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Why I Struggle to Take My Bipolar Disorder Medication

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Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

I began taking psychiatric medication when I was a child. I asked my mom what it was once and she told me it was to help me sleep. But it was a prescription from a psychiatrist. I started taking antidepressants in junior high and I took them off and on throughout high school. My parents did not do well with follow-up appointments or refilling prescriptions so I was often only on the medication for a month or two before stopping.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I started taking medication for bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) when I was 30 years old. I was started on an antidepressant, then a mood stabilizer was added as well as another antidepressant and an anti-anxiety medication. I went from not even taking vitamins regularly to juggling multiple prescriptions. At first, I didn’t notice very much. I was hospitalized and the doses were increased, and then increased again and again. Over time, I started to feel different and my life improved. I emerged from the bedroom I had been hiding in and I rejoined the world. I went from going to the suicide crisis center once a month to only once a year. I finally had something to combat my panic attacks and my emotions had become less dramatic. My mood was stable.

Most noticeably absent, though, were my spurts of energetic mood. As a writer, photographer and artist, I had spent my whole life creating art in manic sprees. As a teenager, I created websites and wrote poetry and articles. I would spend hours and days on a project forgoing food, hygiene and sleep. I painted a mural on my bedroom wall and I added to it in manic spurts when I couldn’t sleep and my hands had to be busy. My obsession with my creations would come and go, just like my waves of depression. But my art was the product of my energy. And once I began taking a therapeutic dose of my medication, my energy changed.

When I take my medication, I can feel my mood settling at a slightly bothersome level of apathy. While my stable mood prevents the extreme highs and lows, it also impact my emotions in between. I don’t get excited when I should; I become bored and not satisfied. I struggle to write and feel apathetic towards my camera. My mind slows down, my energy slows down and my creativity slows down. I attempt to write but find myself pacing the house every few minutes. I take pictures but I don’t even desire to edit them.

When I forget to take my morning medication, it’s not noticeable at first. I usually continue with my routine, unaware I had skipped my meds. My mood increases as the day goes on and I begin to work on extra projects around the house. I may decide to rearrange the living room or clean out the refrigerator. By nightfall, I am usually elbow-deep in a writing project and tapping my foot incessantly as I write. The energy consumes me as I pour my soul into a project or activity. I usually consider staying up all night to work on my project when it is time to go to sleep.

But what goes up must come down and several skipped doses of medication usually result in experiencing severe bedbound depression and sometimes hospitalization. Within a matter of days, I go from creating a masterpiece to crying on the bathroom floor. I become a suicidal mess while also having physical withdrawals like headaches and nausea. I become mentally and physically ill and my family has to scramble together to support me. It becomes chaos.

So, I struggle to take my medication every day. It is a tough pill to swallow that my creative energy flows when I am manic. It is difficult to take medication knowing the alternative is an energetic, creative, “great day” full of art and laughter. My productivity has slowed dramatically since beginning medication and my apathy has grown. I now spend weeks or months in a rut where I produce nothing creative. I sometimes forget to take my medication but I also sometimes intentionally don’t take it just so I can have a break and go back to being energetic and creative. But the end result is not enjoyable for the people around me, so I try my best to take them every day, even though I don’t like them.

My medication has improved my quality of life. While I am far from symptom-free, the medication has made my life manageable. Every day, however, I struggle to take my medication knowing what will happen when I do. But every day, I think about my family and try to swallow the tough pill of being on psychiatric medication. Sometimes though, I can’t force myself and instead, the roller coaster goes up and chaos ensues.

Photo by Daniel Chekalov on Unsplash

Originally published: December 28, 2018
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