I need help with a book chapter!


My coauthor Dr. John Preston and I are writing a new chapter to be added to our book Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder. It’s on the topic of medications as I didn’t cover it in depth in the first edition of the book. I spent more time on medications in Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder.

I really could use your help with this new chapter in two ways. I need to hear some medication success stories from partners of people with bipolar.

How do medications help your partner and your relationship?

Then, I need people to finish this sentence:

I’m thankful for my medications because…….

I have plenty of stories in the chapter about the difficulties of taking bipolar illness medications, but I want some positive as well!

I will start….

I am thankful for my Lamictal because it takes the edge off all of my symptoms. It helps with rapid cycling, hypomania and depression and definitely helps with my mild psychosis. It helps me be a less irritated person and I’m far, far more resilient when I’m on the medication. It doesn’ t make me gain weight. I can deal with the breathing side effects and it saves my life! It’s the partner I need for my management plan.

Thank you Lamictal! (now, don’t ask me to say that about some of the other drugs I’ve tried- but I do want to always remember how Lamictal has changed my life for the better!)

I look foward to your answers:

How have medications helped my partner and our relationship…

I am thankful for my medications because……

Thanks! You can post your answer by clicking on the comments button below. Julie

28 comments to I need help with a book chapter!

  • Katy Kern

    I think for this chapter to be credible, it should include the fact that medications are overprescribed and often dangerous. Lamictal, for example, has recently been found to cause a kind of meningitis in some.

    Medications have generally never helped me.

    For more information on the truth that medications should be a treatment of last resort and the studies showing that long-term outcomes are better for those who can stay away from medications, see the work of Robert Whitaker. I recommend his book ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic.’ He shares the TRUTH about the results of long term studies that have been suppressed and ignored by the drug industry.

    Drugs are being pushed for huge profits and the worst offenders are psychiatrists.

  • Paula

    I am thankful for my Lithium and Invega. Both have improved my lifestyle by me not hearing voices anymore and taking the edge off when I’m in a crowded room. It took me a few days to get used to the Invega but now I’m okay. During our office holiday party this year, I started to panic and then did a few breathing exercises. I was then able to continue to mingle and play games.

  • Ramona

    This may very well be the best holiday I have ever had. I’m with people who love and understand me. This year has been stressful; I began my career as a counselor, lost my mother, my daughter moved out but I have never been in a better ploace. Thank you Julie for helping me get my life back.

  • Vicky

    Katy I am not aware that Lamactil causes any meningitis type reaction … could you be referring to the Steven Johnson’s syndrome, which which can cause a few unlucky people, who have a reaction to Lamactil, to suffer symptoms which can be similar in behaviour to meningitis ? This is why it is soooo important to start the dose at 25mgs and go up Very slowly … little by little … and watching for any reaction …

    I for one thank Lamactil for changing my life so dramatically … I still go up and down but I feel like I am much more in control of my life … I find my bipolar much more manageable … Even during times when I am under a lot of stress [I work in health care, which is often very stressful emotionally, physically and psychologically] this medication has allowed me to come back into the work force, after five years of oscillating mood cycles, during which I trialed myriads of doses & combinations of medication, with weekly tweaking. Then the Lithium [which was holding me reasonably stable] started mucking up my thyroid hormone levels [hence the 6 monthly blood tests which are so important when on Lithium] … I chose to come off the Lithium and try something new …. and discovered Lamactil !!

    I think that while an individual is still struggling to deal with diagnosis or the stigma of having a mental disorder it is often frightening, particularly as there does not appear to be one treatment for all … like tylenol for pain … you tend to listen to everyone and panic when you hear something negative in case that can happen to you too … and of course in the throws of mood swings, you feel like you are ill, and certainly dont need anything making you feel worse … but avoiding treatment is not an option … even using techniques such as Julie discusses in her health care card system are just sooo useful but if that is not enough then medication is an option that many people use so they can function in a normal manner and become more stable …

    Bipolar becomes an illness, which needs to be treated when it completely takes over your life … usually when there is too much stress [whether it is emotional, physical or psychological] & you are not coping with using self help techniques such as meditation, more sleep, reducing stressful influences in your life, eating well, exercising preferably in the fresh air] and not knowing how to adjust medication to allow you to function reasonably normally again …

    Understanding what you are dealing with and using the ‘tools’ to help you get through the tough times is important … as well as having an open mind to try different things [and this includes medication ] so that you can find out what is right for YOU personally …. and as with most things in life … one should not judge another person [or their choices] until they have walked in that person’s shoes …

    I dont know if long term use of any drugs are good or bad but I do remember a good friend once saying to me … that medication certainly cant be a bad thing if it prolonged my life for another 15 – 30 years and I was living it reasonably normally during that time … as opposed to existing from day to day, wondering what on earth I was doing with my life, wondering whether my life was worth living or whether I should put a gun to my head … the choice for me was much easier after that …

    I want to live, with a sense of purpose with loved ones around me [who are able to cope & help me through my ups and downs … you have to remember that life is NOT easy for our wonderful partners who really do try and understand us] and not start the day being so miserable that I dont know how I am going to get out of bed [if I get out of bed] and just existing from day to day … what sort of life is that ??? none I say … but that is just my opinion …. peace, good health and happiness to all during this time of year, which is one of the most stressful times for many … Vicky

  • I am thankful that I found my medication cocktail so quickly. My cocktail of Lithium, Neurontin, Klonopin, and a small amount of Lamictal has allowed me to enjoy more of life for the most part and spend more time with my children. The Klonopin and Neurontin have seriously decreased my anxiety so I don’t walk around in fear of something, anything, all the time. I can now make confident decisions about everyday matters without falling apart. My experiences cooking dinner have improved considerably and I am able to spend more time with my wife.

    Thank you,
    Meredith Linden
    http://thedailybipolar.blogspot.com/

  • Katy Kern

    Hi all – According to an article on webmd, the FDA is adding the aseptic meningitis warning to lamictal labels. Here is the link:

    webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/news/20100812/fda-warns-lamictal-can-cause-aseptic-meningitis

    In reference to my previous comments about drugs being overprescribed, I want to emphasize that while they are overused at the expense of other options, I think they can make the difference between functioning normally and being unable to handle life’s challenges. I don’t begrudge anybody their medication. I still believe, though, that many of us are brainwashed into thinking that pills are “the” answer….and I believe that the drug companies are often no better than dope dealers standing on the corner. Robert Whitaker’s book shares real, long-term studies on the effects of very potent medications – and the long term studies show depressing results ( no pun intended). It’s worth getting this information and sharing it. In fact, with so many young children being put on these drugs, we should be shouting it from the rooftops.

  • Allison D.

    Vicky, you have given me a wonderful holiday gift! Several days ago someone handed me a brochure about some miracle alternative to meds, and I found myself feeling the type of panic that you mentioned — particularly, the feeling that I’ve screwed up my life with a stupid and uninformed decision (to take meds for 20 years). Your description of your own situation helped me to get out of that downward spiral. I so admire your ability to make choices and make it through, so maybe I can admire myself for the same reason. Either one of us may choose to try a new treatment at some point. Today, however, we can focus on celebrating our survival!
    Peace,
    Allison D.

  • Hello to all,

    I know that the side effects of medications are difficult for people with bipolar. I too read all of the warnings! The meningitis results are real, but were for a very, very small amount of people taking Lamictal. I wish that these studies would have to clearly state how many people they studied- the true % of those who might have an adverse reaction and then help people see the benefits of the medications vs. the problems. Then people could make much more informed decisions. All medications come with side effects. I have to be 100% honest and say- I would risk meningitis to keep my Lamictal. It keeps me alive- and I feel that meningitis is much, much less likely than suicide. I say that with all seriousness.

    I love it that the readers on this blog post their true feelings and ideas. We can then all decide what works for us. A lot of it has to do with what kind of bipolar disorder we have. Please keep posting your ideas!

    I love my medications as I wrote before. I had to seriously make the decision of side effects vs. benefits. For me it’s a major benefit. Julie

    • fred james

      “I know that those with bipolar II rarely need the major mania medications such as lithium, tegretol or depakote.”

      I have II and I’ve been on lithium since 1995. All other II’s I know are on lith or an equivalent as well. Really baffled by this assertion.

      Hi Fred,

      You are completely correct. My statement was not correct and was confusing! People with bipolar II do take Tegretol, Depakote and Lithium as needed. I have to be careful in what I say. I am always careful with my drug references and make sure I run my ideas by my coauthor Dr. John Preston. On this one, I didn’t chat with him first. Here is his response:

      “People with bipolar II absolutely need these drugs as antidepressants can make people with bipolar disorder worse if they are used without a mood stabilizer.The mood stabilizers can reduce frequency of episodes and can be used to treat rapid cycling. Lithium also treats bipolar depression.”

      Hope you are well…and happy New Year
      John

      ** I think that having so many problems with medications myself, I tend to focus on my medications plan. This is why I am so thankful for the one drug I can take. Thanks for your comments Fred. Julie

  • Allison D.

    Thanks everyone for your comments. I appreciate them very much.

    To finish Julie’s sentence, I’m thankful for my medications because… I believe that they give my best self a chance to emerge. My best self often gets bombarded and buried with polarized feelings. Sometimes I wonder if she exists at all. With the medications, however, I have gotten enough of a break to be able to “meet” her, and I now know better who it is I’m looking for whenever she gets bombarded again.

    Allison D.

  • Suzanne

    Julie: If you look at the fda.gov web site they will show how many people were involved as far as the meningitis reaction to Lamictal. They seem to be very good at showing the actual studies, # of people, etc. One doc told me he doesn’t like to prescribe a medication (psych meds, in particular) until they have been on the market for 7 YEARS as these adverse side effects show up all too frequently.

    The tests for approval really aren’t that great & as I’m getting elderly (56) an expert at a NAMI conference said I should try to get off these meds ASAP due to side effects in elderly not well studied & the studies so far do not show good results (memory loss–check; have that; confusion; yes, often, etc.).

    Knowing the new listings of adverse side effects is very important even if only a few are affected (as only a few are with the rash compared to how many are able to take Lamictal with no problem). The symptoms of this meningitis are similar to the flu, so it is necessary to call your provider if you are taking Lamictal & develop flu symptoms to be on the safe side. This type of meningitis is nothing to be trifled with. It is serious.

    Lithium can also “build up” in one’s system so that after many years of successful use it will start to “poison” you. That is why you need to continue to get your blood levels checked. My friend who was on Lithium for 15 years had that occur. She hated to get off the Lithium as it worked so well, but she had no choice as it was not detrimental to her physical health.

    And the, of course, you need to be aware of the combination of medications as some medications block the efficacy of others so your dosage may have to be increased (my thyroid medication had to be increased as blood pressure medication was interfering). Luckily, my psychiatric meds provider has a wonderful pharmacy prof she runs my medications by, since I had a procedure (colonoscopy) & the “twilight” didn’t work & I had to have polyps removed & it was incredibly painful. Doc doing procedure said he turned it up as high as he could without stopping my heart & that I would have had to be off my psych meds for weeks to not have that problem & “You couldn’t do that due to your bipolar.”

    Hi Vicky. Actually the FDA just announced the danger of meningitis w/Lamictal a couple months or so ago. I subscribe to the FDA medication updates by email as they alert you to the newest info. about adverse reactions that have just been discovered & will be on the patient info. form in the future but are not currently on the info. pamphlet. The FDA warning was for providers so that they are aware of this negative side effect that was not previously known & so they can alert their patients who are on Lamictal. If you go to the FDA web site (fda.gov) then you can navigate to drugs & medications to learn about the specific type of meningitis associated w/Lamictal.

    The symptoms are “flu-like” so if you are on Lamictal it is very important to be aware of this new info.

    Almost every day I get an email about an adverse reaction from a medication. For example, Crestor (for high cholesterol) just had a warning about it causing depression, insomnia & vivid nightmares. It will be a black box warning in the future. All these adverse reactions are of concern for someone w/bipolar. I am taking Crestor so I called my provider as my internal medicine doc is prescribing Crestor & then I have a psychiatric nurse practitioner who does my psych meds. It is so important for the consumer to be aware of the current info. regarding medications as sometimes your internal medicine doc would not be thinking of your bipolar condition as much as your high cholesterol.
    For me medications are “tools” that helped me immensely when I was first dxed w/bipolar about 17 yrs. ago. I was having severe symptoms of paranoia, delusional thinking, deep depression, etc. I was put on Lithium (& Xanax for anxiety & Provigil for excessive daytime sleepiness) & felt so tremendous on it I thought, “Is this how everyone else feels?” It was so amazing to me to have my inner turmoil calmed down & for me to start to feel some joy & begin making good decisions (before Lithium I was “treating” my depression w/alcohol & cigarettes–both of which I was able to quit within 4 weeks on Lithium).

    However, my blood tests showed abnormal kidney function so after only a few months I had to get off Lithium. The doc did a sonogram to make sure it was actually the Lithium & not a tumor on my kidneys causing the “bad” levels. I have kidney damage from just that short period of time on Lithium.
    My blood tests showed abnormal kidney function so after only a few months I had to get off Lithium. The doc did a sonogram to make sure it was actually the Lithium & not a tumor on my kidneys causing the “bad” levels. I have kidney damage from just that short period of time on Lithium.

    Then started the trial & error for A YEAR to finally get a combo of meds to work for me (Abilify, Lamictal, Klonopin, Provigil, Concerta). One winter I had a severe depression hit after about 5 years of stability & was on Wellbutrin but was able to get off it in the spring. I now use a full-spectrum light to combat SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

    For me the medications had the benefit of clearing up my thinking (got rid of delusional thinking & paranoia) & freeing me from the deep depression so that I was then able to start making good decisions in my day-to-day life. If you want to die you don’t much care if you are abusing alcohol or smoking.

    Then I was able to benefit from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) which I researched & contacted the therapist to ask her if she thought it would be helpful for me. Boy, was it ever!! I also did individual therapy w/her.

    Medication allowed me to think clearly & apply what I was learning in therapy & DBT. I have been in therapy many, many times (first suicide attempt at 15 & contacted the DBT therapist after my last attempt 4 years ago at the age of 52), but nothing helped me as DBT did. So after 2 years of DBT & individual therapy I have been able to get off Abilify w/my provider’s support (had negative side effect of weight gain & thus developed metabolic syndrome on Abilify which was first described as “weight neutral” but now warns of this risk the same as other anti-psychotic medications).

    My meds provider (psychiatric nurse practitioner) was so amazed at how much I improved after just 3 months of DBT. I have been w/her since first dxed w/bipolar 1 & she has been a wonderful support for me. She willingly helped me get off Abilify & reduce my dosage of Lamictal from 300 mg to 150 mg & hope to get off Lamictal completely (though I have some severe nerve pain that the docs have not been able to figure out how to “cure” yet & the Lamictal does help minimize the pain a little as it is a “cousin” to Neurotin which is often prescribed for nerve pain).

    I, of course, willingly will go back on Abilify or increase Lamictal if my symptoms reappear & I need them to help me return to stability.

    My meds provider also started me on Provigil (FDA-approved for narcolepsy & other excessive daytime sleepiness due to sleep disturbances; I have had a sleep study & do have chronic insomnia but not narcolepsy). I started on Provigil 17 years ago & my insurance company denied it as it was being used “off label.” My meds provider provided the insurance company w/the literature showing Provigil was showing positive results in use w/those w/bipolar & they reversed their decision & have paid for it. Thank goodness as Provigil is incredibly expensive & I don’t think I could function without it as every medication has knocked me out even to the point of falling asleep while driving & then depression, of course, can cause low energy to make someone unable to function (as it did me).

    Provigil is in the process of being approved for bipolar treatment, I believe.

    So medication is another “tool” for me, as is DBT, therapy & practicing good health habits. My meds provider wrote on a prescription script (just like a medication) “30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days a week” as she is so convinced it is as important as medication to combat depression & anxiety.

    Medication allowed me to think clearly & apply what I was learning in therapy & DBT. I have been in therapy many, many times (first suicide attempt at 15 & contacted the DBT therapist after my last attempt 4 years ago at the age of 52), but nothing helped me as DBT did. So after 2 years of DBT & individual therapy I have been able to get off Abilify w/my provider’s support (had negative side effect of weight gain & thus developed metabolic syndrome on Abilify which was first described as “weight neutral” but now warns of this risk the same as other anti-psychotic medications).

    My meds provider (psychiatric nurse practitioner) was so amazed at how much I improved after just 3 months of DBT. I have been w/her since first dxed w/bipolar 1 & she has been a wonderful support for me. She willingly helped me get off Abilify & reduce my dosage of Lamictal from 300 mg to 150 mg & hope to get off Lamictal completely (though I have some severe nerve pain that the docs have not been able to figure out how to “cure” yet & the Lamictal does help minimize the pain a little as it is a “cousin” to Neurotin which is often prescribed for nerve pain).

    I, of course, willingly will go back on Abilify or increase Lamictal if my symptoms reappear & I need them to help me return to stability.

    My meds provider also started me on Provigil (FDA-approved for narcolepsy & other excessive daytime sleepiness due to sleep disturbances; I have had a sleep study & do have chronic insomnia but not narcolepsy). I started on Provigil 17 years ago & my insurance company denied it as it was being used “off label.” My meds provider provided the insurance company w/the literature showing Provigil was showing positive results in use w/those w/bipolar & they reversed their decision & have paid for it. Thank goodness as Provigil is incredibly expensive & I don’t think I could function without it as every medication has knocked me out even to the point of falling asleep while driving & then depression, of course, can cause low energy to make someone unable to function (as it did me).

    Provigil is in the process of being approved for bipolar treatment, I believe.

    So medication is another “tool” for me, as is DBT, therapy & practicing good health habits. My meds provider wrote on a prescription script (just like a medication) “30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days a week” as she is so convinced it is as important as medication to combat depression & anxiety.

  • fred james

    I don’t think this is a good idea. I rely on medications too, but I’m not happy about it. We have a weak regulatory regime in this country, which means pharma makes meds without proper testing of side effects, and then pays fines and lawsuits after the fact as a cost of doing business. Zyprexa is the classic example of this. The drug has unleashed catastrophic medical costs onto the health care system, most of which have been picked up the taxpayer and policyholder. Another is Prozac, which almost single handedly created the category of “bipolar III”: bipolar triggered by use of antidepressants in teenagers. Ooops!

    Both these drugs were effective in the short run for me years ago, but I had to get off of them at risk of my life. They are devastating drugs with devastating social consequences.

    Bopolar advocacy groups are often compromised by their dependence on pharma money, and this chapter idea only reinforces this perception. Bipolars should agitate for a stronger regulatory regime, and not act as adjuncts of pharma PR.

    The trouble with weighing the benefits against the side effects is that, in many cases, the side effects don’t become known for years, because pharma suppresses them and we are relying on a free market system with a laughably weak regulatory regime. Unless every bipolar patient is aware that they are playing Russian roulette with every medication, they cannot make an informed choice.

    • I totally agree with you Fred. Our country is run by pharmaceuticals. It is one of the reasons it took me so long to get medicated. I tried everything I could first. Being on Lithium eases my mind as it has been around a long time. But I have the same thoughts about new drugs. I hear lots of stories about people having to change drugs as they get older. I have no idea what is in store for me as I continue, but I will cross that bridge…

    • Katy Kern

      Thanks, Fred. Agreed. In addition, clinical trials are being done at “lowest cost” around the world, and recently only 45 out of more than 6000 of them were inspected by the FDA. We can’t rely on profit-making companies to be honest about the results of their trials any more than we can rely on Wall Street sharks who are stealing us blind to keep track of our mortgages. We need funding for drug studies by impartial researchers who work for US…not Big Pharma.

  • Allison D.

    Dr. Preston, could you elaborate on your assertion that “antidepressants make people with bipolar disorder worse”?
    Thanks, Allison D.

    Hi Allison,

    This is Julie. Wow! Writing about medications in medical terms is hard because it often assumes someone has pre existing knowledge. So I can see how Dr. Preston’s comments would be a bit unclear. It is very well documented that anti depressants can cause mania in people with bipolar disorder. I was given anti depressants when I was first diagnosed and it made my bipolar a lot worse. When anti depressants are used with bipolar, they need to be with a mood stabilizer or anti psychotic in order to keep the mania down. I know people who use an anti depressant in their medication plan- then there are some like myself who become manic and start rapid cycling almost immediately on an anti depressant. As a rule, no one with bipolar disorder should ever be on an anti depressant alone. The dangers for mania and rapid cycling are too high. If you go to the rapid cycling category on the blog to your right- there is a lot more information. Thanks! Julie

    • Even though I am not a doctor, I will give you my info. Antidepressants only treat the depression so any mania experienced can go into overdrive and mania can be experienced more often due to the antidepressant effects of the meds. If you think about how they work, it makes sense. The antidepressant brings you up, sort of like adding dopamine to the mix (and probably does). Those chemicals that keep us from feeling depressed can kick in a manic reaction for those of us who are bipolar. Hope that helps Allison.

  • Suzanne

    I know if you have mania after going on anti-depressants (hypo mania for me) then the doc should consider that you may have bipolar & not unipolar depression. It is a “clue” that you may have bipolar as is having a family history of bipolar.

    Hi Suzanne,

    If you have depression and the anti depressant causes mania, you then have a diagnosis of bipolar disroder. It’s a real problem now as anti depressants are prescribed so quickly. All health care professionals should ask every single person they put on anti depressants if they have a history of bipolar in their family or if they have had signs of mania. It’s my crusade to educate health care professionals on this topic. I do a blog for BP magazine and one of my posts under my latest blog has the questions to ask for mania. Here is the link:

    http://www.bphope.com/bphopeblog/post/Are-people-with-bipolar-disorder-in-denial.aspx#comment

    It’s not hard to diagnose mania- the problem is often that the person who takes the anti depressant has no idea what is going on! Julie

  • Suzanne

    Yes, when I first was put on Prozac I thought, “WOW–this stuff really works!” I was going to a GP & he knew that my mother had bipolar & committed suicide yet he still put me on Prozac & for 8 weeks I was feeling great!! You should have seen my tennis game! After one singles match the lady said, “I have NEVER seen such an aggressive player as you.”

    But after 8 weeks of hypo mania I crashed into deep depression so he (GP) upped the dosage. Then when that got as high as he could put it he switched me to other anti-depressants (Prozac, Serzone, BusPar, Effexor, Zoloft, Wellbutrin–pretty much you name it & I’ve been on it) except for MAOI’s.

    AND I had the exact same reaction of hypo mania for about 8 weeks on each & every one of them, then the depression hit again. I actually loved the hypo mania & just thought the meds were working but then “pooped out.”

    It wasn’t until I went to an internal med doc & right away she identified I was in a mixed episode & w/my family history (mother) & reaction to anti-depressants, she dxed me w/bipolar 1 & sent me to a pdoc after putting me on Depakote.

    That is one reason why I advocate for people to go to a mental health specialist & not their GP for treatment. I was misdiagnosed for so many years & wonder how my rash behaviors of suicide attempts, etc. could have been removed earlier. Though one caveat–you can still be medication compliant (as I was) & still go into an episode so even though medication helps many; it is not a cure-all.

    We need to take charge & practice good health habits (sleep, exercise, diet, supportive friends & family, educating ourselves, etc.). Plus, I am a big believer in therapy (for me DBT was a lifesaver). It is as important to me as medication. And to learn to identify “triggers” or signs that an impending depression or mania or hypo mania or mixed episode is coming on. If I go 3 nights without at least 6 hrs. of sleep I need to call my meds provider as that is a strong indicator I am going into an episode. And my last suicide attempt (4 yrs. ago) I had been hypo manic for about 5 mos., not realizing it was so dangerous. I just felt so good & having spent most of my time depressed it was like being on a drug.

    We are all individuals & our treatment should be a collaborative effort w/our providers. We also need to do our part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to combat reoccurrence of episodes as much as possible–but again an episode can occur when you are doing “everything right” so blaming the person is not helpful or compassion.

  • Allison D.

    Thanks to Julie and Meredith and others who wrote to help answer my question to Dr. Preston.
    Allison D.

  • Alison B.

    Hello everyone, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder type 2 with a dual diagnosis in late 2007. I have to admit I am currently self medicating with LITHIUM ER ( (being that it was the last medicine prescribed to me by a physician and the first after trying Depakote, Depakote ER, and briefly tried Lamictal. However also already had seen a GP before seeing a psychiatrist/ psychologist in 2002 and was also prescribed Prozac, Zoloft, and Wellbutrin for short periods of time by the GP due to a grievance diagnosis/ depression for the loss of my little sister Jamie who took her life at 15 (Bipolar later was diagnosed) AMAZINGLY the LITHIUM ER FINALLY WORKED and we realized that I was Bipolar not just depressed still suicidal because of my sisters death 7 years prior!

    Please keep in mind that me self medicating with the Lithium ER is a big difference from what I use to self medicate with; Methamphetamine and a much better choice) And I am aware of all my conditions and their side effects to Lithium and the risks I am taking by continuing with out blood work with my hypothyroidism….you just have to know that I would rather continue to take that risk then to feel I might ever go back to living the life I had before some kind of treatment, medicine, and diagnosis…..in my opinion its a risk to my physical well being if I was to go without some type of medicine until I can get in to the new doctor.

    When I was diagnosed I was in extreme denial and ultimately separated from my husband (who took my daughter with him) for almost 1 1/2 years until in 2009 I was lucky enough to receive treatment through the state of California and found Lithium ER. I also want to say that I have since then reconciled with my husband and live with him and my daughter again; once we moved back in with each other and the Department Of Mental Health or DMH found out, they immediately cut me off from the facility and medicine I was receiving without enough notice to find another medical doctor to continue the treatment that I was so happily adjusted to and come to love! So I started getting my medicine from a family member who is also diagnosed with the same thing and shared the prescriptions so that I could somewhat maintain my new found stability. I am currently taking 300mg a day which is still a difference from my prescribed dosage I was taking at the facility of 900mg a day but I feel its better then nothing; and while I will admit that while this is not legal,nor suggested, and surely not ideal for anyone including myself; it felt like my only option because I couldn’t go back to how I was again.

    As of today 12/29/10 I was able to get my insurance issues straightened out again and FINALLY found a new doctor and therapeutic doctor as well; I attend NA meetings now once a week to manage my dual diagnosis currently but without proper dosing of the medicine I feared how long that alone would continue to be enough. My appointment is on January 10th and I am excited to once again maintain and manage my illness properly.

    Julie, I just finished reading your book “Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder” and I want to thank you for giving me so much insight on numerous topics that I struggle with consistently! I was really given the tools in that book to help me focus enough to finalize the steps I needed to take to get back to the doctor and is what actually finally gave me that push. I look forward to reading more of your books and blogs; now to comment on what you requested….

    I am grateful for finding Lithium ER because I was able to identify and finally accept that I have Bipolar Disorder and try to start managing it. I for the 1st time saw how it is a serious problem and only worsens many of my other diagnosis that I am plagued with including the dual diagnosis but not excluding Hypothyroidism, and Temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMJ which is endued with Stress).

    Since as early as 5 years old I can look back and remember times in my life that I was most likely having small episodes and never new or understood why I was always in trouble. I was either being accused of being annoying, sneaky (lied a lot), didn’t go to bed when told (5 yrs old and up till 3-4am starring at the ceiling unable to sleep), Over talkative in class; Then the next week I was in trouble for being lazy, sleeping too much including when I was in class, and I would never understand why I did those things. All of my bipolar symptoms continued to get worse and starting in the 3rd grade my teacher requested that my mom have me tested for ADHD (every teacher for every year after did as well) I would get tested and the doctor would confirm what the teacher suspected I was possibly ADHD. But by the time we would meet for a second opinion my mood would change and I would be opposite from the meeting before; and the second doctor would always cancel the diagnosis from going any further claiming it was just personality traits and possible learning disabilities to continue to have me tested for that as an alternative answer. These ADHD tests continued every year as well as a few learning disabilities tests up until 8th grade when I finally told my mom I wouldn’t do them anymore. Only to get into high school and have my administration counselor suggest and eventually made it mandatory that I see a Psychiatrist that came into the school once a month to see students whom the school felt was in “need of a extra person to talk to”. I eventually stopped staying at school long enough in the day to be there on the days of our appointments and the doctor gave up trying to evaluate me.

    Up until October 19, 2009 when I finally complied with treatment and committed to it the right way (at first but slipped up here and there from May 2010 to present) I had never known what people’s definition of “acting normal” was because I always thought I was…but just knew I was a little different could I? I convinced myself that I couldn’t be that different from them…..oh BUT I WAS! Thanks to Lithium ER I was able to see the mistakes I was making in my life and how it was effecting my family and myself, and finally felt regret for all the wrongs I had done to my family and any other person in my life. I STOPPED BEING SELFISH AND STARTED FOCUSING ON GETTING MY LIFE BACK!

    Without this medicine I promise you I never would have gotten my daughter back in my life again or my husband and I am grateful every day for that. For the first time in my daughters life she has a mom who is present and active in her life, that wants to be there and loves spending time with her and her dad. I missed SOOOO much of her life because I was either sleeping or out running the roads looking to score again so that I could somehow self medicate and stop sleeping to attempt to take care of my daughter (Not realizing that while out and about looking to come up with something that would trigger a mania again I was never prepared for how fast it actually would trigger and never seemed to make it home as fast as I had planned before. I would be in and out for days until I was back home looking to sleep again cause depression and exhaustion had now taken its effects and my daughter was waiting for me once again)…..it is the hardest part of my past that I must deal with and try to move on from but I am glad that I am here now. I was finally able to take those birthday pics with her this year because I was there physically (unlike the two years previous) and for once mentally, and many more memories I am going to cherish forever now!

    Anyone who thinks that the answer to managing this disorder is possible without proper medicine and monitored treatment is sadly mistaken. I know because I have tried to do it! I went back off medicine for almost 4 months and I was terrified at how quickly all my symptoms, flaws, and problems with my spouse and home life returned!!! It is horrible having to ever feel like that again (even with the hypomania making you feel good) I finally know what life can be like when I am on medicine and treatment, and now I also know that life without it is never possible again!

    Thank you again Julie for giving me a support system that I can rely on through books and web…..it is greatly needed due to the lack of support that I receive at home from my husband. He has a hard time still believing the disorder and its relevance to me…he claims to finally believe that I have it, but “not that I am like everyone else” in the book’s we have read who are explaining their symptoms and experiences because “I can still have the will power to do the right thing” and just be normal as long as I’m on medicine…he is convinced that I am “stronger then the other people with this and wont need to make life changes as well” that have been suggested by multiple resources like doctors and books we have encountered. He believes “we are all different people and can decide how strong we choose to be and how we are going to handle and treat our problems and moods regardless of manic episodes or depression”… UGH!!!

    I know this is off topic from the medicine but can anyone help me with this situation?! PLEASE it is causing major problems in our relationship but most important in my health I am readressing my current ways of management with my illness and have now come up with what I know is a great medical plan for me and my chances at long term success… But now with him back in this state of mind and constantly approaching me in a confrontational manner I am now seeing that I will have serious hardships at achieving my goals if he doesn’t change now and truly mean when he says he supports me and my treatment. Since about the week before Thanksgiving I have been consistently in a hypomanic episode that I am trying to manage; and not let get too bad and now its been 10 days!! This is extremely abnormal for me on or off medicine. I have always been kind of a rapid cycler and my hypomania has always lasted no more then 4 days.Then depression hitting me longer most times (unless triggered by myself). Depression episodes lasted at least 2 1/2 if not 3 weeks before hypomania symptoms reoccurred. I am extremely anxious and a little worried as to why my hypomania seems so persistant, any suggestions or opinions from anyone would be appreciated…..HELP PLEASE!

    Please anyone reading this keep in mind that me self medicating with the Lithium ER is a big difference from what I use to self medicate with; Methamphetamine and a much better choice) And I am aware of all my conditions and their side effects to Lithium and the risks I am taking by continuing with out blood work with my hypothyroidism….you just have to know that I would rather continue to take that risk then to feel I might ever go back to living the life I had before I had some kind of treatment, medicine, and diagnosis…..in my opinion its a risk to my physical well being if I was to go without some type of medicine until I can get in to the new doctor so it is the choice I made then and will continue until I am on a monitored dose again in January.

    Thanks for any feedback or advise in advance!
    Alison B.

  • Allison,
    Thank you for sharing your story. What a trip you’ve been on. I want to address your husband. I am so lucky to have a wife who understands (to the extent she can without having bp) that I cannot control my moods completely. She had a long relationship with a bp I who tried to kill herself in her presence and actually asked my wife to go with her. Yes there are certain things we can do to help prohibit mania (I don’t know about depression. I’ve not had any success in controlling that at all) or thwart it, but it is always a temporary fix. I have to work hard at being “normal” sometimes. I do have days when I don’t feel one way or another, and it is a nice break, but I cannot control how those will manifest or that they will.

    At any rate, I digress. My ex-husband was similar to your husband after I was diagnosed (we were already divorced). I was wondering if your husband was interested in communicating with other partners of bipolars. If he is, I’m sure my wife would communicate with him about her experience and philosophy. If he is willing then that is a step in itself. Also, there is Julie’s book about partners of bipolars. We read that a long time ago. Yes, bipolars are all different as our chemistry is all different and that’s what makes us bipolar, among other things. It is more of a general understanding that he seems resistant to. So let me know if he’s interested and I’ll ask. Take good care. It sounds like you are doing very well considering! Congrats for taking your life back.

    Meredith

  • Alison B.,
    Sorry I spelled your name wrong and did not specify I was talking to you.
    M

  • Alison B.

    Meredith,
    Thank you so much for writing me back about my blog! I know it was probably lengthy, and a little obvious that I was hypomanic at the time; so sorry for that. =)
    I just wanted to say thanks for your input on my husband and I appreciate your offer to help him manage. I am not sure where to go from here with him, he is having a hard time soaking everything in now that I am back with a doctor again. I dont know what to think right now in terms of a support group or reaching out to others if he is there yet. I do know that I am going to give it my best shot and take baby steps in hopes he is able to find a way to communicate better with me. He is just not receptive about any open communication about bipolar disorder and its effect on our lives so how are we suppose to fix anything!?
    I do agree with you that this would help him tremendously just not sure that he is going to be any more open to that idea than he is to talking with me. If and when he gets there though I will hopefully still have your offer available to me and would love to take you up on it. So thanks!
    Right now this is how I see it: he and I have two roads right now we can travel on and its either the long one or the short one; neither being the easy one. It’s up to him which road he chooses cause I already have chosen mine.
    For my health and a successful life that is not filled with bipolar symptoms and thoughts I must choose the long road and I just hope he does it with me that he will be my travel buddy along the way in a sense so that I have the support I need. I guess its gonna take time, but until then I thank you for your comments and support! Take Care and hope to hear from you again soon!

    • Hi Alison B.,
      You’re welcome. I totally understand that he may not be ready. I’m sorry you are having to deal with that in addition to your own health issues. I am so lucky. But some people have a strange relationship with mental illness, one that is very much at arms-length. Does he have anything in his personal history that has put him off so strongly to mental illness? I hope he chooses the route you’re on and I wish you luck.
      Take care!

  • Alison B.

    Thanks Meredith, and best of luck to you as well….talk to you soon!

    -Alison B

  • Alison B. just found out about this dvd. I have not checked it out but it might be helpful
    http://www.BipolarDisorderDVD.com

  • Suzanne

    I’m not sure if I posted this before (memory thing!), but NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)has a free class (10 weeks, I believe) for family members of those who have loved ones dxed w/a mental illness. It is a wonderful class where family members learn about all the major mental illnesses & how to support their loved ones & also how to do “self-care” so they do not get “consumed” by the mental illness & still have a fulfilling life themselves (which I am happy my husband has been able to do; we’ve been married 36 yrs. & have been together since I was 15 & he was 16!).

    The family members in this class bond & often continue to meet after the class is over to support each other & have a place to “vent” as they have formed unique & meaningful relationships w/others who understand what they are experiencing. I know several couples who have children–young adults–who have been recently dxed w/bipolar & have told them about this class. They said it was tremendously helpful (learned a lot about the illness), but they also formed some good friendships of people who understand the stress, pain & trauma the family members experience.

  • Suzanne

    You can look for a Family-to-Family class at nami.org

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