Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Question For Discussion

Do my peers with bipolar disorder intend to spend the rest of your lives on medication? Or do you live with hope that perhaps through a combination of self awareness, coping techniques, and therapy you might someday be able to live life drug free?

18 comments:

kim said...

good question. there is always hope but for now i live knowing most likely i will always be medicated. i will however not take the numerous meds doctors sometimes prescribe. since being diagnosed with depression at the age of 13, twenty-one years ago and bipolar three years ago i have learned (the hard way) to take my body and mind into my own hands. i have a doctor for med management purposes only. he prescribes the medication i prefer (lamictal) and unless that stops working, i'll continue to take it for the rest of my life. i would love to live a pill-free life but i don't think vitamins and acupuncture will keep me stable, however they are a wonderful addition to my medication.

KansasSunflower said...

On a personal level, I hope to one day live drug free.

Per my doctor, he's told me I should accept the fact that I will need to be on medication for the rest of my life.

As any bipolar does, I'm constantly asking "what's my diagnosis again?" and "one day can I go off all my meds?", so trust me, I've asked the tough questions many times.

Gianna said...

Jon,
As you know I am in the process of withdrawing from all drugs--a journey being documented on my blog.

I tentatively believe that most psychiatric disturbance is not biological in nature--at least not how the medical model would have you believe.

I am finding that vitamins and several other key supplements along with a strict diet and neurofeedback is indeed (dare I say it?--yes I will!) curing me. I have yet to get off all my drugs but I'm not having any sign of relapse in this long and slow process of detoxing my body.

Withdrawing from meds is not something to be taken lightly. These drugs are toxic and change our brains neurologically and structurally. I'm taking years to withdraw I'm about half way through--I was on a TON of meds. But I do believe, now that I've networked with hundreds who have withdrawn, that life without drugs is indeed possible and most often preferable.

The trick, however, is religious self-care---something most people are simply unwilling to do. It's so much easier to take a pill.

My experience however indicated to me that drugs ultimately made me sicker. It is the experience of many many people I've networked with who are now doing much better off drugs.

CARS said...

Hi Jon. I found your page through Liz Spikol's site. Nice to meet you.

I have bipolar and work very hard on the lifestyle things (sleep, *trying* to eat well, exercise, low stress, healthy relationships) and I've done quite a bit of therapy over the last few years (EMDR, CBT and now general stuff with a psychologist). Bottom line is some people don't have BP bad enough that they need meds. Mine is the kind that needs meds. Perhaps one day they'll find a miracle cure or meds without side effects. In the meantime, I've resigned myself to the idea that likely I will spend the rest of my life on these meds. Thank goodness they've been created; otherwise, I'd be in lockup permanently. So I've come to a place of being grateful for having them.

And that's the long and the short of my answer. Thanks for asking.

What about you?

Take care. Stay well.


Cristina.

Jon said...

Some great comments here.

Kim - I understand your point very well. I am on only Lamictal, and every visit to the pDoc he recommends something else. I keep turning it down, and rolling with the hills and valleys. With the Lamictal the highs and lows are workable for me, and that's OK.

KS - I keep working for that Nirvana of mind over disorder that will allow me to live a "normal" med-free life. If I work hard at it, and really believe, maybe some day...

Gianna - You have some great insights, and have lived through a lot. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge and experience.

Cristina - Welcome! And do you think it's a matter of severity, or that for some people it falls differently on a spectrum of functionality? Perhaps some of both? But I'm with you, meds have, so far anyway, made the lives of my loved ones tolerable. I may still be blissfully ignorant in my illness if not for them.

Anonymous said...

Never gonna go off lithium. Too damn scary. Can't imagine a cure, but I'm open to it.

Alicia said...

I went two years without my lithium, not because I wanted to, but due to lack of funds. Those two years sucked and I'd rather not go back. I am grateful to only need one medication, not a cabinet full. Additionally, I've found that as long as I am physically active I am happiest...but I am unable to enjoy the happiness if I am not on medication. It's there...but I'm so busy trying to level out I never seem to live with that happiness.

I still have some minor ups and down with my lithium but those are the ones I can manage. It's when I'm off medication that I realize I can't do it on my own, no matter how much I put into diet, vitamins and exercise.

I would like to think there will be some form of a cure down the road, but I doubt it. I still dread the pill swallowing every night but it's worth it.

Jon said...

Alicia - If you're in the US, WalMart and some other major pharmacies are now offering $5.00 prescriptions, and Lithium is on the list. Unfortunately, Lamictal is not...
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

Anonymous - I understand 100%, I'm scared whenever I change my dosage, or add or subtract a med. And I don't think a "cure" is possible. My brain is different than others, be that good or bad, and I don't think you can change that.

Marissa Miller said...

I expect to be on SOME kind of medication because my Lamictal has since proven itself to get rid of my mixed episodes. (I'd be violating my own conscience to not say that my belief in God working through my meds plays a significant role. Call me psychotic if you want.)

However, I've been going to counseling/therapy for nearly a year now and it's made a significant difference in my life. Mental illness is a combination of medication and behavioral patterns. There are some mental illnesses which will require much more medication than others (psychosis, schizophrenia), but for the most part, I think the emphasis should be on cognitive behavioral therapy.

Jon said...

Marissa - if you're psychotic for your belief that God is helping you, than I'm also psychotic. Faith is essential.

I agree that mental illness is a combination of medication and behavioral patterns. But I also think the behavioral patterns can be, to a large degree, a result of the mental illness. So while I agree that cognitive behavioral therapy may be essential, I'm not ready to place the majority of my treatment in that basket. But this process of sharing ideas with peers is priceless in helping keep fresh perspectives on our treatments.

Marie said...

I have been off medication for about a year now. I am in a state of depression so it may be time to reconsider going back on the meds.

The problem is they loose their effectiveness over time.

geosmythe said...

I lived a very long time trying to live first without a valid diagnosis, and then without the proper meds. Now, that I am on the right combo I think it would be self-destructive for me and frankly for those around me, to even consider dropping the meds.

This is a subject that can be quite controversial.

Dream Writer said...

Its a known fact that we cannot be off medication because the Mood Stabilizers restores our brain cells.

The brain within Bipolar deteriorates and the medicine restores our brain.

People must realize this.

gen said...

well...B and i are planning on attempting to make babies within the next two years. and my goal? to be completely off of my medication by the time i'm ready to get pregnant. well, maybe not completely off. i'll probably keep my klonopin.

but yes, i have every intention of going off...but under one condition:

i will be writing a contract with B and my therapist, clearly stating that if i notice myself going through any type of crisis on any level, i will immediately find stabilization through medication if no other method works.

=)

Jon said...

Marie - thanks for stopping by and commenting! I like your blog, BTW. You're right, they can lose effectiveness, but there's still no reason to suffer unnecessarily. Just make sure you don't take only an anti-depressant if you have bipolar disorder. It's potentially disastrous.

Smythe - my thoughts exactly, the people around me are the most important. But that being said, I am holding out hope that someday things will change.

DW - Welcome back! Hope your time away was relaxing. I had never heard that bipolar causes deterioration - I'm going to have to research that.

Gen - very cool! I wish you all the happiness in the world. But a WRAP plan is a very good thing to have in place just in case.

Kira said...

I've actually never been on meds because I am afraid of the side effects. But the mood swings are becoming more frequent so I am considering seeking treatment. I've lived with depression for 20 years and was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar 7 years ago. I dread the thought of having to take meds for the rest of my life, but I'm not sure how much longer I can tolerate the fluctuations either so I will most like give it a go in the near future.

Jon said...

Kira - For me, Lamictal is a wonder drug. I have virtually no side effects. No weight gain, in fact I've even been able to lose. I wish I'd found it earlier. That being said, I'm still looking for that way to learn to live without even Lamictal.

Maybe someday...

sara said...

I'll start by saying I have a moderate disorder - not really light, but not the most severely ill either.

That said, I always hope so, and I keep making myself take medication saying that it can always be stopped/changed...

But realistically...don't think it's going to happen. My life was an utter mess without, and with, I can live like a normal person.

The lifestyle stuff (exercise!!!) is tremendously helpful, but if I am not on meds, I can't seem to do it very well.

That said, I am doing my very best to be on the lightest, least dangerous drugs possible. I know that Lamictal is well-loved by everyone, and probably better for me, but in my eyes it has not been around enough to know long term effects and I was not willing to take it. I have worked long and hard on doctors to get them to "go easy" on the meds, even though I'm sure I could get better results and feel better with more. It's a compromise.

I do dream of a stress free point in my life with clean sleeping habits and good outdoor work in the sun...when I can stop.

But it is clear to me that I do much more damage to my life as well as my physical health without meds.