Keep trying to find the right bipolar disorder medication…..

How Many Medications Should I Try?

This is a difficult question for many health care professionals as well as people with the illness. It’s known that the first bipolar disorder medications tried are not always successful and that a trial and error process is usually indicated. Some people try medications for a year or more until they find something that works for them. Considering medication side effects and the impact on the body when stopping or changing medications, it’s important that you work with your health care professional closely when you’re asked to try a new medication.

I suggest that people keep trying to find the right medications. I use the Health Cards every day as I always say and I used them without medications for many years. It took me about 50% of my time to manage the illness. I’ve always said that managing this illness was a part time job. It was so difficult.

Then I found a medication that worked. It was like getting a business partner! When I combined the Health Cards with the medication, my life changed completely. It just took a few years for it all to work together. I started to get a lot better last year.

So keep trying medications until you find what works. My coauthor Dr. John Preston wrote a fantastic book called The Medical Treatment of Bipolar Disorder. This book is especially helpful if you or someone you care about were just diagnosed. You can read about the book on


Bipolar Disorder Medications – Lamictal Side Effects

Bipolar Medications: Lamictal Side Effects

I love Lamictal. That could be a bumper sticker on my car. I hope you have a medication that you love.

Unfortunately, I have some pretty tough side effects. Right now I’m dealing with the super stiff neck that often comes with the drug. It disrupts my sleep, which isn’t good! It’s like nighttime whip lash. I’ve found that stretching my neck and then using an ice pack helps. I try to get a massage as often as possible. I find myself moving my head over and over again to try to find a comfortable place on my pillow. There usually isn’t one! My side effects come and go, so hopefully this will be gone soon.

I’ve probably written about this on the blog- but I had to write it again to remind people that we may have to live with some side effects if the medication works really well.

Here’s some more info about Lamictal: Lamictal, like Depakote and Tegretol is an anticonvulsant drug that just happens to work for bipolar disorder!

Lithium is the only ‘real’ mood stabilizer. It’s a natural salt which is why it’s so inexpensive! Lithium is a miracle drug for many people- but a lot of us can’t take it.

When it comes to symptoms, Lithium, Tegretol and Depakote are anti mania drugs. They are not anti depression drugs- which is why Lamictal has been the miracle for those of us with bipolar II who don’t have full blown mania.

Lamictal helps with depression, mild mania, rapid cycling, psychosis, OCD symptoms and ADHD symptoms. Wow, that is great.


Bipolar Disorder Triggers

Bipolar Disorder Triggers

I just finished an article on bipolar disorder triggers for my column in BP Magazine.

I was going through some serious trigger issues when I wrote it! Do you write things down when you’re sick? I find it helps. I can often see my role in what’s going on if I write about what I’m honestly feeling.

I started seriously examining my bipolar triggers about eight years ago when I created the Health Cards (my treatment plan on )-  wow, I was a mess. I walked into situations without thinking and I was constantly ill. I’m a lot more vigilant now. A lot more. The minute I start to get sick, I think to myself- what is going on here? And I examine my life. Often it’s a problem with a person or work. Considering that my life pretty much revolves around relationships and work, this is depressing!

A friend of mine was doing really well after spending a few months in the hospital over 10 years ago. And then he got a job promotion. He had his first manic episode in over ten years.  He went back to his regular job and got better quickly. It’s not fair is it.

Triggers aren’t always negative. There are many ‘positive’ triggers as well. It helps if family members can remember that those of us with bipolar are just ridiculously sensitive to change. We don’t like it. I hate it. But it’s our reality.

I think I use the phrase- it’s our reality- about a million times a day.

If you don’t have a subscription to BP Magazine, I highly recommend it. If you subscribe now, you can read my column on triggers in the fall issue!

Bipolar Disorder and Work – reader question reader question


When you say you have trouble finding a comfortable place to work, do you mean creating good physical surroundings? Finding an appropriate setting? Balancing solitude with working with people? Just curious.


It’s all of those things. I guess my main problem is brain fog when it comes to focusing on thing I have to do in order. For example, I have a ton of deadlines in the next week. A book chapter is due. I have to get ready for my DBSA (Depression Bipolar Support Alliance) presentation for the September conference and I have to get copy ready for a class I’m teaching. If I have one project- I can complete it very easily. Having five or six projects jumbles my mind. I make a lot of charts! Another problem is that a lot of my work brings money in months and months later- such as writing a book. So I have to work on what is financially viable first, but sometimes that is not what has to get done!

I like working in crowds while I listen to my ipod. So that is not a problem.

I often find chairs and the height of tables a problem. I never work at home as I get too distracted! It’s for all of these ridiculous roadblocks is why I wrote Get it Done When You’re Depressed. The reason I WILL meet all of my deadlines is because of the tips in that book.

I’m excited that I can work again. It’s a miracle. But no one told me the scheduling would be so hard. My brain just stops and if I’m not really careful the depression comes back pretty strongly!


It’s 2 AM!!!!!!

It’s two am!!! I had caffeine today and this is my punishment. If I didn’t have bipolar disorder, it would not be a big deal. I’d just sleep more the next day or make up for it the next night.

That is not how it works for me. Because I have pretty severe rapid cycling, I can’t risk the highs of caffeine simply because they mess up my sleep so badly! I’ve only had regular coffee a few times this year – I usually drink decaf. But the iced coffee today when it was ninety degress just looked and tasted so good. It sent me way up and I thought I was going into an up swing.

It took me until one am tonight to realize what was happening. Now I have to take my Ativan to sleep and my day will be screwed up tomorrow. I have enough mood swings as it is.

Caffeine is a serious problem for people who have bipolar disorder. The iced coffee tasted so good! But I’ve learned that bipolar management is all about tradeoffs. 15 minutes of pleasure for a sleepless night is not a good deal.

No more caffeine!


bipolar disorder depression tips

Bipolar Depression Symptoms

Make a list of your top five depression symptoms:

Write out this list and put it in your wallet. When the depression starts take it out and read it. Then say to yourself, “If I’m going through something on this list, it has to be depression. This means I have to treat the depression first.”

Depression behavior rarely changes. When you learn your symptoms, you can differentiate them from the real you.
If you care about someone with depression, make a list of their top five depression symptoms. Memorize them. This helps you know what you’re up against when their behavior is confusing. You can say to yourself, “I remember this! He always talks like this when he’s depressed! We have to focus on treating the depression instead of talking endlessly about what is wrong.”

This prevents the Bipolar Conversation. I write about the Bipolar Conversation in all of my books!


A few of my bipolar disorder depression symptoms:

I Think: I will never find a partner.
I Hear a voice: What is the point of working?
I Believe: Things will never get better.
I Cry easily. 
I Eat everything I don’t need to be eating!

My depression never changes. My management skills have just gotten so much better that I can overcome the depression more easily than I used to.