How My Bipolar Disorder Medication Affected My Hands, Mouth and Feet

Editor's Note

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

When I began this journey with bipolar disorder all those years ago, I naively expected it to be focused on attaining good mental health again. I never even considered that this journey might include my hands, my mouth or my feet.

You can’t tell from the photo, but my hands shake. Sometimes the tremor is almost imperceptible; other times, it makes daily tasks a challenge. I have tardive dyskinesia (TD) — basically, unwanted movement involving my mouth and my feet, as well as my hands. It is an incurable condition, most probably a side effect of some medication I was given a long time ago. I am unable to control it or make it stop.

TD is only one aspect of the tremor in my hands. That hand tremor is also impacted drastically by my mental health medications. There are a few medications that seem to improve my mental health, but also increase the tremors significantly, even when taken at low doses.

Sometimes, life presents us with hard choices. My choice, in this case, is to live with the tremors in order to enjoy the mental health benefits of the medications which cause them.

It hasn’t always been easy to accept, and I am often tempted to go off my medications (don’t do it) just to make living life a little easier. But as hand tremors have become a part of me, I’ve used my creativity to discover paths around the challenges they present.

I pay for manicures and pedicures, for example. (That was such a concession.) I’ve learned to use a stable base like my cheek to insert earrings or apply makeup. My computer mouse has a button that allows a user to increase or decrease sensitivity of motion paths as well as clicking. My computer keyboard also has an adjustment relating to key pressure which completely solves that problem.

My phone and I are still learning better ways to communicate as “Cortana” often doesn’t understand me and typing on something that small is often still not possible, but I’ve learned that firm pressure allows me greater control. I remember days before cell phones, so I can still celebrate being able to receive and place calls or get directions wherever I am, even if I can’t fiddle with all the available apps just yet.

The firm pressure idea works for actual pen and paper writing too, especially in big printing, although signing documents or completing forms while someone waits and watches still causes me some discomfort.

I used to avoid going out in public settings such as dinners, attending classes or participating in other groups because I was ashamed. What if I couldn’t write? What if I spilled my drink? What if they all noticed my shaking? I don’t know if I got over it, or they never really noticed or it just gradually faded into the background, but I almost never think of this anymore. Perhaps because it seems a small price to pay for good mental health.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via contributor

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Tardive Dyskinesia

woman in hospital gown

What Happened After I Shared a Video of a Tardive Dyskinesia Episode

Editor’s note: The following is based on an individual’s experience and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before going on or off medication. Almost two years ago I was diagnosed with tardive dyskinesia. TD is a rare neurological disorder caused by prolonged use of antipsychotics and certain GI medications. It shows [...]
dark haired woman looking at camera putting medication pill in mouth

With Medication Side Effects, What You Don't Know Just Might Hurt You

Almost all psychiatric drugs have side effects. In the case of the antipsychotic and mood stabilizer I was on after my first manic episode, the side effect was extreme weight gain. The first drug made feel hungry all the time; I never felt full. The second drug caused my metabolism to drop. I ended up [...]
watercolor painting of a woman

How I React to the Judgment of People Who Stare at Me

Most people wouldn’t know this, but I genuinely dislike people staring at me. Even when I was a kid, it would send me into a panic. I also have a condition called Tardive dyskinesia. It involves involuntary movement of your face, limbs and torso. With mine, I am able to keep it fairly well controlled [...]
young woman, blurry image of walking through a room.

What I've Learned From Having a Rare (and 'Annoying') Condition

In Spring 2016, I started “twitching.” After a lot of either “I don’t know” or accusations of abusing drugs and going through detox (all from medical “professionals”), I was diagnosed with tardive dyskinesia (TD). TD is a rare neurological condition. It is irreversible and (in many cases) permanent. It is the result of prolonged use [...]