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Back to normal after meds?


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Long time lurker, no time poster here. Maybe once way back when I was diagnosed (2009)? Been spinning wheels ever since. The way I figure, I get about half a year. April-ish to October-ish I'm me and sometimes a little better than me. The rest of the time... if you're here, you know. I watch a lot of YouTube. I've been called both Bi Polar I & II.

A little background (I'll keep it brief):

At the end of 2009, I went on Lamictal up to 200mg (two weeks at a time, slowly like you do). When I finally took that big pill, I lost it. I still felt terrible. Plus the headaches. So I called the guy and he said we could try adding Wellbutrin because now that I was on a mood stabilizer it was cool. After reading so many posts here and seeing everyone's signatures with the ominous multi-prescriptions and varying doses -- plus the anecdotal average, which to me amounted to "it still sucks and I've tried every drug, but now i'm on something that's sort of working for right now" -- I decided not to go down that road. So he told me to back off the Lamictal as slowly as I backed on. Halfway down, I had a seizure (first time for one of those). Eventually, I was off. And when the drug was finally all the way gone, my main feeling was disappointment. For the first time, I understood what it was doing and it was so pedestrian: slowing down my thinking, that was all. So that morning I woke up thinking I was a failure and wanting to be dead at my normal brain speed, and I promised myself I would do my best to surf the waves God gave me.

Well, here we are closing down 2015 and I'm two weeks into a fresh and brutal depression. I went to my therapist on December 1st and we both talked about how I was happy and doing well and wasn't that great. Two days later = super slide all the way down. That magical and sinister negative perspective is back and boy is it powerful. So again, I wander over here, I start googling "Bi Polar," I start wondering about medication. 

I know everyone here is all for it. I'm not, but I'm open to giving it a trial run. Questions: 

1. How long is a trial run? A real one. How long do I have to commit to this to see what happens? 

2. Can I come back to this normal if I don't like what happens? I can deal with this as is. Getting better at it every year. I'm afraid that if I get started, I'll start messing up whatever is going on and I won't make it back. 

3. Dependency. That's the real big one here. Are you dependent on these drugs? Why is that a good thing? 

Thank you for reading and to anyone who responds. This board has been quite helpful to me a number of times. Very grateful for the community and the resource here. 

Jeff

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1. I gave up the first time I was on the med-go-round for depression. I was about to do the same earlier this year, but at that point, a year plus 3 or 4 months of trying various meds without success, I suddenly improved and it's been clear sailing ever since (not counting side effects). For mania and mixed states, I lucked out right away. Same for psychosis. There's really no telling how long it will take. Some get lucky and have something working within days or weeks, whereas others are on the med-go-round for years before they find a cocktail that really works well. And Some people have breakthrough symptoms even while on meds that seem to work most of the time.

2. Are you asking if you'll be able to go back to your depressed state if you try meds and don't like them? I don't see why not. But your mood may have moved by then, so there's no telling where you'll be. You might end up manic, even more depressed, Mixed, or you may have leveled out. But in my experience, yes, after taking meds that didn't do it for me, I ended up back Where I was after discontinuing them.

3. I don't think so, but I haven't tried to go off of them. I am currently titrating down on my two maintenance meds due to side effects. I don't know how low I will go or if I will even go off of them completely (pdoc is against this), but so far I haven't had any problems. Then again, I went off Paxil cold turkey and didn't suffer and ill effects. You're not supposed to do that, and Some people have a rougher time of it even when tapering. 

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Quote

1. How long is a trial run? A real one. How long do I have to commit to this to see what happens? 

2. Can I come back to this normal if I don't like what happens? I can deal with this as is. Getting better at it every year. I'm afraid that if I get started, I'll start messing up whatever is going on and I won't make it back. 

3. Dependency. That's the real big one here. Are you dependent on these drugs? Why is that a good thing? 

 

1.  It takes about 6-8 weeks (in general) to see if a med really works or not (unless there are life threatening problems happening as you increase the dose).  If you are going up in increments, give each increment time to work also.  There might be side effects but chances are they will go away once you've been on the med for awhile (awhile = everyone is different).

2.  Not sure what to say other than what Flash said above in his answer.

3.  I depend on mine to live.  Without them I'd be dead.

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What do you mean by dependency?  With the exception of benzos and maybe some others, most psych meds won't cause addiction, but can cause discontinuation syndrome when you stop them - that is, you experience a sort of 'withdrawal' (though my pdoc hates that term because 'you're not addicted').  Dunnno.  But  a little bit of discontinuation is worth the stability they bring.  

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1. How long is a trial run? A real one. How long do I have to commit to this to see what happens? 

This can take years and years, but it can also take less. Everyone is different. It's definitely something you have to be patient with and also you need to be wiling to stay on your medication for a decent amount of time in order to know for sure if it works or not.

2. Can I come back to this normal if I don't like what happens? I can deal with this as is. Getting better at it every year. I'm afraid that if I get started, I'll start messing up whatever is going on and I won't make it back. 

There is no "normal" for an unmedicated illness like bipolar. Pills are pretty much the only hope you have for attaining a dependable kind of "normal".

3. Dependency. That's the real big one here. Are you dependent on these drugs? Why is that a good thing? 

Some drugs have noticeable withdrawel symptoms. Effexor is one that comes to mind as being notorious for that. A lot of meds need to be reduced slowly, but there isn't any discomfort from going off them. Going off meds suddenly without telling your doctor can cause serious relapses however... but then not being on meds does that even more.

As for your concerns with meds in general. They themselves are rarely dangerous. All medicines have side effects, your cold medicine, the kind you take for headaches, psych meds... if a med has truly dangerous side effects, the doctors monitor you for them closely. The older ones, like lithium, require blood tests. Even then, it's not all that dramatic of a compromise to get your blood drawn every few months if it means you feel well.

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1. I would say you have to commit for years. It can take quite a few years to find a med or combo of meds that works best for you. It's not something that you can try for like 3 weeks then give up right away (unless you have life threatening side effects). 
 
 
2. I'm not sure what you mean really here. If you can function just fine without being on any meds I would personally seek a second opinion. If it were me and I had no issues really with interfering with functioning I would really wonder. The definition of a disorder includes impairment in functioning. I agree that there is no "normal" with unmedicated bipolar. 
 
 
3. Dependent? I think you are implying addiction to the meds? You can be physically dependent (as in you may or may not have withdrawals if you stop certain meds cold turkey). I depend on these meds to stay alive. I would also be dead (by suicide) without them. So yes, that I depend on meds is a very good thing. Taking meds is better than death, I think most would agree. 
 
 
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1. That's a question for your psychiatrist. Different doctors may say different things. Mine is very sympathetic towards my drug antipathy, but still he's recommending I stay on my current antidepressant 3 months and my antipsychotic 6 months minimum. I may take them for longer, don't know yet. 

2. I took meds for 2 years then quit for a decade. Went right back to ups and downs and periods of okay-ness in between. Going back on meds was difficult to accept, but things were really out of control and I think I made the right call.

3. Most drugs have withdrawal symptoms, but they're a temporary annoyance. 

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1. How long is a trial run? A real one. How long do I have to commit to this to see what happens? 

Do you mean how long do you have to commit to an individual medication? That varies quite a bit. A good rule of thumb is two months. That should give you enough time to get over most side effects, or figure out if they're going to stick around, and if you can live with them. With meds like lamictal you have to give it longer because of the complicated titration schedule. Lithium is like that too, and valproic acid, because you need blood tests for those to see about your serum levels.

If you mean how long should you commit to the lifestyle...how long do your cycles usually last? Is there a pattern, a "usually?" You said you have a few months of the year when you're yourself or "a little better." (Incidentally, you're not "a little better." Every episode you have makes it more likely that you'll have more episodes in the future, and that they will get worse.) And then you get depressed again.

Probably you should commit to a year, then, at least. And you might need different meds, or different doses, in the summer vs. in the winter. A lot of people who have that SAD sort of pattern do. Tweaking your meds so that you're not manic in the summer and depressed in the winter is a good plan. I do it most years.

Some meds you can take are neuroprotective and neurotropic, which means they can help repair damage already done to your brain and prevent more. Another good reason to take them and stay on them.

2. Can I come back to this normal if I don't like what happens? I can deal with this as is. Getting better at it every year. I'm afraid that if I get started, I'll start messing up whatever is going on and I won't make it back. 

No one can answer that question. Bipolar disorder is usually a moving target. It doesn't stay the same over the course of a person's lifetime. You may be able to cope now, but there's no guarantee you'll be able to cope in the future.

3. Dependency. That's the real big one here. Are you dependent on these drugs? Why is that a good thing?

People with high cholesterol need statins to control their condition. Diabetics need insulin. People with arthritis need corticosteroids. They depend on these medications either to live, or to have a quality of life that is worth living.

Yes, I am dependent on my medications. I know what my life would be like without them. It would be hell on fucking earth. I would hurt my loved ones over and over. It's actually more likely I would have killed myself by now. I'm not addicted to the medications I take. Addiction entails abuse. I just take my meds as they're prescribed, and away I go. I need tweaks to the combo sometimes. So it goes. There are far worse things.

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Thank you for the responses everyone. Good stuff here. I appreciate the time and energy.

Been thinking it over. All over the place in my thinking on it. Basically, it comes down to this: 

I don't believe in the medications. I don't have faith in them. Just look at the signature of the last post. "Past, failed attempts" = 22 medications! 

So I guess I'll keep riding it out. It's a real bummer. I know you all know. 

 
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