner and I have been handling it. He understands the illness and he finds polite ways to tell me when I’m letting it take over. He’s has been bringing up the idea of getting on some medicine and starting therapy again to get it under control. So I think it’s time. I want to feel in control of my life. It’s awful to feel like you’re completely helpless in your own body. I’ve lost almost all control and trust me when I say it’s no excuse to act like a mean, angry psycho.

blueiiznh's avatar

I come from the side of living with someone who was diagnosed and went through this from the support side.
Meds and therapy certainly will help and are needed. It usually takes several changes of meds to find the right one that works best for you. The Therapy and SO support will help guide these changes. Also try to find a support group in your area.
It is normal to think you can control it on your own, but do yourself, your SO and your baby a favor and do the hard work.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Judi How is your daughter doing with only taking anxiety meds? Is it only when she starts to feel it getting bad she takes a pill to calm things down? I’m wondering if that could be an option for me instead of daily doses of drugs. Although now that I think about it, I would need an anxiety pill almost daily anyway. It’s that bad.

Judi's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 , as an adolescent she was totally out of control. She would lash out violently. She got control of that aspect by dealing with it on a spiritual level, but the disease is still there. Now, there are times when she just freezes and can’t move. Those are the times that 1 Valium just takes the edge off and she is back to normal. It is almost miraculous.
My son has stopped taking his meds and is way less self aware. He will occasionally take a Klonopin. He has convinced his new doctors that he just has occasional depression, nit bi-polar. Ugg. At least he was able to keep his job trough his last incident that put him in the hospital. Usually he will take opportunities like that to self sabotage. He must be growing up. He was able to pull it together.

DrBill's avatar

It takes different meds for different people, but the right combination works wonders. The key is to keep taking them even if you feel alright.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Judi Through my childhood I has the same issue. But as an adult it really hadn’t calmed down any. I still lash out and it can be violent. I hate admitting to all this. It’s very embarrassing! I feel it coming on. It starts with me being irritated over something insignificant and it spirals out of control from there. Does the Vallium work quickly? If I were to feel it start and took a pill right away do you think it might effectively diffuse my anger in time?

Judi's avatar

Less than 30 minuets, but that’s her. everyone is different. I’m sure you and your doctor will work this out.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I have bipolar disorder, and medication saved my life.

I’m lucky to have people in my life who care about me. Some are friends, and some are professionals. I have not always been the best friend I could have been. It’s strange, but I’m almost more trusting of the professional caregivers in my life than the others. Do I give more weight to the fact that the professionals have credentials? I’m not sure of the answer to that.

When I was first diagnosed bipolar eleven years ago, I was in a terrible state. I had an awful time of it for quite a few months, and I had one caseworker for that initial period who was a godsend. He helped me get the necessary paperwork filled out for medical help where I live. He listened to my concerns and fears and reassured me. He helped me obtain food assistance and other charities. He got me plugged into the system, and he got me help that I needed to live.

My current caseworker is also a hard worker who listens when I need to talk. He helps me keep my priorities straight about some of the mundane things in my life. He helps me order my life in such a way that I know what to take care of when. I listen to him. He looks out for me.

I know for sure that I treat my psychiatric prescribing nurse with respect, because she has a great deal of knowledge about the medicine that keeps me stable. I can’t imagine where I’d be without medication. I don’t take a lot of different things. I have in the past had to take many kinds of pills, but it’s narrowed down to four at present. The nurse is my doorkeeper to what is working and what’s not. I report to her what’s going on with me, and she evaluates it according to the criteria that she’s devoted long hours to studying.

I can’t talk about caregivers without talking about my therapist. I’ve been her patient since 1997. She’s guided me through coming to terms with my alcoholism, my homosexuality, and my mental illness. She’s helped me see my issues by allowing me the time to develop the ideas on my own. Over the years, she’s seen me laugh and cry, get angry and be calm, and a myriad other emotions. She’s been a rock when I’ve been desperately depressed. She’s been a help when I’ve been over the top with mania. She’s a close ally in all ways.

I have a few friends who know everything about me and stay close. Those friends I hold dear to my heart. Some are close at hand, and some are far away. I try to keep in touch with all of them as best I can. It’s more difficult to say how friends have affected me and my mental illness. They have often simply been present when I’ve needed an ear to hear whatever it is I have to say. Most importantly, the close ones give me nonjudgmental love. It’s like breathing. They are that important.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It’s possible you’re experiencing postpartum depression, as well.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Not a chance. I only know this because I’ve dealt with these same feelings for years of my life. I had the same mental issues before, during, and after my pregnancy. A few days after having the baby I did go through a very quick spell of depression/baby blues but within a week or so it stopped. During that time it was very different from what I experience now. The depression was a sad feeling. Crying all the time for no reason, feeling lonely and helpless, scared and incapable of doing things on my own. My bipolar symptoms are nothing like that.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 Cool, just a thought. Hope you figure it out

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I wish it was postpartum. At least that eventually goes away.

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