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Bipolar Treatment: If I'm Doing Everything Right, Why Am I Still Sick?

July 1, 2010 Natasha Tracy

If you’ve followed your doctor’s bipolar treatment suggestions, and tried every treatment for bipolar, why are you still sick? Is it your fault? Breaking Bipolar blog has an answer.

Once you’re on a magical medication cocktail, see doctors regularly, have done years of talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), tried shock therapy (ECT), exercise, have social contacts, a support network, a support group, eat well, tried light therapy, dark therapy, and a series of awful tasting herbs and you find yourself still unwell; the question must be asked:

If I’m doing everything right, why am I still sick?

I’ve been in treatment for bipolar disorder for 12 years and have been asking myself that question for most of them.

What Doctors Tell Us

Here are a few of the things we hear in the doctor’s or therapist's office:

  1. Most bipolars respond to treatment
  2. Most bipolars lead happy, normal lives
  3. Electroconvulsive therapy is the “gold standard” of depression treatment and almost always works

What We Know

According to research and science, here is what we know:

  1. Technically, this is true. “Most” is more than half, and yes, it seems that more than half of bipolars respond to treatment. Between 10 and 25 percent of people (depending on who you ask) are “treatment resistant” and in spite of bipolar treatment will remain sick. No one knows why.
  2. This is highly debatable. I have yet to hear from a person with a severe mental illness who says, “Yup, I lead a normal, happy life”. The people I hear from are hugely impacted by their disorder and while some have spent part of their time being successfully treated, normal, and happy, these periods can be brief and often are the exception, not the rule. There may be people who lead “normal happy lives” but I wouldn’t say it’s “most”.
  3. ECT really is the gold standard of depression treatment and works better than any known antidepressant. However, to suggest it almost always works is ludicrous. In a chart review in 2005, only 65.8% of those with bipolar depression were shown to remit*. That’s a pretty generous use of the term “almost always”.

And Let's Talk About What Remit Means

In medical literature, doctors have to come up a quantifiable scale on which one can be considered depressed and one can consider having remitted - getting better. The bar for depression or bipolar remission is often a reduction in symptoms of 60%. That means people in “remission” still have up to 40% of their symptoms after treatment, and this is considered successful.

And, as a person who has experienced extreme depression and mood disorder I can say, 40% of my symptoms is still enough to ruin my whole day.

Let’s Reset Expectations

These numbers aren’t to depress you or make bipolar treatment seem hopeless. Even for me, with almost every treatment for bipolar disorder under my belt, and doctors giving up on me, it’s not hopeless. The idea is to grasp some reality here. There is nothing wrong with you for not getting better. You are, in fact, in great company. You did not fail. It’s not your fault. You are with so many of us that struggle every day.

Honestly, if cancer patients can accept the real number on their chance of survival, then so can we. We’re adults. We can handle the truth, slimy though it may be.

The truth is that most of us will have to fight and struggle for the rest of our lives. I think it matters that we know this. I think it matter that we accept this. I think this helps us realize that not getting better is not our fault. We can do everything right and still be sick. Doctors don’t understand this disease. Doctors are treating this disease with a spiky sledgehammer because it’s the best they can do right now.

Part of your life will probably be not getting better. But that’s OK. It’s not your fault. It simply represents a medical ignorance at this time. The good news is, even though we don’t understand why; part of your life will probably be getting better too. Remember that. Keep trying, keep fighting, keep auditioning medication cocktails, and just know that the failure is not yours, it is simply our lack of understanding.

*Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2005
You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2010, July 1). Bipolar Treatment: If I'm Doing Everything Right, Why Am I Still Sick?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/07/bipolar-treatment-if-im-doing-everything-right-why-am-i-still-sick



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, Instagram and Facebook.

adam spillman
says:
June, 26 2017 at 3:05 pm
Nothings working,meds,life,I can't get a job,I have beautiful kids and a beautiful girlfriend,but I'm hitting a wall I don't know how to live or act to other people they are all like aliens to me,my docs say its just depression and put me on different drugs but it never works,I only feel relief when I'm isolated and in nature away from the idiots I can't cope now how do I get help?
Mandy James
says:
June, 21 2017 at 12:45 pm
I am having issues with being able to get my meds right. Been going to a psychiatrist for about 3 years since being diagnosed with bipolar. I've been on so many things, but the mood stabilizers have always helped the most. My problem is that I have had to go on and off meds cause of the dangerous side effects some have given me. For instance, I was on Lamictal and Lithium and ended up in the emergency room from toxicity issues with the Lithium. Just the other day, I discovered I have the beginnings of the "Lamictal rash" or Steven-Johnson's syndrome. I was put on Depakote in conjunction with the Lamictal I was taking and it ended up triggering horrible bumps all over my chest and back that were working their way up my neck. The skin was getting red and starting to itch. Had to go off the Depakote quickly!

So, yeah. That kind of stuff bites, but there is always hope though. Just gotta find the right combo. My doc told me not to feel bad because I am so resistant to treatments. It's like it's one step forward and two steps back on some days. But, what choice do I have? I have to get better somehow. All I can say is to not give up. There are many of us right there struggling with you. We may not know each other on a personal level, but we are never truly alone in our daily struggles. Find hope and hold on to it with a vice-grip. It doesn't matter if it's finding hope in a dear friend's encouraging words, in family, a pet or a talent you have. Grab on to it and never let go.
sarah
says:
January, 20 2017 at 8:57 am
So this is my wish list to help improve things and maybe help the people on this.
1.Remember when things are not great,they'll pass eventually.
2.Keep eating as healthy as possible and exercise,upping the tempo to lose some weight.
3.Talk.keep talking it out,go to the depression group,see the therapist,talk to my mam,cousin,whoevers good to chat with.
4.Stop isolating myself,this is the hard one,as im hiding away.
5.To aim to get back working and feeling more productive,as at the moment dont feel that i am.
sarah
says:
January, 20 2017 at 8:49 am
Hi everyone.just been reading some comments there.one guy spoke about wanting to ripping someones head off,know that feeling.someone else spoke about not holding down work for too long and having short lived good experiences.i can relate to all that.i was feeling pretty downhearted sitting here feeling concerned about what life has in store for me.theres lots i can do if i want,but the brain knowing what is good things to do,struggles due to the force of nature of this thing that dictates or tries hard to stop you from doing anything productive.the fight at the moment is with me exercising,the demon keeps trying to stop me.
Sage
says:
December, 21 2016 at 2:58 pm
I wish this page was up dated it is almost 2017 I'm under treatment to and I tell you I almost think nothing is going to work feeling like this is just dreadful being 40 and never dated able to keep a long term job getting tricked into things taken advantage of I know I'm a good person but this is not living what I'm doing this is waking up looking out the window and saying "Really I have to do this all again " ? I'm tired I had so many great things in my life happen that I did BUT sadly they were all short lived then I get to spend years later dwelling how I messed up I see people with family's get cancer and suffer while there family's watch and prey, not understanding why it is not I that get's it I could never kill my self because I believe I would spend the rest of my after life in another HELL so I bite the bullet pardon the pun and trek on I'm worried now my Doctor will soon say there is nothing more that he can do for me , I applied for Canada pension plan in the hopes I get that and I can move to Costa Rica my cholesterol is getting higher as well witch makes no sense as I do not smoke , drink eat meat and I exercise, Fingers crossed for CPP Happy Holidays to you all
kgb
says:
November, 29 2014 at 6:47 am
My only thoughts after reading this is 'What's the point of living if all I have to look forward to is nothing but more misery and struggle the rest of my life? The past has been horrible and if it's never going to stop, I seriously don't want to do this for 20+ more years.
david
says:
May, 7 2013 at 6:59 am
Everywhere I look today, it seems there is a different truth.

I don't believe a word anyone says anymore... antidepressants dont work, exercise don't work, eating good dont work, being a vegan dont work, get religious dont work, being spiritual dont work, the sunny weather dont work, having a loving girlfriend dont work.

Perhaps we need to be more true to ourselves and behave as our nature inclines us.. in that case I feel like ripping the head off every person see and chewing their flesh mmmm.... I'll give it a try
Karen
says:
January, 14 2013 at 5:52 am
Thankyou Natasha for another encouraging article. I have been hoping for a cure or at least a medication mixture that would stop my mood swings altogether. I have had Bi- polar most of my life but did not know it. I was diagnosed 10 years ago as the simptoms became worse and I was not able to cope with it anymore, so went on medication. After finding a cocktail of meds that I could live with, because of the side effects, I thought I was saved. That is untill my last mood swing. I was so angry ,Mixed state this time,the psychiatrist told me to read a book on dealing with anxiety and said that bi-polar was just a label for people like me that could not deal with anxiety. I was so angry I decided to sack the mental health team helping me and go it alone, including giving up meds. Needless to say I ended up in hospital, and being ask to go through a relapse prevent course for the third time. I felt as if they were blaming me for the relapse, by trying to teach me how to handle my life again, and what with the psychiatrist, I felt like the medical profession were trying to say its my fault because I am not doing what they say, when I feel I am trying. So to here you say its an on going problem, that will not be cured yet, helps me to forgive myself for failing to be healed.
R. Flint
says:
January, 3 2012 at 10:35 am
I control my own bipolar without prescribed medication on my own and have now done so for several years.

I took this path in desperation after decades of mental illness, mis-diagnoses and being foolish enough to believe that prescribed medication, psychiatry and recovery are compatible IN MY CASE.

My key breakthroughs were:-

Agressively confronting ALL the problems I had in my life which might contribute to poor mental health and REFUSING to use bipolar as an excuse. These included stopping alcohol, nicotine, narcotic and caffeine consumption. Addressing compulsive behaviours such as sex and spending and eliminating all toxic relationships including family members, or any which had a negative impact or view of mental illness and the challenges I face daily.

Agressively confronting ALL the trauma I had experienced in my life - with or without the help of a therapist. Lack of money is no excuse to keep the truth from yourself and frequently a counsellor is unable to confront your problems as you see them in any way that could be effective - because it pays them not to! Other people cannot dictate how we resolve our own problems. We are the masters of our own fate in all things. At best therapy can only guide someone toward a better understanding of a situation, but that and talk cannot cure bipolar or faciltate permanent closure on an issue.

Stopping and refusing to take any prescribed medication for my mental health against medical advice. The cold-turkey withdrawal was horrendous, but I have NEVER regretted doing so.

Researching and using vitamins and minerals to address chemical imbalances and fatigue. Of all these I find Magnesium and Vitamin B complex the most essential.

Realising that the cumulative impact of both low and high-level trauma may have brought about the onset of bipolar as well as genetic and environmental factors.

Recognising that my highs and lows matched specific emotional states and confronting the reality that I became increasingly manic when engaging with positive events, emotional challenges and activities and depressed when faced with negative events, emotional challenges and activities. Consequently I now try to reverse these matched states to maintain balance, so when I am high I do things that challenge negatively and when I am depressed I only engage with things that challenge positively.

Coming to the conclusion that IN MY CASE a significant component of my bipolarity had developed as a protection against things I could or could not engage with - rather than an organic mental illness. In fact I no longer think of bipolar as a mental illness at all, but as a physical one which I must treat like any other chronic physical injury or condition.

As a result my mood swings are radically reduced to a very manageable degree within a remarkably normal spectrum of variation - much more than I ever believed possible.

I have been bipolar since early childhood and I'm now 43. All I would say is that if you want to learn to live with this illness to the fullest - be relentlessly tough on yourself, kind to yourself whenever it is most required, be brutally honest, be realistic about the risk of death or danger, use the internet wisely and to your advantage and most important of all - do not listen to the opinions of others when your inner voice tells you a different story.

GOOD LUCK!
Natasha Tracy
says:
January, 5 2011 at 6:13 am
Hi Bob,

I'm so glad I could help.

- Natasha
Bob
says:
January, 5 2011 at 2:32 am
Thank you for your feedback, Natasha and Karen. I appreciate it. Natasha, I read many of your links. They were very helpful. You are providing a great service!

Bob
Natasha Tracy
says:
January, 2 2011 at 12:40 pm
Hi Karen,

That is certainly one perspective. In my personal research I have seen no scientific, peer-reviewed, published evidence that orthomolecular "medicine" works.

Regarding histamines specifically, I'm having a hard time coming up with research to support that theory too. It might be there though, I haven't spent a lot of time searching. And this, actually, says pretty much the opposite: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20021346

Certainly anyone is welcome to try any treatment they like, but suggesting treatments with no scientific backing can be dangerous.

- Natasha
Natasha Tracy
says:
January, 2 2011 at 12:25 pm
Hi Bob,

I've written a lot about people who want to get help for their loved ones. Here and elsewhere: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/09/how-do-i-convince-my-friend-to-get-help-for-bipolar-disorder/

But what it comes down to is this - you can't save someone who doesn't want saving.

I'm sad to say that the only person that can make your ex better is herself. She has to do the therapy. She has to see the doctor. She has to follow the treatment plan. You can't make her do any of those things.

It sounds to me like you're doing everything possible to point her in the right direction. You're caring and helpful and you're doing the very best you can. But you can't fix this, only she can.

The only thing you can do is call the police if she becomes a danger to herself or others. Outside of that your hands are tied.

I'm sorry, but she has to want to get better.

- Natasha
Karen
says:
January, 2 2011 at 11:15 am
Bob,
Your ex sounds like her histamines might be too high. An elevated level of histamines is one common cause of serious depression. A histamine problem often runs in families. When my loved one became psychotic, a friend recommended a book by Linda Santini called "The Secrets to Recovery from Mental Illness." You can see it at Amazon.com. The point of her book is that people get biochemical imbalances, not chemical imbalances. Their biochemistry is all out of whack and needs to be restored with biochemicals (nutritional medicine). That's "orthomolecular" treatment so I used it on my family member and he recovered completely. Drugs only mask the symptoms of mental illnesses so people are almost never cured - they are just turned into lifelong customers while their symptoms are "managed."
Bob
says:
December, 31 2010 at 9:40 am
My ex is bi-polar and I want to be able to support her as best I can. What could that look like? She has only one other friend, her parents are old and in another state, she is in foreclosure, is on disability, has tried 2 sets of ECT, has run out of money and has no energy to do anything. She composes suicide thoughts in her head daily. I help her financially, take her out to eat, to shows occasionally, to movies, to the mall, etc. We play cards. I visit her once a week. I pray for her, encourage her to stay in touch with her doctor. Encourage her to watch her diet, to exercise and so forth. Her friend takes her to the movies, cleans her house ocassionally, calls her, etc. Yet, in spite of all, there is no progress!!! I wish she would pursue effective talk and cognitive therapy, expand her network, and be more regimented with her exercise and eating. She admits she is not good about structure. What is one who cares to do? I too am out of ideas and often live in fear that she WILL take her life. Her two oldest brothers did and so did her grandfather. Help!!!!
Natasha Tracy
says:
November, 11 2010 at 9:12 am
Exx. The Forever Lost,

I wrote a post in response to your comment. Please read it.

http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/11/you-think-theres-only-darkness-hopelessness-you-are-wrong/

- Natasha
Exx
says:
November, 7 2010 at 4:40 pm
What irony is this. I read these messages out of curiosity, and it shows how many people can interact with other people and lead a normal life for the most part. For me, I've always either been alone or only had one friend. I have family, but I keep them at arm's length. Even as I sit here and write this, there is no one near enough to me that if I shot myself it'd be noticed. It really makes me wonder how disturbed I've become after all this time. I suppose my case is a bit unusual. As a child, I was heavily medicated for a series of issues including manic depressive bipolar, and what was described to me as a "slight case of psychotia." Then, at the start of my high school years, I quit my medication because it was just no longer working the way I wanted it to. I felt wrong on what ever cocktail I tried. Now, I'm 23. I live locked away in a small room, away from the world. You keep saying there's a light, but I've been here in this hole in excess for 4 years now with no light. Where's mine? Yeah, right.

Exx. The Forever Lost
gill
says:
November, 4 2010 at 7:38 am
I know where you are coming from - I feel like an alien on drugs and would love to do what you did as I am also very creative and hate not being able
to do what I love - and of course whole family against me going off meds -but I need my memory back and to laugh again at everything.
I just need to no matter how scary it is - How would you suggest I do this-
Much appreciated
Gill
Amy
says:
November, 4 2010 at 7:30 am
Van,

I too, have thought of getting off of my meds many, many times...too many times to count. I take my gagging handful of pills every night pretending that I don't have bipolar disorder. I know my best friend, who has bipolar also, has overcome her disease now without meds, but her episodes have never been severe as mine.
Two summers ago, I suffered the most severe depression ever. I had started a job where I was delegated work that I was not suited for, and started having difficulty concentrating and was unable to work. I became so sick, that my psychiatrist eventually removed my medication regimen...but I didn't get better. I didn't leave the house for months, except by force, stopped eating, and barely left the bed. I didn't care if I talked to friends or family, or my boyfriend whom I lived with. I planned my suicide...but was too afraid that I'd end up paralyzed or something worse than living in my state of despair. My psychiatrist and family decided that ECT was the last resort. I had eight of the ten prescribed treatments, until I started going manic...my doctor had not restarted me on any of my meds.
Now I'm over $35,000 in debt from my being out of work and my shopping sprees...I was excited, being off my meds and not eating, I lost 60 pounds so I bought a surplus of clothes, jewelry, and gifts. I started drinking again and making poor decisions. Then I had to go back on antipsychotics and mood-stabilizers and I gained at least eighty pounds and became ashamed of my body again.
Van, I wish I could say that no meds is the answer. But from my personal experience and that of a master's prepared psychiatric nurse, I say "Be patient, see your therapist, and swallow." Your illness is just that, a disease, a disorder, but it does NOT define you...unless you let it. Only you can roll over every morning and be grateful...You are not a freak. And you can still be expressive on meds. God Bless You.
Amy, RN, MSN
Van
says:
November, 4 2010 at 6:49 am
I struggle with the idea of getting better. After six years of medication I did the radically inadvisable thing of going off all of them cold turkey. Yes, I knew you should never ever do this and it's possible and even likely my judgment was impaired. I had just gotten the bad news that my medicine cocktail was doing nasty things to me... so much so they were going to need to scrap it (though I'm sure in a much nicer safer way than I did) and make me start over. I remember, vaguely, feeling distant and muddled as the doctor told me the results of the tests and then I walked away and didn't go back.

I suffered rather nasty withdrawal symptoms, but I made it through them. I even managed to get myself stable for a while... almost six years with only minor episodes that quelled quickly. And then I sank into a depression and started hitting manic and this time... the cycling was so fast. It seems like there's never any break.

I'm not sure I really prefer any of them. I'd much rather be stable. But as a creative person, I do value the inspiration and the energy to do something with the inspiration that comes with a manic or hypomanic state. But there's also the rage and the anxiety and those things... I could do without those. And the impaired judgment... I could do without that.

But on the flip side there's the depression. And there's not anything good I can say about depression.

But I can say while I don't prefer any of them, what I really dread is hitting a mixed state. And I've hit those with more frequency lately.

I've considered returning to meds. I have. But I also looked back on those six years of medicine and realized that I have almost no memory of it. I know it happened. I know some of what happened and what we did because of stories people tell. And I remember a few things... not many. But mostly I know that I stopped writing almost completely during that time and I'm not sure I could bear that again.

I don't know if I can get better. And somehow it helps to know that not everyone does. It makes me feel like less of a freak.
Stycleemict
says:
August, 18 2010 at 4:46 pm
Very Interesting!
Thank You!
Natasha Tracy
says:
August, 6 2010 at 5:56 am
Hi Chris,

Well, let me start with the important part - thanks for the compliments :)

Yeah, I've had people "jealous" of me as well. Believe me, there's nothing to be jealous about. And honestly, with your relationship and family, I'm jealous of you. It all decides on what side of the fence you're on. However, I understand how hard you must have worked to get that and keep it. And I don't underestimate that.

And here's the thing, you _are_ that strong. You might not feel that way, but evidence suggests otherwise :)

Thanks for the comment. I wish you the best of luck keeping your stability and accomplishments.

- Natasha
Chris Wells
says:
August, 5 2010 at 6:55 pm
This is a great post. I chuckled at the "most bipolars live happy, normal lives" bit. I've wondered about that so much lately. Right now I'm pretty stable, and fairly happy (due to some cool circumstances), and my life is fairly normal. But it was a disaster six months ago. And I'm not hopeful it's going to be great 6 months from now. Or 6 days. Who knows? This disorder is so unpredictable, how can I expect anything but the unexpected?
I hate, hate, hate that people tell me they wish they could be more stable, like me. First of all, they aren't in my head and don't know how I'm really feeling. I might seem stable...but I'm also pretty good at acting like I'm stable. Two people recently have said they feel jealous at times of my life.
I don't know. I worked for so long and so hard to get to this point. It's the fact that I'm married and have a child that triggers my friends' jealousy. They have no idea how hard it is to have bipolar disorder and try to have a family.
I'm not nearly as strong as people think.
Okay, I'm done rambling. My point was, great post. :)
pharmacy technician
says:
July, 29 2010 at 7:30 am
nice post. thanks.
CHRIS GIMPEL
says:
July, 11 2010 at 11:07 pm
I take Lithium and Risperdal and feel quite well. I was diagnosed as Bipolar 1 a few years ago.
Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 8 2010 at 12:42 pm
Hi Ann,

Thanks so much for sharing. It sounds like you've taken a great turn for the better.

- Natasha
Ann Madeloni
says:
July, 8 2010 at 8:46 am
I have been hospitalized by choice, committed, given ECT, taken a handful of pills three times a day for 18 years, done DBT, cognitive therapy, talk therapy, recovery groups, and a day hospital. About two years ago I learned that the topomax I had been taking for years was killing my memory. It got to the point where, one day while driving home, I panicked because I just couldn't remember how to turn the lights on, and it was getting dark. I kept praying I'd get home before the sun set. So, I slowly weaned off topomax. Then, since I was doing so well, I decided to try going off the geodon. It was even better, so I decided to go off the seroquel. That's where I hit a glitch. When I tried going down below 100 mgs. I couldn't sleep and headed toward mania. So, I stopped there. I take the occasional xanax. And that's it. (Keep in mind this was all done with the knowledge, oversight and approval of my psychiatrist and therapist. Since I went off most of my drugs, I have a love life again with my husband. What's not to like? And I'm back to writing again. Even better. Then I learned I had a tumor on my liver. The doctor who took it out said he couldn't swear to it, but he wouldn't doubt that all the meds added up to that tumor. Again, not that he'd swear to it. For the last 7 years, my husband and I have been living in the country, no neighbors, on a dirt road, in a beautiful 100 year old house. It has done me wonders. Plus, I've made a conscious decision to stay away from people places and things that upset me. And, I got my driver's license again, so I can do my own errands and go to church, where I have made nice friends. At this point, with my psychiatrist's and therapist's blessings, I am committed to keeping the meds no higher than where I am now. If I can't sleep, I don't hesitate to take an ambien, for a lost night's sleep can easily lead to mania. And, if I find myself feeling down, I make a point of getting out and seeing people who I like and trust. There are those days when I feel completely out of joint, and I know that I'm not at my best, so I will hunker down at home, keep myself busy, and stay away from people until it passes. I keep lists, which help me remember what I do from day to day, and I do a daily status update on my blog to keep track of my moods. I keep up with my therapist, for I realized a long time ago, when I didn't understand I have a mental illness, that when I keep up with therapy I always do a lot better. It's all good. And most importantly: I refuse to identify myself as bipolar. I HAVE the illness, the illness is not who I am. I can't begin to describe the emancipation of just accepting I have this illness, and making daily conscious choices to take care of myself, and accept myself. That includes all moods, irrational thoughts, and, on the other side of the coin my creativity. I am now in the process of getting things set up to take a writing course. My goal is to write a book and to become a freelance writer. I can't begin to tell you how good this feels!
Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 7 2010 at 12:21 pm
Hi Donna,

Thanks so much for sharing your story. It's an amazing story of perseverance. I agree; well all need to be proactive in our treatment.

- Natasha
Donna Carlson
says:
July, 7 2010 at 11:30 am
I can hear and feel in my way everything you say......meds, 27 ECT's in the early 80's in a row; when they used different methods, too many hospitalizations to count, restraints and body bags to now where I am 49.
The realization of Bi Polar Illness came to me that I may have an illness but it will not own me nor kill me..........the meds might, lol but I plan to live the best life I know how by learning and trying. Oh I forgot the two suicides I seriously attempted and should not be here.
This all started when I was 25 yrs old after I graduated college and I no longer played sports at that level................the sports from junior high through college kept the bipolar at bay. Bam it hit me after a few yrs of working 16 hrs a day/night starting a business with my husband; exhaustion caught up with me as did bipolar then came schizzo effective disorder..........voices oh how I thought I was definetly done, sick as you say but I did the therapy, upon therapy as you did and nothing, nothing was helping till I turned 30yrs old and this therapist came into my life. He opened me to a world inside me that allowed me to see what I was capable of no matter whether the meds were working at this point or I was high or low or hearing voices.....................1o yrs later I met this Doc that had the meds, the cocktails as everyone calls them and almost as I turn 50 he is always adjusting my meds as the therapist had taught me that I will go on many journeys in life; some wonderful, some really tough and some challenging in a good way but I have a room full of tools. I will never beat the illness but I can live with it just fine.
My husband; my best friend of 26 yrs left in March for his high school girlfriend............I caught him in Feb.; the affair was going on since last July. Yes clueless and I trusted my life with him. We couldn't have children because he was struck by lightening yrs ago but we had many neices, nephews and god children along with our dogs to feel so special. That is why I said he was my best friend, we hiked, gardened and owned a business together...................GONE......more than half my life!!!!! Yet I am doing very well beause of my support system and I used it.
I Pray for all of you......be proactive in your illness, your therapy and your life; it's yours.
Donna
Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 6 2010 at 11:36 am
Hi Heather,

I'm so sorry to hear what a hard time you're having. I don't live in what you live in but I can certainly identify _how_ you live.

Rapid-cycling is extremely hard to treat, which I'm sure you know. All I can tell you is that you're not alone. I'm out here, and I'm thinking of you.

- Natasha
Heather
says:
July, 6 2010 at 8:28 am
I am also one of the 10+% that has never experienced a lengthy remission. Trust me...I have done it all...tried every med out there...every natural remedy, etc, well, aside from ETC, I've never tried that. A lot of times the meds make me worse or the physical side effects are so bad I can't take them. I have about 3 broken months a year when I feel relatively normal...and that is by my standards, not a "regular" persons standards. I'm a Bipolar I, rapid cycler. I am no fun. Everyone in my family comes home wondering each day what shape I will be in when they walk through the door. I do my best to put a smile on my face and keep myself together for my family but I spend everyday home alone and some days are truly torturous for me. Mania can be fun...when you're happy but it's really horrible when you are full of rage. I spend the majority of my time in a manic state...and the not so good one. Most days I feel like my head is going to literally blow off...I can best describe it by comparing it to a pressure cooker. The racing thoughts suck but what I think is worse is that my mind is so occupied that I can't be fully present in any conversation someone is trying to have with me. They lose me along the way. Sometimes I'm sure I seem crazy. And everyone comments on my poor memory. But really, how can you remember something when you aren't really "with it" enough to pay attention and really listen? When the kids are here I spend most of my time sitting in silence. I'm horribly afraid I will open my mouth and all the negative stuff will just start spraying out, like a driller has struck oil. Although the meds don't take away the majority of my symptoms, they do give me the self control (but not all the time) to keep my rage at bay...I am able to control it enough to just sound really cranky. Oh what a life...
Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 4 2010 at 1:56 pm
Bradley,

I always like when I can make things clearer, and I agree, over the internet things can get muddled. If there's any way I'm not clear in the future, please let me know.

Thanks,

Natasha
Bradley Rowe
says:
July, 4 2010 at 12:20 pm
Natasha,
Thank you for your comments. I think they add a lot to your very clear and helpful post here. Recently I have come to realize that the Internet has a way of making communication much less clear, doubtless due to the inaccuracy of language. After making comments and reading your response, your article is much more clear for me. I hope others will find these comments useful as well. I appreciate you taking the time to converse with me on this.
Regards,
Bradley
Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 3 2010 at 3:04 pm
Hi Bradley,

I don't see where I'm making any comparisons. Sure, if you think comparing yourself to someone you perceive to be in a worse situation than you is helpful, you can feel free to do it.

I don't feel it has anything to do with inferiority. I'm talking about remission, what that means, and how likely it is that people will get and stay there. I'm talking about the fact that people often feel that they've failed because the treatments haven't worked. I don't know that remaining sick has anything to do with comparisons or inferiority.

And this is not "a complaint". What I'm talking about is a reality for many mentally ill people. Acknowledgment of a reality, even if it's unpleasant, is not the same thing as a complaint.

- Natasha
Bradley Rowe
says:
July, 3 2010 at 11:07 am
Hi Natasha,

I do not mean to stop on you. I admire and respect your struggle because I have been in a similar place for a long time.
I'm not sure you understood any of my comment; granted, I did not write it well. I was trying to say that everyone compares themselves unfavorably to those that are doing better, or are more successful then them. In our case, it is comparing ourselves to those less sick then we are. What I am saying we should try is not a quack treatment. I feel we should try to compare ourselves to people that are doing WORSE once in a while. At my second job, I worked decorating the houses of multimillionaires in the Rocky Mountains. What I absolutely hated to hear is how they compared themselves to the billionaires, and came up lacking. "Oh, I'm not good enough for a handmade Bentley..." To which I held my tongue, because what I really wanted to say is "bitch, please".
I'm trying to say this article is not about our bipolar. It's about our inferiority complex. You have a right to complain, because it's been tough. In order to truly feel well, surround yourself with others that also see it's been tough.
Regards,
Bradley

P.S.: Again, if they fail to see it's been tough, you can threaten a lawsuit...
=P
Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 2 2010 at 1:26 pm
Hi Bradley,

In all honesty, some proposed treatments just aren't right for some people and just because one quack out there suggests it, it doesn't make it worth trying. There's a never-ending series of half-baked theories about what "should" be done, and honestly, you have to draw the line somewhere. I've done some of these ridiculous things myself which shows desperation more than anything else. In my opinion, the more a treatment is scientifically proven the more I think it's reasonable to try.

And no, nobody is talking about a cure. At least, not from me. And yes, we all can have different kinds of lives with different levels of functioning.

(Sorry, I don't quite understand the last part of your comment.)

- Natasha
Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 2 2010 at 1:21 pm
Hi Nellie,

Well, it never does end, until you do. And really that's what it comes down to: you want to be here and play these reindeer games then it doesn't end. Good luck on your new meds. Drop by any time.

- Natasha
Bradley Rowe
says:
July, 2 2010 at 1:12 pm
Yeah, the first paragraph of this is really KEY though. Before giving up hope (which in and of itself can cause relapse) make sure you have really done all these things 100% you know. You do not have to be cured in order to ne a good friend and a good person and really make a difference. For example, it worked out pretty well for Thom Yorke so... Finding the light is not about being cured... usually at this point I start listing stuff to try but out sounds like you already got mott of it, except for the part where relapse is OK, rela really as long as there is someone to catch you. Plus I am covered under the ADA so if I crap from my boss or teachers I just wave that in their face puts the fear of God into them.
So yeah don't believe that for a second regardless of how true it is
Sorry on a cell phone =>
Nellie Russell
says:
July, 2 2010 at 11:32 am
This is exactly how I've been feeling the past couple days. I've been writing my own articles about this very thing. I'm glad to see some more information and ideas! I finally contacted my psych again yesterday and as much as I don't want to, I'm temporarily trying some more medication. It does seem like it's never ending though, no matter how much I do.
Pam Isaac
says:
July, 2 2010 at 10:18 am
I am bipolar. I take Seroquel and Zoloft. I havent' worked for 2 years. Iwas approved for SSD. I also have a MSSW in Social Work....not sure if I will ever go back to work. But today I am not suicidal, I sleep, I interact with my family and others, and Know I couldn't function without the meds...they definately keep my mind quiet...
Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 1 2010 at 1:08 pm
Hi KansasSunflower,

Well, in all honestly, I'm not a terribly big fan of hope. I'll elaborate on that some time later. But you're right, if you stick around long enough, there is generally a light to be found.

It's great that you've found something that works for you and yes, it sounds like your partner is amazing too.

- Natasha
KansasSunflower
says:
July, 1 2010 at 12:11 pm
It's true, many failures are usually made before the right medical combination is found, and even then, eventually that too will fail and something new will have to be found once again. You're right, it's not our fault, but it is our fault if we give up and stop trying, and give up hope. We have to have hope, many times that's all we have left. When I was suicidal for month after month after month with no relief in sight, my husband (who was then my fiance) was barely hanging on too (I can only imagine how difficult I must have been and must still be during these times), but told me if I kept trying to get better he would keep trying too. That was 9 years ago, but since then, I've had many crashes and have to keep reminding myself there HAS to be a light at the end of the tunnel, there just HAS to be.....and there always has been, eventually.
Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 1 2010 at 11:35 am
Hi Douglas,

I'm sorry you had such a bad experience with meds. You're in the few who suffer from permanent tardive diskenesia after treatment with antipsychotics it sounds like. Not that it matters that you are in the few. When it's you, you're the only one that matters, I know.

If you feel like you can manage and have the life you want without meds, I wish you well. I don't blame your lack of trust.

And just for the record, I winge sometimes. What can I say, sometimes I just gotta.

Thanks for the compliment. I do so enjoy the flattery.

- Natasha
Douglas Cootey
says:
July, 1 2010 at 10:50 am
Great post, Natasha. I'm one of those untreatable 10-25%. Although I am not bipolar (although I had one doctor who was desperate to label me as such), I spent the greater part of my early 20s trying a variety of psychotropics. Eventually, the combo of desoxyn and zoloft was too much for my system. Although it worked for 3 weeks, I became permanently neurologically disabled. I now have chronic motor tic disorder on top of ADHD & Depression. So I don't take any meds at all. Don't trust them. Can't trust them.

I reasoned at the time that I had always been moody and that the meds made me moodier, so I'd just not use meds and live with being moody. Some days are better than others, and having a positive attitude makes a big difference, but accepting my condition instead of whinging about it has made the biggest difference. I don't have to be miserable. I can fight this thing. And so I do. And will do. Every day of my life.

It helps being certifiably insane, too. LOL

Love your writing. Thanks.

~Douglas

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