Before I was diagnosed with Bipolar, I only knew one person that had Bipolar. She would go on and off of her medication and it would cause a lot of problems for both her and her loved ones. I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t stay on her medication. It made no sense to me. If you’re sick, you do what the Dr. tells you to do to get better. If he gives you medication, you take it as prescribed, right?
I wish I could go back in time, knock myself over the head and tell myself to take a walk in her shoes. Today, I stand here, wearing her shoes and I tell ya Sister, I’ve worn those suckers in. So, if you’re reading this and you question why someone with Bipolar might struggle with their medication, I’m going to save you from trying on these old, ratty shoes. I want to be clear that I am in no way advocating for people to go off of their medications. I am only sharing my experience in hopes of bringing some understanding to the topic by sharing my journey.
Have you ever taken pain medication? Maybe you had your wisdom teeth out or broke a bone and the doctor prescribed you a medication that altered your state of being. Maybe you slurred your words, said things that you didn’t mean to say, forgot what had happened while you were under the influence of the medication. Maybe it made you feel like someone else? Now, imagine having to take that medicine day in and day out, slowly losing yourself and becoming somebody new. Would you want to take that medication every day?
For me, prior to being diagnosed with bipolar. I thought of myself as the life of the party. I lit up the room when I walked in. I talked with strangers, told jokes, had an electric personality. Bipolar made me believe that I was really something special. I knew more, lived on a different level, had abilities and charm like no other. They call this delusions of Grandeur. It was a great feeling. Almost like being on cocaine all of the time. An EXTREME high. This is what hypomania felt like for me on the good days. I wasn’t afraid of anything and I always had something to say. I knew that everyone would love me when they met me and felt I could do anything I set my mind to.
Now, fast forward to the crash. Debilitating depression. I would stay in bed all day and cry. There was no reason for it. Nobody died. Nothing had happened. I had just crashed. I would wait as long as I possibly could to use the bathroom because I did not want to leave that bed for anything. My mind slowed down but my thoughts were all self defeating and I imagined every catastrophe happening to me and my loved ones over and over again. I was afraid to leave my house and I thought everyone “knew.” What they “knew” I’m unsure of, but I was confident that they knew. I know that I felt as if my family would be far better off if I were gone. Suicidal thoughts galore. It’s a horrible existence for the person suffering from the depression and for those that love them.
These examples are the extreme mood swings in bipolar that most are aware of. After my diagnosis, I was prescribed Lamictal and Latuda. Mood stabilizers have to do TWO very different things. Bring you up out of the “I cannot get out of bed – depression” but keep you down from the “I feel like I could fly if I jump off this building – mania.” It’s prescribed to balance you out.
What it did for me is turn me into a zombie. I stared off into space most of the time. I was so tired that if I were sitting down for too long, I’d fall asleep in an upright position. Take away the delusional grandeur and generally, I’m a relatively intelligent woman. I could speak in public, give presentations, and carry on intellectual conversations. While on these medications, I couldn’t come up with the words I was searching for in a one-on-one conversation. I would forget what I was saying mid-sentence. I sounded like an idiot if you didn’t know any better. Most of the time, I didn’t even want to talk anymore. If we did get a chance to interact, my memory was failing me and on occasion, I would forget that we had even spoken. I quit answering my phone, I quit going out, I didn’t want to make small talk at the gas station or grocery store anymore. Who I was before- she was gone.
Imagine that. Being the life of the party – I can do anything type of person and then taking a pill to bring you down from that and turn into a zombie. It’s a horrible existence. There are plenty of other side effects for people, too. Nausea, vomiting, loss of interest in sex, shivering/trembling, twitches, memory loss, the list goes on and on. Such drastic impacts on personality can be enough for some to stop taking medication and risk the mood swings so that at bare minimum, they may have a chance to experience life feeling alive.
Up until 2 weeks ago, I took my medicine as prescribed, every day. I plan on documenting my experience with and without medication here at Owl Of Knowledge and I hope you’ll join me. I’d love to hear about your experience with medication for mental illness. Share your comments below. Thanks for stopping by. Owl of Knowledge – OUT.