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Opinions on Anti-Medication Proponents... esp. for Bipolar

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Recently a friend of mine posted some links on Facebook supporting people with mental illness going off their meds, along with some links to the Icarus Project. She went off her meds and started using medical marijuana and for her it worked, but it's not something that is a) a blanket solution, and b) it's not available to everyone. Since I was a teenager, I've encountered some people/groups/etc who consider mental illness to be a "gift," that it can foster creativity and that the psychiatric model stigmatizes those with MI. I'm posting this in the Bipolar forum because people with Bipolar are IMO and personal experience, generally those who kinda need meds in order to balance out the ups and downs, which can become dangerous if untreated. I am a huge proponent of de-stigmatizing mental illness, but again, IMO going med-free may not be the solution.

I went off medication for about 2.5 years from when I was 18-21, and blew up my life numerous times. I created chaos and caused a lot of pain myself and those around me; I became violent at times, engaged in a lot of dangerous behaviour, some of which could have killed me, self-harmed a lot in different ways, and attempted suicide once. I'd been on medication since I was 12 and wanted to experience life without feeling like I was a caged animal (my pdoc at the time was a big proponent of medicating the shit out of youth and prescribed like, everything to me at some time or other). I was heavily medicated and slowly decreased until I stopped taking anything, without my pdoc's approval or guidance -- I simply stopped seeing him. However, my fiancé eventually gave me the ultimatum that I had to see a psychiatrist or we couldn't stay together. I resented him for it, but now I believe it was one of the best things he's ever done, because I've (mostly) stabilized, although I'll never get off the bipolar rollercoaster. Yes, I do find that some aspects of my life are dampened from medication -- I was a writer but I just don't do it as much anymore; I stopped painting unless I'm manic, and I don't always feel as much exuberance as I used to (I also stopped doing a lot of the stupid thrill-seeking shit I used to do though because common sense).

So... I don't know. I wasn't "free" when I was off my meds; I was out of control (also was dealing with major Borderline shit). I don't want to go back to that. But some people feel very differently about it.

I'm wondering what peoples' opinions are about being off meds, especially when you're living with Bipolar. 

Edited by crazy_cat_lady
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Without my meds I am sure I would be severely mixed, floridly psychotic, and acutely suicidal. I would probably wind up either dead or in involuntary. There was a time when I spent months off my meds without symptoms, but my MI was not as severe then, and eventually things turned ugly. These days, if I just stop my risperidone alone I get severely mixed within a week, and I have been both psychotic and acutely suicidal on my meds, which implies that things would be even worse without them.

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56 minutes ago, crazy_cat_lady said:

Recently a friend of mine posted some links on Facebook supporting people with mental illness going off their meds, along with some links to the Icarus Project. She went off her meds and started using medical marijuana and for her it worked, but it's not something that is a) a blanket solution, and b) it's not available to everyone. Since I was a teenager, I've encountered some people/groups/etc who consider mental illness to be a "gift," that it can foster creativity and that the psychiatric model stigmatizes those with MI. I'm posting this in the Bipolar forum because people with Bipolar are IMO and personal experience, generally those who kinda need meds in order to balance out the ups and downs, which can become dangerous if untreated. I am a huge proponent of de-stigmatizing mental illness, but again, IMO going med-free may not be the solution.

I went off medication for about 2.5 years from when I was 18-21, and blew up my life numerous times. I created chaos and caused a lot of pain myself and those around me; I became violent at times, engaged in a lot of dangerous behaviour, some of which could have killed me, self-harmed a lot in different ways, and attempted suicide once. I'd been on medication since I was 12 and wanted to experience life without feeling like I was a caged animal (my pdoc at the time was a big proponent of medicating the shit out of youth and prescribed like, everything to me at some time or other). I was heavily medicated and slowly decreased until I stopped taking anything, without my pdoc's approval or guidance -- I simply stopped seeing him. However, my fiancé eventually gave me the ultimatum that I had to see a psychiatrist or we couldn't stay together. I resented him for it, but now I believe it was one of the best things he's ever done, because I've (mostly) stabilized, although I'll never get off the bipolar rollercoaster. Yes, I do find that some aspects of my life are dampened from medication -- I was a writer but I just don't do it as much anymore; I stopped painting unless I'm manic, and I don't always feel as much exuberance as I used to (I also stopped doing a lot of the stupid thrill-seeking shit I used to do though because common sense).

So... I don't know. I wasn't "free" when I was off my meds; I was out of control (also was dealing with major Borderline shit). I don't want to go back to that. But some people feel very differently about it.

I'm wondering what peoples' opinions are about being off meds, especially when you're living with Bipolar. 

If you are off meds you better be doing something else that works- which well... there ain't a whole lot of alternative treatments that work. Honestly I don't really think there are any. Longest I was off meds was about a year- I was on the ketogenic diet for 6 months which worked until it didn't... other half of the year was taking opiates. I have never really seen any proof any other option then meds will work. I mean has anyone? What some vitamin supplement? Meditation? No. If you are bipolar and can manage off meds well then I don't even think thats bipolar... bipolar means meds.

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I would be dead without my meds. There's no doubt about it.

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A point of interest: Icarus died of his choice to keep flying and pushing his limits.

Bipolar disorder has a chemical origin and requires chemical intervention. Periods of remission are possible without medication, but I have definite reservations about deliberately stopping your meds. First of all, that would most likely mean severing your relationship with a competent pdoc. Without an established relationship, getting in quickly when shit goes pear-shaped can be very difficult, and that will cost you critical time in getting treatment. And bipolar can be very fast-moving. Days can matter, let aloo e weeks or, god forbid, months.

Which leads me to my second point. There is good research to support the kindling effect theory in bipolar disorder:

http://www.bipolarcentral.com/articles/articles-117-1-Kindling-Effect-on-Bipolar-Disorder.html

Simply put, kindling means that the more episodes you have, the more you are likely to have, and the worse they will be, because pathways that make having them easier gets laid down in your brain. This is not what you want. Permanent madness lies down these lines. Think of it like a shortcut between buildings that everyone takes instead of following the sidewalk. Picture how a groove gets worn down to the bare earth. Now imagine that in your brain.

Third, a number of psych meds are neuroprotective. That means that, in addition to treating symptoms, they can prevent further damage from occurring. Some are even thought to repair existing damage. If these are possibilities, why on earth would you not avail yourself of them?

I have mixed feelings, based both on personal experience and on observation, of the effects of medication on creativity. Van Gogh was certainly creative, as was Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton, and Hemingway, and Kurt Cobain. And none of them had meds, and they are all suicides. People who are over-medicated, or on the wrong meds, often feel their creativity withers and dies; I have felt this myself.  But being chronically and agonizingly depressed doesn't do wonders for one's creative output, either, and being manic frequently generates a lot of ideas, but not projects that get finished. 

In the ideal world of living with bipolar, you find the combination of meds, therapy, diet, exercise, creativity, friendship, and whatever else you need to enjoy your life, and you keep yourself in a position where you can respond as quickly as possible to changes in your mood state. And you find a way to make peace with the fact that this is your life, your one, unique, precious life.

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I think it depends a lot on the severity of the underlying illness.

Personally, I don't want to be on medication forever. I don't think it's best for me. And when I am on medication I want to be on as few meds as possible, on as small a dose as possible. I like Lamictal a lot but it completely destroys my word finding abilities which is an unacceptable long term side effect as I am an (undergrad ;_;) journalist and an (undergrad ;_;) fiction editor. I'm glad that it's so effective at treating the truly life-threatening episodes of major depression I get, but those are very rare. More typically my condition is made up by mild cyclothymic episodes and I don't want those to be flattened out because I find they actually add a lot of meaning and emotional richness to my life.

My hypomanias, in particular, are invariably euphoric and typically deeply spiritual in nature. It troubles me that psychiatry broadly deems those experiences as pathological because they are so meaningful... while I understand that there's plenty of scientific justification for viewing hypomania as part of a disease process. So many mixed feelings.

Anyway. I realize that I'm in a privileged position because my underlying condition is relatively mild. I am also a poor metabolizer so small, sometimes child-sized doses of meds are effective for me. I wouldn't pretend that everyone is in the same boat. I have several family members with BP1 so I've seen firsthand how devastating skipping/refusing medication is for BP1 folks in particular. Same goes for BP2 with more frequent severe depressive episodes and/or more destructive hypomania.

The experience of this illness is extremely variable and individual. No blanket solutions. Medication is lifesaving but it's far from perfect. People who have reached such a point in their recovery that they are able to live stable and rewarding lives med-free absolutely should feel free to do so. And people who need meds to live stable and rewarding lives shouldn't be judged.

Edited by moderncorinna
grammar yo

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Without my meds I'd most likely be in a state hospital, if I didn't die first.

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Everyone is different, but I can't say I support the no meds thing. I was untreated from 11-27. In that time I've caused myself a lot of embarrassments and regrets. After two suicide attempts while untreated, I will weigh in and agree that without my meds, I would probably be dead. 

Edited by Lorelion
Correction

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For me, being off meds just is not viable or worth it. I think anti med people are idealistic rather than realistic. I'm not one who is creative when unwell, so that makes the decision easier, I guess.

I do miss that extra bit of enthusiasm, exuberance and vitality but it comes at too high a price. Meds have helped me, without hurting me. I'd probably be dead without them. Why would I have a negative association with them? 

I haven't felt stigmatised by my doctors. Being diagnosed gave me much more control over my life and MH professionals are more understanding of what I'm going through than anyone else in my life.

the anti psych people are not scientific in their message. They overstate the risks of meds and pretend there are no benefits at all. I know it's false because it does not align with my experience.

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My mess make it possible for me to have energy to do something beyond living through the day. Without meds, just surviving took so much out of me that I didn't have anytime my left for really living.

in my precious abusive situation, any medical issue was seen as being a sign that I had too much time on my hands or I wasn't self-disciplined enough. The years I spent unmedicated were not something I ever want to live through again. No amount of meditation, salad, exercise, chamomile, vegetarian/non-vegetarian, etc. kept the crazy controlled. Even though I was brainwashed to believe they should have.

I come down on the side of meds for me personally. I do not judge others for their choices though.

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People who are over-medicated, or on the wrong meds, often feel their creativity withers and dies; I have felt this myself.  But being chronically and agonizingly depressed doesn't do wonders for one's creative output, either, and being manic frequently generates a lot of ideas, but not projects that get finished. 

So true. And the ideas that come from mania are often not very good, or even downright bad. My MI keeps getting worse and worse over time. And after a disasterous attempt to go off meds last year that I'm still dealing with, I realize that's simply not an option. I think it's highly unlikely that I'll be able to reduce my daily psych meds to less than 3 or 4, with another 2-3 needed PRN. And the occasional Valium, which my pdoc would probably freak out over if he knew I had.

Edited by Flash

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I don't even want to think about where I'd be if I was unmedicated, and I've only been medicated at all for about six months. If that doesn't speak volumes about the good medication can do, I don't know what would work better.

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I think it depends. 

Our bodies are chemical factories. Exercise, meditation and diet do drive chemicals in the brain even though we don't pop them as pills just before we go to bed.

I'm not going to speak for anyone else, but I know I need meds to live and function now. This may not always be the case. However, I can definitely see exercise and meditation lessening residual symptoms, such as anger, anxiety and hopelessness. This can mean better sleep, taking a PRN less frequently, better interpersonal functioning, and maybe even gaining insight about when I start to cycle. All of this helps.

I do know someone with bipolar 1 who is off meds and functions fine. He's a mental health professional though, and has incredible insight into when he starts to cycle and how to nip it in the bud. I don't think most of us normal people have the self awareness to pull that off. 

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7 hours ago, theforest said:

The years I spent unmedicated were not something I ever want to live through again.

Me too.

 

 

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I was unmedicated or improperly medicated for years. What a waste. I wasted years of my life struggling to bust out of my symptom hell, or racking up consequences from impulsive behavior. Life was so hard. Getting property medicated has given me a chance to actually do some things I want to do in life, and to feel decent enough to enjoy them. I hate the idea of meds but hate my life without them. I don't care about making some naturopath happy. They don't live my life. In principle, yes, it would be nice to be med free, but the reality of that is not the life I want to live. I question the wisdom and motives of anyone who tells me I shouldn't be on meds. Been there, done that, not going back. 

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I personally went my through my first 2 years of college without medication for bipolar disorder, and boy what a disaster that was. I did sooo terrible in my courses and am still in GPA rehab. My behaviors, as a result of not being on medications, got me into significant trouble with the disciplinary office of my college, as I was behaving impulsively and had very poor judgement. I will be involved with disciplinary sanctions until I complete my undergraduate degree (this is not optional). I also got myself into a load of credit card debt and at one point in my sophomore year had 8-9 credit cards at one time!! Of course, I maxed them all out and dealing with the consequences now. My social relationships were also very unstable, despite me thinking that I was doing fine at the time.

Once I got on medication for bipolar, after about a month or two, I literally praised the ground my new psychiatrist walked on for getting me on the right meds because I was finally feeling normal and performing proficiently in my courses. For a lucky few, you may be able to get by with little to no medication. For me, I have accepted that I need meds, at least for now and the near future, to be functional in my academic, social, and financial life. I finally am able to achieve the things I know I am capable of and have much better insight about nearly every aspect of my life (mental health, relationships, family, work, diet, exercise etc.) I DO NOT want to go through what I went through during my unmedicated first 2 years of college...it was a nightmare and I am still dealing with the consequences today and will likely be dealing with them until I graduate

Edited by mmaryland
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i am completely afunctional without meds. suicidal and unable to function in adult life in one way or another, and generally act like an asshole. i'm also exponentially more creative ON them. i either can't focus on one thing long enough to finish anything, or am to depressed to even think. one day maybe i'll be able to decrease, but i owe my life and everything good in it to being on medication.

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I can *survive* without meds, but only just. And it ain't pretty. My hypomanias are not so much the "go on $1000 spending sprees, spend the weekend binge-drinking, and get arrested for assault" level of destructive as they're the "get a $150 tattoo when I need the money for rent, have sex with someone I don't know, and speed a little" variety. Still, I've done my share of damage (getting pregnant by someone I'd known two weeks when I couldn't even afford a roof over my head because I thought I wanted to be a mom - that was a doozy). My mixed episodes are nightmares, though. Toeing the line of abuse regularly, desperately demanding of a three-year-old whether he's really there because I'm derealizing so badly, becoming convinced that an entire neighborhood was conspiring with the police to take my kids away by spying on me. My depressed episodes are horrible, but the suicidal ideation is at least never acted upon because of my pathological fear of hell, so basically I'm in a lot of pain but not actively damaging relationships and my future. In spite of all this knowledge, the last time I was hypomanic, I stopped taking my meds because I deluded myself into thinking that things didn't *really* get that bad, and then it got *much* worse.

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I was not functional before I got on meds, so I imagine I could return to that state. I wouldn't want to risk that.

I hear that "gift" comment from people. I would like to return mine.

Proposing that we, all or most, don't need meds, and that they know what is best for us is just more stigma IMO

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I've quit all my meds more than once. I always feel fine for a bit (couple of weeks, maybe) and then the mood shifting starts again. I'm a rapid-cycler, so I shift quickly from hypo to severe depression, which lasts for a couple of weeks. Then I feel OK for a few days, and it starts all over. There is no stability for any period of time. It's a horrific nightmare.

There is no chance at stability without meds. My life is a trainwreck without meds, and I take them so I can have some chance at functioning. Neuroleptics are awful meds; no one chooses to be on them because they're enjoyable. The side effects range from unpleasant to inducing suicidal behavior. If there was another proven treatment for BP, I'm sure we'd all jump on it in a hurry. But meds become part of your life if you want to have any semi-functional level quality of life.

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15 hours ago, confused said:

Proposing that we, all or most, don't need meds, and that they know what is best for us is just more stigma IMO

So true.  Great Point.

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Without meds I get severe insomnia and terrible anxiety.

Marijauna made me hallucinate and makes me super paranoid.

Knew someone who had a psychotic episode due to pot smoking.

It's not for everyone.

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