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Why I’m Taking My Medication for Bipolar Mania

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Editor's Note

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

My knees and back ached from pacing the hardwood floors for hours on end without the support of my sneakers. The quality of my thoughts resembled cotton candy — thin and wispy, hard to grasp for longer than a few seconds at a time. My computer was a mess of half-finished projects ranging from new business ideas to writing projects that I lacked the mental clarity to finish. During my psychiatry appointment a few days prior, I made friends with the elderly lady sitting across the lobby despite my introverted nature. Together, all of these symptoms spelled one thing: my mania had returned.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

My husband urged me to take my emergency medication, prescribed for moments just like this one. I pulled the bright orange plastic bottle from my stash of prescriptions and sat it on the kitchen counter right in my line of sight. For some reason, I hesitated to twist the top off the bottle, tilt my head back, and let the two little white pills roll down my throat.

I hated the idea that I needed to rely on pharmaceuticals to feel well again.

I perched on the edge of the living room chair as if I were about to take flight, my eyes on the pill bottle. I wondered if I could squash my manic symptoms if I just tried hard enough to be still for more than a few seconds, if I could convince myself to sleep. While I chattered away to my husband sitting next to me, my legs jiggled and I found it impossible to sit still. It was clear that I could not do it, even if I tried “hard enough.”

To my left, I saw my newborn child contentedly swinging in his chair with his blue eyes open wide. He watched me squirm and listened to me talk endlessly about all of my new ideas, even though he couldn’t comprehend a word. I thought about those little pills and how my actions were going to impact my son. Before he arrived in our family, I would often let my mania roll over me like a wave until low tide came again and normalcy returned. With this tiny person depending on me to care for his every need, I could not risk falling into a full manic episode.

I took the pills.

The truth is that I am inordinately grateful to modern science for the advancements that researchers have made in developing medications that curb my bipolar disorder. For some reason, I still find myself resistant to taking them regardless of how helpful they prove to be. But now, I had a strong reason to value my stability more than I ever had before. My family depends on me to take care of them, to be solid and steady as I can be. Medication is an integral component of my treatment plan, even if I do resist it when I feel the lure of mania.

Medication is what has granted me freedom — the freedom to work, to rest, and to play with my son until my heart is so full it feels like it may burst. My psychiatrist and I have worked hard to limit the number of medications I have to take just to feel healthy, but there are some times when a little extra help is needed. I realize that medication is not a cure-all, but I also acknowledge that it is the reason I have been able to consider myself successful in so many aspects of my life.

Perhaps the best gift that my medication has given me is my son. It allowed me to be stable for as long as possible, giving me the confidence that I needed to start a family. I take my medication when I need it — for my son and for my husband, even when I cannot convince myself to do it for me.

While I know that I will never be “cured” from my bipolar disorder, I know that there are plenty of things I can do to minimize the effects it could have on my family. And it starts with taking the pills.

Getty image by The Good Brigade

Originally published: September 25, 2022
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