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Why I Stopped Taking My Medication, and Why I Started Again

It can be common among individuals with mental illness to want to stop their medications. This can be dangerous, and is often cautioned against by behavioral health professionals. Despite the words of warning, I have never met someone with the bipolar diagnosis that has not gone off meds at least once (though I’m sure those strong-willed people are out there, and I do not dismiss their achievement of keeping themselves in good mental health). I was one of these patients who went off their meds. This is my story.

Every time I hear about someone who stopped, it is always because they were feeling good and so, like with cold medicine, since they were better they could stop. That was not my reason. I think it’s important to tell my story because people need to recognize that people with a certain diagnosis are not all the same. And we are not all that is depicted in TV, movies and media in general. Each person, each story, each reason is unique. For me, I was angry.

It wasn’t that I felt all better, it was that I was outraged that I needed medication to feel better.

I convinced myself that God made me this way. God made me with a genetic disorder that carried with it the common comorbidity of mental illness. I became angry at myself, at God, at the world, and I just wanted to rebel. “If God made me this way, by God I will be this way!” I carried a chip named bipolar on my shoulder and I just didn’t care about me anymore.

Shortly after I stopped I went on a beach trip with my entire family (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins). At the end of the trip, on our way out of town, we all stopped for lunch. I sat on the end with my mom and one of my aunts. As we ate they slowly began to ask me how I was doing. They had noticed I seemed more depressed and more irritable during the trip, and they were concerned. I explained to them my frustration, and my desire to just “stick it to” the universe by not being well. They spoke to me about their beliefs, and why they believe God let’s us have illnesses and trials throughout our lives. They spoke of their experiences with mental illness, within themselves and/or family and friends close to them and showed me that God has a plan.

I do not mean to preach within this story, and know that belief systems, no matter which ones you espouse, can be an important factor in dealing with any trial, any disability, any illness. I will not lay out all my beliefs, except that I believe in a higher power, and that is very important in every aspect of my life.

My mom and aunt explained to me that while God may allow us to be “broken,” He also created solutions to our problems, like medicine. God never intended me to be broken and stay broken, but in this world it is hard to avoid, so He has given me provisions. I think it is still unfair that I have this illness, and that I will never be able to go a day without medication for the rest of my life. But when I get angry about it I remind myself that I can fight against it, but that fight involves medication to help me be balanced.

This was the only time I’ve ever gone off my meds. Unfortunately, bipolar is unpredictable, so I can’t say for certain I won’t ever go off again. Things may go awry, my thinking may be off and I may end up back in that place. But I fight very hard every day to do my best by listening to my doctors and following their direction. I am sure to involve my family, especially my husband, in what I’m thinking, to ask for input on my behavior, and to be supports throughout my life. With God’s help, and theirs, I hope to stay on the medications that work to live as “normal” a life as I possibly can.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

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Thinkstock photo via macrovector