After having a horrible time with my first antidepressant (fluvoxamine or “Luvox”) and experiencing rapid cycling between ungodly low depression and mania with psychotic symptoms which resulted in my first hospitalization (somehow only for the depression portion), then having to experience the withdrawal of being casually cut off of that medication cold turkey and locked in a room crying, shaking, and vomiting uncontrollably for hours… well, ever since then I haven’t been too keen on the idea of pharmaceutical medication. I can’t help but feel that I experienced what easily borders on torture, and it is very important to me that I do not ever have an experience like that again.
Needless to say, I have spent the vast majority of my life un-medicated. I don’t think things have been terrible, but they have been hard, and the thought of becoming medicated at some point popped back up on my radar as being something I wouldn’t entirely reject, but our healthcare system has made it almost impossible for me to explore that option.
Within the last year I had the opportunity to give things another go, but I’ve been shot down almost every step of the way by a lack of availability of doctors, lack of funds to buy overpriced pharmaceuticals, and living in a body with an extreme sensitivity to all 10 drugs I’ve tried within the last year, except one. For some reason lithium is the only thing that my body can stand, and I have been having almost the opposite reaction as the other drugs; at 900mg there is barely any lithium absorbed into my bloodstream. Even taking that much I haven’t been able to come close to having a “therapeutic amount” absorbed (aka, the amount when it is supposedly having a noticeable effect on your brain).
Please specifically take note that I am in no way trying to discredit the medications within the realm of modern medicine, I’m simply stating that my personal experience with them has been taxing, to say the least.
Living un-medicated has left me making my fair share of bipolar blunders, but through experimentation and experience I’ve devised a few systems for helping myself cope. It is important to me at this point to feel like I am doing everything I can to help myself.
My general philosophy involves tweaking different variables in my life to help push my mood one way or another. Honestly, it is an extremely exhausting process and it isn’t exactly fool proof, but it does help me.
There are a lot of variables that can help influence my mood. The things I would put in this category are things that may have the ability to have a negative influence on my mood (which I might include in my list of triggers -or things that are likely to trigger an episode, something I will write more about later) but are what I consider “variables” because I can change them in different ways to help level out my mood.
I am planning on exploring each of these variables further individually, however I want to have a breif description here:
1. Sleep – exactly what it sounds like, sleep regulation as both a stabilizing tool and a “reset” button.
2. Diet – people say, “you are what you eat” and most people agree that the more healthily they eat, the better they feel.
3. Relaxation – to me, relaxation and stress have a real yin/yang sort of relationship.
4. Stress – this is a tricky category, but finding creative ways to remove stress/stressors is very helpful.
5. Communication – the main reason I love therapy, verbalization helps slow and organize the thought process.
6. Creativity – another tool I use to help slow and organize the thought process.
7. Contact – anything from being in the same room as another person to physical contact.
8. Exercise – another of those “obvious” sounding ones but more difficult to actually follow through with.
9. Medicine – you are probably thinking “but didn’t you say un-medicated?” Yes, but there are many types of medicine, anything from dietary supplements to more alternative medicines.
10. Environment – our surroundings can make a huge impact on our mood, positive or negative.
Like I said, I am planning on going into each topic in detail beginning tomorrow with topic #1: Sleep.
Please note: In my experience it seems that most people with bipolar disorder ask a lot of personal questions about different medications and if I have tried specific ones when they hear about my bad luck with these drugs. Please refrain from doing so at this time, not because I don’t value your opinion, but simply because the frustration I feel about this topic makes it very difficult for me to talk about. I may drag out the ol’ laundry list at another time, but please leave it be for now. Thank you!