Every night, I stare down at my hand in disgust as I prepare to take my evening prescription medications. I use the word disgust due to the sheer number and the fact that I will never know the joy of not having to take medications ever again. Being bipolar means I will always have to be medicated for the rest of my life. No if’s, and’s, or but’s. It is the hard truth of being bipolar.
There are those who live with bipolar who feel that they don’t need to be medicated; however, I am one who emphatically disagrees with that assertion.
Let me explain why.
I lived the majority of my life unmedicated. I can see the damage it has done in so many areas of my life, such as in relationships, finance, career, and health. I’ve lived walking a tightrope where anger threatened at every corner, a life of risque behavior ruled the day, and embarrassment woke me in the morning. It isn’t a healthy life. Not for me or the people around me. I was a ticking time bomb, and I did detonate in May 2007.
I struggled with a myriad of addictions when I was unmedicated, from drugs, alcohol, sexual, and shopping. They call this self-medicating. Self-medication is a human behavior in which an individual uses a substance or any exogenous influence to self-administer treatment for physical or psychological ailments. The most widely self-medicated substances are over-the-counter drugs used to treat common health issues at home, as well as dietary supplements. But for me, it was anything that made me feel good, even if it was a temporary, fleeting, feel good moment.
When I stated that it left me with embarrassment in the morning, it was a realization that didn’t hit immediately, it was something that started to build up over a period of time, as I began to see how detrimental my lifestyle and behaviors had become. What people who self-medicate don’t realize is that there are consequences to every action. You know, Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of action? For every action there is an equal reaction? It is the case in every aspect of life.
For example, with drugs and alcohol. If you get drunk or high, you can cause bodily harm to yourself over a period of time. Or, if you decide to drink or get high, and drive, you can cause bodily harm to another, that can have far more greater repercussions than just to yourself. Plus, the mortality rate for abuses of these kinds is staggering.
With sexual addictions, it goes beyond just sex itself. Sexually transmitted diseases become more complex, untreatable, and harder to detect. I heard the illustration given of you sleeping with every person your partner has slept with in their past. It isn’t just them. The illustration used two paper hearts glued together, and the act of ripping them apart, was how having a physical relationship is with each person, regardless of your relationship status with them. You leave a piece of yourself with each person you have a physical relationship. It gets more and more complicated each step of the way.
It gets complicated the older you get, too. I’m staring down the throat of fifty at the moment, and what I see in the rear view mirror makes me sick to my stomach. I keep asking myself why did I allow myself to go through all of that unmedicated? Why did I allow myself to go through that, period. It has left me embarrassed by what I did. It has left my body physically scarred for life by what I put it through over twenty-five to thirty years ago.
I may be sober now and clean now, but the life you lead up until then does not just go away. Your liver doesn’t just clear up over night. Your lungs don’t just repair themselves with the snap of your fingers. And AIDS is not curable. But once I started taking my medication for my bipolar disorder, my life did get better. Much better.
I have had people try to tell me that I don’t need to take these medications. I’ve had people try to tell me that my Christian faith is flawed if God doesn’t heal me from my mental illness, or I have sin in my life, because I still struggle with mental illness. I’ve had people tell me that my opinion on taking prescription medications for mental illnesses is flawed, because they see it as a failure, when I see people who don’t take it struggle daily.
My point is this, God did not give the know-how to those in the medical profession to treat those with illness, including mental illness, to tell them they have sin in their lives.
There have not been success stories with people taking prescription medications for mental illness for it to not be a truth.
There are too many finalities that ended in suicide for those who stopped taking their medications for it not to be a punctuation mark on why it is important not to stop taking the medications.
I am a proof positive on why it is never right to stop taking the medications just because you feel better.
Self-medication is never a good thing. It only leads to heartache. I only know, because I lived it for way too long.
3 thoughts on “Walking the Bipolar Prescription Tightrope”
*Sigh*… I know the truth in what you are saying, I have written the same thing before myself and yet I chop and change my mind with my moods. I still understand the benefits of medication intellectually and yet due to what is most likely paranoia stemmed from my mental illness, I cannot possibly bring myself to take the meds at the moment. I have been off them for around a year now, I am okay right this minute but I am definitely not stable – although I wasn’t stable when I was on them either as we hadn’t really found the right cocktail to reduce the manias without also completely removing my feelings.
At the moment I am floating somewhere between knowing I will end up having to go back on them because simply put, I know I will die if I don’t, and denial. Denial is however still winning because sometimes, most times, it seems like a short life where I get to experience euphoria along with the pain is far better than a long one where I do not. Denial also ensures that I continue to believe that my family would be better off without me…
(Great post by the way!)
You’re lucky that you can afford your medications. I work full time but, because my company only offers low-quality, high-deductible insurance, I’ve been uninsured for 8 months. I’m actively looking for a position with better pay and benefits of course. I earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to pay out of pocket for Dr visits or medications. I assume there are many people in my position, under-earning but not poor enough to get medical assistance. I would love to be able to start taking meds again, but right now it’s not an option.
Actually, I don’t have insurance right now. I rely on GoodRX for discounts on my meds, and my psychiatric clinic that goes based in my income. Although, I will have good insurance in a couple of months again, it still doesn’t exist for me at the moment. I was rejected for Medicaid because they thought my severance pay was an actually paycheck and I was still working and receiving an income. I appealed, but never heard back. My Cobra insurance was almost $1000. I can’t afford that driving for Uber, which is what I did until I found a new job.