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Can I Survive Without All These Horrible Meds?

Question:

I was diagnosed with bipolar about 8yrs ago while going through counseling to help me through my divorce. At age 42 I just thought that I was sensitive, energetic, and a perfectionist. I talked rather fast, but I have all my life. I was very good at my profession, but at times I was not easy to work with. I have always been sensitive to the meds and have every side effect on the charts. I have been through the list of meds and they all have adverse effects. Most being my decrease in vocabulary and memory. Interpersonal relationships and mood are erratic and sometimes hostile now. Energy level is bust and I have gained lots of weight. After eight years and 2 hospitalizations for suicidal tendencies, (all that were new onset since being on meds) I have had enough. I want my old self back. The talkative, responsible, and energetic person I was before. I have spoken to my Psychiatrist. MD (new to me in the last year) And he is hesitant to move forward, but nonetheless agrees. I can only see him every 3 months . I have medical background and have read everything I can get my hands on. I want to do this but the process is at times debilitating. The meds I take are Welbutrin 100mg, Lexapro 10mg, and trileptal 150mg. I have started with breaking them in half, one at a time, adding a change every three weeks staggering med changes so no 2 are changed at a time. The side effects are making me feel so rotten physically that I have to go to bed. Will this get better? And when? Can I do this? Have others done this and survived? Because I have been hospitalized in the past my professionals are cautious. But I feel the meds put me there in the first place. Please help? I am so confused and tired.

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Answer:

I really cannot comment on your medications and side effects nor whether it’s is better for you to stop or continue the medication. These are things you need to continue discussing with your psychiatrist.

What I can comment on is that people with Bipolar Disorder often make the mistake in believing that the solution to their disorder has to do with medication alone. The fact is that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT( works well for those with this disorder. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is also highly recommended. CBT and DBT are very similar but DBT has the added advantage of learning how to relieve stress. Stress is often a trigger to cycling in Bipolar Disorder.

I do not think you want to return to the way you were prior to medication, that is, if you are anything like other patients I have had in the past. What I mean is that, with Bipolar Disorder patients often dislike the Depression cycles but, they often enjoy the Manic cycles, if they do not become psychotic during the manic phase. It is entirely possible that, when you think back to pre medication days, it is the manic cycles you recall so fondly. Actually, you really do not want those phases anymore than the depression.

Whatever you and your psychiatrist decide about medication, I want to strongly urge you to see a psychologist who is trained and skillful in the treatments I mentioned above.

Good Luck

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Comments
  • Anonymous-1

    Just speaking for myself (I am NOT a doctor)- I at one time were going through exactly what you have gone through. I was diagnosed at 24 as bipolar, but lived w/ it many years previous to that. I had been hospitalized numerous times after suicide attempts and was put on every type of medication known to man. The meds did nothing for me, in fact in a way I found them to be even more disabling due to the side effects on top of the "crazies." Through trial and error I found what has allowed me to become "incident free" for almost the past 2 years: Extremely balanced diet. Vitamins (including B-12 injections my father administers to me every 2 weeks. REST. Cutting back on alcohol. I'm not into the hippy-dippy holistic thing normally. But I think for some of the milder cases of bipolar (I have been a patient at several hospitals and have seen SERIOUS bipolar, not to take away from yours or my own- but I feel like when you can still communicate with normal society- even as difficult as it can be, you should count your blessings) Sometimes I don't feel doctors have a real grasp on what their patients go through on these medications. And sometimes, I feel like the more meds they push the more they benefit. Again- I'm not a doctor! But perhaps working w/ a nutritionist while on your meds is a good start. And never just settle for what a doctor tells you! Its your body and you know how you feel. I am not CURED- sometimes I feel like the world has started to spin a little bit, that's when I realize (or my close friends and family) I have strayed from the things mentioned above and immediately put myself back on track, because I never again want to experience the living hell I once went through. I'm not really a religious person but in cases like bipolar and other mental illness I truly do pray you find whatever works for you.

  • Harry

    I have been bipolar for the last 34 years. Hospitalized three times. It's a horrible disorder. It has interrupted and often destroyed parts of my life. It made it nearly impossible to study. Once I found out what I had and got treated, my sense of self-worth soared. I went from being a struggling C student to an A student. I was always in the top 2 of my Master's Class in international management. I'm a pretty smart guy who never knew it. Six years ago, I lost my job because of my illness. Couldn't concentrate. I went on meds for five years. They helped a lot - at first. I could finally sleep a whole night through. I would reflect before reacting, instead of being on edge. The down side was that after a few months, the meds caused many side effects. I was more relaxed and could engage in detailed thought processes, but I could not control my bowel movements, which almost proved disastrous in public, I had brain fog, I took 5-6 naps per day, I gained 60 pounds because of a constant craving for sugar and I because impotent at 42 (despite Wellbutrin with which it is not supposed to happen). So I stopped the meds and went swimming twice per day, ate well, no alcohol of course, lost 50+ pounds, and feel better. I'm now more aware of ups and downs, and it's still hard. It learn to pace myself through manic phases through checking how many hours I work 5 or 6 instead of 13. And I wait the depressive phases out. Getting my body into the water always helps. I'm glad I went on the meds, and even happier I had the sense to get off of them since I was bordering on obesity. The doctor didn't care very much about me becoming very fat, becasue she, too is fat. There's always an impending danger that I may go down, and that can happen very fast, so it is not without risk. But on the meds, I was abusive toward people and I do not even remember being this way. I was in a haze. Talk therapy is essential. I stay in close contact with a therapist at all times and she accepts my refusal to take meds. I'm in top physical condition now and eat very well and sleep well too. The meds make you lazy and your body wastes away. Find a good therapist who himself is in good physical condition, not one who resorts to drugs at first call. Good luck.

  • Chanda Curry

    I have been diagnosed with ptsd and bipolar, i am also a recovering addict three years sober!!! I hate taking my meds. I was off my meds for three weekd I am on Doxepin 50 mg and wellbutrin 300mg. I was at work and just started crying uncontrollably I was driven to the emergency room and was calmed down, I was neithe homicidial or suicidial. I though I was doing good with out my meds. Family tells it different. We are unbalanced chemically. The meds might not be the right ones for you, try other ones. I find my doxepin at night and wellbutrin during day works great. Am I cured? We will never be cured just a little more balanced. Right now it is making you feel worse. Talk with your Dr. try different options. We are not Dr.s no matter how much medical background we have. This is a disease a mental illness it is nothing to be ashamed of. With help we can learn to control our ups and downs.It can even get to the point when you know you are going to have an"episode" as I like to call them. Thats a good time to take a time out for yourself,read a book, take a bubble bath,listen to calming music,exercise or just turn everything off and just listen and breath. You will get through this. Good Luck to you.

  • Ginger

    After living for ten years without medication I am deciding now to try them. I have the same worries about the side effects but I will lose my husband if i don't do something. If it were not for this problem I would choose to live with forever. I like who I am, I am just too fast for him. Do what works for your life.

  • Anonymous-2

    I stuggeled for over 10 year in and out of state hospitals lost count of how many different meds...lost people and even had a child, been homeless twice with her and even got lost in drugs, alchol and sex for many years...it was about two years ago I started to feel god calling me to himself and Coming into a realshionship with Jesus changed my life ... I have self control and confidence with in a healthy ballence and when life hits me hard like it does every one else I know now to just get on my knees and pray instead of the other things I us to do...My GOD LOVES me and he hears my evey cry...he promises to never leave me nor forsake me..he die for me and I live in his grace...I today live a forgiven and free life in Christ alone!! xoxox

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