When Bipolar Medication Doesn’t Work: Disappointing Your Dr.
I am a very difficult case of bipolar to treat. Believe me. I have been on more bipolar medications than anyone I know and finding an effective cocktail is akin to walking on water. It’s possible, but it’s pretty darn rare. And recently I made a medication change from one antipsychotic to another. It went very badly in a whole host of ways. In fact, I terminated the medication trial early and went back to my previous medication.
I see my doctor this afternoon and now I have to tell him the bad news about how it went. And I feel guilty about failing another bipolar medication. I know he will be disappointed and I feel bad about it.
Yes, some people will correct me and say, “The medication failed you.” Well, use all the wordplay you want, it still feels like I failed another medication treatment.
And, if you have a decent doctor, the doctor is disappointed when treatments fail. They’re not disappointed in you, of course. They are disappointed in the failure. But it’s easy to feel like this is a disappointment in you. It’s easy to read this like you’ve done something wrong. It’s easy to feel like it’s your fault.
And it’s hard to see the look of disappointment on your doctor’s face – especially if you like him. And this look gets more and more pronounced the more treatments that fail.
It’s Not Your Fault
But, as I said, it isn’t your fault. I admit that it feels like it is but we need to remember that this is a depression thing. Depression looks to make us feel bad about everything regardless as to whether there is any actual blame to be had. And in this situation there is no blame. Your chemistry just didn’t match with the chemistry of a drug. That’s no one’s fault.
Scientists see a negative result as favourably as a positive one. This is because a negative result is still a result. It’s still data to take into account. It’s still one step closer to the answer you seek. So we can view medication trials in the same way. If a medication doesn’t work then it’s just one more data point. It’s just one more medication to cross off the list. Yes, because we have personal skin in the game, we would have preferred that it work, but if nothing else, we still got a data point out of it and that data point can help get us to the answer we seek.
Because something will work. It takes time, patience, persistence and a good doctor, but it will happen. If nothing else, this I have learned. Eventually neither of you will be disappointed. But it can be an agonizing wait getting there – and that time will be hard enough so try not to spend it beating yourself up too.
Tracy, N. (2013, March 8). When Bipolar Medication Doesn’t Work: Disappointing Your Dr., HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2013/03/medication-doesnt-work-disappointing-doctor
Author: Natasha Tracy
Of murky waters that lie in my head to the tablets that go down my throat.
Where can i find some escape again,to shut out the dark that has become trapped in my brain.
I'm sorry your doctor was a jerk. That sounds unprofessional, too. Some doctors are like that, I'm afraid.
I just wanted to say that just because lithium didn't work for you doesn't mean that drugs don't work. There are many drugs FDA approved to treat bipolar disorder and many beyond that that are used off label. Additionally, a cocktail is often what's needed in bipolar disorder.
I just want you to know that so you that there is hope. If you feel you need medical help, see a new doctor and try a new treatment. There are many. Here is some information on bipolar medications: http://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-medications/antipsychotic-medications-list-list-of-mood-stabilizers/
- Natasha Tracy
I'm out of treatment options, but my psychiatrist sees me anyway since I do have serious depression problems and want a psychiatrist who knows me so I could get lithium if I needed it. It bothers me that Angel can't get a doctor. Heck, my husband has no more treatment options for his eyes (macular edema) either, but the retina doc still wants to monitor him. Seems negligent, if Angel has serious problems, doesn't it?
I will repeat here - in my case, the treatments greatly worsened my mood problems, and gave me a bunch of behavioral and cognitive problems. So now I'm off the meds, and 4 years later, back to the original bipolar (it took a LONG time) and I wish I'd given up treatment sooner, because at least I can think and I'm a pleasant person again. But if a person is going to go off the prescribed drugs, they should still have a doctor.
A lot of bipolar doctors (probably most, maybe all) think bipolar is many different disorders, and maybe that's why some people get good results, and others have a long running disaster with the drugs.
You haven't said what your diagnosis is, so I can't really tell you much.
You haven't mentioned therapy. Have you tried that? Have you tried cognitive behavioral therapy? Dialectical behavior therapy?
Is repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) treatment an option for you?
What about electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)? It can be very effective even when other medications have failed.
In short, there are options, so please don't give up. Get a consult from a specialist. Go to a mood disorder-specific treatment center. There are people who will help you.
- Natasha Tracy
Obviously, I can't diagnose you but what I can tell you is that the presence of mania and the presence of depression in the same person indicates bipolar disorder. Is it possible that it could be something else? It doesn't sound like it if you primary symptoms are mood-related.
As for bipolar depression, only three medications have been approved for it and it doesn't sound like you've been on any of them.
- quetiapine (Seroquel)
- lurasidone (Latuda) (fairly new)
- olanzapine/fluoxetine combination (Symbax)
If you haven't tried those, then you absolutely should talk to your doctor about them.
Also, in really intractable cases ECT is an option, but you probably want to try those drugs first. (ECT works quickly when it does work though, and that's its advantage (plus it's highly effective for most). It's disadvantage is some memory loss.)
- Natasha Tracy