The only way to bipolar stability is a consistent treatment plan.
When I started one of my current meds, I held out no hope it would help me. My doctor encouraged me to take the first pill right before going to bed. It was good advice, especially considering I had slept about four hours in the week prior.
Still, the last dozen medications we tried had been no more effective for my mental health than popping Pez candy. Her treatment plan instructions fell on deaf ears.
For dinner, I spoiled myself and cooked a juicy steak and baked potato. I sat comfortably in my recliner, flipped on the TV, and put that first pill in my mouth.
The next thing I knew, it was five hours later. My dinner was long cold on the plate in my lap, my left hand still clutching a fork. It took everything I had to drag myself to bed, where I slept for the next twelve hours.
When I woke, I felt rested for the first time in months. It was a small miracle.
It Takes Time
I cautiously took the second pill that night. And then the third. For a solid week, I followed my treatment plan and slept every single night. It was amazing! I felt optimism for the first time in months and thought maybe I found the right treatment plan for my mental health condition.
But as with most things in my life, it couldn’t last. After about two weeks, the effects of the medication were less impressive. I would still fall asleep, but rarely slept more than two or three hours. In the morning, I felt groggy and sluggish. The disappointment brought on depression symptoms as I worried another treatment plan had failed me.
I called my doctor, and she told me to come in for a check-up. After discussing how I was doing, she decided to increase my dosage. It took a few more tries to get me to the best level, but that one pill changed my life. It was part of the right treatment plan that lead to lasting stability.
For most people I know, treating bipolar requires medication. There are some who find a natural path to treatment, and I salute them. I wish the natural solutions helped me stay stable, but they didn’t.
So medication is my path and part of my treatment plan. It’s a powerful tool in my treatment toolbox.
Regardless of whether you need medication or can thrive with natural treatment, the essential thing is to follow your treatment plan every day.
Since medication is part of the treatment plan for so many, we’ll focus on it for the rest of this post. However, the same types of suggestions can apply to many different treatment plans.
Take your medication as prescribed
Take your medication as prescribed, or face the consequences. That’s what I’ve been told, time and time again. And it’s true, if you don’t follow your treatment plans, you will probably experience a relapse.
I’ve been living with bipolar disorder for over 25 years now. In that time, I’ve had my fair share of relapses. Some have been minor, and some have been catastrophic. With most of them, I could have avoided the worst if I had just taken my medication as prescribed.
So why is it so hard to take our medication as prescribed? There are several reasons, but for me, it was usually the same lie. I would start feeling good and think, “I don’t need my medication anymore.” Cut to a few weeks or months later, and I was picking up hitchhikers, spending money like a billionaire, and sleeping five minutes a week. Negative feelings drove me to push people away, and I spiraled out of control.
Every time, walking away from my treatment plan was an epic fail. It strained my relationships, stressed my family, and caused more than a few job problems.
It’s important to remember that bipolar disorder is a chronic illness. Like any other chronic illness, it needs to be managed. Medication is an essential part of that management, and skipping doses or stopping altogether can have serious consequences.
One dear friend played the start-and-stop game so many times, the medications became ineffective. Treatment-resistant bipolar is no picnic, and the things I saw her suffer gave me nightmares. Her failure to follow a treatment plan made things so much worse. Now, I never miss a dose. It’s not worth the potential consequences.
Keep Your Caregivers Informed
If you’re struggling to take your medication as prescribed, talk to your doctor. They may be able to adjust your dose or switch you to a different medication. And if you’re experiencing side effects from your medication, be sure to tell your doctor so they can help you manage them.
Not all medications work for every person. One popular bipolar medication turned me into a walking zombie. For months, I went through the motions of living, but nothing touched me. I couldn’t express anger or joy. Everything was gray and dull, and I didn’t care.
Finally, my mom called the doctor herself. “That’s not my son,” she told him. “Something has to change.”
A medication change helped the real me resurface. I don’t remember most of the days I walked around in that stupor, but I’m glad my mom had the number or my doctor and knew what to do.
Healthy communication skills are vital for managing mental health. Make sure your family member or close friend knows how to reach your doctor if necessary. In my zombie days, I didn’t know what was going on. If my mom hadn’t stepped in, I might have stayed in the haze for years.
I don’t say this to scare you. Bipolar treatment has come a long way in 25 years, and I rarely hear horror stories like what I went through. It is important to know that some treatments won’t work for you, and that’s okay. When one doesn’t, it’s just time to try something else.
Stick to Your Treatment Plan
Taking your medication as prescribed may not be easy, but it’s essential for keeping bipolar disorder in check. So don’t forget your treatment plan, or face the consequences.
If you’re struggling with bipolar disorder, I encourage you to speak with your doctor about medications. They can be a lifesaver. Just make sure to take them as prescribed and to follow up with your doctor regularly so they can adjust your dosage as needed. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Topics to discuss with your doctor about medications:
- What side effects you are experiencing
- If the medication is working
- If you need a higher or lower dose
- If you should continue your current treatment plan or try something else.
Your doctor will also want to know if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant, as some medications are not safe for pregnant women. They will also want to know about any other medications you are taking, as well as any medical conditions you have.
Be sure to tell your doctor everything so they can make the best decision for your health. If anything changes, keep your doctor informed so they can make treatment adjustments.
Yes, taking medication every day sucks, but for many of us, it’s the only healthy way to stay stable. If not for you, do it for those you love. They deserve the best you, and treating your bipolar is the only way to get there.
Until next time, keep fighting.