Hey guys. 🙂 I hope you’re all doing well. ❤
Most of you who have read my blog or know me personally, are aware that I have bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed almost 5 years ago now and have been on medication for it ever since.
At the time, I believed medication was necessary. I was certainly not well. Fast forward to present day and in the last few months especially, I have seriously questioned (although not the first time) why I take or even need medication.
Before I continue, please make note of the fact that I am A: Not a doctor in any sense of the word and B: Speaking from my personal experience only.
So yeah, medication. The day I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder I accepted the fact that it was in my best interest to take it. That being said I have never been a big fan of medication in general. I don’t like taking medication for any reason if I don’t have to. It’s just a personal thing.
Over the course of 5 years I have been on several medications. The first thing I was given was an anit-depressant/aniexty pill called cipralex better known as lexapro in the US. For as many medication changes as I have had, cipralex was the one thing I haven’t changed the entire time other than the dosage.
If you’re like me, you like to research and educate yourself about the medications you take. In my case, I felt like I had to. In my experience, it has not been an easy journey trying to navigate the mental health care system. Where I live currently, the mental health care system is severely lacking in numbers. If I’m not forced to cancel an appointment with my psychiatrist for some reason, they’re canceling appointments on me and sometimes I simply forget I have an appointment. I’ve been forced more times than not to sit in outpatients for hours just to get my prescriptions because I never get a prescription for more than 3 months at a time which would be fine if I was guaranteed I could get a follow up from my doctor for refills/adjustments but that is rarely the case.
Then there’s the fact I currently have no coverage for my prescriptions and in turn there have been numerous times I can’t even afford to take my medication. I end up going days and sometimes weeks without it so after awhile you start to wonder – “What’s the point?”
It’s not just the logistics and financial aspect that has me shaking my head, it’s the research on the medication itself. For example, cipralex isn’t even supposed to be prescribed to patients with bipolar disorder because it can and has been known to trigger mania. However in my case I was also diagnosed with generalized aniexty disorder and have always maintained that the anxiety was my biggest issue and so I was thoroughly convinced I needed to stay on cipralex. So I did. You would have to of pry it from my cold dead hands for me to stop taking it.
The truth is, anti-depressants/anxiety medication isn’t exactly meant to be taken long term. I have been taking it for nearly 5 years and so I wonder…Is that necessary? Is it healthy? What kind of impact does the long term use of this drug have on my brain or even my whole body exactly?
I also take a mood stabilizer. I have been on several over the years at varying doses with mixed results. If you read about mood stabilizers, a lot of them are anti-seizure medications which happen to have some positive effects in regards to stabilizing the mood swings associated with bipolar disorder but their primary design and function was not created with bipolar disorder in mind . This has never sat well with me. Taking a medication for years that honestly wasn’t even designed with my disorder in mind. I don’t have issues with seizures and yet for years now I’ve been taking medications that treat it with questionable results. So I ask again. Is it necessary? Is it healthy? What is the long term effect on the brain exactly?
When I look back at my life prior to my diagnoses and even for some time after, there were environmental factors playing a huge role in my mental health. For one, I was using alcohol and drugs to cope with my life and medication didn’t simply stop that. I found myself jumping into unstable relationships. Surrounding myself with toxic people. I was in said relationship when I was diagnosed. Was I living like that simply because of a chemical imbalance in the brain or does it really have more to do with the fact that I grew up in and around constant emotional and physical abuse? I’m not trying to blame my childhood for my entire life as it stands today but let’s face it, if your childhood was riddled with abuse, chaos and financial troubles and if you ultimately lack the knowhow and support to seek proper counsel or healthy outlets you tend to start out your adult life doing what you know best and in my case, what I knew best was not ideal. It was toxic at best.
I lacked a foundation and tried to build my adult life on sand. I repeated the same mistakes and coped with them by doing my best to escape them through less than healthy means. I attracted toxic people because I was a toxic person. I allowed toxic people to influence and walk all over me….after awhile a person has their rock bottom do they not?
I wonder if my life had been the complete opposite, would I be admitting to people I have bipolar disorder right now?
The truth is, in the last two years I have seriously questioned the validity of my diagnoses because my environment has changed drastically. I stopped surrounding myself with toxic people that trigger the worst in me. I found a wonderful and understanding husband to be. I would not have found him if I hadnt been willing to put my foot down and start ridding myself of the people and things that were making my life toxic. I stopped boozing and turning to drugs. I got back in touch with my family and my faith. I turned to God. Did my life turn into some magical fairy tale because of that? No. In fact in some ways it’s been harder because you know what God has really helped me with? Getting brutally honest with myself. Sure, I wasn’t in control of my childhood and yes I made a bunch of crappy mistakes during the first decade or so of my adult life but there comes a point mental illness or not when you just have to start facing that stuff head on, forgive yourself and then move on and I can assure you that no amount of medication can make you do that. You have to actively seek that out for yourself and that’s what I’ve been doing and in the process my focus has turned to God and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.
I stopped taking anti-depressant/aniexty medication almost 2 months ago now. Yes, the withdrawal was real but I’m past the major withdrawal symptoms. I’ve noticed that I feel stuff again. It’s good to just feel. Before, I felt my like my feelings were detached. Like I knew what the appropriate feeling for any given situation was but I didn’t actually feel it. Not in full at least. I’ve also noticed I have more energy and actually feel like doing things. I’m more productive. Before I would jump to the conclusion that if I felt good and had energy to do things that I must be manic. Turns out you can feel good and it has nothing to do with mental illness.
I will say it’s been overwhelming to let go of my crutch. When you turn on the part of you that feels when it’s been dialed down for so long it’s an emotional reunion to say the least but guess what? It’s normal to feel! In fact I’ve let go of this crutch during a rather stressful time. Certainly not an ideal time. I’ve been facing things head on good, bad and ugly and I have to say that yes it’s been painful and difficult but it also feels good to just face the emotion for what it is. It’s cleansing and it’s been getting easier to do that and just move on to the next thing instead of simply suppress it like I was.
As for my mood stabilizers. On paper I have bipolar disorder and should be taking them but I am currently in the same predicament that lead me to quit anti-depressants. Cancelled appointments, lack of funds, valid questions with no real answers and the thought that hey maybe the majority of my personal mental health has been environmental and therefore if I make a point to nurture a healthier environment perhaps this is manageable without the need for medications. Perhaps I needed medication initially and I am certainly not knocking the short term use at all but I am definitely questioning the long term use paired with a shaky mental health care system. To me the world seems highly medicated with real issues and feelings shoved aside.
I can’t tell anyone what to do and I’m not out to judge anyone on how they choose to take care of themselves but this has been my experience so far. I’m not saying medication should never be used or that medication is bad. Clearly I’ve taken enough to know the positive effects it can have and I’m glad it’s out there but for me personally I have reached a crossroads regarding it all and I have a feeling I’m probably not the only one.
Take Care & God Bless ❤