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What People Need to Know About Mood Levelers for Bipolar Disorder Treatment


My bipolar disorder is in remission. I know I’m not cured. There is currently no cure for bipolar disorder. But I’ve reached a point where I’m stable enough that I don’t expect a crash or a buzz to descend on me at just any old time.

I still get moods, of course. They’re just not severe or long-lasting enough to be symptomatic. For example, I spent several hours yesterday wrestling with phone trees and people who wouldn’t switch me to a supervisor when all I was trying to do was straighten out a couple of bills that contained errors. Afterward, I felt frustrated, cranky and a bit sad. But those were normal emotions based on what I had just gone through. After a nap, I felt better and dinner blew out the remaining cobwebs. Napping is definitely better than staying in bed the entire next day.

Of course, I didn’t achieve remission alone. It took years of doctor’s visits, therapy and medications to reach this state. I am particularly grateful for mood levelers. For me, they actually do what they’re intended to do. They keep my moods within an acceptable range, or at least one that’s acceptable to me.

I think too many people fear mood levelers. Level moods sound boring – as though there are no variations, just a blank, straight line. That simply isn’t so. Mood levelers have pushed the spikes that used to go wild in either direction to a less extreme range. If you think of mood as an EEG, mood levelers prevent the lines from going off the charts, settling them to fluctuate within a middle range that most people without bipolar disorder have naturally.

I think the term “mood leveler” scares some people. They seem to think such a drug would make them perfectly level, robotic, unchanging. They fear any spark of personality or creativity would be lost.

That’s not the case. Instead, with level moods – and especially for people with depression-prone bipolar – a person has much more ability to explore his or her creative side. I know that’s true for me. Now that my moods are stable and level, I’m able to get more writing done, but also to tell whether the work is good or needs serious revising before I post it.

My doctor recently increased the dosage of one of my medications because I was having trouble with hypomania that wouldn’t let me sleep. And it worked. I am now getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night and have enough energy to at least face the day, if not always to conquer it.

Don’t think my experience has been a case of spontaneous remission. I’m not sure I believe that’s possible with bipolar disorder. It’s taken a lot of years and a lot of work to get to where I am today. For example, it took literally years for assorted doctors and me to find a combination of chemicals, a cocktail of psychotropics, that would work for me. And during all that time, it was as if I was not medicated at all. Only the right combination of drugs and dosages would unlock my brain and level my moods.

So, here I am, in remission – and I love it. My moods aren’t blunted, they’re leveled. I am not as fearful now that my extreme moods may return and wreak havoc on my life. I still have some symptoms and side effects that remind me I’m not cured. But now I know remission is possible — with work, with luck and with the right mood levelers.

Getty image by numbeos