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J.R. Buchanan


Me, My Thoughts, and I

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April 2, 2015

Meds and Me

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar, the first thing the doctor did was to prescribe medicine. I was not surprised, my son had been diagnosed with bipolar almost exactly a year before I was. They had prescribed him meds right away. When he was diagnosed, the first thing that I did was to go to the library and get every book they had on bipolar. Then I did the same at the book store. Then I sought out support for parents of kids with bipolar on the Internet. One thing they all made clear was that if you had bipolar, you had to take meds. You had to take them for the rest of your life. They also made it clear that, despite being told this, you were likely to stop taking them when you felt better, and then you'd crash again.

Well, I decided that this would not happen to me. The meds didn't seem to be helping my son, but I had hope, I was going to take those meds and I was going to get better! I needed better desperately by that point. I wanted to take the meds and have them work so badly that when my doctor told me that I'd have to stop drinking, I did so. Right away. It's been 14 years since I've had a drop of alcohol.

It didn't work. If anything, I felt worse after taking the med prescribed (Depakote). I remember driving on a country road a few days after starting meds and feeling the worst dysphoric mania that I'd yet experienced.

But maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, in the year he had been taking them, meds hadn't done my son any good, if anything, he seemed worse.

So I went to my psychiatrist and told him how perfectly wretched I was, and that I thought the meds had actually made me worse. His response was to switch me to another meds, Zyprexa this time. To my great joy, it worked! It worked pretty fast. Of course, the joy didn't last. I started gaining weight, and fast. I also started falling asleep at work every day, no matter how hard I tried to fight it. Again meds didn't look so good to me.

Well, after trying diet and exercise, and some add-on meds that did no good, I'd gained over 100lb in a year. No mania, no hallucinations, but I was getting pretty depressed about the weight gain.

Again, I complained. I said that I didn't want to be non-complient, but I just couldn't take something that was ruining my physical health. Another med change, this time adding an anti-depressant. I kept dieting and exercising, and lo and behold, it worked! I lost weight! I was pretty happy until I started having delusions, paranoia, and a suicide attempt, and wound up in a psych hospital for the first time.

I was not too happy to be taking meds by this point, I was seriously considering just dropping the whole idea. One thing stopped me though. I had vivid memories of the misery that had sent me to a psychiatrist in the first place. So I tried the meds that the doctor at the hospital prescribed, and I was stable again, this time without weight gain.

Well, to make a long story short, I've been on several med combos since then, I gained all the weight back, I've lost half of it again, had some really scary side-effects, and now my moods have been stable for several years. I'm pretty happy with my meds now.

But, the thought occurs to me, "Should I be?" Even with a stable weight, what other long term side effects are these meds causing? Am I ruining my health in another way?

In the end though, I keep remembering the misery and instability that plagued me for most of my life, and compare that to the stability I have now, and decide to stay on them.

Now you're asking, "Should I take meds?" Well, it's a highly personal decision, and some people do well without meds, for others it's a disaster. I lean in the "people with bipolar must take meds" direction, but I temper that with the understanding that some people do well without them.

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