Being Medication Free… Is it Possible?

As the New Year gets underway, an underlying question remains.

The Bipolar Writer Looks at the Possibilities

My story, the one where my mental illness became Bipolar One, begins with so much pain. That, of course, is a story for another time.

What I want to talk about today is medication. Day one there were a handful of medications that, in the psychiatric ward, I was told I had no choice but to take if I ever wanted to leave. To be fair, I was quite suicidal at the time. There is a real need for medication throughout the last eleven years. I would not be here without the medication that I have been on, and I know this is the truth. That doesn’t mean that change is good.

Over the last few months, a consistent theme has been coming into fruition in my mind–could I live this Bipolar life without medication?

In the last few months, I have worked to get myself of antidepressants with a lot of success. My depression is down without medication (side note my other medications help with depression prevention as well.) Still, I can say with certainty I am better off without the antidepressants.

Things have been different. I usually go through some severe depression, and last year around this time I was going through a small but destructive depression cycle. It put me back quite a bit, and the only thing that got me through was this blog. From March to May, I also suffered a significant setback in my depression with a prolonged depression cycle. I made it through, but I knew things had to change.

I must say this, any medication change should be consulted with a psychiatrist or whomever you seek your medication from!

The changes that I made was under the care of my psychiatrist and we planned out the stepping down of medication.

With the success, I am wondering about two medications that I wish I could live without–Seroquel and Ativan. The issue I have with Ativan is that I have been taking this (benzo) for a long time. With the Seroquel, I wonder if it is a contributing factor to my social anxiety.

The worst part of Seroquel is how it makes you feel throughout the day. It makes it hard to wake up in the morning, and while it used to help me sleep right away, it sometimes takes hours before I get to sleep when I take my dosage.

This coming Friday I have my first psychiatrist visit of the New Year. This will be a topic of discussion. I really believe it is possible to live this life without the mountain of medication. Anything is possible, and worst case I have to get back on the medication. I can imagine a life without it, even if it has been my life every day for over eleven years.

Always have hope in the future. Continuously evolve in this mental illness life. I will most likely be Bipolar for life, but that doesn’t mean it has to control me. I will be updating my progress (and if my psychiatrist agrees) in future posts. Stay tuned.

Always Keep Fighting (AKF)

James

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The Grieving Process of My Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

After my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, it took me many years before I fully accepted I had this life-changing mental illness.

The first step in any recovery is acceptance. I realized I had to accept the truth of the reality of my illness before I could be ready to seek the necessary treatments to start the recovery process. I had to be ready to fight and heal my pain and internal mental scars.

I wish my acceptance of bipolar disorder would have been automatic and not taken so many years because then I think my life could have improved sooner.

To begin to accept my bipolar disorder I had to go through a grieving process, which took me a long time. It was a painful process and journey for me.

1. Denial  I do not have bipolar disorder. I do not have a mental illness. You are wrong. I do not want this. I can still teach and do everything I used to do. I am the same good person. I am a great person so I cannot have this illness.

2. Anger – When I was first diagnosed, I was very ill from the side effects of the medications they were giving me and other reasons as well. I did not understand what was happening to me. This caused me to have a lot of anger. I blamed everyone around me and basically hated everyone, especially if they tried to help me. I was not a good patient at all, and I tried to fight everything they said and did to me when they tried to help me. I lashed out at others and made people feel bad. I have guilt for some of my past behaviors when I was first diagnosed, as I acted horribly. I felt like a horrible person at the time of my initial diagnosis. Ugh! My anger was very painful and intense.

3. Bargaining – Why me? If I stop taking all of my medications I will be “normal” again and I will be fine. I will show everyone they are wrong. If I stop taking my medications and stay away from all medical care, psychiatrists and hospitals and go back to my life the way it was before, everything will be OK. I will show everyone I am fine.

Going off all my medications was a bad idea because after a couple of years of not taking my medications and not receiving any help or support I had a full blown manic episode which lasted about a year. Because my episode caused me to become so severely ill I had to receive medical help again and have continued it ever since.

4. Depression – I realized the true magnitude of the loss of myself and loss of my life the way it once was. Everything changed for me. My old life was permanently gone with bits and pieces still hanging on but not many. I had no more control in my life. People were telling me how to live and who I had become. One doctor told me I would never be the same again but they could get me to live a functional life. What? That sounded like a death sentence to me, and it was like a death sentence for many years, as I tried to end my life many times. My life was put into a survival mode with doctors and professionals basically just trying to save me. I was not living, but I was trying to find a new way to survive for years. I thought: I am sick. My mental pain is horrific. They give me medication that gives me severe side effects and adverse reactions that I do not like and that change my personality. I have no friends, and I am so lonely. No one likes me or even wants to be around me. I am worthless. The old me is gone and died. I cannot function, move or even get out of bed. I can’t live like this anymore. My life is over. No one will even care if I am gone. I am all ready dead. I want to die.

5. Acceptance – Acceptance is the last stage of grief and the most vital and important step on the road to recovery of my bipolar disorder. The acceptance of my illness and my new life was a slow and gradual process. Things slowly started to improve and look better over time. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness, but I saw glimpses of hope and of what happiness was again. I accepted that things will never be exactly the same again. I gradually started to adjust to my diagnosis, and my changed life. My depression began to decrease in spurts but would come back periodically and ferociously at times. I began to figure out how to live with my symptoms and start living my life again. My mind started to work better, and I began to feel more normal and a part of life again. I soon began the important process and one of the most essential parts of my new life of redefining who I was.

I had to find my new identity and learn to like myself again and eventually love parts of the new me. I found a way to work part-time again in a field that suits me well by helping others in the home health field and I started going back to church. I started getting out of the house more and around other people.

I do have bipolar disorder. I do have a mental illness, and that is OK. I have a new identity and that is OK. I am still a good person. I believe God saved my life and I became born again. I am still the same person I always was but now I am a better, stronger, wiser and kinder version of  myself.

My greatest blessing is that I have always been and am still a good mom. My children were always my life support and still are. I love my three beautiful, amazing and wonderful children beyond words. I am so blessed to be able to be their Mommy. Thank you, God.

Sometimes I still grieve parts of the “old” me and think about what my life could have been. I try to block those moments of memories of my past out of my head, as the past is the past, and I try very hard not to live there. I try to live in this very minute and moment one day at a time.

I never thought I would have a mental illness, but I do and I must strive to make the best of my illness and always strive to be the best person I can be and become. It is a never-ending battle of struggles, growth and discovery and acceptance of the new me every day.

I have found joy in the experience of living.

~written by Susan Walz

“Don’t wait. Make memories. Celebrate your life.” — unknown

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